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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith

'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.'

I hope you're all having a wonderfully spooky Halloween, everybody!

I decided to do something on my blog that sends shivers of terror down my spine at the very thought of it.

Click these links... if you dare.

http://wp.me/p3xPs8-en
http://wp.me/p3xPs8-ey
http://wp.me/p3xPs8-eD

“Cassandra Clare, The Bechdel Test and why Criticising Women Isn’t Anti-Feminist.”

Reblogged from Nemo @ The Moonlight Library:

"The limitations of the [Bechdel] test itself highlight many other issues with media and entertainment, something [Cassandra] Clare and many other writers, of YA and otherwise, don't seem aware of. You can pass the Bechdel Test ridiculously easily if you wanted to. Have two women talk about the weather on the bus and it passes. Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency suggested an additional rule to the test: the conversation must last longer than a minute. That minute plus long talk can be about anything non man/romance related and technically it'll pass, so two women slut-shaming someone or having an insultingly sexist conversation can still passed. The problems with the test are evident."

 

Christina and I wrote a piece on The Book Lantern about Cassandra Clare's flop of a movie, Ally Carter's claims that we should support stories like The Mortal Instruments for the good of women in film or something, why the Bechdel Test isn't the get out of sexism free card, and how it's possible to be a woman criticising another woman and not be a misogynist. You can find the post here

 

Christina is now on BookLikes too, you can find her here.

____________

 

The Book Lantern ladies are always so thoughtful and in-depth with actual research and a ton of pure awesomeness. Also, I am obsessed with the Bechdel test and apply it to every movie I watch.

Reblogged from rameau's ramblings:
lol
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Tiger's Curse Chapter by Chapter Review Master Post

Tiger's Curse (Tiger Saga Book 1): A heart-pounding adventure...magical! - Colleen Houck

Since May, I've been reviewing chapters of Colleen Houck's Tiger's Curse, inspired by Reading With A Vengeance and Mark Reads. We're almost halfway there now, so here's the master post.

 

