Thursday, 29 December 2011

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I get why so many people adore this series, but at the same time, I don’t – everything feels very ‘samey’ like I’ve read it somewhere before and Clare has just poorly borrowed from the idea, which makes more sense when you discover that she was a fan fiction writer before she became published, and then when you discover she mainly wrote about Harry Potter, the similarities become striking – the Mortal Instruments are the Deathly Hallows, mundane are muggles, Valentine is Voldemort, Clary is Ginny – and so on and so forth…

Clare’s writing isn’t awful, but nor is it brilliant, and she makes far too much use of awfully pointless similes. Parts of the story were fairly interesting, but even the action scenes weren’t anything exciting, and I never felt worried for our protagonists, who themselves were pretty interesting, unlike most YA characters these days, but I still had issues with them, and they were still annoying – for some reason, all the boys were in love in our supposedly ugly Mary Sue protagonist Clary. And the random Luke-point-of-view chapter was so confusing, for me at least.

The quote from Stephanie Meyer on my cover didn’t particularly endeavour me to want to read either. I feel that City of Bones was way too long for what it was – we didn’t need the information dumps that we got about the details of the Shadowhunters and their world, and pointless dialog scenes. There was a very rushed romance and an-ever-so-slightly clichéd plot, although I did like the twists.

Despite all of this, it was a fun read, and I’ll be looking to pick up the sequel, City of Ashes, sometime soon as I’m very curious where the story will head, and I can definitely see potential here.

[SYNOPSIS: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder - much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing - not even a smear of blood - to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? 

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know.... ]

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman


I loved Noughts and Crosses a lot, so I was very much anticipating the sequel, Knife Edge. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did its predecessor, but it was still an excellent story nonetheless. This time we focus on Sephy and Jude, Callum’s older brother. Jude is on the run for being a member of the Liberation Militia whilst Sephy is struggling to cope following the birth of her and Callum’s child, Callie Rose; Sephy discovers something that shakes her world whilst Jude lets his heart rule his mind with consequences that will once again link the two…

Blackman has a way of writing so that you are literally inseparable from her words, no matter the actual plot; it was a bit slow and non-eventful in places, but I was still gripped. I had a few more niggles with Knife Edge than I did Noughts and Crosses – I didn’t really like the colour associations at start of each section or the song lyrics, although I did like newspaper snippets. It was refreshing to find the points of view being genuinely different, unlike some other novels I could name, and each character is really well developed and unique, which was something else refreshing to encounter.

The plot was very good, with a few nice twists, but I felt it lacked a bit of the intensity that we saw in Noughts and Crosses, and it doesn’t quite have the same impact, and is a lot bleaker; perhaps though it is suffering from ‘Middle Book Syndrome’ to set up for the final two books, which I’m sure will continue the brilliance.

Blackman superbly carries on her Noughts and Crosses series, and I highly recommend you start reading this brilliant, powerful and thought-provoking series it if you haven’t already – I cannot wait to read Checkmate!
[SYNOPSIS: Sephy is a Cross, one of the privileged in a society where the ruling Crosses treat the pale-skinned noughts as inferiors. But her baby daughter has a nought father - Callum. Eaten up with bitterness, Callum's brother Jude, blames Sephy for the terrible losses his family has suffered. Now Jude's life rests on a knife edge. Will Sephy be forced, once again, to take sides?]

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Junk by Melvin Burgess

NOTE: I believe this is also called ‘Smack’ – both titles are slang for heroin

Tar and Gemma are young teenagers who run away together; Tar has a reason, Gemma doesn’t – Gemma is bored of her life at home and sick of her parents, whereas Tar’s dad regularly beats him. They become squatters, and meet up with other runaways who introduce them to drugs; they are soon addicted, especially to heroin, and end up doing awful things like stealing and prostitution to fund their addiction. But whilst it is the central focus, this novel isn’t really about that; it’s about growing up – struggling and evolving as a person, or at least that’s how I interpreted it.

Take Gemma for instance – at the beginning of the novel she was an annoying and selfish character who was immensely dislikeable, but by the end she had subtly changed into a much better person. The novel was written in the nineties, but set in the eighties and still manages to feel as though it is in the present-day, which shows that this is an ongoing problem, and I like the messages that the book holds.

I felt that there were too many points of views, some of which were hard to keep track of, although they did provide a good insight into character’s heads, and each one was unique. I wasn’t too keen on Burgess’ writing style – it was easy to get into, but a bit jarring at times.

