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Curiosity Killed The Bookworm (Dorset, UK)

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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
by Marie Brennan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your average dragon story, 27 Feb. 2014
Written in the style of a memoir, A Natural History of Dragons is set in a world similar to Victorian England and its legacy of scientific exploration. It’s not quite steampunk, perhaps in the very early days before everything is steam powered, it could have easily been in our world but with dragons. Of course, it’s a time when ladies are supposed to act ladylike and not traipse off to heathen lands on expeditions.

The memoir style allows Lady Trent to look back on some of her thoughts and actions with hindsight. Perhaps we can’t expect a 19 year old woman from a high society background to be completely free from naivety or ignorance, and the older narrator can point out where she has since come to think otherwise. She references her other works, reminding us that the world exists outside the pages of this book.

It’s odd, the narrative voice is one I thought I wouldn’t have warmed to, but by the end I was invested in her character and moved by her honesty. She cares about dragons but she has the sense to put people first; good people at least. I loved the relationship between her and her surly ladies’ maid, Dragmira. She might be the farthest she can get from the staff at home but she ends up exactly what she needs. A Scirling maid surely wouldn’t have put up with her running after dragons and strange men.

Review copy provided by publisher.


The Seers
The Seers
by Julianna Scott
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit slow paced, 12 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Seers (Paperback)
Becca is a great narrator for these books, she seems so real and likeable. A normal, well-adjusted girl who just happens to have some very unusual powers. Her voice carries through the text and makes The Seers really readable, even though the pace was too slow for me. There’s a lot going on, which takes a while to all come together.

I liked seeing a platonic friendship form between girl and boy for once. This thread was my favourite part and probably made me slightly more annoyed with Alex and his jealousy. The strength of the anam bond means he has nothing to worry about and, whilst a twinge of jealousy is kind of understandable, his actions don’t make sense. Logically, Becca is open and doing what needs to be done and it practically impossible for them to cheat on each other.

It is difficult to carry on an interesting romantic storyline once the characters have got together and I get that this was an attempt to put some relationship stuff in. Yet I don’t think it was really needed. They could be getting along fine and dandy and focusing on the mystery and danger.

It’s great to see the Holder powers being explored a bit more and the climactic rescue was great. Down to a hair incident that I disproportionally loved. And I do like the world. It just took a long time coming. Hopefully in further adventures, Alex and Becca will be more sure of themselves and get on with living this exciting life they have.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, Book 1)
Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion, Book 1)
by Aimée Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dystopia by numbers, 23 Jan. 2014
If you'll excuse the pun, it's all a bit dystopia by numbers. There's a test for starters. Can we drop this plot device please? Otherwise the numbering is a believable system, keeping people in their place. At least people believe they have a chance to rise.

Kitty starts off with a boyfriend and Lila, who she takes the place of, has a fiancé but it doesn't fall into the love triangle trap. Which is another point in its favour. However overall it's lacking emotional depth, especially considering she's meant to be constantly in fear for her life, or the lives of people she cares about. She nearly goes into prostitution, thinking that is a valid life choice, but it just seems like a night out to a club to her. I really think having her life ripped away would be more traumatic than she lets on. Instead she recovers quite quickly to all the horror thrown at her. And really, it's a horrible world, one deserved a bit more depth.

Maybe I'm tiring of the young adult dystopia sub-genre. I think there's still a place for strong stories which explore the threat of today's politics, but I don't believe that's really what the whole trend was about. It was rebellion against authority, but even that has lost its way a bit.

A lot of Pawn reminded me of The Selection trilogy by Keira Kass. It's a different situation but something in my mind just melded them together. Perhaps it was the privileged family and hiding in the safe room away from the rebels. It's an easy enough read and enjoyable, just nothing new. If you fancy giving Aimee Carter a go, I would recommend the Goddess books instead.

Review copy provided by publisher.


The Echo
The Echo
by James Smythe
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another bleak tale from James Smythe, 23 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
There is a sibling rivalry between Mira and Tomas, right from the start of their lives and throughout their careers. Identical twins; Tomas was born with a birthmark and Mira, Mirakel, was unexpected, both looking towards science, both over achieving. Tomas is left at mission control on earth whilst Mira had the chance to see the anomaly in person. This separation and professional reliance on each other is a red flag. Something is bound to go wrong.

It took me a while longer than James' other books to get into. Mira's lack of connection to the crew also distances the reader, but I think what Mr Smythe does well are characters in isolation. Whilst Mira might not be physically alone, he does manage to be apart mentally, and without giving too much away, there are still parts that are very much about the loneliness and emptiness of space, even though it is a different sort of novel to The Explorer.

In The Explorer, Cormac became an observer of himself. Here, Mira becomes an external observer of the anomaly's behaviour, not a participant. Even in this he is distanced, an outsider, again. Before the anomaly was a mystery, completely unexplained. This time, they are setting out to discover what it is.