read more »
Halo - Alexandra Adornetto Halo (Halo #1) by Alexandra Adornetto Oh my lord… Where do you even begin with this book? Just where? But first, let me relate to you a personal anecdote of mine. Its relevance will become clear soon enough. At my primary school, the older children were partnered up with the young children. Yep, us ten year olds had to arrange the five year olds’ lunch tables, check they’d eaten everything, walk them home if we lived in the village and their parents weren’t available, read to them, and generally give them a hand with anything they found difficult. Considering my school had four classrooms, four teachers, two learning support staff and three dinner ladies, I suppose they needed all hands on deck. But anyway, me and my friend had to look after twins. And since they’d behaved so well, we were allowed to watch cartoons with them on Friday afternoon. (English primary schools quaintly refer to this as ‘Privilege Time’, aww.) And one Friday, I was sat watching a show called The Tweenies with them. It’s a pretty terrifying show, but it was extremely popular in the early 2000s over here.   So anyway, these horrifying… things had a story-time segment on their show. And one time, they picked up a book. And this moment has burned into my memory ever since. “Look!” Cried one of them. “This book was written by —! She’s a BIG GIRL, and she got her book published at ten years old!” And lo and behold, that book was… just what a book published by a ten year old would be like. Nothing special. I think it was about a giraffe who learned to stop doubting himself after something something something. What relevance does a ten year old show for little children have to a YA book about angels? Simple. Youth does not excuse anything. I recognise that it is a pretty big achievement to be published at a young age. It’s an impressive feat, yes, but you don’t always end up with a good, classic piece of literature. Remember Eragon by Christopher Paolini? That had some pretty impressive writing for a fifteen year old boy, but it became a bit sketchy when it was found out that his parents were in the publishing industry. And while the author of this novel didn’t have the same nepotistic treatment as Paolini, it’s still annoying to me that this got published. And we’re supposed to laud over it because of the relative youth of the author. Pfft. So, what is Halo about, I hear you cry? Well, prepare your eyes to roll out of their sockets: the preface contains a lyric by Beyoncé. No points awarded if you can guess what song it is. Need a hint? It’s got the same name as the title of the book. Yeah. Other authors go for classic literature, poetry, or even a well-known quote… Adornetto goes for a by the numbers ballad by Beyoncé. Yes, the book is about these angels who come to a quiet coastal town in the middle of nowhere. Why? Well, apparently the Agents of Darkness (basically demons or Lucifer and his followers) are attacking this town, starting off small before they go into the big leagues. (Which makes no sense because there’s supposed to be a load of them causing problems in the Middle East.) To save the souls of the poor citizens of Venus Cove, God sends down a family of angels. Angel roll-call! Gabriel One of God’s archangels. Most famous for telling Mary that she was going to give birth to the son of God. He also watched Sodom and Gomorrah burn. Ivy A seraphim whose only characterisation is to flap and cluck like a mother hen, make biscuits and cupcakes for church bake sales and generally provide nothing to the plot. Bethany  Bethany has to be one of the WORST characters I have ever come across in YA literature. Did you know I have a prison in my mind where I banish the characters I hate from YA novels? Yeah, currently Bethany is sharing a cell with Zoey Redbird from Marked, Ever Bloom from Evermore, and Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments. She just so happens to be a very young angel, and is extremely compassionate towards humankind. Which, amongst the angels, is a bit of an anomaly, considering that angels tend to take the ‘poor little lambs’ view on humanity. So… even though there isn’t much of a reason why Bethany (or Ivy for that matter) should be on Earth in the first place (come on, God sent down a freaking archangel, the demon problem in that town should be taken care of by the next morning!), we have to follow Bethany around as she goes through her boring little life in a boring little town. Oh, there is some excitement to be had. Bethany does save the life of this one girl who was in a car accident. Yep, she had a punctured lung, a shattered wrist, and several fractured ribs. Injuries that were no doubt exacerbated by Bethany PULLING THIS GIRL OUT OF THE WRECK OF HER CAR. I’m quite sure basic first aid dictates that if somebody is seriously injured and curled up in a certain position, you do not move them unless you are a qualified medic. Well, anyway. First things first, Bethany begins attending a private school, where Gabriel has gotten a job as a music teacher. Bethany, in her infinite compassion, makes friends with just about everybody (whilst still privately judging the ‘kooky beret-wearing art students’, the goths who ‘dress entirely in black’ and the vapid idiots she sits with at lunch, mind you). However, everything changes when she meets Xavier Woods. And holy shit, the author really was like a first-time driver putting too much pressure on the accelerator pedal and sending the needle of the speedometer careening towards 100mph when it came to making Bethany and Xavier fall in love. In fact, they fully declare their love for each other by about page 105.  And there’s quite a few Romeo and Juliet references in this book too.  Yes, it’s a good old starcross’d romance and there’s FORBIDDEN LOVE. What really made me laugh was when Bethany is in an English Literature class and she tries to convince her classmates that Romeo and Juliet is actually a realistic relationship. Pahaha.   So yes… A super-special perfect angel like Bethany falls in love with a human boy named Xavier. Whose facial features are almost always compared to nuts and spices. ‘His light-brown walnut-coloured hair’ ‘His almond-shaped eyes’ ‘His nutmeg hair…’ Goodness gracious me. I think somebody went down to the spice cabinet every time they needed inspiration for their pre-modifiers. Xavier is supposed to be practically perfect in every single way. Except for the fact that he has emotional baggage. His girlfriend Emily died in a fire several years ago, and according to all the other girls at school, Xavier is still heartbroken over it and hasn’t dated since. Until Bethany comes into the picture, of course, because she reminds him of Emily and is of course absolutely flawless and… oh for the love of, when will this stupid insta-love bullcrap in YA-lit end? Later, in a complete role reversal of Twilight, Bethany tells Xavier that she’s an angel. Xavier doesn’t seem to mind, even though my world would be completely shattered if I learned that not only do angels and demons really exist, but so does God, Heaven, and Hell. But no, this is just par for the course for Xavier, who’s supposed to be agnostic. (Also during this exchange, Bethany actually says she doesn’t believe in the fire and brimstone kind of Hell preached about in some religious sects. Huh.) Well, anyway, Xavier and Bethany cuddle on the beach and surprise surprise, by the next day it turns out that Gabriel has found out about our two little lovebirds, and he’s actually had to call a council meeting with the other archangels to see what God’s plan is now Bethany has blown their cover. (Also, the way Gabriel castigates Bethany is like she’s done the WORST POSSIBLE THING EVER. She just cuddled a human, told him she was an angel, and now he has to call the most powerful angels to find out what God’s will is now going to be? You know, that’s pretty much the equivalent of calling the military police to your house to take an unruly child to the naughty step/time-out zone.) Luckily, the archangels have better things to do than wonder whether or not a stupid angel should be excommunicated from the kingdom of Heaven for cuddling a boy. So Bethany and Xavier are allowed to continue dating, but… uh-oh, it’s love triangle time! Yes. Love triangle time. A hundred and ten pages or so into the book, there’s mention of a new student having transferred into Bethany’s new school. Guess what? He has a British accent. (Which in Hollywood terms means he’s definitely evil.) And it also seems that snakes are his thing. His cheekbones looked razor sharp, and his cat-green eyes watched Miss Castle intently with the hypnotic quality of a snake about to strike.The greedy glint in Jake’s snake- green eyes[.] Did I mention that this guy also has a snake tattoo curling around his forearm, and is genuinely considered to be trouble to be around. Can I make reference to a villain from a supernatural fantasy book series who also has snakes as his motif? You know, looks like a snake, has a reptilian smile, is quite slimy, etcetera. Lord Voldemort.  The dark lord himself. The wonderful thing about Voldemort though, was that J.K. Rowling didn’t CONSTANTLY shove it down our throats that he was some kind of ‘reptilian’ ne’er-do-well. Clearly, in Adornetto’s writing, Voldemort’s every appearance would go something like this: ‘His face reminded me of a snake’s – eyes vile and vicious, like a cobra before it struck. The reptilian slits where his nose should have been moved gently with each seemingly wrong breath he took. And when he moved closer towards me, Elder Wand in hand, it was with a serpentine grace, moving in the zig-zag motion of a reptile. And he grabbed my wrist with the force of a boa constrictor’s coils.’So anyway, this obvious Agent of Darkness farts about with Bethany in her English Literature class and helps her write a sonnet. This is by far one of the most boring parts of the novel, mind you. Some time after this, Xavier breaks his ankle. And he’s kept in for overnight observation after the doctors find that he has a concussion. Okay, now that’s absolutely hilarious to me, because I’ve had personal experience with a broken (collar-)bone and a concussion: particularly, the hospital telling me to go home and rest rather than keeping me in for the bloody night. And even then I got about two hours of rest before I had to rush to the airport, since I was on holiday in Germany at the time. So yes, Xavier can’t go to the high school prom with Bethany, which of course is THE MOST TRAGIC EVENT EVARRR!! However, Jake asks Bethany out instead. Xavier tells Bethany he doesn’t mind, because he knows how much Bethany was looking forward to the prom, and how it won’t be the same without a date. Well, anyway, this obvious Agent of Darkness is revealed for what he is during the prom. Oh, of course. If the reader can pick up the fact that he’s a demon sixty pages before the big reveal, I’d say tone it down a little with all the serpentine imagery, hmm? Anyway, even though any demon worth his salt (well, maybe not salt, whatever) could have levelled this useless little town before tea-time, Jake only reveals he’s going to wreak havoc after Bethany rejects his advances at the prom. Because, need I remind you, Bethany is that important. Oh, and someone snapped a picture of Bethany being kissed by Jake, and OH NOES, Xavier saw it on Facebook and now he’s all jealous and hurt and upset! You know, your average person would probably be a bit more understanding. Not Xavier, though. He launches into a tirade against Bethany, and… wait a second. Does this make sense to anyone else? Bethany is a creature of pure goodness, a celestial messenger, an angel. Why would it be in her interests to lie (which isn’t angelic in the least) to her boyfriend about her relationship with the guy he allowed her to go to prom with in his stead? This book makes no sense! *claws at the walls* So anyway, Bethany finds herself in Dumpsville, USA, and spends the next few pages crying and feeling sorry for herself, until Gabriel finally tells Xavier what really went on, and Xavier comes back, completely ready to forgive and forget. In the space of about three or four pages.  My God does this girl have Xavier on the brain. In fact, if you cracked open her skull, ‘I <3 Xavier' tattoos and stickers would be plastered over both hemispheres. It gets to the point where you just want to tell her to shut up. Like these two extracts, for instance, fresh from being dumped: When I realized Xavier was absent from school the following day, my eyes burned and I felt hot and dizzy. I wanted to crumple to the ground and just wait for someone to carry me away. I couldn’t make it through another day without him; I could hardly make it through another minute. Where was he? What was he trying to do to me?I wondered if I would ever be able to put together the pieces of my life on earth that had been blown apart when Xavier had left me. Shut up, Bethany. And somebody please tell Ms. Adornetto that her version of true love at first sight is so highly exaggerated the Disney princes and princesses would tell her to take it down a notch. The two reconcile, and Xavier and Bethany have a lovely naked cuddle on Bethany’s bed. (Where’s that council of archangels now, Gabriel? They were fully clothed the last time around, surely you should be calling God Himself to sort out Bethany for that kind of atrocious behaviour.) After all that, Bethany goes to school again and discovers that Jake has gotten himself quite a big following. And he may or may not have caused one of Bethany’s friends (Taylah) to commit suicide. This girl being the same one who went: “Oh, Bethy, eww, you don’t want to go to the library, only losers hang out there!” And ””Everybody knows the Middle East is in Africa.”  Jake of course continues to threaten Bethany, and his followers grow day by day. One of whom is Bethany’s friend Molly. Shock, horror! And how do Bethany and her motley crew of two high angels and one human work out where Jake is likely to take Molly out on a date? Brace yourselves, the stupidity might require an ice pack from how hard your palm will meet your face.“They look like goths,” “And what is the centre of goth culture?” Gabriel said. Ivy looked at him, eyes wide. “Death.” “Yes.” Xavier’s face was grim.  “So where would be the best place for a bunch of weirdos obsessed with death?” The realisation hit me, and I drew a sharp breath. It was overstated, it was grim, it was dark, and the perfect place for Jake to stage his show. “The cemetery.” (Seriously, is Marilyn Manson the author’s only reference for what a Goth looks like nowadays?) So, if people at your school/other educational institution take up an interest in the Goth lifestyle, there’s obviously a demon around somewhere! It’s not a conscious choice made of their own volition, nope, it’s a demon sucking out the happiness from their souls. Also, is it me or is Jake pretty stupid for a follower of darkness? If the dumbest angels ever committed to page can work out where you’re going to execute your evil plan, I think you need to go back to villain school posthaste. What follows next is a boring as hell ‘OMG Goths totally hang out in cemeteries and make blood sacrifices and endeavour to look as sullen as possible, right?’ until Bethany shrieks and like an idiot, gives away her and Xavier’s position. She is then spirited away to a Victorian mansion, where Jake continues to threaten her… and then Gabriel bursts through the wall with all the powers of Heaven behind him. Hooray! But oh no, Jake proves to be quite a match (for a bloody archangel, need I remind you). Until… in the mother of all awful endings… Bethany defeats Jake……with the power of love. I told you guys you’d need an ice-pack. Hope you still had it handy. Seriously, the power of love being used as some ethereal force that can conquer all evil? I thought that cliché died out when Sailor Moon finished airing. Yeah, so while I had a good chuckle at that dénouement, Bethany just settles back into life in Venus Cove… until the sequel grab happens. A little scroll with a mildly threatening message in Jake’s handwriting falls out of Bethany’s locker. OH NO! That so totally makes me want to read Hades, the next book in the series! Actually, no, it doesn’t. This novel was awful. I only finished it because it was so laughable, and I seemed to catch cringeworthy clangers on every page. The story makes no sense, the main character is a wishy-washy Mary Sue who has nothing to her personality besides being ‘kind and caring’ and ‘obsessed with Xavier’. It’s insulting to one’s intelligence (with things that are obvious constantly being explained to the audience), and the villain is absolutely pathetic. Jake’s inclusion into the plot seems more like the author realising she’s written 110 pages of angelic fluffy romance and she needs to shake things up a little. And you can’t speak of the villain without speaking of the other heroes. Gabriel and Ivy did absolutely nothing throughout the plot. Gabriel was just ‘ZOMG HOT NEW TEACHER’ and Ivy did nothing but arrange bake sales and help out at the local church. Also, isn’t it kind of insulting that the two female angels are weaker and stereotyped as caring and nurturing? Piss off. For divine beings from the Heavens, they certainly wouldn’t be picked for my dream team to take on the forces of evil. And yet they somehow revitalise church attendance in this little township? Pah. Call me back when church attendance is increased by a sassy lounge singer turning the dull choir into a funky gospel troupe. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to purge the e-book from my hard drive. And my brain. 1/5.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners  - Libba Bray

Why did I take so long to read this?

