Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Caragh Reviews // Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe

Published - 27th August 2015
Publisher - Bloomsbury
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - In a future London, Concentr8 is a prescription drug intended to help kids with ADD. Soon every troubled teen is on it. It makes sense, doesn't it? Keep the undesirable elements in line. Keep people like us safe from people like them. What's good for society is good for everyone. Troy, Femi, Lee, Karen and Blaze have been taking Concentr8 as long as they can remember. They're not exactly a gang, but Blaze is their leader, and Troy has always been his quiet, watchful sidekick - the only one Blaze really trusts. They're not looking for trouble, but one hot summer day, when riots break out across the city, they find it. What makes five kids pick a man seemingly at random - a nobody, he works in the housing department, doesn't even have a good phone - hold a knife to his side, take him to a warehouse and chain him to a radiator? They've got a hostage, but don't really know what they want, or why they've done it. And across the course of five tense days, with a journalist, a floppy-haired mayor, a police negotiator, and the sinister face of the pharmaceutical industry, they - and we - begin to understand why ...This is a book about what how we label children. It's about how kids get lost and failed by the system. It's about how politicians manipulate them

I have genuinely dreaded having to review this book - hence it being late.
I'm also not entirely sure that my thoughts are going to come out coherently so please don't hold that against me.

The premise of this book literally blew my mind. When I read what the book was going to be about, I knew that one way or another I was going to read it. It also kind of reminded me of the Melvin Burgess book 'The Hit'. ADHD is a HUGE deal. It's sad to think that there are very few people out there that don't know somebody who has been diagnosed with it, or at least know somebody by association. It's also true that it's becoming more acceptable to label children at an earlier age. In a lot of ways that's a GREAT thing - we're able to put a name to things and help from a much earlier stage in a child's life but it's also just....not great.

With a condition like ADHD, kids are not only labelled but are judged, categorised and it's assumed that just by 4 letters, they are kids that act up and pay no attention. Concentr8 really tries to focus on that side of things - what happens when kids are labelled pre-emptively just by behaviour?

So what exactly is the reason I've been dreading this? Pretty much everything BUT the premise if i'm honest. The kids (and book) are London based and i'm sure it's a statement on the type of kids who are being targeting within the book, but the language and the way it was written was my idea of a nightmare. There were incomplete sentences, so much slang I was starting to wonder if I was actually understanding what was being said, and the constant switching between characters and stream of consciousness was way too confusing.

Despite that, I still could have enjoyed it if it wasn't for the fact that, honestly, nothing really happened. I don't feel like the story progressed at all. There were a few moments (involving the journalist) where I thought the book was going to become something wonderful and truly meaningful but it failed for me. I haven't done much research on this book so PLEASE say something if you know more, but if this book is a standalone then I would honestly say give this one a miss and pick up something more worthwhile for your time.

There were a lot of points that could have deeply been explored and made a massive impression not just upon me, but on literature as a medium. That said, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the many footnotes and extracts from medical sources about ADHD, therapy and medication throughout the book. Those alone would have made for interesting reading if you throw out the rest of it.

Apologies to Sutcliffe but this really wasn't for me. It was a fantastic idea that never reached its potential for me. It was disappointing and bored me from start to finish.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Caragh Reviews // Monster by C.J.Skuse

Published - 14th September 2015
Publisher - Mira Ink
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

Yaaaay! Monster is finally released! :)
I was super lucky and received a copy of Monster a few months ago at a Mira Ink/Harlequin event. Apologies in advance as I read this so long ago and should have taken better notes. But long story short - I absolutely loved it. Every second of it.

Right away I felt really pulled into the story. Bathory school is creepy and full of secrets and it really comes across within the first few pages. I'd have to say that it wasn't scary in any shape or form but I don't think that was the point. It was a great mystery and didn't seem too obvious. The setting was perfect too; snowy, isolated, old and creaky - everything you could wish for in a thriller-esque book to be honest.

I also loved that there was more going on that the basic plot line too. As a reader we got to know a lot of the other characters and glances into their lives and not just the main character. When i'm reading a book - especially when it's set in our present day universe - there HAS to be connections to characters that are separate to the story.

