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S. Kadhim "Lulu" (London)

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Bright Side Mug Queen of Mummies
Bright Side Mug Queen of Mummies
Offered by Mish Mash Gifts
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars As expected, 8 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bright Side Mug Queen of Mummies
Good quality, looks like it will last for a good while. It had nice packaging. Exactly what I wanted, and as advertised.

Red Rising: Red Rising Trilogy 1 (The Red Rising Trilogy)
Red Rising: Red Rising Trilogy 1 (The Red Rising Trilogy)
Price: £4.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Addictive, but flawed, 8 Feb. 2014
This book seems to be getting more and more attention on the run-up to the release; I heard fantasy author Shawn Speakman call it the “debut of the year”, it has already garnered a ton of good reviews on Goodreads, as well as raving on many book review sites. But does it deserve all this praise?

Darrow is a young man who is part of a mining team – and he has the most dangerous job (which is something he’ll go around telling everyone in the second third of the book, even if they didn’t ask) – Helldiver. Terrible injustices are done in his town, and he suffers a tragedy – all which lead him into the hands of the mass terrorist group, Sons of Ares. They show him that the lowReds (of which he is one) that live beneath Mars are being lied to; told that they are helping to terraform a Mars they will one day live on the surface of, Darrow finds out that it has been terraformed for decades, and the lowReds are being kept in slavery just to keep a hierarchal system in place.

They decide he is fit to be “carved” (by Mickey the Carver, Brown was…less than creative on the nicknames) into a Gold, so he can infiltrate and start the rebellion from within. Golds are the ultimate top of society – with an almost superhuman strength, and usually incredibly beautiful, they rule civilisation as the highest form of evolution.

I’m not going to pretend I was a fan of this – it seemed borderline ridiculous. I know they are worse dystopian novels, with more bizarre systems – but what the hell kind of evolution leads us to be born in colours? Pinks for pleasure, “obsidian” for bodyguards, whites for torturers…etc. etc. Not only that, two different types of Red – highReds which live on the surface as street cleaners and nannies, and lowReds that are being lied to. Just. Wish there was more explanation for this bizarre evolution Brown has come up with.

Anyway, the carving is successful, and Darrow is transformed – everyone is shocked at how well he adapts, how strong he gets, how clever he is! Can you tell who really pissed me off for the first half of this book?! He’s some kind of prodigy – which, given he’s from the lowest form of evolution…well, it just doesn’t add up. Darrow is then accepted into the “Institute”, a place for Golds to get apprenticeships at the end of.

And boy, do they work for those apprenticeships. Battle Royale/Hunger Games eat your heart out! This is where the book really starts livening up. Each “House” within the school, all named after Roman gods, is given some kind of fortress, perhaps some supplies – and told to conquer each of the other Houses. This involves enslaving hundreds of students, and fighting savagely – and often lethally – to become the best.

I had no idea this part in the book was coming before I read it, so imagine my glee when we start getting action – duels, ears cut off, wolf hunting. This is more like it! Instead of Darrow acting like a petulant child! Although there is a proper Prince of Egypt, Rameses vs. Moses, moment in this book. You know, this song.

I was waiting for the singing and dancing to start. I was met only with disappointment.

We are introduced to a totally new set of characters, all distinct and…all Gold. Most of the characters are sly and proud, but we do meet a good few likeable characters on the way. Darrow is still questionable, however. It’s full of action, adventure, and watching things fall apart. Not to mention, we see what kind of monsters Golds can be – ones who see nothing in raping and beating. Darrow makes many mistakes, often almost lethal mistakes. He is tricked, betrayed, stabbed, saved…the second half of the book is pretty relentless, actually, and very intense while you wait to see how the Sons of Ares’ prodigy fairs under the brutal Gold “game”.

Surprisingly, this is all we see in this book – so further rebellion must come later on in the series. It was an enjoyable, easy read. After the definite lull in the middle (where only Matteo was any fun), the book ends up being eventful and full of conflict. Darrow never seem able to reign in his rage, but he learns to use it – not without mistakes. Hopefully, we’ll see more of this later on in the series.

I will definitely be reading the next in the series. For all its many flaws, this book is addictive and likeable.

Price: £4.31

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of potential, but ultimately disappointing, 8 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Snowblind (Kindle Edition)
Released earlier this month, Christopher Golden’s new Snowblind is my first ‘proper’ horror of the year, and my first for a long time. The horror starts early in this book, but quickly falls into mediocre about midway through. It’s not a bad book, really, just not a good one, either.