 

Oh, Vanessa, you foolish girl. I remember reading this book on and off on my commute to university, and then for whatever reason, putting it down and picking it back up again at odd intervals. It’s not that it wasn’t holding my interest – simply put it down to me being very easily distracted.

 

Then I got back into reading it over my holidays and could not put it down. At all. Then after I got home, I put it down again and picked it back up only a few days ago.

The Diviners is an extremely well-researched historical fantasy novel, steeped in the supernatural and with a wonderful cast of characters. It’s immensely enjoyable, well-written, and suspenseful.

 

The book begins in the roaring ’20s, with Evangeline ‘Evie’ O’Neill, being sent away from her boring hometown in Ohio to her uncle in New York, who curates the Museum of American Folklore, otherwise known as the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies, along with his assistant Jericho Jones. To Evie, this is her ticket to freedom, an excuse to party hard, and drink as much ‘giggle water’ as possible.

 

It seems to me from reading reviews that Evie is either loved or loathed. She can’t go half a sentence without flinging in some 1920s slang, and she can be rather ditzy and self-centred. However, she is also courageous, adorable, and hilarious to read. I mean, she sealed the deal for my favourite character spot the moment she kneed an overzealous admirer in the nuts with this exchange towards the beginning:

 

‘“You can’t blame a fella for kissing the prettiest girl in New York, can you, sister?” Sam’s grin was anything but apologetic.

 

Evie brought her knee up quickly and decisively, and he dropped to the floor like a grain sack. “You can’t blame a girl for her quick reflexes now, can you, pal?”’

 

No, no, don’t worry – I don’t base my judgements on whether or not a character is awesome because she can roundhouse kick a man into submission, but Evie’s conduct just before is quite amusing, saying she’s coming to New York to be a nun, getting more and more irritated with Sam’s advances. She’s also confident and charismatic, able to charm the socks off anyone she sees, like T.S. Woodhouse, the young journalist investigating the Pentacle Killings and receiving tips on the sly from her as she smirks and basks in the attention. What’s this? A three-dimensional female character in a YA novel who doesn’t turn to putty in the hands of love interest #1 or #2, who knows she’s anything but plain and has her head seriously screwed on despite her public appearance as a featherbrained flapper? YES.

 

The main plot of The Diviners revolves around…. well, the Diviners. These are people with special psychic powers, who seem to have all gathered in New York. In fact, towards the end of the book, the main murder mystery takes a backseat, as clues are divulged more and more, leading to a rather satisfying ending with the promise of a brilliant sequel.

 

While it is satisfying in that regard, I had been following the Pentacle Killings. You know, Naughty John, the ghost who is ritually murdering people in exceedingly gruesome and terrifying ways? Who whistles and sings whilst he’s hacking people to bits? (The multiple viewpoints angle this novel has is really quite good – I really loved getting to know certain characters, and the heightened sense of fear and panic that follows when you read them hearing that peculiar whistling or that singing. No! Not poor Ruta! Not poor little Tommy!)

 

It seems as if Bray became a little more interested in X (the storyline building up to the Diviners in the sequel) as opposed to Y (the Pentacle Killings, which I mention we have been following for the past 400 pages) towards the end of the novel.

 

The aforementioned scenario is very hastily resolved, with Evie and Jericho taking off for Naughty John’s haunted house in New York and being split up, with Evie having to keep her wits about her despite her utter terror at the prospect of potentially being another one of Naughty John’s victims. While I really did like the sense of fear seeping through the page, and was completely and utterly hooked… it kind of lost its steam when Evie was able to defeat him with – well, I don’t wish to spoil it, but it didn’t live up to expectation.

 

1920s New York is stunningly realised in The Diviners. Everything about New York here is written in the most immersive way possible – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people walking around. It’s not just some bland background the characters plod down as they go from one point to another, which I am extremely grateful for. That’s true escapism there. If a book can provide such great entertainment by pulling me out of reality, then sign me up.

 

5/5.

Source: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/book-review-the-diviners-by-libba-bray

Marvin's Curse by Debra J. Edwards

Marvin's Curse - Debra J. Edwards

Disclaimer: A digital copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

A little over a year ago, I read Kendare Blake’s excellent Anna Dressed in Blood. Only a few months ago, I read its less-than-stellar sequel, Girl of Nightmares. I bring up these two books because that’s what Marvin’s Curse reminds me of the most – boy meets girl, but the girl is a ghost who must deal with the trappings of Hell.

 

However, while Cas in Anna Dressed in Blood was well-rounded, and Anna was a nice girl who could become extremely terrifying, Marvin and Stella… eh…

 

Marvin is supposed to be a kid with a lot of issues. His father died recently, and seemed to be replaced immediately with a new stepfather, who wanted them all to uproot to a new house to make the transition easier. Marvin attends a special school, has been in therapy, takes medication, and he has the particular burden of being able to see ghosts, who usually try to attack him. Or at least make him listen to their woes.

Oh, and the new house overlooks a graveyard.

 

After an argument with his parents, Marvin storms outside to find a girl his age hanging around in the graveyard. She carries all the hallmarks of being one of the spirits that bother Marvin every waking moment, but for some strange reason, she has no memories whatsoever. The only clue to her backstory is a business card for a pawnbroker’s shop in the realm of Moghador, which happens to have a gateway right in that very graveyard. Marvin resolves to help Stella regain her memories, and also keep the truth away from her. However, it turns out that Stella may have a lot to do with Moghador, and that mysterious pawnbroker’s.

 

One of the strengths of Marvin’s Curse is its main character. Marvin is initially presented as angry and lashing out for little reason, but soon enough the pieces start to fit together. He may be irrationally angry at his stepfather, and may lash out at anyone or anything that comes too close, but this behaviour makes sense for somebody who’s in the second stage of grief, since it’s hinted that Marvin’s father only died recently. Ever since his father’s death, Marvin’s been able to see ghosts and spirits, and for somebody who’s only just getting over a death, having ghosts surround you and describe how they can’t pass on and want to use you as a sponge for all their negative feelings would suck. Believe me, I’d be a bit angry as well.

 

As Marvin progresses through Moghador and learns about the dark secrets surrounding Old Kedigan’s shop, he does actually grow as a character. Sure, he still has a short fuse, but he learns that his behaviour sometimes has consequences, and that he has to start taking responsibility. His father’s ghost is still around and wants him to take up the family business. The men on Marvin’s father’s side are all spiritual mediums, and the baton always passes down to the next son. The ghost of his father hasn’t passed on yet because he wants to see if Marvin will be alright with his new gift.

 

Stella, on the other hand, is merely okay. She starts off as a confused young woman in a graveyard who decides the designer label in her jeans is as good a name as any. (Stella McCartney, for the curious amongst you.) She gets more and more clues to her identity as the mystery unravels, but I wouldn’t say she’s the most dynamic character I’ve ever seen. Stella’s still very similar to her first appearance even by the end of the book, and hasn’t really learned anything. Well, she’s learned about how she died and how she came to be abandoned in the graveyard with no memory, but she hasn’t grown as a character in a meaningful way. You’d think learning about all the bad stuff that’s happened to her would affect her personality in some way, but it really doesn’t.

 

Stella by far has the most terrible things happen to her, but there’s no real outward show of these things affecting her. Except yelling: “You pig!” or “You monster!” at Old Kedigan or another demon once in a while, she mostly stays the same. She sees innocent people dying in Moghador, is hit with the revelation that she had some part in it, learns the full extent of the horrors the villain partakes in, and how much he hates Stella that he dragged her into death with him. You know, things that would really shake your foundations.

 

Alright, I’ll stop there because I’m repeating myself, but I did find Stella a bit of a weakly-written character. Marvin learns and grows on his journey, and Stella doesn’t. The only real thing I can recommend about Stella is that she gets in a mildly funny line once in a while and argues with Marvin like they’re a married couple.

