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A-red-lipstick-wearing bibliophile extraordinaire. Word nerd & Joss Whedon fangirl; Literature lover & book reviewer. Lady Libertine; Tea collector; Potterhead.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review: Sabotage, Jimmy Coates (#4)

NJ-7 finally achieved their heart's greatest desire: Jimmy Coates is out of the equation. Well, so they think.
After an elaborate ruse in the previous book, Jimmy successfully faked his own death to escape the clutches of the British Government. Again. Only to reluctantly walk into the open arms of the CIA, who promised him save passage out of the USA and protection from the Prime Minister, Ian Coates.

Unfortunately for Jimmy, his relocation attempt goes awry. His plane going down is the least of his worries when he discovers NJ-7's next grand scheme. It's called Neptune's Shadow; a secret missile base disguised as an oil rig. Information has it that the missiles are pointing towards France. Britain is planning on starting a war.
Stranded in the middle of nowhere, and all alone, it's all to clear what his next mission is. It involves a little bit of sabotage, but the question is: can he successfully foil this plan and stay dead?

I hope further along in this series I don't have to start all my reviews in this way, but poor Jimmy Coates. You would think I'd get used to his hardships by now, but alas that's not the case. I found this one particularly difficult to read, for the simple fact that I've never seen him struggle as much before. Alone in the wilderness, this young boy hasn't got a soul to share his burden with and you can see how much it starts to affect him.
Very early on, his obsession with caution turns into full blown paranoia. His doubt in the CIA bubbles constantly under the surface of his skin, and without his family, he heavily relies on his programming to aid him. This eventually just brings him full circle to his ever present inner turmoils of being a reluctant assassin. As the story (and his programming) advances, the more you can see Jimmy try to grasp at the tendrils of humanity with sweaty palms. This is especially shown in the periods where the assassin completely takes over the 38% acts as his moral compass, reminding him what he believes in and more importantly who he believes in. It's a very sharp reminder that his enemies aren't the only people who he's constantly fighting.
Often, heroes in children's stories are very linear, and are particularly morally sound. There isn't much room for the blurring of lines, but this isn't the case here. I really enjoy the fact that Jimmy is a complex character, and quite often gives in to his 'villainous' side, which ironically humanises him more than anything.

I always look forward to reviewing these books, as it's definitely become one of my most enjoyed series. If you haven't started it yet, I'm frankly ashamed I haven't convinced you, yet.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens
Price: £6.99

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Dad's in charge because mum is away, and the most important thing he has to do? Remember the milk. When you think about it logically, it's all very simple really. Right?

Two children wake up one morning staring the horror of dry cereal in the face, and they discover that their father has forgotten the milk. Water and cereal isn't a good combination at all, so he must rectify the situation immediately! The simple task of saving breakfast turns into an epic quest featuring swashbuckling pirates, Professor Steg, the time travelling dinosaur; fresh water piranhas and the old classic: a bunch of wumpires. (Special mention to the aliens, I love a good amount of slimy green alien in a story.)
This is probably one of the most wonderfully ridiculous things I've read all year. If anyone can capture the very heart of me and make it soar, it's Neil Gaiman.

As with all of his children's stories, it comes hand in hand with adorable illustrations (courtesy this time, of one Chris Riddell). It pulled everything together so wonderfully. I spent a large amount of time simply enjoying what I was looking at, which is always a nice change of pace for me. This is one of those things that has you smiling and chuckling without realising you're doing it.

I highly recommend this to adults, children, and time travelling dinosaurs alike. If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman there is absolutely no way you'll not enjoy this! I think it's yet another chance to go exploring in that delightful brain of his.

Rating: ★★★

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Review: The Shining Girls

When a book seller recommended this read to me they simply said one thing: "Time-travelling murderer." I purchased it so quickly, I was practically tripping over my own excitement.

It is during the Great Depression, where violent drifter Harper Curtis finds himself run out of Hooverville Chicago, and straight into a house that opens up to different points in time.
Appealing to his killer instinct, the house leads him to his future victims- the girls who literally shine with potential, and it's up to Harper to put out those lights. He would stalk them for years, through childhood to adolescence, until the perfect opportunity arose.
Kirby Mazarachi is one of his victims. And she survives. The year is 1992, and the hunter unknowingly becomes the hunted.

Much like Harper's memories, I'm in two minds about this book. I both like it and I don't. I love the concept of this story, a murderer evading detection by skipping through time was very appealing to me. I believe that author Lauren Beukes did a very good job of it, but something is decidedly lacking.

The principle characters are almost fully rounded.
Kirby is proactive, determined and absolutely refuses to be a victim of circumstance. This girl has without a doubt, has an unyielding strength, but something about her seems lazy. Sloppy. She's nearly a brilliant hero.
Other than sexual gratification, no other explanation is offered to why the girls are so important. Harper is sick, and twisted, but not in the same way as Patrick Süskind's character, Grenouille. In 'Perfume', you can feel the pull of arousal in waves; it feels real, and disturbing. Especially since there's reason, a method to madness we don't see in this book. There should have been more grit to Harper's character, but there wasn't.

The time travel thing nearly worked.
Again, no explanation to why the house worked the way it did. It opened to different years, and that's that. If you have a hard time swallowing this fact, it will probably be a very difficult read for you. I happen to like the science bit of the sci-fi element (I think most people do), so I was a bit disheartened it was missing.

One thing I have no doubt about, and what ultimately half won me over in the end was the beautifully stylistic writing of Beukes. It is writing I am very comfortable with reading, and it flowed wonderfully. I adored it. Even if the story seemed sort of flat, in a very fulfilling way. It's definitely worth a read if you've got a craving for some YA literature, that doesn't have a hint of dystopian future.

 Rating: ★★★☆

Publisher: HarperCollins
Price: £7.99

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: Revenge (Jimmy Coates, #3)

Jimmy seems to be finding it increasingly difficult to evade the clutches of NJ-7. However, the recent escape wasn't one without injury. When we last left them, a life was hanging in the balance, and once more Jimmy and his family are forced into a life on the run.

In the third instalment of the series, Christopher Viggo has found himself unnamed powerful new friends who have agreed to smuggle them all into the United States and out of harms way. With this new alliance, plans to take down NJ-7 once and for all are being put into motion.
All hopes of a normal life away from their enemies are dashed when Jimmy starts experience recurring images flashing inside his head, accompanied by mind boggling headaches. What do they mean? And can Jimmy even trust what's going on inside his own body?

This felt different than the others, although still packed with enormous amounts of action, it almost seemed muted under the weight of the emotions rolling throughout this book. A lot of the main characters are experiencing some form of inner turmoil at this point, constant fear and moving from one place to the next seems to be heightening tensions all around. (Thank goodness for Felix who seems to act once again, as light relief and gave me frequent moments of giggles.)
Unlike the previous two books, I wasn't tearing out my hair at the injustice of it all, instead it was replaced by a deep rooted sadness. Jimmy feels older. Emotionally, he's matured into someone who is riddled with confusion, and obsession. He's all too aware of how far people are willing to go to manipulate him to serve their own purpose, and although frequently broken he seems to find himself putting trust at the feet of people he barely even knows. It's awful to experience as a reader. It really, really is.

