Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Caragh Reviews // Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

Published - 8th July 2011
Publisher - HarperTeen
Format - Kindle
Synopsis Picture the scene: Dother Hall performing arts college somewhere Up North, surrounded by rolling dales, bearded cheesemaking villagers (male and female) and wildlife of the squirrely-type. On the whole, it’s not quite the showbiz experience Tallulah was expecting… but once her mates turn up and they start their ‘FAME! I’m gonna liiiiive foreeeeeever, I’m gonna fill my tiiiiights’ summer course things are bound to perk up. Especially when the boys arrive. (When DO the boys arrive?) Six weeks of parent-free freedom. BOY freedom. Freedom of expression… cos it’s the THEATRE dahling, the theatre!!

Growing up, I LOVED Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson books. Absolutely hilarious and filled with jaw-dropping, cringe-worthy moments that made every teenage feel just that little bit more normal. When the Tallulah Casey books started coming out, I meant to get to them straight away but somehow totally forgot about them - which is a shame really as I think i've left it too late.

As I get closer to *ahem* 30... I've had to face that great question of whether certain books are too young for me to enjoy. Gladly, I have realised that actually, no book is too 'young' or 'old', it's all a matter of subject and writing styles etc. Sadly (and I really mean that), there wasn't much in Withering Tights that really kept me interested. It was funny and a lot like Georgia's books but at the same time it felt too far away from me. I couldn't really get involved with the characters and as much as I was rooting for Tallulah and her misadventures, i'll admit it felt a little bit too cringy.

I have no doubt that over the years i'll continue to read Tallulah's stories and i'll grow to love her as much as I do Georgia. However, in terms of sitting down and expecting a great read - I probably should have known better before I started! It has inspired me to perhaps dig out the old Georgia books and rekindle my friendship with her though :)

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Brianna Reviews // Dare You To by Katie McGarry #2

Published:  22nd May 2013
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Format: Kindle
Synopsis: Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."
"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....
"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does.... Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him. But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

I have to admit my first thought when picking this book up to read was “urgh a whole book about Beth”, as Beth was definitely not my favourite character in Pushing the Limits. So I guess the question is why did I read it, and the answer is that I loved Pushing the Limits and Katie McGarry’s writing so much that despite Beth being the main character I was willing to give it a go – and I’m glad I did.

So this is a sequel to Pushing the Limits, but only in the sense that it takes place in the same ‘universe’, it takes place after pushing the limits and Noah, Isaiah, and Echo all appear; But Dare You To could be read stand alone.

It’s almost two stories in one, one is Beth’s story and the other is Ryan’s story it just happens that they are intertwined.
Beth has to leave Noah and Isaiah and move away to a new place away from everything she know, although not everything as she reconnects with an old friend, Lacy. Here she meets Ryan (technically she met him before moving) and he is unsurprisingly a typical Jock, or at least that is what she and many other see, but Ryan likes to write and he’s gifted at it. It’s a love story I’m sure you can figure the rest out.

The basics of the story line isn’t complicated, (but then there are only 7), girl meets boy, but again like Pushing the Limits, its everything else that Katie McGarry packs in around it. This is not really a love story, it more about working out who you are. 
Beth is trying to work out how she fits into the new life she finds herself in, she also has the opportunity to start again and reinvent herself, but will she? Beth is struggling against herself to work out who she is, and whether she can let people see who she is. Ryan on the other hand, is still trying to work out who he is but he is struggling against trying to be the person other people want him to be and the person he wants to be; He loves baseball, he’s great at it, and his dad approves, but he also loves writing, again he’s great, only this time his dad doesn’t agree. In the end they help each other to work out who they are.

I love that Noah, Isaiah, Echo and even Rico make reappearance in this, and it’s interesting to see them from Beth’s perspective. I have to say I love Scott, I think he’s the right mix or stern and laid back and most of all I love the way he tries with Beth, yes he doesn’t get it all right and he admits that but he tries which is the most important part. I also love Lacy and Chris for being so accepting of everyone and thing, they are the sort of friends you need in life.

I would definitely recommend this book, to anyone, to everyone.  Even though the end is somewhat predictable, while reading the end feels like anything but a sure thing. 

