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review 2016-10-08 14:58
The Hit - Melvin Burgess

This book is trash.

(TW: Rape mention.)


I was really disappointed by this. It had a great setting, a great storyline to start off with. The synopsis was pretty thrilling to start off with. Basically, there's a drug called "Death". It costs thousands to buy, and once you take it, you will experience the greatest high of your life. For an entire week, you'll be over the moon, you feel as if you can do everything you want, you'll be living life for the fullest...


Why is it just a week, may you ask? Oh, because after a week you're dead. The drug kills you. Taking Death means you get a week of absolute euphoria and then die.


And this book is set in a kind of...well, a kind of society where there are riots and people are getting fed up and angry at the corporations taking their money, and so young people are taking Death and experiencing life like that.


I didn't really follow that part, to be honest. The society didn't seem much different than now and you don't see teenagers taking this drug which will inevitably kill them. But whatever.


It started out great, it really did. Our protagonist - wait, let me just look up his name again - oh I remember now. Adam. 


Adam is a bit of a fuckboy to be honest. He's an ass. He's our main protagonist. He goes with his girlfriend to a party, pressurises her for sex at the end of the night. Of course, she's not impressed and throws it back in his face. He also gets beaten up by a gangster at the party, takes too much of a certain alcoholic substance and has a panic attack (or at least as close to it as our author can muster).


Basically, he's had a shit night and hates himself. So when he gets hold of a load of free Death pills...he takes one.


Pretty bad decision. Pretty stupid. Because for the next week he's on top of the world! He also knows he's going to die after the end of the week.


So he makes a bucket list. Which includes....ah, having sex with multiple women, getting his girlfriend pregnant (because, according to him, he "wants to leave something of himself behind"), killing someone who deserves to die, all these other items...


His girlfriend Lizzie isn't that pleased when she finds him climbing up to her bedroom in Romeo and Juliet style, all suddenly full of energy and confessing that he wants to do all these things. Especially not that he wants to fuck all these other random women. Or get her pregnant.


And she goes along with it anyway.


Christ. I don't know why she does. The whole time, Adam is constantly saying "I love you, Lizzie, I love you" like some kind of mantra. No, really. He never shuts up about it. He says it about 12 times per chapter. (Okay I'm exaggerating here but he says it a hell of a lot.)


Various events unfold throughout the story, including how Adam and Lizzie rob a shop for booze, get drunk (apparently if you're on Death, you need TRIPLE THE NORMAL AMOUNT to get drunk) do some other stupid shit, get arrested, sneak out again, go to another party...


Right, here's the main flaw with the book here. There's a lot of damn sexism going on here.


I'm not talking about the "if a guy's on Death he's automatically going to want to have sex with a load of women". I'm talking more about all the violence directed solely at women throughout the book. One chapter starts with a woman being beaten up. Another chapter has a woman being stabbed on the news live on camera, for the sole purpose of shocking Lizzie. The only female character who doesn't get beaten up, tortured or killed, is his own mother.


Later on, Lizzie is resolved to find the antidote for Death, to cure Adam (even though no sure cure exists). The gangster she met at the party tells on the phone he'll give her an antidote - on the condition that she has sex with him.


She agrees to this without much thought about it at all.




It should be worth mentioning that Adam doesn't even want an antidote at this point - nor is he even WORTH saving, he's such a terrible character - and she's going to allow this gangster to rape her to get an antidote? Which doesn't exist? Seriously?


I'm going to quote from the book here:


"What sort of a bitch would she be to let Adam die, just because of sex? It was the old story. Boys went to the rescue with a gun in their hands, girls with their knickers in their pockets. So which was worse? This way, she thought, at least no one was going to get hurt."


Oh sure, the gangster is just going to rape you and possibly kill you too, no one's going to get hurt. Fucking hell.


Actually, it turns out that he keeps her prisoner and beats her to a pulp - he tries to rape her but can't manage it because he can't get himself up. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be funny or something?


The thing is...the villains in this book are actually pretty comical. They have these running gags and I was sympathetic towards them at first. One of them is insane and has to make medication. Oh, and they kill a guy in a wheelchair too. And beat up women. And may be serial rapists. So I guess they're no longer funny now.


Seriously, don't try to make your villains comic relief - and THEN show that they're mass-murderers, women-beaters and potential rapists. Do one or the other. It doesn't mix!


...Boy, I really started hating the book after that. I skimmed the rest.


If you're wondering about the end, it turns out that the Death pill that Adam took was a fake, and so he's not going to die after all. And some shitty message about how life is precious to you. (Another female character blows herself up, too btw. Because they can't get through one chapter of this damn book without torturing another woman.)


The violence wasn't even very realistic, to be honest. Another gangster comes round to Lizzie's cousin's house and beats her up. Like, breaks all her ribs along one side. Breaks her nose. She should be screaming in agony by this point.


Except she isn't screaming, she's still talking normally as if he only slapped her or something. It's just...badly done. It's like the author wants to see these characters tortured, but can't quite handle the definition of what happens AFTERWARDS.


There's a scene where the gangsters have forced Lizzie to urinate in a potty in front of them, whilst chaining one hand to the bed after they've smashed her face in.


I'll be honest with you here - that just sounds like the author's kink or fetish or something. I mean come on.


Oh, and by the way, Adam still never stops saying "I love you" to her - even AFTER he's had sex with another woman (which he does, the same woman who blows herself up a few chapters later). He also makes it clear to the reader that he fully intends to screw around with more girls behind her back.


