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.]
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