Understandably as its written half from Beth’s POV Dare You To gives an insight into Beth, and why she is the way she is, and it turns out that I don’t actually dislike Beth once I got to understand her, she’s still by far not my favourite.  And for anyone who is worried about Isaiah and his inevitable heartbreak at Beth leaving, he is third in line and meets someone he truly loves in the next book in the series: Crash into You

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Caragh Reviews // The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Published - 2011
Publisher - Corsair
Format -Paperback
Synopsis - The women of Stepford are not all that they seem...All the beautiful people live in idyllic Stepford, Connecticut, an affluent, suburban Eden populated with successful, satisfied hubbies and beautiful, dutiful wives. For Joanna Eberhart, newly arrived with her husband and two children, it all seems too good to be true - from the sweet Welcome Wagon lady to all those cheerful, friendly faces in the supermarket checkout lines. But just beneath the town's flawless surface, something is sordid and wrong - something abominable with roots in the local Men's Association. And it may already be too late for Joanna to save herself from being devoured by Stepford's hideous perfection.

I'm not sure if there's a single person out there who hasn't somewhat heard of The Stepford Wives! Whether it's the book, a movie version or even just a throwaway comment without really knowing where the term 'Stepford Wife' comes from. I've been a reader since I was born and it was only recently that I read this which is kind of unforgivable really. It's such a short but powerful story - I can definitely see how it's become part of modern culture in so many different ways.

Though i'd known about the book for many years, it was only recently that i'd actually discovered the more tragic aspects of the book, particularly the ending. Whilst reading the book I actually felt empowered a little. Joanna and her husband talk openly about fighting for Women's Rights and are keen to spread the word. Even now in 2015 this is so rare to find in a book! Of course if you know anything about The Stepford Wives, you know that as refreshing as it is, it's also incredibly saddening. 

The Wives of Stepford are perfect. The only things they are interested in is cleaning, organising and caring for the children and men in their lives. Joanna, a free-spirited photographer who is active in the Women's Rights Movement, can't  understand the appeal. As the book continues, stranger things start happening. I think the majority of people wish they were better organised, looked lawless every day, were capable of cleaning the house AND looking after the kids without a hair out of place... but the majority of us are also more interesting in being who we really are. 

That, for me, is the most chilling factor of this book. Not only are women's actions and free-will taken from them by the men in Stepford, but they are no longer even people who have control of their own feelings - if they have feelings at all. Everything about the women is stripped away and only the desire to care for men is remaining. It was really unsettling to read. So many times i've heard the term 'Stepford Wife' but honestly, I don't think i'll be using it in the same context again! 

I could probably talk about this book all day but I don't want to ruin it for those who don't already know what happens. Please do let me know what you think in the comments though! I don't know anyone else who has actually read it. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Brianna Reviews // 58 Minutes by Walter Wager

Published: 16th February 2013 (originally: 31st December 1987)
Publisher: Graymalkin Media
Format: Paperback
Synopsis: Basis for the blockbuster film Die Hard 2 starring Bruce Willis.

"58 Minutes" It is every traveler's secret nightmare. What if you are in an airplane during a violent snowstorm...What if your radar is destroyed...What if they can't get you down? It is 5:09 p.m. in New York City, and a man named Willi Staub is about to make sure the nightmare explodes into life. His goal: to bring the American government to its knees with the first major terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland. Staub, a ruthless and cunning man hunted by police forces in every major Western country, has led a carefully chosen team of revolutionaries from four continents to New York. Their plan: to hold as many people hostage as possible - in the skies above the city.

Can one policeman stop their foolproof plan?

So I only realised this book existed while I was typing up my review for Nothing Lasts Forever so naturally I bought it straight away.
It’s not a sequel to Nothing Lasts Forever, it’s not written by the same author or about the same character. It is purely the basis for Die Hard 2 and unlike Nothing Lasts Forever and Die Hard, 58 Minutes and Die Hard 2 are not closely related, it is after all only the basis. So what is 58 Minutes?

