The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling – Book Review

Aside

The gritty story of Pagford lacks the Hogwarts magic in Rowling’s first published adult book.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling: When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Thanks to J.K.Rowling’s celebrity status and more than a little hype about this adult offering from the author of Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy can be seen in book shops and supermarkets everywhere. For those looking for some more of the Potter magic you are looking in the wrong place.

This gritty narrative is told via a diverse selection of characters, with no real main protagonist. Instead the sleepy village of Pagford reveals its secrets from the point of view from overweight cafe owners to acne ridden teenagers. Introduced to drug addicts, sex in bushes and various forms of child abuse Rowling does everything she can to make sure this book is as different from Hogwarts is it can be.

The narrative flows well, with Rowling’s effortless story telling style being used to good effect. Yet it was punctuated by superfluous thesaurus raping that left me using the Kindle’s dictionary more than I would like to find out what she was going on about. One or two introductions to new words is what I expect from a book aimed at adults (and a reader who rarely ventures from YA) but it left me feeling more than a little but stupid at times, and could have been toned down a little so that it was more accessible to all.

With the age-old fight of what to do with the needy, whilst the rich are left to squabble about ‘higher’ council matters being displayed in a pleasant tongue-in-cheek way. I enjoyed the effortless flaunting of stereotypes  (think Hot Fuzz in a book, with less guns… actually no guns) in the setting of a pretty little village and council estate attachment, the blemish in Pagford’s facade.

As the book draws to a close, I was shocked by more than one of its twists and turns. Drawing a tear to my eye, and causing me to cringe in disgust as grown adults squabble like children, and the younger generation doing everything they can to add fuel to the fire. Yet I was left feeling very little happened. No epic battles or huge revelations, and very little character development over the dozens of names. To call it disappointing is all little extreme, it just missed a bit of magic!

I give it a:

7/10

The most expensive eBook I have ever purchased (at £11.99) I struggle to recommend this book to those who use e-readers. My suggestion would be to pick this up on offer in your local supermarket, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Love Rie x

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Secrets by Dawn Kirby – Book Reivew

A gem for fans of the supernatural fantasy genre, whilst bringing something new to the table. Secrets has everything you could want and more besides!

Secrets by Dawn Kirby – 1st book in the Serenity series.
Summary: It is said that the truth will set you free, but for Leah it kills.


Leah always knew she was different. From her extreme light sensitivity, to her ability to read people by their auric scent, she kept these differences secret.


Not even Mia, Leah’s mother, knew the fullness of her daughter’s differences, but she held even greater secrets to Leah’s past – the truth about her father and Leah’s conception. 


With the escape of an old foe, Mia is too late to reveal to her daughter 

the truth before Judith can exact her revenge in a wash of blood and death.

Thrown into a world unheard of, Leah discovers that she is not alone in keeping her secrets. That there are people from her parent’s past who would die to protect her.If she only knew why.

Raine, placed as her protector, hides deadly secrets of his own. Drawn to each other, Leah and Raine must uncover the truth before one of both are killed.

This new offering on the teen/adult supernatural fantasy genre will be a read treat for fans of the genre. I can seen teenage readers of series such as Twilight, True Blood and the House of the Night who have now grown up loving Secrets for its similar themes of romance mixed with secrets, danger and adventure – just like me.
Leah is the extraordinary protagonist who has supernatural powers coming out of her ears. Super hearing, being able to view people auroras, smell their personality (yes I do mean smell) and withstanding, and enjoying extreme heat at times seem like a little too much. But her weaknesses balance her out to be a character I grew to love through-out the book. Fans of supernatural and fantasy fiction will recognise the signs of different fictional races common within the genre, which I really enjoyed. Yet Leah’s predicament in my reading experience still presenting something unique. 
Discovering Leah’s secrets as the book progresses became an really enjoyable read for me. With my habit of reading more than one book at a time, it was great to have to read only two sentences to be absorbed back into narrative. With dramatic and shocking scenes holding a serious tone, the personalities and relationships growing between characters provided light release, delivering the romantic domestic scenes I really enjoy.
I did feel like more than a few of the events throughout the book were rather rushed, in particular the romantic developments between characters. Alongside this, the constant addition of characters, often with similar names, sometimes required some hard concentration to keep up with (yes I am speaking to you David, Donovan and Declan). The enemies were often just as numerous and their intertwining motivations becoming clear eventually.
Despite my mixed feelings about the character developments and rushed narrative, I truly enjoyed going to bed every night to just read a bit more before I went to sleep. The writing style is effortless to read providing much needed escapism into another world where vampires, werewolves and everything else in-between exists. 
Overall I give Secrets:
7/10
Secrets is not cheap, priced at just over £6 for the Kindle version on Amazon in the UK (and nearly $10 in the US) and more the the printed version – but I think it is one to put on your wishlist. I will defiantly be picking up the next book in the series regardless.
Thanks for reading,
Love Rie x
I was gifted this book to read and review as part of the Secrets blog tour organised by Illuminated Tours

