Book Review

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Ash PrincessI wasn’t entirely sure about this book. The cover is so similar to Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen that I instantly assumed it would be a similar storyline or typical ‘hard done by girl has powers and becomes ruler’. I’m quite middle of the road about it really, I didn’t love it, but I wanted to know what happened and I kind of cared about the plot. I audio’d (is that a word?) this one, and for some reason I get the impression I would’ve liked it better if I’d physically read it.

Although Ash Princess was in some ways pretty predictable (SPOILER ALERT), there was something different about the main character’s background. It’s a different take on the secret princess, in that she knows she should be ruling but can’t. I liked that it could easily have become a Stockholm Syndrome eye roller, but she clearly and thoroughly hated her captor. The extreme fear is far more believable and gripping.

As is usual for me, I didn’t particularly like the main character. Theo doesn’t seem to have very much conviction in anything that she does or thinks. The fact that she regularly is punished by whippings and beatings, to me suggests that she is physically strong enough to take them. But she constantly worries that she’ll be unable to do physical tasks during her escape or in the lead up to it. Her emotions flit all over the place; does she love Soren? Doesn’t she? Does she love Blaise? Doesn’t she? Is Cress her Bestie? Isn’t she? I get that her entire nation is more important than Soren or Cress, and she definitely makes the right decisions, but she doesn’t seem to feel an appropriate amount of guilt or regret or sadness at all.

The ‘magic’ part of Ash Princess which made it a fantasy novel, was the same thing that lets a lot of fantasy novels down. It’s not thought out enough…it doesn’t really make sense. I don’t really understand who can do magic, what that magic consists of or how it works, how do the gems work…I had far too many questions about the magic element. It feels as though some of this was done on purpose, to draw the reader in and make them want to find out more in the next book…but I wanted more in the way of general understanding of it. It’s clear that Theo is going to be wildly powerful, and I’m good with seeing how that goes, but I’d be far more interested in that if I knew what it fully meant.

I think overall the book was pretty slow, a lot of drawn out descriptions and flowery thoughts, but the ending saved it. I do enjoy when a pathetic character gets some balls! And I liked the plot twists that kept coming. I’d like to know what happens to Soren, he surely must carry on playing a large part. I’m interested to see the characters develop, although I can’t really bring myself to care about Blaise and his obvious Mine Madness, the plotline there is very easy to see coming…but I do hope to be pleasantly surprised.

I’m unlikely to recommend this one if I’m being honest…however I will definitely read the next one in the trilogy when it gets to audio!

6/10

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Book Review

A Poison Dark And Drowning by Jessica Cluess

poison dark and drowningThis is a bit of an odd review, as I haven’t reviewed the first book in this series, Kingdom On Fire. I have read it though, I just did a couple of books in between the two…which I’m quite bad for doing. Do you ever get that? Where you’ve enjoyed a book, but you’re not desperate to read the next one? I could easily have finished A Shadow Bright and Burning and been happy with the ending. However, I kept thinking about the world created in the series and wondering about the monsters. More about where they came from than what would happen next. So I picked the series back up, and here’s the review! Side note, I did both of them on Audio.

I always have spoilers in my reviews, but as a heads up…MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!

So, I rarely like main characters for some reason, and Henrietta Howel is no exception. I don’t dislike her, I just think she’s pretty boring, makes silly decisions, is immature (Porridge?? Seriously!?) and over dramatic. She’s also overrated. I do like though, that she’s not actually the heroine…she has a really cool mystery back story that we learn along with her, and she’s not the chosen one. She actually starts to improve in my opinion when she figures this out; rather than craving the attention or wanting to prove herself which would be a predictable story arc, she’s relieved and commits herself to helping the real chosen one. (This could all be a ploy at this point of the story, but I’m two books in and this is what I know so far!)

I’m torn between enjoying the many love interests and being annoyed at them. Howel has obviously loved Rook since forever, but she seems to be attracted to any half decent looking man she sets eyes on. She entirely leads on Magnus in the first book, and in the second she openly admits to being distracted by Blackwood’s good looks. If she’d actually paid more attention to Rook, she might have noticed that he was being poisoned instead of cured. Interestingly, I never really liked Rook…but again, we don’t see very much of him because Howel seems to only remember he exists when she feels like it. I also didn’t like Magnus at first, but now he’s grown on me and he is clearly now in love with Howel but doing the decent thing and stepping aside like he promised. I liked Blackwood to begin with, hard exterior but cares deeply for his sister so obviously has a heart. And it was nice to see a real friendship happen between Howel and him; until he ruins it by randomly coming out with the fact that he also loves her and pretty much making her marry him. How could he not know she loved Rook? And why is he now all Mr high and mighty and throwing his weight around? I’m definitely no longer a fan.