This book just makes me angry. It doesn't make sense, the main character is the one who should be tortured for all his shitty actions (not his girlfriend, who almost gets raped), the villains are either highly comical or highly violent against women when the plot needs them to be, the remaining characters aren't great...


And really, what disappoints me is that the premise of this book sounded good at first. It was just executed so poorly. Avoid this please.

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review 2016-10-04 00:11
Prince of Shadows - Rachel Caine

Imagine Romeo and Juliet being written using language that is understandable (as in, not Shakespearean, so that it's easier to read) without losing the classic edge that makes it Shakespeare.

Imagine that it's being written slightly different, expanding Rosalind's character and giving us a greater insight into the lives of the Capulets and the Montagues.

Imagine that Mercutio's character is explored in much greater detail, including themes of homosexuality.


And finally, imagine that the main character is now Benvolio. 

And that he's the Robin Hood of Shakespeare.


This book is what you get if you put all those things together. I was quite impressed with how this author managed it. It incorporates all of the crucial themes from the original play, but also develops all of the otherwise overlooked parts of Romeo and Juliet.


For example, remember Rosalind? Romeo's first "love" before he meets Juliet? In the original play, she's given virtually no character at all - she's just there as a stepping stone to Juliet.


In this book...she's one of the main characters and has a distinct chemistry with Benvolio. She has conflicting responsibilities, an abusive brother, and is a strong female character in her own right. I really enjoyed how she was written.


Here's the extra bits you now get in this book:

- Main character is Benvolio and he's Robin Hood. Literally. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He's the "Prince of Shadows" that the book is named after! That wasn't in the play...

- Romeo is a side character for about half the freaking book. Juliet has barely any lines, but then again Benvolio never really interacts with her.

- Benvolio has the hots for Rosalind. Bet you didn't see that coming.

- Mercutio is now gay and this has real consequences.

- Tybalt is abusive, a woman-beater and a rapist. Actually, many of the men in this book are also rapists - to servant girls mostly. The sexual assault is not explicit, mind you. But it is mentioned.

- Remember how many people die in the original play? Triple that number. This book just ups the ante.


There's a twist near the end, quite cleverly done. Even though it does stick to the play - there's quite a nice surprise which wraps everything together.


Several times in the book, the author actually quotes directly from the play. Such as certain lines spoken by Romeo and Mercutio...and this here I felt was done a bit awkwardly. The author quotes the Shakespearean lines word for word and it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the book. I can see why she would put it in though.


The amount of characters who die is also ridiculous (way more than the original play). As is the ending. I mean, sure, I guess it makes sense in a way?...But everyone just decides "Oh, it's fine, let's go home now" is a bit much.


It's very enjoyable for anyone who's read Romeo and Juliet.


As an added bonus, if you're one of those who was like "Romeo and Juliet wasn't real love! They just had an infatuation!" (which I'm not critciising, btw, it's quite a valid opinion) - then you're in for a treat near the end of the book. It's quite interesting like that.

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review 2016-09-26 22:53
iBoy - Kevin Brooks

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape mention.

(More details below, but the plot of this book does revolve around a rape of one of the main characters. It's not explicit, thankfully, dealing mostly with the aftermath but it is quite evocative.)


When I first saw the premise of this book, I thought it was crazy. Tom is a teenager who was hit on the head by an iPhone. The iPhone hit him from 30 floors up, cracked his skull, and bits of the iPhone were embedded in his brain. He was in a coma for about a fortnight and the surgeons couldn't remove all the pieces of the phone.


The remaining fragments of the iPhone fused with his brain and turned him into a walking iPhone. As in...he can access all the information  by himself. Take pictures. Save them. Use the internet. Anonymously, even. Just by WILLING HIMSELF to do it.


Does that sound absurd? Does it? Because it does to me. He's using his brain as a freaking iPhone? He can just google anything by THINKING it?


That sounds like one of the most amazing things I've ever heard.


Yup, it is in no ways realistic. But wow. What an idea for a book! Definitely a superhero-kind of book.


Now, um...the actual plot of the book. Which is actually very serious and not as funny as a guy who acquired superpowers because he has a phone in his brain...


One of his best friends got gang-raped in her flat, some real nasty stuff. Because this is a Kevin Bowler book, there are gangs in this story. Like lots of them wearing hoods and stuff, not very pleasant people.


So our protagonist decides to use his new-found powers to take revenge, or at least bring them to justice. He can send anonymous phone calls and texts to the police just by THINKING it, he has access to the entire internet, he spends hours at night just staying awake mentally browsing everything and watching all the horrible stuff that goes on online, trying to stop it...


I mean it really does sound incredible.


Oh, by the way - he can take it one step further by electrocuting people with his fingertips. Seriously. Tom can also use the iPhone's enhanced power to zap people!


He also has a force field. Which he can turn on and off at will.


Unfortunately, he only has this power if he's got a decent reception. If he's got no wireless signal, he's just a normal kid. Can you believe this?


The rape in this book was uncomfortable for me. It wasn't even explicit or descriptive - but Tom talks to the victim at length, you see how people treat her, and it's quite sickening. After reading a few chapters of that I wanted to chop off my own genitals. Jesus. I don't have any experience of sexual assault but it did feel realistically written from her point of view.


Was the superpowered-iPhone-boy absolutely ridiculous? Yes. Does it make the book bad? No. I LOVED it. It really hooked me, seriously. I ended up reading it one day. Hence the high rating.


The ending was satisfactory to me too and it was a great book overall. Just the iPhone superpower thing. So silly, lol.




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