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Control (Strange Chemistry)
Control (Strange Chemistry)
by Kim Curran
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An action-packed, fast pace, superb sequel, 11 Aug. 2013
Control is the sequel to Kim Curran's fantastic debut novel Shift and I have to say, she's only gone and made this book even better. I know some people have read this as a standalone, and although Curran does give snippets of information about the events in Shift, in my opinion it needs to be read in order to fully appreciate and enjoy this book.

Firstly, I love the way Curran has developed and continued the storyline from Shift into Control. The story begins with Scott and Aubrey working together to clear up the loose ends of the uncovered Ganymede project, hunting down the adults involved. This definitely felt like unfinished business for the reader (as well as the characters themselves), so I was pleased Curran had thought to cover it. This is where Curran provides a catch-up for the important details from Shift, but far from being an info-dump, she subtly weaves it into the progressing timeline. Curran manages to do this perfectly, seamlessly picking up Control as if we'd only just left Shift.

From there Curran took the theme of shifting and explored it to its full capacity making Control slightly more complex, but only naturally so. This suited my perhaps over-analytical brain as I'd reached the point of thinking `yeah but what if...'. Curran delved into the ability of shifting, expanding its roles, exploring its extensive effects and consequences, allowing for multiple realities and layers in this detailed plot. In Control we watch Scott piece together clues from some unlikely sources whilst ending up in a couple of tough-to-explain situations, adding an additional emotional element and expanding the storyline beyond the main plot. Curran fully fleshes out her world, thinking of all the possibilities without getting too carried away, making Control both interesting and entertaining. She also subtly covers some pretty big topics within her prose: broken families, learning to face and stand by your decisions, and the importance of believing in yourself, making it touchingly relatable to her teen audience.

It was great to see the return of our protagonist Scott whose point of view we follow throughout. It's refreshing to read of a modest, slightly naÔve protagonist who doesn't fit the usually stereotype of `manly and strong'. We got to see some real character development with Scott too, although at times I will confess to wanting to shake him into believing in himself! Essentially though, this is what I also enjoyed watching him work through. His journey to self-belief was relatable and transferable to an average teenage world. His additional abilities were cleverly utilised, not only as an integral part of the story but also as a memory aid, serving as a reminder of all the shifts that had taken place.

Aubrey was another interesting character, being the fiery teen with the difficult background. She's the complete opposite of Scott and for that reason it would have been interesting, as well as insightful, to see from her point of view at times as well as Scott's. Aubrey seems an unlikely candidate to be Scott's girlfriend but I think that's why it actually works. Despite what you might initially think, their two characters seem to complement each other without being clichéd or overly-sweet. Even the almost-sex scene was handled well, with tact and dignity, and completely fitting for their ages.

Oh and how could I not mention the villains of this tale! Curran brings back a well known bad guy as well as introducing a new evil-doing character. It's the sign of a good, creepy villain when the mere mention of his name brings back a cold, sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach that you just can't shake off, except this time he's not quite as I remember him. It seems Curran has added new layers to all of her characters. Without revealing any spoilers, Curran's main villain is new and intriguing, seemingly kind and endearing at first glance which provides the perfect cover up for some pretty devious crimes. Once again Curran delivers a brilliantly fresh perspective with this far from the norm personality.

The only issue I had was the way in which one of the supporting characters was allowed to use his shifting power for his own gain, in a success, fame and monetary way. It was only a small part of the story but it bugged me enough to warrant mentioning it. If it were allowed why wouldn't more of the ARES shifters be doing that, resulting in an errant bunch of teenagers shifting their actions in a way to benefit themselves only? It didn't feel like something ARES would allow but perhaps that's just me. Also, in the original premise, shifting had its consequences, so why didn't that apply to this character?

Curran's writing is delivered at just the right level - it's detailed enough to fully explain what's happening, given that it's aimed at a YA audience, yet not too in-depth as to lose the reader (she does mention the double slit experiment after all!). I raced through the book because I just couldn't put it down - the words seem to flow making them easy to read, facilitating a vivid image in my mind, making me enjoy this read just that little bit more.