I read this in pretty much one sitting, and was itching to buy the next book when I'd got to a revelation that forced me stop at one point and say, "I'm sorry, what?" Hats off to Joe Craig though, for managing to change the overall tone of this book without changing pace.
I've really come to the love this series, and the wonderful writing style of the author. I know I've said this before but it really is underrated, falling under the shadow of Alex Rider and similar boy hero series. I really think it's something that should and could have the potential to stand up on its own, if only people would take it as something that is entirely independent. (Because it is, you know.)

I have an unwritten rule when it comes to my reading dates: I usually wait three books before I call myself a fan of something. I'm flying the Jimmy Coates flag, you guys. I think you should be doing the same.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Review: The Ocean At The End of the Lane.

It took a lot of coaxing and badgering to get me to pick up a Neil Gaiman book, but it was never from a lack of interest; I simply hadn't got there yet.
I finally did just over a year ago, and haven't looked back since. I'm fairly certain that Mr Gaiman's head is the place where half remembered dreams go to end up more beautiful, and more complete than anyone ever thought possible. His words have had a profound effect on me, and I swear I've been a fan my whole life. I'd try to explain, but to do so is to become lexically challenged. I need my words right now. Having said that, I'll try my hardest to make this an actual book review and not an ode to the author.

But where to begin? Inevitably, at the beginning. We are introduced to a man attending a funeral, in the neighbourhood in which he grew up. He takes a tumble down memory lane; all of a sudden he's seven years old again and no one attended his birthday party. He remembers Lettie Hempstock, the 11 year old girl who convinces him that a pond behind her house is actually the ocean. He remembers the lodger who stole the family car, and committed suicide in it. And he remembers the unspeakable evils that came as a consequence.

The novel's beauty lies in its innocence of childhood memory, in its heart lies the need for survival against all odds, and in its soul the very magic of it lies (in my humble opinion) a story of friendship and trust. I entered a place that had no concept of time while I was reading this; I'd started during the day, and the sun had started to set by the time I looked up from the last page. Of course, it has some unspeakable horrors that leaves me goose pimply and nervous. There are three chapters, two involve a bathroom and one a field; even speaking about it makes my skin react terribly, they're the sort of instances that will stay with me forever. With the seven year old protagonist, I was transported back to younger days when I would end up being terrified by what I was reading and desperately trying to make sense of the why.

It was everything I hoped it would be, and absolutely nothing I expected. It was different, and definitely more personal to the author, but it felt the same and all wrapped up in a familiar genre that is so completely his own it can only really be described in my head as Gaimany. I loved this book. I'm glad it turned from a novella, into a novel. I will recommend this to everyone of every age group, simply because any age group can read it. I so highly recommend this, I'd probably even be willing to part with my own copy. I think.

Rating: ★★★

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Review: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P, #1)

The story here largely involves W.A.R.P (Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme); a secret FBI operation that hides key witnesses in the past to ensure their safety, before testifying in major trials. In this instance, the witnesses are sent back to early 19th Century England.
Riley is an orphaned boy living in Victorian London, who has the misfortune of being apprenticed to sociopathic illusionist Albert Garrick. A man who now uses his power of misdirection towards murder. On one particular job, Riley finally has to prove himself to his master by making his first kill; instead he finds himself hurtling forward through time.
It's in modern day London that Riley is saved from his fate, by Chevie Savano; a plucky junior FBI agent with a lot to prove. Now on the run, Riley and Chevie must evade the murderous magician as they are hunted down through time.

We've all been in this place; one of your favourite series ends and the author begins anew. You can't help but harshly judge the new series before you've even read it, because let's face it: it'll pale in comparison right?
Right. Well, wrong really. I was really excited when I found out about this series, and it was largely to do with the fact that I absolutely adored Colfer's previous series Artemis Fowl; but new series are always a big deal for me- it's a way for the author to show a different side to them, and I definitely saw one.

Of course, it was wonderfully fast paced- I just couldn't put it down. It also had the same familiar Colfer wit; and it had the same art of making me love the villains probably more than the heroes, but it's the start of an entirely different series. Artemis Fowl had an absurd brilliance to it that was absolutely wonderful. Sometimes things got silly, and the sillier it got- the more I enjoyed it. The Reluctant Assassin possessed something much darker though, and a lot more serious. There was real pain for the characters in the book, for both hero and villain alike.

The characters were great in this, it's always refreshing when female characters are obviously badass without being irritating and Chevie is one of them. She's gobby, reckless and annoying but still pretty great. Riley, unlike Artemis uses a combination of street smarts and sheer dumb luck to claw his way out of sticky situations. Sometimes his innocence is astounding, and plays his role of a cheeky young boy very well. (He deserved a clip round the ear, on a few occasions. Just saying.)
And Garrick? Well, Garrick. What can I say, penchant for reluctantly super smart sexy villains and all that rot. As well as being relentlessly evil, there were times where I genuinely felt sorrow in my heart for his character. He reminded me of a scruffy, long haired Oliver Reed, in Oliver!

In short, I welcome W.A.R.P. with open arms. It's not Artemis Fowl, but it is something new. The only problem about it being new though, is having to wait to find out what happens next. Watch this space, I guess.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monday, 1 July 2013

Monkeying Around: A Tale of the Bilio-Mat

Most people in my social circle know that I will travel great lengths for the want of books, and the love of book shops. And when I'm unable to? Well, may the Force be with the person I select for a spot of vicarious living. When I found out two of my sisters were travelling to Toronto, I all but screamed the word Biblo-Mat at them. Every time they mentioned their holiday. For two months.

There are three absolute scenarios for my discovery of the Biblio-Mat and the place it is housed, The Monkey's Paw:

1. Timey-Wimey Potter-Pal Emma
2. Tumblr
3. An entirely eloquent google search of "cool book things."
3a. This article from The New York Times, T Magazine.

The Monkey's Paw is an antiquarian bookstore specialising in old and unusual books, and is the home of The Biblio-Mat; a coin operated vending machine that dispenses a book at random after entering a $2 coin. (It even rings when your book drops down) Heavenly, right? The sort of heavenly that's akin to a duvet day, with a cuppa and my latest read. You can't put a price on this sort of excitement, other than $2 of course. 

My sister got me two books from the Biblio-Mat, and I'm fairly certain that it has either divine powers or it secretly scanned her brain for information about me. The books that came home with her are absolutely perfect. The first was, 'Wunnerful, Wunnerful! The Autobiography of Lawrence Welk.' I have no idea who he is, but owner Stephen Fowler was surprised it had come out and told my sister that it's the same book from the video. (Expletives were used, but you know me.)
The second book is titled, 'Homes and Haunts of British Poets.' My absolute adoration of dead poets is no secret; anything that contains information about Lord Byron is a guaranteed hit in my eyes. I absolutely cannot wait to get started on it.