If you're looking for a fun, mystery read as the cold nights draw in and with Halloween around the corner, I would absolutely recommend Monster! I truly loved Skuse's writing style and have added more of her work to my wish-list. Great read!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

TheArtsShelf: Countdown to Christmas

I know, I know...it's only September!
Usually i'd be right there with you, moaning and groaning about the upcoming festivities but for some strange reason, I'm actually looking forward to it.

My loveliest friend Holly from The Arts Shelf has started the Countdown to Christmas readathon and I think I just might join in!

Holly's original post - Christmas Readathon

The aim is pretty simple - read as many cosy and christmassy books as you can get your hands on!
Though her week one update has already posted, i'm just now getting started so i'll be slightly behind.

If you're not quite sure where to start- there are a LOT of books out there - then maybe I can help.
The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver is absolutely free in the Kindle Store right now! I'm going to start with that this weekend and hopefully get on track.

Holly - i'm considering this a challenge to you, should you accept it!
Whoever gets closer to 10 Christmas themed books by Christmas eve - has to buy the other a brand new book of the winner's choosing! I look forward to the response =P

Amazon: click me :)

If any of you guys decide to join in, let Holly know over on her blog.
I'd really love to see your pics on twitter too! Cosy blankets and steamy mugs - what could be better?

Twitter - @Cazzimon
Facebook - facebook.com/loadedshelves

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Brianna Reviews // Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs

Published: 2003
Publisher: Arrow Books
Format: Paperback
Synopsis: In the searing heat of Guatemala, Dr Temperance Brennan excavates the remains of an infant from a site believed to contain the bodies of twenty-three women and children. Shaken by the discovery, Tempe tries to harden herself against these horrors. And then four young girls go missing from Guatemala City. When a skeleton is found at the back of a rundown hotel, only someone with Tempe's expertise can deduce the identity and cause of death. But her path is blocked at every turn. It is clear that some people would prefer that Guatemala's 'disappeared' stay buried. And others will stop at nothing to ensure the missing girls are kept the same way.

So I finally decided it was time to return to Tempe Brennan, partly thanks to a friend’s book clear out which also provided me with the next few as well. I have to admit that since it has been a while my memory of exactly where we left all the characters is a little fuzzy, but maybe that was a good thing.

This time we have left North America for Central America, I have to admit that I found the start of this book very slow, even Brennan’s colleagues getting shot didn’t really speed it up. Detective Galiano’s entrance is where the book first had me properly interested; I think the book would have worked just as well if it had started a page or two before that.

At first I thought that Galiano was a little too much like Ryan, a bit like Reichs had got Ryan and made him Guatemalan, however as Ryan and Galiano conveniently went to college together I think I can perhaps forgive the similarity. This coincidence is stretched a little further with the connection to the Canadian Ambassador, and a perfectly timed desk restriction for Ryan, makes him the ideal Cop to send from Canada to help the investigation in Guatemala, oh and Ryan can speak Spanish! (all a little bit too convenient for my liking).
As for the competing love interests, I wasn’t a fan, but then maybe the fact that I felt strongly about it isn’t a bad thing. And let’s just not talk about the ambiguous ending, who does she go on holiday with??
The case itself I think could have been better, it wasn’t terrible but combined with the slow start and the very stretched coincidences let it down.

I am increasingly getting fed up of Brennan’s ‘I’m just going to run off towards this potentially dangerous situation without telling a single person where I’m going’ attitude, she is for the most part an intelligent woman and I admire her independent character, but somewhere along the line common sense should come into it and telling somewhere where you are going doesn’t make you any less independent. And after four books where this attitude of hers has got her into trouble the scientist in her should probably see the pattern. But no… yet again she rushes off and is inexplicably found.
Overall it wasn’t a bad book and I did enjoy it but Kathy Reichs can do better and I hope the standard picks up again in the next book… And who did she go on holiday with??

Friday, 18 September 2015

Illumicrate!



The excitement! Wonderment! The wait is over!

If like me, you've been overwhelmed over the past year with the sheer amount of subscription services that are showing up in every direction, then t his post is going to make you VERY happy. Assuming you're here for the books and not my majestic presence ;)

For a long time now i've seen these subscription boxes (and I have Lootcrate) and always pined for a book-themed one. I mean, how awesome would it be to have a random delivery of a book and lots of bookish goodies?

A few months ago I heard rumours of Illumicrate - a UK book subscription service and I have been WAITING for what feels like an ETERNITY for the service to be launched. And now it is.

