Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review #516 - Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter


For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

My Rating: 4/5

This is the second Aimee Carter book that I have read after I read The Goddess Test around 3 years ago. 

I really loved the dystopian setting with this book. I have heard the ranking system is similar to one used in the Legend Trilogy but as I have yet to read that series it was entirely unique to me. 

I found however that this book spent too much time outlining the basic premise and so the ending was a little rushed. 

Whilst nothing about this book really stood out I would definitely say that this was above average as I really loved the political aspects in the Hart family. 

The characters, especially the Hart family were all interesting people. I found that I never knew which of them were trustworthy and found that my opinions about certain characters changed numerous times throughout the book. 

The romantic aspect was a lot weaker than I think had been intended. It wasn't that I didn't care for Kitty's relationship with Benjy it was that I felt like it wasn't that much in focus at anytime throughout and also the book starts with them already in a relationship which I didn't like. 

The sequel to this book, Captive is to be published sometime this month and I cannot wait to read it as this one ended on a huge cliffhanger. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review #515 - When We Were Two by Robert Newton


Dan had to go,
He felt he had no choice,
but leaving home was never
going to be easy . . . 

Dan and his brother Eddie take off for the coast, in search of their lost mother, in search of a better life . . . but it's a long road they face and Dan must use all his wits to get them there in one piece.

When they are taken under the wings of a group of would-be soldiers marching over the mountains to join up for the Great War, Dan and Eddie's journey becomes something quite unexpected. The experiences they share will shape their future beyond recognition.

This extraordinary rite of passage is a powerful, heart-rending story – Robert Newton at his very best.

My Rating: 3.5/5

I knew nothing about this book before reading it and I only decided to borrow it from the Library solely based on the cover. 

This book is set in war-time Queensland, which is one of the 3 Australian states that I have never been to. 

This book was absolutely beautifully written and it weaved the enchanting story telling perfectly with the endlessly dimensional characters. 

My only problem with this book was that I picked a bad time to read it. I wasn't able to read it for long periods of time and so wasn't able to get any continuity with it. This definitely impacted my overall enjoyment. 

This book follows brothers Dan and Eddie on their journey full of hope whilst escaping from their abusive father. This journey ends up defining their lives. 

I loved their brotherly relationship and even though I think it is extremely hard to capture the true Australian spirit in a character without it coming across as stereotypical, I think that it was really pulled off with Dan. 

Eddie was the most enjoyable character in the book. His energy was evident on just about every page.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review #514 - Knocked Out by My Nunga-nungas (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #3) by Louise Rennison


Georgia Nicolson is now the girlfriend of the Sex God (aka Robbie), and things are wonderful. Except her loony parents are dragging her off to Och Aye land (aka Scotland), and the Sex God's band's chance at a record contract has left her something of a "pop widow."

Then up rears temptation in the form of old flame Dave the Laugh. Is Georgia about to become a shameless vixen?

My Rating: 3/5

I didn't particularly enjoy this book, at least not as much as I remember enjoying the first two. 

This book was just one long conversation. That's all the book seemed to be about. 

For a third book in a series the lack of development is bothering me. These seem to be more stand alone books that happen to contain the same characters. 

Robbie is always depicted as too perfect but to me he seems very boring. The way Georgia talks to Jas and her overall attitude in this book annoyed me endlessly. 

I will probably end up reading the rest of this series but it probably won't be for a while. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review #513 - The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield


"A boy on a quest against the power of the storm"

Eleven-year-old Danny's parents are storm chasers - which sounds fun and exciting, and it is, so long as you aren't the son who has to wait behind at home. And one night, after a particularly fierce storm, Danny's parents don't come back. Stranger still, the old sycamore tree in Danny's yard seems to have been struck by lightning, and when he picks up a fragment of wood from the tree's heart, he finds he can hear voices ... including that of next door's rather uppity cat, Mitzy. The stick is a taro, a shard of lightning that bestows upon its bearer unnerving powers, including the ability to talk with plants and animals - and it is very valuable. 

So valuable, in fact, that it attracts the attention of a Sammael, an ancient figure of darkness and a buyer of souls. And he will do anything to get his hands on it ... And so begins a dangerous and daring quest. Danny, who is bewildered, alone and unaccustomed to acts of bravery, must confront his fears, find his parents and unravel the secrets of The Book of Storms.

My Rating: 3/5

I received this book for review from the Five Mile Press.

This was an interesting concept for a story however I found it rather slow and confusing throughout. Things aren't properly explained and the continual shifting in third person narrations didn't help either. 

I did find though that once the plot developed more progressively throughout I did start to enjoy it. 

