Friday, 23 January 2015

What If by Rebecca Donovan

I can be a little sceptical about YA reads sometimes as I seem to identify better with more adult reads, but this standalone novel really hooked me from the start. It centres around 4 main characters (the only boy Cal and three girls Nicole, Richelle and Rae) that shared a childhood and for the most part grew up in a close friendship.

After high school, as their lives slowly move in different directions, Cal is shocked to see Nicole thousands of miles from their hometown after he lost contact after their graduation a year previously. However despite her appearance this girl is not Nicole. 

Nyelle Preston flits into his life and she is impulsive and adventurous; quite different from the shy Nicole from his memories. Cal becomes fascinated by her and falls hopelessly for her, but exuberance aside, Nyelle is also troubled and secretive and it is only a matter of time before her own secrets come catching up with her. 

I don’t really want to say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil the story but there are some many twists and turns and secrets to be uncovered that you really will be captivated. As there is quite a small cast of characters and with the dips in and out of the main four’s childhood, it is easy to get attached to them and really care about what happens. 

I really liked the character of Cal, so that spurred me on to find out how things would go with him. I found Nyelle’s impulses quite strange and I didn’t always understand her at times (which I guess is the nature of her character) but her actions often provided some beautiful imagery so she definitely kept things colourful. The prose is easy to follow, even with the jumps back and forth in time. 

As this is YA, things like sex and violent are watered-down/non-existent so if I could have added anything to this story it would have been that, although that would have changed the story quite significantly (just my humble opinion to suit my own tastes)! 

There is romance in there, exploration of friendship and other quite deep human emotions that really make this a rollercoaster of a novel. What If is an accomplished novel about second chances from a well-established and popular YA author.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Fringe: Sins of the Father by Christa Faust

Somehow I went the whole of 2014 without reading a Fringe book! Looking back at my past reviews, it was back in June of 2013 that I was first introduced to the franchise. 

The first book set in the seventies, TheZodiac Paradox, introduced us to the scientists that later go on to pioneer the Fringe project on which the hit TV series is based. It was only a couple of months later that I delved straight into the second book, The Burning Man, which introduces the character of Olivia and her turbulent background. 

I can’t believe it’s been so long but I’m happy to give a glowing review to the third instalment in which we meet the scientist Walter Bishop’s son Peter whose criminal lifestyle lands him in hot water. 

A scam that goes wrong in Bangkok sees him in possession of a deadly that virus that can alter the DNA of its human host, turning the individual into something else entirely, and also rendering them dangerously contagious if the serum is given its time to work. 

Cue a number of action packed chases where the virus falls continually into the wrong hands, and Peter (whose morals aren’t always geared towards the good side of the spectrum) becomes involved with the scientist who created the virus, in order to get it back and to keep innocent bystanders from infection. 

As well as being wildly exciting, the scientific content in the book is astoundingly brilliant, and this attribute is present in all the Fringe books I've read so far.The research involved must have been huge to pull off some of the in-depth scientific concepts that are explored which adds an intelligent, believable layer to the story. 

Peter is a loveable rogue in this tale and I warmed to him, despite his moral failings. The story delves in and out of his history with his father which is the link to the series, although for me, there are still a lot of mysteries left unsolved which, if they are not featured in the show, then I really hope there are more books to come in this franchise. 

For those of you that like your sci-fi to be heavy on the science, as well as being genuinely exciting, then these Fringe prequels are the books for you. I read them in order, but I think each stands alone against the other as great stories if you prefer to pick and choose. 

Clever, explosive and well-travelled, this is an excellent series for fans of this genre. If anyone has watched the TV show and has any extra opinions on these books, please get in touch as I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon

As soon as I heard the premise of this book, I knew I would love it! This book speaks to me on so many levels. As a single female in London in her mid-twenties, I too didn’t picture my life the way it actually is now. 

How many of us have great expectations for ourselves but the reality of getting there is so different to how we perceived? I know both my sister and I fit into this category and Bryony Gordon illustrates this issue brilliantly.

The Wrong Knickers explores the trials and tribulations of leaving home, getting a job, sex and relationships - all the elements and responsibilities of being an adult that never seem to go according to plan.

I always think authors that expose so much in their writing for public consumption are really quite brave, so I take my hat off to Ms Gordon for this brilliant book.

I know loads of comparisons have already been made with Bridget Jones but it kind of fits so I’m going to have to pinch it. The Wrong Knickers is like a more modern B-Jones, but much more relatable (I suppose because it is true). As much as I could relate, there are a lot of things new to me (such as the drugs and the not-so-great ability with money) and I learnt quite a lot of things. 

One such thing I have now added to my internal list of terms is that of “snog nurse” whereby you basically kiss someone you feel a bit sorry for, giving you both an ego boost. I don’t know about you, but I have previous in this unpaid profession and lol’d at this part of the book! I also loved the notion that Beyoncé is an essence and I’ve definitely channelled my inner Beyoncé in times of need!

Bryony Gordon’s decade of chaos highlighted a lot of things for me and I like that she got her happy ending (or beginning if you look at it even more positively) so it does leave you hopeful that eventually, one way or another, things will fall into place for the better. 

I highly recommend to everyone across the land whose lives haven't gone quite as according to plan as it is a genuinely enjoyable read. The Wrong Knickers is funny, cringe-worthy at times, entertaining and real, and is a great addition to any woman’s (or man's if the themes apply) non-fiction arsenal. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Acceptance is the third and final book in The Southern Reach trilogy and what a wild ride it’s been. We are introduced to Area X in Book 1 Annihilation, and follow an expedition to the unchartered territory of the unexplained terrain of Area X. Then in Book 2, Authority, we see more of the organisation behind the research and containment of Area X. 

