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Reviews Written by
Rebecca "Rebecca xx" (county durham, UK)

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Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin)
Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin)
by Jennifer Estep
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A dark urban fantasy, 31 Jan 2011
The strongest aspect of Spider's Bite is the character of Gin. Estep did an impressive job with her character definition and development. I very much appreciated her complexity, depth, and intelligence. She's flawed, damaged, and almost sociopathic, and I was fond of the combination of internal strength, fortitude, and physical aptitude. I liked her friend/associate Finn, as well, and though he wasn't as fleshed out as Gin and he played a careless playboy roll a little too often, I sympathized with him over the loss of his father. The cop, Detective Donovan Caine, was a bit too morally superior and way too judgmental and critical for me to warm up to him much.
While I'm a huge Gin fan, however, I'm not as big a fan of the plot and climax of Spider's Bite. I thought the beginning was weighed down by too much exposition and the middle dragged as the book practically plodded towards a not too surprising (though it tried to be) conclusion. And the plot itself: assassin double-crossed, handler killed, has to find out who did it and fast - wasn't all that compelling or dangerous and felt a bit cliched.
I also had some serious issues with technical aspects of the book. I felt there was way too much repetition, most notably in descriptive passages (if I had to read about Donovan's soapy scent one more time, or Gin's cold, gray eyes/stare, or see anyone else's eyes flash with emotion I was tossing my Kindle out the window). There were far too many awkward and unnecessary analogies used, as well, also as a descriptive tool that fell flat ("Finn's voice dripped with sarcasm like grease off a piece of bacon." "Emotions flashed in his eyes like lightning."). It got to a point where almost everything described was "like" something else. Analogous narrative can be a useful tool, but it was horribly overused here. I also had a problem with a couple of Gin's "hits." I admit, I'm no expert in human biology or pathology, but it felt like it should have taken a lot longer for Gin's targets to die from their wounds (in one case a screw perforating the trachea) than it did in several instances in the book. I'd have preferred either better description of the wounds inflicted or an explanation that a major organ, like the heart, or a major artery (brachial) was hit. Either that or be a little more realistic in length of time between a wound and death. I wish an editor had tightened up all those aspects of the book a bit more, because it got very distracting for me and I struggled at times to stay in the story.
I have to say, though, points to Estep for the wickedly subtle but nifty series cross-over with the mention of Fiona Fine's menswear collection. If you're unfamiliar with the fab Ms. Fine, check out Estep's delightfully campy and fun Bigtime series. Estep's second book in the Elemental Assassin series is now out, and I look forward to continuing the tales of Gin, because regardless of the issues I had, I'm still interested enough to keep going with the series

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Book 2)
Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Book 2)
by Suzanne Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 3 Jan 2011
Couldn't. Put. It. Down. While book one was a little stronger, I like the direction the author takes with this. A few of my expectations were met, but largely the plot was constructed such that it would be near-impossible to predict. And despite its constant twisting and turning, we didn't lose track of Katniss or the people she loves. I can't imagine how tough it was to write the sequel to a book as impressive as Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins was clearly up to the challenge.

Wild Magic (Immortals)
Wild Magic (Immortals)
by Pierce Tamora
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars 4stars, 24 Dec 2010
Wild Magic tells the story of Daine, a young girl who has lost her family and tries to make her way in the world. Daine discovers that she has more than just a "knack with horses" - she has wild magic that ties her to all animals. The series develops around Daine's training as a mage with her tutor Numair and the war that breaks out when hundreds of legendary creatures are released from the realms of the Gods.
All of Pierce's books present strong, intelligent heroines who stand on their own two feet. The books are engrossing and fun. You can't help but form an attachment to the characters and become engrossed in their stories. An enjoyable read from my youth that I'll always treasure.

