Monday, 31 December 2012

Matched by Ally Condie

“Is falling in love with someone's story the same thing as falling in love with the person himself?” 

Cassia lives in a society where everything is determined for you, what you eat, what you wear, where you work and most importantly who you love. At the beginning of the book we meet Cassia who is getting ready to be matched to her life partner. A glitch in system, starts Cassia on a journey of self discovery, she will learn to question everything she thought was right with the society she lives in.

I love the world Condie has created here, the society seems perfect on the surface but once Cassia takes off her 'rose tinted glasses' she see it for what it really is, creepy and sinister. A society that chooses your destiny for you.

Even though the plot was slow, I think that added to the believability of the story line, Cassia has grown up in this world, its what she has been taught to believe, so we go on the journey with her full of indecisiveness  and fear.

I loved the love triangle in this book, again it was believable  which is such an important quality in YA fiction, its often rushed and characters fall in love far too quickly. Cassia loves both Xander and Ky in different ways one is sweet and protective and the other is fierce and strong, Cassia fights with what she knows is right and what her heart is telling her to do. The build up of the chemistry between Cassia and Ky, is slow and steady, they learn to connect over poetry and little by little they learn more about each other.

I think the poetry aspect had to be one of my favourite things from this book, it was so sweet and charming, it was their forbidden fruit.

The ending was incredible. it was heartbreakingly sad and left me aching to find out what was next for Cassia. This book is a definite must for any fans of dystopian novels, don't be put off by its slow pace, its just the start in what I'm sure will be a wonderful series.

Ascend by Amanda Hocking

“Wendy!” Finn shouted pulling me from my moment with Loki. “What are you doing? You’re married. And not to him.” 
“Nothing slips by you does it.” Loki asked.” 

The final book in the Trylle trilogy. After devouring the first two books in this series I was excited to see how Amanda was going to play this out. I have to say I was thoroughly surprised and not at all disappointed, there were plenty of twists and turns that I didn't see coming and I was left guessing until the final pages.

A war on the horizon and a wedding to plan, so much happened in this book and my opinion changed on so many characters. Wendy has changed drastically since the first book, she finally learns what is it to be a Queen, she stands up for what she believes in, she finally takes charge and shows fierce strength and amazing loyalty. With her people arguing amongst themselves and trying to over throw her, Wendy does not back down. A completely different person to the first novel. I also loved how we saw the relationship build between Elora and Wendy, Elora showed that she really does love Wendy and towards the end it did get very emotional. Again the support cast where superb, you really felt for them and I loved that Hocking tied up all the sub plots at the end, you weren't left wondering what happened to anyone.

This book is full of emotion and courage. A wonderful ending to a fantastic series, that has definitely made me want to read more work by Amanda Hocking. 

Torn by Amanda Hocking

“Right then, it didn't matter what his reasons were. All I knew that I was sick of him breaking my heart.” 

The second instalment in the Trylle trilogy, is face paced with lots of twists and turns. After the events of switched Wendy has returned home with Rhys to her brother Matt, but this doesn't last long with her (true) families enemies looking for her, Wendy is soon captured and imprisoned by them. I won't say much more than that because I don't want to spoil the plot.

I really enjoyed this book, there was a lot more world building and character development. We get to learn more about the Trylle history and politics and why everyone is depending on Wendy to be a great queen. Its full of twists and turns and plenty of emotional moments.

Wendy really grew on me in this book instead of seeming so passive and letting everything revolve around Finn she finally stood up for herself and had to make some tough decisions and a lot of sacrifices. We also got to see a lot more of Elora and finally find out why she seems so cold and disant. The characters seemed to come alive more in this book, and we see that there is perhaps a lot more to them then we first thought. Plus there are a few new characters who really steal the show, Duncan Wendy's new tracker, is funny and sweet and makes for some real comical moments and Loki, her new love interest, well he is the mysterious bad boy, with a dark past but a sweet soul. I really fell for him. I like that he is more of a support for Wendy instead of telling her what to do.

