Sunday, 31 July 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

I was really excited to read Matched – firstly, I fell in love with that gorgeously simple cover, and secondly I was extremely interested by the concept – a very controlling society (imaginatively called ‘The Society’) which dictates when its citizens shall die, what poetry they shall read, where they will work and who they will spend the rest of their lives with, amongst other aspects of life; I know it’s been done many times before, but I thought that Matched would take its own spin on things with the even more interesting idea that Cassia’s Match is not who she is meant to be with, and if she pursues a life with her true Match, the Society will punish her severely.

I was really drawn in at first, but the story soon began to feel a bit stretched out and the pacing was very slow – I felt that Cassia spent far too long obsessing over the forbidden poems found in her artefact, though I understand it was a very rare and dangerous situation for Cassia, who I really didn’t take to at first, but she developed pretty well as she began to challenge the way she is forced to live (though I’m still not her biggest fan). I wasn’t expecting Cassia to believe and conforms to the Society’s view on things, as it is usually the opposite way round, such as Katniss in The Hunger Games; speaking of which, I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Hunger Games from the announcement of the victors to their journey to the Capitol when reading about Cassia’s journey to her matching ceremony – there were certainly many similarities between the Capitol and the Society, along with other novels of the same vein.

I felt that more could have been written about the Match Bouquet as it was obviously an important event, but I felt it was rather rushed. Cassia’s relationship with Ky developed believably, which is actually pretty rare in the world of YA romance, especially when a love triangle is inevitably involved, but it was handled realistically, along with the portrayal of Cassia’s controlled world. I didn’t quite get why as soon as Cassia saw Ky’s picture for a split second instead of Xander’s on the portscreen she pretty much instantly abandoned poor Xander and set about obsessing over getting to know Ky, whom she assumes is her true Match, as he can never be Matched because he is an Aberration due to his father’s actions. The ending picked up a bit, but it was not enough to save the book in my opinion.

The writing was very good, but many of the characters seemed to be pretty dull in my view. Another thing that irked me a bit throughout was that many things about the Society, such as how it came about were never explained – I mean, I’m sure they will be eventually, but it seemed like it would have been very interesting to read about, rather than what the red pill does, by which point you learned I couldn’t really care less; I think the pacing of this book was my main problem – it covers a few weeks maximum, with a bit of action in-between, yet it’s so drawn out that you become bored halfway through. I don’t think this series deserves the seven figure sum that Condie got for it off the bat (but yes, I am extremely jealous!), however I will be reading Crossed, the next in the trilogy, to see where the series heads.
[SYNOPSIS: When Cassia attends her matching ceremony, she never expects that her match - the person she'll one day enter into a marriage contract with - will be someone already she knows. So when it's announced that the Society Officials have matched her with her good friend Xander, she has mixed feelings. She won't experience the excitement of getting to know her match for the first time, but on the other hand she knows how wonderful Xander is already. She won't feel the same rush of excitement as other girls do when her microcard arrives and she's able to look upon her match's face on the portscreen for the first time. But when Cassia's microcard does arrive, things aren't at all as she expected. Because the face that flashes up isn't Xander's. And perhaps Cassia doesn't know quite what to expect after all.]

Friday, 29 July 2011

Plague by Michael Grant


My god I love the Gone Series. After devouring and loving the previous three books - Gone, Hunger and Lies - I was more than eager to get my hands on Plague, and I finally spotted it at my library! You’d think the six-part series would steadily be getting worse by now, but that is most definitely not the case – if anything it gets better and even more gripping as the kids become more desperate to survive…and ill; because illness is striking the FAYZ, and as we're talking about the FAYZ, of course it’s not just the sniffles...

Plague is literally unpredictable, with no holds barred, and frighteningly realistic, with a flawless pace – and this is what every book in the Gone series treats you to, in my experience. I’m not going to talk about its plot, or the plot of the previous books in much detail, because that would spoil them if you haven’t already read them; and you really should because you’re seriously denying yourself the pleasure of reading this remarkable series, which people of all ages will enjoy – I think kids will love the action and gore, young adults will love the characters and plot and even adults will enjoy the fact that it also discreetly deals with everything from morality to politics to religion to philosophy to issues in society, and more.