The only downside is not being able to go myself, I couldn't possibly comment about how amazing the store is, but for idealest reasons I can guarantee amazingness. I also bet it smells really great, the kind of smell you can only get from old books. Yum.

So if you're ever in Toronto, you know exactly where you need to go!
Happy reading!
- Kaveeta

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Review: House of Secrets

Life had seemingly ground to a halt after their father lost his job due to an 'incident' at work. Now the Walker family were living in a tiny apartment, with no sure way on how and when they were going to move forward.
Until their parents found a new start in a beautiful Victorian house, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francsico Bay. The family is now set on moving into Kristoff House; a place which they'd discovered was built by writer and Occultist, Denver Kristoff, and it was just in their price range. It was absolutely perfect. Too perfect.
All too soon, the three Walker Children are thrust into a world that is born from the dead writer's twisted imagination. They had to quickly learn that when something is too good to be true, it usually is; now they must cross a plethora of nefarious fictional characters and alien landscapes, in order to obtain a deadly book that might save their parents. And themselves.

When I found out about this book, I was overly excited; although I know very little about YA writer Ned Vizzni, his co-writer made me a little weak in the knees.
With the first two Harry Potter films, The Goonies, Mrs Doubtfire, and Home Alone under his belt; film maker Chris Columbus needs absolutely no introduction. All you need to know is that he certainly has the Midas touch when it comes to children's entertainment.
My expectations just went through the roof, I just knew I would be immersed in a beautifully picturesque world and I absolutely could not wait! The anticipation was certainly worth it.

This was a fantastic read. It was like reading a copy of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, and at the same time being chased by Death-Eaters through the The Forbidden Forest, while you're blindfolded on your Nimbus 2000. It's overflowing with adventure and suspense, and rapidly took me into new directions all the time. At first I started to get annoyed with the pacing, too much seemed to be happening at once but once I'd let go of how I felt it should be, I found myself enjoying it an awful lot more.
I really enjoyed the characters, the Walker siblings managed to be quintessentially family orientated with just the right amount of argumentative behaviour. It seemed like a true representation of what family life is like, I always feel a bit on edge when siblings in fiction get along perfectly.

The book read just like a screenplay, the images were so vivid and it was described so perfectly, I had absolutely no trouble imagining this as a film. I suspect a lot of this has to do with Columbus's writing style and although it would make an incredible movie, I felt like this was his chance to really go wild with a story without a budget looming over his head.
I'm really excited to see how they continue with this series. If the first book is anything to go by, I know the ride isn't quite over yet.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Friday, 21 June 2013

Review: A Storm of Swords

I decided with this, I'd read both parts before I reviewed it. Forgive me for the length of the review. After all, I would have only been getting half a story; my grumbles, if I had them, would have to wait.
Having finished the last pages of 'Blood and Gold' mere minutes ago I think it's safe to say: bloody hell! Books very rarely render me speechless, I can only think of a handful of times; this is one of those.

Many of the characters are suffering from the aftermath of the Battle of the Blackwater. Tyrion Lannister must come to terms with his thankless father reclaiming the spot as the King's Hand, as well as the more personal afflictions that came in the wake of the disaster.
The Onion Knight pays dearly at the hands of the Pyrcomancers, and must now decide where his loyalties truly lie. War is savaging Westeros, as Brienne of Tarth attempts to see the Kingslayer home in order to return Catelyn Stark's daughters safely. Jaime, ever the walking target makes this as difficult as humanly possible. Meanwhile Jon Snow struggles with the vows of Black Brothers, as he rides alongside the Freefolk; and Arya Stark continues her journey across the lands with Hot Pie and Gendry.

Part One was a strange thing for me, Martin kindly left a note at the beginning about the sequencing. He made it clear that the opening chapters overlap what happened in 'A Clash of Kings' and doesn't follow directly from where it ended. Taking a break from all the bloodshed that happened in its predecessor, 'Steel and Snow' focuses more on the plights of its characters.
Considering the amount that happened within this first part, the pacing is akin to the ascent of a mighty roller coaster. It was slow going, and probably the longest I've taken with any other book in this series. At times the anticipation was a little too much to bear, and I gave up reading for weeks at a time. I managed to pull through it though, the end of the book reached its peak height I knew it was only a matter of time before I was sent thundering down. And around. And upside down.

This is where Part Two came in, as well as the absolute sickly bittersweet greatness that is George R. R. Martin.

Everyone pays for transgressions in this book, whether it was theirs to begin with, or not. Bodies are stacked higher than the wall the Black Brothers guard. No one is safe, no one. Not the characters, and especially not us. If you think the books pages will keep you safe, I assure you they absolutely will not.
I was left reeling by the end of this, my head was spinning and my legs felt like jelly. I spent most of my time reacting as though I'd just been sucker-punched in the solar plexus. To reach for my earlier analogy this really was one roller coaster ride, and I was thrown about in hopeless abandon.

I'm back in the place where I won't tell you what happens in this part of the book because I feel like as a reader you need to get there yourself. One great thing I can tell you about is the character development of Jaime Lannister, his chapters are a welcome addition to the story and I pray to the Fantasy Gods I get to see a lot more of him.

Before you pick this up, I highly suggest you read these two books back to back. It seems like a daunting task and I admit the first part is but it is essentially one book and should be treated as such; 'Blood and Gold' should come to you as easy as breathing. You won't regret it, and remember to applaud Mr. Martin as I did, he certainly deserves it.

Rating: ★★★

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Review: Playing With Fire, (Skulduggery Pleasant, #2)

It's been exactly a year since the events of the first book, and thirteen year old Stephanie (now known as Valkryie Cain) has remained the faithful sidekick of Skullduggery Pleasant. After successfully ridding the world of Nefarian Serpine, the duo set about catching other criminals for The New Sanctuary.
Playing With Fire focuses on the recapture of one Baron Vengeous, the big bad who escapes prison in order to find the armour of Lord Vile, and (much like Serpine) have the opportunity to ressurect The Faceless Ones.

While trying to save the world once again, Valkryie learns more about the magical world, as well practising her budding powers. Life seems much easier fighting crime, when one's reflection can successfully live out the banalities of teenage life.

The second in the Skulduggery series continued just how I hoped it would; there was a progression of the larger story arc as well as delving a little deeper into the relationship of Valkryie and Skulduggery. Some of the other minor characters had some development too, which was nice. (Particularly China Sorrows, I think I've got the makings of a female character crush happening.) The new characters were as I'd hoped, absolutely bonkers. I've been finding it really difficult to dislike any of them in this, not even Thurid Guild, who is charming in his own little annoying way.
I especially relished in learning a little more about Skulduggery himself. In a way, the undead wizard reminds me a lot of the 10th Doctor, with his quirky disposition, and silly humour; his deep rooted anger, and his unequivocal sexiness. I definitely do not disapprove.