 It’s very bleak, realistic and hard to read some of the time, as well as being one of the grittiest books I’ve read, as Burgess doesn’t shy away from anything, and although it isn’t my kind of book (the reason why I’ve rated it lowly), I can see a number of people enjoying this powerful read.

[SYNOPSIS: Junk = heroin = bliss = despair = a love story you’ll never forget.

Gemma wants to fly. But no one can fly forever. One day, somehow, finally, you have to come down.
An uncompromising, compelling and true-to-life story of two teenagers drawn into the dangerous and destructive world of heroin addiction.]

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

          Morois are vampires who have to be protected from evil vampires – Strigoi – by half-vampire, half-human Dhampirs. Lissa is not only a Moroi, but a member of the elite royalty and as a vampire princess, it is very important that she be protected; it is lucky that her best friend is Rose Hathaway, a brave and able Dhampir. They both attend St Vladimir’s Academy where they are trained in various subjects – trouble is, they aren’t much taught how to avoid ruthless students, and which may turn out to be a fatal mistake for Lissa…

                Vampire Academy was really different to most books of the vampire genre and I especially liked the spin regarding the Dhampirs, Strigois and Morois. Our heroine, Rose, is sassy and likeable – qualities that you don’t often find in YA protagonists, let alone YA books – although she is selfish, arrogant and irritating, especially when she meddled in Lissa’s life. I found her to be the only interesting character in the entire book as every other character was pretty bland and predictable.

                Mead knows how to keep you hooked by teasing you with information, like the girls running away, and not reveal the reasons until near the end, though I do feel that a number of pages could have been cut out as there wasn’t much of a plot to write home about, and it was pretty predictable. The writing was pretty average, but something about it made you want to write on – it was simplistic in a good way. I enjoyed Vampire Academy – despite its flaws and lack of impact on me (hence the relatively short review), it was a great read.

[SYNOPSIS: St Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school - hidden away, it's a place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St Vladimir's where the girls must survive a world of forbidden romances, a ruthless social scene and terrifying night time rituals. But most of all, staying alive.]

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice lives in a world divided by factions which hold certain traits of character highly – there’s Abegnation (selflessness), Amnity (peace), Dauntless (courage), Erudite (knowledge) and Candor (honesty). When you are 16, you are subject to a test determining which faction you should be in for life, although you still have the final choice in the Choosing Ceremony, which tends to be the one you grew up in. Beatrice’s results, however, are unusual – dangerous, even – she is labelled Divergent, as she fits into more than one faction.

Divergent sat in my To Be Read pile for months before I finally picked it up. Why? I assumed it couldn’t possibly be as mindblowingly amazing as everyone was making out, and didn’t want to be disappointed by yet another book. Thankfully, I was wrong - it is as brilliant as everyone is making out!

Sure, there are a number of gripes I had with Divergent – although Tris was fairly likable, it really put me off her character towards the end when deaths hardly affect her. Roth is much more of a storyteller than a writer, a la J.K. Rowling, which isn’t a bad thing, but if we had some nice prose instead of dull description I might be tempted to give Divergent the extra half star; however, it does mean that the pages fly by, even if closing on five hundred there are perhaps a few too many. Finally, we don’t see an awful lot of world building, and you are left with a lot of questions regarding Tris’ society.

The cover is pretty striking, especially the fireball and the rainbowesque shine that it has and I'm so glad the theme is continued in the next book Insurgent, but I don’t like the couple on the bottom, who look very photoshopped in, and I notice that they wisely aren’t on the US cover. There were some nice twists, likeable characters and for once a romance that was actually believable – I don’t want to say much else for fear that I may spoil the book, so I’ll just highly recommend  Divergent if you haven’t already discovered it – a fun, gripping novel that I can’t wait to read the sequels to.

[SYNOPSIS:  She turns to the future in a world that’s falling apart. For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead….]

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

In an attempt to preserve the human race, two spaceships – the Empyrean and the New Horizon – were launched into space to colonise a new planet deep in space, deemed New Earth; everything appears to be going swimmingly towards the end of the mission, until the first launched ship, the religious New Horizon slows down in what the Empyrean assumes is an attempt to meet up earlier than planned; except it’s not for a rendezvous – it’s to attack their allies and kidnap the girls, thus separating parents from children, friends from friends, brothers from sisters and boyfriend from girlfriend, including newly-engaged-couple Waverly and Kieran – will anything ever be the same? 

