Review: K.A. Tucker – Chasing River

Chasing River
K.A. Tucker

River is the bad boy in town, and Amber the single-wanderer idiot. After an explosive first meeting, Amber finds herself wanting more of River, even as he tried to chase her away. Amber goes against her usual self and decides to grasp him anyway, finding herself getting more deeply involved every day.

23522253First things first – I didn’t read this as part of the series. I picked it up, hid it from my girlfriend, and promptly sat down to read it. Once she caught me, she tried to ruin it for me by telling me it’s the third book in a series! But it was too late, I was already hooked in. I did spend some time away from it thinking about going back to reading it, but no real in-depth wondering about what was happening to the characters while I was away.

I found myself frustrated by Amber and her naivety, but this was something I believe the author crafted. As the novel progressed, Amber became a bit less stupid – a bit more world-wise as her teacher would have wanted her to be. Still though, how could she be so stupid in the first place? Sure she was travelling Europe. But still, that she hadn’t been taken up and raped yet? When she’s happily wandering around where no-one else is?

The novelty of this book to me was that I never got many history lessons about Ireland, and this had a briefing on the Irish potato famine, which I had only ever heard of as a ‘joke’ by less politically-correct-minded friends. There were some really good discussions about the IRA (google it – or just be taught about it by the novel in a relatively unbiased manner) and references to Ireland’s oral culture. I could have done with more of this!

There seemed to be a lot of focus on how different Ireland was to Oregon. I’ve never been to Oregon, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between that town, and any other one. Amber constantly thinking about what it is like in her old home town isn’t useful, and doesn’t actually add to the storyline. More solid comparisons would have done the trick for me.

I’m putting this under the category of Young Adult, but only because of the sex scenes in it. Granted, they are brief, but they are slightly graphic. Otherwise I’d be putting it down as teenage fiction because its storyline isn’t that gripping, and I simply didn’t feel any depth – typical romance blah blah. At least Amber was smart enough to take some of her father’s advice….

I’ll be giving this a solid 3 stars, just because it wasn’t as ‘grabby’ and believable as I could have hoped. I remain willing to read more of this author, and see if this is a typical example of her work.

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Review: Amanda Hocking – Crystal Kingdom

Crystal Kingdom
Amanda Hocking

Bryn is exiled from the life she knew before. With her lover and friends left behind, she’s faced with her oldest enemy and needs to come to terms with the wider world. That world involves all of the other troll tribes – some of whom will be friendly, and others who are against the side of ‘right’.

25574705While the conspiracy is deeper than it seems, it wasn’t obvious why I should should care about it. Having a terrifying overlord is bad, but without actual threats to people I cared about, meh, I didn’t care. That being said, the depth of plot turns and the like was very nice, and kept me guessing.

The fighting scenes in this were perhaps the worst part of the novel. It felt very dry, and I didn’t feel even a shred of emotional angst over Bryn potentially being harmed. The dialogue between Bryn and various troll leaders was far more convincing, and I liked the way that Bryn and Ridley interacted.

I would say that the style on this is similar to the last book – sometimes I was too busy reading the words and terminology to really get into the story. It didn’t push me along, rather I found myself dragging myself further. I did eventually get into the plot, but I probably could have put it down at any point.

Although this would like to bill itself as a romance, I certainly didn’t get any sort of ‘triangle’ happening. Sure, there were some wayward kisses, but those are bound to happen when people are under stress. The sex scene in it is textbook simple, and if not for that inclusion, I’d be firmly placing this in the teenage fiction category.

The ending just wraps things up too neatly. Yes, some people die, but honestly, I wasn’t very attached to them. Or if I was, it was obvious why they couldn’t be allowed to live. All things peachy. Hint – don’t read the blurb, or you’ll find yourself reading half of the plot and being mislead as to the contents of the novel.

I found this novel disappointing, but I think that it could resonate well with those enjoying urban fantasy that has a mystery element to it. For me, the style wasn’t to taste, and so I don’t think I’ll be purchasing any more novels by this author – although I remain able to be won over.

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Interview with Amanda Hocking

3486415Q1. Before I was asked by Pan Macmillian to read your novels, I had never heard of them. I haven’t read your original Trylle series – why would I go back and read them after this trilogy?

