Monday, 29 October 2012

What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles #1)

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang
Paperback, 576 pages

Published 27th September 2012 by Harper Collins Childrens Books

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, cover-appeal, read, dystopian, mental-health, read-in-2012, sci-fi, series-or-companions, title-appeal, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
How I Live Now meets His Dark Materials in this stunningly written and intensely moving debut.

Imagine that you have two minds, sharing one body. You and your other self are closer than twins, better than friends. You have known each other forever.

Then imagine that people like you are hated and feared. That the government want to hunt you down and tear out your second soul, separating you from the person you love most in the world.

Now meet Eva and Addie.

They don’t have to imagine.

Buy this book:

My thanks go to Harper Collins for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I first heard about What's Left of Me, I was both excited and unsure about it. The cover of the book is striking and there's no doubt that the blurb sounds interesting, but it also sounds quite confusing - the thing that put me off for a little while. However, the excitement overcame the uncertainty and I'm so glad that it did!

What's Left of Me follows a hybrid girl - two female minds inside one body, named Addie and Eva. This may sound like it could get confusing, but I can honestly say that at no point did I become confused whilst reading this. The book revolves around Hybrid children and teenagers - people who have two minds or personalities living inside them. In Addie and Eva's world, most people are born with two minds but as they grow, one dominates and the other fades away. For those who don't have this happen to them, life becomes difficult as they are treated as defected and are subject to endless treatment to rid them of one mind.

Zhang takes quite a complex idea and puts it onto page in a way that seems effortless. The writing is simple, gets the point across yet is still gripping and a pleasure to read. It's certainly not a chore to read this book. The thing that impressed me most about this book was the idea behind it - Zhang had a wonderful idea when she thought this book up - it's refreshing, different and intriguing. I would've liked to discover more about the world, why/how hybrids came about and the reasons why they are treated as defected, but there is room for expansion of this in the next books. However, I really did enjoy what I discovered in this book. Most of this book is set in a hospital for Hybrids, and I found the setting to be truly intriguing - It felt like a real, quite scary place and I could feel for the characters who were there.

All of the characters in this book are pretty well developed, even though there are a multitude of them. Addie and Eva are our main characters and I thought that their development was truly superb. As two people in the same mind, they had a truly unique relationship, quite unlike any other I have read. Their thoughts and feelings were so very real and I felt a lot for Eva, the less dominant mind, who often struggled to get her feelings across to Addie and was hidden away from others, in fear. It was sometimes quite strange to read the narration from a hidden mind in someone's body, but it was always fascinating. We meet a lot of other characters in this book, including Addie and Eva's family, friends, doctors and hybrid hospital patients. They're all strong characters, but I would like to know more about all of them, just out of curiosity!

I thought that this book was well paced throughout - I was never bored during this book as I did just find the book so intriguing. The pace certainly sped up towards the end as we made some important revelations - the action towards the end should satisfy those who like a bit of action or suspense in their books. The ending has been left quite widely open and I will look forward to seeing what happens next.

Overall, I was very impressed with Kat Zhang's writing and imaginative ideas. This was an enjoyable, easy and compelling read that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone who likes young adult sci-fi or dystopian books. I really can't wait to see what happens next and what else Zhang has to offer us!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday (25)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.
Another very quiet week for me this week, which again was good as it means I can catch up on a lot of those review copies I have piled up. I did receive one very exciting book in the post though - It came in a very pretty box which I had to tear open as soon as I saw it. Enclosed was a copy of Ketchup Clouds, which I'm actually reading right now, so expect a review soon.

Hope you're all well and had a bookish week!

Friday, 26 October 2012

From the Review Pile (25)

From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

I'm sorry for the late post this week - I've been quite busy, so I apologise!

This week, I'm going to showcase Girl about Time!

This book looks like quite a quick read, so I'm not entirely sure why I haven't read this one already! It looks pretty interesting, though I'm not entirely sure what the focus is - I'll look forward to finding out how it turns out. It's been released in other countries under the name Ruby Red - have any of you read it?

Girl about Time by Kerstin Gier
Paperback, 312 pages
Published 2011 by Chicken House Publishing
Every family has secrets. But what do you do if you find out that you are the family secret That's what happens to Gwen when she finds herself unbelievably transported from out on the town to turn of the century London. It's enough to make any girl dizzy.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Devil's Bargain (Red Letter Days #1)

Devil's Bargain by Rachel Caine
Paperback, 331 pages

Published 5th October 2012 by Mira Ink

My shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, cover-appeal, crime-thriller-mystery, let-down, read-in-2012, series-or-companions, supernatural, to-read, young-adult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
What's the price of a deal with the devil?