Grant really is a master of plots – you have your two main dangers of the Plague that is causes people to (fairly graphically) cough out their lungs, along with another form of Plague that causes huge, indestructible bugs to grow inside of you and eventually (fairly graphically) burst out – Grant seems to enjoy putting his characters in unendurable pain. Then you also have the return of the monster that is Drake from the dead, who occasionally morphs into Brittney ‘the Pig’ every now and then, Little Pete trapped in a coma, the ever-present malevolent gaiphage (literally ‘world eater’ and you learn a bit more about it in Plague) and, as always, an extreme water and food shortage; each peril is given equal and individual time in the novel, and mix together to form an edge of your seat climax. Grant’s characters are also exceptional, perhaps even more so than the plot – they’re all so unique and diverse that you only have to read their name and you generally (there’s a LOT of people) instantly know who they are, as though they’re a real person they’re that convincingly written. You find yourself genuinely loving one person, and hating another, but by the end of the book your opinion could be totally different because they’ve grown and developed so much; that, or they’ve died, which isn’t a rare thing to happen in the FAYZ – Fallout Alley Youth Zone, a kind-of joke better explained in Gone.

I’ve always thought that the maps should be at the front, not the back, as you forget that they’re there, or don’t discover them until you’ve finished, and they’re really good for referencing what is occurring in the novel. I didn’t really like Little Pete’s chapters, although they provided an interesting insight into the insanely powerful autistic boys’ mind, they were too vague and a little bit pointless for my liking. My final complaint is that the action scenes could be better written – you can totally picture what is happening, but only if you go back and read the scene repeatedly, and even then I found it difficult at times, so ended up carrying on with only a bit of an idea as to what exactly had just happened.

Aside from all of this, these books are bloody brilliant, engaging, thought-provoking and keep you glued to the pages until the very end – the five hundred or so pages pass by like a breeze and you’re left wondering how you managed to read it so fast…and also what on earth is going to happen in the next novel, Fear as the series reaches its inevitably epic climax...
[SYNOPSIS: It's been eight months since all the adults disappeared. They've survived hunger. They've survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.
But enemies in the FAYZ don't just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they'll escape - or even survive - life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love? ]

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Dead by Charlie Higson

The first book of this series, The Enemy, came to me very highly recommended from a friend, so although I don’t usually read zombie-type books, I gave it a go and ended up thoroughly enjoying it - thus I was pretty eager to get my hands on the sequel, which is, unusually, just as good as its predecessor; I was slightly disappointed to find that it wasn’t a continuation of the story in The Enemy, instead set a year before and focusing on a new group of kids, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Dead.

It’s rather gory and quite descriptive in regards to the diseased adults and their slaughter of the children, so it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted and it certainly made me feel a bit queasy at times, but it makes it incredibly easy to visualise the danger that all of the kids are in, which causes you to genuinely fear for them, especially when you come to the realisation that literally any of them could die within the next few pages; no one is safe, and this is a very refreshing change from the norm, when it is guaranteed that the main characters will not die, no matter what – there are no get out clauses or deus ex machina – the very last person you’d expect to often dies, and this makes The Dead all more unpredictable and therefore enjoyable.

The novel is really well thought out with accurate insights, such as the fact that we would need range of people – chemists, entertainers, musicians, doctors, farmers and engineers–not just fighters–to survive and maintain sanity in a post-apocalyptic world. With a new dilemma every couple of pages or so The Dead never gets boring or repetitive; on the contrary, I found it one of the most addictive reads of the year. I also thought it was a nice touch for it to feature well-known places around London like the Imperial War Museum, which makes The Dead even more realistic and shows how well-researched it is.

I really tend to avoid gory/bloody/zombie books, but this is definitely an exception to my rule – it’s extremely realistic (well, as much as it can be), especially the ways in which the characters react to events, and well-crafted – so much so that you almost get an adrenalin rush whilst reading it.