Maria is my favourite character so far. Interesting, blunt, useful, surprising back story, I wanted to know more and more about her. There were lots of other secondary characters that just didn’t seem to matter, and although they became a fairly big part of the story for a few pages, they then seemed to disappear.

The monsters themselves seem a little out of place, considering the setting is very well done and gives off the proper feeling of Victorian England, the Ancients seem childish in description. Some are really well done, Nemneris and R’hlem actually seem really creepy, but the one that’s a giant blob? Just silly. I also still don’t really understand their purpose…why are they hell bent on destroying England? In an organised fashion, not simply mindless slaughter? I know the point is that we’ll learn more in the coming books, but I currently don’t really care much about what they’re doing because I don’t know why they’re doing it.

So far, based on character and basic world development, it’s all a bit bland…nothing to really keep me immersed. But d’you know what made me carry on going, and impressed me? The plot twists! Now, I have an almost non-existent imagination, which means I never see anything coming and am really easily pleased by story-lines. But these ones really did wow me, and there were loads! Maria’s a witch and she’s mega powerful! Oh and she’s probably the chosen one! Haha the hobgoblin betrayed everyone and now Rook’s an actual hell monster! Guess what, R’hlem is Henrietta’s Dad! Woops, the only mother figure is dead now! I genuinely kept shouting “What!?” at my iPhone every time I listened to yet another plot twist! They are purely what kept me going.

A small note on the audio itself; the narration on this one confused me. I always love an English accent for an audio book, and the narrator for this one is clearly quite talented (although entirely unable to do a Welsh accent!). However, I don’t understand why, when the book is written in the first person, she has a generic South English accent (somewhere posh like Oxford maybe), but when she’s speaking the dialogue, she puts on the Northern accent that Henrietta would have. Does she think in one accent and speak in another? It completely threw me!

I’m not exactly on tenterhooks waiting for the next instalment, but it’s likely I’ll read it at some point in the future purely because I don’t like leaving things unfinished!

In honesty though, not a series I’ll be recommending       6/10

Book Review

Truth Lies Bleeding by Tony Black

TruthI must pre-warn you…I Did Not Finish (DNF’d) this book. And I’m going against all of my instincts that tell me that I shouldn’t review a book that I haven’t completed, I don’t usually think it’s fair to the author or to the story to judge it until the end. I hate those reviews on Good Reads that absolutely slate a book for all the reasons that become clear at the end, purely because they didn’t power through. However, I can’t possibly see anything so drastic happening towards the end of this book that will change my opinion on it, and I felt strongly enough about it to want to write. So, seeing as this technically is just my ramblings about books, here goes!

I found this book, Truth Lies Bleeding, after reading the plot for Tony Black’s second novel in the series – Murder Mile. It looked really good, quite reminiscent of the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin, which I really enjoyed. I like a good murder mystery, I find the inner workings of the police force interesting, and I always love a British novel. So, I downloaded both books on Audio, and settled in.

The book had a pretty gripping opening, four teenage girls find a mutilated body in a dumpster in the back alleys of Scotland. Straight in there, and I wanted to know what happened. After that though, everything seemed far too familiar. The main character, Rob Brennan, pretty much is Inspector Rebus. Shady backstory with his brother, marriage is alluded to have fallen apart, a daughter he doesn’t see often enough, a female boss whom he doesn’t respect for no apparent reason and clearly wants to bang, mean and sarcastic to all of his inferiors, and in general a miserable git; clearly modelled after every classic 70s, 80s, 90s British police drama that thinks it knows how every policeman acts. (And yes I’m saying policeman, I’ll come to that later.) I didn’t find any of this particularly off putting with Rebus, because his character was relevant to the time (set in the 80s) and because it was a new character. He knew he was a bit of an arse so it became part of his charm. But Brennan just came across as annoying and up himself to be perfectly honest.