I'll post the link to the website at the bottom of this page so you can discover and decide for yourself but just for some more information, this is taken directly from the site.

"When you subscribe to Illumicrate, you will receive a carefully curated quarterly box with a newly released book and a supply of fun, bookish goodies, like bookmarks, jewellery, stationery, and more!

We work with amazing independent suppliers to ensure that all the products you receive are of great quality and design. We try where we can to make sure the items included will be exclusive to Illumicrate! We also work directly with publishers to provide exclusive content from them and the authors where possible!" 

I am absolutely in NO way associated with illumicrate or the creators but I genuinely just think this is such a wonderful idea and i'm incredibly excited for the launch of the first box in November. For the love of books I urge you to just check it out and consider it. It looks like it's going to be fun :)


Link - http://www.illumicrate.com/ 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Apologies!

Hello there!

My sincere apologies for the lack of posts recently. We very unexpectedly had to move house recently and it's all been a little bit...well...mad!
Our internet was finally connected yesterday morning and so I thought i'd post a mini update.

I trust that you've all been keeping well? ;)

With a new home comes a lot of responsibilities - and i'm not talking bills!
We've been here for about 2 weeks now and the books, my god the books, are still in no particular order. The good news though is that we have a much loved second bedroom that now goes by the name of the 'Reading Room' and it's all mine thanks to my lovely boyfriend (who as it happens is just glad he can play Xbox in peace...).

2 new mini bookcases have been purchased and i'm SO looking forward to life slowing down a little in the autumn/winter months so that I can properly arrange the books and the book spaces. I'll be posting a few pics when that gets done of course.

There are a few things to look out for over the weekend as I try and catch up over here such as introducing a brand new bookish subscription service and inviting you a long on Holly's Countdown to Christmas ... link here! :) if you want to get started before I have a chance to properly write up about it!

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Caragh Reviews // When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman

Published - 3rd September 2015
Publisher - Hot Key Books
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - One girl, two lives. Which is real? When Ella wakes up one Monday morning, she discovers that she is not herself and that her life is not her own. She looks different, her friends are no longer her friends and her existence has been erased from the internet. Even worse, years of her history appear to have been rewritten overnight. And yet, nobody else thinks that anything weird has happened. A tense and dark psychological thriller full of unexpected twists and turns about the random events and decisions that make us who we are. If you can't trust your own memories, then who can you trust?

Shout out to Holly @ The Art Shelf for being the most incredibly and loveliest person and VERY kindly letting me read her copy of When I Was Me that she got from YALC in July - before she'd even read it herself! 

The blurb for this book kind of took my breath away a little bit. On average, I read around 60/70 books a year so i'm sure you can appreciate that finding a book with a subject matter that i've not already seen elsewhere is incredibly rare - but Hilary Freeman managed it! At first it seems as though something very sci-fi is going on and is actually quite chilling. As the book progresses, I found myself getting really anxious and actually had to put it down for 5 minutes whilst I calmed down!

It was quite surprising to me to feel like that, especially as it's not a particularly fast paced book. There's not a great deal of 'plot' going on - which considering the subject matter seems quite strange! A lot of the book focuses on Ella trying to discover who she is, not even because she seems to be in some kind of different world, but in general as a seventeen year old girl. It was actually quite a tense reading experience and raises a lot of psychological questions for the reader.

The blurb mentions something along the lines of 'twists and turns' which I didn't particularly find to be the case until very near to the end. It was an excellent read though and I got through it very quickly because I couldn't wait to find out the answers to the mystery! I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending but that's okay. It worked for me! 
 
The only thing that I really wasn't sure about was Ella and her friends' attitude towards boys and their opinions! For example, whilst talking together about Dom, the girls make a comments that really kind of left my mouth open afterwards. "Boys are never that keen unless they're into you" - this was in response to the girls talking about Dom being attentive, friendly and perceptive towards one of Ella's friends and their surprise that this didn't mean he was romantically attracted to her. I'm probably thinking on it a little too much but it seemed to me like Freeman could have taken this opportunity to be positive about the friendships between boys and girls rather than turn it into questioning the motives of boys.

I'd definitely recommend this book though and as is always the case with Hot Key Books - the cover is absolutely gorgeous! :)
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