Overall this book was sweet and enchanting, it really captures your imagination. You can feel the emotions of the characters and the weight of the decisions they have to make. It's definitely got me reaching for the final instalment.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

“We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colours went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn't fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.” 

The Virgin Suicides is the dark and mysterious tale of the five Lisbon sisters who through the course of a year all commit suicide. It's definitely a hard subject to get to grips with, suicide and depression especially with teenagers has always seemed like such a taboo subject but the author does it brilliantly, creating a haunting atmosphere that really sucks you in.  There is very little dialogue in the book, its more of a retelling of the girls lives through the eyes of the boys that adored them.

The book showed the effects on suicide not just with the girls and their family but with the boys, who are now men and they still haven't gotten over what happened that year, constantly searching for answers as to why the girls did what they did or what they could have done to change it. However the reason behind the suicides is somewhat irrelevant, its more about their lives in the often moody and oppressive suburbs.  

Its a beautiful yet haunting story that will stay with you long after you put it down. It's hard to actually put into words how this book left me feeling, just that you must read it.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Switched by Amanda Hocking

“Did you think you could treat me like shit at a dance, then sneak into my room in the middle of the night and tell me that I'm a troll with magical powers, and I'd just be like, yeah, that sounds right.”

A book that is instantly engaging, with characters that are witty and easy to like. A new idea is hard to find   in the YA category so I wasn't pleasantly surprised when I found this one involving trolls (or trylle), yes trolls. Such a novel idea that works really well and allows it to stand apart from other books out there. Amanda Hocking has developed a well thought out mythology that lets you understand this new world.

This is a book full of adventure, fantasy and of course romance. It has good pace and the potential for good character development. I've seen mixed reviews on the leading character Wendy but I really liked her, she had a strong personality and didn't let people push her about and Finn, well I liked him but didn't love him, he had that creepy, over-protective vibe going on, which I'm fed up of now. 

Switched was a great introduction to the trylle world, it set up the characters and the mythology of this world. This series definitely has potential and I can't wait to read the next one.

Beautiful Creature by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

“Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

This was one of those books I didn't do much research into before reading it and I'm glad I didn't as I've seen so many mixed reviews that it probably would have put me off reading it.

Beautiful creatures is a dark, gothic romance set in South Carolina. It's full of mystery and intrigue, the idea of casters (witches and warlocks) becoming either light or dark really interested me, especially since Lena's family don't get to choose. What made this book even more interesting was that it was written from the perspective of Ethan, a boy which is highly unusual for a YA book but I felt added something new and fresh to the mix of girly angst. However this book is not without its angst, the will they or wont they overcome all of these obstacles in front of them, very dramatic at times but it does make for entertaining reading.

I loved the civil war aspects of the book and the flash back to both Ethan and Leans ancestors, it seems they really are destined to be together. Surprisingly my favourite characters came from the support cast, I thought Macon and Amma stole the book for me, their fierce protectiveness and sometimes comical attitudes to each other, created a contrast to the very darkness of Ethan and Lena's love.

I thought that the writing was beautiful and it didn't feel like it came from two authors, they created a believable world that is easy to visual with lovely magical quality to it. It's unlike anything I've read before in this genre.

The only downside to it is the length, there is no real pace to the book until the end, which leaves a lot of repetition and stale moments, where nothing is really happening. I think if it would have had slightly more editing, this would have been a fantastic read.

I'd definitely recommend reading this for any fantasy lover and before the film comes out.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” 

This is one of those books you just have to read, set in a dystopian future where fireman create fires to burn books. Its written from the perspective of one of these fireman Guy Montag , who after years of burning books meets a girl who questions life instead of just asking 'how' she asks 'why'. This sets guy on a journey of self discovery and the eventual end of his life as he knows it. 

Bradbury has said that this is not a book on censorship rather a harsh look at the reality of society. A society in which we would much rather communicate via social media then leave the house for any real interactions. As stated in the book it is not the government that bans books rather society themselves stop caring.

I absolutely loved this book, I found it rather dark and haunting especially the vivid scene of the woman burning with her books. This is a society where everyone thinks they are 'happy' but where suicide is a common occurrence that makes no one think twice. 