Glow was very gripping, although I didn’t like the way the cliffhanger at the end was done, as it was obviously concocted to make you buy the next book, Spark. I found the plot to be pretty original, and full of great twists, along with being very beautifully written, although it is extremely dark. We’re treated to a third person narrative which switches between Waverly and Kieran’s point of view, although I felt a bit detached from the characters it was still excellently done, and Waverly’s viewpoint was far more interesting to me. It had a few minor flaws, as it dragged a bit in places (especially at first), I felt certain aspects could have been fleshed out further, Waverly and Kieran’s romance could have been made more of, and I didn’t like the offhand cancer comment on first page but on the whole, it was extremely enjoyable.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know the first thing about space and space travel, so I haven no idea how accurate Ryan’s detail is, but it seemed to make sense to me, and the regular scientific language  used also helped to make it more authentic and shows that Ryan has clearly done more than a fair amount of research.

Glow is unusual in that it’s a Young Adult book that is intelligent, philosophical, symbolic, believable, makes you think, where nothing is black or white, and it’s an excellent, highly recommended read.
[SYNOPIS: 16 years ago, Waverly and Kieran were the first children born in space. Now a perfect couple, they are the pride and joy of the whole spaceship.

They represent the future.
The ship is their entire world.
They have never seen a stranger before.
Old Earth is crumbling, and the crew is hoping to reach (and colonise) New Earth within fifty years. Along with their allies on the second spaceship - who set off a year before them and whom they have never met.
One day, Kieran proposes to Waverly. That same morning, the 'allies' attack - and Kieran and Waverly are separated in the cruellest way possible. Will they ever see each other again?]

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie is special – she is the only person in the world to see through ‘glamours’ – how every paranormal creature hides their true identify – and so is invaluable to International Paranormal Containment Agency, where she has lived perfectly content since she was eight. But weird things are starting to happen – paranormals are being killed, Evie dreams of frightening prophecies, and she comes to realize that the two are connected, and that is a very bad thing…

Although at times when reading Paranormalcy I felt like I was reading really bad fanfiction, I came to realise that it was more of a ‘fun’ read than anything else, along with a breath of fresh air. Evie, our Mary Sue (beautiful, only one with a certain power, everyone adores her, everything works out fine for her, involved in a love triangle – I could go on…) protagonist is, like the majority of other YA protagonists out there, annoying, but she is also fun and full of wit, though I had to draw the line when I read that she has called her pink rhinestone decorated taser ‘Tasey.’

We don’t get an awful lot of explanation regarding how Evie’s alternate world came about, although we do get a bit of world building and originality with all of the creatures and the whole ‘International Paranormal Containment Agency’ organization. I wish the cover had more to do with the story rather than Evie in a random dress in a random wheat field – it is pretty, but I think a lot more people would be inclined to read Paranormalcy if there was just a hint of paranormal creatures like faeries, mermaids, hags and vampires that are featured.

If you’re looking for a bit of light relief and something a bit different, then although I personally didn’t like it so much, Paranormalcy is for you – it’s fun from beginning to end, with a few nice twists and good storyline, although I warn you now that there is another bloody love triangle which I’m sick to death of by now, but the faerie involved is a very interesting character at leas; what's more, it features a, what I found,  hilariously embarrassing quote from Becca Fitzpatrick.

[SYNOPSIS: Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal. 
Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the centre of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. So much for normal.]

Sunday, 13 November 2011

In My Mailbox (15)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren and is my first ever meme where you share all the books you received during the week whether it be from the library or in the mail post.
This week I got:

The Night Circus ~ Erin Morgenstern (Library)
This looks really special, I can't wait to read it :)
The Scorpio Races ~ Maggie Stiefvater (Library)
Wow, this looks great too - seems like a really unique and intriguing story!

What did you guys get in your mailbox this week? Leave a comment and I'll be sure to check out your IMM :)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Torment by Lauren Kate

I would say there are spoilers for Fallen in this review, but honestly, the plot of Fallen is so predictable that you know from the moment you read the blurb that girl and boy will get together, so there really is no need. Anyway, the plot of Torment follows on from that of Fallen, and has a few added ‘twists’, which Fallen was lacking in; Luce and Daniel have to separate after finally having found each other because he has to kill the people who want to kill her, so Luce is hidden at a special school for Nephilim (the offspring of fallen angels and humans), where she learns a lot of things – about herself, the shadows that she sees…and Daniel through manipulating the shadows to see into the past, which isn’t quite his version…

I think the main reason I read and reviewed Torment (anyone else find hilarious irony in the title?) was so I could have its cover on my blog–I don’t know how each cover of the series is made to be so devastatingly gorgeous, but serious kudos to the designers, although it does trick people into reading the garbage inside–and to warn others who have not yet made the mistake of carrying on with the Fallen series to not do so.

