Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Poignant. Beautiful. These two words sum up this book more than anything else I could say. Nelson handles the topic of death very carefully and what Lennie goes through really reflects the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in that order if you’re at all interested) in a very realistic manner. It was also beautifully written, and I especially liked the scribbled poems and notes, that Lennie had 'scattered' around her town, at the beginning of each chapter, which, given that I normally don’t like poems at all, can be nothing but a positive, and a demonstration of how amazing this book is – I even found myself skipping chapters and flicking through just so I could read the poems sooner!

The Sky is Everywhere follows the life of Lennie as she struggles to come to terms with the death of her sister, the sister she has always admired, the sister she’s always been best friends with, the sister she’s always lived in the shadow of, and has been perfectly happy to do all of those things; and truly, though the reader never ‘meets’ Bailey, she seems like an incredibly fun character and it's no wonder she meant so much to Lennie and everyone who knew her; but when she dies suddenly and unexpectedly, shy Lennie is left to face the world on her own, which is slightly complicated for her just-as-sudden experiences of first love – for her sister’s boyfriend, not to mention Joe, the  gorgeous new boy in school…

You might be thinking that a book centred on death and its after-effects would be pretty depressing, but you’d be very very wrong – not only is this book beautiful in every aspect, it is touching, quirky, sweet and even funny – it takes you on a real rollercoaster of every emotion out there, sometimes just within the same chapter! You feel an incredible amount for nearly every character that you come across in this stunningly perfect debut (yes, debut – I’m so jealous of Nelson’s talent but so looking forward to other delights she’ll hopefully have to offer!), such is Nelson’s amazing writing style. I cannot praise this book enough, and any words I write about it just feel too inadequate – read it, and you will not be disappointed! (I’m actually regretting lending it out from my library, purely because I have to return it and I want to keep it forever!)

The only reason I’m hesitant to give it five stars? I’ve been given the highest accolade out a lot recently, I know, but I really do feel that the books that are given five stars truly deserve it, at least at the moment anyway, and so this is getting: 
[SYNOPSIS: Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey.
But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.]

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Dark Visions by L. J. Smith

I really like, and have done for quite a while, Smith’s style of writing – with just a few magical, spellbinding words she is able to create entirely new worlds; most remarkable of all is that they are believable and it is a complete outrage that she has been firedDark Visions is a trilogy consisting of The Strange Power, The Possessed and The Passion (I do love book titles with random-artistic-names-that-have-barely-anything-to- do-with-the-story), which were written in 1994/5 and recently republished so that all the books were binded up – a great idea, but it was ridiculously tiring reading them back-to-back, resulting in me losing interest in the entire story about halfway through, so unless you're utterly engrossed, I would perhaps recommend you read a different book in-between so you don't get bored, should you choose to read Dark Visions.

There was an amazing amount of twists and turns, most of which took me completely by surprise, but there were so many that I began to feel like Smith was trying far too hard to give the story life. The Strange Power starts off interestingly enough, drawing you into the premise; Kaitlyn, the central character and sort-of narrator, is your average unpopular teenager, except she draws the future. Miraculously, the Zetes institute has heard of her and offers to help her with her psychic abilities, along with other teens like her. She fits in there perfectly, (and of course the two good looking boys there soon lust after her) until they find themselves in a dangerous psychic link and discover all is not as it seems…, but the other two stories dragged quite a lot for me.

I didn’t mind Kaitlyn too much at first, but her narration soon got on my nerves, and although we hear her pretty-much-every thought and feeling, she didn’t appear to develop much of a character, whereas Gabriel’s point of view proved a very refreshing change and enabled the reader to learn more about his motives and character; though I also found that bad boy Gabriel was remarkably similar to bad boy Damon from The Vampire Diaries (which was written before this trilogy) whilst other characters like Anna and Lewis were not explored at all, and appeared to only be there to move the story along and so there was not just Rob, Kaitlyn and Gabriel at the institute.