We begin in the small town of Coventry, somewhere in New England, where a snow storm is coming. We are introduced to quite a few characters in quick succession, all bolting down for the oncoming blizzard, as well as those alone, waiting for their loved ones to return home. Within fifty pages, we see some of these characters forced out into the storm, and taken by something out there.

First, the wife of Don Manning, a mechanic who, having just been fired from his job, doesn’t want to go home is looking for her dog. Then, TJ, a musician who decides to spend the night with the owner of the restaurant he plays at, Ella Santos, instead of going to home to his mother. His mother later receives a knock at the door, and vanishes. Rookie policeman Joe Kennan fails to save a boy in a sledging accident, and then watches the father of that boy disappear into the storm. Finally, the Schapiro family loses not just Isaac, Allie’s youngest son, to the storm, but also her new lover, Nico – a loss for his daughter, Miri.

As you can see, there are a lot of characters to keep track of here – at least seven of which are kept as point of view characters, and a few other characters get one or two POV parts. It’s a headache to even try to remember most of their names (and I had to check for quite a few, including Ellie, despite really enjoying her as a character). The voices are not quite distinct enough to be separated easily, especially since point of view changes frequently within chapters. The characters are, broadly, easy to sympathise with, and likeable, with the exception, perhaps, to be made for Doug, who can be frustrating at times.

The main story takes place 12 years after the above described storm, with a new storm coming, to which Coventry does not take kindly to, after memories of their last. Doug is taking the opportunity to rob houses, now that, without his wife Cherie, he has no moral compass (apparently), until his ex-girlfriend Angela (also the ex-wife of Nico and the mother of Miri – phew!) arrives on his doorstep, acting strangely. Allie is alone, and still mourning for her dead lover – though she could have sworn she saw his ghost outside her window…

Joe Kennan, now a detective, is investigating a young boy who is missing from a car accident in the local lake, and one of his constables, Torres is acting strangely. But that’s nothing, when when of the other policemen – oh, god, I absolutely can’t remember his name now – starts becoming suspicious of Jake Schapiro (the brother of the dead Isaac – are you guys still following me?!), the police photographer. And TJ and Ellie’s daughter has been acting very strangely later.

See what I mean? I like a bit of interconnectivity among characters, but this was a bit too much. I feel like I regret not taking notes on this damn thing, because there are more links I’m sure I’m missing.

Character confusion aside, the build up is great in this. Coventry is overcome with some ominous creature that we don’t really see in action until about half way through this book. It’s all very creepy, and kept me gripped – until we start seeing them properly. They are ice men. And that’s what the characters call them too – ice men. Seriously? With huge ice claws and terrible eyes etc. etc. The felt more suited to a fairy tale that an adult horror book. Ice monsters just felt silly.

There were no psychological elements either. The characters were scared, and anxious about them getting in…and that was it. As soon as the main plot started kicking in, I stopped caring because none of the character’s believably reacted to these horrors. There were no clever twists, either, nothing that had me excited. It was just a straight “race against time” story most of the time. Meh pretty much sums it up – one big, sputtering sparkler of a book, instead of a firework.

However, the book did have potential, and I did care enough about the characters to carry on reading. But mostly because I wanted to see how Ellie and TJ ended up, and if Joe’s wife would ever actual turn up (she was like Columbo’s wife – spoken about, but always mysteriously off-screen). I also slogged on to see if it would be saved before the end. (Hint: it wasn’t.)

I may read more by this author, if he comes out with anything new, because the writing was solid, but this was not in any way an impressive piece of work. It doesn’t do anything for the horror genre, and was generally just not very good.

The Girl With All The Gifts
The Girl With All The Gifts
Price: £3.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A post-apocalyptic novel - with feeling!, 8 Feb. 2014
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This was a very difficult review to write. I have a lot of feelings, that I haven’t yet untangled. But I want to let out some of this emotion in the form of this review. I have a lot to say, but I can’t say too much – the details of this book have been so wrapped up by the publishers that it would feel a shame to spoil anymore than they would like. I will say that I was looking forward to this book from the moment it was announced, spurred on by my love of Mike Carey’s Lucifer graphic novels. And now, this looks to be one of my favourite for the year – already!

Melanie and the children are not like other children. They stay in their rooms when not in class, which is led by one of four different teachers. There, they are taught the geography of England and the world – both things they have never seen. In fact, they have never seen anything but their cells, and their classroom. They know where freedom, whatever that is, lies – at the end of the corridor, behind a steel door. But when children are wheeled out of there, they never seem to come back…

Oh, and that’s the other thing. Whenever the children are taken to class, or to shower and eat (a once a week event), they are strapped into wheelchairs (despite the fact they can walk just fine), which neck straps and all. This is all done by a soldier, while two others watch on, guns pointed at the children’s heads.