 

Another negative is just how juvenile the prose can be at times. This is Debra J. Edwards’ first YA novel, and the dialogue and prose just aren’t up to scratch for what realistic teenagers would be saying. Real teenagers don’t always communicate in snarky quips. Nor should the prose make these silly little asides in the name of comedy. Nine times out of ten, in every single book I’ve read, a snarky aside is about as jarring as a terrible pun. The equivalent of a boxing glove sprouting out of the page and knocking you for six.

 

Along with snarky asides, there are moments where exclamation points are used rather unnecessarily. Whenever I read a book that has a sudden exclamation point, like: “I saw a figure coming out of the front door. It was Bobby!”, it makes me feel like I’m reading a novel for very young children. So, whenMarvin’s Curse had a few of these moments (and it did – I unfortunately lost my notes (blame my computer) for how many there were in the first 100 or so pages and got tired of highlighting every time I noticed one), it kind of took away from the reading experience.

 

‘Marvin took a deep breath… then another. In his sweaty hand was the St Christopher, quite ironic given where he was. He clutched it tightly as he took a third and final gulp then burst through the doors taking up position in the middle of the room adopting a stance not dissimilar to Peter Pan!’(Page 152)

 

‘The chain swung out, the silver catching the light. Go to sleep, damn you!

 

[…]

 

THUMP!

 

A large brick by all accounts!’

(Page 155)

 

‘This man was as wide as he was tall!’

(Page 155)

 

‘“Oh, that figure,’ said Marvin’s dad, dreamily. ‘She reminds me of your mum…”’

Marvin squirmed and shuddered. Too much information!’

(Page 195)

 

There’s also some really iffy dialogue here and there. Thankfully, it’s only really towards the end, but it really cheapens the novel when the villain sounds like some laughable cartoon character who goes: “Mwahaha!” and “This cannot be! You have defeated me!”, whilst the protagonists spout: “You’re my father? No! No! That cannot be! That’s impossible!” and “How could you!?”

 

For example, check out some of Old Kedigan’s last words:

 

A twin! I longed for a son. TWO boys they said. Liars! Then on arrival, one dead, one alive. Not a son, just YOU!’

(Page 187)

 

You know that when you died, I did cry… with relief!’

(Page 190)

 

While Old Kedigan never came across as very intimidating to me (since he just seems to be a bitter old man who screams and rants rather than doing anything threatening), I was expecting something rather good out of the ending to Marvin’s Curse. Heck, I’d stuck around for a long meandering plot cul-de-sac in which Marvin and co., make a futile attempt to break into his warehouse and steal back some stolen memories. There’s quite a few mentions of Old Kedigan even allying himself with a few demons, the most powerful of which being a figure known as Erasmus Flint. Where is Erasmus Flint after Moghador has been released from Old Kedigan’s control? He doesn’t do anything. He just stands around whilst all of the wayward souls he had in his thrall find their way towards the light. It’s not even out of a change of heart or anything like that. Real intimidating, eh?

 

If you are looking for a quick, easy jaunt through a YA paranormal novel, you could do much worse than Marvin’s Curse. It has its odd charm here and there, but unfortunately it’s let down by some deficiencies in the writing and dialogue, along with a rather unconvincing villain and a less-than-stellar (no pun intended) ending. 2/5.

Source: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/book-review-marvins-curse-by-debra-j-edwards

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

First of all: many, many thanks to my wonderful friend the scarecrow for gifting me a copy of this book, along with The Cuckoo's Calling! Go check out her reviews. They're hilarious, eloquent, and I now have a 'to-read' list as long as my arm. :)

 

How refreshing it is to just settle down with a book, and for once, not be transported to some faraway world where fantasy rules, but to where the most important focus of the story is friendship. Yes, I am aware that last sentence was simply dripping with sap. But Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe (or AADTSOTU, as I'm calling it for the sake of brevity), managed to hit this wonderful point within me, where I at once recalled exactly how I felt during my teenage years, and was able to sympathise fully with both Dante and Aristotle.

 

Now, normally I am sent running a mile in the opposite direction by any novel that is about teenagers and their emotions. I'm hardly an old fogey in my early twenties, but the majority of books I've read in which the teenagers were disagreeable little sods who constantly feigned that they were deep and mysterious is enough for me to have made the judgement that I would stop reading any books in that same vein. Really, you can blame Dash from Dash and Lily's Book of Dares for that.

 

If the main characters in a novel are teenagers, that's fine. If its main characters are teenagers who feel out of place in the big world and see the frightening approach of adulthood – it's on shaky ground, but otherwise fine. If they go on about their emotions the whole time – NOPE NOPE NOPE.

 

However, AADTSOTU proved to me that the above formula can work, so long as the author casts his mind back to his teenage years, and realises: “Hey, I didn't read Charles Bukowski. I didn't sit around listening to The Smiths all day and thinking I was cleverer than my peers. I didn't understand a word of Charles Baudelaire's poems. I was just a regular teenager who occasionally worried about my place in the universe.”

 

Take some time out to applaud, people. That's a much more honest interpretation of your teenage years than being the smart aleck kid who was hyperlexic and into maths'a philatelist trapped by unknowable anguish', and/or had a hobby of memorising the last words of famous historical figures, or offered their own deep and introspective look into teenage life. The extract below makes me actually believe that this is a conversation going on between two young friends struggling to find their feet in the world.

 

'The quiet over the phone was strange. “Do you think it will always be this way?”

 

“What?”

 

“I mean, when do we start feeling like the world belongs to us?”

 

I wanted to tell him that the world would never belong to us. “I don't know,” I said.

“Tomorrow.”'

(Page 88)

 

In fact, the scarecrow and I had a conversation about how AADTSOTU often read like a John Green book that stripped away all of its frills and just got down to brass tacks – an enjoyable story capturing the life of two real teenagers. Sure, Dante and Aristotle have their moments where they ponder deeply about life, but it always comes up as a natural point in their conversations, or Dante's viewpoint of the world. They actually grow and develop throughout the novel, which is wonderful to watch – they're not instantly these purveyors of deep and wise thoughts about being on the cusp of adulthood. Other authors might have just slapped Dante and Aristotle's conflicts up right, front and centre, but no. Here they're just quietly addressed, with the focus simply being on the friendship between Ari and Dante.

 

I love the sheer simplicity of Alire Sáenz's writing. He's also one of those writers who can emotionally uppercut you out of nowhere with a carefully crafted and placed sentence, or even a full paragraph.

 

'“Dante's my friend.” I wanted to tell them that I'd never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren't meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about some of the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn't have the words.'
(Page 309)

 

'The day he came home from the hospital, he cried. I held him. I thought he would never stop.

 

I knew that a part of him would never be the same.

 

They cracked more than his ribs.'
(Page 325)

 

Aristotle and Dante are two boys brought together by fate. Aristotle is angry because he feels like his family are keeping secrets from him, and he's struggling to come to terms with growing up. Dante, on the other hand, is patient, understanding, and attracted to Aristotle the moment they lay eyes on each other at the local swimming pool. The two boys strike up a friendship that is warm, genuine, loving, and... words really fail me. This book is just lovely. It's like a nice warm bath you can sink into. A bath that comes with a function that punches you in the gut every few chapters.

 

I really loved Ari's voice, which struck a good balance between being dry and sullen, yet carrying a range of emotion. You can hear the cracks in Ari's voice when terrible things happen later on in the novel, and it's heartbreaking. Alire Sáenz certainly didn't restrict himself by writing from the perspective of one main character. I came out of this book feeling like I know both boys incredibly well, and of course, I had a little bit of a tear in my eye on the last page. That's the sign of a skilled writer to me – one who can balance the voice of his characters and not write: “The Adventures of My Flawed Protagonist! ...And His Friend.”

 

Nope. Both boys have equal representation in the eyes of the author. Ari might be the voice of the novel, and Dante moves away for quite a good portion of the book, but that doesn't mean Alire Sáenz just forgets about him. The characters grow, develop and change. Aristotle isn't the person that Dante left behind when he moves away for a year. Dante's markedly different too, but AADDTSOTU doesn't make a show of that. There's just subtle hints and changes in priorities for both boys as they transition from boys to men.

