Honest and lively YA book reviews
So here I go again with Mr John Green. And here he goes again, spitting out another carbon copy main character pretty much identical to all the rest he's ever written about.
I'm not much impressed with Will Grayson, Will Grayson and yet I was all geared up to be. After all, it's co-written by David Levithan and I just adored his book Every Day.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the story of two sad Will Graysons who meet by chance in Chicago one night and .... change both their lives as a result? Do they though? Because to be honest I wasn't really feeling the character development.
John Green writes the first Will Grayson, a nerdy some-time humorous, socially awkward teenager living by two rules: don't give a shit about anything and keep your goddam mouth shut. I did not much care for this Will Grayson. He's a dick to his friends and he's so decidedly average that I really found it hard to give a crap about him.
"Caring doesn't sometimes lead to misery. It always does."
Yeah. He literally doesn't give a fuck about anything. So why the hell should I give a fuck about him? He's an incredibly bland character, but also incredibly John Green with his little quips and his love for a quirky, non-mainstream and independent chick who he hardly knows. Once you've read one John Green novel, you've read 'em all. The romance follows the same-old-same-old routine of "Girl, you're too smart and sassy for me. I think I might love you but I don't have the confidence to let you know how I feel until we've worked through some shit alone." Yeah I'm getting real tired of this crap. Of course this kid has a car and just drives around wherever he damn well pleases, no thought for his parents or the cost of gas. He heads into the city where his friends let him down big-time and he stumbles upon the second Will Grayson, seemingly having some episode or something.
I sucked at math. I mean, I barely new what way up I was during class let alone what the fuck an integer is. I spent the majority of the year doodling bubble letters in my blueberry scented gel pen (c'mon guys, it was the early noughties) and skipping class as often as I dared, preferring to spend time in the library where the marks on the page actually made sense to me. Like, what is algebra? Some kind of animal? A disease? I don't even fucking know. So when it rolled around to exam time, the most I could hope for was to be able to write my name legibly at the top of the page (and even in this task I struggled. My handwriting is bad) I barely new where I was and had a hard time comprehending what the hell was going on. Math? That's like, numbers right? I thank all the gods that the marking gurus decided, in their infinite wisdom to lower the pass mark that year to 23% because I guess we all sucked. Somehow I actually passed, not with a fantastic grade or that but I actually passed. The markers must have found something they could grade in amongst all the song lyrics, quotes and cartoon ponies I scrawled across my exam paper. Or maybe they just had a really great sense of humour.
Mercy by Rebecca Lim felt like that goddam math exam all over again - I have no fucking idea what the hell is going on here.
Mercy, I think, is an angel (though I only know this because it says so on the blurb) who wakes up to find herself inhabiting a new human body periodically. She must use her enormous wit, talent and bravery (ha) to accomplish good deeds (for some reason) and make her time on earth worth while (I think) She lands in Paradise - a small town hiding great tragedy - in the body of Carmen, posing as a participant in a multi-school choir concert. There she meets Ryan and his stick-figure parents who are struggling to come to terms with the kidnapping of their daughter, Lauren two years previously. Mercy takes it upon herself to rescue Lauren and right the wrongs of this fractured family and town.
It is that time again! Time for a chance to PIMP your booklikes blog. You know you want it!!!
Check out the last winner - what do you think? Pimped?
Just enter the giveaway using the hand-dandy rafflecopter widget. Check below for all the deets.
Extra bit of awesome. If this giveaway reaches 1K entries - another winner will be added. That means two people will have their booklikes blog pimped. Here is hoping, right? If I only get 100 entries, I will form a support group for rejected designers. Anyone can join...
Design Giveaway Deets:
Staying positive in the face of adversity isn't easy. Sometimes life sucks ass. There's a helluva lot of shit that is completely out of our control. We cannot control what other people do, we cannot necessarily control our environment and we cannot always control what our bodies do. This is one of the most difficult things to come to terms with when fighting cancer - the powerlessness that comes with struggling to fight a disease that altogether too easily can run out of control.
"My lungs sucked at being lungs" Hazel tells us. Hazel has cancer. And it's fatal. She's marking time until Augustus Waters rocks up at her group therapy session and gives her a reason to be positive, someone to hang on for and a new perspective on life.
