NEATH, United Kingdom
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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-01-16

Nice, but thin.

I chose this on a whim and it was nice enough to listen to as background noise, but it lacked conflict. Not much here to sink your teeth into, but if you're after a light and sweet romance with no angst, this'll keep you chipper.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-01-15

Brilliant! Now where can I get the rest?!

I absolutely loved this. Comparisons to "Firefly" are not unfounded, but it's similar in the best ways possible. Rupert Degas' performance is, as always, remarkable. I was gutted when I finished the book only to find that the rest in the series aren't available on Audible! C'mon, audibots! Let's be having the rest!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-09-12

Inspiring and cautionary.

Krakauer's narrative of McCandless' last months is a piecing together of letters, postcards, interviews and notes scrawled in the margin of a book about edible plants. Despite the somewhat scattered threads, Krakauer manages to sew together a tale which is both incredibly inspiring and sadly cautionary.

Readers of this book will, I imagine, fall into one of two camps. One group will see McCandless as an ungrateful fool who didn't make the most of the privileged situation into which he was born. Yes, he gave his money to charity, but it could be argued that someone with McCandless' brains and education could have made more of a difference to the world around him if he had used his idealism and tenacity (and that $25,000) to benefit others instead of indulging his desires to be an intrepid explorer.

The other camp will admire McCandless' daring willingness to live a life less ordinary. He wanted to do something so he did it. He wanted a different kind of life and wished for a different kind of world, and did all he could to make these things a reality. That's a noble ideal, right? Brave even. But also, yes, undoubtedly selfish and somewhat foolhardy.

I find myself with a foot in each of the camps. I understand McCandless' thinking. He was looking for an adventure, for a new and more poignant existence in some untamed part of the world. Unfortunately, he was looking for the sort of adventure that just isn't possible now.

He could have chosen a better adventure. He should have taken measures to ensure that his need for change wouldn't have hurt those who cared about him. But he was also willing to "be the change". In my mind, that made him special.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-07-12

Beautiful, touching and poignant.

This was a really touching story. Connor was a great lad and his situation was heartbreaking. His mother, who battles cancer throughout the narrative, was a brave and touching character. Connor's grandmother seemed cold and cruel at times, but was simply a woman trying to remain strong in the face of the inevitability that she would soon have to bury her daughter. Ness subverts expectations with this narrative. He highlights the often sad conclusions of so many real-life narratives, a theme that is all the more poignant given Siobhan Dowd's own untimely death due to breast cancer.

The eponymous Monster of the book was also a subversion of common conceptions. He wasn't scary in a conventional way. Even Connor wasn't scared of him at first. He didn't eat babies or terrorise villagers. He was scary because he made Connor face up to the unfairness of reality and made him see how frightening the truth can be. Sometimes the scariest thing about tragedy is how happy it can make us when it's over...

I enjoyed the tales told by the Monster as I've always enjoyed the sometimes dark-morality of fairy tales. Ness' monster captured this tone and atmosphere superbly. Yesterday I mentioned Stephen King's knack for capturing the perfect tone for dark bedtime stories and I have to repeat this praise for Ness today!

Overall, this was a moving story. It is impressive that such a short tale can have such depth and beauty, and it is also impossible to forget the circumstances that saw it being written. However, great stories live for a long time. It is a touching tribute to the imagination of a strong writer that this tale was given life by the incredible Patrick Ness. His skills breathed life into a tale that might have otherwise been left to dust.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-07-12

A brilliant, post-apocalyptic adventure tale!

How is it that this book has been off my radar for so long!? Seriously. I love epic, post-apocalyptic tales of survival and so this book should have been on my list from the moment of its release. Okay... maybe not that far back as I was two years old when it was originally released. No. This book was so good that even then I should have had it on my wishlist.

This book is a must read if you are a fan of Stephen King's The Stand or Justin Cronin's The Passage. I happen to be a huge fan of both and Swan Song is a bit like the love-child of these works.

It has a whole bunch in common with The Stand. The survivors of the apocalypse (which takes the form of a nuclear strike instead of a government-engineered plague) fall into two camps of Good vs Evil. There's a "dark man" figure who is decidedly evocative of King's Randall Flagg, and there are many religious undercurrents to the narrative.

King's work was first published in '78 so it pre-dates Swan Song. Even though the argument could be made that McCammon's work is derivative, I actually don't care. I see it more as one great piece of fiction inspiring another. While King's work is definitely superior, McCammon's story is still a wonderful read. Whole bunches of books have been inspired by great predecessors, and just because they don't measure up to them, doesn't mean they can't be great in their own right.

I guess there was a lot about this book which reminded me of other books, and I know that's not necessarily a good thing. However, in this case I honestly enjoyed every aspect of the book. The situation was gripping, the characters were realistic and the premise was epic. This is one of those books that I'd recommend to people after they'd read and loved The Stand. It's not as good as that, but it's damned decent as a follow-up read! A fab not-so-little read!

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-05-12

An amazing sequel!


The dystopia in which Tris lives becomes even more vivid in Insurgent. The politics and power-struggles are more fierce, the themes of control and rebellion are more poignant. I loved the direction that this book took.

Tris and Four's relationship hit some speed--bumps in this book, which is common in sequels. However, I'm glad that this remained a background conflict. Both Divergent and Insurgent keep the love interest as a pleasant aside, instead of making it the heart and soul of the story.