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon

“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.” 

'Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the colour yellow.'

Both a heartbreaking and charming insight into the life of Christopher and young boy with aspergers syndrome. Christopher is investigating the death of his neighbours dog and during the course of this investigation discovers some hidden truths about his own life. 

I don't want to say too much about this book because I don't want to spoil the plot, I loved this book, its such a unique and sad story, beautifully written you really get a in-depth look at what its like to be Christopher and how hard is it when people don't understand you. I love his musing about life and what it would be like to be the only person left on the planet. The one thing that really stood out to me though was how most of us have qualities of Christopher  we all know people who have slightly OCD tendencies or even those that aren't very affectionate. Perhaps the message we should take from this is that we aren't so different after all.

I'll leave you on one final thought from Christopher

“I want my name to mean me.” 

Iron King by Julie Kagawa

“I licked my lips and whispered, "Is this where you say you'll kill me?" 
One corner of his lips curled. "If you like," he murmured, a flicker of amusement finally crossing his face. "Though it's gotten far too interesting for that.” 

At first glance Iron King seems to be your typical fairy book with a Shakespearean esq sub-plot but alas not all is at it seems. It's a mixture of traditional fairy tale, steam punk and a whole lot of action. The story is narrated from Meghans perspective, her voice was refreshing and believable. I found this book such a joy to read, Julie really manages to transport you to the 'nevernever' without overloading you with information. Her descriptive technique was beautiful and the characters were all engaging and funny.

Of course there was a love interest but this wasn't the main plot line which again I thought was such as change to typical YA, you can feel the chemistry building between the Meghan and Ash but it never overwhelms what's going on around them.

Overall I would say this is such a beautiful story, with quirky characters and wicked fey. 

I've been recommending this to everyone, so go and pick up a copy.

War of the Worlds by H.G Wells

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own."

First published in 1898 the War of the World's was the first novel of its kind to consider an invasion from another planet. Many other's have followed but non that use the imagination and impressive scientific knowledge of Wells. The plot is simple yet extremely tense, the Martians invasion is brutal, cold and calculating.

What starts off as humanity trying to discover what these mysterious objects are soon results in a struggle for survival. Wells brilliantly points out that humans so often see themselves as 'Kings' with no thought to those they see as lower then themselves, well what if the tables were reserved and humans were seen as lesser beings that needed to be terminated?

Its a brilliantly written book, way ahead of its time, completely engrossing and exciting. A must read for any sci-fi fan.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Stolen by Kelly Armstrong

“Using supernatural beings to build the perfect weapon? Intriguing idea."

"Not really," I said. "They did it on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A sub-par season. I slept through half the episodes.” 

Stolen is the second book in the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. 

Stolen follows the story of Elena Michaels who we first met in Bitten. Elena is a werewolf sent to investigate someone selling information on ‘werewolves’, however she finds her contacts to instead be witches who want to warn her about an organisation capturing supernatural species, such as witches, vampires, half-demons, shamans and werewolves to experiment on them.

The story was intense, dark and packed with a lot of gruesome scenes, death, torture, sadism. Elena goes through a lot in this book and what makes the darkness easier to read is Elena’s calm attitude throughout that somehow she will survive this. During her captivity we get to see a glimpse into her past and a little understanding as to why she is so scared to give herself fully to Clay.

I felt like there were some gaps in the story, certain things could have been explained better and at some points I think it lacks emotion that would have been expected and even though we do see a vulnerable side to Elena during her captivity I would have liked to see her reaction to when she gets out but it’s a little glossed over. Also it’s a little bit slow to start whilst you are getting introduced to everyone. Saying this I can understand that as it’s only the second book in a long series and a lot of the characters you meet here have their own stories to tell.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading the next. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes paranormal/supernatural stories.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

“People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us... It's people who claim that they're good, or any way better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.”

'Elphaba is not evil, but a compelling and honest character.' 

This is a very challenging read, if you are expecting the musical think again. It’s a re-working of Baum’s original tale of Oz, 
telling the story of the life of the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s an incredibly complex tale and deals with many different themes, humanity, religion, politics, family, friendship, good vs evil etc. The beauty of this story is that it teaches us that not everything is as it first appears.