 

It's not just Aristotle and Dante who carry the book, though. Whilst Dante's parents are presented as a fairly perfect couple, Aristotle views his parents as deeply unsound. They love him on the outside, but they keep these secrets from him and Ari feels rather despondent because of it. His mother will never talk to him about his brother, who is serving a jail term, and his father refuses to speak about his time serving in Vietnam, and is emotionally distant from his son.

 

I really don't want to spoil this book, but there is this brilliant moment towards the end where Ari realises that he's made his mother cry by bringing up some bad memories for her, and she's now terrified that Aristotle will walk the same path as his brother. It's not like Aristotle doesn't have the chance to learn about his brother – there's a box with all of his brother's information in the dining room that he occasionally comes into contact with. However, Ari doesn't think he's ready for it, and knows it would upset his family if he confronted them with the truth. Far from being the angry young man from the beginning of the story, he's now a lot more empathic and open, and I adored that.

 

The ending, by the way, is absolutely beautiful and worth the price of admission alone. I say I had a tear in my eye, but bear in mind, it's not a sad ending. It's extremely uplifting and the final few chapters manage to tie up all the loose ends in one simple motion. I really don't wish to spoil it, because it's incredibly heartfelt and deserves to be read without any spoilers to mar one's enjoyment.

 

'My father was right. And it was true what my mother said. We all fight our own private wars.'
(Page 359)

 

To sum it all up – in the immortal words of our friends over at Tumblr, this book gave me the 'feels'. It has absolutely wonderful characters, and a simple yet beautifully crafted story about two teenagers growing up and pondering where they fit into the universe, and what secrets it may hold. Why are friends so important? What is love like, and how do you know when you come to experience it for the first time? When are you supposed to do 'adult' things, and why do they feel like they've suddenly been sprung on us, like one moment we were young and carefree, and now we need to arrange getting a driving licence and finding a job? Questions all of us have probably asked growing up. AADDTSOTU addresses them in its own, lovely little way and it's an absolutely stellar read I would recommend to anyone.

 

5/5.

Source: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/book-review-aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe-by-benjamin-alire-saenz
Marvin's Curse - Debra J. Edwards Disclaimer: A digital copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.A little over a year ago, I read Kendare Blake's excellent Anna Dressed in Blood. Only a few months ago, I read its less-than-stellar sequel, Girl of Nightmares. I bring up these two books because that's what Marvin's Curse reminds me of the most – boy meets girl, but the girl is a ghost who must deal with the trappings of Hell. However, while Cas in Anna Dressed in Blood was well-rounded, and Anna was a nice girl who could become extremely terrifying, Marvin and Stella... eh...Marvin is supposed to be a kid with a lot of issues. His father died recently, and seemed to be replaced immediately with a new stepfather, who wanted them all to uproot to a new house to make the transition easier. Marvin attends a special school, has been in therapy, takes medication, and he has the particular burden of being able to see ghosts, who usually try to attack him. Or at least make him listen to their woes. Oh, and the new house overlooks a graveyard.After an argument with his parents, Marvin storms outside to find a girl his age hanging around in the graveyard. She carries all the hallmarks of being one of the spirits that bother Marvin every waking moment, but for some strange reason, she has no memories whatsoever. The only clue to her backstory is a business card for a pawnbroker's shop in the realm of Moghador, which happens to have a gateway right in that very graveyard. Marvin resolves to help Stella regain her memories, and also keep the truth away from her. However, it turns out that Stella may have a lot to do with Moghador, and that mysterious pawnbroker's.One of the strengths of Marvin's Curse is its main character. Marvin is initially presented as angry and lashing out for little reason, but soon enough the pieces start to fit together. He may be irrationally angry at his stepfather, and may lash out at anyone or anything that comes too close, but this behaviour makes sense for somebody who's in the second stage of grief, since it's hinted that Marvin's father only died recently. Ever since his father's death, Marvin's been able to see ghosts and spirits, and for somebody who's only just getting over a death, having ghosts surround you and describe how they can't pass on and want to use you as a sponge for all their negative feelings would suck. Believe me, I'd be a bit angry as well.As Marvin progresses through Moghador and learns about the dark secrets surrounding Old Kedigan's shop, he does actually grow as a character. Sure, he still has a short fuse, but he learns that his behaviour sometimes has consequences, and that he has to start taking responsibility. His father's ghost is still around and wants him to take up the family business. The men on Marvin's father's side are all spiritual mediums, and the baton always passes down to the next son. The ghost of his father hasn't passed on yet because he wants to see if Marvin will be alright with his new gift. Stella, on the other hand, is merely okay. She starts off as a confused young woman in a graveyard who decides the designer label in her jeans is as good a name as any. (Stella McCartney, for the curious amongst you.) She gets more and more clues to her identity as the mystery unravels, but I wouldn't say she's the most dynamic character I've ever seen. Stella's still very similar to her first appearance even by the end of the book, and hasn't really learned anything. Well, she's learned about how she died and how she came to be abandoned in the graveyard with no memory, but she hasn't grown as a character in a meaningful way. You'd think learning about all the bad stuff that's happened to her would affect her personality in some way, but it really doesn't. Stella by far has the most terrible things happen to her, but there's no real outward show of these things affecting her. Except yelling: “You pig!” or “You monster!” at Old Kedigan or another demon once in a while, she mostly stays the same. She sees innocent people dying in Moghador, is hit with the revelation that she had some part in it, learns the full extent of the horrors the villain partakes in, and how much he hates Stella that he dragged her into death with him. You know, things that would really shake your foundations.Alright, I'll stop there because I'm repeating myself, but I did find Stella a bit of a weakly-written character. Marvin learns and grows on his journey, and Stella doesn't. The only real thing I can recommend about Stella is that she gets in a mildly funny line once in a while and argues with Marvin like they're a married couple.Another negative is just how juvenile the prose can be at times. This is Debra J. Edwards' first YA novel, and the dialogue and prose just aren't up to scratch for what realistic teenagers would be saying. Real teenagers don't always communicate in snarky quips. Nor should the prose make these silly little asides in the name of comedy. Nine times out of ten, in every single book I've read, a snarky aside is about as jarring as a terrible pun. The equivalent of a boxing glove sprouting out of the page and knocking you for six.Along with snarky asides, there are moments where exclamation points are used rather unnecessarily. Whenever I read a book that has a sudden exclamation point, like: “I saw a figure coming out of the front door. It was Bobby!”, it makes me feel like I'm reading a novel for very young children. So, when Marvin's Curse had a few of these moments (and it did – I unfortunately lost my notes (blame my computer) for how many there were in the first 100 or so pages and got tired of highlighting every time I noticed one), it kind of took away from the reading experience.'Marvin took a deep breath... then another. In his sweaty hand was the St Christopher, quite ironic given where he was. He clutched it tightly as he took a third and final gulp then burst through the doors taking up position in the middle of the room adopting a stance not dissimilar to Peter Pan!' (Page 152)'The chain swung out, the silver catching the light. Go to sleep, damn you![…]THUMP!A large brick by all accounts!'(Page 155)'This man was as wide as he was tall!'(Page 155)'“Oh, that figure,’ said Marvin’s dad, dreamily. ‘She reminds me of your mum...”'Marvin squirmed and shuddered. Too much information!'(Page 195)There's also some really iffy dialogue here and there. Thankfully, it's only really towards the end, but it really cheapens the novel when the villain sounds like some laughable cartoon character who goes: “Mwahaha!” and “This cannot be! You have defeated me!”, whilst the protagonists spout: “You're my father? No! No! That cannot be! That's impossible!” and “How could you!?”For example, check out some of Old Kedigan's last words:‘A twin! I longed for a son. TWO boys they said. Liars! Then on arrival, one dead, one alive. Not a son, just YOU!’(Page 187)‘You know that when you died, I did cry... with relief!’(Page 190)While Old Kedigan never came across as very intimidating to me (since he just seems to be a bitter old man who screams and rants rather than doing anything threatening), I was expecting something rather good out of the ending to Marvin's Curse. Heck, I'd stuck around for a long meandering plot cul-de-sac in which Marvin and co., make a futile attempt to break into his warehouse and steal back some stolen memories. There's quite a few mentions of Old Kedigan even allying himself with a few demons, the most powerful of which being a figure known as Erasmus Flint. Where is Erasmus Flint after Moghador has been released from Old Kedigan's control? He doesn't do anything. He just stands around whilst all of the wayward souls he had in his thrall find their way towards the light. It's not even out of a change of heart or anything like that. Real intimidating, eh?If you are looking for a quick, easy jaunt through a YA paranormal novel, you could do much worse than Marvin's Curse. It has its odd charm here and there, but unfortunately it's let down by some deficiencies in the writing and dialogue, along with a rather unconvincing villain and a less-than-stellar (no pun intended) ending. 2/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/book-review-marvins-curse-by-debra-j-edwards/)