I should mention the good points about Torment first – with every book she writes, Kate’s writing improves quite a considerable amount, and whilst I preferred the plot of Fallen as it was much less confusing and more interesting, the writing was a lot better here, although Kate annoyingly clearly likes to consult a thesaurus every now and then. Also, the cover is stunning, as I keep on mentioning, but seriously that is worth a star all on its own!

Now the bad: what is it with YA romance that when you fall in lurve, you cannot be even comprehend being separated for weeks; yes, you read that right – not seconds or minutes or even hours but entire weeks – even if it is for their own safety it just makes everything laughable, especially when both concerned are annoying characters – I always find Kate’s secondary characters to be far more interesting than the protagonists. I found Torment pretty dull with a slow pace, and quite a few pages too many; but then when things started to happen, it got really confusing and left more questions than answers.

To me it speaks volumes that the snippets of praise for Fallen is from the Sun (a vile, lying, not-to-be-trusted scumbag of a newspaper) and rabid fans, who claim Kate is a “genius” and that Fallen was “the most romantic page-turner of all time” – seriously?! Ooh, and we have ANOTHER gorgeous boy who falls in lurve with Luce, whose lurve tale is a night-time story to Nephilim for reasons completely unknown – it can’t possibly because she’s interesting or witty, as throughout eight hundred pages I haven’t seen a shred of evidence showing these traits – it’s inexplicable why most of the couples who fall in love in YA these days actually do – her only character development is to get even more annoying and even more stupid. 
[SYNOPSIS: In Torment fallen angel Daniel and his mortal love Lucinda think they are safe but evil forces are massing against them. As Luce learns more about her past, and discovers that the lives she’s already lived hold the key to her future happiness; she starts to wonder if Daniel has told her the whole truth. What if his version of events isn’t the way things happened? What if that means that she’s really meant to be with someone else?]

Monday, 7 November 2011

Cover Reveal: Rapture and Dreamless

I'm not the biggest fan of Kate's Fallen series, but I certainly am of the covers, and whilst I think this is an improvement on the heavily photoshopped Passion's, I don't think it matches up to Fallen or Torment; nonetheless, it is still gorgeous!

I loved Starcrossed, and was thrilled to recently interview its lovely author, and I think this is such a beautiful edition - I love how they've kept to the style and I cannot wait to see the UK version! Definitely my favourite of the two :)

What are your thoughts? :)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

In My Mailbox (14)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren and is my first ever meme where you share all the books you received during the week whether it be from the library or in the mail post.
This week I got:

Forever ~ Judy Blume (MKB)
I have to admit I've not read anything by her yet, but I have certainly heard of her and her talents
The Hunger Games Companion ~ Lois H. Grish (MKB)
I loved the Hunger Games so this should be good
Don't Let Me Go bookmark (won - thanks to Nikki-ann @ Notes of Life)
This is very pretty and cute!

What did you guys get in your mailbox this week? Leave a comment and I'll be sure to check out your IMM :)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

POD by Stephen Wallenfels

Earth has been invaded – nothing will be the same. Everything was normal on the day it started, until metallic spheres began to appear in the sky, and people on the street disappeared in a terrifying beam of light. The PODs continue their menacing existence in the sky, and the only survivors are those hiding in buildings, including Megs in California and Josh in Washington. Josh’s food supplies are running out, along with his unsteady relationship with his father, whilst Megs is frightened and alone, afraid that the dangerous men from the hotel next door will find her and throw her out into the street, or worse...

I really liked the short, alternating chapters – they really pull you in to the story and leave you eager to find out what has happened to the respective character, as most finish on a shocking moment or a cliffhanger. POD has an excellent pace, and is very well told by Wallenfels; the atmosphere he creates is so realistic and tense, that you find yourself genuinely worrying that our two protagonists, Megs and Josh, will come to harm or fall victim to the PODs (‘Pearls of Death’), who cause anyone who is not in the safety of a building to disappear in a deadly beam.