Mary Queen Of Scots: And The Murder Of Lord Darnley
Mary Queen Of Scots: And The Murder Of Lord Darnley
by Alison Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.52

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommends it for those who want to learn about English/Scottish history, 22 Dec 2010
Mary Queen of Scots was blessed with many gifts, but unlike Elizabeth, her contemporary and cousin in England, she did not have the right gifts to be able to reign as a medieval queen. Also, she had a positive genius for marrying dreadfully ambitious men, who did not really love her, but did love her status. Poor Mary. Weir does a good job, as always, of giving what historical evidence there is, often quoting documents.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
by Gregory Maguire
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overall, it was an okay read, 17 Dec 2010
I appreciated the sensory details and descriptions, and the various characters are original. There's a nice twist near the end which gave me a little brain jolt, and I always like that. Many of the ideas introduced into the storyline also felt as though they were left hanging at the end of the book. Clara, the Cinderella character, seemed a very flat character to me, although she could have been interesting if the author had developed her more. Mostly it was disappointing to not get the completion of Caspar and Iris's relationship after the entire book leads up to it. You would think that if the story was written down by Caspar, as the epilogue explains, then we would have gotten it more from his point of view, rather than Iris's. Overall, it was an okay read, but I'm not sure I want to read Wicked now after reading this one.

Heart-Shaped Box (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Heart-Shaped Box (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Joe Hill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.48

2.0 out of 5 stars slow beginning., 15 Dec 2010
The basic premises is that this semi-ex rock stars likes to collect morbid and weird things. So when he's alerted to a ghost for sale on an ebay ripoff site, Jude snatches up the deal for $1000 no questions asked. What he doesn't expect is, the ghost is real. The ghost doesn't want to disappoint and starts haunting Jude and his gal Georgia, with the intent to not only have them dead but have them kill each other.
The first 125 pages were a bit rough. The narrative was acceptable, except once we got past the build up I felt like there was a lot of nothing going on. There was some creepy stuff, but beyond that I was just starting to get really annoyed with Jude. What wasn't he doing ANYTHING??? He explained away most things, but come on! A little more reaction, please.
Roughly around page 130 the book gets suddenly really good. I attribute this to Jude's sudden willingness to fight back. There are a ton of twists and turns and the story behind the ghost and Jude is an emotional one. It's creepy and scary, and boy does this ghost have Nerve, but mostly I was driven on by the story and the way the characters change.
Jude and Georgia are anything but flat characters. It approaches the whole idea of remembering who you are or were in the past and coming to accept that in order to move on and become someone new.
There's a few great moments in the book that have little to do with the main plot or the scare tactic that I will just simply remember. For instance why a loafer is hanging from the review mirror of the old mustang.
Joe Hill (author) gets an A+ for sensory detail, both the pleasant and harshly disturbing.
If you're into disturbing/horror material it's worth the read. There's still a loose sense of I don't really get it all that accompanies ANY thing of this genre, but the book does a really good job tying up loose end and wrapping it up. In fact I particularly liked how the end of the book was handled, in a series of really short chapters.
If you're looking for a creepy novel or something to get you thinking about life and the thereafter then this is a good book. Just heed my warning of the slow beginning.

The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The worlds Gaiman created are vivid and intriguing, with interesting and original takes on familiar mythology, 13 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Graveyard Book (Paperback)
The graveyard book tells the story of Nobody Owens (called Bod), who escapes to a graveyard as a toddler after his family is murdered. Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard, allowing him to pass freely through the graveyard and learn the ways of the ghost inhabitants who are helping to raise him. This graveyard family teaches Bod how to see at night, to Haunt, Fade and Dreamwalk; they protect him from the outside world, and from the man who killed his family and would like to finish the job. But they cannot protect him forever, and Bod knows that one day he will have to confront the world and the dangers in it, embracing his destiny for good or bad.
I was really excited to read this book, and even though I was in the middle of another, I found myself repeatedly picking The Graveyard Book up and opening to the brilliant first page. I finally caved in and set my other book aside so I could read this, and at first I was entirely disappointed and didn't think I was going to like the book at all. I found Bod's toddler years to be only tolerable. There was occasional cuteness, but nothing to hook me and make me want to keep reading (aside from the fantastic Gorey-esque illustrations). That all changed when Bod went to Ghûlheim; from then on I was absolutely hooked. The writing is clever and has a certain brightness mingled with the dark of the story. The book is sprinkled with interesting characters (with amusing epitaphs). The worlds Gaiman created are vivid and intriguing, with interesting and original takes on familiar mythology. Bod's journey is relatable, even in all of its surrealness, and the overall message is incorporated well without being didactic. This is the sort of story I know I would have become completely lost in and obsessed with as a child.
A warning to parents that there are some dark themes and scary elements, but overall I would recommend this to any child/young teen, especially those who like fantasy and darker elements. This would also make a fun read-aloud for parents and children, or a classroom, and the illustrations add to the story immensely. I would rate this closer to a 4.5

The Historian
The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars well-defined, interesting characters..., 11 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Historian (Paperback)
It took me the better part of three weeks to complete this 642-page novel - that, I believe, is the longest it has ever taken me to complete a book that I was reading strictly for pleasure. Not that this is, necessarily, a bad thing, that is just to say it is not a "light" reading.