Playing by the psychic underworld's rules has cost.

Jazz Callender's whole life just got turned upside down. Her friend Ben's been convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and Jazz is determined to clear his name, even if it means enlisting the help of dark forces.

Enter James, a stranger with a mysterious offer. If Jazz pledges to work for The Cross Society, a shadowy secret organisation, he'll help her save Ben.

But as she's thrust into a world of psychic powers and dangerous magic, Jazz isn't just bargain for her friend's freedom. She's bargaining for her soul too.

And how high a price is she willing to pay?

Buy this book:

My thanks go to Mira for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Though I am a massive fan of the Morganville Vampires series, I have never read anything else by Rachel Caine. When I heard that Devil's Bargain was going to be re-released here in the UK, I thought it was definitely time to try some of her other work and I was very excited to do so.

From the blurb, Devil's Bargain appears to be a book that has a very strong supernatural/paranormal element to it. However, when I began reading the book, it wasn't quite what I expected. The story did flow well as it was, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have - this is probably because I was expecting something else, something more. I am only used to reading paranormal books that are aimed towards young adults, so perhaps this was the main difference for me - the writing in this book is probably more suited to adults. This isn't a bad thing at all - just not something I'm used to for this genre and something that I will have to get used to.

The thing that mostly bothered me about this book was that it felt certainly more like a thriller rather than a supernatural book, despite the description. The story starts when we meet our main character, an ex-cop, Jazz in a bar where she is approached by a man, James Borden, and offered a job of a lifetime. Jazz is naturally suspicious and so contacts Lucia Garza, her potential business partner. They meet up, learn about each other, discuss the business and although still slightly suspicious, decide to accept the offer. There is a lot of mystery about who Jazz and Lucia are actually working for and why, but towards the end we learn that there is a connection with The Cross Society and a psychic convicted murderer. The psychic element of the book only comes in around the last half of the story and I personally would've liked it if we had got to learn more about it. I hope, and expect, that this will be further developed along the series. The story is very eventful and something is always happening. However, despite all of the action, I wasn't completely compelled by the book - it wasn't something that I was eager to keep picking up.

The characters in Devil's Bargain are a positive point of this book. Both female lead characters definitely have kick-ass attitudes. I really liked Jazz's confidence and her determination. Though Lucia definitely had a different personality, she was the perfect business partner for Jazz and they interacted extremely well- the strength in this book, for me, was certainly the character interaction. I thought Manny, Jazz's friend was probably the most intriguing character and I would love to learn more about him. There was romance in this book, but to be honest it was a little too predictable for me and I'm glad that it wasn't the main focus.

Overall, whilst Devil's Bargain was a decently written book, I didn't feel as though it was anything exceptional. I did have high expectations for this book, so perhaps that was why I was a little let down! The thing that disappointed me most about this book was that there wasn't enough supernatural substance for me - however, if I was aware of that before reading, then I'd probably have enjoyed it more. The writing style flowed well, the story was never slow - something was always happening and for me, the characters were certainly the best part of the book. Recommended for thriller and paranormal fans who want an easy, action packed read!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Shadows Blog Tour Stop

Hello everyone! 

SHADOWS was released in the UK yesterday and I'm so happy to announce that the Shadows blog tour has stopped by my blog today!

It's nearly Halloween and so I don't think that there could be any better time to pick up either Ashes or it's sequel, Shadows for a quite frightening (but certainly compelling) read!

There's also probably no better time than now to hear what the author of the books, Ilsa J Bick, would do in a zombie apocalypse - because we all need some survival tips, right?
Isla has kindly taken the time to write an exclusive guest post, giving us some of her tips for if (or even when) that scary time comes! Take note!