In 58 Minutes we follow NYPD Captain Frank Malone, who also happens to head an anti-terrorist unit, so in that respect Malone has more in common with Leland in Nothing Lasts Forever than he does with McClane. Frank is heading for JFK airport to pick up his young daughter who is arriving on a plane from California where she lives with her mother. Unfortunately as he is on his way to the airport Willi Staub is starting to put his plans in motion. To be honest it’s a pretty simple plot line, which between the synopsis and the connection to Die Hard 2, I’m sure you’ve got it. Terrorists take out the airports radar and radio equipment stranding the planes in the sky, the plane with the least fuel only has 58 minutes until it falls from the sky. Frank is coincidently invited up to the Air Traffic control room when the equipment fails. He calmly and competently takes control of the situation calling everyone from the NYPD to the FBI and Pentagon (this is the point where the film deviates from the book and never returns).  Because of this deviation I won’t and don’t feel the need to go in depth into how the book differs  from the film like the fact that Annie Green is replaced by a man as by this point they are pretty much separate entities.

58 Minutes jumps back and forth between multiple characters as well as frank; a handful of people on the planes, some of which are behaving very suspiciously; the pilots, of course; Several members of the terrorist group; Annie Green, the Supervisor of the control room and more. With so many POV’s you would imagine that it would get confusing or feel disjointed but it wasn’t the only thing I got confused about was which plane was which as I could remember which flight numbers, pilots and passengers belonged to each other.
I really enjoyed reading 58 Minutes even though it was somewhat predictable and very straight forward, but most novels are somewhat predictable, I mean it is obvious that Malone would ‘win’ but I still enjoyed reading.

I would say though that knowing the film was a disadvantage to reading the book because I read the whole thing expecting blanks (those familiar with the film will understand) but no blanks! In fact I think my imagination was constantly expecting something more complicated some extra double cross. So overall I’m a little unsure whether it was my expectations driving me to read it so quickly as there were times when I couldn’t put it down or if it was the book itself but I do know that I enjoyed the read and I would probably recommend it although if you are expecting a novel version of Die Hard 2 this is not your book – sorry.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Brianna Reviews // Sixth Grave on the by Darynda Jones

Published : 20th May 2014
Publisher: Piatkus
Format: Paperback
Synopsis:  Sometimes I wrestle my demons. Sometimes we just snuggle.—bumper sticker

Most girls might think twice before getting engaged to someone like Reyes Farrow—but Charley Davidson is not most girls. She’s a paranormal private eye and grim reaper-in-training who’s known to be a bit of a hell-raiser, especially after a few shots of caffeine. Her beloved Reyes may be the only begotten son of evil, but he’s dark and sultry and deeply sexy and everything Charley could hope for. Really. But when the FBI file on Reyes’s childhood happens to land in her lap, she can’t help herself: She opens it...and then the real fun begins. First, Charley finds a naked corpse riding shotgun in her car. Then, a man loses his soul in a card game. Throw in a Deaf boy who sees dead people, a woman running from mobsters, and a very suspicious Reyes, and things can’t get any worse for Charley. Unless, of course, the Twelve Beasts of Hell are unleashed...

Firstly I need to apologise for the fact that I have jumped from the 1st book (First Grave on the Right) to the 6th. Real life ambushed me I barely even got time to read; however to catch you up on my thoughts there is a brief summary of my thoughts over the last 4 books (here).