Melanie’s world is not the world as we know it.

Nor is it the world as she knows it, come to think of it. She has never seen sky, and, until the day Miss Justineau forgets herself and strokes the little girl’s hair, has never felt human contact before. Even with her genius level IQ, she just doesn’t understand – from the big questions, like why they can’t go outside, to why their drunken teacher tells them the population density of Birmingham doesn’t matter, because the population of Birmingham is really 0. But…that’s not what they should be being taught.

This is a twisting book. It runs circles, and then double backs on you. It’s a quiet book, for sure, especially given its subject matter, but it’s got a lot of weight in it.

Spoilers in the following paragraph – not huge ones, just enough if you wanted to go into this book blindly. You can skip the next paragraph, and read ahead instead, if you don’t want any info.

But this is a (this is the naughty word) zombie novel at its most basic level. What I liked was the fact it isn’t a shooting and bloody book. The zombies, as physical beings, are not the matter here – mostly their effect on a mental level is what matters. Because there are mysteries here – existential, as well as medical. While Dr Caldwell, the last remaining scientist with a slight chance, who only has this facility that the children are on, is hellbent on finding the cure, she is inadequately equipped. And there are many more problems than that later in the book.

Back to spoiler free waters, the book is also about the care and protection of a young child. It is about a troubling and complicated friendship between Miss Justineau, who is trying to absolve herself from former sins, and Melanie, who puts them all in danger, but is full of platonic infatuation for her caring teacher – the only one to ever show her affection.

Then there’s Parks, a soldier at his core, who finds himself faced with difficult decisions and difficult decisions. He starts off a bastard that you slowly come to care for. And Gallagher, who is under Park’s command, a troubled young man who has known of the discipline and bravery for soldier work, but will do anything to escape his troubled life at home.

This is not just a post-apocalyptic novel. This is a post-apocalyptic novel with feeling – that will twist you up as you see the bad things coming for the characters you don’t want hurt, and will let you sigh with relief when they struggle out of tight corners. We begin in a static that changes rather quickly, and the novel you thought you’d started turns out to be a totally different one. I can’t help but be vague to stop myself from spoiling any surprises.

But the ending is what really makes this book. It is as surprising as it is inevitable. But again, I won’t say much more.

I will admit that the prose style left my feeling slightly detached from the drama, but I still felt something. I’m just nitpicking now, to try and find a negative, but I am definitely emotional compromised by this book. It’s wonderful, and one of the best I’ve read in the post-apocalyptic genre, because it sneaks up on you and throws things at you that you never thought you’d see.

I do love Mike Carey. Highly recommended.

Fortune's Pawn: Book 1 of Paradox
Fortune's Pawn: Book 1 of Paradox
Price: £3.95

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly awesome!, 8 Feb. 2014
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Here’s a book that blindsided me. I went in thinking it would be just about “okay” – and came out frothing at the mouth for the next one! Already preordered. But let me not get ahead of myself.

Deviana Morris is a gun-toting mercenary, with a hankering for danger and blasting pirates, who is ambitious as hell. While most mercs are happy to move up the ranks until they hit a cushy office job, Devi isn’t like that – she wants to be a Devastator, the most dangerous job in all of Paradox, and she’ll do damn well anything to get it.

Which is precisely why she gets herself a job on the Glorious Fool, captained by Caldswell, which is said to be cursed. After all, the Devastators count one year on the Fool to be the equivalent of five years service elsewhere. And since mercs don’t usually live for long, Devi decides to fast track her career.

But there are secrets aboard the Fool, ones she shouldn’t stick her nose in – but pigheaded little Devi can’t help but poke her nose in, endangering her life and, more importantly to her, her career. As if it wasn’t complicated enough, she finds herself ridiculously infatuated with Rupert, the ship’s cook – who seems to have some secrets of his own.

You can see why I was a little hesitant, right? Love and secrets – could be a Nora Roberts novel in space. Except, it’s not. Devi is a believable character – hardened from years as a merc, ambitious as anything, who answers violence with violence and puts her career before anything. She has never dated – only slept with casually – men before, so her reaction to Rupert’s soft kindness is understandable.

It’s also not as if she falls heads over and becomes reliant on him as a character – not at all! She feels like an idiot for her feelings, and she takes what she wants, whether it gets her into trouble at all.