The Diviners

The Diviners - Libba Bray Why did I take so long to read this?Oh, Vanessa, you foolish girl. I remember reading this book on and off on my commute to university, and then for whatever reason, putting it down and picking it back up again at odd intervals. It's not that it wasn't holding my interest – simply put it down to me being very easily distracted.Then I got back into reading it over my holidays and could not put it down. At all. Then after I got home, I put it down again and picked it back up only a few days ago.The Diviners is an extremely well-researched historical fantasy novel, steeped in the supernatural and with a wonderful cast of characters. It's immensely enjoyable, well-written, and suspenseful.The book begins in the roaring '20s, with Evangeline 'Evie' O'Neill, being sent away from her boring hometown in Ohio to her uncle in New York, who curates the Museum of American Folklore, otherwise known as the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies, along with his assistant Jericho Jones. To Evie, this is her ticket to freedom, an excuse to party hard, and drink as much 'giggle water' as possible.It seems to me from reading reviews that Evie is either loved or loathed. She can't go half a sentence without flinging in some 1920s slang, and she can be rather ditzy and self-centred. However, she is also courageous, adorable, and hilarious to read. I mean, she sealed the deal for my favourite character spot the moment she kneed an overzealous admirer in the nuts with this exchange towards the beginning:'“You can't blame a fella for kissing the prettiest girl in New York, can you, sister?” Sam's grin was anything but apologetic.Evie brought her knee up quickly and decisively, and he dropped to the floor like a grain sack. “You can't blame a girl for her quick reflexes now, can you, pal?”'No, no, don't worry – I don't base my judgements on whether or not a character is awesome because she can roundhouse kick a man into submission, but Evie's conduct just before is quite amusing, saying she's coming to New York to be a nun, getting more and more irritated with Sam's advances. She's also confident and charismatic, able to charm the socks off anyone she sees, like T.S. Woodhouse, the young journalist investigating the Pentacle Killings and receiving tips on the sly from her as she smirks and basks in the attention. What's this? A three-dimensional female character in a YA novel who doesn't turn to putty in the hands of love interest #1 or #2, who knows she's anything but plain and has her head seriously screwed on despite her public appearance as a featherbrained flapper? YES.The main plot of The Diviners revolves around.... well, the Diviners. These are people with special psychic powers, who seem to have all gathered in New York. In fact, towards the end of the book, the main murder mystery takes a backseat, as clues are divulged more and more, leading to a rather satisfying ending with the promise of a brilliant sequel.While it is satisfying in that regard, I had been following the Pentacle Killings. You know, Naughty John, the ghost who is ritually murdering people in exceedingly gruesome and terrifying ways? Who whistles and sings whilst he's hacking people to bits? (The multiple viewpoints angle this novel has is really quite good – I really loved getting to know certain characters, and the heightened sense of fear and panic that follows when you read them hearing that peculiar whistling or that singing. No! Not poor Ruta! Not poor little Tommy!)It seems as if Bray became a little more interested in X (the storyline building up to the Diviners in the sequel) as opposed to Y (the Pentacle Killings, which I mention we have been following for the past 400 pages) towards the end of the novel. The aforementioned scenario is very hastily resolved, with Evie and Jericho taking off for Naughty John's haunted house in New York and being split up, with Evie having to keep her wits about her despite her utter terror at the prospect of potentially being another one of Naughty John's victims. While I really did like the sense of fear seeping through the page, and was completely and utterly hooked... it kind of lost its steam when Evie was able to defeat him with – well, I don't wish to spoil it, but it didn't live up to expectation.1920s New York is stunningly realised in The Diviners. Everything about New York here is written in the most immersive way possible – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people walking around. It's not just some bland background the characters plod down as they go from one point to another, which I am extremely grateful for. That's true escapism there. If a book can provide such great entertainment by pulling me out of reality, then sign me up. 5/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/book-review-the-diviners-by-libba-bray/)
Wildlife Fact-File - International Masters Publishers This book was my childhood, you guys. I loved animals as a kid, and I used to go into the library all the time and flip through their binder, since they had all the cards and I only had a handful. (Plus, apparently most of this was authored by David Attenborough himself, so there's that.)

£6.19 per Witching Hour by Joanna Mazurkiewicz

£6.19 per Witching Hour (Paranormal Personnel Saga #1) - Joanna Mazurkiewicz

Disclaimer: a copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. I made it to 25% before deciding it wasn’t really for me. Naturally, this is only a review of the first quarter of the book. (75/300 pages.)

 

I really hate giving up on books, but I really couldn’t get into £6.19 per Witching Hour. I didn’t want to keep putting it off, so I decided to throw in the towel when I’d gotten to a fair percentage to form my opinion.

 

£6.19 per Witching Hour is set in a world where supernatural creatures live secretly among us. Point for originality there. However, our half-elf heroine Julia works for a recruitment agency in Croydon that specialises in getting work for unemployed vampires, witches, trolls, fairies, etc. The job sounds mundane, but when your work day is interrupted by a giant angrily bursting in with a chainsaw and demanding his late unemployment cheque, and you have to keep your composure shortly afterwards because you know you have to interview a fairy who wants a new job in the tooth-collecting business, it’s never going to be an ordinary day at the office.

 

This could have been an extremely fun concept. From the outset, I was perhaps wondering if the world at large knew that these supernatural creatures existed, hence the need for such a recruitment office. Nope, the world is as secretive as ever, and people remain oblivious to that guy on the night shift having fangs, or that girl who doesn’t show up some days of the month because there’s a full moon in the sky.

 

‘Every creature understands they are living in the twenty-first century. We have our own clubs, gyms, and shops and we live among humans without jeopardising our own identity. Most of the employers who deal with us want to employ paranormal staff. They don’t like to employ humans, but sometimes they don’t have a choice.’

 

Alright, fair enough. That kind of reminds me of the UK version of Being Human, in which George and Mitchell work as night porters in the local hospital because finding other work isn’t going to be quite so easy.

 

The main problem I found was that there’s a lot of really stiff dialogue, which is used a lot. Characters don’t seem to be able to use contractions in their speech, and I find myself completely taken out of the story every time I have to read:

 

‘”Fine, whatever. You are lucky that I am not dead,” I said. “See you later.”‘

 

‘”Not yet. Rufus said we have to finish our shift and he sends you his regards.”‘

 

‘”[...] I am seeing him tomorrow. He is a solicitor and he is gorgeous and I think that he might be the one,” she cheered, looking excited.

 

‘”I am tired of this dating but I want to be in a real relationship.”‘

 

‘”You were right when you phoned me. I did put you and Jennifer in danger because I employed an incompetent person, a manager to be precise, so I am sorry.”‘

 

‘”Calm down, Julia. I am not joking at all. I have been thinking about your promotion for a while. You have worked really hard in the past year, bringing a lot of business to the company.”‘

 

Along with the awkward dialogue, some of the descriptions can be a bit out of place or simply too obvious.

 

‘I couldn’t move. My body was in shock and I was paralysed.’

 

That second sentence didn’t really need to be there. We know that the giant with the chainsaw has barged into the office and scared the living daylights out of Julia, and her co-worker Jennifer. It’s only natural to assume that Julia wouldn’t be able to move, we didn’t need to know she was in shock.

 

‘Sometimes I got negative vibes off her, especially when she was staring at me with those Hungry eyes.’

 

(Thank you for the ear-worm, but I don’t quite see why ‘Hungry’ suddenly became a proper noun.)

 

‘I Hung up[...]‘

 

‘I felt as if I was already sweating and my heart was beating too fast.’

 

To Mazurkiewicz’s credit, English is not her first language. The grammar is generally all right, and the novel does pick up a nice flow from time to time. However, I feel some proof-reading, editing and revisions could have really improved on the novel’s shortcomings.

 

Another of these shortcomings was the fact that Julia just wasn’t particularly interesting as a character. She’s extremely passive, and I just could not get a feel for her outside of the fact that she works at a recruitment agency, recently broke up with a control freak, and her best friend and confidante is a human. But those are just facts about her; I want to see if she has some personality outside of those!