This book should have been a heartfelt, humorous yet emotional rollercoaster of feels about what it's like to die too soon. Instead it turned into a vomit-inducing pretentious, look-at-me-I'm-so-smart collection of words on a page hidden behind a cute cover and a neat title.
When I was a kid I was always writing these dumb little stories in my Hello Kitty notebook and I used to doodle all these stupid cartoon strips and I wished I could be a writer or an artist. My brother tore my dream down and stomped all over it so no, I'm not a writer or an artist but there's still part of me that, if I had enough confidence, feels like I'd like to give it a go. This little pity-party is not the point to my story - what I'm trying to say is my little scribblings and sketches as a child were horrible. All "He said this" and then "She said that" (I was big on dialog) and I wasn't even that young - I was 12 goddam years old !! And then there was the poetry - Oh dear god the poetry. That was when I really started getting into my stride. I was like, 15 years old and I filled notebook after notebook with these ghastly poems. They really were hideous. I tried to find some to share (I'm waaaaay past the embarrassment, though they used to make me squirm so much I fell off a chair) but I guess I burnt them and then scattered the ashes at sea because they're nowhere to be found. Kid me makes Adult me LOL.
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher kinda reminds me of Kid-Ally's cringe-worthy attempts at writing a book. I really don't mean this in a massively derogatory way - after all there was something charmingly sweet about Kid-Ally's 10 page novel about a guy who lives in a supermarket with a ghost (yeah, I told you it was pretty bad) - I mean it more in the way that the whole thing is so juvenile and kinda uncomfortable.
Zoe has apparently done something terrible. So terrible she doesn't want to talk about it. Instead she chooses to get it off her chest by writing to a prisoner on death row and confessing her "crime" to him because she feels he'll understand. The book is written as a series of letters to this guy from Zoe as she confides in him details of her life, her loves and her losses.
I don't know what age Zoe is. She's old enough to work in the library, to go to parties when one of her friends gets an empty and to make out with a boy who goes to college so she could be like, 15 or 16 years old? She sounds 12. She's blunt she's rude, she's self centred and her voice through the medium of letter writing is very young. Her grandfather had a stroke and all she can think about is how she was able to use this to her advantage:
"As I drifted off to sleep, I found myself thanking Grandpa. I only went to the party because of his stroke, and even though I was in trouble and most probably grounded for the rest of my life, I couldn't help but think of it as a stroke of good luck."
This is why I don't want kids. Aside from the noise and the mess and incessant questioning, I can't stand this level of self-centred behaviour. Yeah, whatevs only kids can't help it blah blah. But it still bugs the crap outta me. And Zoe isn't even that young - if she's old enough to let some college dude take her bra off in a garden shed then she's old enough to give a fuck about her relative lying helpless in a hospital bed. Jeez. What a bitch.
I thought this book was going to be the emotional account of a kid who made a mistake, coming to terms with it, finding the bravery to get help. Instead it's a rather tedious recollection of the summer Zoe screwed around with two brothers and lied to them both. Zoe is seeing Max, a kid in her year at school but really she only has eyes for his older brother, Aaron and starts getting to know him better behind Max's back. It's all very high-school-drama-esque, and I stopped giving a crap about that shit years ago. Especially when it involved a brat of such epic proportions as Zoe.
The whole letters to a prisoner thing is a bizarre gimmick which I couldn't really get behind. The girl is describing all her sexual endeavours, her family in enormous detail, her school, her friends and yet she pleads anonymity by changing her name and address. She's dumb. She's a dumb kid. She makes bad choices. We all make bad choices when we're young - that's how we learn - but Zoe is devious, callous and foolish. She lies to her mother, she lies to her friend and uses her as an alibi more than once without her knowledge and she plays the two brothers off against each other. We could argue this makes her a more realistic protagonist but really, it just makes her a pain in the ass. I found it very difficult to have any sympathy for Zoe and her plight because it is all her own doing. She's begging for forgiveness, fishing around for pity:
"No-one's found out that I'm responsible. No-one has a clue and I'm walking around like that boy, Scot Free, saying all the right things and doing all the right stuff, but inside I'm screaming. I daren't tell mum or dad or my sisters because I'll be disowned and I don't want to go to prison even though I deserve it."