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of years, you know that pointers on surviving the zombie apocalypse are a pretty big deal.  (My personal favorite: you guys with long hair?  Cut it, or you’re toast.)   Even the U.S.’s CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has gotten in on the act:   Their site’s pretty good, and you should certainly give it a look-see.  If you don’t have a bug-out bag, make one and get familiar with your gear, how it works, and what to do.  Trust me: being hip-deep in an emergency is not the time to read the instructions.  
This is the thing: you don’t have to face down a zombie to find yourself in a survival situation.  Wander off the trail, take the wrong fork, get lost in the woods—think about those kids in Blair Witch—and  you’re there.  Now, most people have never had a truly wild wilderness experience, one where the trails aren’t nicely laid out; a cell won’t hack it; and your next meal might be, well . . . a worm, a grub, a beetle—or a long time coming.  Call me paranoid, but I like knowing what to do and how to make it for a couple days if, say, the world ends and Starbucks disappears.
A question most ask is whether the backwoods survivalism Alex practices really works or is stuff I’ve done.  The answer to both: you bet. 
So you want to be Alex?  Learn what I consider to be the most important things to do in and the bare-bones gear needed for an emergency backwoods situation, and you’ll be on your way.  Now, all the stuff I’m going to suggest should keep you alive and safe for about three days.  Why only three days?  Easy.  Unless you really are Alex or the zombies attack and presuming you’ve been a responsible hiker, people will know where you are, how long you expect to be gone, when they ought to hear back.  So if you don’t show or fail a check-in day, normally people will get worried and alert the authorities who, in turn, will look for you.  The focus here is on surviving until you’re rescued, not that you need to suddenly become Daniel Boone (or Ray Mears).
So let’s assume you’re out hiking and you’ve gotten lost.  You’re not drowning; you’re not falling down a mountain or off a cliff.  Now what?  
Easy.  First order of business: hug a tree.  
I’m completely serious.  If you feel strange getting intimate with a tree, then sit down.  Or sing your favorite song.  Whatever, but do something to calm yourself down.  Really.  Panic will only get you killed or in trouble that much faster. 
Second order of business: get warm.  This frequently translates to finding shelter, building a fire, peeling out of those wet clothes, whatever.  Avoid hypothermia because that will kill you pretty fast.  Successfully getting that fire going is a real morale boost, too.  In addition, you want a little redundancy here; I always make sure I have at least three different strategies for when the first two fail.  Here are the fire-making tools I always carry on the trail: flint and striker; waterproof matches in a box in a Ziploc bag because I don’t trust anybody; a lighter; Ziploc baggies with dryer lint and frayed jute (for my fire nest); cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly (light one of those suckers and you’ve got flame for a good couple minutes: long enough to start your fire or cook a hot dog); an Altoids tin of char; alcohol swabs in individual packets; a couple folded squares of tin foil (good for reflecting and directing heat off that fire-wall you’ll build from rocks and place next to your shelter, but aluminum foil is also GREAT for catching rainwater or signaling that rescue helicopter).
For added warmth and/or shelter, I also always carry an emergency blanket and a folded rain poncho.  The blanket’s good for signal purposes, too, and the poncho can serve as a makeshift tarp, if you want.  Also, both catch rainwater.  So they’re definitely win-win.
Got your fire going?  Warm and toasty?  Thinking you might survive after all?  You bet.  It’s also occurred to you that a signal fire is a great thing, too, so you’ll keep this going.  But now . . . well, all that hard work and you’re kind of thirsty.
Which brings us to water.
It’s a fact that you can live for three weeks without food, but try going three days without water—and you’re history.  So water is key.  In crummy conditions—say, it’s really hot—you can figure on needing a quart every couple of hours.  So bring at least one canteen, and I would suggest you not settle for only a Nalgene bottle.  Yes, they’re virtually indestructible and I have several (one wrapped with duct tape because that stuff is great if you break your arm or leg, or split your forehead).  But a stainless steel water bottle is incredibly valuable because you can set that over the fire to boil water, something you can’t do with Nalgene or any kind of plastic.  
For the sake of argument, we’re going to pretend there’s a water source: a scummy pond, a stream, rain, whatever.  Well, you can’t just drink.  There are all sorts of nasty things floating around in there.  But, lucky you, there are two basic ways to purify water: heat and chemicals. 
a) Boil water, and you’re set, and because you’ve taken my advice and brought along a stainless steel bottle, you’ve got your cooking vessel.  How long?  Easy.  Just until it comes to a rolling boil because all the nasty bugs that will hurt you will die right around 74 degrees C.  Since water boils at 100 degrees C, give or take for altitude,  you’re golden.
b) Chemicals: There are a number of ways, but along with my handy-dandy LifeStraw  ( ), I always bring purification tablets;  a small bottle (and dropper) filled with household chlorine bleach (two drops per quart; shake and wait thirty minutes); and a small bottle of 2 % tincture of iodine (five drops per quart; again, shake and wait.  Hate the taste but when you’re thirsty . . .)
Lastly, there’s food, which is easy.  A couple power bars, a few packets of Kool-Aid, and two or three pouches of energy gels.  In a pinch, you can make that one power-protein bar do for a day.  Would knowing the region’s edible plants help?  You bet, but that’s a huge topic, and all we’re covering here is the bare minimum you need in a bare-bones, no-frills fanny pack.
What else should you bring?  Depends on who you are, but in my fanny pack, you’ll find:
a) A good, sharp knife.  Two, actually.  I always wear one, carry the other. A knife is mandatory and the most important piece of equipment in your survival arsenal.  If I somehow lose my fanny-pack, I still have a somewhat decent shot of making it with only a knife.  I wouldn’t enjoy it, though. 
b) A whistle.  You can tear those suckers a mile away and blowing your whistle gives you something to do while you wait to be rescued.  Of course, if there are zombies out there, don’t blow. 
c) A signal mirror.  Don’t bother with that fancy-schmancy metal thing you buy at a camping store.  A CD works just as well.
d) Toilet paper.  Three guesses why this makes life ever so much more pleasant.
e) A small bottle of Purell.
f) A three-day supply of prescription meds.
g) A small LED headlamp and extra batteries (I like both hands free).
h) A staple or thin paperclip.  I know.  Sounds weird.  But if you know how to do it, in a pinch, you can couple a staple to a battery and start a fire that way.
j) Spec 550 paracord.  (I actually wear mine—about 7 feet worth—in a specially woven bracelet.)  Why?  With this kind of rope, you can make ladders, repair clothing, create snares and tripwires, fashion a bow-drill.  Strangle a zombie.
k) A little vial of 100% DEET.  While smoky fires will deter mosquitoes, those critters can be mighty persistent.
l)  A mini-deck of playing cards for something to do when I’m bored with counting ants or blowing my whistle.
m) A notepad and pen/pencil for the same reasons as l.  Also, in case I decide rescue’s not happening and I must leave my encampment, anyone who stumbles on where I was will know which way I went.
Notice what I don’t include: an extra cell phone; an iPod; a transistor radio; a GPS, a small portable stove.  Electronics won’t help you much out here unless you spring for a power pocket of solar panels—oh, and have service for that cell—and then we’re getting into knapsack territory, not a bare-bones survival pack.   
I also didn’t include a bow-drill because that doesn’t fit into my fanny pack.  Do I know how to make one?  Sure, and in a pinch, that’s where a good knife and that strong paracord come in.  The problem is: not only is making a bow-drill very time-consuming, trying to get a friction fire going can be such a drag because you can get tired very quickly.  (News Flash: the way Tom Hanks made fire in Castaway?  Not possible.  Never happen.  <shrug>  It’s Hollywood.)  When it comes to fire, I’d much rather scrape my sparker or flick my Bic and save my sanity.
Anyway, there you have it: what I think you should have in that fanny pack before hitting the trails.   Now, go back your own, learn how to use the tools, and go have fun.
But watch out for those zombies, you hear?  And for God’s sake: cut your hair.