 

Rather than giving us a window into the world that these characters inhabit, with little details of their lives described, and their interests outside of their jobs, £6.19 per Witching Hour just uses a huge amount of dialogue in place of description. It doesn’t help either that Julia’s thought process is written in this very informal and awkward way. The sentences are either too short and snappy, or they run on for a mile before smacking head first into a full stop.

 

I was interested in the concept, and wanted to learn more about the world these supernatural creatures inhabit, and how it would translate into modern day London. The title itself is a play on the minimum wage in the UK (as if you needed me to tell you that), and so perhaps there could have been some clever insight into the terrible system we have in the UK for getting people into work. While I wasn’t able to press on any further, let me say that £6.19 per Witching Hour isn’t the worst book ever. It certainly had its moments, and perhaps if I weren’t tired of the whole secretive paranormal world trope, I might have looked on it a bit more favourably. As it is, the lacklustre main character and the stilted, awkward dialogue and sentence structure really hampered my enjoyment. Had it been edited a bit more, I’m sure I would have dug a little deeper. 2/5.

Source: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/book-review-6-19-per-witching-hour-by-joanna-mazurkiewicz
£6.19 per Witching Hour - Joanna Mazurkiewicz Disclaimer: a copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. I made it to 25% before deciding it wasn't really for me. Naturally, this is only a review of the first quarter of the book. (75/300 pages.)I really hate giving up on books, but I really couldn't get into £6.19 per Witching Hour. I didn't want to keep putting it off, so I decided to throw in the towel when I'd gotten to a fair percentage to form my opinion.£6.19 per Witching Hour is set in a world where supernatural creatures live secretly among us. Point for originality there. However, our half-elf heroine Julia works for a recruitment agency in Croydon that specialises in getting work for unemployed vampires, witches, trolls, fairies, etc. The job sounds mundane, but when your work day is interrupted by a giant angrily bursting in with a chainsaw and demanding his late unemployment cheque, and you have to keep your composure shortly afterwards because you know you have to interview a fairy who wants a new job in the tooth-collecting business, it's never going to be an ordinary day at the office.This could have been an extremely fun concept. From the outset, I was perhaps wondering if the world at large knew that these supernatural creatures existed, hence the need for such a recruitment office. Nope, the world is as secretive as ever, and people remain oblivious to that guy on the night shift having fangs, or that girl who doesn't show up some days of the month because there's a full moon in the sky.'Every creature understands they are living in the twenty-first century. We have our own clubs, gyms, and shops and we live among humans without jeopardising our own identity. Most of the employers who deal with us want to employ paranormal staff. They don't like to employ humans, but sometimes they don't have a choice.'Alright, fair enough. That kind of reminds me of the UK version of Being Human, in which George and Mitchell work as night porters in the local hospital because finding other work isn't going to be quite so easy.The main problem I found was that there's a lot of really stiff dialogue, which is used a lot. Characters don't seem to be able to use contractions in their speech, and I find myself completely taken out of the story every time I have to read:'"Fine, whatever. You are lucky that I am not dead," I said. "See you later."''"Not yet. Rufus said we have to finish our shift and he sends you his regards."''"[...] I am seeing him tomorrow. He is a solicitor and he is gorgeous and I think that he might be the one," she cheered, looking excited.'"I am tired of this dating but I want to be in a real relationship."''"You were right when you phoned me. I did put you and Jennifer in danger because I employed an incompetent person, a manager to be precise, so I am sorry."''"Calm down, Julia. I am not joking at all. I have been thinking about your promotion for a while. You have worked really hard in the past year, bringing a lot of business to the company."'Along with the awkward dialogue, some of the descriptions can be a bit out of place or simply too obvious.'I couldn't move. My body was in shock and I was paralysed.'That second sentence didn't really need to be there. We know that the giant with the chainsaw has barged into the office and scared the living daylights out of Julia, and her co-worker Jennifer. It's only natural to assume that Julia wouldn't be able to move, we didn't need to know she was in shock.'Sometimes I got negative vibes off her, especially when she was staring at me with those Hungry eyes.'(Thank you for the ear-worm, but I don't quite see why 'Hungry' suddenly became a proper noun.)'I Hung up[...]''I felt as if I was already sweating and my heart was beating too fast.'To Mazurkiewicz's credit, English is not her first language. The grammar is generally all right, and the novel does pick up a nice flow from time to time. However, I feel some proof-reading, editing and revisions could have really improved on the novel's shortcomings.Another of these shortcomings was the fact that Julia just wasn't particularly interesting as a character. She's extremely passive, and I just could not get a feel for her outside of the fact that she works at a recruitment agency, recently broke up with a control freak, and her best friend and confidante is a human. But those are just facts about her; I want to see if she has some personality outside of those!Rather than giving us a window into the world that these characters inhabit, with little details of their lives described, and their interests outside of their jobs, £6.19 per Witching Hour just uses a huge amount of dialogue in place of description. It doesn't help either that Julia's thought process is written in this very informal and awkward way. The sentences are either too short and snappy, or they run on for a mile before smacking head first into a full stop.I was interested in the concept, and wanted to learn more about the world these supernatural creatures inhabit, and how it would translate into modern day London. The title itself is a play on the minimum wage in the UK (as if you needed me to tell you that), and so perhaps there could have been some clever insight into the terrible system we have in the UK for getting people into work. While I wasn't able to press on any further, let me say that £6.19 per Witching Hour isn't the worst book ever. It certainly had its moments, and perhaps if I weren't tired of the whole secretive paranormal world trope, I might have looked on it a bit more favourably. As it is, the lacklustre main character and the stilted, awkward dialogue and sentence structure really hampered my enjoyment. Had it been edited a bit more, I'm sure I would have dug a little deeper. 2/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/book-review-6-19-per-witching-hour-by-joanna-mazurkiewicz/)

The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith http://m.uk.ign.com/articles/2013/07/14/jk-rowlings-secret-crime-novel-revealed

Fearscape (Horrorscape #1) by Nenia Campbell

Fearscape - Nenia Campbell

I hate the ‘bad boy’ trope. No, seriously. I cannot stand the idea of them. I look back on the days in which I fell for Edward Cullen and other mysterious, dangerous boys in books. If I ever find the parts for my TARDIS (it unfortunately broke down a few months ago, and do you know how hard it is to find a mechanic who can read technical notes in Circular Gallifreyan?), I’d probably go back to 14 year old Nessa, slap Twilight out of her hands, and give her a long speech whilst shaking her by the shoulders. My Bad YA Deluge of 2012 also had me crawling up the walls from all the supposedly dark and enigmatic guys with a rough attitude that the heroines may or may not end up with, that I was supposed to fall for, because usually the narrators are just blank slates for the reader to project themselves on to.

 

TL;DR – I really hate ‘bad boys’.

 

Nenia Campbell seeks to subvert this idea, by having her heroine falling for a bad boy, who, it turns out, is scarily obsessed with her. Val lives in a world where good guys are viewed as insipid, and bad boys are the romantic ideal. After meeting the mysterious Gavin Mecozzi in a pet shop and discovering he is going to be her partner in Art this year, Val starts getting creepy e-mails and messages on her social networking sites. She’s too scared to simply hit the block button, and she can’t help but feel that Gavin (who seems to be a nice guy) and her stalker are linked.

 

Val is at times a very dull character to read. Yes, she’s an everyday girl just trying to keep her head above water with high school and social drama. However, she’s quite passive and the third-person narration doesn’t really aid much in getting to know her as a character. Things happen to Val, rather than her making these things happen. Sure, there are moments where she plucks up the courage to confront Gavin on several issues, but they’re fairly few and far between. Her friends aren’t very memorable either, fun little quips and banter aside.

 

Gavin, on the other hand… I wouldn’t say I loved this character, because by the end he’s a despicable toad, but I did like him enough to begin with. I thought he might be an actual nice guy, and the idea of him being the stalker was just a red herring. Nope! Despite being a supposedly respectable teaching assistant and renowned chess-master, Gavin has a creepy fantasy he likes to indulge in, and Val has stirred it within him. Gavin wants to be the hunter, and for Val to be the hunted.