One thing I enjoyed was the constant references to lack of sleep in the early parts. I read this during the final stages of a 24 hour readathon, so they had a certain relevance at the time. Mira's determination not to sleep is probably the first thing that pushes him away from the rest of the crew. He doesn't miss anything but they must sleep. Even Tomas, back on earth sleeps. Staying awake puts Mira in a position of power over everyone else. But what is the price of insomnia? I rather wanted some more consequences to this, but thinking back on the ending, maybe that's what happens, maybe he's just crazy?

The Echo is another bleak book, one that gives hope and then snatches it away. Perhaps that is worse than never having hope in the first place... It's an admirable sequel to the excellent Explorer, which is a very hard book to beat. Like all of James' books, there's plenty to ponder and return to.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Wild Justice: Number 3 in series (Nadia Stafford)
Wild Justice: Number 3 in series (Nadia Stafford)
by Kelley Armstrong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.93

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad she finished Nadia's story, 23 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Jack brings Nadia an offering, a file on the man who raped and killed her cousin and got away with it. If she wants, she can kill him, or Jack will do the honour. But stirring up the past brings Nadia face to face with some harsh truths and someone is out to get her.

It's been such a long time since the last Nadia Stafford book, I had given up hope of getting more but I am so glad Kelley Armstrong decided to finish off her story. I always enjoyed the tenuous relationship between Nadia and her mentor, Jack, and here we get some closure and well as delving into her uncomfortable past, the very reason she became a professional killer in the first place.

If you never liked Jack, you may be in for a disappointment. This is mostly about the tentative relationship between him and Nadia. He is still gruff and economical with his words, but his sentences do get longer...well, yes he speaks in sentences. In the previous book, Nadia had realised she wanted more from him than the fatherly, mentor role he provided but was clear that he didn't want the same. He's a lone wolf, but one that's aging in a profession that doesn't take kindly to age. That foundation is built upon in Wild Justice and I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics between them.

As for the thriller side. They're hitmen (or hitpersons, not sure what you're meant to call them) so there is a certain amount of subterfuge and killing, but I think Kelley's voice shines through it all. Nadia is often the first to point out the clichés or schoolboy errors that others might make or think about when it comes to her profession. The warmth in her characters is the same as her other series, and makes this trilogy one to read even if thrillers aren't your thing.


Shadowplay (Micah Grey)
Shadowplay (Micah Grey)
by Laura Lam
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy sequel to Pantomime, 7 Jan. 2014
Micah Grey is on the run from the circus, with Drystan, the white clown, in tow. Determined not to be returned to his noble family, he takes refuge with the once great magician, Jasper Maske. As he learns the tricks of the trade, he also starts to understand that magic is more than just an illusion and it's real.

Parts of Shadowplay reminded me of The Prestige, with old style illusionists gripped in an ancient grudge. I loved the atmosphere of the theatre and the images conjured up by their performances. Yes, in the first book Micah/Gene ran away to join the circus and now he's run away to join a magic show. Though life seems a little easier this time round.

Whilst Micah spent a lot of time in Pantomime worrying what other people thought of him, this is much more about acceptance. More people know his secret and everyone is accepting. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling about the story, despite there being darker aspects.

Of course, Micah is still in hiding and desperate to stay out of the reach of the Shadow on his tail. But he also wants to learn more about Kedi and what that means about him. I'm starting to identify Micah/Gene as a young man in my head, because I think that's how he identifies himself, but there are still aspects of Gene sneaking through, especially in the narrative voice.

The unfolding relationship between Micah and Drystan is lovely and chaste and completely believable. I loved the moments when they curled up in bed together.

It's a worthy follow up to the utterly fantastic Pantomime. It had a lot to live up to, and like many second books, it's not quite as good as the first, but if you loved the first book, do carry on and read Shadowplay too. Whilst there is a bit more on the Vestige, I think I wanted more magic, something I suspect we'll see in the future.

Review copy provided by publisher.


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The grimy side to vampires, 18 Oct. 2013
Holly Black's vision of a world with vampires in the public eye is full of interesting elements. The spread of vampirism was a mistake and it's treated as a disease with quarantines in special Coldtowns. Going cold is treated in a way similar to junkies and withdrawals; it's not in any way glamorised, despite the TV shows broadcast from the Coldtowns which draw in groupies whose lives will be forever changed. Those going cold are almost zombie like.

Each chapter has a wonderful quote on the subject of death. I thought they were well chosen and added something to the book. In places, the video blogging culture reminded me a little of Mira Grant's Feed. I always appreciate modern life creeping into fantasy books in this way. Of course people would be blogging about vampires if they existed and chasing them across the country in the quest for content.

I did feel too much time was spent on Aidan and Tana's relationship at the start. He seemed like a vehicle to get her to a Coldtown rather than an integral character and I would have preferred more time given over to the rest of the back story; the culture around the vampires, how they came to be public and Gavriel's past were all fascinating. I loved Gavriel; there's something appealing about a deranged vamp when so many are depicted as sophisticated or charming. Although I suppose you can be deranged and sophisticated!