So why did I read this? How could I not, it’s fairly safe to say that this series has bewitched me. Seriously I can’t put them down. There are not many series which I read back to back all the way through (publishing dates permitting since the series isn’t finished), most series I read2-3 back to back at the most before taking a break and reading another book before going back (I’m a very impulsive reader).
Soo… Reyes is acquitted, has moved into the building (having bought the whole thing for Charley) not to mention he has proposed to her! I can’t believe she didn’t answer him straight away, but at the same time I respect her for taking time to consider it, not that she needs to, she knows what she wants. And I love that Reyes is patient and takes it with a sense of humour, I especially like his “it’s a yes/no sort of question” jibes. This book breaks away from the rest slightly as her P.I. Cases start to take more of a back seat in Sixth Grave on the Edge with the overall story arc starting to take the forefront. Which means we get to learn significantly more about Charley and her abilities as a Reaper, with the help of demon who eats souls, we also learn more about hell, and Reyes.
I still have mixed views about Charley, she still annoys me at time and at times her attitude still grates – but if she were perfect, I’d probably hate her for that so, her attitude, immaturity and lack of risk assessment are what make her somewhat realistic, people have flaws.  Reyes is his usual mysterious self. I still wonder about his motives, even though I’m fairly certain he is sincere in his feelings towards Charley, he still seems like he’s hiding too much for reasons he never explains. We are treated to an extract from Reyes’s POV at the end, which does seem to back up his sincerity and how scared he is to loose Charley.
Onto the supporting cast… Cookie, Garret, Amber, Quentin and even Captain Eckert; Cookie was there in her usual role of actually doing most of the investigative work, I can’t really fault her, although I do feel a little bit like we are not seeing the most that she has to offer as a character. Garret is really growing as a character, I’ve always liked him since the start but I think he really started to come into his own in the last book and I’m glad to see that carried on into Sixth Grave on the Edge, he even starts to tolerate Reyes and Osh (our new addition) maybe it’s because he realises that they are on the same side. Agent Carson is back, I like her I hope she makes more appearances in the future.  Captain Eckert opens up about his past and after doing a little blackmail opens up to accepting Charley’s abilities... It makes me wonder if he is about be become more important… it’s amost like the supporting cast are slowly, very slowly being groomed for something…  What I don’t know. Oh and Charley’s dad is up to something… suspicious. And I wish someone would explain who exactly Mr. Wong is… it’s starting to drive me mad with all the comments about how he is really powerful.
 Osh is new… he was introduced as the dealer. He is a soul eating demon… in fact he’s not strictly a demon (I’ll leave the explaining to Mr. Farrow)… and it turns out he was quite famous in Hell as a champion. Luckily for him, Charley and Reyes, Charley strikes a deal so that he only takes the souls of those who deserve it in exchange for him helping her… seems a very one sided deal. I don’t know what to make of him and I’m sorry but I can’t get on board with Darynda’s description, but that’s what I like about books you have a certain amount of freedom in how you picture the characters.
I loved this book, it started to explore the mythology side a bit more, there are some shocking death’s that had me sobbing in the most attractive way and well as one hell of a shocking revelation at the end. I bought the next book immediately with next day delivery…
P.S. I would forgive No man who took out my bedroom wall… just saying, there are lines that should not be crossed… stealing walls is one of them!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Caragh Reviews // Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Published - 1st May 2011
Publisher - Orbit
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out that 'everyday' world is full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Harry is the best at what he does - and not just because he's the only one who does it. So whenever the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they look to him for answers. But business isn't just slow, it stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get . . . interesting.

The Dresden Files series is one of my boyfriend's favourites and he's been trying for SO long to get me to read them! Being the stubborn woman that I am, naturally i've put it off for over a year or so :P Just when he'd stopped asking, I decided it was time to see what the fuss was about.

I'll admit that I can be a bit snobbish when it comes to what books i'll read. When Storm Front was first described to me as a  'Wizard P.I crime book', I was quick to laugh, judge and cross it off completely. However i'm also someone who believes in 'a book for a book'. I've recommended a fair few books to him now which he's taken on board and read so it was only fair that I did the same. I've eaten a lot of humble pie since.

It was really surprising. A world in which magic exists and is kind of, normal, is really fresh and new to me! It got off to a slow start but honestly, i'm not sure whether the book was at fault or whether it was my own prejudices that went against me.  It didn't last long though as mystery will always suck me in eventually; so many lives were at stake, magic was turning nasty, humans getting caught in the crossfire.I'm not even sure if Storm Front could be placed into a genre as it covers so many of them. Because of this it's quite difficult to pin point anything to really talk about without spoilers. If I had to compare it to TV shows, i'd put in the same category as Castle - but with magic. 

Mostly what I got out of Storm Front was that reading outside of my comfort zone really can pay off!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Brianna Reviews // Hard Landing by Stephen Leather

Published:  16th February 2004
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Kindle
Synopsis: Dan 'Spider' Shepherd is used to putting his life on the line. Working for an elite undercover squad he has lied, cheated and conned in order to bring Britain's most wanted criminals to justice. But when a powerful drugs baron starts to kill off witnesses to his crimes, Shepherd is given his most dangerous assignment yet. He has to go undercover in a top security prison, a world where one wrong move will mean certain death. As Shepherd gambles everything to move in on his quarry, he soon realises that the man he is hunting is even more dangerous than the police realise. And that he is capable of striking outside the prison walls and hitting Shepherd where it hurts most.