Oh and hats off to Curran for the ending! For me, it was simply fantastic, with Curran taking us on an emotional rollercoaster, complete with many unexpected twists and turns. Just when you think we're in for a happy-but-slightly-unsatisfying ending, Curran throws us a massive curveball that leaves us on a wicked cliff-hanger. I totally didn't see that coming! Curran left me open-mouthed in shock, grinning inanely, eagerly awaiting her third novel, Delete.


Poison
Poison
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting, magical and entirely real-life retelling of the classic fairy tale Snow White, 9 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Poison (Kindle Edition)
Poison is a deliciously wicked, magical, sexy and entirely believable take on the classic tale of Snow White. I honestly don't know where to start. Just wow!

It is essentially the tale of Snow White but not as you know it. Pinborough takes the well known story and whilst keeping it wonderfully simplistic, as all fairly tales should be, and adds the `real life' element it's always been missing.

Before we even get to Snow White eating the poisoned apple we have a whole lot of drama and quite a few scenes of sexual nature! And from there the story only grows. It would be impossible to give a synopsis outline without giving too much away. Only know that while the general premise is the same as the classic telling of Snow White, everything is not quite as it seems in this take and there's a whole lot more story to this tale.

Pinborough fleshes out the once make-believe fantasy characters making them relatable, notoriously human and as modern as a fairy tale character can be! Snow White herself is portrayed as a strong and independent woman, with wants and needs, who contrary to the damsel in distress in the fairy tale, can look after herself. The Queen, Lilith, also has a developed character. Her behaviour is suddenly explained with relatable issues and although her actions are a little extreme - it is still a fairy tale remember - we can start to understand the reasons behind them. And no version of Snow White would be complete without our dashingly heroic Prince who becomes besotted by the Princess Snow White, except he isn't. More like he falls in love with the image of her and the belief that she will be the stereotypical Princess he desires, which is then shattered by reality. I love this controversial changing of roles between the Prince and Princess. And is he really her true love? Once again, Pinborough's depiction of the relationships between the characters is so much more life-like and refreshing to read.

Not only are Pinborough's characters well thought out, so is her world. Pinborough has overlapped the fairy tales, linking them together in a fabulously clever way. Suddenly all these unrelated tales are connected and relate on a greater scale as part of a larger Kingdom. For example, Aladdin plays his part within this story adding a nifty little twist, the huntsman seems to have the glass slippers from Cinderella, whilst the Queen's Great-Grandmother, the crone who lives in the forest, remarkably seems to resemble the witch from Hansel and Gretel. For me, this made the book even better and leaves me wondering what will come next.

I'm not usually one for commenting on illustrations as for me it's all about the writing, and lets face it, adult books don't usually have `pictures' within. However, the art work, both on the cover and within the pages, is simply beautiful. The intricate patterns and depictions only add to the magic and enchantment.

Pinborough's writing is easy to follow without losing its magical and enchanting style. She'll draw you in right from the start making this fun, light-hearted and easy-to-read book tough to put down. She manages to weave humour and unpredictable little twists and turns within her writing which I'm sure we'll see feature within the sequels `Charm' and `Beauty'. I can't wait!

Disclaimer: This book is definitely aimed at an adult audience!


The Glass God (Magicals Anonymous Book 2)
The Glass God (Magicals Anonymous Book 2)
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The second instalment in the Magicals Anonymous series didn't quite live up to my expectations, 8 Aug. 2013
The Glass God is the second novel from Griffin in her Magicals Anonymous series. I'm torn between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. In essence I love the storyline and characters Griffin has going here but this book didn't quite reach my expectations.