Bryn’s story in the Kanin Chronicles has more world-building and delves into the history of tribes and what it’s like to grow up in that world. But Wendy’s story in the Trylle Trilogy tells the story of a changeling and what it’s like to find out about this world from an outsider. Wendy has vastly different experiences and insights because she comes from such a different place and ends up as royalty.

Q2. What are you currently working on? Are you going to continue publishing in both ebook and paperback format? What do you think could happen if you’re driven to write something that your ‘traditional publishers’ don’t want to publish?

I’m currently working on a standalone paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s called Freeks. It should be sometime in 2016 with my publisher. I think that I’ll always publish ebook and paperback, whether I’m with a traditional publisher or self-publishing. It just makes sense, since people like to read in both. So far, my publisher has been really supportive of everything I’ve pitched, but if there was something that I was really passionate about that they didn’t want, I’d either shop it around to other publishers or self-publish it.

Q3. ‘I once heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.’ So you’ve applied this to your self-publishing, but what about your own novels? You say that you turned away from your original darker novels, and went to paranormal romance. Would you ever revisit the genre?

I don’t think so. They were bad psychological thrillers, and I think that genre is something I don’t excel at. I love writing about fantasy elements, so far now, I plan to stick with paranormal and horror.

Q4. I’m pretty excited for there to be a movie of Switched. It seems to me like you are trying to put things out there that anyone can enjoy – regardless of whether their preference is an ebook, a paperback, an audiobook or a movie. What drives this conscious/unconscious decision?

It just makes sense to me that if I’m creating something that I want people to enjoy, I want to give them as many options to enjoy it as possible. I’m also a big movie buff, so just seeing any of my books on the big screen would be thrilling.

Q5. Your writing habits are of the ‘binge-and-purge’ kind of writing. Red-bull keeps you awake into the wee hours of the night for a couple of weeks, and BAM, at the end you have the backbone of a novel. Have you ever thought about changing your writing process?

I actually have changed my writing process a bit. It’s still a little “bingey” but I was getting burnt out and couldn’t sustain writing at the speed I once was. I also got married about six months ago, and I have a stepson now, so the “staying up until five in the morning” routine wasn’t really working with a family. So now I usually write during the day, starting around ten in the morning, until the evening. I used to do marathon sessions of writing that would last a few weeks, but now I pace myself and it takes about three months to write a novel.

Q6. Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?

I outline extensively before I start writing. I start out taking notes by hand, but my outline is typed up. As I’m writing, I usually jot down notes and ideas on post-it notes to remind myself to change something or look something up.

Q7. You’re officially a ‘college dropout’. You say that you wish you had been able to finish college – what is stopping you now? Are the stories in your head too busy pushing themselves out for you to head back to ‘traditional’ education? What do you think you would get out of returning to college?

The main reason I haven’t gone back to college is that I don’t know what I’d go to college for. I’ve considered it, because there are things like that I would to learn, particularly about history, zoology, and practical effects in the film industry. But I don’t know if I’d pursue any of them as a career, since I like being an author, so I don’t know if it’s worth spending so much time and energy on getting a degree that I won’t use.

Q8. I totally get the way you feel about paper-back novels, and I do a similar sort of thing myself – buying my favourite authors in paperback. Is it the draw of being able to physically hold the book to read it, or something else that keeps you buying them?

I like having tangible things on my shelf, especially if I really love them. I’m the same way about movies and music (although now I buy records instead of CDs). I just like knowing that there’s something I own that can’t just disappear, even though I know that everything online is backed up in clouds and is actually probably more secure than the physical products.

Q9. It seems like you have answered many, many sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?

Not really. I always enjoy getting questions I haven’t gotten before – and you’ve asked a couple here – but I don’t have any specific questions I’d like to get. Once when I was in England, a boy asked me if I like mushy peas, and that was fun.

You can find Amanda on a range of platforms:

You can find more interviews with Amanda:

See my review of Frostfire and stay tunes for more reviews
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Review: Kate Swann and Kristina Mamrot – Do You Really Want to Lose Weight?