I really love Landy's writing style, he manages to mix very light hearted humour with dark and twisty emotions and still have it child friendly. It's definitely entertaining and adventerous enough for a young age group, which is a good thing especially if you have the concentration levels of a four year old like I do. I'm thoroughly enjoying this series at the moment, and I find myself wanting to get through the series as fast as possible or to savour it slowly. Decisions, decisions.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Event: Middle-Earth Weekend

The event was held on Saturday 11th, and Sunday 12th of May at Sarehole Mill, in Birmingham. The mill is best known for its association with Tolkien, who used it and the surrounding areas as inspiration for the Shire in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It's also one of two of the only working watermills in the city. 

I've been trying to attend Middle-Earth Weekend for as long as I can remember, so yesterday I finally managed to cross it off my literature bucket-list. It is a free event that celebrates the life of J. R. R. Tolkien, and of course the the works that irrevocably changed my life when I was a young girl.

Of course when it rains, it pours. The weather nothing short of awful, but I didn't let that dampen my spirits in the slightest. I plucked up my courage, my blackest cardigan, and declared myself the Witch-king of Angmar. Of course, I had two little halflings with me- and oh the rainy fun we had. 

The outdoor festival had medieval re-enactments, craft tents, story telling, archery, barrel racing and most excitingly COSPLAYING GALORE. Not to mention: dragons. Lots and lots of dragons. I was laughed at by Gandalf the White, got attacked by a Uruk-hai from Isengard and caught some elves reading in one of the tents. Plus, there were tiny little Hobbits and far as the eye could see. I even managed to visit a Hobbit-hole. There was an opportunity to have a tour of the mill as well, but we left that for a brighter (and drier) day.  

It was so nice to see so many faces supporting such a wonderful celebration, people often forget that a lot of the inspiration from Tolkien's world is right on Birmingham's doorstep. I wish they'd taken more advantage of it, New Zealand gets ALL the credit.
I managed to speak to someone at the information desk who told us that this could be the last Middle-earth weekend due to a lack of funding, which makes me incredibly sad. I wish I'd made more of an effort to go for all these years. 
If it is the last one, I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet so many like minded people and experience the sheer amount of love and pride attached to the event. Fingers crossed for a Middle-earth weekend 2014!

- Kaveeta

Be sure to visit Sarehole Mill, and help keep it running! Information here.
Also, become part of the Tolkien Society, it's the next thing I'll be doing. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Review: Target (Jimmy Coates, #2)

Initially I just wanted to publicly request that Mr Craig no longer put my emotions through a meat grinder, but decided I am made of sterner stuff. I can deal with the Rowling's and Martin's of the world, so I can deal with this too. I think.

When we last saw Jimmy, he had escaped the clutches of NJ7, and was making his way to France with his family and friends in tow. All is not well in the world though, as his best friend's parents are still being held captive by NJ7, and it's up to him to figure out a way to rescue them.
Meanwhile in England, NJ7 are secretly plotting his demise, by means of a second assassin who is just like Jimmy. Except this one isn't as reluctant to become the killing machine he is destined to be.

We get to find out a little bit more about a futuristic Britain in a dictatorship, it has an air of dystopian future to it which I really enjoyed.
Jimmy also gets to understand his programming a little bit more, but with his advancing list of skills comes an ever present inner conflict. I love me some inner conflict with a helping of moral dilemmas, this takes me back to my days of obsessing over vampires with souls. (I'm talking the Louis' and the Angels of the world, none of this Cullen nonsense.) I'm not sure what it is about this boy, but I can't come to terms with the hurdles he has to jump through in this book. Once you begin to see him as a machine, Craig will throw in a curveball and remind us all that's he's still an innocent, and very young boy. Damn near broke my heart sometimes.

I loved Killer, the first in this series and it just gets better with the sequel. It's the same incredibly well written stuff, but it gets alarmingly dark sometimes. I had to remind myself that it is indeed a children's book, so nothing will get too crazy. (Says the self confessed Rowling fangirl.)
I won't lie, I sort of don't want to know what's in store for Jimmy; I'm of a sensitive disposition and don't think my heart can take it. However, I'll be lying to myself if I don't pick up this book as soon as possible. The imagination of the author has me hooked now, but honestly I'm just hoping things start to get better soon.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Remember to follow Joe Craig on Twitter, he's an immensely funny man. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Night!

Happy World Book Night/ St. George's Day and Happy Birthday to The Bard, Mr. William Shakespeare!

I rarely need an excuse to shamelessly promote reading to as many people as I possibly can. World Book Night is one of those occasions where I take my babbling off the screen, and out on to the streets of Birmingham.

I've been lucky enough to be a giver for the second year running, and this time saw me giving out 20 copies of 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson. (You can find my review for it here.)
Prepping for the evening is the least exciting bit of the process, but I found myself making little gifts out of the books. Which included little skull-and-cross-bones tags* (pictured), and small handwritten notes on the wrapping paper. Not tooting my own horn, but I would have loved to receive one of my own books this evening!

4pm came far too quickly, but I found myself more than ready to spread the word of literature like pixie dust. Conclusion: The people of Birmingham believe in books! We had the most perfect weather, and I'm sure that made people far more agreeable and open to listen to me. I found myself completely out of books in just under two hours! I still had more than enough time to have a nice conversation with a few of the people I spoke with. It was a beautiful thing, and has topped up my faith in the world of first time readers. And in my city of course.

World Book Night posted an interesting request via their social media pages, asking everyone to update their statuses to, "I love reading because..." At first I found it difficult to put into words just why I love reading, and literature generally.
I feel after my giving today, I feel more would say that I love reading because it's concrete evidence that magic exists in the world.

I hope you all enjoyed your World Book Night as much as I did in whichever way you decided to celebrate. I will now conclude off my evening with some light reading, followed by some heavier reading.

Be sure to follow World Book Night on Twitter, for information about their future events and how to apply to be a giver in 2014.

Happy Reading!
- Kaveeta

* The skull tags were made by my incredibly talented crafty friend Emma. She really is brilliant, if you love these tags, I would strongly recommend checking out and liking her Facebook Pages, here and here. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Book Event: Eoin Colfer

If I had to make a book cocktail, by which I mean a cocktail that would create an ideal book- it would contain the following things:
  • Magic
  • A little bit of Sci-fi, not talking time travel here, but time travel helps. 
  • A painfully funny/inventive author penning the works
  • A character, ideally a villain who I can potentially, albeit inappropriately view as sexy and;
  • Some fast paced 'I can't put this down' sort of action.

    Bonus ingredient:
  • A potential candidate for the Severus Snape Award.

