The Elite – Book Review

  • Title: The Elite
  • Author: Kiera Cass
  • Series: The Selection
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Emma – The Accidental Writer – Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

 

Description: The hotly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Selection.

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.


Review:  

After enjoying The Selection more than I anticipated, I have to confess I found this one to be very vanilla. Nothing really captured my imagination or moved me on an emotional level. Well, other than the negative emotions that America engendered in me due to her insufferable ignorance, indecisiveness and blatant stupidity. Everything that made her a likeable character, someone you rooted for in The Selection, seemed to have been eradicated and replaced with a contrived love triangle, a girl who doesn’t seem to mind kissing two guys and a fairly hard to read but spineless prince. It felt to me like this book is filler, stuffing, to pad out what should probably have been one book, maybe two, into the holy grail that is “The Trilogy.”

All that being said, the writing’s not bad, very simplistic and easy to read and the story finally got going in the last 20%. I probably will read book 3 at some stage, mostly to find out what, if anything, is going on with the rebels.


Advertisements

Wool ~ Hugh Howey

  • Title: Wool
  • Author: Hugh Howey
  • Series: Wool Series Book 1
  • Genre: Post-apocalyptic
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Purchased
  • Reviewed by: Emma
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  They live beneath the earth in a prison of their own making. There is a view of the outside world, a spoiled and rotten world, their forefathers left behind. But this view fades over time, ruined by the toxic airs that kill any who brave them.

So they leave it to the criminals, those who break the rules, and who are sent to cleaning. Why do they do it, these people condemned to death? Sheriff Holston has always wondered. Now he is about to find out.

Review:  Wow! Wow! Wow!

I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s beautifully written without being frilly. It’s provocative without being being preachy. It’s clever without being dense. This book is like a six course meal; you get enough of everything without feeling sick, and if you eat all six courses, by the end of it you feel satisfied. All of your taste buds have been tickled and tantalised, your hunger for something different and exciting in every mouthful has been satiated, but there’s still room for more, you wish there was more, you wish you could eat the meal all over again!

From concept to characterisation, Mr Howey has pitched it just right. His world in the silo is believable, his world outside the silo scarily plausible. Juliette is an exceptional protagonist, a reluctant protagonist. She’s nicely flawed but has a core of steel and a heart of gold. I wish I could meet her.

I’m not going to talk about the story. You have to read it for yourself. But read it you must. For all book lovers out there, this is a must read. Go on, you know you want to!

The Chimera Vector ~ Nathan M. Farrugia

The Chimera Vector cover

  • Title: The Chimera Vector
  • Author: Nathan M. Farrugia
  • Genre: Action & Adventure
  • Format: E-book
  • Source: Courtesy of the author
  • Reviewed by: Emma – The Greedy Reader
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  The Fifth Column: the world’s most powerful and secretive organization. They run our militaries. They run our governments. They run our terrorist cells.

Recruited as a child, Sophia is a deniable operative for the Fifth Column. Like all operatives, Sophia’s DNA has been altered to augment her senses and her mind is splintered into programmed subsets.

On a routine mission in Iran something goes catastrophically wrong. Bugs are beginning to appear in Sophia’s programming and the mission spins out of control.

High-speed chases, gun fights, helicopter battles, immortal psychopaths, super soldiers and mutant abilities are all in the mix in this edge-of-your-seat action-packed techno-thriller.

Review:
A copy of the Chimera Vector was supplied to me by the author for review. This has not influenced my review of this work.

I must confess that this book was a pleasant surprise to me. It’s well written, with real intrigue and suspense. The reason I say it was a pleasant surprise is because many indie published books are let down somewhat by the poor punctuation and grammar, but I’m pleased to say this was not much of an issue with The Chimera Vector. Mr Farrugia has really taken time to present this work in its best possible light, and for that I thank him for his attention to detail.

Mr Farrugia has a very complex imagination and a vast knowledge of his subject matter. However, I found some of the descriptive passages in the story to be a bit too fact dense for me to fully understand. My lack of scientific expertise didn’t interfere with my overall enjoyment of the story, which leads me to conclude that some of the techno-speak could be omitted or simplified for the benefit of the average layperson such as myself.

My favourite character was Sophia and I admired the fact that Nathan made the main character in an action book female. I enjoyed how he revealed her back-story throughout the book and finding out how she, Jay and Damien came to be involved in the 5th Column.

My main criticism of this book was that it lacked a certain finesse, that extra added layer in the writing, that really gives the reader an emotional connection to the story and the characters.  You know when you read certain passages in a book and you feel what the author was feeling, it draws you in and you really care for the characters and what they’re going through; you can’t stop turning pages and thinking about the characters even when you’re not reading it. In places, he almost got there, but it felt like he bailed just before he arrived. Perhaps it needs a little less “tell” and a little more “show” to fully engage the reader. Without it the story is a little disjointed. With smoother transitions it would be an easier, more satisfying read.