Do You Really Want to Lose Weight?
Kate Swann and Kristina Mamrot

This book is a new guide to losing weight – mainly without massive immediate diet changes and unrealistic goals. Instead, it looks at the psychological side of losing weight. I’d actually highly recommend it as a good book of its type, and in combination with another healthy eating guide, I think it could be a step in the right direction for people with weight-loss problems.

22696682You might be thinking to yourself ‘Why is Rose reviewing diet books?”. Well, I don’t need to lose weight. But I do enjoy the stories of other people being successful in their weight loss goals, and when I was approached to read this novel, it’s the only reason I agreed.

I really liked this book. It has some sound practical advice, and some powerful messages that readers may or may not be able to apply by themselves. There is certainly a link between psychology and weight gain/loss. Go out there, buy it, and share it with a friend. Take notes on the things that resonate with you, and pass on the ones that don’t.

This is a short review – mainly because I want you to go read it for yourself. It’s well written, I enjoyed the stories and I could tell that there were real people behind those anonymous fronts. What more can I say?

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Review: Amanda Hocking – Frostfire

Frostfire
Amanda Hocking

24059777Bryn’s job is to rescue her people that have been placed in human homes to generate revenue for their real parents. But her dream is to be part of the elite guard protecting the royals – made difficult by the fact she’s just a little bit odd compared to everyone else.

At first it isn’t obvious what is special about Bryn. But Hocking gently guides the reader, until bam! You know what she is, who she likes, and everything else in between. Except the writing was poor. This felt dry, and not too well written. I simply couldn’t get into the story. There wasn’t enough feeling attached to the Bryn for me. She felt like a placeholder just put there to be different, and let the story revolve around her.

The romance element in this novel that I was promised in the blurb, and the chance of her to ‘lose her heart’, are slim as far as I can see. I wasn’t buying the touching romance, in fact it just felt like a set up. Can’t she keep a hold of herself? She’s going to live a while longer right?

This novel felt incomplete at the end. It felt like it was waiting for a sequel – and it fact, it has a sequel so that’s not so bad. But! It just didn’t feel complete, and had I needed to wait to read the sequel, it’s possible I never would have picked it up.

I received this novel free in preparation for reading and reviewing (plus interviewing!!!!) the newest novel in this trilogy, Crystal Kingdom. The boss has said I can’t read it until I’ve done these reviews, so here I am.

Nothing special to see here folks, a 3 stars from me. But when you combine it with the second novel in the series, things do improve. Stay tuned for that review.

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Review: Tracy Alexander – Hacked

Hacked
Tracy Alexander

Dan is a hacker. When he drifts from one side of the law to another in order to get justice for his friend, he suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law – with no-one listening to what he can do to help.

22678001Ok, first off. It’s a plot driven novel. That basically means you can kiss goodbye to character development. In fact, if you ignore character development all together, you would be better off. I found the characterisation of the main character patchy, and I never really got into the motivations of the other characters.

The premise of this novel is that it is easy to cross a line with hacking on the internet. There’s a couple of different terms I could use, but the easiest is ‘White Hat’ and ‘Black Hat’. Basically, the Black Hats are the guys with a malignant intent – they want to destroy things just to prove they can. Then there are White Hats, those who find the holes in security and help out the ‘good guys’.

The ending was particularly unsatisfying. Yay, happy for everyone. But not really… I wanted more meaty bits of details! How many other people were scammed? The second half of the book was far weaker than the first.

Dan didn’t seem like he was 16 years old. He could have been younger. In fact, his friends also acted very young, with the exception of the girl he liked – who seemed a bit up herself to be honest. She saw only black and white, no grey.

I didn’t like the explanation of ADHD being the reason Dan wasn’t to blame for anything. it’s a diagnosis. It’s the first line of the blurb. But it doesn’t do anything for the story. It’s about the computers, and I don’t think the author should be trying to sell anything else with it.

Other reviewers have given this one star. I don’t think it’s that bad, honestly, provided you read it for what it is, and you hit the target market just right. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, that’s for sure.

I put off reading this novel because I was warned it wasn’t very good. I actually enjoyed it, and read it in one sitting. Granted, I had nothing else to do, but I just couldn’t seem to put it down. The more I think about it, the more holes I want to poke in it though. My initial assessment was 4 stars, and I’m going to leave it at that (err on the side of nice). It’s a driving plot that should keep people enthralled – even those people who ‘hate’ reading.