Eoin Colfer's first in his new series, seems to possess all these things (the last I won't be sure about until I actually read it). If his Artemis Fowl books are anything to go by, I found myself unable to contain my excitement. I was lucky enough this weekend to attend a Waterstones event/book signing for the promotion of 'The Reluctant Assassin' and I can honestly say I can't remember the last time I've had so much fun. 

The story starts with W.A.R.P (Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme) which is a covert FBI operation that hides witnesses in the past to protect the future.
Riley is an orphan from the Victorian era who is thrown into the 21st century. He is on the run from his
evil master Garrick, a retired magician who uses his magical abilities towards assassination. Together with FBI agent Chevie Savano, Riley attempts to dodge Garrick as they are relentlessly hunted down through time.

Colfer read an excerpt from his book, which 'brought his characters to life on stage'. Magic, fire, hilarity and gun shots came shortly thereafter. The mini-play was followed by an equally hilarious question and answer session, it warmed my heart through seeing how enthusiastic the children in the audience were. It was a great reminder that there are kids out there who are the way I was when I was their age. The event ended with a book signing, and it was needless to say that I was the oldest person getting a book signed for themselves. I HAVE NO SHAME. I relive my youth on a near constant basis, and I guess this time is no different really. Although, I guess there was a bit of embarrassment on my part when everyone thought 'Kaveeta' was my eight year old niece.

'W.A.R.P, A Reluctant Assassin' is out now if you wish to purchase the book. If you're unfamiliar with
the author's work, he is a brilliant children's writer and is the man behind Part Six of Three in the Hitchhiker's Trilogy. You can find out more about his works and the man himself, here. I absolutely cannot wait to get started with this book, and I will definitely be reviewing it as soon as I'm done so watch this space.

I don't usually get in to the habit of posting my face on my entries, but I felt like you all needed to see the sheer joy on my face after the afternoon's theatrics. 
I guess I should thank Waterstones Birmingham for getting such an amazing and hilarious man to do this for us. I'm looking forward to many hours of happy reading!

- Kaveeta.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review: Skulduggery Pleasant (#1)

Two things happened at the reading of Stephanie's late Uncle's will.
One: He'd left her everything; which includes the royalties to all his best selling books and his enormous mansion. 
Two: she meets a strange man wearing sunglasses, and a scarf covering his mouth. All Stephanie learns of this man is that his name is Skulduggery Pleasant, he was a friend of her Uncle's, and he'd inherited a piece of advice.

Stephanie is staying the night at her new mansion, when someone breaks in and tries to kill her. Before they succeed in their mission though, the strange man from the will reading barges in and saves her life. During the struggle the man loses his disguise, and Stephanie discovers that her Uncle's friend is, in fact a living, breathing skeleton. (Although, he doesn't actually breathe.) 
He's also an undead detective and magic maker, with an obvious penchant for pyromancy. A man who's dress sense is as sharp as his wit, and someone who is probably a lot cooler than the infinitely cool cars he drives. If I have to be honest with myself, I'd say he's a little sexy, too. You know, as far as skeletal wizard-detectives go in any case. 

It's from him Stephanie discovers an underbelly to Uncle Gordon's life, where sorcery exists and where he spent an alarming amount of his time in grave danger. Skulduggery and his newly appointed sidekick go on an adventure that's full of magic, mystery and danger; trying to uncover the meaning of the attack at Gordon's home. They both silently cling to the weak hope that it's not the beginning of some great nefarious scheme, but if it is... It's certain they have to stop it.

The story is fantastically written, it's so easy to read and the imagery is almost perfectly described in terms of detail. The characters are all fantastic, they all possess a universal charm and wit, you can't help but like the bad guys as well.
The writing style is just marvellous, and had me genuinely cracking up with laughter, it's not too complicated for children, and as just the right amount of dry/dark humour to be entertaning for adults as well. These sorts of writers always have it the hardest I think, to be entertaining and humerus (ha, see what I did there?) for both children and adults alike is no easy feat. Derek Landy makes it seem so effortless. 

Every page of this book was a huge joy to read, and it's really set the bar high for any new Children's series I begin to read after it. If you enjoy this sort of literature as much as I do, it'll be perfect for you.

Rating: ★★★

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Review: The Dark

What would you count as your greatest fears? Heights? Never finding true love? Or perhaps it’s finding a hole in your favourite sweater. If I had to think about it, mine would probably be losing my favourite red lipstick, but for Laszlo, his greatest fear is the dark. Unfortunately for him, the darkness lives in his house too. Usually, it creeps in all the usual places in a house such as cupboards, and downstairs in the basement. One evening though, the darkness leaves it’s confines and enters Laszlo’s room and it’s here he has to confront the faceless and deal with his ultimate fear. 

I love the way Snicket approaches the realm of fears in this, especially of something as being afraid of the dark and the unknown. He hasn't added things that go bump in the night, or any sort of boogie monsters or supernatural beings. There's nothing that can be defeated, or even something that can be killed. It's simply something that Laszlo has to learn to deal with. It seems here, that for our protagonist (wonderful, beautiful, and completely Snickety name), his fear is fear itself.

There is no question or doubt in my mind, this book is utter perfection. The Dark’s voice has a creepy edge to it, which I completely expected. Snicket always injects his children’s stories with some adult humour, but still manages to maintain a child friendly atmosphere. Although the dark is a huge mysterious and sometimes intimidating force, it also acts as a guardian and teacher- showing Laszlo that actually there isn't anything to be afraid of. There is a particular page that talks about how one thing cannot exist without the other, it was a wonderful addition, although sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the book's layout. In terms of reading out loud though, it could probably be skipped and no one would really notice.

This is the usual extra large helping of Snickety goodness with the addition of the beautiful illustrations from Jon Klassen. I've not had the pleasure of his company before but I'm glad I've been introduced. A definite out loud read, a definite read and then reread. Perfect for children, perfect for adults; everyone should read this. Everyone. It's pure joy in word form. It's also pure joy in picture form. I couldn't recommend this enough! I promise, you won't regret it. 

Rating: ★★★

Friday, 5 April 2013

Review: Gone

I have an odd thing when it comes to reading; I avoid book editions with models on the front. I avoid them like the plague. I like my own imagination to create the images, and they just end up being a big roadblock in my way. Hello my name is Kaveeta, and I judge books by their covers; fortunately it isn't what I'm reviewing today.

The premise is really simple here, every person over the age of 15 seems to vanish into thin air with no possible explanation. Sam Temple is an extraordinarily ordinary boy, and with the help of his best friend Quinn, Sam tries to figure out what has happened to the world. As expected, there is some Lord of the Flies-y typed angst and violent behaviour, which occurs almost instantaneously. As does the budding romance between Sam and his lady love. It wouldn't be dystopian future if something sinister isn't lurking underneath the surface of it all, and it has chock loads of it. Sam makes a shocking self discovery, and the world as he knows it is turned spectacularly on its head.