You don’t even need to have read The Enemy to enjoy The Dead, though I really recommend that you do as it’s just as brilliant and helps to explain a few details too. I like the fact that it is very blunt, which shocks the reader a great deal, but makes the story a lot better for it. I also liked the alternating viewpoints – not just between Ed and Jack (the two main characters) but the reader eventually ‘hears’ almost every character’s narration, which enables you to hear titbits of their background, their view on life and version of events, which gives you a better sense of their character.

However, I do have a few slight niggles with the book, namely that I felt the characters acted older than their stated age, but in the world they now reside, I suppose they would be forced to grow up pretty fast in order to survive, plus what they have all been through has inevitably made them hardened. Another thing is that I found there were a few too many kids to keep track of who was who, especially when they’re given nicknames like ‘Jibber-jabber’, but that is being incredibly nit-picky.

It’s a bleak version of our future, where mere children are left to fend for themselves against vicious diseased adults who are out for their flesh but, frankly, it’s brilliant and you’ll enjoy it even if you normally abhor this genre of book, though as I mentioned, it’s definitely NOT for the faint of heart!
[SYNOPSIS: A terrible disease is striking everyone over the age of fourteen. Death walks the streets. Nowhere is safe.
Maxie, Blue and the rest of the Holloway crew aren't the only kids trying to escape the ferocious adults who prey on them.
Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids - nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he's immune to the disease.
They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world. But as a fresh disaster threatens to overwhelm London, they realize they won't all survive.]

Sunday, 24 July 2011

In My Mailbox (3)

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:

You Against Me ~ Jenny Downham (Library)
Matched ~ Ally Condie (Library)
Plague ~ Michael Grant (Library) YAY!! I've been waiting for this for ages!
Divergent ~ Veronica Roth (Library)
Hush Hush ~ Becca Fitzpatrick (Library)

Forgive My Fins ~ Tera Lynn Childs (won x2 - many thanks to Donna & Jess @ Book Passion for Life and also Leanna @ Daisy Chain Book Reviews - I genuinely had no idea I'd ever win both!!
Flawless ~ Lara Chapman (won - many thanks to Karen @ The Slowest Bookworm for this)
The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove ~ Lauren Kate (Library)
Timeraiders ~ Alex Scarrow (Library)

I'm really grateful to have won so many books, but how typical is it that I finally start winning books and end up with two of the same title?! :P I've also discovered I'm allowed to join two different boroughs of libraries, and the new borough I've joined has FREE RESERVATIONS, so obviously I've ordered everything I've been dying to get, and some of it has already arrived, so I'm a very happy bunny this week :D
What did you guys get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Trash is a very original story, following the lives of three ‘trash boys’ who discover a bag in amongst the city’s rubbish; this bag will lead to the corrupt police out to kill them, an incredible journey and an unforgettable tale, which builds suspense up , keeping you glued ‘til the very end, and is paced very well. I thought it was very clever how story unfolded, and ingenious how important the letter in the bag turns out to be.

You really feel for the three main characters – they are what really made the novel for me – and seriously hope that they triumph in their important mission. The writing isn’t exactly beautiful, but Mulligan is very good at describing the scene and getting into the mindset of the narrator and simple words are used lyrically, as though you are reading a fairy tale, with bluntly powerful words used to describe the horrors of their way of life. I have a few very slight niggles about Trash, firstly, and it could have been easily solved by putting an exchange rate at the start, and that was that I don’t know the worth of the currency (pesos, which does make the novel more authentic) used so I found it hard to know how much things were worth – eleven hundred sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t appear to actually be so. I also found that, in some chapters in particular, the narrator changed far too rapidly, and let to a lot of confusion and re-reading on my part, and in some cases I didn’t think the alteration of narrator was entirely necessary. Finally, not knowing where exactly the novel was set – the Philippines for clarification – until you read the author’s note annoyed me a bit, and I genuinely thought it was set in India for a good portion of the novel!

It was a partially sad novel because of the fact that millions of extremely young children and teenagers and adults will sift through mountains of trash in the hope of finding useful trash amongst the muck and waste, which they hope to sell on for mere pennies to support their huge families for the entirety of their lives – a very unhappy existence, I’m sure you’ll agree, but Trash really opens your eyes to these poor people’s sufferings; you see it in documentaries, but you don’t feel the true extent of what they go through until you read this wonderfully unique book.