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Review: Matthew Selwyn – **** or The Anatomy of Melancholy

**** or The Anatomy of Melancholy
Matthew Selwyn

Sex – it’s the new currency. Men reign supreme. Women are simply boobs on sticks. Warning – this is a bad novel. I’m sure you think I didn’t finish this novel. But I persevered! I hoped for something redeeming. But there just wasn’t anything there worth saving.

23876717The author has a fabulous grasp of both inventive high profile vocabulary with a mix of swear and slang words spread in. It seems as if he’s taken the dictionary and swallowed it. That being said, I could see this style working in a more structured and focussed novel

I just couldn’t get away from the confusing bubble of words being constantly spat at me. The characters were one dimensional, which was fine because they were supposed to be women in their place. The protagonist came through as a man stroking his own ego and penis and that was certainly some solid characterisation – but in the wrong way. Bombarded by constant reminders of his penis’ superiority, it was difficult to get beyond those thoughts..

I’m sure this novel is supposed to be a powerful social commentary on the present world. Instead it comes across as an insane babble of internal consciousness flow that adds nothing to current informed literature. The one thing I got out of this novel was on page 154 – ‘Napoleon’s penis was dismembered and sold to an American urologist’. Now, who ever knew that fact?

If you want something with sex and commentary – PLEASE DON’T CHOOSE THIS NOVEL. There are far better examples on the market, 2094 for example. If you even just want some titillating sex scenes, Mercedes Lackey writes better ones! I wouldn’t go so far to read Fifty Shades of Grey instead – that has its own problems with the depiction of sex. If lesbian sex is more your style, pick something with an actual storyline, like The Purveyor

This novel request actually went though to my spam mail. I fished it out, I assumed it went there because most **** do by default, and I guess it had enough other trigger words in it. I almost wish I hadn’t fished it out, but other people deserve to be warned.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can enjoy sex and swearing in the right context. But this novel didn’t leave me feeling anything other than dirty. If I could give negative eggs, I would. This makes Marked look like a literary piece of fiction.

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Review: Li Cunxin – Mao’s Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer
Li Cunxin

A poor Chinese boy, one of seven brothers, is the favourite of his mother and family. With little food and littler hope for the future, Li is determined to make something different of his life. This chance comes for him when he is selected to become a ballet dancer for Madam Mao. Li’s determination to make his family proud means that he rises through the ranks, and eventually sees outside of China.

298137It’s interesting to see within the head of someone raised during the time of Communist Mao. Such brainwashing seems absurd now, but it happened not that long ago. Goes to show that corrupt politics can have a huge impact with brainwashing, and the people within it don’t even question it. Perhaps that explains some of the religious stuff that people can get away with now…

There’s not actually very much I can tell you about how this novel was written. As a non-native English speaker, Li does an excellent job of communicating. His written English (with considerable editing support I admit), flows more naturally than his spoken word. The ‘episodes’ or ‘chapters’ of Li’s life fitted in well, and I didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything important in his life.

I listened to this novel as a talking book. The reader of Mao’s Last Dancer was amazing. His voice was just how I wanted it to be told, soft in the places it needed to be, and louder when it was more important. I felt like I was really experiencing the things that happened. I’ve never tried searching for audiobooks using the reader’s name, not the author’s, but this reader makes me want to do it.

I had the privilege of speaking to Li in person, and hear him give an interview about leadership. Some of the little things he told us about in the interview were covered again in the novel, and it made a huge impact on what came out as the most important point of the narrative. The thing I took out of it was the savour the process, not just the endpoint, and that just because things have always been that way, doesn’t mean they will be that way forever.

Would I have been so interested in the story if I hadn’t met Li? Possibly, but perhaps it never would have gotten off my never-ending reading stack. I’ll give this one 4.5 stars, because it is a brilliant and well-told story, but I wouldn’t re-read it. I really want to watch the movie and see if it is as wonderful as the novel. Inspiring, and you should go read it, but it might not be for everyone.

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Review: Kristen Cast & P.C. Cast – Marked

Marked
Kristen Cast & P.C. Cast

A clueless teenager is Marked with a blue tattoo on her forehead. This mark makes her a vampire, and she must learn how to adapt to her new environment or die.

