Thursday, 15 September 2016

Brianna Reviews // Dark Forces by Stephen Leather

Published: 28th July 2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Kindle
Synopsis: A violent South London gang will be destroyed if Dan 'Spider' Shepherd can gather enough evidence against them while posing as a ruthless hitman. What he doesn't know is that his work as an undercover agent for MI5 is about to intersect with the biggest terrorist operation ever carried out on British soil. Only weeks before Shepherd witnessed a highly skilled IS sniper escape from a targeted missile strike in Syria. But never in his wildest dreams did he expect to next come across the shooter in a grimy East London flat. Spider's going to have to proceed with extreme caution if he is to prevent the death of hundreds of people, but at the same time, when the crucial moment comes he will have to act decisively. The clock is ticking and only he stands between us and Armageddon....

I think this was probably my least favourite book of the series. It almost felt to me as if it was missing the beginning.  I felt like I was waiting the entire book for the assassin and Spiders path’s to cross with everything else just being filler, I felt barely any interest with the O’Neill’s case I didn’t care if Spider got enough evidence or not, it’s like the unrelated case the books normally started with continued throughout the whole thing. Without going through the process of Spider being given the case and infiltrating the gang, I just wasn’t invested in the outcome.

I still hate Jeremy, which probably doesn’t help things – there was a lot of him in this book. And yet again in this series Stephen Leather has forgotten what he wrote in only the book directly before this one. In Black Ops Spider turned up at Jeremy’s house to tell him he wasn’t going to help make a case against Charlie. While there Spider named Jeremy’s Wife Emily and his kids, Jane and Joshua… but it seems that Spider has had a blow to the head that has affected his eidetic memory because he asks Jeremy if he has Kids, and admits that he knows next to nothing about his new boss. To make it worse Jeremy says he never had the time or inclination making Spider wonder if he was gay… oh and it sort of seems like Liam is still in Private school… when I swear he got kicked out over the whole drugs thing? These things along with small things which could be perfectly explainable – such as Spider not telling the truth, such as who shot him or how he got his nickname – is what makes me believe that the explanation we get from Spider is a fix to the problem rather than what was originally intended. Spider about how killing people as a sniper didn’t feel real, that he told himself it was kill or be killed because they could kill him another day and that he had re-evaluated how he felt after two guys he knew were killed by snipers and that he is ashamed of that part of his past which all sounds plausible in fact I had already thought that that could be the answer to it all. One small problem… it’s close but it still doesn’t add up. Because in this new conversation Caroline knows that he was a sniper, yet a couple of books ago he told her he could never be a sniper – I doubt that is a contradiction the Psychologist would let pass without remark. But don't get me wrong I'm glad it has been corrected.

I’m also not a fan of the way Liam and Katra were just sort of tossed into the story line and Katra? Where the hell did that come from, Spider has never once even remotely seemed interested in her. However I did like the reappearance of both Razor and Caroline Stockmann.

I got the feeling while reading it that this is the last Spider book, I can’t explain why, it’s just the vibe I picked up from it. I hope it’s not because despite the issues I have with it I do really like them.  I hope we get more if only so the series can end with a better book than this one, after so many good books it deserves a good one end with

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Brianna's summary of the Dan Shepherd series by Stephen Leather

WARNING: As a summary of 2-12 this WILL I repeat WILL contain spoilers (I will try to keep them minimal but you have been warned).

Okay so I thought I would talk about this series as a whole not because I don’t remember the individual story lines, because for the most part I have more to say when talking about the series as a whole than I have to say about the individual books. The individual books are:

#2 Soft Target
#3 Cold Kill
#4 Hot Blood
#5 Dead Men
#6 Live Fire
#7 Rough Justice
#8 Fair Game
#9 False Friends
#10 True Colours
#11 White Lies
#12 Black Ops
And #13 Dark Forces is lucky enough to get its own review here.

(I have also read the short stories and although I’m not including them in this review/summary they may get referenced)

Firstly I’d like to say how much really like this series and I have to admit that I have read all except Dark Forces twice as I re-read the series. Since finishing the 1st one Hard Landing I was literally buying the next in the series as soon as I had turned the last page of the book (which makes me equally love and hate amazon) which the exception of Black Ops and Dark Forces since they weren’t avalible.
While I’ve mentioned the last page, not really to do with the series but, the later books have a quote at the end which I really like:
“In the best books, the ending often comes as a shock. Not just because of that one last twist in the tale but because you have been so absorbed in their world, that coming back to the harsh light of reality is a jolt.”