One problem with this book that has been pointed out many times is the jumpiness from theme to theme. As I said before it’s a hard read with a lot of complicated plot lines it’s not the fairy tale Oz we read as a child. Not everything is explained in the book and I know some people need the answers to everything in life and want their books to package everything up in a neat little bow but that’s not how life works. There are times in her life that Elphaba doesn’t remember so we don’t either. We see the world how she sees it. Corrupt, confusing and unfair.

Wicked is an adult read, it’s funny, smart and a little bit dirty.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

“The brain controls pain. It controls fear. Sleep. Empathy. Hunger. Everything we associate with the heart or the soul or the nervous system is actually controlled by the brain. Everything. What if you could control it?” 

There isn't much I can say without giving the storyline away. Set in the mid 1950’s on a secluded island only accessible by a ferry boat, and housing a mental institution for the criminally insane, shutter island follows the story of Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck as they investigate the disappearance of a patient but uncover much darker secrets that the hospital are trying to hide. It’s a fast paced story with exciting and well developed characters and a twist that will leave you speechless. Easy to get lost in but hard to put down, definitely a read any mystery fan would enjoy.

Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

"So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."

We can all find a little bit of ourselves in the protagonist Charlie, at first I didn't know if I’d be able to relate to Charlie, he is a fifteen year old boy who has had to deal with a lot of tragedy in his life but throughout this book he would say something about how he was feeling and I’d find myself remembering a time when I've felt that way too. Sometimes I’d find myself shocked at the topics Charlie would discuss as I thought them very mature for a fifteen year old boy, such as rape, sex and drugs but overall I didn't find that they were the themes I took away from it. 

“Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense.”

Charlie is a ‘wallflower’ trying to find his way in the world with the help of the people he meets, he is a social outcast who has always observed the world from the outside, which I found I could relate to. It isn’t until the end that we find out the real reasons behind Charlie’s behaviour and it’s a twist I found rather disturbing. 

This book will transcend time and it’s something that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.” 

It is both moving and sinister from the start. The acceptance from the characters of their fate, is heart-breaking they know what their lives are for and that makes it heart-breaking. It is definitely something that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

It is written in the first person by a female narrative, who slowly reveals in reminisces the predicament her and her friends are in. By receiving the information this way, we the reader are left wanting to know more. It's as if we learn it the same way Kathy and her friends would have during their school years, just being told a little bit at a time.

One thing I really loved about this book was how Ishiguro covered relationships and memories. In life our relationships with those we love change and eventually like Kathy we have to accept this and learn to grow. Key moments in life always come back to us, they never seem to be that important when they happen but maybe later in life we can look back at them with fresh eyes just like Kathy.

Some may say these characters are 'two dimensional' but I just don't see that, these are emotionally damaged young people, who've been bought up in constant confinement. They never learn how to grow and even though I've said it before it chilled me how they just accept their fate, that one day they will 'complete'.

I won't say much else, just that you must read this book!

Crossed by Ally Condie

“Everyone has something of beauty about them.” 

After finishing matched last year I was really excited to read crossed (the second book of the trilogy), we join Cassia and Ky a few months after the ending of matched and watch them fight to be reunited. I really liked that the chapters alternated between Cassia and Ky and felt that we got to see more of who Ky is and how he came to join the Markhems. One thing I would say though is that I didn't feel like there was much distinction between the two voices, sometimes you had to double check whose chapter you were reading as they tended to blend into one. I'm undecided about whether I liked Cassia in this book, she didn't seem to be as 'kick-ass' as the first book and, I think I wanted her to be more but it seemed the new characters Eli and Indie out-shined her.

A lot of people don't think much happened in this book, but I couldn't disagree more, yes the pace is a little slower then that of matched but so many small clues were dropped and we got to learn a lot more about the society and the mysterious 'enemy'. The second book in a trilogy can always be a little slower, much more ground has to be covered in order to set up a fantastic finale and that's what I think Condie has done here.