My criticisms of this book are really not negatives. They are simply my observations that, as a reader, would really improve the overall quality of the writing. However, this is certainly one of the best self-published books that I’ve read in a while, and I see genuine potential in Nathan as a writer. There is much to admire and I will be interested to see how Mr Farrugia’s writing develops.

All told, readers of action-packed adventure books will love this read. The action is non-stop, relentless, from beginning to end. I would love to have been able to give this book a higher rating than 3.5*, but for that to happen it needs a bit less head and a little more heart. C’mon, Nathan, I know you’ve got it in you!


Author Interview: Jonathan Dunne ~ Balloon Animals

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Jonathan Dunne ahead of the paperback release of his comedy, Balloon Animals. Here’s what he had to say about his book, his writing, and his inspiration.

o-o-o-o

What was the first thing you ever wrote?  

Some free verse poetry – very free. I liked to get away from it all. Instead of being cool and chatting up girls or smoking with my friends, I’d go sit in a field and just let my mind wander. Can you imagine! I soon realised that poetry wasn’t for me. It wasn’t blatant enough, too full of metaphors and allegories, and I prefer to tell it how I see it. What’s funny is that my main character in Balloon Animals, Jonny Rowe, speaks in metaphors when he’s nervous.

I began writing short stories and had a few published before starting my first novel. I wrote it as a thriller but, after reading it, a London agent asked me if it was a parody of a thriller. That was the moment when I realised that writing humour was where my natural talent lay, so I’m sticking with it.

Though all my writing, I think, has a certain sadness to it. To me, life is a tragic-comedy. It all started when I used to edit my mum’s shopping lists as a child. I’d join all the items together with a narrative plot – you know, the carrots blamed the turnips for the murder while the milk just stood there and watched.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

When I lose myself in it. It’s the best feeling. I feel like I’m on top of the world.

Other than your own, of course, what is your favourite book? What inspires you?

I don’t have a particular fave but I like ‘Fup’ by Jim Dodge, and anything by Dickens. If I’m being completely honest, my weakness is that I don’t read so much. I worry that reading other books will dilute my work, so I tend to stick with the masters, people I can learn from, without fear of it influencing my own writing. That doesn’t mean that I think there’s no good writing out there. I just have a very clear vision of what I want to read.

Film is my biggest inspiration. I love ‘Harold and Maude.’ I watch it at least three times a year.

Of course, music is also a big source of inspiration to me. DeVotchka’s music accompanied me through much of Balloon Animals because it has this great tragic-comic atmosphere that really helped set the mood. I recently did a two-way interview with Tom Hagerman of DeVotchka (Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack), which  I thoroughly enjoyed. At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Eastern European gypsy music to help inspire me for my new novel, Living Dead Lovers.

What’s your favourite opening line?

Hmm…if I had to pick one I’d say the opener to ‘A Tale of Two Cities’:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Is there a book you wish you’d written?

No. The book I wish I’d written hasn’t happened yet. Not until I write it. That might sound odd but each book written is personal and applies to it’s writer. I can’t imagine writing any other type of book than the ones I write. There are certain books that I admire greatly, but each book is so personal, pure of form and particular to it’s creator. For that reason, that’s why there isn’t a book I wish I’d written.

Describe Balloon Animals in one sentence.

A tragic-comedy road-trip of unusual proportions.

How long had Jonny Rowe been with you before you gave him life on the page?

He grew as I wrote him. I just knew I had a character who was genuine, if slightly gullible to the ways of the world. Jonny wasn’t someone that I had fleshed out before I started writing, he grew with every page I wrote, and I edited as I went along.

For example, if Jonny had done something on page 5 that no longer fitted the Jonny on page 105, I’d go back and rewrite page 5, bringing it in line with who I knew Jonny would become by page 105.

How long did Balloon Animals take to write?

About a year, off and on. I passed it round a few London agents and all of them found something to like but, unfortunately for me, they found more not to like. One agent’s response to me was, “I don’t know how to sell it.”

My books tend to not be for the mass-market, and I know that goes against me, so I put it away for a while. Some books take a while to find their audience. Eventually I decided to self-publish and, lo-and-behold, my book is finding its market.

Jonny Rowe struck me as a loveable guy who hadn’t yet found his purpose in life and was struggling to make the transition from boy to man. It took a profound event, the death of 45, to spur him to action and introduce him to the man he could be. How much of Jonny, if any, is you?

Jonny is an easy guy to identify with. I think like Jonny sometimes, and even act like him, but Jonny is certainly a magnified version of me. I suppose I think a bit like Jonny, yet his purity is something that escapes me. Jonny is a surprisingly sweet guy considering the odd upbringing that he had.