It's not a spoiler to say she believes she killed a boy. It's revealed early on. But she doesn't have a single thought for the boy who lost his life, his family, his poor grieving mother. All she cares about is herself and her own loss and her own guilt. She's selfish, spoiled and disrespectful.
I felt so bad for everyone in Zoe's life. They were going through some real shit. Zoe's youngest sister has health problems and is deaf. Her father is coping with the ill-health of his own father who has suffered a debilitating stroke. Max is dealing with abandonment issues after his father left and remarried. And Zoe is there dicking about, stepping all over other people's feelings and refusing to leave her little teenaged bubble and actually give a crap about other people. The worst of it all is that Zoe learns fuck-all from the whole debacle. There appears to be zero character development from start to finish. I don't feel like she gained anything from her experience. Sure, she agreed to take part in the memorial service, she read some poem ( which sounds like it was about as good as my 15 year old self's poetry ) but she's still feeling sorry for herself. She's still not acknowledging the impact this boy's death has had on everyone who loved him. Zoe is a very frustrating character.
Ketchup Clouds is a quick and easy read, and it has it's moments - Zoe's family dynamic is quite interesting and kinda sweet - but in general this kind of book is the reason I'm not a huge fan of contemporary fiction: the drama I just don't give a fuck about, the irritatingly self absorbed characters and too many instances I just want to hurl the book at the wall in frustration at the sheer stupidity of the whole situation. People who enjoy contemporary YA will probably love this because although the majority of the subject matter isn't that unique ( the dreaded love triangle rears it's ugly head ) there is a somewhat unusual element to the story ( "murder" most foul ) which puts a slightly different spin on things. I just think this really wasn't the book for me.
"The tan carpet was stiff and black with stripes of dried blood, spattered like a Jackson Pollock canvas. The walls were streaked with it, handprints smearing their dingy beige surfaces. And the bodies. Dozens of bodies. People she’d seen every day since kindergarten, people whom she’d played tag with and cried over and kissed were lying at odd angles, their bodies pale and cold, their eyes staring like rows of dolls in a shop window."
There's a lot of blood in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. There's a lot of fangs-tearing-throats-out, stringy gore and insides exposed to the world. But beneath it all is fluff. This book is built on a foundation of fluff. And as far as I'm aware that is not a very stable building material.
Tana wakes up after a night of drunken partying to find the bodies of all her friends torn apart by vampires. But then in Tana's world, vampires are a constant threat. An outbreak of vampirism has swept the globe leaving humans afraid to leave their homes after dark. With her infected ex-boyfriend and a random stray vampire in tow, Tana heads to Coldtown - one of many quarantine areas where all vampires and all infected are legally required to go to keep the rest of the population safe. What follows is a confused fumbling for some kind of point to what has happened and a rather half hearted romantic story line with some mild threat along the way.
Tana is a pain in the ass. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is written in the third person so it's kinda difficult to grasp what the fuck is actually going through Tana's brain when she puts a live and bloodthirsty vampire in the trunk of her car and then drives around with him just hanging out in there. Her judgement drops down a further notch from "insanity" to "officially brain-dead" when she invites him to drive while she falls asleep on the passenger seat. These are not the happy-clappy sparkling-in-the-sunlight, drinking-deer-blood vampires focussed on family unity we all came to know and hate when we had Twilight foisted upon us. These are dangerous, vicious killers. Tana had her arm ripped open by her own infected mother:
"That was seven years ago. The doctors told her father the memory would fade, like the big messy scar on her arm, but neither ever did."
And yet, Tana shows zero caution when dealing with this creature. Ditto for her recently turned and highly dangerous ex-boyfriend, her being perfectly happy for him to waltz around a very busy tourist destination on their way to Coldtown and giggling it off when he lunges for her throat multiple times. Tana spends a lot of time giggling inappropriately, like when people have died, when people are about to die and when people are in the process of dying. Death is treated with a lighthearted chuckle throughout this book. But this makes no sense. Tana has witnessed the seven years long grief of her father over the death of her mother. Why doesn't she hold more value in human life ?!!