Both Megs and Josh have flaws (some purposeful, like Josh being a typical teenage boy – lazy, rash and selfish; others not so much, like Megs acting way above her age of twelve – it would have been much better if she were also fifteen), which generally makes them realistic characters, and contributes to how much the reader likes them and feels for them.

 I don’t like cover – I find it far too plain and simple for what it is, and I think it would put a lot of not-very-curious people off reading POD, which is a bit gruesome at times and deals with more adult themes, like cannibalism and suicide, so it’s not really suitable for younger readers. At first, I didn’t like the present tense POD is written in, as I’m not much of a fan because it’s rarely done right, but by the end I felt immersed in the action, although it was only within the last few chapters that I felt this.

POD reminded me of the Gone series at times, which, I hasten to add is a high complement, and I don’t mean that the stories are similar at all, but they both grip you in the same way, and make you genuinely fear for characters you come to care about. I liked the way the two protagonists are linked by the end, because at the start you are wondering why Wallenfels is choosing to focus on them, and it leaves you a bit confused. There were some shocking moments, but they propel you to keep reading to see their effect on particular characters, and make for more gripping reading.

I don’t read much of the Sci-Fi genre, so I don’t know if POD is completely original (though it feels very 'War of the Worlds-esque'), or how it compares, but although I have read similar dystopian tales, I found POD a unique and gripping read, which I highly recommend, even if POD isn’t your usual type of read, and I hope the sequel is published soon as I'm eager to see where the story will head.

[SYNOPSIS: PODs - strange alien spheres hover menacingly in the sky, zapping anyone who ventures outside.

Will is 15 and stuck in his house with his OCD dad. They're running out of food...
Megs is 12, alone and trapped in a multi-storey carpark. The hotel next door is under the control of dangerous security staff, but Megs has something they want, and they'll do anything to get it...
When the aliens invade, the real enemy becomes humanity itself. What would you do to survive?]

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

I seem to be in the minority here when I say I didn't like Hunting Lila, but I found that I struggled to get through it, mainly down to our awfully whiny protagonist Lila – I understand why she is partially like that due to her mother’s death and uprooted family, but it was to the point where she was very unlikeable; and also it's another book with a great premise that I found poorly executed. 

          Lila has a special power – she can move things with her mind – and she is the only person who knows she can do this…until she is mugged and in self defence almost blinds her attacker with a knife. Panicked and afraid, on an impulse she books a plane to take her across the pond to her brother and his best friend (her crush) in California where they work for The Unit. Unfortunately, her father wants her back in London and brother is desperate to get rid of her; soon she discovers the reasons why, and is launched into a dangerous world, where others like her exist, including her mother’s murderer…

             Even though it sounds a little bit like it’s been done before, great premise, right? Unfortunately, the actual plot is predictable and plagued by the romance between Lila and Alex – although I’m starting to think I’m really not a romance fan, unless it’s done well, so my dislike of the book may stem from that. It starts off well, with the reader diving straight into the action, but then you get to know our protagonist, who is self-centred, bland and overly obsessed with Alex. Who is hot. Which totally isn’t mentioned in every other page or every time Lila looks at him.

I felt that the more ‘actiony’ scenes were the best parts of the book, but even they were predictable and over in a few paragraphs; plus we have a cliffhanger ending, which really irks me in books, because its sole purpose is to force you to read the next book if you’re invested in the story. The whole special power thing was very ‘meh’ for me, and I almost felt like I was reading Sophie McKenzie’s wonderfully compelling The Medusa Project series at several points. I found that pretty much everything about this book was average, including writing and plot, despite quite a nice twist; even the cover is average, barring its striking colour quality.

I personally can’t really recommend Hunting Lila (although as I said I am in the minority by saying this as I know a lot of people have thoroughly enjoyed it so it may just be me), but you may enjoy it if you are a fan of the paranormal (as in telekinesis) and romance novels between boy and girl who can’t be together but inevitably find a way because they’re in lurve.

[SYNOPSIS: 17-year-old Lila has two secrets she's prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she's been in love with her brother's best friend, Alex, since forever.
After a mugging on the streets of South London goes horribly wrong and exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust - her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they've found them. Trying to uncover the truth of why her mother was killed, and the real remit of The Unit, Lila becomes a pawn in a dangerous game. Struggling to keep her secrets in a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone - there are others out there just like her - people with special powers -and her mother's killer is one of them...]
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