In this final instalment, the two stories are pulled together as we delve into the past into the origins of Area X and the characters past and present who are affected by the unexplained phenomenon that occurred.

If you’ve yet to read any of The Southern Reach trilogy, then check out my reviews of the first two books as you really need to read both of them in order for the series to make sense.  I guess then, that this review is for seasoned readers of the Southern Reach so I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the trilogy as a whole. 

So there are good points and not-so-good points in this last book for me. Good points being that I loved the delving into the past; namely the life of lighthouse keeper and that of the former Director before and during her time at Central. It’s these glimpses of the past that make the action revealed in future make much more sense.  This book is like an onion; so many layers to be peeled away with more to be revealed. 

The bits with the more current characters were what started to lose me a little. Ghost Bird / the Biologist is intriguing but she was even more distant and so focused on the nature around her, despite all the other things to worry about (which I found kind of odd and distracting). The character of John / Control I never really warmed to in the second book so I ultimately found him annoying throughout this one. 

As much as I liked that the series came to a conclusion with lots of revelations, I still feel like I don’t really get it. I mean, are you supposed to know about Area X really? Did I miss something? For me there were more questions left unanswered than answered and I feel like I was expecting something more than there was. 

Now that’s not to say that I haven’t really enjoyed this series, because believe me I have. I think maybe I devoured the first book so rapidly, that after that amazing introduction, the rest of it kind of lost its momentum. If anyone has any input with their thoughts and theories about this trilogy, then please get in touch as I would love to know what you think. 

Overall, this book and trilogy as a whole has a unique voice telling an original story that you may love to get mystified by, or that may leave you more bemused than when you started!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

“Where there are villains, there will be heroes.”

Wow! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the latest Reckoner novel blew the last one out of the water! October last year was when I first discovered Steelheart and the amazing world that Brandon Sanderson created where an unexplained event created Epics; people with superpowers who can’t help but try and dominate, rule and often kill ordinary humans. 

This in turn produced the group known as The Reckoners, ordinary people who have banded together to work out the Epics’ weaknesses (as they all have one that is their downfall) and use them to assassinate them for the greater good. I even got a little closer to the action with bridging novella Mitosis which kept me going until I could read Firefight. 

Steelheart introduced the whole world of Epics and non-Epics and we met David, whose sole aim in life was to take down the Epic tyrant Steelheart who had murdered his father. After achieving that aim, it seemed as though David was at a loss with what to do with himself, but with the loss of one super-powered dictator, there will always be others to take up the mantle. 

David and the Reckoners find themselves against their most perilous enemy yet; a powerful Epic named Regalia who not only has incredible powers of her own, but has also recruited some of the most dangerous Epics known to work for her. 

David is such a likeable character. He’s clever, passionate and kind hearted although his bold actions can often out him and others in danger more than help. I love that alongside the main storyline and in the midst of the all the chaos, he is still on the search for the perfect metaphor/simile as he is so rubbish at verbal comparisons, but with funny consequence. Some of my personal favourites include, “As black as a grape at midnight” and “I’ll be as quiet as a buttered snail through a Frenchman’s kitchen.” 

I particularly enjoyed the original imagery in this novel, especially the submerged city that came to life at night with glowing paint. If this were ever to be adapted for screen, those scenes have the potential for surreal beauty. 

With new challenges posed to David and his friends, we learn so much more about Epics, their creation and their weaknesses. This was not only fascinating but it also blurred the lines between what constitutes the roles of good vs bad which really makes you think as well as whetting the appetite for further information. 

As well as an action packed storyline and seriously likeable characters, the overall tale is far from predictable with plenty of shocks, twists and turns that you never see coming. A seriously fun and thrilling read Firefight is an accomplished addition to what is fast becoming a favourite series of mine. Perfect for fans of X-Men and superhero, sci-fi and adventure fiction. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance

Now I’m a bit of a Rebecca Chance fan as it is and was really happy to win a copy of this book in a competition. I haven’t been swayed much this winter by seasonal reads but I must admit that it was especially nice to read this Christmas/New Year themed read at a fitting time, although obviously this book will be just as much fun all year round. 

The majority of the novel is centred on Limehouse Wharf, a luxury tower block in the heart of London designed as expensive accommodation for those that can afford it. It also is attached to a private clinic so is often used as retreat for people to recover from plastic surgery, with no need to venture outside. 

Two such clients are Melody and Jon, who are there for very different reasons. Melody is a popular actress who ruined her career by having too much surgery and lost her equally famous boyfriend in the process, and is doing her best to out things right. 

Jon is not famous, and has had surgery to change his appearance after deciding to leave his most recent employment as an assassin for hire, but his feelings for his nurse may complicate his new life. And connecting them both is the Russian oligarch Grigor, who owns the penthouse of Limehouse Wharf and whose legendary parties will bring excitement and scandal into everyone’s lives. 

Rebecca Chance has this fabulous way of illustrating luxury and opulence in her stories which I really enjoy. Add that to characters that you really get to know and some steamy sex scenes and you have a recipe for an addictive story. 

The plotline was genuinely exciting, with murder, blackmail and some really vile villains as well as all the above so it really kept me engaged. With current themes, such as naughty footballers, OTT WAGs and the British acting scenes, this book is kind of like getting an inside scoop of a glossy magazine, with explicit extras!

I really can’t say much more about how much I enjoyed this book without spoiling it. If you’ve never tried a Rebecca Chance novel before, you should certainly add this to your reading list. So overall Bad Angels is a great modern read full of sexy, festive fun.