I hope you're all feeling a little more prepared now! 
Thank you so, so much to the fantastic Isla for her time and fantastic post.

If, like me, you're a little forgetful when it comes to reading series, check out the ASHES recap on Isla's website for a refresher before diving into SHADOWS:

Monday, 22 October 2012

Dinner With a Vampire (The Dark Heroine #1)

Dinner With a Vampire (The Dark Heroine #1) by Abigail Gibbs
Paperback, 549 pages

Expected publication 25th October 2012 by Harper Voyager

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, read, read-in-2012, series-or-companions, vampires, young-adult
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
The sexiest romance you’ll read this year…

One moment can change your life forever…

For Violet Lee, a chance encounter on a darkened street draws her into a world beyond her wildest imaginings, a timeless place of vast elegance and immeasurable wealth – of beautiful mansions and lavish parties – where a decadent group of friends live for pleasure alone. A place from which there is no escape… no matter how hard Violet tries.

Yet all the riches in the world can’t mask the darkness that lies beneath the gilded surface, embodied in the charismatic but dangerous Kaspar Varn.

Violet and Kaspar surrender to a passion that transcends their separate worlds – but it’s a passion that comes at a price…

Buy this book:

My thanks go to Harper for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Despite all of the apparent hype surrounding new author Abigail Gibbs and her rise to success, before I was asked to review this book, I'd never heard of her. As a fifteen year old, Gibbs wrote her story on Wattpad and rose to fame with tens of millions of views and a sturdy fan base, but somehow I missed out! When this book was brought to my attention and I was told the facts, I had great expectations and so of course I had to try it out!