So it's a bit slow to start but the second half had me gripped right up to the end. Tana's choices are brave and the ending was perfect for me. It's not often I think that (and I don't know if this is a standalone or a series). I would like to read more but I am satisfied where it ended up.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Tempt the Stars (Cassie Palmer Novels)
Tempt the Stars (Cassie Palmer Novels)
by Karen Chance
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.96

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for Team Pritkin, 18 Oct. 2013
It's so long been Cassie Palmer novels that I must admit I'd forgotten about what happened to Pritkin at the end of Hunt the Moon. Please forgive me! I would suggest refreshing your memory by reading the last two chapters first if you're a little hazy (or the whole book if you have time). Fans of Pritkin will be happy with this instalment as Mircea takes a backseat; indeed he is eerily absent from Vegas. Is it because he can sense Cassie's loss of Pritkin or is it something else?

This world is like a warm, cosy blanket for me and I just fall into it every time. I love the characters and the mythology. Of course, I'm a huge Pritkin fan so this book was full of touching moments and nooooos and bad timing. If you prefer Mircea, you might hate it! They travel to a demon dimension which is so well imagined and so different to where you'd expect them to go. There's loads more background given around Cassie's parents and her ancestry. The kind which ties her to the gods of old. One of the best things about adding time travel in the mix, is it's easier to fill in the history without info dumping.

All the time, they are still on the brink of war, and there are witches hanging round back at her suite. I have always enjoyed Cassie's interactions with Mircea's men; the vampire bodyguards have become her family of sorts. Cassanova also gets involved and there's a hilarious and gripping flying carpet ride to look forward to. And. Oh. My. God. The ending! I really hope Karen doesn't wait another two years to find out what happens next, it has set itself up for another fantastic book.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Vivian Versus the Apocalypse
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse
by Katie Coyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Something a bit different, 18 Oct. 2013
Vivian was never a Believer but her parents were. The morning after The Rapture. She returns home to find two holes in the ceiling and her parents gone. Not knowing what to believe any more, she turns to her friends as America starts to fall apart. Is this the apocalypse?

I like stories that show that fundamentalism can exist in any religion; here it starts in the Church of America. It's comfort to those who see the world falling apart. It is the perfect moment to take advantage of people who want or need something to believe other than believing this world is of their making. What starts off as something positive can be manipulated and snowball into harm so quickly. Especially with an actual Rapture as proof. There are enough news stories coming out of America that infringe on women's rights, or the horror stories of gay persecution in Russia, it's not hard to see how Vivian's world could come into play.

There is a bit of info dumping at the start; I assume on the premise that some younger readers won't really understand what The Rapture is. The rest of the background is fed in throughout the story which works well, so it wasn't really needed right at the start. It felt a bit clumsy and made me worry as to what was to come. The night of the Rapture Party and Vivian discovering her parents were gone in the morning would have been a much more powerful start without the info-dump. A bit of mystery is OK, although it is more of a YA tendency to make sure the reader grasps everything in the first pages.

Vivian is in shock. It's hard to accept that she seems to just carry on after the huge loss of her parents, but there are several moments throughout the story where you see how hard it has hit her. The road trip gives her purpose and is a coping mechanism. It also serves the purpose of showing different elements of the Church of America; including a Believer who is good and kind, if a little naïve in stark contrast to the state of hysteria pushing people to violence.

Personally, I would have liked the story to end a few chapters earlier. The events that happen right at the end felt a bit contrived and weren't necessary. Overall a thought-provoking and page-turning read that brings something a little different to the YA table.


All is Fair (Split Worlds 3)
All is Fair (Split Worlds 3)
by Emma Newman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars 3rd book in a fun series (contains spoilers for earlier books), 18 Oct. 2013
Cathy's just starting to settle into her life with William and now she's Duchess of Londinium, with all the excruciating social engagements that brings. But she's not got time to socialise, she's got to free her old governess, Miss Rainer and take on The Agency, who are extorting money from all of fae-touched society in the name of housekeeping. Meanwhile Max is still trying to find out who killed his chapter with the gargoyle at his side.

Argh, William seems to make so much headway and then will go a think or say something drenched in fae-touched misogyny. He gives her a library! But he's really not keen on Cathy making waves and Cathy is hellbent on her mission to make life better for women in their world. He also appoints her a bodyguard, Carter, who turned into a character I loved despite him being a man of few words.

As always, Max the arbiter and the gargoyle were my favourites and oh my god, they actually made me cry. When you get there, you'll know which bit. The Battenberg. Sob. There was more of a sense of them being two sides of the same person in this instalment too. Ekstrand is losing it and there's the introduction of another sorcerer who I really liked, even if just for his grasp of modern life. There are also glimpses that the magical world is maybe not so antiquated all over the country.

The pace was a bit slow for much of the story. I think this is caused by so many different plot threads going on. Sam's involvement with Lord Iron doesn't seem relevant to Cathy's story for the most part and it broke up the pace. And there's still plenty of political manoeuvring and sneaking about. It does all speed up towards the climax and it suddenly became gripping. I do love the unique world Emma has created in this series, where two cultures collide, and there's some great bits of humour.

Review copy provided by publisher.


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