Snow White and The Huntsman – Film Review

This epic twist on the classic fairy tale pulls in some big name actors and used a colossal budget to bring a dark fantasy to life in the world around Snow White.

In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
There is very little left of the original Snow White in this movie but it works to its advantage. Sleeping princesses are so last year and Kristien Stewart plucks the young girl from the fairy tale and turns her into a grown women. Although what is left is done really well. The evil queen, played by Charlize Theron, steals the show with some fantastic acting and special effects that took my breath away! The seven Dwarves were also present but in a different capacity and I was reminded of The Hobbit in their battle style journey.
The additions to the original tale were welcome. I am particularly fond on the Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth who was both devilishly attractive and a fantastic addition to the cast.The fantasy world director Rupert Sanders created, from the castle, to the black forest and the land of the fairies was magical, and without the aids of 3D it was a perfect mix of special effects and narrative. In particular I fell in love with the fairies, whose small white furry bodies were comparable to Avatars on a much smaller scale, and are creepy yet adorable. There are a number of creatures such as moss covered tortoises and a beautiful white stag in this scene that make it not the most eventful, but one of my most memorable.
Yet the two hour long movie, that I must add flew by, seemed rushed in places. There were a number of characters that I felt were under developed namely the Dwarves and the character of the Huntsman. The characters of William and Finn on the other hand superfluous. The romance I felt rushed and pretty non-existent, with true loves first kiss nothing more than an average monologue. 
Overall if asked to recommend a movie to watch in the cinema tonight I would say Snow White and the Huntsman. It is a dark fantasy masterpiece of fairy tale origins that is worth the watch. 
7/10
Want to know more you can visit the micro site and or take a look at the trailer: 

In the comments below let me know what you thought of Snow White and the Huntsman!

Thanks for reading,

Love Rie x

Marked (House of the Night #1) by P.C. & Kristin Cast – Book Review

I first mentioned this series in My Top 10 Books I Have Always Wanted To Read, But Never Got Round To, and I am slowly making my way down the list. I had a copy of Marked on my Kindle, and decided it was better late than never to get into this series.

Short summary courtesy of GoodreadsThe House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres have always existed.
 
This book starts off as any over YA fantasy fiction, a dysfunctional family, difficult school life & a big change – Zoey was ‘Marked’. This character is a little more ‘popular’ than the average protagonist, going out with the most popular boy in the school, but she is the same 16 year old wannabe that had me rolling my eyes.
Having said this, the concept of this book is really interesting. The first chapters felt very similar to Twilight, but it soon merged into a far more original and intriguing world. The House of the Night school defiantly feels a little like Hogwarts, with it unusual lessons and flamboyant teachers, just with vampires which is spelt Vampyers in the book. It worked really well, pulling in contemporary references of the real world, including anecdotes about  celebrities that the protagonist did and didn’t like in a way that set this book as a fantasy based in the real world.  

The writing style works well, the Mother and Daughter writing team must be difficult to master, but it results in an easy to read and engaging prose that both paints an amazing picture and lets you inside the 16 year girls mind (with a series of comments in brackets adding Zoey’s thoughts along the way).