When I first started The Dark Heroine, I wasn't initially sucked in by it - I didn't feel very excited by it and it all seemed a little 'random' to me. I like to have reasoning for the actions in a book and it felt as though the story was jumping in at the deep end with vampires suddenly arriving unnoticed in the middle of London. As the book progressed, things did unfold and I found myself enjoying it more. Though the writing isn't perfect, it was enjoyable for the most part. The story became more logical, slightly more complex and interesting as it went on. I wasn't bored reading this book and I did keep wanting to pick it back up, which definitely wasn't a bad thing! The book was compelling and the plot was interesting, with depth towards the end that I wasn't expecting and which made me eager to read the next instalment.

Though I did enjoy it for the most part, there were some issues that I had with this book. One thing that struck me when I picked up the book was that it had 'The sexiest romance you'll read all year' stamped on the front. What with the publication of so many paranormal, supernatural romances for teens and the absolute truckload of erotica books that are being published for adults this year, that is definitely a title to live up to! There were certainly some steamy moments in this book, but I don't think that they'll be for everyone - mainly due to the romance between our two main characters, Violet and Kaspar.

Now I didn't really want to compare this book to another, but it's hard not to - the romance in this book really reminded me of the romance in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Though this book is certainly different (it is written for teenagers and for paranormal fans after all!) there is what I would imagine will be a very controversial romance that is explored. Violet is technically taken prisoner by Kaspar, yet starts a relationship with him, initially in a way that could be seen as against her own will - there is something quite manipulative about Kaspar (and the Varn family in general) and I was just not entirely comfortable with the relationship as it developed. There are so many quite twisted things that happen during Violet's stay at the Varn residence and I find it difficult to think that she'd actually be able to handle such a serious relationship or be able to mindfully make serious decisions. I think that the writing surrounding the relationship was  perhaps the weakest part of the book. 

As a character, Violet wasn't the best protagonist I've read about, though she is not the worst either. I did initially warm to her as she seemed to have quite firm ideas and opinions, which I admire. However, although perhaps somewhat intentional or necessary for the story, she dramatically weakened throughout the book and disappointingly, I felt that she turned into a Mary-Sue. Violet seemed to completely let go of her strong opinions and submitted to the Varn's wishes.
Kaspar, the main character in the Varn family was interesting - he was definitely a more complex character with a deep history. Though not entirely likeable, he was fascinating to read about, as was the history of the whole Varn family. The Varns, to me, are what real vampires should be like and I couldn't get enough of them - they were strong and powerful, dangerous and intoxicating.

Regardless of some my reservations, I did find The Dark Heroine: Dinner With a Vampire to be very compelling reading. As aforementioned, I found the book hard to put down - it was a page turner as the story moved at a good pace with a lot of  revelations. I found the plot and the Prophecy of the Heroines to be enthralling and I will be sure to try and get my hands on a copy of the next book in this series as I honestly believe that it will only become more interesting. Overall, this was a book that I'd recommend for slightly more mature teens and those who are able to enjoy books without looking into them too deeply. I can definitely see this becoming an extremely popular published book.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Stacking The Shelves and Showcase Sunday (24)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.

I feel as though I have to apologise this week for my lack of activity on the blog and twitter - I have poor health and it has been aggravating me this week, so I'm afraid that I haven't felt up to much this week!
I bought three books this week, all charity shop finds!
I bought 12 Shades of Surrender: Bound and Undone which I believe are both collections of short stories, so I'm hoping I find at least one new author to enjoy in those books! I also bought Remembrance Day - it doesn't look like my usual sort of read but I find the Great War extremely interesting, plus it's nearly that time of year again, so I couldn't resist.

Hope you're all okay!
What did you get this week?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

From the Review Pile (24)

From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!


This week, I'm going to showcase The Academie!

This is a book that really, really intrigues me due to the idea behind it, but I have to admit that the cover has been putting me off a little bit! I think a lot of you will agree with me and think that this book sounds awesome though! Have any of you read it or is it on your  to-read list?

The Academie by Amy Joy
Paperback, 288 pages
Published 12th July 2011 by CreateSpace
When Allie Thompson graduated, she thought she'd put high school behind her. But when a series of violent outbreaks by teens sends panic surging through the nation, high school is right where Allie finds herself again. Now remolded into what the government calls The Academie, what was once the public school system is now the permanent home of everyone 22 and under.