This was an incredibly slow burner, for over half of the book we’re treated to a group of teenagers running around the small town, finding a seemingly endless barrage of open ended questions. Sam was very reluctant as far as protagonists go, he was so spineless he seemed to be putty in my hands, but still managed to keep a consistent tone of annoying self righteousness throughout the book. It was a treat to see the transition from that, into the hero the story so desperately needed- once he’d managed to choke down a whole bottle of Skele-Gro anyway. I did end up warming to him, which I openly admit. Aside from it's slow start, it grew on me once things actually started happening, the more shambolic the world became, the more I began to enjoy myself.

The story didn’t go the way I thought it would, I was surprised with some of the directions the plot took. It was enough to keep me interested though, as some of these YA books have a bad habit of following a system. Grant has an unusual way of writing, he split the book up into the point of view of several different characters. They weren't connected in anyway other than occupying the same world, but in different places. I'm unsure whether I liked the format, but if the series continues like this, I guess it's something I'll have to get used to.
I was fairly concerned that the voice of the youth would become irritating but the author managed to get away with the 'brahs' and the 'dudes.' The only thing I really had a problem with, was the religious subtext. The Cain and Abel story was practically screaming at me the whole time I was reading, and the constant praying by some of the characters became uncomfortable. I'm not really interested in having it shoved down my throat that way, but I was able to push it to the back of my mind.

Nothing was resolved in the end, as expected. I do hope that Grant has all the answers to the questions he's left me with, though. I'm fairly certain that list will only grow as the series progresses. As far as firsts go, this isn't a bad introduction. If you're a fan of the whole YA dystopian future thing, I'd definitely give this a read. 

Rating: ★★★☆

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Review: A Clash of Kings

Well, George R. R. Martin has done it again.
From where we last left off, the allied lands have fallen into disrepair. King Joffrey reigns over a broken kingdom, alongside his mother and the newly appointed King's hand.
Robb Stark means to make war as the new, and self appointed King of the North, while Joffrey's uncles, Stannis and Renly, try to claim ownership of the Iron Throne.
Meanwhile, Daenerys plots to overthrow the usurpers and rule over the Seven Kingdoms, and Theon Greyjoy appoints himself as the next King of the Iron Islands. And if that's not enough to whet your appetite, Jon Snow and the rest of The Night's Watch ready themselves for some exploration across the Wall.
War is indeed brewing, and it's coming to claim them all, and soon.

A Game of Thrones simply blew me away in terms of sword and sorcery, and I knew I needed time before throwing myself into another 800+ page epic. It's needless to say that A Clash of Kings didn't disappoint, and it was definitely worth the wait. There was a bit more alchemy and magic involved in this seemingly never ending book of war, which I have to say I was really excited to see. I'm completely happy with all the 'sword' bits, but a little more sorcery can go a long, long way.

Unfortunately I'm at an impasse again when it comes to reviewing these books. There is so much information I would love to talk about but am unable to do so, in order to keep it all spoiler free. I loved reading this book though, as well as being disgustingly well written it was just a pure joy to experience, from beginning to end. The complexities of the Kingdoms was beautifully explained and thought out, usually I get confused with the endless barrage of words in stories like this but I found this a lot easier to follow.
I have to admit, it's not without it's faults- at times the plot dragged a bit, particularly with Daenerys. I found her to be almost insignificant in this part of the series, which is a shame as her storyline has potential to be one of the most interesting. It was one of those parts in the book that I wouldn't have missed, should they be removed completely. Although, I did feel that there was decidedly a lack of the Night's Watch in terms of moving  the plot forward. I would have liked to have seen more of it, and taken some of the war bits out. I'm hoping there'll be an improvement when I start the next book.

Even with the lulls, it had a way of pulling me straight back into the plot with no warning whatsoever. There were more 'Oh my God' moments in this book than I've had with any other. At some points I flat out refused the plot direction, it was an unhealthy reminder that Martin is an untrustworthy and malicious author who finds pleasure in ruining my life. He is like J.K. Rowling without the age restrictions. I've been trying  to stop some of the characters from worming their way into my heart, and failing, I don't know what their fates are going to be and it's making me miserable. I get to flex my masochistic muscle and love every detailed description of despair, which is wonderful in it's own messed up little way.

The end of the book, much like the first, just falls away and I'm left in limbo wondering what on earth is going to happen next. My mind was reeling with the sheer amount of information I was left with, and found myself almost drunk with it. The book hangover that followed the next day was awful.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monday, 11 March 2013

Review: Pretties

** Warning! Contains spoilers! **

When we first meet Tally Youngblood in Uglies, she is living in Uglyville, waiting for the day she can join the land of the Pretties via mandatory beautifying surgery.
After going on the run and realising that actually, all the Pretties have lesions in their brains to make them complacent- Tally voluntarily undergoes the transformation in order to help find a cure.
In Pretties, we are introduced to the Pretty Tally, who has no recollection of her time in the wild or her dear beloved, David. Now she's all about the parties, the drinking and the beautiful people; the beautiful people.

There is so much wrong with this book, I'm unsure of where I should begin, so I'll start in the most obvious place, the language.
The Pretties like, have this dialect that they think is way bubbly, when in actual fact it's totally missing. It's like, zero milli-Helens out of a possible one whole Helen. I'm sure Scotty-wa didn't mean for it to be bogus, but it was just completely misery making. 
Apart from being completely distracting and ridiculous, it made the whole of New Pretty Town seem like they were extras in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. It was really a huge obstacle in the way of me actually enjoying the book, and it wasn't the only one.
The only redeeming quality in this book was the fact that there wasn't a blow-by-blow account of Tally on her hover board, Tally falling off her hover board and Tally being saved by her crash bracelets. I count it as a small mercy though, and not an all out win.

I'm well aware that sometimes in a series, books can follow the same formula; this happens a lot for example, in the Alex Rider series. However, Pretties has exactly the same plot as Uglies. Instead of wanting to be Pretty, Tally this time wants to be a Crim- her whole world seems to revolve around this clique and her quest to belong in it. Once she gets lost in the Wilderness, again; she finds herself in a love triangle, again. The same sequence of events takes the same overly long time to unfold, again. I really felt as though I was reading the same book but with additional irritating colloquialisms and some of the worst handling of taboo subjects I have ever seen.

Once the Crims become aware of the lesions in their brain, they commence in a growing rate of destructive behaviour in order to gain brief periods of clarity, or in Pretty-talk: 'bubbly'. Such behaviour includes extreme and dangerous stunts, starvation and self-injury. If that wasn't enough to set my teeth on edge, the latter gave way to a separate group called Cutters- who were ritualistic group self-injurers.
I'm not opposed to subjects such as these being approached in literature but when it's done in a way that somehow makes it entirely justifiable and the right way to deal with things, is not okay with me. Nor does this shoddy attempt at being controversial blindside me in the sheer number of plot holes littered throughout this book.
The main source being Tally's knowledge. The book starts off with her being absolutely unaware of any history whatsoever; her time on the run and the boy she fell in love with were completely alien to her. When her memories started coming back, she was what only can be described as a medical miracle; suddenly she remembered ancient history like she'd just read it out of a book. With the simple explanation of, "Tally remembered from her lessons in school..." was the equivalent of putting a plaster on a gaping wound, considering in Uglies she didn't even know what a railway line was. As a reader, I was just meant to accept this and I wasn't having any of it.