The character stereotypes were a little predictable, and even although this is going to be a ten book series I can guess where it is going already. But this is part of the appeal for YA books, and I found myself wanting to whip out the Kindle at any opportunity to devour another chapter. 
My biggest grudge has to be the formatting of this eBook. I am not sure how they converted it from paperback onto the Kindle store, or if it is just my font size on the Kindle (which is smaller than the default) but someone needs to sort out the formatting! Line breaks happened at random, chapters started and finished on the same page and other major errors which at times were not just annoying but distracting from the content.
This is a great little read, and when I finished it I was almost sad to see it end, but the 10 book series does intimidate me. The £5 price tag on each of these books is a little pricey considering the size of the series, and this does put me off reading more and getting hooked! This is one to borrow from your library or a friend, and maybe not one to read on your Kindle!
Overall I give the book a generous:
7/10
Have you read this book &/or series? What did you think? Will you be checking it out?
Love Rie x

Impulse Control by Susan Bischoff – Book Review

I discovered this book for free while doing one of my regular Amazon free download trawls. When I mentioned it in one of my Spotted blog posts I commented that it sounded similar to one of the YA series by Kelley Armstrong and I was defiantly intrigued. One night when I was tired with long novels and struggling on what to read I chose this short story and was in for a little treat!

Summary Courtesy of AmazonIn the world of the Talent Chronicles, kids born with supernatural powers are taken from their families and forced into government research facilities called State Schools. At one such school, a dangerous experiment has killed two young inmates and threatens others. Ethan, a shape-shifter, is reluctantly recruited by his best friend Karen, a telepath, and Elle, the unique Talent he has a crush on, to thwart the faculty’s plans. If they’re caught they face Detention, and Detention at a State School has a whole different meaning.

I must first reiterate that this is not strictly a book. Advertised as a short story, it is only 12,000 words long and I easily devoured it in one evening. It is drawn from Bischoff’s series the Talent Chronicles, a YA supernatural series that focuses on ‘talents’, people born with supernatural powers. Feared by society they are destined to a life of hiding their abilities or institutionalised under the preconception they will be taught how to control their powers, but in reality are little more than lab rats.

Immediatly when reading the description I likened them to the Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong, which I loved as an easy to read YA fantasy series, and was excited to find something similar. I was not disappointed by this short taster into this series but fear it may be targeted even younger than imagined. The titles of the second book ‘Heroes before Curfew’ saying a lot. This being said I did really enjoy getting drawn into the pubescent mind of young supernatural’s, the pure escapism proving much more enjoyable than some more complex adult reads. The characters promised to be well developed and likeable whilst engaging in a action filled narrative with just the right amount of awkward romance. Ethan promises to be a perfect substitute for troubled Derek from the Darkest Powers series, in a way that is teasingly familiar.

I can’t say this book offers something new or revolutionary but it is a taster to a series I want to read more of. The first book in the series, Hush Money priced at just 77p has been downloaded and added on to my Kindle’s TBR folder, so watch this space for the review!

Overall I rate this a 7/10.

Thanks for reading,

Love Rie x

The Hunger Games – Film Review

After finishing the book just last weekend, I was fairly late to The Hunger Games hype. However it did have its advantages, I didn’t have long to wait for the movie to come out! I booked my tickets early this week, and was at the advance showing at my local Vue cinema in Portsmouth, dragging along the boyfriend, Terry.

As a late comer, but complete nut of the Hunger Games book, I understand that my review will be slightly biased, so I have also asked the Terry (who has not read the book) to add his comments at the end so you can get both perspectives. As always there is NO spoilers of the book or film in this review.

Summary courtesy of IMDbSet in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.  Based on the book by Suzanne Collins.

My first impressions were this was very well done. Anyone who has read the book will know that around 2/3rds of the content is dominated by the main protagonist, Katniss’ inner monologue. Going into the movie I did wonder how they would over come this problem, and make the film interesting! It really is Kaniss’ thoughts, feelings and knowledge of the wilderness that create the tension and drama within the book. Yet it was the inclusion of the reality television style panel (consisting of the blue haired TV host, Caesar Flickerman & Claudius Templesmith the games announcer) to give commentary and explain events that non-readers of the book would not otherwise recognise, namely what Tracker Jackers are and the symptoms of their stings. Other events are also played out very well, with shaking camera shots, ringing ears sound effects and extreme close ups all provide a great alternative to Katniss’ thoughts.

Katniss, Primrose, Peeta & Haymitch


Jennifer Lawrence did a fantastic job of communicating a thousand words with the smallest facial expression.She brought Katniss’ character alive in the most tangible of ways, and was really well cast. Willow Shields who plays Primrose Everdeen was also fantastic and looked exactly how I imagined in the book. Other castings however were a surprise. I had imagined Peeta (who I didn’t realise until I saw the trailer of the film was pronounced Peter) to be a round faced and unimposing baker’s son but in fact played by the rather attractive Josh Hutcherson. Haymitch was also portrayed as being a lot younger, and some what more civilised character than I had pictured him whilst reading the book. The biggest surprise to myself however was the casting of Clove, the female tribute from district 2, played by Isabelle Fuhrman who also played Esther in possibly the scariest horror movie I have ever seen, Orphan. Something of her previous role stuck with me to make her a truly horrifying character. 