I particularly loved the exploration of each faction in this book. While we saw a lot of the Abnegation and Dauntless factions in the first book, there were more situations involving Amity, Erudite and also The Factionless in Insurgent. I also really enjoyed how much more we learned about Tobias/Four's family.

In my opinion, the book had only two teeny-tiny little drawbacks. Nothing so big that I'm going to give this any less than five stars! The first was that Tris kept shutting Tobias out. I always find it irksome in books when characters don;t just talk about things which are blatantly going to cause trouble. Still, it did up the conflict. The second thing was something which always annoys me about sequels...

You know when you watch a TV show which ends on a big cliffhanger and then you have to wait a week for the second part? Well, before part two airs there's always a catch up, right? A quick 'n' dirty thirty-second recap which just refreshes the ol' noggin. Well, the older I get and the more books I read, the more I think all series books should have a paragraph or two at the start which reminds people like me what the hell is going on! Like I said, I'm not gonna take a star off because I get confused easily! He he.

All in all, this rocked. I can't wait for book three to come out. The ending of this book promises BIG things and it's going to be an agonising wait!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-05-12

Beautiful but slow...

This is a difficult book to review as it's simply not the kind of book which I would usually be enthusiastic about. You might wonder why I picked it as my Audible download of the month, in that case, right? Well, the blurb intrigued me and the cover enchanted me. I had hopes of a haunting narrative, evocative of old, dark fairy tales. What I got was something different.

Ivey creates a phenomenally beautiful sense of place and it is evident that she is intimately familiar with the Alaskan wilderness she describes. The detail given to the surroundings was definitely my favourite aspect of the story. However, I felt that the characters weren't nearly as vivid. I have a suspicion that Ivey did this deliberately as the lack of colour given to either Jack or Mabel was indicative of their ailing relationship.

This is one of those books which is going to get four or five stars from a whole bunch of reviewers. It's beautifully written... but in my opinion, it was also slow. Actually, it goes further than that; I think it was dull.

I am definitely in the minority. This book has an average Goodreads rating of 4.06 out of 5 and it is highly praised in the reader reviews there. It is described as “gorgeous” and “magic” and “heartbreakingly beautiful”. While I do agree with these sentiments on some level, I prefer books with a bit more pace and action.

This is a nice book, it's just not my cup of tea. Therefore, I'm going to give The Snow Child three stars.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-04-12

Painfully clever!

I liked the book - I'm going to give it plenty of stars - but I liked it because of how brilliantly Bick's writing draws you in. I didn't like the story, I'll admit that, but I'm not sure you're meant to. I think it's one of those books where you read (or listen) in wide eyed horror. I found myself grimacing over much of the narration because I found it dark. But the really dark thing about the story is that, sometimes, I found myself rooting for them!

I think this is going to be a controversial book because of the YA audience. People will assume that young adults won't have the intelligence or the sophistication to understand that Jenna's narrative is biased. Maybe they'll see this book's message as one of hope for their own schoolgirl crushes or an endorsement for the old cliché that love can conquer all. In a way, this is true... but I think that any audience, young adult or not, has its dopes.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-04-12

Review: "The Waiting Room" by F.G. Cottam

This is one of those books which I used to tide me over until my Audible credit arrives tomorrow. It was enjoyable enough, but I've already forgotten half of the characters' names. I likes the Wilfred Owen references as I'm a fan of his poetry...but later on in the book his ghostly echoes become heavy-handed and end up taking you out of the creepy suspense of the tale. It wasn't a total loss. I think I paid £5.99 for this on sale and it was worth that. If I had spent my monthly credit on it though, I think I would have been disappointed.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-04-12

Review: "Ashes" by Ilsa J Bick

When I first picked up this book I did so because I'd seen a few good reviews of it around and about and I was enjoying the fab little trend of dystopian fiction that is still running its course in YA at the moment. However, my hopes weren't huge because I'm one of those despicable human beings who judges books by their covers. This cover was just a “80s” the right term?...for me.

Well give me a sturdy slap on the wrist, I must learn to obey old clichés as this was a book that I should not have judged by its cover. And I should not have expected it to fit into the sometimes (though not always) sanguine niche that YA can be. Don't bite, I said it can be!

For me, Ashes was a book that provided plenty of the darkness and grit that its title suggested. When an EMP causes all electronics to faulter and also interferes with the teeny tiny electrical pulses in the brains of humans, a whole heap of...poop...hits the fan! Only the very young and very old survive for a few exceptions such as Alex, the protagonist. Others survive, but as maddened inhumane creatures, similar to the "sickos" in Charlie Higson's The Enemy series, or the raging "infected" in 28 Days Later.

The idea of the masses succumbing to a force that leaves them insane and blood thirsty is not new. The dystopian premise of technology falling down around our ears is not new either. So what about this book made me love it as much as I did? It was a combination of things really. I loved Alex as the protagonist. She goes to the mountains to bury her past and to admit that, due to a brain tumor, she has no future. Instead it is her tumor and the treatments she's had for it that saves her from the EMP and allows her to begin her story. These are things you find out in the first pages so I don't think I'm spoiling anything for you.

I'm thoroughly looking forward to the sequel to this (already on my Goodreads Wishlist) and finding out how Bick tortures her protagonist further.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful