Book Review, Uncategorized

A Study In Charlotte – Brittany Cavallaro

51-lSghjJxL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I just might be stuck in an ‘Average Book’ rut.

A Study in Charlotte looked really good! I love the Sherlock TV series, how they’ve taken a really interesting character and put him in modern times. And let’s be honest, Benedict Cumberbatch is the best Sherlock Holmes they could’ve picked! Anyway, I read The Speckled Band in school at some point; but I’d seen the TV movie so I knew what was going to happen and lost interest straight away. So this updated series, taking the legendary characters and giving them decedents seemed really clever. It had some good points, but on the whole I’m disappointed.

The author is clearly American, as they’ve taken an iconically British duo and managed to have their families conveniently move over to America for ease of writing. Although both main characters were born and brought up in England, it seems neither of them have any typically English language habits, if anything they have far more Americanisms (eg. ‘refrigerator’). It may seem a small thing, but this detail bugged me the whole way through, probably made more prominent by the fact I did this on Audio and the narrator is American, switching between American and English accents (and Watson’s weird mix of the two).

I will be honest, I’m currently writing this while simultaneously listening to the end of the book. That’s a pretty clear sign that I’m not exactly overtaken with this one. While a Sherlock Holmes story should definitely have layers and be incredibly clever, I think A Story of Charlotte was a bit too complex, a bit too try hard. Holmes was actually written pretty well; she was clever in the right way, and the typical ‘people reading’ that she does was pretty spot on. But the actual story line was all over the place. It was difficult to keep track of who was who and what was going on, it felt like too much backstory was thrown in too quickly. I would’ve rather a much more simple ‘mystery’ going on that let us learn more about the characters. They’re very one dimensional and we only see the surface of them, which means I didn’t really care enough about them.

The book is now finished (is this live blogging?). And I still don’t really know what happened. A big mistake a lot of crime or mystery novels makes is to wrap it all up in the last few pages, throwing all the answers at you in one fell swoop. That’s exactly what this one has done…and not in a ‘Holmes worked it all out and here’s what happened’ kind of way, but in the annoying ‘I’m the bad guy, here’s how and why I did it all’ kind of way.

I’m basically not a fan of A Study in Charlotte; there’s nothing really wrong with it, it just fell short. Unfortunately, I won’t be reading any more in the series. 5/10

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Book Review

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also A StarI’ve previously read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and absolutely loved it! So I’ve had The Sun Is Also A Star on my TBR list for a while. I finally got around to listening to it.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag for me on this book. It has pretty much everything I dislike about YA fiction; love at first sight, long winded descriptions, flowery and unrealistic thoughts and declarations or feelings. But there was a lot of awesome stuff thrown in with it that it balanced out. (As always *SPOILER ALERT*)

So Natasha and Daniel randomly meet in NYC and instantly click. I actually quite like the way this happened, because it was one sided. I think that’s far more realistic than if they’d both fallen straight away. I liked the whole thing about fate and coincidence and millions of little things having had to have happened (that doesn’t sound right but it is!) for them to have met at that moment. I liked that I think more along Natasha’s wavelength in that I don’t believe in anything…things just happen, there’s no reasoning or greater purpose; but I also couldn’t help falling like she did, wanting to believe that there was more to it because Daniel was so pure.

I’m always interested in books that tackle race, be it hard hitting core subject of a story, or simply a background underlying theme. I like to learn about the subject and find out as much as I can about different cultures. Although race played a big part in this story, it was very subtle. It was from different points of view than is typical (Black and Korean as opposed to Black and White). There didn’t seem to be any hate involved, it was more about not understanding each other. While hard hitting books on race and prejudice are essential and need to keep being written, if the world had more books like this one to subtly educate people, the world would be a kinder place just by accident.

The entire subject of being ‘undocumented’ is obviously a huge talking point right now. It’s a much bigger issue in America than it is here in the UK, so it was interesting for me to learn a little bit more about it. It’s always enlightening to read a story so often told by news readers, from somebody involved’s point of view instead. It essentially humanises it…it makes it a real issue as opposed to something that happens to some people on the other side of the world. It also cements the fact that there is always two sides to every story.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. It felt a little bit rushed, all the loose ends were tied up neatly which was satisfying but a bit too neat and tidy. I’m glad it ends as they meet again though, that was cute and just right.

Considering I wasn’t blown away by this one, I apparently felt quite strongly about some topics as I’ve rambled on a bit longer than I intended…I wasn’t even going to write a review! I would actually recommend this one, I’ve already told a couple of friends to read it actually, so it’s done something right!

7/10

 

(Side note…how absolutely stunning is the cover art!? Love love love!)

Book Review

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

So! I’ve actually read Throne of Glass twice now! The first time was paperback, the second was auido. I’ve done up until around the 4th or 5th in the series on audio, and then had a bit of a break, but now I’m starting over.

I read A Court of Thorns and Roses first, and obviously fell in love. It’s actually what sparked my YA fantasy fiction addiction I think. The clear next book to pick up was Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Now, while I do enjoy the series, it has nothing on ACOTAR; it is slightly more gripping than the Red Queen series though….however I’ve only done one and a half of those.

Anyway, back on track. So I audio’d this time, and I think it made me understand the weird magic side of it a bit more. While there’s a lot of typical YA storylines in there (not a bad thing, there’s a reason the genre is so popular!), the magic is different. It’s really hard to understand, but this is mostly down to the fact that we can’t see much as it’s been almost wiped out. I do think they could have done more with the tasks that the champions were set, maybe if there had been less competitors we could have been told more about what they had to do or the competitors themselves. We kind of just have to assume that Celaena is good at what she does, we never get to see it for real because she’s told to keep it under wraps.

In a rare twist for me, I actually DO like the main character! YAY! Celaena is pretty damn badass…when we do get to see her skills, she’s powerful and strong and ballsy. She’s girly and likes pretty things and she’s clever and she likes to read and she’s not afraid to get dirty and she wants to do the right thing and she’s funny and more and more and more! She’s a really well rounded character with lots of levels and layers. She’s not a typical anything. I do think that’s a particular skill of Maas’, because Fayre in ACOTAR is the same.

I also quite like the love interests. Maas does like a good love triangle, but she does it well enough that I care about everyone involved. You feel for all of them, and you understand her point of view and her decisions, and the reasons she doesn’t want to make them. Dorian is, again, quite an atypical fantasy novel prince…he’s not big and strong, he’s pretty average in that sense, he’s also clever and likes to read, and he plays the field. If anything, he’s more like the typical second son. But I really feel for him when Celaena rejects him, because you know she doesn’t want to, but can’t see him for anything other than what his family have done. Chaol is hard to read…I don’t understand really why Celaena is drawn to him, he seems quite uptight and boring, but he’s good and kind so I don’t dislike him.

The only negative in the novel is that I knew Cain was behind the killings. Granted, you’d never work out what exactly he’s doing or about the monsters, but it’s obvious that he’s working some kind of magic because of the not-so-subtle hints at his increased power and physical size.

Again, the whole magic element is pretty confusing and a bit disjointed…but after having read a few more in the series I know that it is explained and makes more sense gradually.

I would recommend the series, but probably only to someone already into the genre. I’d get them to read ACOTAR first!

7/10

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

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