Just when Sharon Li was settling into her new job as Community Support Worker and Shaman, She finds herself landed with a new and unexpected job role when the Midnight Mayor goes missing. If that wasn't enough, once again it seems the fate of the City rests with Sharon and her motley crew from Magicals Anonymous. This time round the City is under threat from a rather unhappy and un-`fed' Old Man Bone and a disgraced wizard seeking power. Oh and did I mention she has to find the Midnight Mayor before it's too late, and before Old Man Bone has her own shoes?

Again, Griffin has developed an interesting storyline but somehow it doesn't contain the level of detail I expected. Compared to Stray Souls this book lacked action and complexity. I found the plot rather straight forward and almost uneventful. It wasn't until the final third that things started picking up for me, but even then it felt predictable. Obviously the storyline has potential. Griffin seems to have a knack for conjuring original and detailed fantasy worlds and plots. However, it feels as though she hasn't quite given herself the time needed to expand this one to its full capacity.

I was also disappointed not to read more of the self help group for magical misfits. This was a great source of humour during the first book, so I was looking forward to delving into the minds of the magical community again but it wasn't to be. Griffin barely touches upon the group meetings despite having ample opportunity to do so within their weekly/monthly get-togethers. I was also a little disappointed to find that Griffin hadn't expanded her bunch of magical anomalies. Don't get me wrong, I love Kevin the germ-phobic Vampire, Sally the modern art enthusiast Banshee, Mr Roding the decaying necromancer with odour problems, Gretel the gourmet food loving Troll, Rhys the hyper-allergic Druid and Sammy the Shaman Goblin with an attitude problem, but it would have been nice to add some new characters, especially as Griffin seems to have a way with developing in-depth, well thought-out personalities. Having said that the Aldermen were a new addition for me and although they were fairly understated, they did provide something extra.

The chapters in this book were less staccato than in Stray Souls which I thought I'd like. However, I found myself missing the short autobiographical chapters of each characters and realised that perhaps Griffin's writing style is more suited to the punchy short chapters. I have to admit I struggled with Griffin's writing this time around. Her sentences were frequently far too long and rambling. I found myself getting bored and lost within some of her elaborate constructs. For instance, I counted 120 words in one sentence alone. Unfortunately for me this made the book hard-reading. Her quirky writing style from Stray Souls seems to have disappeared and in its wake is a desperate attempt at humour and world building, leaving me wishing Griffin would just get on with it.

When starting this series I was originally worried at having never read the Swift novels, which honestly wasn't a problem in Stray Souls. However I couldn't help but feel like I was missing too much from The Glass God and wonder if perhaps knowledge of the Swift novels would have been beneficial. This is disappointing as I really thought it had potential to remain as a standalone series.

I would still recommend reading The Glass God bearing in mind it's not quite at the same standard as Stray Souls (Magicals Anonymous). Hopefully Griffin can save the day and come back with an awesome third novel to top them both. Watch this space...


Stray Souls (Magicals Anonymous)
Stray Souls (Magicals Anonymous)
by Kate Griffin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and comical first novel in this new series by Griffin, 21 July 2013
Stray Souls is the first book in a new series from Griffin, set in the same world as her Swift novels. Having never read any of Griffin's work before I've come into this blind and worried that might be a problem. It really wasn't! Despite the apparent familiarity between series, this works as a complete stand alone, giving everything you'd need as a first time reader and more.

In this book we meet Sharon Li whose life seems to be in a little bit of disarray. She's barely holding onto her job as a pretty bad barista, paying her bills in a shared flat and maintaining a social life. And just when she thought it couldn't get more chaotic, Sharon becomes at one with the city, that is to say, she discovers she's a Shaman. Having been able to walk through walls from a young age this doesn't come as quite the big shock you'd expect, she takes it on with a rather unique nonchalance that we soon learn to be an inherent part of her personality.

I like Sharon. She was funny, different in both a good and strange way, and at times so incredibly infuriating I wanted to shout at her. So shoot me, I like a strong character with a lot of depth, good and bad! As the plot is unveiled predominantly from Sharon's point of view, if you don't warm to her quirky ways and unique outlook you may struggle to get into this book. However, if you embrace her personality, get over the constant use of colloquial words such as `um', `so yeah', `uh' etc and just go with it you'll see how brilliantly this character works. So uh...so yeah, keep an open mind!