One of my favourite things about the series is that apart from False Friends, Black Ops and Dark Forces the books start with Spider already working a case which is about to end, and just like in Hard Landing we are not told which one is Spider, although Stephen Leather gives hints which help to work out who Spider is, in cold kill one of the sailors is drinking Jamesons which we all know is Spider’s drink. I have to admit there was one or two where I wasn’t entirely sure until it was revealed.

Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd – Spider is quite contradictory, he often appears to not particularly like his job a lot of the time, either because of it keeping him away from Liam, waiting around or quite simply because he doesn’t like lying to people with the sole purpose of betraying them, there are a few time while reading the series that I have wondered why he still does it – the answer to that I think leads to contradiction No.2.
Spider has a fairly strong moral code (supposedly) and he likes fairness which I guess is partly why he doesn’t like lying to targets. Spider is happy to do most things including killing people if he feels the law is on his side or if the situation is kill or be killed, but as the series goes on and he progresses through his career he becomes darker and his moral code becomes a little fuzzy and in my opinion he crosses his own line. He is involved in abduction a man and threatening information out of him, holding an innocent family hostage, planning a murder (which only really went as far as abduction), helping to plan and cover up a double murder and finally killing someone – all outside of his job.  In fairness he was uncomfortable doing the first two in that list, but he didn’t think twice about the rest.

The other characters in the series are a lot more consistent although most of them except Razor aren’t pretending to be other people and they don’t seem to change much over the course of the series.
I have a bit of a soft spot for Razor even though he’s grumpy and borderline racist (although like Spider I don’t think he truly is… for the most part…) and I like the fact that even when he and Spider don’t work together he still makes an appearance, I think he is probably the closest thing to a friend that Spider has, even though I agree with Razor, and I don’t think Razor has ever actually met Dan Shepherd I don’t think anyone other than, the SAS boys have, I think Button was close but not close enough.
On the other side, I hate Jeremy Willoughby-Brown from almost the moment we met him – I don’t think he has a single redeeming quality.

Now despite my love of this series I have a few issues…  

Snipers anyone? – Spider has an eidetic memory, it’s hard to forget as we are reminded of this a little too often for my liking, and by the looks of it both me and Spider have better memories than Stephen Leather. Shepherd mentions I think in the first book that he has never killed anyone outside of a ‘kill or be killed’ situation, which is fair enough at this point it makes sense, he also mentions in Live Fire that he has no respect for snipers and that they don’t fight like real men at this point it is just Spider’s internal monologue and then in Fair Game while talking to Caroline Stockmann he tells her that he could never be a sniper and in the same book he tell Major Gannon that he hates snipers… His views seem pretty clear don’t they?
Then along comes True Colours and we find out that Spider was a sniper (and in the short stories you get to see him being a sniper) the minute I read this my brain popped up going ‘hang on… he hates snipers’ in the course of reading the series the first time around I came up with an alternative solution to this just being a mistake on Stephen Leathers behalf; Maybe Spider is lying to himself, maybe being shot by a sniper changed his mind because surely Stephen Leather couldn’t forget how little Spider thinks of snipers. However when I re-read them it firstly just made me really angry I hate it when authors forget stuff (which is ironic because I have a terrible memory) but the other thing that became apparent to me was that my theory on him lying to himself just wasn’t adding up, it wasn’t just the sniper comments it was the other comments about people and situations in which he’d killed. However thankfully for my sanity this problem has since been resolved in Dark Forces, you can see what I think of the resolution in my review for it.

Who? – My second issue is Stephen Leathers name switching – I can’t keep up with who is who… if at all possible can we stick to one name per character? He refers to all characters by their surname (except Liam and Katra) which is fine for Spider, Razor, Button etc. we know them I can keep up, but when everyone else referred to by their surname in description yet in the same scene everyone is referring to them by first name or even a nickname it’s sometimes hard to keep up. It might just be me but once I know someone by one name it’s hard to start calling them something else.

Catchphrase – This one might just be me… but I have noticed that throughout the whole series the same expressions and phrases will be used by multiple character, and I know that that can happen, it’s just with there being so many phrases that mean the same thing I find it hard to believe that everyone would use the exact same phrase, and even going so far as multiple character usung exactly the same word to describe Charlotte Button, that doesn't just happen. I might just be nit picking but I noticed it straight away and it bugged me.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Caragh Reviews // Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Published - 4th June 2015
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - When he's sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may as well be over. But when he meets Sadie and her friends - a group of eccentric troublemakers - he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn't have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure.