He’s also incredibly objectifying of women. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he is misogynistic, because he never outright says that he dislikes women (not up to the point I read, anyway), but he quite obviously doesn’t respect them. His boss is a prime example; he doesn’t speak to her in the usual way you would see a police officer speak to a superior, arguing back to her, make a joke out of what she says to him, and outright disregarding her instructions. And now this is where I’m going to blame the author; again something I’m quite loathe to do because I, for one, would give anything to be able to write and have the creativity to do what authors do. But the descriptions of women, and the things that Rob notices about them, say a lot about the author. His boss is talking to him, and all he takes in is the sound her legs make when they cross under the desk; when describing the teenage girls, another character thinks she looks like she’ll grow up to be a slapper…do men really think this way? Do they really look at a thirteen or fourteen year old girl and immediately start thinking about what they’ll look like when they’re ‘old enough’. The police officers are overheard talking in the toilets, and they’re obviously discussing their boss…and whether or not they’d want her. There are so many ignorant stereotypes at play, and seeing as this book was published in 2011 there’s no place for any of the objectifying descriptions. Every male character seems to have these thoughts too, it’s not just one or two…which hints to me that this is the way the author thinks, and is one track minded.

I started to think that this book was aimed solely at a male audience, as opposed to showing a male point of view, when the description of a man ‘shaking the urine off’ after using a urinal has absolutely no need to be there. You would never find a description of a woman wiping, nobody wants to know about it and it adds absolutely nothing to the story, atmosphere, character…nothing. There’s no relevance.

I found most of this uncomfortable to listen to, and it just made me dislike every single character. On top of that though, the story simply wasn’t gripping me. I was willing to give it a chance, maybe Rob is shocked into changing his mindset, maybe he sees the error of his ways. But the story was slow, disjointed, and I’m pretty sure I’ve guessed the ending, which I can never do! I’ll look it up and see if I’m right later.

There was nothing endearing about this book. The drug addicts were taken straight out of Train Spotting…down to the baby who’s clearly either going to die from neglect or is being sold. Main character is a poor man’s Inspector Rebus. And the crime lord is clearly buying said baby, and will get framed for the murder he didn’t commit…the drug addicts did. I think I only listened as far as I did because I love a Scottish accent!

If anybody who has read this book feels strongly enough in the complete opposite direction, or can guarantee me that I’ll stop hating Rob Brennan by the end, please feel free to correct me!!

DNF 3/10

 

Edit: I can’t actually find anywhere that’ll tell me what happens…if you’ve read it and fancy giving me ALL the spoilers, please pop me a message! I’d love to know if I’ve guessed the ending right!

Book Review

The Return of the Indian – Lynne Reid Banks

returnAs promised, I moved straight on to the second instalment of The Indian In The Cupboard series; The Return of the Indian. This’ll be a short review, and I’ll tell you for why…it felt like a side story, like a deleted scene. It was shorter than the first book, only 3 and a half hours (yes I audio’d it again…is audio’d a word? It is now!), and it’s set over only a couple of days, three tops.

It’s been a year since Omri discovered the magic of the cupboard, or as we soon find out, the key. He and Patrick are now in different schools, and Omri lives in a rough estate. Omri misses the magic, has written a story about it even, but is plodding along with life. Patrick, on the other hand, has decided the entire thing never happened. So far, so good. Nice set up, nice progression of characters while staying true to them, but I’m afraid I quickly lost interest in this one and started to pick holes in the story.

So, unless I missed something, the only reason Omri decides to bring back Little Bull, is to tell him about this story he’s written, feeling guilty because it’s not actually ‘made up’. I can understand completely the kid wanting to see him again, but it’s a bit of a nothing reason to do it. Little Bull and Twin Stars come back and all hell breaks loose; he’s dying, she’s pregnant, and Omri’s out of his depth! Let’s bring back the WW1 army medic, that’s a great plan! And boom…I’m heartbroken! The folded up pile of uniform? Right in the feels!

Up until this point, I’m all in. But the story goes a little here, there and everywhere after that. Omri pretty much forgets that he’s apparently grieving for his army friend, and replaces him with a matron (who I actually really like as a character). Little Bull apparently wants to go back to his own time, and beat the invading French who have attacked his village…fair enough. The solution that they all come to after a lot of back and forth, is to bring a load of ‘now time’ army men to life, steal their guns, bring a load of Indians to life, teach them how to use ‘now time’ guns, and then send them all back to fight against the French.

