Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Rainbow Virus - Dennis Meredith Review

Publisher: Glyphus LLC
Published: 2 February 2013
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 408
Genre: Adult Science Fiction, thriller.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
Synopsis: The Rainbow Virus is a gripping, realistic bioterrorism tale that launches readers on a harrowing adventure with the flips and plunges of the wildest roller coaster.

At first, loner scientist Arthur Lupo seems the most eccentric bioterrorist of all time. After vanishing from his lab at a biotech company, he releases viruses that only turn their victims a palette of colors. But then his chief pursuers—disgraced FBI agent Bobby Loudon and obsessive CDC epidemic-tracker Kathleen Shinohara—discover a horrifying fact. The brilliant Lupo has stolen the world's most lethal viruses from the Army's bioterrorism center.

Lupo reveals that his first viruses were only a test. He dramatically proves their infectivity by transforming the terrified citizens of Denver into a rainbow of colors. In a chilling declaration, he announces that he will now release an unstoppable artificial virus whose spread will decimate the world's population.

Loudon and Shinohara must race against time, a mysterious assassin, and a secret government faction to find Lupo and stop him.
In Short: Really defied my expectations, a very enjoyable thriller.

I really liked the idea behind this book. I enjoy anything to do with virology (take Partials, for example) and I mean, he added rainbows! Rainbows! No seriously, the medical aspect was really well-written and interesting, especially to my science-loving mind.

At first, I thought I was going to hate this book. I guess I should've got the YA version, but I had the adult one and so I had the doubtful pleasure of reading the swearwords and comments about ogling women. Oh, and the main character's constant remarks about how hot the female main character is. They're both adults.

Also, the writing style isn't beautiful. Maybe that's too much to ask, but I like it when the prose in a novel carries nice imagery and creative use of language. Here the language is used solely to communicate the story, without much heed paid to the way it's expressed.

On a positive note, the virology was informatively, entertainingly written and Doc and Shinohara's platonic relationship was enjoyable. The information about the FBI and the CDC made for great reading, especially the politics of the departments.

I really liked reading about the different colours people were turning and how that was related to real illnesses and their susceptibility to them. The story bodes ominously for the prospects of bioterrorism, which was one of my favourite parts of it.

The suspense is built up tautly to the end, where it closes on a massive surprise, which I loved. Shinohara shows another part of her character in a bold, admirable move It was also nice that it's a one shot for a change.

I took off 1.5 stars for the references to women that went too far and the fact that the characterisation sometimes fell a little flat, but it's a thrilling storyline. I'd recommend it for light beach reading, especially coming up to summer!


I'm sorry for the delay in posting, I've been dealing with exams and a break-up, which both suck. But the exams will be over in a few weeks, and then I'll be back to normal.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Star of Kazan - Eva Ibbotson Review

Publisher: Macmillan
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, YA
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: Annika has never had a birthday. Instead she celebrates her Found Day, the day a housemaid and a cook to three eccentric Viennese professors found her and took her home. There, Annika has made a happy life in the servants' quarters, surrounded with friends, including the elderly woman next door who regales Annika with stories of her performing days and her countless admirers - especially the Russian count who gave her the legendary emerald, the Star of Kazan. And yet, Annika still dreams of finding her true mother. But when a glamorous stranger arrives claiming to be Annika's mother, and whisks her away to a crumbling, spooky castle, Annika discovers that all is not as it seems in her newfound home...

I loved this book, and it's easy to see why. It was extraordinarily refeshing and well able to withstand passing trends - it's a classic book for any age, because the subplots reveall themselves more on each reading. Having said that, it was still a very simple story, perfect just the way it was.

I was impressed by the degree of subtlety with which Ibbotson presented this quaint, old-fashioned story. I loved the good old narrative story-telling. It's different, but it suits this book perfectly. The writing really played to its strengths, with the details serving to illustrate the enchanting world being created. I ususally only consider world-building when reviewing dystopians and the like, but the setting here begs admiration.

It was Vienna as I'd never seen it before, a place full lof magic and intrigue. It was descibed so well that I wanted to experience it myself. The Lipizzaners, royal horses, were an excellent touch among many. Flavoured by Annika's childish excitement and enthusiasm, they were simply a delight to read about.

I loved the rich cast of characters. The Professors had to be among my favourites, and they reminded me of those in Ballet Shoes, a childhood favourite. Sigrid and Ellie helped to dispel the stereotype of the unfortunate, mistreated orphan, while also providing acres of reading pleasure with their heartwarming cookery lessons for Annika.