Anyone who has read this blog before or have spoken to me at all will already know how much I love a bloody good cry at a book. So with that in mind, when I read about this book I was SO excited about it albeit a little annoyed that I hadn't heard of it sooner. I read Schneider's first book a long time ago and absolutely loved it and had very little doubts about picking up Extraordinary Means and devouring it in one sitting.

Another thing you may or may not know about me is that I have an incurable autoimmune disease myself. Though I didn't expect to have many similarities with the characters in the book, there were a few things that made me smile. I can't remember the one specific line i'm referring to at the moment so when I get home i'll edit this and post it here ************).

I loved the idea of Latham House. I don't mean it's a good idea to lock up all the infectious kids and hope for the best. I mean that being surrounded by people who understand what you're going through, really understand, sounds like an absolute luxury. Other than on the internet, I've met 2 people who have the same condition as I (we're pretty rare species!) and neither of them are really that similar to me. I couldn't help but wonder what that would be like, to know that when I complain of tiredness the automatic response wouldn't be relating to sleep. The whole idea of TDR-TB, Lathan House and these kids suffering, away from everything they have ever known without much hope is sad and heartwrenching. Or at least the logical side of my brain knows that. I hate that i'm saying this again but honestly, the writing didn't make me feel like that at all. I'm starting to think it's me that's the problem.

Extraordinary Means should have been ripe with emotion and pain but it didn't feel that way whilst reading it. No spoilers, but of course people died during the course of this book. I felt it coming and I went through the motions of 'Oh isn't this sad' my core it was The main character wasn't interesting beyond his condition. The love interests in the story were so predictable and banal that my heart wasn't really in it from start to end. The most interesting character (I wish I could say their name without spoilering) never really got any plot time until it was basically too late and that made me mad. I wanted to save them but because the story was so focused on Lane and Sadie, there was just no time to develop any other characters. It's sad, really.

Maybe in the future i'll give this one a reread because i'm genuinely interested to see if/how my thoughts and feelings change. This was a book I should have loved but didn't. Don't get me wrong, it was good. It was fine. It just wasn't the explosive writing that I was expecting. I definitely feel like I expect too much from books at the moment and so yeah, maybe the mood i'm in has had an impact on my reaction to the book. I guess only time will tell.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Caragh Reviews // Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne *SPOILERS*

Published - 31st July 2016
Publisher -  Little Brown UK
Format - Hardcover
Synopsis - It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Aside from being incredibly lazy, i've been putting off this review for what feels like forever to be honest. Much like all of you, HP has been in my life for a LONG time and in my heart I always knew that whatever came after, would never be good enough. So why am I still so disappointed with Cursed Child?

First off, I am 100% aware that it's a script and not a book. I knew what I was getting myself into and that really has no effect on my enjoyment of the book. I enjoy reading plays/scripts and my wildly active imagination works well with stage directions. Secondly, the writing style in general was actually pretty great. Considering JK didn't write this book, it still felt like part of the HP world. Harry still felt like Harry, at least most of the time. 

My FAVOURITE aspect of Cursed Child was and always will be Scorpius Malfoy. I'm pretty sure if someone handed me a 12 book series that just focused on Scorpius living his every day life, I would still read it and still love it with a fury like you wouldn't believe. However, there's just a LOT that I want to burn from my memory. Kayley Hyde's review (Kayley's Goodreads) of Cursed Child on Goodreads said the following:

'It sits beside my beloved Harry Potter books, but not with them.'

To give some context, Kayley wrote this positively but I have to disagree. Cursed Child is now and forevermore part of the HP Universe but for me, it's a really really far off connection. Like, next to the quiz books and fact books and not sharing the same space as 1-7. That being said, i'll move on.


The absolute first thing I HAVE to talk about - Delphi. What the $%^&? This is batshit crazy and I'm looking for someone to correct me on the timeline of events. Right before the Battle of Hogwarts, Bellatrix Lestrange gave birth to a daughter. Voldemort's daughter. In Malfoy Manor. Are you kidding me? How was Bellatrix fully capable of running around chasing down the trio whilst HEAVILY pregnant? If Hermione used Polyjuice to mirror Bellatrix to get into the vault -would she not have also been mirroring Bellatrix's pregnant? Would Hermione reeeeeally not notice being pregnant? It just doesn't make sense to me at all.