Now, my issue with this entire set up, is the lack of questioning from Omri. Patrick is the one who always jumps straight in, and Omri is the sensible one to see what will go wrong. But not this time! Why doesn’t Twin Stars care that she was up and moved to another part of the country? Was she even from the same time? Why did they go back to Little Bull’s village and not hers? They could even have gone back to the horse’s time really! And why are they not concerned as to where they’ll all go when ALL the Indians go back together? They just assume they’ll go with Little Bull.

There was a bit too much bringing random people to life and back again, and sending everyone back and forth for things in different combinations. It all felt a bit rushed and a bit haphazard. I won’t talk about Omri and Patrick going back and becoming part of the tee-pee, because I’m pretty sure that’s delved into further in future books, but again it was a bit underdeveloped…I think it should’ve been left to have a whole book by itself, as opposed to tacked on the end of this one.

I didn’t exactly dislike this one, I just feel I’ve read a few more chapters of the last one, or it’s the beginning of the next one. It doesn’t really stand alone by itself. I’ll probably take a break from the series for now, but I will finish it in the future, for sure! And I’d still recommend it to kids around age nine or ten. 6/10

 

Book Review

The Indian In The Cupboard – Lynne Reid Banks

Image result for the indian in the cupboard bookI’ve always loved to re-read old favourites…and I have a very bad habit of re-reading childhood favourites. My most recent one: The Indian In The Cupboard. I adored this book and movie when I was a kid, although I can’t for the life of me find the books themselves; I must have had them from the library. Anyway, I recently discovered the audiobooks, and was overjoyed! A very short 4 hour listen, read by the author herself.

All I could remember of the stories, was that Omri was given a toy Indian and a Cupboard for his birthday, a cupboard which turned toys to life! I had flashes of memory from the film too, and I’m pretty sure I remember it being American (I now need to find and watch it, just to be sure!). So I was delighted to find it’s set in the UK and read with a British accent; this is purely personal preference, I find it very soothing to be read to in an English accent!

So, on to the actual book after re-reading (listening?). Omri turns nine in the book, and I’d say that’s about the right age -group for this story, maybe a little younger. It’s got just the right amount of childishness in Omri’s character, slight selfishness and total innocence…and then he blossoms. You can see him change from a thoughtless kid into a caring and mindful one, all through having another human being rely on him completely. I loved that Omri not once judged ‘his’ Indian for any of his cultural differences, he was purely and totally fascinated by the whole thing, entirely willing to learn about anything and everything Little Bull had to say.

It was also nice to see that Little Bull was a fully rounded character, without being stereotypical. By that, I don’t mean stereotypical Indian; he could have been portrayed as being perfect…all knowing, all powerful, all unrealistic, just to be a blatant tool to make Omri considerate and humble. But this wasn’t the case; Little Bull was strong, and powerful, and clever, and hardworking, and had lots of good qualities, but he was also bossy, and rude, and judgemental (especially of Boone). His character could easily have been portrayed as plastic, but the author didn’t take that easy and boring route!

Boone was another different and clever character. I don’t think I’ve seen a crying cowboy in any other story, and definitely not one that again is a fully rounded character that you learn to love. I’m sure I’ll see Boone again in later books, he’s too good a character not to be brought back!

Patrick was my bugbear for most of this book. I hated him, and he was everything I hated in other kids when I was little! Loud and obnoxious and spoils everything because he has no patience and no sense of other people around him. Omri is proof that at that age those things should have worn off. However, it is heart warming to see him develop and shocked into changing his behaviour after it backfires. He’s shown very starkly the consequences of his own actions.

I’ve re-read a few old favourites recently, and have been disappointed by quite a few of them, they should have stayed in my childhood. This one, however, is not one of those. This stands on its own because of the story itself, because of the very subtle messages it sends about thoughtfulness, growing up, responsibilities, friendship and other cultures, and because of the fast paced writing style. I could easily recommend this to anyone looking for something to read with their child that they could both enjoy, or for any (not quite) grown up looking to re-visit their childhood.