The simple friendships between Annika, Pauline and Stefan were lovely, and their camaraderie was excellently written, as were the tales of the old woman. Even if her stories made me want to cry in parts. That’s a good thing.

It’s funny how the main plot didn’t really enter into my considerations. In this book, while there is a great plot, that’s not the important part. The beauty is in the details.

I didn’t give The Star of Kazan five stars because it didn’t have a deep impact on me. But it was hugely enjoyable and such a cozy book. It’s the kind of book you want to read curled up beside a fireplace when nobody is home. It reminded me of a snow globe, with snowflakes making the city of Vienna look magical.

It was like A Little Princess, as were Ibbotson’s other books that I’ve read, Journey to the River Sea and The Dragonfly Pool. Altogether an enthralling and very enjoyable read which I highly recommend.

And here is my draft of this review, which I tragically had to redo after I lost the original copy.

Friday, 17 May 2013

After the Ending (The Ending #1) Review

I'm taking part in the blog tour for After The Ending, sponsored by Pump UpYour Book with a review!

Authors: Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: L2 Books (America)
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, Romance
Pages: 478
Rating: 4 stars
Publication Date: 22nd February 2013
Spoilers: Mild
Official Summary:  When people started getting sick, “they” thought it was just the flu. My roommate, my boyfriend, my family…they’re all gone now. I got sick too. I should have died with them—with the rest of the world—but I didn’t. I thought witnessing the human population almost disappear off the face of the earth was the craziest thing I’d ever experience. I was so wrong. My name is Dani O’Connor, I’m twenty-six-years-old, and I survived The Ending.

The Virus changed everything. The world I knew is gone, and life is backwards. We’ve all had to start over. I’ve been stripped of my home, my dreams…all that is me. I’m someone else now—broken and changed. Other survivors’ memories and emotions haunt me. They invade my mind until I can no longer separate them from my own. I won’t let them consume me. I can’t. My name is Zoe Cartwright, I’m twenty-six-years-old, and I survived The Ending.

We’ve been inseparable for most of our lives, and now our friendship is all we have left. The aftermath of the Virus has stranded us on opposite sides of the United States. Trusting strangers, making sacrifices, killing—we’ll do anything to reach one another. Fear and pain may be unavoidable, but we’re strong…we’re survivors. But to continue surviving in this unfamiliar world plagued by Crazies and strange new abilities, we have to adapt. We have to evolve.