I was a bit disappointed by the ending on first reading it, but after mulling it over a bit, I’ve since realised that it was ever-so-slightly perfect. Do not read any spoilers for this book – it will ruin it, and you honestly do not want to ruin Trash – it will shock you, and inspire you, and possibly make you cry, but above all else it will make you think and warm your heart. 

[SYNOPSIS: Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping next to it. Then one unlucky-lucky day, Raphael’s world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It’s a bag of clues. It’s a bag of hope. It’s a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking, fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man’s mission to put right a terrible wrong. And now it's three street-boys against the world...]

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Heart of Valour by L. J. Smith


I love Smith’s style of writing a LOT, as I have previously mentioned – her novels transport you to wonderful, impossible places with just a few magical, well-thought-out words. The first book in this series, The Night of the Solstice, took a while for me to get into, but once you do you are gripped, and I found it very easy to slip back into the world of Morgana Shee, the world’s greatest sorceress, and the Hodges-Bradley children, who had previously saved the world from the dark forces of the Wildworld that threatened to invade the Stillworld – our side of the planet. With Heart of Valour set a year and a half later, the children are more grown up and learned in the ways of magic, though it was nice to see that they were still very much the same people they were at the start of the series. Charles was, in my opinion, a rather neglected character, which with him being the only boy in a family of girls, you really wouldn’t have thought; however, the children were wonderfully unique and realistic , and what I especially liked was that they were not perfect and certainly had flaws. In fact, very few characters are properly expanded on, which they deserve to be as it’s obvious that most would have a fascinating back story.

I really liked the humour – it was pretty unexpected, especially as I don’t remember the first book being particularly funny, though I did read it quite a while ago. I’m really glad that this isn’t a romance novel, which Smith seems particularly fond of to write, but I personally think she writes too much romance into her books, and if she stuck more to action, myth and magic alongside the romance, her novels would be even better.

I think I prefer this one to the previous one – I remember that I was almost willing the story to end, but I most definitely was not doing so with Heart of Valour, though I felt a lot of the action was too jam-packed into the last few pages, with not an awful lot occurring at the beginning of the novel, except the earthquake, which obviously set things in motion as regards to Thia Pendriel’s return – the powerful ally of the evil sorcerer from The Night of the Solstice, who is bitter towards Morgana for ‘stealing’  her staff, which she believes is rightfully hers.

Although parts were predictable, like the feathered serpent being an illusion as it was clearly missed of the list of elements and Alys managing to rescue the rabbit, along with Charles returning, many bits took me by surprise, such as the Janie-thing turning out to be Thia Pendriel’s familiar, nor was I expecting the fox that Janie rescued to run away.

I am the first to admit that I am not very knowledgeable about Arthurian legend, so I don’t know if  Morgana’s back story was ‘true’ or made up by Smith or a combination of both, but it was very well done and I think the flashbacks were my favourite parts as they revealed a lot more about Morgana as a character and for me were the most entertaining parts of the story.

I think many preteens would absolutely adore this book, though the first book should definitely be read first!
[SYNOPSIS: More than a year and a half has passed since Alys, Claudia, Jane and Charles helped to free the great sorceress, Morgana Shee, from imprisonment and close the passage between the Stillworld and the Wildworld. But when an earthquake hits California and continues to shake with lingering aftershocks, the Hodges-Bradley children begin to suspect this was no ordinary quake, and that the passage seal between the worlds may no longer be stable. With their parents overseas and Morgana travelling north to find the epicentre of the quake the children are left on their own. But peril lurks around every corner, and strange happenings in their home town force them on journey that will test their skills to the very limit. It seems that Morgana's archrival, Thia Pendriel, has stolen the Forgotten Gem, the Heart of Valour, and is waiting to spring her trap...]