"If she was going to die, she might as well die sarcastic."
Uhm. Okaaaay. I guess as long as Tana manages to have a right good laugh before she's dismembered and fed upon by a savage creature of the night, it'll all work out fine. For a book so packed with descriptions of open wounds, blood geysering from torn arteries and brutal stabbings there really isn't a whole lot of menace or urgency because death is dealt with so casually. I felt no more than a sense of mild alarm from most of the characters throughout and this really took the edge off the tension.
There's the usual relationship drama - girl falls in love with a murderer. You know what I'm talking about. I'm getting real tired of this shit. Shit like this:
"Allow me to explain how my whole life has prepared me for this moment. I am used to girls screaming, and your screams - your screams will be sweeter than another’s cries of love."
What. The. Fuck.
This is how Gavriel - the random vampire Tana brought along for the ride - rolls it seems. Gavriel is an ancient Russian vampire. He has killed countless people. He is self-centred, vindictive and aggressive. So Tana falls in love with him. Natch. What's with all these chicks making eyes at criminals?!! What's with all these girls who have no care for their own self preservation?!! I don't get it. Am I missing something ?!! Is there something hot about dating a guy who could jump up and murder me when I least expect it ?!!
But, hey !! In this reality - murder is cool. It's glamorous. TV shows and Youtube videos are being made about life inside Coldtown, depicting it as one epically rad non-stop partay. These Coldtown vampires are celebrities, admired and loved by all for their bloodlust and swagger. I really don't get this either. These creatures have torn the world apart, have killed loved ones and destroyed communities and yet there's message boards and forums and whole websites for people who want to be just like them. Why ?!! Please help me understand - why would anyone aspire to hunt down and savagely kill people by biting them to death ?!! I'm very confused.
I'm also very confused about what the fuck actually happened about two thirds of the way into this book. The story seemed to implode into a giant black hole of nothingness. It became very convoluted with a lot of flitting from one place to the next without actually getting a whole lotta shit done. And the twist ?!! Crap. Epically crap. One of the most boring surprises (if I call it that) in literary history. I did not give a single fuck. Not one. Behind all the gore and all the atmospheric lighting there's really not a whole lot going on. The plot moves at snail's pace because there's not enough of it to drive the story forward. There's a helluva lot of info-dumping, long and meandering backstory and running, just running without any substance. Extra characters were thrown in, it appeared to try and add some urgency but really no. Just no. This only made for a poor attempt to grasp at some meaning and reason for Tana's ridiculous actions. I wasn't buying it. Especially as the conclusion basically added up to Tana murdering a guy and then immediately heading down the disco with all her mates to party the night away. What the actual fuck was that ?!!
My two stars are awarded for Holly Black's great writing. The description was awesome and the dialog was tight. But other than that this read a lot like another tired, well trodden story of a bunch of "cool" vampires prancing around and chowing down on humans with little consequence. I was not amused.
See y'all after !!
I read Coraline many moons ago when I wasn't really sure which way up I was, let alone what I was actually reading. It was unsettling as fuck. The button eyed mother through the goddam wall. Yikes.
Reading Neverwhere feels like Neil Gaiman grew with me - he has created an adult Coraline to match my now (kinda) adult self. There was the same sense of unease, the same different familiarity, the same alternative and bizarre reality but with a slick sophistication crammed with delicious details.
I goddam loved this. I officially heart Neil Gaiman. His portrayal of an altogether different London operating beneath the streets of the existing city was perfection. Mr Gaiman has a wonderful, enviable imagination.
Richard Mayhew leads a boring, sad little life in London going about his boring, sad little business under the thumb of his ambitious and controlling fiancée and trapped within the four walls of his depressing apartment. Until he meets Door - a girl from an altogether different London - when he stumbles across her lying, bleeding on the pavement. He makes the decision to scrape her up and come to her rescue, inadvertently throwing himself into the strange and frightening world of London-Below, an alternative reality where the rats are bowed down to, nightmares are sold on market stalls and there is a life-or-death-necessity to mind the gap. Richard finds himself drawn into a quest filled with danger, surprises and possibilities and eventually discovers that he is in fact much more than a boring, sad little man stuck at a boring, sad little office job day-in, day-out.