        However, it was incredibly imaginative and very well-written throughout, with both the mystery and the romance elements well-played and I think many people would enjoy it, especially fans of Smith and similar authors.
[SYNOPSIS: Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider in her small hometown. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait's not a witch: She's a psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can have a fresh start and study with other psychic teens.
Learning to hone her abilities with four other gifted students, Kait discovers the intensity of her power -- and the joy of having true friends. But those friendships quickly become complicated when Kait finds herself torn between two irresistible guys. Rob is kind and athletic, and heals people with his good energy. Gabriel is aggressive and mysterious, a telepath concealing his true nature as a psychic vampire, feeding off of others' life energy. Together, Rob and Gabriel's opposing forces threaten the group's stability.
Then one of the experiments traps the five teens in a psychic link. A link that threatens their sanity and their lives. And Kaitlyn must decide whom to trust...and whom to love.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Reviews coming to a blog near you...

Hello :)
I know I haven't been much of a blogger or indeed posted in quite a while, but I promise I had a good reason - exams! Anyway, there will be LOTS of reviews coming your way (and maybe the odd meme or two) this summer, not least because I have nothing better to do :) I actually gave up reading (:0) to concentrate on my exams, which I have probably taken far too seriously, and as a result, this is the book pile that has been slowly collecting:

I really don't know which book to start reading after Starcrossed, and I can't guarantee reviews for every book of the Book Pile That Seemed Larger When It Was In A Pile but I hope you enjoy reading my reviews :)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

I’m going to start off by saying that I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to read Noughts and Crosses. I really should have known better, especially considering how brilliant I thought The Stuff of Nightmares and Boys Don’t Cry were. Blackman is truly a talented author.

And now onto the review: Noughts and Crosses is a daring novel, set in an alternate universe where black is right and white is wrong. Named ‘Crosses’ and ‘noughts’, the two live completely separate, opposite lives, similar to the South Africa apartheid. The inequality has been an accepted part of their society for many years, but it is slowly starting to change due to recent protests from the noughts – less than three dozen noughts are permitted into attending schools which were previously solely for the Cross children. Callum is one of the chosen few, but he finds fitting in difficult when he sticks out like a sore thumb and near enough everyone wants him out. Attending the same school as his best friend Sephy also proves to be a bad idea as it draws the two apart. They slowly rebuild their friendship which grows ever more passionate…that is until the bomb goes off and tears their world apart…

This novel is incredibly powerful; even if you don’t realise it when you’re reading, you sure will by the end – it forces you to think about the racial inequality that still exists in the world today by flip-reversing the ‘tradition’ of whites being the superior race. The impact is further increased when you do a little bit of research (or, say, revise for a history GCSE) and realise that many of the events, like the segregated schools were based on real events from history – take the Little Rock High School, which was deemed white-only until 1957 when ‘generously’ 9 African American students were permitted to attend; the governor however, disagreed and ordered the National Guard no less to prevent their entry to the school, which worked until the President sent in paratroopers to protect the students who were eventually smuggled in. Nevertheless, only one graduated due to the constant violence and racial abuse that they suffered daily.

The characters are realistic and you fully sympathise with their thoughts and actions; not only that but they make you laugh and cry in equal measures, which is always a sign of a truly fantastic book. Blackman writes with class and pace throughout, somehow sustaining your attention until the very last page, and even longer than that because these characters will stay in your mind for a lot longer than the duration of the book.
The plot too is sublime and will take you on a breath-taking rollercoaster of a journey with unexpected twists and a shocking ending that I was so not expecting and definitely left me wanting more!

A truly gripping, hard-hitting, thought-provoking page turner – if you haven’t already, I cannot recommend it enough; I won’t go as far as to say it’ll change your life as it’s ever so slightly cliché, but it will certainly alter your perspective. I’m aware that a lot of the books I’ve reviewed recently have received 5 stars (I’m probably too generous!) but this one truly deserves it, probably more than any book I’ve read so far:
[SYNOPSIS: Sephy is a Cross - a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought - a 'colourless' member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood. But that's as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Crosses schools...Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts unable to accept the injustices any longer, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum - a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger...]
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