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Evermore by Alyson Noël

If you’ve read Twilight, you don’t really need to read this book. I’m going to be blunt here, and say I didn’t like it, the main reason being it’s a bad Twilight rip-off, but instead of vampires we have ‘immortals’…
Sixteen year old Ever moves to live with her rich aunt following a devastating car crash which claims the lives of her family and leaves her with tons of mysterious psychic powers – she sees dead people (the infamous line from The Sixth Sense is even featured), sees auras surrounding people and can read minds; due to these psychic powers (of which there are much more) it’s a little pointless, but she still goes to school with her two stereotypical best friends, where the dashingly handsome Damen Auguste has just enrolled, with everyone fawning all over him – yet, surprise surprise, he instantly takes a liking to Ever, even though she does her best to avoid him, mainly because she doesn’t think she’s good enough for him as he is perfect at literally everything (apparently, he taught Picasso). And that’s kinda it…oh, wait – by the end of the book Ever becomes an alcoholic who is glad to get suspended due to said alcoholism so she can spend “each long lazy day in a vodka fuelled haze” because, apparently, alcohol makes her psychic powers disappear…temporarily.  
Ever was incredibly annoying – firstly with her whole ‘woe is me, it’s my fault that my family is dead’ charade, her instant infatuation with Damen and creepy claim on him, just because he’s so gorgeous that she literally forgot to move and breathe when she first lays eyes on him. She continues to love him, even though he flirts with others, often ditches her, convinces her to skip class (just one example of her recklessness, but it’s fine with no repercussions because apparently there are very few parents in this story and her aunt is conveniently super-busy at work) and refuses to divulge his murky past. The story consists of her trying to stay with Damen, even though he does all of these things to her which she NEVER QUESTIONS, and then because this is copying the plot of Twilight, there has to be an enemy (in the form of Damen’s wife) out to destroy Ever and Damen’s happiness, but the fight occurs in a kitchen, instead of a ballet studio because that would just be too obvious.
I liked the pace and flow of Noël’s writing; though it was painfully obvious she had a thesaurus sat next to her during the entire writing process, along with a copy of Twilight. If you want to enjoy this novel, force yourself to like Ever, suspend your disbelief and forget everything you’ve ever read about Twilight, or this novel with really get on your nerves. The names in the book annoyed me a lot – Honor, Haven, Ever, Drina, I could go on…but most of all Damen. It’s not even a name for crying out loud, and whenever I read it, I was constantly reminded of Damon (spelt the actual way!) Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries, though I have since discovered it's the street on which her husband was born...
I’m really struggling of good things to say about Evermore – it’s a pretty mediocre, unoriginal piece of work but I kinda enjoyed parts of it, though that’s probably because nothing is explained until the last few pages, so you read on wanting to find explanations, of which not many are given. I did like the attempt at originality with the auras and immortal stuff, and for me this was Evermore’s saving grace but I am seriously struggling to comprehend how the story can be stretched across five more books – you just know that Ever and Damen are going to get their happy ending – and the fact that 6 books were written in the space of about three years says quite a bit to me; but I’m perfectly happy to be proven wrong, and I really hope that the series improves because I’m not blown away by Evermore, especially given that it could have been very good novel about coping with grief and discovering the world is not what you thought it was – and I was hoping it would be, though I know some people adore it – I guess it’s like Marmite. 
Evermore is getting two stars because of how nice Alyson is, the awesomeness of Riley, Ever’s dead sister, and because I feel mean giving any less.
[SYNOPSIS: Ever Bloom is the sole survivor of a car accident that killed her family. Exiled to sunny California, Ever is haunted by her little sister and by the ability to see people's auras, hear their thoughts and know their entire life story by touching them. She wants to hide from the world, but when a stunningly handsome new guy arrives at school, she can't seem to keep away. Falling in love with Damen is dangerous - he's not what he seems. But if Damen is her destiny, how can Ever walk away? ]

In My Mailbox (2)

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:

Everlasting ~ Alyson Noël (MKB) & signed, as well as cute bookmark
Delirium ~ Lauren Oliver (Library)
Before I Fall ~ Lauren Oliver (Library)
The Body Finder ~ Kimberly Derting (Library)
Forbidden ~ Tabitha Suzuma (Library)

I literally cannot wait to start reading the ones by Lauren Oliver - I knew there was a big buzz about her, but they sound AMAZING!!
What did you guys get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, 8 July 2011

Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill

First thing’s first, and this may just be me, but I really didn’t find Pretty Twisted all that twisted; it probably is just me, but with that title I was expecting a bit more than the reveal that we got, which left me feeling just a bit disappointed and let down when I finished - it was clever and unexpected (until the last few chapters before the reveal when I guessed what had really occurred)  nonetheless, and you will be in for a very good gripping high-octane ride if you read Pretty Twisted.