In fact all the characters have an element of quirkiness. Griffin has developed quite an array of personality traits, fleshing out her world thoroughly with fun, interesting, and completely individual characters. For me this added humour to Griffin's writing, with Kevin the germ-phobic Vampire with Seah's syndrome, Sally the modern art enthusiast Banshee, Gretel the gourmet food loving Troll, Rhys the Druid complete with hyper sensitive allergies, and Sammy the Shaman Goblin with some serious height/social problems! These unlikely characters all come together when Sharon starts a self help group originally named `Weird Shit Keeps Happening to Me and I Don't Know Why But Figure I Need Help' before being re-named to a more simpler `Magicals Anonymous'.

As for the story line, I was drawn in by the blurb alone and it only got better from there. I love the idea that every part of our reality has a soul and holds memories as such. So when these souls start to go missing, it's down to Sharon and her newly found friends at Magicals Anonymous to save the City. Which sounds kind of simple - ish, except when you throw in a missing Goddess and her very unhappy (murdering) Dog, a Wendigo villain and four ninja builders that claim to be the greatest killers the world has ever known.

Griffin's style of writing is different, I'm still trying to work out my take on it! The story moves at a fast pace and her prose is easy to read, adding to the action. However, her chapters are very short, which had good and bad connotations for me. At times, it made the reading very staccato. It was for this reason that I struggled to get into the book during the first twenty or so chapters. On the other hand, as the plot progressed, these short chapters only increased the pacing and excitement. I kept thinking `oh I'll just read one more' which led to at least 3 or four more chapters before I could pry myself away. The short chapters allowed for breaks away from the plot where we read short autobiographical excerpts from the main characters. Not only did this help with the pacing of the book but it also allowed Griffin to increase the details without info dumping during the main text.

The ending only confirmed my opinion of the book. Once again I was taken by surprise when Griffin threw a rather sobering, moral final chapter where we realise things aren't always as they seem.

I'm really excited to start reading the sequel `The Glass God' now (Review to follow shortly)!


Harvesting the Heart
Harvesting the Heart
Price: £5.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking depth, reasoning and the traits Picoult is well known for, 14 July 2013
Unfortunately `Harvesting the Heart' was another one of Picoult's books that I didn't really enjoy. I would categorise Picoult as one of my favourite authors so this is rather a let down. From reading the blurb alone the plot sounded promising and feasible. However, after reading the book in full it just didn't live up to its true potential. `Harvesting the heart' is the story of a family struggling, where the marriage is less than perfect and falling apart at the seams, the stresses of a newborn baby are too much and deep-rooted family histories seem to taint everything.

The story begins with Paige O'Toole. Paige struggles with abandonment issues after her Mother left her when she was 5 years old. After many years of waiting with her suitcase packed for her Mother's return, Paige decided to leave her home, in the middle of the night, abandoning her father, in the hope of finding herself, whilst simultaneously destroying her chances of attending art school.

Paige ends up waiting tables in Massachusetts, where she meets her future husband. It seems an unlikely match: Paige being young, poor, waiting tables, having never been to collage whilst Nicholas was a medical student with a wealthy background and everything going for him. Despite the obvious differences the two hit it off and got married terribly quickly despite neither seeming to know each other. Almost as quickly as the marriage happened so did the pregnancy. Not only did this bring up Paige's obvious abandonment issues surrounding her own mother but also her fear of being a mother too given that she's had no role model. Surprisingly, it also brought up issues from Nicholas's childhood which despite how it seems wasn't all it was cracked up to be either.

