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Book Review: The Wheel of Osheim (Red Queen's War Book 3) by Mark Lawrence

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Ken...

Monday, 17 October 2016

YA Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Imagine (almost) every single YA stereotype thrown together. I say almost because there is one that's not there. The Love Triangle. Yay!! Woohoo! No Love Triangle! There is, however, a Love Sandwich! Ahhhhh!! No, not three, but four!!! Dear god, save us. It seems every single eligible male between 16 and 20 is somehow desperately in love with Mare. She's only in love with three of them though. Three! Fucking greedy cow. 

I knew what I was getting into, I was expecting the typical YA novel. And yet, this still managed to disappoint me. Mainly because of Mare. Coincidentally, 'mare' is used quite often where I live to refer to a really annoying or stupid woman. The name fits perfectly, trust me. I was initially very patient, I was expecting certain things to bug me, or even drive me round the bend, but the closer I got to the climax the more the daft girl and her even dafter behaviour got to me. 

If she really grew up in a slum she'd be a lot more careful and so much more shrewd. But no, the mean rich girls are making fun of me! I'm going to sulk, and then sulk some more. She is pathetic. I know teens have confidence issues, but this is ridiculous. 

Our heroine finds herself among her Silver enemies, with every move monitored, an escort wherever she goes, super-strength guards everywhere, and super powered nobles, all loyal to the king. She is a prisoner. A rich prisoner, but a prisoner none the less. So what does she do? Keep her head down, her mouth shut, does her job. Maybe she decides to use this to her advantage, bide her time, a few years and she can have her revenge? No of course not! She joins the Red resistance. Because the king and queen aren't watching every single move she makes, and there's no way anyone from her group of new best frenemies could possibly be playing her. And maybe pushing her in a certain direction. No. Ridiculous. She knows exactly what she's doing. 

I'm trying to find something I liked... Still trying... Uh nope. Nothing. 

Verdict: 5/10 Not for me.

For some reason Blogger will not allow me to have normal text, I'm stuck in Italics. There's nothing worse than a computer that will not do what you want!!! 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Every Mountain Made Low by Alex White

Loxley Fiddleback can see the dead, but the problem is... the dead can see her.

Ghosts have always been cruel to Loxley Fiddleback - but none more than the spirit of her only friend, alive only hours earlier. Loxley isn’t equipped to solve a murder: she lives near the bottom of a cutthroat, strip-mined metropolis known as “The Hole,” suffers from crippling anxiety and can't cope with strangers. Worse still, she’s haunted.

She inherited her ability to see spirits from the women of her family, but the dead see her, too. Ghosts are drawn to her, and their lightest touch leaves her with painful wounds.

Loxley swears to take blood for blood and find her friend’s killer. In doing so, she uncovers a conspiracy that rises all the way to the top of The Hole. As her enemies grow wise to her existence, she becomes the quarry, hunted by a brutal enforcer named Hiram McClintock. In sore need of confederates, Loxley must descend into the strangest depths of the city in order to have the revenge she seeks and, ultimately, her own salvation.

Tough one to rate. 

It seems there are some unfavourable reviews out there. The biggest gripes appear to be the setting and the protagonist. I think those reviews are not fair. Whilst this is no literary gem, I found the setting pretty good, and Loxley was the best part of the whole book. 

Other complaints include: the way the protagonist is treated and ridiculed. Not much attention is paid to the supporting cast. You are not able to form much of a connection with any of them, so you don't much care what happens to them.

Well, I shall defend this book! 

First of all, Loxley has some kind of disability. Closest I can imagine is autism. Now I've never even had a conversation with someone with autism, so I don't know how accurate this portrayal is. But I bought it. This is how I would imagine how a autism sufferer might experience the world. 

Loxley perceives the world in a completely different way. It's very difficult for her to put herself in other people's shoes, she doesn't understand facial expressions, she can't fathom why people say one thing and then do/mean another. Since this is a first-person PoV, this is more than enough explanation as to why the secondary characters are 'neglected'. The reader doesn't get to perceive them the traditional way. 

Secondly, the setting. Some readers love to know exactly where/when a story is set. They need to know. It's a common theme when scrolling through the reviews of this. I say chill the fuck out and try not to think too much about it. When you've finished you can pick it apart. Relax, if you spend too much time overthinking you'll miss out on complete immersion. Give it time, all will become clear.

Third: the way Loxley is ridiculed for being different. Okay, this makes people uncomfortable. GOOD!! You are supposed to feel this way. Congratulations you are human. Believe it or not, people with disabilities are often treated way worse than Loxley ever is. And that's not even the worst of it. We'll watch the news in a detached way. Starving orphans, desperate refugees, bombs raining down, but we're made uncomfortable by a fictional character being insulted.

Yes, I realize I've gone a little off track. Anyway, I think this book deserves more love. It probably has got a bit too much going on, and yes I think it could have been done a little better. But, overall I enjoyed the journey. 

Verdict: 7/10

*I received an e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Book Review: The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi

Set against Iceland's volcanic hinterlands, four thirty-somethings from Reykjavik - the reckless hedonist Egill; the recovering alcoholic Hrafin; and their partners Anna and Vigdis - embark on an ambitious camping trip, their jeep packed with supplies.

Victims of the financial crisis, the purpose of the trip is to heal both professional and personal wounds, but the desolate landscape forces the group to reflect on the shattered lives they've left behind in the city. As their jeep hurtles through the barren land, an impenetrable fog descends, causing them to suddenly crash into a rural farmhouse.

Seeking refuge from the storm, the group discover that the isolated dwelling is inhabited by a mysterious elderly couple who inexplicably barricade themselves inside every night. As past tensions within the group rise to the surface, the merciless weather blocks every attempt at escape, forcing them to ask difficult questions: who has been butchering animals near the house? What happened to the abandoned village nearby where bones lie strewn across the ground? And most importantly, will they ever return home?

3 Alcoholics and a sex addict go camping...

Uhm, where to begin? I'm still quite lost. I'm not even sure this was a horror. It was not scary. It was only a tiny bit suspenseful. There was way too much focus on the characters and almost none on the plot. Ordinarily I wouldn't mind, as long as the plot actually goes somewhere. It doesn't in this instance. 

The author spent too much time explaining the motivations of the characters, its not subtle either. It reads like a history text book. Person A had this happen and then they went on to do this, and so on. It made it almost impossible to relate to the characters. They were arseholes, apart from Vigdis, who was not much of anything. She seemed to only be there to complete the four-person dynamic. Only near the end does she play a more crucial role. 

So they are driving along, get lost. And crash, of course. They seek shelter in a farmhouse, with a weird old couple. A weird old couple in a farmhouse with no farm animals! Or telephone! Or much of anything really, and yet they live there quite happily. Yeah, not suspicious at all...

During the night one of the party see a humanoid creature running around on 4 legs, oooh spooky. And that's about all that is spooky for the next 150 or pages. Those 150 pages focus on the characters and their history. Yay. Where we discover Hrafin is a 'recovering' alcoholic, Egill is a dick and an alcoholic, Anna is a sex addict and an alcoholic, Vigdis is there (and an alcoholic). That being said, none of them had any defining features, personality wise, to distinguish between the PoV's. I had to scroll back to the chapter heading to see whom I was reading about. It was all rather bland and flat.

I get what the author is trying to do, its a Stephen King kind of book, only its just not quite as good. And the ending was just... Huh? I'm not sure what I'm supposed to get out of that. I did not enjoy it, I did not hate it, I don't feel like I wasted my precious reading time. Only I think I may have.

Verdict: a bland and flat 5/10

*I received an e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.