Despite Ron and Hermione being in love no matter what timeline they're kicked into, it appears that the only love that was ever really meant to be, was that of Draco and Astoria. Albus and Scorpius mess with time SO MUCH that at one point, Albus never even exists. Rose doesn't exist. Scorpius though? There's just no stopping him it would seem. 

Who even IS the Cursed Child? Is it Delphi? Is she cursed as she's Voldemort's daughter and is destined to take the path that she does? Is it Scorpius, who has spent 11+ years being constantly scorned by the wizarding world? Is his existence the curse? Is it Albus? Forever cursed for being Harry Potter's least spectacular child? The only Potter to become a Slytherin? Or, is it still Harry himself? Still facing his dramatic past even as an adult? I know a lot of people really enjoy the mystery (Half Blood Prince, anyone?) but honestly, it pisses me off. This whole 'Nineteen Years Later' thing was supposed to end the questions, not open up the whole damn universe again.

I just.... I just don't get it. I am happy to admit that whilst actually reading the book, it was a weird happy nostalgia. I turned pages, I read words and it was fine. The long lasting after effects though are hanging around. Moving on to the most frustrating part of the whole thing....

'It's supposed to be SEEN, it's a PLAY!'

If that is what you're thinking, then you may as well click off the page now. I started this post saying that I am aware it's a play. But you know what? If you can only appreciate The Cursed Child by seeing it on the stage - don't print the damn script for the world to read. If the only way a Harry Potter fan can experience the Cursed Child as intended is to watch the play, DON'T PRINT THE DAMN SCRIPT. Harry Potter was written for a young audience, despite the massive impact it had on adults around the world. JK Rowling was benefit receiving mother with mental health problems when she wrote Harry Potter. So please explain to me why Harry Potter and The Cursed Child tickets go up to £140 PER TICKET, not including travel and hotel expenses for the millions of people who don't live in London. It's completely infuriating to me. I'm sorry that despite having a great job that pays well, I can't afford to go and see it but that doesn't mean that my feelings on the script are not worthwhile. Every opinion is worthwhile.

Well, I think that's probably all I need to say. The Cursed Child is out in the world and regardless of opinions, I'm glad that the HP community is still alive and that Hogwarts will always connect us, one way or another!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Charity Book Sale

Before I write the whole post, I can't name the company that I work for and so some of the pictures have had to be edited but I can say that the Charity we donate to in  is North Clwyd Animal Rescue (link here: Ncar).

I've said a few times that I work for a major UK based company and whilst that has many ups and downs, one of the big positives of working there is the work that we're able to do as a company to help local charities. The charity team in our office are always looking for new fun ways to collect money and come up with great events for everyone to take part in. I don't really blog about these because it's not really relevent to what we do here on Loaded Shelves, however, the charity event for September is a Book Sale!

I'm blogging about this for a few reasons. One is because I happily came up with the suggestion, but others are to highlight how simple it can be to collect a few donations for a charity and more relevant to the blog - it's all about the books! Throughout September, staff in my office are encouraged to bring in any unwanted books and they will go on sale for 50p each. Any books left at the end of the month along with ALL profits, will be taken directly to the NCAR charity shop so that they can benefit from any further profits.

I love love love this idea! Brianna and I (whom also works in the same office!) weren't too optimistic about being successful in the book sale as it completely relied on both the generosity of others in the office (and being able to part with precious books) but also on people wanting to buy an array of second hand books whilst at work in a busy office). I am happy to say though that so far it's been completely wonderful. There's an energy in the air that I could never have expected. It got people talking about books in general, sharing their favourite book titles and taking up the opportunity to get some good deals. My boss bought SIX books just in one day! Of course, we have to remember that it's for a great charity and so people are always more willing to spend money but it's had such a positive effect that I absolutely had to talk about it.

One of my favourite things about the book sale is seeing the types of books that people enjoy reading. Though the office is a friendly one and we overshare WAY too much with the people we work with 8 hours a day for 5 days a week - strangely books have never really been a topical subject.

I worked over time on Saturday morning and instead of the early morning grumbles, people were still talking about the book sale! It's brightened up the whole week and, on a personal note, has cleared a LOT of space on an overcrowded bookshelf ;) I'm really looking forward to seeing if it continues throughout the month and i'll let you all know how much money is raised at the end of September.

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