As a reader, did I enjoy it? Well...yes, I think so, but I'm still debating myself in just how much; either I found it rather mediocre, or utterly brilliant, I just haven't settled on which..
The storylines contain all of my favorite fictional elements - suspense, mystery, historical bits, Dracula lore, a wonderful story concept, and well-defined, interesting characters...
The story begins in 1972 Amsterdam, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and some old letters in her father's library. The book pages are empty, save an intricate woodcarving of a dragon and the word "DRACULYA" in its center pages; the letters are addressed "to my dear and unfortunate successor,". When she confronts her father, Paul, about these, he confesses to a search, some twenty years previous, for his graduate school mentor who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula - Vlad the Impaler - was still alive. Paul's collaborator in this search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi, the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. Shortly after revealing all this, Paul, leaving only a brief note, disappears also.
Kostova has three basic story lines for the reader to follow: one from the 1930's, when Professor Bartolomew Rossi begins his dangerous research into Dracula; one from the 1950's, when Paul and Helen take up the search; and the main narrative from 1972, when our narrator sets out to search for her father. On top of these, we are also transported to the 1400's to Dracula's beleaguered homeland and the battles of the Byzantines and the Ottoman's. Kostova does a wonderful job of interweaving these tales, and the noir, gothic atmosphere was almost palpable, however, somewhere in the middle I got bogged down with the migration patterns of 15th century monks and the feeling that I was reading textbook material or an academic paper. The story DID pick up, but unfortunately concluded with a contrived and disappointing ending.
Having said all of that, I did find this an engaging and entertaining tale, however, the book was not the sort of page-turner I had expected, and that was a bit of a disappointment. Overall, I'd rate this one a 7 on a scale of 1-10

Book of Shadows (Sweep)
Book of Shadows (Sweep)
by Cate Tiernan
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 6 Dec 2010
16 year old Morgan Rowlands lives in upstate New York with her devout Catholic family. Morgan tends to live in the shadows of others, her best friend Bree, gorgeous and confident and her little sister, Mary K, popular and pretty. Morgan isn't hideous, she's just Morgan of little to no make-up, very few-if any, curves and values the quality of her friends so much as quantity; she's okay with that, she's happy with her place in the world until she meets good looking and outward thinking Cal Blaire.
Morgan is shown a whole new world when she meets Cal and with that whole new world she finds herself.
Cal introduces Morgan and her friends to Wicca and Morgan has an uncanny affinity for it. She's finally being noticed and when she and Cal develop feelings for each other it causes trouble amongst herself and Bree.
Despite the difficulty that practicing Wicca brings to Morgan's life, she finds that without it she feels empty. Choosing between Wicca and other important areas/people in her life is difficult for Morgan but will she be true to herself or others?
An interesting quote in the book that has always stuck with me from this book:
"Anytime you feel love for anything, be it stone, tree, lover, or child, you are touched by the Goddess's magick."
by Sabina Falconing, in a San Francisco coffee shop, 1980
Morgan has been touched by the Goddess! My only complaint with this book is the length, it is quite short, as is the rest of the series.

An Ice Cold Grave
An Ice Cold Grave
by Charlaine Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book 3 in the Harper Connelly series, 5 Dec 2010
This review is from: An Ice Cold Grave (Paperback)
Book 3 in the Harper Connelly series finds Harper and Tolliver in yet another small town, searching for dead bodies. In this instance, there are several who have died, presumed to have gone missing. There is a new sheriff and she doesn't believe that, she with some encouragement (and money) from others, she hires Harper. There were some surprises and I didn't know who did it and I always like that.
The newly developing relationship between Harper and Tolliver is strange. I'm not sure how they are going to handle it in the future when they meet up with people (their lawyer for example) who knew them as brother and sister.

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