My reasons for reading Hard Landing make me feel a little guilty. I actually started reading it because I bought Spider Shepherd: SAS: Volume 1 on a whim because it was only 99p and I thought it might make an okay read; I haven’t read it yet, mainly because I realised it was a collection of short stories that had its own series (I have to read stuff in order… even if they are technically prequels). It was then that I searched for Hard Landings, it was 49p, I had to buy it. To be honest I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I thought it would be okay obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. I would like to report that I was very wrong, this book and series is so much better than just okay.

I don’t like reading Blurbs, synopsis, or reviews before I read a book (The irony is not lost on me) if I can help it sadly it is hard to judge if you will like a book without so I often do or I rely on friends recommending book. Mainly because I like to read a book and find out what happens through reading it, and I find that often Blurbs tell me too much and sometime take away from the surprises. The reason I’m telling you this is because I didn’t read anything about Hard Landing before I read it, all I had read was the description for Spider Shepherd: SAS: Volume 1, and the amazon description really doesn’t say much.  

So anyone who has read the synopsis at the top of the page or the book will know that Dan Shepherd is an undercover cop, I did not know. All I knew was that he had been in the SAS. The book starts with a group of armed robbers, who are trying to steal silicon chips from Gatwick airport, it doesn’t go to plan, armed police show up and the gang turns on itself before Bob Macdonald decides to run for the back door where he is knocked out by the armed police. Macdonald spends a lot of time wondering what is happening and what happened to the plan, he is only pretty confident that his finger prints and DNA are not on the system and on top of that he refuses to tell the police his name.

So by this point I am very confused, and Bob is going to prison for shooting a cop, he didn’t but one of the gang did. In fact I’m starting to wonder if I’m reading the right book because I’m about 70 pages/15% in and no mention of the guy the series is about. At this point I read the synopsis above which in hindsight I was I hadn’t another 5% and it is revealed Macdonald is Shepherd, prison wasn’t part of the original plan and suddenly everything makes sense, not that the blurb tells you who bob is but I can put two and two together and from reading the synopsis I knew something would happen to his family (perfect example of why I avoid them), I was right, but also wrong at the same time.
I really like the fact that Stephen Leather kept the reader in the dark about who Macdonald was even if it had me wondering if I was reading the right book, I was intrigued by the mystery, I’m sure if I’d read the synopsis I would have solved it quicker but for the first couple of pages it would still have kept me wondering. 

Shepherd is there to get close to Gerald Carpenter, but Gerald has connection all over and proves to be hard to get close to as he was in prison because his trust was betrayed, but it turns out that it is a lot easier for Carpenter to closer to Shepherd than is comfortable.

The book has a lot of tension as shepherd can’t trust anyone around him especially not the guards. I have to say I really liked Lloyd-Davies, and I’m sure she suspected what shepherd really was.  As for the other characters I personally don’t trust Sam Hargrove and I don’t quite understand why shepherd does, but I guess they do have a 5 year history. We also meet another member of the undercover unit, Jimmy Sharpe, I like him, we didn’t see much of him but he definitely made a positive impression on me and I was quite happy to see him pop up briefly in the books after this one. We also meet some of Shepherds old SAS buddies.

I like Shepherd he has an interesting moral code which seems to be flexible to his situation, he’s not afraid to break a few legs, or kill someone, yet at the same time he works for the police and his job is to upload the law. This fact is not lost on Shepherd, he also simultaneous loves his job and hates, that he lies and betrays people friendships as well as the amount of time it keeps him away from home.

Overall I think this was a very well written book and it definitely has suspense and when I started reading this as well as not expecting it to be so good I also excepted that I wouldn’t cry, I cry at most books but I was pretty confident that this wouldn’t… wow I was wrong. If anything that is what this book did, it proved me wrong. As for would I recommend – yes, of course, in fact I already have, they liked it too. And as for the rest of the series… I’m a little behind with writing this review and I have just finished the 7th in the series and immediately bought number 8… which is what I did for all the rest. I cannot put these books down.

Hopefully reviews will follow for the rest… if I can still disentangle the individual books I will try and do them individually however they may end up being reviewed as a series, let me know if you have a preference.

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