I really loved Devi, but Bach’s secondary characters are colourful too – a bird navigator, who is bristly and has a superiority complex, an know-it-all alien doctor with a sense of humour and a sweet, if a bit kooky, hippy roommate. They provide a great backdrop for the novel, and I’m hoping to hear more out of them in the future novels – particular Hyrex. I loved him.

The mysteries come in midway through the book, and I’ve got some (what I think are) fairly good guesses towards them, but I’m anxious to find out. They aren’t overdone, and there are plenty to sink your teeth in to. I’m particularly intrigued as to what the hell the bugs are.

The prose is solid – nothing to write home about, but it does the job, moving the story about. The plot does meander in places, but it’s a nice break from the sometime relentless action in others.

Like I said, I’m pumped that the next two books are both coming out this year, and can’t wait to find out where Bach takes us next with the crew of the Glorious Fool.

The Echo
The Echo
Price: £2.48

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even more mystery in the second book of the series, 8 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Echo (Kindle Edition)
This is the second book in the Anomaly Quartet, which began with the wonderful The Explorer.

This book shares some core plot similarities, which is to be expected – but is not only a different story, but one that produces a completely different feeling to the first. Where the last book was as sprawling and exciting as space itself, this one is claustrophobic, a tightly woven tale. Please note that this review will be spoiler heavy for the first book, The Explorer.

Where do you start with something like this? In the first book, we saw Cormac Easton, a journalist on the first manned mission into deep space, watch all his crew mates die and his ship run out of fuel. We then saw him die, and be reborn as an old man who is in some amount of time loop, related to an anomaly at the edge of known space. It was one of his crew’s lifetime work, this anomaly, but he died before they reached it. We also encountered a ground control that had lied to them about coming home, intended for this mission to never return, in an attempt to create mystery and inspire the world to take up more space travel – if only to find the Ishiguro.

In this book, it seems that the latter purpose has failed. If anything, it has made humans feel doomed to remain on this planet forever – well, until twenty years later, after the “two most brilliant minds in science”, Tomas and Mirakel Hyövnen, decide to study the anomaly in which the Ishiguro was lost in. Decided on a game, Tomas stays at ground control, but in constant communication with his twin brother, Mira, who is sent off into space with a small crew in a small ship.

Mirakel – who prefers Mira – is a troubling character right from the start. Injected with sedatives, he somehow doesn’t fall asleep for the launch – though even the ship’s doctor is inclined to think he’s lying. And then there is his constant competitive feeling with his brother. Everything Tomas does, Mira believes he is doing to undermine him. He’s not like Tomas, he tells us, he’s not good with people.

At first, I didn’t think I’d enjoy this book. It is written in a very different style from the first – Mira isn’t a journalist like our Cormac, and the prose is stark and, until nearer the end, not as flowing. I found it difficult to immerse myself at the start, and given the crew were so dispensable, I barely bothered to learn their names. Whereas in the Explorer, we get to know them through snippets and tales and it helps us shape Cormac in our minds, Mira doesn’t get such a treatment here. He has to stand on his own, with his strange eyes watching the world. I found him difficult to trust – not because he wasn’t trustworthy, I think he was – but because it seemed like everything he saw was filtered through his emotions first.

So he’s definitely a difficult one to get down, and therefore so is his brother. Is he the competitive man Mira tells us? Is he purposely undermining Mira, or is Mira paranoid, up too many nights taking “stims”? It’s impossible to tell – at first, at least – and that is cleverly done by Smythe. Of course, we do find out eventually just what kind of relationship Tomas and Mira have, and where the limits and boundaries lie.

Where The Explorer was a tragedy, this book was tragic. We know what Mira and his crew are hurtling towards, we know what the anomaly does. And yet, despite knowing this, when they first encounter its loop, I was horrified as they were. Funny how it happens, but it’s shocking when it shouldn’t be, and plays on most human fears. The end is, undoubtedly, a sad one, and Mira becomes a pathetic and sympathetic character – as if he wasn’t enough of those things already.

One small thing I love from both of these books is actually not in the story itself. It’s the hinting at new technology, of this future earth that we never see. With highly advanced plastic surgery, with non-addictive drugs, with all this technology and all these satellites. I would love to see what kind of Earth all this things belong to, but sadly that is unlikely to come.

It is a slow starting book, with some flat support characters, and the ending is very…intriguing. Presumably, this is to leave some mystery for the next book. But despite that, its strengths are massive, and the book is therefore loveable.

I’m am incredibly excited to see where this goes – as well as Smythe’s new young adult series he’s just signed. He is definitely one to watch, and I love forward to going through his back catalogue, as well as eagerly awaited his next offerings.

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