Paige and Nicholas seem to skirt around the obvious and fail to share the most important things, that is until it all falls apart. Paige leaves to find her Mother and the missing answers she feels she desperately needs whilst Nicholas is opened up to the difficult world of parenting that he's been avoiding. Both Nicholas and Paige have differing views regarding their actions. Paige feels she needs the time to become a better Mother and that ultimately she's doing it to help Nicholas and baby Max too. Nicholas on the other hand, cannot understand her logic, feeling hurt and abandoned himself, he only gets angry at Paige seeing her as selfish. Even when Paige returns to pick up her wife and mothering roles both have very different ideas. Paige thinks she can just pick up where she left off, that Nicholas should understand, but he doesn't want her back.

The plot follows the twists and turns and ups and downs of Paige and Nicholas trying to restore their relationship and navigate their way through parenthood. We delve into both Paige and Nicholas's past, both having reasons for their present day beliefs. We learn of the importance of family and support, some of which can come from the most unlikely of places.

I found the contrasting characters of Paige and Nicholas interesting, not in the way that they complimented each other but in the way that everyone can have these problems regardless of background. I enjoyed the differing lifestyles and upbringings that Paige and Nicholas had and the impact that had on their adult life. Even more so the role Nicholas's parents played throughout the story complimented the themes of the plot. I was intrigued by the similar histories that repeated throughout the families, but even more enthralled by the change and acceptance that occurred with Nicholas's parents.

If this sounds appealing to you then think again! This is about as good as it gets. In my opinion the characters were apt and the plot line was poignant, the writing however was severely lacking. The full story was riddled with holes and inconsistencies. The areas that could have been fleshed out were left bare and the relevant topics weren't explored fully. As a result the reasoning and explanations given, the inner and external dialogue portrayed as well as the actions depicted all seemed shallow and lacking thought. Paige just seemed to whinge about the (granted numerous) things stacked against her and Nicholas seemed to act like a stubborn, and rather arrogant male. Instead of being relatable, this story became one that the reader could chastise and take the moral high ground.

Disappointingly, everything I expected to be here, wasn't.


Mindstar Rising (Greg Mandel Book 1)
Mindstar Rising (Greg Mandel Book 1)
Price: £6.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read with an interesting concept, 14 July 2013
This is the first of Peter F Hamilton's books that I've read and I have to say, it wasn't what I expected! I've never been into Science Fiction but after a lovely meal with Peter (including an awkward discussion about having never read his books) I decided I should give some of his work a go! I actually enjoyed it far more than I thought it would, so it just goes to show, you mustn't judge a book by its genre!
The story is set in post-apocalyptic Britain. Global warming has hit resulting in soaring temperatures and drastic rises in sea levels, altering the country. The land is scorched and all previously low-lying land is now submerged below a metre or two of water. On higher ground the population has become much denser due to the migration of those from low-lying grounds. Not only that, the country has been under the power of the People's Socialist Party, a hard, left-wing dictatorship with a devastating ruling. As you can imagine the country and its people are in a bit of mess. For me Hamilton built the world well, perhaps too well at times. He describes the surrounding environment, habitats, climate fairly often throughout the book and always with precision detail. I prefer to read a book and develop an image of the world in my head through the contextual clues given. I felt as though too much was given to the reader which meant it lost an element of imagination for me.

However, the world that Hamilton creates is perfect for the plot he has lined up. Despite the bleak scene, Event Horizon headed by billionaire Phillip Evans, is returning to England, after years of avoiding the PSP, to help those in need. It seems Event Horizon is just what the country needs to rise again, providing employment and advances in technology beyond the rest of the world. Until, of course, it all starts to go wrong.

A spoiler operation is run against Event Horizon causing chaos. After narrowly avoiding a complete meltdown of the company, Phillip Evans enlists the services of our main character, Greg Mandel. Greg is an ex-soldier from the Mindstar Brigade, struggling to survive after the PSP. His character is clearly defined, coming across as a straight talking, no messing kind of guy. Did I mention his psychic ability? The entire Mindstar brigade had psychic glands implanted; Greg's being telepathy (the ability to read minds). This isn't as straight forward as it seems. Greg's ability to read mind is limited to only being able to tell if people are lying. From there he has to play detective and figure it out. It is for this reason that Phillip Evans hires Greg; he wants to know which of his employees was involved in the spoiler operation

This sends Greg into a case that should have been simple: Interview the staff, use his espersence to find out who was lying, job done. Only it's never that simple. A second attack, terrifying villains, a second-psychic comrade, a gland-enhanced granddaughter and a web of lies keep you guessing right up to the end of this story. Hamilton's plot is well thought-out, with multiple angles all coming together neatly at the end. I like a tidy book!!