And more than anything, we have to find each other
In short: A great concept and excellent details but with some unnecessary elements.
The Breakdown:
My opinion of this book changed drastically about a third of the way through, so at first it left me with mixed feelings. I detested the going on about Cam and he weird Cam-related dreams. I know Dani is trying to get over the loss of Cam, and it illustrates the emotion of losing the world well, I thought that it could have been done differently. I felt that Cam’s death wasn’t built up to properly, but on hindsight, it shows how suddenly everything fell apart – so if it was intentional, clever move.
A large part of the book is spent subtly (and not-so-subtly) exploring the Survivors’ reactions and emotions after the Ending.  And I’m glad to say that it was done really well, from the Crazies to the militants. I was constantly reminded of Partials and wondered why society wasn’t as well developed as in Dan Wells’ novel – but then you have to remember that this book is set immediately after the ending, and it shows the chaos brilliantly. Looking back on it now, the foreshadowing is there – but some of it is very easy to miss.
 I had a problem with half of the book being narrated through e-mails between the two best friends. I’m sorry, but I have an extreme aversion to the use of acronyms in fully-fledged novels. It detracts from the reading experience and just annoys me. However, as the plot developed (and the acronyms disappeared), they started to grow on me, and I realize by the end that they had become very useful for a number of reasons: they help the reader keep track of time during the story, they showed the bond between Zoe and they helped build the post-apocalyptic atmosphere when one girl couldn’t reach a place with internet and the other started to worry because in a situation like that you just don’t know.
There is one problem I had with this book, though. All that romance was completely unnecessary! I agreed with *MILD SPOILER* Sarah getting pregnant with Biggs’ child, because it felt right. Their relationship developed faster than normal because of the urgency after the Ending, but it definitely developed. And it gave a sense of continuity, of the hope of the next generation. *BIG SPOILER* But there was something I could not stand. Dani and Jason’s relationship or rather, the way they went about it. The relationship itself was sweet, long-spanning as it was, but did the authors really have to be that detailed about the sex scenes? Alright, they were mild sex scenes, but they were just out of place and could have been alluded to instead. At least Zoe’s with Jake was enjoyable and interesting. A lot of the time all Jason seemed interested in was sex. Even though Zoe lampshaded this by calling him (her brother) a heartbreaker.  *END SPOILER*
Thankfully, After the Ending entirely redeemed itself.
 I adored the friendship between Zoe and Dani. It was explained at the end of the book, but – fortunately – not in the form of infodump. What I loved most about it was that it was obvious. You would have known they were best friends without it being said, through the way they spoke to and about each other in their emails and face-to-face. I found myself enjoying the double-narrative, especially as they drew closer to each other and began to mirror each other’s actions. The etails of their friendship and care for each other were brilliant.
Partway in, drama finally appeared – but wow, it was amazingly plotted. *MILD SPOILER* Clara poisoning Zoe, albeit unsuccessfully, was one of the biggest *Oh no oh no* moments I have ever read, and the same with the note Dani receives from Cece. This was amazing for two reasons: one, it helped draw more parallels between the travels of Zoe and Dani, and two, it showed the deep psychological effects of the apocalypse, where not every insane person was an obvious Crazy.
I am a huge fan of secrets being revealed unexpectedly, so this book both pleased and annoyed me in different places. The start of the Abilities was very predictable, although again, it echoed the rushed feeling of an apocalypse, but one moment Zoe’s was being foreshadowed and about ten pages later, there we go. Jake’s foreshadowing was slightly better, but still too sudden. Also, may I mention how similar Jake was to Jacob from Twilight? With the *SPOILER* fast healing  *END SPOILER*and the name? Except he isn’t a werewolf and has a genuinely interesting personality. Ouch.  On the flipside, After the Ending did well with revealing real secrets, like the mystery of the Colony and the motivations of the army. I loved the gradual revealing of MG – and wow, the last page. Not exactly an evil cliffhanger, but a clilffhanger nonetheless. Curse you, gripping trilogies.
Overall, the book was a good surprise, and I was forced to drop my preconceived notions after the first part as the survivalist aspect heated up and I started to love it.
The authors are running a promotion on Amazon for this book on the 17th and 18th of May only, so I really recommend getting it. You can purchase the ebook on Amazon here
About the Authors:
Lindsey Fairleigh lives her life with one foot in a book - as long as that book transports her to a magical world or bends the rules of science. Her novels, from post-apocalytptic to time travel and historical fantasy, always offer up a hearty dose of unreality, along with plenty of adventure and romance. When she's not working on her next novel, Lindsey spends her time reading and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She lives in the Napa Valley with her loving husband and confused cats. You can visit Lindsey's blog at

Lindsey Pogue has always been a little creative. As a child she established a bug hospital on her elementary school soccer field, compiled books of collages as a teenager, and as an adult, expresses herself through writing. Her novels are inspired by her observations of the world around her - whether she's traveling, people watching or hiking. When not plotting her next storyline or dreaming up new, brooding characters. Lindsey's wrapped in blankets watching her favourite action flicks or going on road trips with her own leading man. You can visit Lindsey's blog at

More information:
Lindsey Fairleigh's Blog
Lindsey Pogue's Blog
After the Ending Blog

Sunday, 12 May 2013

KOTW - Darquesse & Vile vs. Kitana, Sean and Doran

Here's an analysis of Darquesse and Lord Vile vs. Kitana, Sean and Doran in Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked, as requested by commenter Caspar Melville on my post about Darquesse vs. Lord Vile.

Warning: Spoilers for both Death Bringer and Kingdom of the Wicked.

Firstly, each character's traits.

Doran is one of those characters everyone despises. He is a stupid, mindless thug. But he's strong. Kitana gets a little more respect (ruthlessness commands respect). She's a crazy, spoilt brat who reminds me so much of Opal Koboi from Artemis Fowl. Sean's a prat and I'm sorry, but Elsie is a loser. She could've been a heroine, but she wasn't. And that is a credit to Derek Landy's writing, because she's a realistic person. At least she walked away and didn't directly take part in the mad rampage.

Apart from Elsie, they're all freaking psychopaths.

Vile is a warrior fueled by pure, focused hate. He's ruthless, driven and hard to injure, but once he's properly hurt, he has no magic tricks to save him. However, he is an extremely dangerous Necromancer. Darquesse is in possession of her true name, insanely powerful and capable of performing what seems to be raw magic. She's adaptable and her power is constantly growing, but she only comes out when Valkyrie's life is in mortal danger. Also, she's relatively inexperienced when against Vile, but knows far more than Kitana.