Danny, the protagonist was a typical 11 year old boy who goes on a very unique adventure. Through this adventure he learns to understand his parents pain and they grow closer as a family. 

I would have preferred the book to have been entirely from Danny's perspective and in first person as I liked this book the most when it was solely focusing on Danny. 

I would have liked the antagonist Sammael to have had more character development. He is depicted as bad and someone to be feared throughout the book but I saw no real evidence of this. Him showing compassion at the end of the book wasn't that surprising for me because of this. 

This book deals a lot with nature which I loved as I found it very fascinating. I liked how the author was able to have talking animals, trees, rivers and storms without it ever seeming too immature or weird. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review #512 - The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Piorot #1) by Agatha Christie


The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.

My Rating: 3.5/5

I finally decided to read an Agatha Christie book. I have been wanting to read more mystery books and thought Agatha Christie was the perfect place to start. 

I was a little surprised at first to discover that Hercule Piorot, having the series named after him wasn't the narrator of the book although I was later glad this was the case as I didn't particularly like him. 

Piorot constantly talked down to other characters, Hastings the narrator in particular and I overall just found him quite arrogant and condescending

The mystery aspect on its own was amazing. It was a little slow paced but this enabled me to fully grasp what was happening and get a real understanding of the broad diversity of characters. 

I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series and hope the mysteries are all as unpredictable as this one. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review #511 - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides


In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop physically - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The explanation for this shocking state of affairs is a rare genetic mutation - and a guilty secret - that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.

My Rating: 4.5/5

I read this book as part of my 1001 Books Challenge where I try and read at least 1 book from the list a month. (Note that I have now decided to read books from an updated 1001 books list that unfortunately does not include this book.)

When I decided to read books from that list I had hoped to read really well written books that I would love but were books that I wouldn't ever decide to read on my own. Middlesex is that type of book. 

All I knew about this book before reading it was that it was about a hermaphrodite. It is mainly about his grandparents and parents lives leading up to his birth whilst being very imaginative on an epic scale. 

The only thing I didn't like about this book was at times it was over descriptive. There was some parts of the book I had to skim over (like 2 pages full of how the conveyor belt at the car manufacturer works) because it was way too descriptive. 

My favourite aspects of this book was the family element. This book focuses on so many family relationships that I am amazed I didn't get any of them confused with one another.

Calliope/Cal was such a fascinating narrator. He was surprisingly very honest and genuine and had a very distinct voice. 

I loved the historical elements in the book. The book always seemed to take place somewhere at a time that was either historically or culturally significant which gave me something of a history lesson as I enjoyed reading the book. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review #510 - The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events #11) by Lemony Snicket


Dear Reader,
Unless you are a slug, a sea anemone, or mildew, you probably prefer not to be damp. You might also prefer not to read this book, in which the Baudelaire siblings encounter an unpleasant amount of dampness as they descend into the depths of despair, underwater.
In fact, the horrors they encounter are too numerous to list, and you wouldn't want me even to mention the worst of it, which includes mushrooms, a desperate search for something lost, a mechanical monster, a distressing message from a lost friend, and tap dancing.
As a dedicated author who has pledged to keep recording the depressing story of the Baudelaires, I must continue to delve deep into the cavernous depths of the orphans' lives. You, on the other hand, may delve into some happier book in order to keep your eyes and your spirits from being dampened.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

My Rating: 4/5

I was actually surprised by how much I loved this book. I haven't been the biggest fan of this series so far but with this book I actually started to understand why these books are as popular as they are.

I felt like I had to finish this series because the companion series All the Wrong Questions has started referencing this series a lot and I didn't want to get confused. 

This book was very adventurous, action packed and fast paced. It was also filled with the trademark Lemony Snicket wittiness of course. 

In this book the Baudelaires end up on a submarine and learn a lesson about distinguishing friends from foes. 

I am looking forward to reading the remaining 2 books in this series as I found that I am liking each book more than the one before it. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review #509 - Breakdown by Sarah Mussi


It is 2084. Nuclear radiation has poisoned the country. Society has fallen apart. Starvation is rampant, and power shortages have resulted in piles of obsolete gadgetry. Necessity has driven those who've survived to complete self-reliance, if they have the means to do so. For Melissa and her Nan, survival is just about possible, so long as they can guard the tiny crop of potatoes in their back garden and find enough fuel to cook on - and as long as they are safely barricaded inside their home by curfew.