Given that this book was written in 1993, 20 years ago, it's slightly out dated. However I didn't feel it detracted from the story at all as long as you kept that in mind. Hamilton's use of technology was inventive and in-depth. Whilst I followed the majority of Hamilton's meaning, I cannot confess to fully understanding all of his technological advances and found some of the descriptions and explanations laborious and at times dull. As a self-diagnosed technophobe, I was never going to understand it all but it was encouraging to find that even those with limited technology knowledge/experience could follow and understand their uses.

I had some issues with Hamilton's characters. The females seemed to be very stereotypical and seeped in sexuality. It was a bit much at times and didn't seem necessary to the story. Also, without giving away any spoilers, Greg's comment regarding his psychic comrade, where he was able to forgive her for letting herself go, was a little off!

All in all, I enjoyed this read! It was an exciting, well paced, near-future sci-fi read that will keep you hooked. I think I'll be trying some of Hamilton's other books!


Introducing Mindfulness: A Practical Guide (Enhanced Ebook) (Introducing...)
Introducing Mindfulness: A Practical Guide (Enhanced Ebook) (Introducing...)

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything a beginner would need to know upon starting their Mindfulness experience, 14 July 2013
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`Introducing Mindfulness - A Practical Guide' does exactly what it says on the tin! Watt gives us a straightforward, thorough guide to mindfulness based around practical exercises. Naturally Watt introduces Mindfulness, giving an overview of what it is and what it entails. She also addresses key points that each individual needs to think about before beginning mindfulness.

Watt has structured this book so that it introduces you to mindfulness through the practices themselves. Once Watt has introduced Mindfulness and prepared the reader, each chapter then focuses around a different aspect, detailing the reasoning behind it, addressing naturally occurring questions and thoughts, as well as fully explaining the steps to complete the practice.

Where necessary Watt provides the reader with space to write, whether that be a place to write answers to the questions proposed within the text or simply a note of thoughts and feelings. This practice is useful not just to keep a record but also to engage and encourage the reader, drawing them into the practices fully.

Watt's approach seems to encompass all that a beginner to mindfulness would require. She covers a wide range of areas, all delivered at an accessible level for someone new to mindfulness. If you're worried of being swamped by the strange techniques or psycho-jargon don't be! Watt uses simple, direct language, making it easy to follow. There is no need to have any prior knowledge on the subject before reading this book.

However, from an academic standpoint, Watt doesn't include any supporting research or psychological explanations. If you're interested in the psychoanalyses and the specific whys and hows of mindfulness this book won't cover it.


The Spider's Bride
The Spider's Bride
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, enticing, enthralling!, 14 July 2013
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`It begins with a severed finger...'

An unnamed female, naturally intrigued, steps forward to investigate the severed finger found on her doorstep, unknowingly accepting a faerie gift, sealing her fate as the Bride to be. Next comes a strange interaction with a spider by a hedge that isn't all it seems. The spider gains the woman's trust before biting her ear, sending his venom through her body, paralysing her, thus allowing him to take her into the hedge where she becomes the Prince of Spiders' bride.

The Prince of Spiders is the Winter King in a land known as the hedge, where the unseelie reside. It is a world of magic, mystery and faerie lore, where time stands still and the inhabitants aren't all human - obviously! The Winter King is devious and manipulative, not content with his Winter reign ending, he must marry the bride before sacrificing her in order to maintain his throne.