I’m happy to say I still love this book! 7/10

Book Review, Uncategorized

The Visitors – by Rebecca Mascull

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a review. No particular reason why; I think I’m simply inconsistent! However, I have read quite a few books in the meantime…even though none of them were ASOUE as I gave up on them. But that’s another blog!

This review, is oThe Visitorsf the last book I finished. The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull, was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Summed up, it is a story about a deaf/blind girl called Adeliza Golding, whose family own a hop farm in late Victorian Kent, England. I discovered this gem one day in the library, I’m not even sure what it was that caught my eye, but I picked it up and read the back and immediately was intrigued. I have always been, quite randomly, curious about how people must go about their lives if they are born or become deaf/blind. I even learned the alphabet in sign language as a kid and can still remember it to this day. Did you know there’s a difference between English Sign Language, and American Sign Language? It fascinated me when I was younger that there was an entire language created, which meant that just because you couldn’t speak, didn’t mean you could communicate. I felt the same about Braille; knowing that the blind were still able to enjoy the wonderful world of reading.

But what about those who are both blind and deaf? How could they sign if they can’t see? How do they read if they can’t be told what the bumps mean? How do they know their own name?? It made me sad to think about it. And then I found The Visitors. And I knew I had to read it to see if someone could explain how the world would feel to a deaf/blind individual.

I’m so glad I did. Aside from the story itself, which is full of love, friendship, family and warmth, Adeliza’s journey from ‘The Time Before’ to the woman she becomes is incredible. Considering the author herself is neither blind nor deaf, she puts you in Liza’s shoes in the most fascinating way. It’s impossible to describe how she does it, but Mascull shows you Liza’s world and how she experiences it like she’s been there herself. I cannot vouch for whether or not her writing is a true rendition of life as a deaf/blind individual, but I could not have hoped for a better curiosity quencher.

The Visitors themselves seem to be a secondary aspect of the book; although they are necessary to the plot and tie in nicely with everything going on, I don’t feel like they take away from Liza’s life story. They are a part of her, and so become a sideline, always there but just out of sight and out of mind.

I always enjoy a book that makes you aware of things you weren’t aware of before. Books about other cultures, other countries, other minds, other perspectives…they’re food for thought. I truly feel I put down The Visitors having learned something, and felt something.

I would highly recommend this! 8/10

Book Review

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Books 4 to 6

In continuing with my review of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, here’s the next three! Fair warning, spoilers ahead!

The Miserasoue-4-5-6able Mill

This one definitely takes some accepting of the strange and highly unlikely, which I was sure was going to happen. I absolutely cannot fathom why the children were sent to the Lucky Smells Lumbermill; where did Mr Poe find the place? Did he ask the owner if he happened to want to look after some children for a while? Was it on the list of approved carers the Baudelaire parents put in their will? It makes no sense whatsoever, and I can’t seem to let it go.

I didn’t particularly enjoy this one, I have to say. Paying employees in coupons, a man you can’t see through his own cigar smoke, forcing children to work at a mill, Sunny having a swordfight!? With her teeth?? I do know that most of the books are outlandish and unlikely, but this one I just can’t wrap my mind around. Hopefully, the next one will be slightly more believable.

The Austere Academy

I definitely preferred this one. Sending the Baudelaires to a boarding school is finally one of Mr Poe’s half decent ideas. The one he sends them to however, not ideal! This book moves back into disappointing misery, rather than outlandish happenings.

I really like the introduction of the Quagmire triplets, it’s great for the orphans to finally have people around them who are on their side. They add a lot more to the story, and bring you back to a plot compared with The Miserable Mill. We are finally introduced to V.F.D. and the fact that there is a mystery surrounding their parents’ deaths. I felt like giving up on the series after book 4, but this one made me care about the story again.

The Ersatz Elevat
or

The stories are finally getting back into being intriguing. I found The Ersatz Elevator much more suspenseful, and more mysterious. It felt a bit more thought through, there were reasons behind the weird and unlikely. I could forgive the Squalors being obsessed with what was ‘In’, because by the end you realise that it was Olaf’s way of manipulating his plan. I could forgive Sunny climbing a wall with her teeth, because by that point I just wanted them to find a way out.

Like the previous book, this one had more plot and gave hints about back story and future mysteries, which allowed for the unlikely parts. It gave a much better combination of both! I’m definitely persuaded to carry on with the series now…I need to know what happens!