One thing that I really liked about Pretty Twisted was the characters - all of them, even the ones you weren't supposed to, and this was purely because they were all so unique, engaging and true-to-life - something that you rarely find in a book - and, most impressively of all, genuinely convey teenagers. The pacing of the story is sublime and you can tell that a lot of time and planning has gone into every aspect of the novel, and it really pays off to create a highly authentic plot.

The cover is pretty* unique too, it took me a while to like it, but I really do now. You can check out some of Blaxill’s drawings of the characters here, which aren’t at all like I pictured the characters, except maybe Jonathan, though she is a very good artist! I also liked the stuff on A Levels and GCSEs, as they’re pretty relevant topics but hardly any UK-based book mentions them, probably because most authors are not as clued up as Blaxill, but I found it helped me to relate with the characters more and made the book feel more realistic; not that it isn’t anyway – virtually everything about the premise and storyline is thoroughly realistic, almost frighteningly so – from people going missing, especially teenage girls, to the character’s reactions; although there were a few events that were just that bit too convenient to be truly realistic.

A pretty* impressive debut – it genuinely didn’t feel like one when I was reading it, and the writing was great throughout. I found I couldn’t really be bothered (this is definitely me being my lazy self) to look at the date and time at the beginning of each new point of view to work out the timeframe of it all happening, so that bit, which obviously took a lot of careful planning, was lost on me, but if I reread it, I will be taking more notice. This point of view change was very refreshing and enabled the reader to see both sides of the same event, although sometimes I forgot who it was ‘talking’. The back and forward flashes were very good and power you to keep reading to discover what happens next – as the novel is pretty* addictive, you devour the story in a very short space of time, which probably contributes to my feelings of disappointment at the end.

*I apologise for all the ‘pretty’ puns, but I had to get them in there!
[SYNOPSIS: Ros has a secret crush on Jonathan. Jonathan is massively hung up on Freya (even after she dumps him). And Freya? Well, Freya is a beautiful enigma. Even more so when she goes missing without a trace . . .
Jonathan and Ros meet online at a time when things are going sour for Jonathan. His stunning girlfriend, Freya, is away at college and they are growing apart - consequently, he is struggling with his own sense of identity. Ros is also experiencing some problems - one of her friends is dating an older man whose strange behaviour gives Ros cause for concern.
Meanwhile, the local news has been reporting some kidnappings of teenage girls. So when Freya dumps Jonathan, then seems to disappear off the face of the earth, he enlists Ros' (somewhat reluctant) help in tracking down the girl he still loves. With danger lurking around every corner, their stories become inextricably linked in a way nobody could have predicted...]

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari

I didn't really like this book; not that it wasn't well-written or anything, it's just...well, let me put it this way: I received it in December, read halfway through, got bored, put it down and have only just finished it. I think it was mainly because I didn't like Mira all that much (at least at first) and I get the feeling that had I read it when I was the same age as Mira it would be one of my favourite, most touching books. But I didn't and it wasn't, although I would strongly recommend it for girls Mira’s age – 10-13 year olds – as they will be going through the same experiences of starting secondary school, having their first period, experiencing their first love (though I really feel she was a bit too young to have a boyfriend and felt uncomfortable reading about snogging between two twelve year olds, even if they acted much older and you often forget that they are only in Year 7).

However, when I recently picked it back up, the story grew on me, quite a bit. It’s still not my favourite book, but for me, it definitely improved a great deal and I warmed to Mira a lot more – at first I thought she moaned a bit too much about her life and that it wasn't really ‘spinning out of control’ as proclaimed, but I soon warmed to her, and began to appreciate what she was going through, especially having gone through similar experiences myself. By the end, I saw why it won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2011, though it still isn't my 'cup of tea'.