When the author wasn't bombarding us with very obvious inconsistencies he spent the remainder of his time preaching about the passed and how awful it was. The 'Rusties' and the 'Pre-Rusties' were stupid, barbaric and awful. It seems as though Westerfeld wanted a platform to release every issue he has with the world and used his book to do so. The plot once again becomes lost in this Rustie-bashing, as there is no proof to say otherwise, I tend to forget why exactly we're trying to change the world back into the awful place it once was. The world just isn't believable, there's only a shallow explanation to how the world became the way it did, I would like to say Westerfeld explores more in the next two books, but honestly I wouldn't bet my life on it.

I tried to give this series a chance, even after the first book got less than favourable reviews on my part but after this debacle I'm hanging up my Pretty dress and beating myself into a bloody pulp with the ugly stick. It's time for me to re-enter the world of the Rusties you guys, and I dont think I'll be returning.


Thursday, 7 March 2013

World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day to all!
I pretty much love any book related celebration out there! Especially ones that enables me to share my love of books to anyone who is willing to listen.

What I particularly love about World Book Day is the fact that it targets children to pick up a book and really enjoy themselves. The book tokens provided in schools will allow them to read outside of school. I also happen to know a teacher or two out there who are dressing up as characters today, so the whole experience is about good, clean, wordy fun!

I was taught to enjoy reading from an incredibly early age, and couldn't imagine where my life would be without it. In an age where technology and gaming pretty much rules the world, reminding children you can have the same kind of fun whilst reading warms my heart incredibly.

In the spirit of the day I thought I'd share some of my favourite children's books, if I've reviewed them the titles will be clickable. So without further ado:

1) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K Rowling: We all know the story here, 11 year-old orphaned boy discovers he has magic and is about to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Oh, and he's famous for being The-Boy-Who-Lived. So many people haven't read this series yet, and I urge you to do so, whatever age you are. There is nothing out there quite like it.

2) Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll: Young Alice finds herself falling down a rabbit hole and into a very peculiar world, where nothing is quite what it seems. If you want mind-boggling imagery with beautiful splashes of colour this is certainly the book I would point you towards. If you can, procure a book with the original illustrations- they accompany the rest of the book beautifully.

3) The Twits - Roald Dahl: Probably my favourite book by Dahl, which tells the tale of the horrible couple Mr and Mrs Twit who live in a brick house with no windows, have a family of pet monkeys and who hate each other so much, all they want to do is play pranks on one another. You can get nothing but laughs out of any book by Dahl, but I'd always recommend starting off with this one.

4) Peter Pan - J. M. Barrie: One of the most wonderful magical tales out there. Peter, the boy who wouldn't grow up, befriends the Darling children and flies them off to have an adventure in Neverland. The writing is a little hard to get your head around, considering it's publication date is 1911 but once you do, you discover there is a tale that has incomparable beauty.

5) The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Beatrix Potter: The story of a mischievous Peter Rabbit who is chased around the garden of Mr McGregor despite being warned by his mother not to go there. A book recommendation for the very young here, but it doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by any age, if you haven't had a chance to read it you most certainly should!

There are so many others out there, but these are the ones I love very much. A special mention goes to Percy Jackson and the Olympians; The Alex Rider Series and The Jimmy Coates Series. All of which I have started (or completed) reading and have more in depth reviews already written for them.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this, I hope I've added some titles to your shopping list. Enjoy the rest of your World Book Day and remember World Book Night  is just around the corner!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Review: Killer (Jimmy Coates, #1)

What I truly love about literature is the infinite possibilities you have in the realm of 'firsts'. First classic, first Byron poem, first self confessed obsession with a Potions Master...
I hereby bestow the award for 'First One Sided Shouting Match with my e-Reader' to Jimmy Coates. Now, I'm not one for crazy heroics, I tend to leave that to the Percy Jacksons and Harry Potters of the world- but I genuinely thought that my emotional ramblings would change the fate of this boy. Thank you Mr Craig, for a madness worthy of the Hatter himself.

Jimmy was a normal boy, content with doing normal boy things; fighting with his sister (and losing) and pretending to be interested in the news. An evening of normality was quickly thrown into the wind when a bunch of suited men arrive to his house asking for 'the boy.' The need for safety stirred something inside Jimmy, and he found himself escaping the clutches of these men (not for the first time) in the most extraordinary way.
As the men proceed to chase Jimmy around the city, the eleven year old boy is filled with nothing but questions. Questions about his new found powers, about these mysterious men and just how his parents knew them and most importantly, what exactly was happening to him.

I didn't really know what to expect, usually when someone tells me to read a book I immediately think of all the ways it won't be like the ones similar to it; it's a bad habit I really can't shake, although this feeling usually leaves me with a pleasant surprise.
Killer is a wonderful introduction to a series, I felt it was a little bit long on the 'chase' bit of the story but on reflection I feel it was the intention of the author to thoroughly destroy every avenue of trust Jimmy had accumulated in his short life. The idea of this saddens me, but I see it now as a necessary plot device, considering what actually becomes of the boy.
Once the plot picks up, the pace quickly moves along as well, and it becomes one of those books you just can't put down. So much happens in a short space of time, I found myself having to force myself to slow down in order to properly realise what was happening, when all I really wanted to do was find out what happens next. In the interest of keeping these reviews as spoiler free as possible, there isn't really much I can say plot wise without ruining it. You're just going to have to trust me.

One thing that really surprises me is how much I felt for Jimmy, maybe it's his age, or his sheltered outlook on life- I wanted to give him a hug, ruffle his hair and tell him it was all going to be okay. After all, being a weapon isn't all that bad, right?
It could be that Craig's wonderful whimsical writing style has a lot to do with it. Although the story did get dark, at times I also found myself erupting with genuine laughter. The previously unused highlighting feature on my e-Reader got a thorough workout too, there are some wonderfully constructed sentences that just left me grinning from ear to ear. It's books like this that reawakens my dream of wanting to be a boy-hero and it's wonderfully satisfying. If the first book can have me waxing poetic like this, I can only imagine what the next book has in store for me.