This is a film made about a book however, so naturally I am more critical. Several scenes were shortened to almost extinction, while other aspects of the film, such as the origins of the Mockingjay pin were changed completely. However, this was also done okay! No key scenes were really left out, and the changes made from the book made logical sense to tie the narrative together. Although it is a YA book, there was a certain amount of censorship of the stories true brutality at times to make it a 12A, but we have been promised an extended DVD edition to bring back more of the action which will be bumped up to a 15.

The one thing that really did disappoint me is so small it is barely worth noticing. However the book did do a fantastic job at aiming itself at young girls (and 20 some thing’s) by providing details such as hair, and nail art designs that girls could really latch onto and replicate. Although the signature side braid was included, my personal favourite girl on fire nails, which consisted of flames painted on the nails for the opening chariot ride to the games were completely absent! As I said, a very small detail, but disappointing to a nail polish fan like myself.

Picture of me, shamelessly copying Katniss’ style with the signature side braid.
This photo was taken after the movie, but still 1hr and 41mins before its official release…. I’m so sad!

Perhaps the one thing I did enjoy about the film more than the book is the flash backs. The back stories of the characters were provided quite freely and frequently within the book, not making you wait for any relevant information. However in the movie these were peppered throughout  in a series of short black and white teaser clips until they built up to reveal the whole story.

Terry’s Comments:

“I liked the film. It was alright, if not a little bit predictable. Even though I haven’t read the book, I understood everything. Defiantly enjoyed it enough to watch the inevitable sequel, and not just because Marie will force me to come along regardless!”

Overall I felt that this film did a great job of portraying a fantastic book without resorting to 3D or IMAX sound and flashy effects. Instead it relied on good camera angles and minimal special effects to create a more tangible Panem. Terry and I whilst talking the movie on the way home both agree our mark, now out of 10, for this movie without any discussion.

7/10

Thanks for reading,

Terry & Rie x

Chris Carter – The Executioner. A Book Review by Sam Crossley

 I met Sam at school and we have been close friends since, particularly in College. He has been a big supporter of my blog and is also a fan of reading. So when he mentioned he had a bit of time of his hands and a pile of books this weekend I asked if he would like to write some reviews.

And this is the result 🙂

Please enjoy and comment your opinions on this book, and I look forward to hosting more of his reviews in the future.

Chris Carter – The Executioner

This book is thriller, and it’s not scared to go into detail! A detective in LA, specialising in serial killers, his psychological background making him perfect for analysing the evidence and working out the motive of “The Executioner”. His name is Robert Hunter and unfortunately this is the second book in the series, I have a feeling I have the first book at home, unread, which is a pain because although the other book is only briefly mentioned once or twice and has no effect on the plot of this one, it would lend something deeper to the characters in this book. It’s obvious whatever happened in The Crucifix Killer had a dramatic effect on the main characters.

Anyway, it’s a very easy read; the writing style is very fluid, coupled with the incredibly short chapters it keeps thesuspension up whilst giving you plenty of places to stop. If you feel inclined that is. I didn’t and finished this 472pg, 142 chapter book in 6 hours. Throughout the book you gain more and more knowledge about the main characters, Hunter and his partner Carlos Garcia. Towards the end you are even able to guess comments made before you read them. Their partnership is very fluid, although my only criticism is that the partnership is very one-sided with Hunter the wealth of knowledge and Garcia the less experienced sidekick who is sometimes ignored in my opinion.

The author, Chris Carter, was a criminal psychologist before he took to writing; this really shows in this book. You really get a feel for the type of person the detectives are facing as they slowly unearth the clues from each horrible crime scene to the next. Each thought up with detail that’s slightly more sinister and cruel than the last.

I feel that reading the first book would have given you a better understanding of the characters and possibly solved a few of the odd niggles I felt about the partnership, but other than that a very enjoyable read. One of the first things I intend of doing upon getting home is read the first one.

I give this a 3.5/5

Love Rie & Sam xx