With the bride still paralysed it is a grim future that awaits her, and as the ghastly ceremony begins our fears are realised when her hand is chopped off! That is until the Hunter, the Prince of Spiders' brother, comes to her rescue. Unfortunately he gets a little carried away and adds to the gritty ceremony by feasting on the Bride's amputated limb.

Caught amidst a war between those that wish the Winter King to remain and those that wish to over throw him, being valuable bounty in the wrong hands, the Bride and the Hunter travel through the hedge, searching for an escape. Throughout their journey the bride must learn the ways of the hedge, interacting with butterflies, crickets, ladybirds and faeries (to name but a few) as well as facing the horrors of walking corpses, vicious dolls and cunning crows, in order to survive.

This book is a wonderful and enchanting (if not grisly at times) novel written by the equally wonderful and enchanting Debbie Gallagher. Gallagher throws us into a fantasy land filled with magic, strange and powerful creatures, as well as unseen twists and insightful extras. In particular, the character Richard Dadd, was a wonderful addition, encorporating the true life of Mr Dadd into this peculiar and rather mad tale (it seems fitting!). Based on one of his paintings, "They stared at me, the beaked and cat-eyed, feathered and scaled, the winged and the webbed and the hooved: and some were people and some were flowers and some were insects or beasts or toys...". I think Gallagher did a fantastic job of capturing just what Dadd saw, recreating the insanity.

I have to admit I struggled to get into this book to begin with although that could have been my fault. Gallagher delves into the world of the hedge without explanation, sending us straight into the story and with that, the world she has created. I'd decided to begin reading this book whilst at work where my connection to reality remained strong. Therefore I found it hard to conjure up Gallagher's world and lose myself amongst a fantasy realm. As soon as I realised this and began reading at home, my imagination took hold and I became encompassed completely within her world and the experiences of her characters.

Gallagher writes in an extraordinary way. It's poetic and encapturing adding to the enchantment of the plot. Her prose is easy to follow, without realising it, you'll be swept up amongst the magic and madness of the hedge.

I loved the humour woven into this story, mainly the interaction between the Hunter and the Bride. Their relationship was both intriguing and full of wit. The culmination of differing characters, both in their species classification and personalities and Gallagher's ability to switch seamlessly between them kept me desperately reading chapter after chapter. I was enthralled, wanting to know more and more. The fast pacing of this book only added to the thrill, keeping me hooked until the end.

I don't usually talk about cover art as for me it's more about the story within. However, in this case, I much prefer the kindle edition cover art. It's much prettier and so much more apt!

I would definitely recommend this book, it truly is one of a kind! I don't believe you need any prior knowledge of faerie lore or magical realms. You just need to believe, because when you do, anything is possible.


The Troupe
The Troupe
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed views - good characters and storyline but slow to start and dull in places, 14 July 2013
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This review is from: The Troupe (Paperback)
This is my first experience of reading one of Robert Jackson Bennett's books and I have to say I'm not sure if I'll read another one. For a start I almost gave up on reading this book just before Christmas (which would have been a first for me), but I returned to it in January determined to finish it.

George Carole is an accomplished Pianist playing within the Vaudeville scene. The book starts with George, out of the blue, quitting his current job where he his highly respected and established. He does this in order to chase the famous Silenus Troupe, a mystical, strange, and difficult to pin down group that travels the circuit. George does this because he believes the one and only Heironomo Silenus, the leader of the troupe, may be his long, lost father. George has never seen the Silenus Troupe perform so when he catches up with them he buys a ticket, in order to see for himself just what it is they do.

Even before George sees them perform he notices things just aren't quite `normal'. This only continues as the shows starts. The acts aren't quite what they seem and neither are the props. That's when George notices the effects the performance is having on the audience too - everyone seems to be in a trance. Everyone that is, except George, he remains unaffected. Whilst the audience leave under the spell weaved by the Troupe's performance, George goes to confront his Father.