According to Joe Craig's official Twitter account, the release of the seventh Jimmy Coates book is out this June- it's more than enough time to power through the others before then. I don't think anyone would be disappointed in reading them, I feel this series really needs a lot more coverage than it gets. With that said, go forth and buy! I know I will be.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Review: UnEnchanted

Meet Mina Grime.
Mina is a unpopular, she's so uncoordinated she makes Bella Swan look like a master of grace and she's unlucky (although, not in the way she thinks).
After a field trip goes awry, Mina ends up almost killing (and then saving) the boy of her dreams, and is consequently thrust into the world of popularity. Her new found limelight brings an old family curse into play, for Mina is a descendent of the brothers Grimm and is destined to fight the evil stories that are trying to kill her.

Every once in a while, I get a reading request that is a bit worrying. This was one of those times, as a free e-book though I can't really complain, but I will anyway. (I should probably mention I read this with a friend and we discussed our reactions in real-time.)*

I really liked the idea of a curse like this, as darker sides of fairy tales is a personal favourite of mine. There is nothing in this world I hate more than a good idea that is poorly executed.

You know something is wrong when the characters are so flat and unlikable, not even borrowing obvious traits from other book series help plump them up. (We even had a Snape moment, you guys. Turns out Mina's father James is a no good, arrogant, imbecile too!)
We also have the two polar opposite boys to help form the love triangle: the brooding misunderstood rich kid, and the quintessential leather jacket clad, motorcycle riding, bad boy. He's also brooding. The minor characters are no different, really. Same unlikability, in different bodies. It almost doesn't need to be thought about.
They all have their roles, and stick to them rigidly, the boys spend their entire time saving the damsel in distress, fighting with each other and mooning over their emotionally unavailable object of affection. Even Mina was tiresome for someone who, for a lack of better phrasing, should have been learning to kick some serious ass. She spends most of her time being stubborn, unreasonable and feeling ridiculously inadequate to every single person around her. It was entirely unbecoming, I was half hoping she'd get killed off and we'd be allowed to see her mute younger brother get a piece of the action.

The character jumping in this book was the least of my problems, although trying to figure out who's point of view I was looking at did leave me with a migraine. The plot and writing style ranged from dire to unintentional hilarity and I found I was trapped between a rock and a hard place (or in this case, grimacing and howling with laughter). You don't have to be a master of grammar to understand the basic concepts, the amount of typos borderlines worrying. My all-time favourite incident being, "Mina, they're coming over her!"  The plot holes were many and the editing was questionable at best- I was led to wonder if anyone had actually proof read it at all.
Where it lacked in grammatical correctness, it all but made up for it in the sheer abundance of misinformation and general ridiculousness. A special mention here goes to the casual racism in the form of Mr and Mrs Wong, who not only own the Chinese restaurant underneath Mina's apartment but are guilty of more spoonerisms than William Archibald Spooner himself.

There was so much wrong with this book, that I ended up loving it for all the wrong reasons. It is, in short, an exquisite guilty pleasure and I just can't wait for the sequel. I hope is just as irksome as this one. If you want to join in on the fun, you can download the e-book here.

Rating: ★★

*Thanks for making all the live reaction readings bearable, Emma!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Review: Uglies

In the first of this series we are sent into a future world where, at the age of 16, every person undergoes a form of extreme plastic surgery to turn them from an 'ugly' to a 'pretty.'
The theory behind is this, if everyone is beautiful and looks the same, the petty bias that comes from looking different will ultimately be eradicated. I guess because they're too busy looking sexy to fight.
Tally Youngblood is 15 and a resident of Uglyville, she's recently just lost her best friend to New Pretty Town and is eagerly awaiting the day she can join him in the land of the pretties. Of course, the way things are- nothing is what it seems. Tall finds herself in a particularly bad situation where she has to choose between betraying her friends or remaining an ugly forever.

Complete with Government cover ups, conspiracy theories and living in a blatantly obvious Big Brother lifestyle. This has all the generic bits and pieces to the typical YA dystopian future story. Uglies focuses very obviously on norms that run amok in today's society, particularly that of body images and what it is that people see as ugly and beautiful. I really liked the ideas behind this story, and while I enjoyed it- I did feel parts of it could have executed a lot better.

I found no strength in the protagonist, Tally or in her sidekick- Shay. Both of their desires to seek the truth behind the beautiful lie (and every subsequent action) has to do with their immediate attraction to the 'ugly' but oh-so-dreamy David. At times I found this very uncomfortable to read, unlike other female protagonists there is no real courage in their convictions. (What would Buffy say, really?)
I'll give her something though, Tally has moments where she's completely badass on a hoverboard- but my estimations take like a stone to water when she has a ridiculous cat fight with her newest best friend over a wilderness boy. (I know it's set hundreds of years into the future, but surely they could have kept the idiom bros before -- you know what, never mind.)
Another thing I found difficult to deal with was the overuse of the words 'ugly' and 'pretty', I get the feeling the author wanted to make it abundantly clear that we should never see the world so black and white but were forced to do regardless, and by the person who is telling us not to. It got too confusing for words, really.

A lot of the plot, while a great idea seemed to take an absolute age to unfold, it made the reading difficult and I didn't sink into the story as quickly as I'd have liked to. I don't usually count pages of chapters but I found myself waiting to see how many pages it took for something new to happen. The writing itself was a fine read, although there wasn't much jumping out at me. I always expect these sorts of novels to lead me one way and then jerk me round a corner to somewhere completely different, this novel however took me on a very clear path. I knew what was going to happen and wasn't surprised when it did.

Not to say I didn't enjoy this though, I couldn't really put it down even when I wanted to. I'm not sure if it was because it was an addictive albeit easy read, or I just wanted it over and done with.

Rating: ★★★

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Review: The Hobbit

I don't usually make it my business to review books I've already read, but when the opportunity arises to wax poetic about one of the literature loves of my life?
Well, I'm not immune to everything!
With the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last month, I feel the irresistible urge to persuade people to read this wonderful tale.

Hobbits, are a simple, peaceful and largely unadventurous race- Bilbo Baggins of Bag-End is no exception. One fateful evening brings a party of dwarves to the hole under the Hill, and Bilbo finds himself in the throes of a quest to retrieve treasure guarded by the  dragon, Smaug.
We follow the adventure as Bilbo and the band of dwarves face cave-dwelling goblins, giant spiders, a seemingly never ending forest and man-eating trolls; all before they end up at their final destination The Lonely Mountain and the Desolation of the Dragon.

I first read this book at 11 years old and ever since then it has been a popular re-read. This is everything a children's fantasy book should be, it's witty and charming, it's chock full of adventure and it's got more courage and heart than you can shake a stick at. It really is a short story of epic proportions, and definitely one of Tolkien's easier reads. Although it's still incredibly verbose, it was definitely written with children in mind, so the pacing is a lot quicker and the descriptions are a lot easier to wrap your head around than they are in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I freely admit that when it comes to the works of Tolkien I can't really give a balanced review, it's a part of me as much as my skin is. There really isn't a part of this book I didn't enjoy, not when I was 11 and not 13 years later. It's a definite read, and re-read, and a perfect opportunity to pick it up before The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes out later this year.

Rating: ★★★★★