Who is your favourite character from the book?

I don’t have one particular favourite over the others, though there were some characters I enjoyed writing more than others. Sooty Le Danse was a blast to write. She was the one character who was so strong that I didn’t have to think about who she was. She was almost independent. I wrote Sooty’s scene in half an hour. The first draft is what you read in the book. That bit was fun!

Jonny Rowe is part of an hysterically funny yet dysfunctional family, but within it there is the beautiful relationship between him and 45. Did you have your own 45?

I’m afraid the short answer to that question is ‘No.’ He’s complete fiction. Although, if I think about it, I suppose 45 is an amalgamation of lots of people I’ve met on the way. Really, 45 is an organic character that grew as I wrote him. I wish I had a 45 though!

One of the things that struck me about Balloon Animals when I read it was that it was obviously a comedy, but less obvious was the love story, the tragedy, and the coming of age story that it is as well. How much of that was your intention at the outset and how much of it grew out of the natural development of the story?

For me, writing is an organic process and the story grew naturally. It wasn’t anything I planned. Balloon Animals is a character-driven novel and I feel that there has to be a clear development of those characters, and the story, as a result.

So would you say that Balloon Animals panned out the way you thought it would?

Absolutely. I don’t know exactly what will happen on the next page during the writing process, but I have key scenes in mind and where they’ll be. Then I work on the narrative that joins it all together until the big picture is revealed. I compare my writing process to children’s dot-to-dot pictures.

Any unexpected developments in the plot that caught you by surprise?

Digging up 45’s corpse. Not even I was expecting that!

If we could get a sneak peak into Jonny Rowe’s life now, what would he be doing?

I think he’d be happier in himself and his life, but he’d still be sitting around the bong-house…and he’d never forget about the possibility of unwanted guests. Jonny complains a lot about his crazy life but I think he secretly likes it. Who knows!

If you could give Jonny Rowe one piece of advice what would it be?

At this stage, I’d ask Jonny for advice.

When can we expect to see the paperback?

Hopefully around May or June 2013, if I concentrate!

What was the best and worst part of writing Balloon Animals?

The worst part was the editing process (and I still find mistakes. Oops!). Hopefully all the errors will be eliminated by the time the paperback comes out, which will be one of the best bits so far.

Share with us a typical writing day.

My days are quite busy so I try to write in the mornings when my head is clear. I normally put ‘real life’ chores on the back-burner until after I’ve left my fictional world. I have a cabin next to my house where I write, except for when it’s really cold when I hide in the attic. I have a great view through the window in front of my desk from up there. It’s pretty cool.

Any funny superstitions or rituals?

I have a hotel reception bell that I ring once to announce my arrival into my other world. For me, staying in a hotel is quasi-real, just like my books. I also like to be surrounded by antique ticking clocks.

What are you working on next? When can we expect to see the next Jonathan Dunne novel?

My new book is called Living Dead Lovers and should be out some time in late summer at the rate I’m going. It’s about a half gypsy clairvoyant who falls in love with one of her dead clients. You can see the predicament she’s in…

The story follows the unconventional life of Valentina ‘Cabbage’ Moone, starting with her growing up with her Romanian gypsy mother and her father, who is a romantic, and continuing into her adult life where she is now a famed clairvoyant. It’s written in the third person and is similar to Balloon Animals in that it is written like a fictional autobiography. If you like Balloon Animals then you’ll like Living Dead Lovers.

Do you have any hobbies?

I collect antique clocks. As well as liking the sound of them, I like repairing them as well.

When you’re not busy writing or daydreaming, what do you like to do to relax?

Along with repairing antique clocks, I love having a mock fight on the lawn with my daughters and my Vietnamese pig, Georgie.

Jonathan Dunne, thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

o-o-o-o

Head on over to read (the Greedy Reader) Emma’s book review of Balloon Animals. Find out more about Jonathan Dunne and his work on his website

Supernatural Assassin Black Velvet Vol. 1 ~ Vina Kent

  • Title: Supernatural Assassin Black Velvet
  • Author: Vina Kent
  • Series: Supernatural Assassin #1
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA
  • Format: E-book
  • Source: Author
  • Reviewed by: Emma
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  Being a killer, the best of her kind, is all that Mira knows. Growing up she was taught nothing other then how to kill and survive. Having been taught to live without emotions has been easy, up till now. Her next assignment, Hawke, the son of a famous movie star and soon to be Mayor. Hawke knows how to draw attention, even when he doesnt mean to… after all he is famous and always has an entourage following him around. How is Mira supposed to kill Hawke if he’s always surrounded by people? Easy… go undercover. Entering a world Mira knows nothing about might seem simple, but when you’ve been taught to do nothing but kill, it can be agonizing. Mira finds herself not only having to live the life of a rich college kid, but having to act like she enjoys it, until everything changes. Mira has faced Disco Dancing Zombies and Blood Screaming Banshees, but never has she had to endure Sorority sisters.
And as she starts to settle in to the life she has to live under cover, her world turns upside down again with the news that she has to keep Hawke alive.What Mira doesnt know may get her killed this time..