For after dark, feral dogs hunt, and violent gangs from the old Olympic Stadium (now a miserable ghetto) roam to loot and plunder. If they catch you, they are not merciful; so when Melissa falls into the hands of Careem's gang, her prospects look bleak. But Careem soon realises that she might just be more valuable alive, as a ransom victim. However, he hasn't reckoned with Melissa's resourcefulness. Soon part of his young gang are completely beguiled by Melissa and her story of a hidden valley in Scotland - a place that sounds like a comparative paradise, if they can get there. But apparently only Melissa knows the way, and only she can lead them there. But Melissa is hiding a secret. She has never been to Scotland in her life, let alone a mythically  Elysian valley there. Can Melissa's stories keep her alive long enough to escape - or will they get her killed?

My Rating: 5/5

I received this book for review from the Five Mile Press. 

Dystopians are my favourite genre at the moment but this book has got to be one of the most realistic ones I have read. 

Unlike most dystopians I have read, this book actually explains how the world got the way it is. The reasons were also really believable. 

I loved how London was used as the setting and it was obvious by the vivid world building that it is a city (even in its dystopian state) that the author knows well. 

I also loved the Greek Mythology elements that were integrated into the story. 

Melissa was a strong female protagonist both physically and mentally. My favourite character was 6 year old Lenny as he always brought hope into otherwise hopeless situations. 

Usually I would be glad that a book is a stand alone because I am terrible at reading sequels but I really would have liked a sequel for this book. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review #508 - Walking Disaster (Beautiful #2) by Jamie McGuire


Finally, the highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Disaster. 

Can you love someone too much?

Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.

In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. But just when he thinks he is invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees.

Every story has two sides. In Beautiful Disaster, Abby had her say. Now it’s time to see the story through Travis’s eyes.

My Rating: 4/5

This book is the sequel to Beautiful Disaster which I read a few months ago and absolutely loved it. 

The first book is told from Abby's perspective whereas this book is told from Travis'. Because this is more or less the same story, just with a different narrator I was surprised by how different that made the story. 

There were a few holes in the story which could be filled in by having read Beautiful Disaster so I would recommend reading the books in order to save confusion. 

I was really interested in reading this book from Travis' perspective because he is such a diverse and dynamic character whilst also being somewhat of an enigma. 

The large majority of contemporary books are stand-alones with either split narration or single narration so I love how these books broke away from that and did something unique. 

I was a little surprised by the epilogue because I know there are other book in this series (from Travis' brothers point-of-views) and so didn't expect the epilogue to be set so far into the future. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review #507 - American Savage (The Savages #2) by Matt Whyman


Vegan, veggie, carnivore... humanitarian? Welcome to the top of the food chain.

The Savages are back - this time in a country where servings come supersized. Titus, Angelica and the kids go to great lengths to fit into their new lives in sunny Florida. But that's not easy when their appetite runs to feasts of human flesh.

In this dark comic serving of everyday family life with contemporary cannibals, the Savages seek to hide in plain sight by setting up a vegan café. But when the venture turns out to be a surprise sensation, and bad apples bob to the surface, Titus is forced to question whether the family have finally bitten off more than they can chew.

My Rating: 3.5/5

I received this book for review from the Five Mile Press and it is the sequel to The Savages

The Savages have been Americanized or are trying to be at least. After having to move to American after their cannibal ways were made public the Savages discover that the American way of life is impacting their waistlines. 

Titus, the father creates new business ventures that enables him to provide the "feasts" for his family. But when he creates new rules for this it annoys his family. 

Angelica, the mother has issues with her attractive, younger personal trainer who quickly develops a crush on her and doesn't seem to care that she is married. 

Sasha, the eldest child is not included in this book at all as she is away at university. 

Ivan, who is fast becoming my favourite character has the toughest time settling into life in the US. He is bullied mercilessly throughout but in true Ivan fashion creates a way to stop them. 

Katya, the youngest child has grown so much since the first book but because of her age doesn't really influence the story at all. 

Oleg, the grandfather falls in love with a fellow citizen at the nursing home and after discovering she has a life threatening illness wishes to include her in the family's secret recipe. 

The main complication in this book is when the family along with their lodger Amanda decide to open a vegan cafe to prevent backlash from a mob boss they accidentally angered. 

I liked that there was somewhat of a mystery aspect to this book as they kept eluding to the fact that they needed a "feast" but there was no obvious person to feast on. 

I love how this book is essentially about a family of cannibals but is approached in such a light-hearted and humerous manner. 

The ending of the book was surprising and actually quite disturbing. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review #506 - Serena by Ron Rash


The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains to create a timber empire. George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, but Serena is new to the mountains. She soon proves herself the equal of any man, and the ruthless lord and lady kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Then Serena learns that she can't bear children, and sets out to murder George's son.

My Rating: 3/5

This book was slow and was more about the lumberjacking business than anything else. 