There were some very good things about it - the cover, for instance is literally stunning and there were parts of the story that I loved, like the subtle symbolisms - Pat Print as a guardian angel - and the impressive insight featured in the book. It was an extremely poignant novel, delicately handling (though perhaps a bit too delicately - the characters don't tend to show a lot of emotion) the death of Nana Josie, with the lovely underlying message that death is a time for hope and celebration, not sorrow and grief; and you could really feel Mira’s pain at having to watch her beloved grandma slip away more and more each day. I also began to see why Josie was so beloved by all - she was fun, wise and extraordinary, someone I would be privileged to know in real life. This is a inspirational, touching and thought-provoking novel that will really stay with you after you turn the last page, whether you liked it or not. 

[SYNOPSIS: Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie's health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jide, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers - like those of an artichoke - around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her.]

Monday, 4 July 2011

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

I was so so excited to read this book - firstly because it sounded awesome, and secondly, it’s pretty much all about Greek Mythology, something I am VERY interested in, so I - regrettably - read a few reviews beforehand, most of which were good, and some of which were bad, but I found that many compared it to Twilight, which kinda stuck in my head throughout reading Starcrossed, and I couldn’t help but notice many similarities between the two, which were too uncanny to be coincidences, though I’m sure many were.
              My opinion on Twilight is kinda divided because I used to be seriously obsessed, and it really helped me to get back into reading – I don’t know whether anyone else has patches when they do nothing but read and other times when I honestly couldn’t make myself pick up a book – which I’m pretty grateful for, and it also helped to get me into teenage and young adult books, which, again, I’m grateful for; but I also realise it is terrible terrible fiction. Anyway, that’s for another review, but the main point is that the only bad thing about this book is the slight similarities between it and Twilight, but let’s be honest – there’s hardly a book out there that doesn’t ever-so-slightly borrow ideas from other books. Oh, and Helen’s constant complaining about stomach cramps got on my nerves quite a bit, though I understand it’s a part of the story. 

The similarities are soon surpassed when the action really kicks off and the myths begin to tie in, and they do is a very good and pretty unique way. Having read the other reviews, many people say there is a huge cliffhanger, but I didn’t find this too much, though I am incredibly desperate to get my hands on the sequel Dreamless – a whole 10 months away – and I still couldn’t put this book down. At. All. A word of advice: if you do read Starcrossed, do not read it when you’re tired or at all sleepy – I can guarantee you won’t get any sleep!

Even though I’m not a demigod, or in love with a demigod; even though I haven’t been in any life-threatening situations like Helen had, and even though I’ve never been to America, let alone Nantucket, I felt that I really connected with Helen and I felt for her every step of the way (except when she was being annoyingly lovestruck or whiney, which wasn’t a lot of the time), and I could even clearly picture everything that happened, such was Angelini’s (that is such a nice surname!) writing. I did have to laugh, though, when you found out that Lucas, and of course Helen, could, wait for it…FLY, which turns out to be remarkably convenient!

            Something about this book, which I can’t quite put my finger on, really draws you in, pretty much from the first few pages, and you WILL be addicted to the story and you WON’T be able to put it down, even if it is a good five hundred pages, which literally fly by - I would be perfectly happy if it were a hundred pages longer! Literally everything about Starcrossed is amazing - from the variety of personalities in the Delos family, to the believable development of the romance between Lucas and Helen, to the fact it captivates you from the beginning, takes you on a ride that will evoke a lot of emotions in you - you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll smile, but most of all, you'll be glad you read it. 
It was sort-of predictable, but there were parts that I never would have guessed where to occur, and left me utterly shocked. I can see how it won’t appeal to everybody, but it definitely did for me, and I think many teenagers and young adults will enjoy it as much as I did.

[SYNOPSIS: When shy, awkward Helen Hamilton sees Lucas Delos for the first time she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands.

With an ancient curse making them loathe one another, Lucas and Helen have to keep their distance. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the gods themselves can prevent what will happen . . .
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