Review:  Oh dear! I really don’t know where to begin reviewing this book. I only managed to read about half of it before frustration at the poor quality of the writing superseded any curiosity I had for the book at the outset.

This is the story of Mira, an elemental assassin given the task of killing a human guy at college. In order for her to get close to her target she has to enroll at college herself, which she finds difficult as she really isn’t a people person. She soon works her way into the popular sorority clique. That’s all I can tell you because that’s pretty much all that happened in the almost fifty percent that I read.

My biggest issue with this book is the poor technical aspect. When you read a self-published book you expect to find some grammatical and technical errors. If only that was the case with Black Velvet! Everything, from the poor sentence structure to the incorrect use of punctuation, especially commas and full stops–screams of someone who is desperate to write but lacks the necessary basic skills. I would find myself having to re-read much of it, changing the sentence structure in my head in order to make sense of it. After all the effort required to untangle the sentences, I was then confronted with the author telling me what was happening, what the characters where feeling, as opposed to showing me. And the telling was done in a very stilted fashion by very two-dimensional characters. There was no flow or cadence to the narrative or the dialogue.  It felt rushed and contrived. Having read almost half of the book, nothing pertinent to the plot had happened.

The only positive thing I can say about this book is that I was initially curious about Mira and what she could to. I was intrigued by the premise. There are hints that the writer has an interesting imagination. If I could give her some advice it would be to go back to the basics, take her time, and hone her skills. It doesn’t matter if you have the best idea ever inside your head if you can’t express it in a way that captivates and pleases your audience.

All that being said, there is still a small part of me that wants to finish the book. I want to know if the writing improves. Is there is a payout for the effort spent in reading through it? Will the book fulfill some of it’s early promise? To be continued…maybe.

FrostFire ~ Zoë Marriott

  • Title: FrostFire
  • Author: Zoë Marriott
  • Series: Ruan #2
  • Genre: Fantasy, PNR
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Frost is cursed – possessed by a wolf demon that brings death everywhere she goes. Desperate to find a cure, she flees her home, only to be captured by the Ruan Hill Guard. Trapped until she can prove she is not an enemy, Frost grows increasingly close to the Guard’s charismatic leader Luca and his second in command, the tortured Arian. Torn between two very different men, Frost fears that she may not be able to protect either of them … from herself.

Review:  I really loved this book. It’s not often that I find a book that I love from the first page to the last page and every page in between but Frostfire was one of those few.

We follow the misfortunes of seventeen year old Frost. She’s alone in a hostile world, believing that she is cursed and is just trying to survive while passing through life unnoticed. Everything changes for Frost when she stumbles across an ambush that she mistakenly intervenes in and meets the two young warriors who will change the course of her life.

I don’t like giving away spoilers so that’s all I’ll say about the story. However, I will talk about why I liked this book so much. Frost is a complex lead character with believable flaws and formidable strengths. Marriott has obviously spent a lot of time building layers of back-story that shape the person Frost is when we meet her and the person we see her become over the course of the story. Snippets of Frost’s early life are revealed to us in a series of flashbacks which are woven seamlessly into the narrative of the story. Marriott really makes you feel the desolate and loveless life that was Frost’s childhood. Strangely, though, you never feel pity for her; you feel empathy for her. The choices Frost makes throughout the story, whether good or bad, are all in keeping with her character.

The two male characters are also as complex but are complete opposites to each other. Luca and Arian are friends, brothers in arms, but one is portrayed as goodness personified while the other is much darker. The way Marriott chooses to deal with this is to make you question what makes a person good or bad. I really enjoyed the interaction between the three and thought Marriott made their individual and collective relationships work.

The quality of the writing really stood out to me in the best possible way. I didn’t notice the writing. At no point did it jar me, confuse me or irritate me. I didn’t have to backtrack to clarify what I was reading, I didn’t swear once because of bad word choices or poor structure. The writing never pulled me out of the story. Instead, it provided a favourite-comfy-jumper-type atmosphere in which I could just sit back and enjoy the story that was being told. Props to Ms Marriott! A final word on the writing. Although this book is a YA book, in my opinion it is simply a good book. She doesn’t patronize her readers. Her writing style is simplistic yet mature and evocative. I really admire her writing and her story telling.

All told, I would certainly recommend this book to anyone that wants a good read. I can’t wait to track down Zoe Marriott’s other books. I only wish there were more of them.