Both Serena and George (Mr Pemberton) were both not very likable characters. The only characters in the book that I even remotely liked were Rachel and Jacob and that was primarily because I felt sorry for them. 

I loved how vivid the mountains and forest was portrayed as I was able to picture it strongly. 

The last 100 or so pages was where I started getting into the story as it was more about the characters rather than the lumberjacking. 

Apart from the very last twist in the book I found it really predictable. 

I didn't enjoy the amount of animal brutality involved in this book. The animal v animal I understood as that was just nature but the human v animal aspects I thought were unwarranted. 

This book was quite brutal at times with men loosing limbs, being beheaded, snake bites, being shot, poisoned and so I am looking forward to seeing how these parts are portrayed in the movie adaptation. 

I think Ron Rash is a brilliant author. He explores an interesting side to human nature whilst creating an amazing backdrop of the North Carolinian mountains. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review #505 - Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins


Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

My Rating: 4/5

This was my second time reading this book. I read it for the first time in 2010 before I started this blog.

This book is completely different to the first two books in this trilogy. Whilst the first two elude to the possibility of an uprising, Mockingjay provides a large scale war against the Capitol. 

The first portion of the book was slow paced and I found myself impatient at times because of this. All the action was contained in the last quarter of the book. 

I still am unsure whether I like Peeta or not. To me, he comes across as weak. I think this is because anyone would look weak in comparison to Katniss. 

There were a few parts like the pods in the Capitol that I had a hard time visualizing and so I hope that the upcoming film adaptations can clarify small things like that for me. 

I felt like Gale didn't get enough closure and his future wasn't definitive enough for me. 

The key deaths in this book especially Katniss' personal one were no easier to read about the second time around. 

The epilogue set 20 odd years after the initial ending provided a great insight into Katniss' future but I would have liked to have known more about their post-war life especially the political aspect.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review #504 - Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror by Various Authors


Don't turn out the lights. Don't go out alone. And whatever you do, don't let down your guard. Because your neighbors might seem normal, but why do they collect knives and eat their steaks so bloody? And when the boy of your dreams finally asks you out, why is there something so . . . lupine . . . about him? And if your brother's fear of the dark is so childish, how do you explain those shadows creeping out of your closet? In thirteen blood-chilling stories from true masters of suspense, including five New York Times bestselling authors and four Edgar Award nominees, nothing is what it seems, and no one is safe.......

My Rating: 3/5

This is an anthology of short stories all which were more suspenseful than horror. I will do a mini-review of each story below:

Welcome to the Club by R.L. Stine - This one had way too many twists at the end that left me feeling flat. 

She's Different Tonight by Heather Graham - This story was practically about nothing and the big reveal at the end was entirely predictable. 

Suckers by Suzanne Weyn - With just about every anthology I have read there is always one story that I find I wished was a full length novel. This was the story for me in this book. The concept was interesting but the lack of development killed it which could have been addressed in a full length book. 

The Perfects by Jennifer Allison - This story was the first to have a female protagonist which was refreshing. This story had the potential to be suspenseful but the constant foreboding made it entirely predictable. 

Shadow Children by Heather Brewer - This was one of the more unique stories in this anthology. It was a little too over descriptive which slowed it down. 

The Poison Ring by Peg Kehret - This was my favourite story in the book. It was engaging, suspenseful and action packed. 

Dragonfly Eyes by Alane Ferguson - This was by far the shortest story as it was around 8 pages long but it was very haunting, thrilling and suspenseful. The characters were very stereotyped. 

Jeepers Peepers by Ryan Brown - This story was very atmospheric and it had a very cinematic feel to it. I found it very suspenseful but it fell apart towards the end. 

Piney Power by F. Paul Wilson - This was a very exciting and thrilling read however there were too many characters for such a short story. 

The Night Hunter by Meg Cabot - This was a very thrilling and enthralling read which definitely had the Meg Cabot quality about it. 

Tuition by Walter Sorrells - This story was gripping from the first sentence until the very last. 

Tagger by James Rollins - This was my least favourite story in the book. It seemed to drag on and was longer than it needed to be. 

Ray Gun by Tim Maleeny - This story was a great combination of suspense, sci-fi and action.    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review #503 - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #1) by Ransom Riggs


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Based on the cover of this book I had expected it to be more in the horror genre than the mystery/fantasy that it was. 

I also found this book extremely slow paced which impacted my overall enjoyment of it. I really enjoyed the concept though but it just needed a bit more with the execution. 

I really loved the picture aspect of the book. I loved how they were actually in relation to the story and weren't just random like I had thought they were going to be. 

I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters and for this reason I would have liked more character development. 

I will definitely be reading the sequel as I really enjoyed the fantasy aspect and want to see how that develops.