Experience and training are really the only things that enable Vile and Darquesse to win against Kitana, Sean and Doran. Without that, counting on raw magic, it's one (Darquesse) against three (Kitana, Sean and Doran). Talented, efficient and deadly as Vile is, he doesn't possess the same calibre of magic as they do. But in the long term, he's better. Because the three teenagers only have their extreme powers because of the sorcerer Argeddion, who knows his true name. Darquesse and Argeddion are really the only two with the power of their own names in the fight, but Argeddion has lent his magic to his three protégées.

And this raw magic is lethal.

Kitana, Sean and Doran, normally ordinary mortals, are able to skip the years of training done by everyone else to even approach their level. They work on pure instinct, like when Skulduggery tries to shoot them and they throw up a forcefield, not having known themselves that they could do that until it happened. Because of this strange new power they become cocky and self-serving, with Doran assuming a tough-guy act just because he can.

Of course, the protagonists still have some advantages, Before they become their evil counterparts, Skulduggery and Valkyrie are able to work together, instead of battling for dominance. Oh, platonic Valduggery, this ship develops so much more in KOTW. It’s inevitable that the tensions in the group of psychopaths tear them apart eventually.

Darquesse is a very high-functioning sociopath, so even though she takes glee in killing, she’s still masterfully good at what she does and doesn’t make stupid mistakes like Kitana – taking unnecessary risks as she becomes even less wary. Even when Darquesse is taken by surprise by their impossible recovery, Vile is there to step in – like a boss. I’m not going to go into the manoeuvres of Argeddion. Suffice to say that Val works around them eventually, even though they are very clever.

In the end, it all boiled down to this: Val and SP are trained, so much more than Kitana and co. would ever consent to being. That enables Darquesse to pull the recovery-from-decapitation stunt, ,and Vile to work around the impossible magic they have. And that’s the thing. It really is impossible magic. So impermanent. It couldn’t last, and our protagonists capitalized on that. It was a  terrifyingly close fight, but they won. And unless Kitana, Sean and Doran wised up and learned that power comes at a price, that they couldn’t expect to be so good at something without working at it, they could win again.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Kit's Wilderness, or Why Must School Ruin Books?

Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond is a classic light vs. dark redemption story, and it’s good. But reading it is an absolute chore. Let me explain. For the Junior Cert English exam, you have to study a novel in class and be able to write about everything in it. The teacher chose one book and everyone had no choice but to study it in class.
It’s unfortunate that our study of this novel consisted of dissecting it until I could hardly bear to look at it. We were allowed to read about ten pages in class, one person at a time, aloud. Did they not trust us to read it quietly by ourselves, at a halfway decent speed – say one that isn’t a page every four minutes?
I would’ve enjoyed this so much more had it not been compulsory. I do realise that it was technically a very good book, and feel out of place giving it a lacklustre review after seeing so many enthusiastic ones – but you try to enjoy a book that you’re forced to take often irrelevant notes on every thirty seconds!
I read an awful lot. I review the best books I come across on this blog for a number of reasons. First of all, I am a writer at heart. I love words. Secondly, I like to share my opinions and hear yours. Finally, I think authors deserve to have their work shared, if they’ve brought me this much enjoyment. These reasons basically end up with me writing a lot and having trained my brain to think of notes about the book while reading, for reviews.
So being spoon-fed notes about books from my English teacher – nice as she is – drives me mad. It’s mind-numbingly boring, and I’m a book reviewer by trade. This – reading and writing – is where I find my enjoyment, and I am not happy that it’s being systematically destroyed.
We spent about six months reading that novel. I like to do the same thing and have the review planned out in less than six hours. It made me dread English, something that horrified me, since it’s my favourite subject. Being me, I’d already read the whole book the first week we got it, so I had to endure another twenty-three weeks of repetition. Not fun. Thankfully, we’ve moved on and it is once again my favourite class. But I don’t want it to happen again. Of course, I’m a teenager. My opinions don’t matter to the Board of Education; they would rather cater for the group in majority, the predictable horde of reality TV-and-little-else-watchers.
The truth is, it’s not the school or the Government’s fault. They’re doing their best with what they have to work with. It’s because of the amount of people who look at reading for pleasure with derision. Their apathy means that those of us who actually care just have to put up with it. It’s true, they don’t trust the majority of the class to read the book at home – and they’re right. They wouldn’t! I really don’t know what to do about this anymore. Help – when will people realise what they’re missing?
Also, I'm going to start posting a picture of my rough handwritten draft for each post, if you'd like, just for a change? It's usually all arty and decorative, but this one isn't really a review so it's not as much. I have a lovely one for my next review, so I'm looking forward to that.