 

When the book gets towards its ending, with a fairly nail-biting and creepy scene during a simple chess game that left me quite scared for Val, it really gets going. Gavin leaves out his diary for Val to read, and it contains some rather disturbing, in-depth looks into his psyche. I won’t detail them here, but Christ on a bike, son, get a hobby. It hasn’t just innocently escalated from a crush into stalker behaviour. Nope, it’s as twisted and repulsive as it gets.

 

Of course, one might question the logic of leaving your diary out in the open like that, considering how his plan to discredit Val when she tries to tell the authorities. I certainly would have torn out a couple of pages as evidence.

 

But still, what an absolute bastard Gavin was by the end. I won’t spoil it, but Val is turned into a nervous wreck and the way he manipulates her is disgusting. If I met him in real life, I’d deck him across the face. I swear to me ma. In fact, Gavin is only incarcerated after crafting a scheme to get Val out of sight of somebody who could keep her safe, just to antagonise her further. I say lock him up and throw away the key.

 

Early on, like I mentioned earlier, I was wondering why Gavin was going to be the stalker at all. Not in a “No, really, why him?”, but in a “Seriously, the stalker ought to be somebody else, in a shocking twist, perhaps.” Thankfully, little hints are dropped every now and again to make sure you know that something isn’t quite right with Gavin from day one. Plus, his speech patterns are so similar to the threats the stalker sends to Val that I eventually gave up on my idea of Gavin being a red herring. The messages started to be sent right around the time Val met him, so you’d think putting two and two together would be a rather simple thing. It’s not like Val never figures out who her stalker is, though. Also, speaking of that court case towards the end of the novel – print screen everything, Val! Don’t just freak out and delete your messages, archive them and keep the evidence! Even if you don’t want to testify in court, you can hand in your evidence to the defence attorney. I’m sure there would be a consistency between the syntax in Gavin’s journal entries and the sinister e-mails.

 

Even though I was often annoyed with Val for going to confront Gavin, it was more so in a “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHY DON’T YOU JUST KEEP THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM!?” I will say though, that some of Gavin’s behaviours are a bit transparent – he has a habit of becoming a bit wistful with his musings from time to time, and really dropping the hints of what he wants to do with Val.

 

I wasn’t one hundred percent sure on the idea of Val living in an era of bad boys being idolised in comparison to ‘good’ guys. Apparently the time Val and company live in is one which prefers bad boys… which I didn’t really see, or feel much of in the story. It just seemed like a regular high school, with the same kind of relationship drama you’d see anywhere. Nobody looked down on the good guys, really. Nobody really looked up to the bad boys/weird guys either, as Val’s friends tell her they think he’s creepy early on. I guess it’s supposed to be like our world in that some girls swoon over bad boys in various forms of media, but it just didn’t feel developed enough.

 

So, all in all, what did I think? I was enjoying Fearscape enough to breeze through most of it, despite the snags. The part near the end when Gavin reveals his true nature was unputdownable. (Oh man, how I hate that word.) Gavin is awful, and if I were Val’s friend, I would punch him for her whilst collecting up evidence to get this repugnant pustule as far away from her as possible. 3/5.

Source: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/book-review-fearscape-horrorscape-1-by-nenia-campbell
Fearscape (Horrorscape, #1) - Nenia Campbell I hate the 'bad boy' trope. No, seriously. I cannot stand the idea of them. I look back on the days in which I fell for Edward Cullen and other mysterious, dangerous boys in books. If I ever find the parts for my TARDIS (it unfortunately broke down a few months ago, and do you know how hard it is to find a mechanic who can read technical notes in Circular Gallifreyan?), I'd probably go back to 14 year old Nessa, slap Twilight out of her hands, and give her a long speech whilst shaking her by the shoulders. My Bad YA Deluge of 2012 also had me crawling up the walls from all the supposedly dark and enigmatic guys with a rough attitude that the heroines may or may not end up with, that I was supposed to fall for, because usually the narrators are just blank slates for the reader to project themselves on to.TL;DR – I really hate 'bad boys'.Nenia Campbell seeks to subvert this idea, by having her heroine falling for a bad boy, who, it turns out, is scarily obsessed with her. Val lives in a world where good guys are viewed as insipid, and bad boys are the romantic ideal. After meeting the mysterious Gavin Mecozzi in a pet shop and discovering he is going to be her partner in Art this year, Val starts getting creepy e-mails and messages on her social networking sites. She's too scared to simply hit the block button, and she can't help but feel that Gavin (who seems to be a nice guy) and her stalker are linked.Val is at times a very dull character to read. Yes, she's an everyday girl just trying to keep her head above water with high school and social drama. However, she's quite passive and the third-person narration doesn't really aid much in getting to know her as a character. Things happen to Val, rather than her making these things happen. Sure, there are moments where she plucks up the courage to confront Gavin on several issues, but they're fairly few and far between. Her friends aren't very memorable either, fun little quips and banter aside.Gavin, on the other hand... I wouldn't say I loved this character, because by the end he's a despicable toad, but I did like him enough to begin with. I thought he might be an actual nice guy, and the idea of him being the stalker was just a red herring. Nope! Despite being a supposedly respectable teaching assistant and renowned chess-master, Gavin has a creepy fantasy he likes to indulge in, and Val has stirred it within him. Gavin wants to be the hunter, and for Val to be the hunted.When the book gets towards its ending, with a fairly nail-biting and creepy scene during a simple chess game that left me quite scared for Val, it really gets going. Gavin leaves out his diary for Val to read, and it contains some rather disturbing, in-depth looks into his psyche. I won't detail them here, but Christ on a bike, son, get a hobby. It hasn't just innocently escalated from a crush into stalker behaviour. Nope, it's as twisted and repulsive as it gets.Of course, one might question the logic of leaving your diary out in the open like that, considering how his plan to discredit Val when she tries to tell the authorities. I certainly would have torn out a couple of pages as evidence.But still, what an absolute bastard Gavin was by the end. I won't spoil it, but Val is turned into a nervous wreck and the way he manipulates her is disgusting. If I met him in real life, I'd deck him across the face. I swear to me ma. In fact, Gavin is only incarcerated after crafting a scheme to get Val out of sight of somebody who could keep her safe, just to antagonise her further. I say lock him up and throw away the key.Early on, like I mentioned earlier, I was wondering why Gavin was going to be the stalker at all. Not in a “No, really, why him?”, but in a “Seriously, the stalker ought to be somebody else, in a shocking twist, perhaps.” Thankfully, little hints are dropped every now and again to make sure you know that something isn't quite right with Gavin from day one. Plus, his speech patterns are so similar to the threats the stalker sends to Val that I eventually gave up on my idea of Gavin being a red herring. The messages started to be sent right around the time Val met him, so you'd think putting two and two together would be a rather simple thing. It's not like Val never figures out who her stalker is, though. Also, speaking of that court case towards the end of the novel – print screen everything, Val! Don't just freak out and delete your messages, archive them and keep the evidence! Even if you don't want to testify in court, you can hand in your evidence to the defence attorney. I'm sure there would be a consistency between the syntax in Gavin's journal entries and the sinister e-mails.Even though I was often annoyed with Val for going to confront Gavin, it was more so in a “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHY DON'T YOU JUST KEEP THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM!?” I will say though, that some of Gavin's behaviours are a bit transparent – he has a habit of becoming a bit wistful with his musings from time to time, and really dropping the hints of what he wants to do with Val.I wasn't one hundred percent sure on the idea of Val living in an era of bad boys being idolised in comparison to 'good' guys. Apparently the time Val and company live in is one which prefers bad boys... which I didn't really see, or feel much of in the story. It just seemed like a regular high school, with the same kind of relationship drama you'd see anywhere. Nobody looked down on the good guys, really. Nobody really looked up to the bad boys/weird guys either, as Val's friends tell her they think he's creepy early on. I guess it's supposed to be like our world in that some girls swoon over bad boys in various forms of media, but it just didn't feel developed enough.So, all in all, what did I think? I was enjoying Fearscape enough to breeze through most of it, despite the snags. The part near the end when Gavin reveals his true nature was unputdownable. (Oh man, how I hate that word.) Gavin is awful, and if I were Val's friend, I would punch him for her whilst collecting up evidence to get this repugnant pustule as far away from her as possible. 3/5.(This review is alaso available on my blog: http://nessasky.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/book-review-fearscape-horrorscape-1-by-nenia-campbell/)