After a year of college and a lifetime as a model student, Allie doesn't take well to The Academie's militaristic nature or its 16 foot perimeter fences. Remembering all she's left behind, including the boyfriend she's now years away from seeing again, Allie plummets into depression. But when strange things begin to happen and her brother disappears, Allie realizes she must unravel the mystery that is The Academie--before it's too late.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Hardback, 503 pages

Published 27th September 2012 by Little, Brown

My shelves: 
abuse, adult-fiction, awful-cover, books-i-own, death, drink-and-drugs, let-down, lgbt-characters, medical-conditions, mental-health, rape, read, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, self-harm, suicide, too-much-hype
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
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 fa├žade 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?

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

Buy this book:

My thanks go to Little Brown for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don't really know where to begin with this book. Very rarely, I avoid reviewing certain books - I haven't reviewed a few of the big names in books (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games) as I find it very difficult to try and review such widely read and highly acclaimed books. I didn't know whether or not I'd review this one - J.K. Rowling is probably the biggest author out there at the moment and there will already be a lot of reviews for The Casual Vacancy. However, as a dedicated book blogger, I decided that I'd give reviewing this a go! 

Despite the excitement surrounding The Casual Vacancy, I must admit that I wasn't really that excited about it. Sure, I love Harry Potter, but I knew that it would be something entirely different. On the release of the blurb of the book, I was underwhelmed - I thought that the story sounded quite dull and uninteresting. However, the fact that this was written by the Queen of today's literature, I still wanted to try it, at least. All that aside, when it was release day I had the need to get out and buy the book - I just had to have it (I actually ended up with two copies, one bought and one for review)!

Onto the book and the story itself... it's difficult to describe it, really, as I still have no idea how I feel about it - in one way I liked it, but at the same time I hated a lot of things about it. The thing about this book is that the main, interesting events happened in the first ten or so pages and the last fifty or so - this meant that the four hundred plus pages in between became tedious. The story revolves around around the fact that there is a Casual Vacancy in Pagford's council. I have to be honest and before reading this, I had no idea what a casual vacancy was and even after finding out, I don't know anyone who would care if there was a casual vacancy in our area. However, there was plenty of substance and the characters were certainly well developed, as expected. There was a definite history behind the village of Pagford and of the characters who lived there. 

Before I read this book, I read that some people were criticising it due to the adult themes and the amount of swearing in the book - I thought that was ridiculous - why should a book aimed at adults be criticised for such things? After reading, I can understand why it bothered people. I still stand by my thoughts that an adult book should have adult themes - it's not exactly wrong. I can understand why people were uncomfortable by this book. All of us associate Rowling with Harry Potter and a lot of people see her as a gentle figure to look up to. I didn't think I'd be affected, but yes - I did feel weird reading some of the sexual references at first. Thankfully, it was easy to get over after a while and I got used to it. 

However, I do feel as though Rowling was trying to put too many adult issues into the book. I enjoy reading about taboo subjects and serious issues, but I don't like to be overwhelmed by them. Amongst other things, abuse, death, substance abuse, mental health issues, self harm and suicide were all explored in this book. Although very emotive subjects, they didn't weigh me down and I didn't find them hard to read about - but sometimes that difficulty of reading about them is what makes them so effective. I was taken by one of the main characters, Krystal Weedon's case, but she was the only character I could really feel for - though the others were reasonably developed, I found it difficult to empathise with so many characters at once and the rest of them never seemed to grab me or strike me as someone important to listen to or to read about. 

The Casual Vacancy is a very political books, but to be honest, 1. I don't want to get into politics in one of my book reviews and really and 2. this book didn't have a massive impact on me nor my thoughts. Actually, I am not entirely sure what the message of this book was as I battled through most of it. I do think that Rowling made a superb job of putting across the fact that some people are like Krystal and have to live her difficult life, but I don't think the book was very balanced. The Weedon's issues were interesting to read about, but I felt that they overshadowed some of the serious problems that the other characters also faced. 

Overall, I don't think that this is a poorly written book but, for the most part, it bored me. There is so much thrown into this book, but for me, it was certainly not exciting nor particularly memorable. If someone told me that they wanted to read it, I wouldn't discourage them - I realise that there will be people who are into the deeper political messages of this book, but unfortunately I'm not one of those people. J.K. Rowling still stays in my mind as a phenomenal writer with a fantastic imagination and despite my difficulties with this book, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another of her books.

Listen to the song that features most in The Casual Vacancy - I have to admit that I think that every time I hear this in the future, I'll think of Krystal Weedon.