This sends George tumbling head first into a world of magic, confusion and origins he didn't know existed. A world where nothing is quite what it seems: doors can move and reappear across towns; props, for all intents and purposes are alive and real; even inanimate objects such as light and dark have their own personalities and agendas. George learns of the fight to maintain the existence of humanity through delivering the First Song and maintaining the light, whilst the wolves of the darkness fight back in an attempt to plunge existence into nothingness.

Bennett explores a world filled with abstract ideas and workings, mythological and fantasy creatures, as well as personal attachments and emotions. All with the end goal of saving the world from the dark.

Or is it? Bennett adds a great twist towards the end of the book where we find out that motives may have been skewed for alternative gains.

The twists and additions within the plot definitely enhanced and enriched the story. However, I didn't feel these were explored enough or utilised to their full potential. For example, the introduction of the Four Shepherds. I found this to be a nice addition and particularly enjoyed their opposing elements and opinions. Bennett takes great time to include this and to fully map out their contrasts in being and personality. It's clear that this will be needed later on in the story. However, when the time comes, Bennett only uses a fragment of that which he built up earlier. For me I was hoping/expecting much more from it, and would have thought it would have been an exciting extra. Instead it just seemed to be a pointless addition. But that's just me!

The way in which Bennett has constructed his world leaves it open to the possibility of other creatures: fantasy, mythological and made up. With the exception of the fairies (another nice twist!), he didn't really explore these suggested avenues. The same could be said about the storyline itself. There was so much potential that I felt Bennett just didn't explore or incorporate into his narrative. Given that it was a fight for survival, a necessity for the Light to conquer the Dark, the depth and pace Bennett used didn't replicate that.

As mentioned above, I struggled with this book. The first third seems to drag, the pace was slow and the content was sparse. The prose Bennett used was also very matter-of-fact. It failed to enchant or draw me into the story. As a result I was bored and disinterested and almost decided not to continue reading, which is a shame because it does pick up. Although the style of Bennett's writing doesn't change much, slowly the pace seemed to pick up filling the book with more action, more content and more twists! However, for me it just wasn't enough, it felt as though Bennett wasn't enthused by the story he was telling. There needed to be more action, more urgency and greater enchantment. Given the topic, there was certainly scope for it!

On a positive note, Bennett's characters were well defined and interesting. I really enjoyed the contrasting and vastly differing elements to all the characters and how they added to the storyline, maintaining the unknown and mystery. They had clear, established roles, personalities and abilities that complimented the story well. The Characters were also the basis of the major twists within the story. As they were well written, these twists worked. For me the characters salvaged this story, and had the prose been better, it could have been phenomenal.

As you can see, I have mixed views of this book. My only advice being, if you decide to read this book, stick with because it does get better. Who knows, it could be just your thing!


Mindfulness Plain & Simple
Mindfulness Plain & Simple
by Oli Doyle
Edition: Paperback

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good starting point in discovering mindfulness, 14 July 2013
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As far as overviews into mindfulness go, this book does well. It is clear and concise in its delivery making the text readable and accessible for all, not just academics.

Doyle has broken down the subject of mindfulness into bite-size, manageable topics making it easy to take in the information provided. The sub-sections in which these topics are placed provide a gradual path that takes you through brief explanations and applications for real life. They also provide handy reference points if you're looking to skim read this book for the sections you require.

However, for me as a novice within this area, I found this book created more questions than it answered. The more I read the more I wanted to question, and that subsequently led to me challenging the concept of mindfulness - something I'm sure the author did not intend. I think the topic of mindfulness brings up many queries as it is being discussed, and although Doyle touches upon some of them, I found myself seeking bigger, greater explanations. As the title suggests 'Plain & Simple' Doyle was obviously trying to avoid complex discussions and explanations. Unfortunately his approach wasn't quite indepth enough for me.

As a starting text I would recommend this book for anyone. Given that it's short in length, basic and provides an outline, it will certainly provide you with enough of an insight to decide if you wish to pursue further texts. If you're looking to read this book to further your knowledge, this just isn't the text you're looking for!
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