30183I can’t believe I opted to listen to this. 2 hours into the 10 hour audio recording, I gave up. Some of this fault might have been the reader. The voice was breathy, with a strong US accent. I’m sure it was supposed to convey lots of feeling, but mostly it just made me think she was vacuous.

Ugh, filled with such boppy teenage crap that just didn’t do it for me. Really? Completely clueless. Sure her step-dad is a bastard, and she has to live under his rule, but seriously? She just wants to ‘fit in’, but we don’t even learn what is so different about her. This was so bad, I can’t even remember the name of the main character, except that her grandmother calls her ‘Redbird’.

Everything felt overdone and stereotypical. Blah, blah, children of night. Not everything that is dark is evil etc etc. Things are not as they seem. Wow, vampires are beautiful. Vampires like blood. Oh look, a potential romantic interest. Oh wait, he’s human and his blood smells good.

There wasn’t nearly enough background to the novel. Maybe I just missed it, as I gave up listening by the time she got to the School of Night, but it wasn’t clear why she was sick and how her grandmother knew what to do with her. The biological explanation of how vampires came to exist in the world.

My care level is so low for this novel that I didn’t even bother looking up how to spell things correctly to write this review. Or the main character’s name. Oops?

This was so bad I ended up just wiki-ing the novel to see how it finished, and realised that even if I had kept reading it, I still would have been disappointed. I can’t believe there are 12 books in this series. Even Twilight is better than this. 1 begrudging star from me.

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Review: Ann Brashares – The Here and Now

The Here and Now
Ann Brashares

Prenna has come from the future to prevent that future taking place. In that future, a blood borne disease has killed the entire world, and left everyone fearing the outside world. Prenna doesn’t know when or how the world will be stopped from doing that, but it seems like the rest of her community couldn’t care less. Ethan, a boy she wants to love but can’t, has more to offer her than she will ever imagine.

18242896Prenna can’t seem to help getting into trouble. And the catch-cry of her elders is ‘Stop looking so stupid Prenna’, which at some points was so true! Arg! Prenna! Grow a spine! You have a good chance of dying anyway, so you might as well try and escape or be different, or something!

Sometimes I thought Prenna was completely ignorant and hopeless. I thought that the author was having time-outs in her characterisation! But then I remembered that someone from the future would have had that sort of thing, and in fact it was a deliberate device used by the author to remind the reader that she was no ordinary person. I hope.

I have to admit, the reader did some parts brilliantly, and others in a bit of a fluffy way. Sometimes the characters blended together in a soft, floating cloud of breathy speech. It felt like the reader didn’t know how to make voices other than ‘quiet’ and ‘very quiet with air’. That being said, I didn’t care, and it was far better than the reader having a very strong accent of anything. This fault was easy to live with and didn’t kill my enjoyment of the novel.

The author seems to have really considered how best to drag her readers forwards mainly by the second third of the novel. The suspense was killing me towards the end. I wanted to read faster! But of course, it was a talking book, and I couldn’t do it. The ending was a satisfying yet saddening conclusion. I felt frustrated at the same time as feeling sadly expectant. I do so wish things could have turned out differently, but it was obvious why it couldn’t be so simple.

Something that did jibe well with me was the fact that it was a blood borne disease, dengue virus in fact, that caused the plagues of the future. Maybe that confuses other people who don’t understand climate warming or anything else, but given this is a topic close to my research interests, I was fascinated to see how it turned out. Overall, the message about the future being obvious to those that take the time to look forward, even if they weren’t actually time-travellers, and that that world is disintegrating by our actions, gives certainly a bad reflection on common humans.

I am entirely, entirely guilty of listening to this novel without having reviewed the other four novels I had read in the preceding week. Oops? But I thought I had better review this good one before it left my head. If there’re more novels out there by Brashares in the same genre, I’m pretty sure I’ll be sourcing them shortly. 5 stars from me.

NOTE: While I was looking on GoodReads for the book cover, I found that the reviews are really mixed. I possibly wouldn’t have picked it up as a paperback, but as an audiobook I loved it. I certainly wasn’t bored!

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