The characters populating Neverwhere are outstanding. This is how you write fantasy. It's no good trotting out a bunch of poorly fleshed out stick figures with a couple of surprising facial features and a penchant for throwing supposedly witty one-liners around. Gaiman has created real people. His characters are bold, unique and full of life. I love them all - the good, the bad and the ugly. And Gaiman doesn't shy away from the ugly. Some of his descriptions of bloated corpses, gruesome murders and evil deeds are kinda sick-making but still with that almost fairytale quality and with a very black sense of humour, the book never felt heavy.
The twisty-twists and the turny-turns were surprising and delightful which made what could have been a boring trudge through the sewers, listing things, into a bright and refreshing story of courage, friendship, betrayal and hope with lots of eating the heads off small creatures, torture and death-by-spearing. The villains were satisfyingly villainous and the heroes, after much fantastic character development were wonderfully heroic. Richard began life rather bland and blah but I very much enjoyed his transformation from meek-follower to man-seeking-more.
I feel like I should say something about Neil Gaiman's comment on modern society and the way it is satirised in his descriptions of the startling differences and but at the same time, similarities between London-Above and London-Below. But I won't.
I'm very confused as to why anyone would compare Half Bad by Sally Green to Harry Potter. How did this occur? There is literally nothing here that is in any way similar in the slightest to Harry Potter. Like, not even a little bit. Not even a microscopic piece. Therefore, being disappointed in Half Bad because you were expecting Harry Potter is really rather bizarre. Yeah. Don't do that.
So I took my horse up onto the hills the other week. This is the first time I've been able to do this with him in a long time as the weather had been bad. When I talk about my horse I'm not talking about a little smiling, round-bellied pony. My horse is a fire breathing dragon - a pumped up, arrogant show jumper with an opinion that is unfortunately often different to my own. As soon as his hooves hit the grass at the bottom of the first hill he was bouncing, every muscle coiled, a mad glint in his eye. What happened next was purely a lack of judgement on my part. I said to him you wanna go, you go - I dropped the reins slack and booted him in the ribs. Please don't ask me what the hell was going through my mind when I suggested that this 1500lb creature with a wicked sense of humour and a responsibility for my well-being aim for a flat out gallop, but I did. Unfortunately horses are highly unpredictable and instead of riding off into the sunset with the wind in our hair my horse decided he was going to pretend he was at the rodeo and proceeded to kick and buck like there was no tomorrow. I'm talking back hooves over his head, twisting every which way, just broncing. For some reason I was taken completely by surprise and didn't have a hope in hell staying on the madman's back and therefore went sailing off rather ungracefully, landing in a very awkward heap on the ground while my now ecstatically pleased with himself horse disappeared over the horizon, leaping about triumphantly. I was black and blue. Nobody ever told me that there are rocks on that hill. And when you fall onto rocks it hurts.
Reading Half Bad felt like falling hard onto those rocks all over again. This book beat me up. It punched me right in the feels.
Half Bad is the rather brutal story of Nathan, a boy half white witch, half black witch. In this reality witches live alongside fains, or regular people (muggles if we have to go there) and consist of white witches - the supposed good guys - and black witches - the feared and ostracised. Nathan is the first of his kind and labelled a half code. His mother was a much respected white witch, his father the most hated and murderous black witch in English history. The witch's government is wary of Nathan, afraid of what he will become and hellbent on imposing suffocating controls on him. Nathan must escape the clutches of the white witch government before his seventeenth birthday in order for him to receive three gifts and the blood of his ancestors or he will never grow into a mature witch, instead becoming sick and dying a horrible death. There's many scrapes along the way - lots of running and jumping, gunshots and knives.
Shit. Pretty much complete shit.
If you enjoy sexist bullcrap with an emphasis on over-bearing and aggressive romance coupled with a meandering, tissue-paper thin plot and populated with wisps of smoke on the breeze in place of supporting characters overseen by an unsettling puppet-master third-side of a hideous and oppressive triangle of love then by all means - be my guest and get ready to fall in love with Splintered by AG Howard. If, however, you are not a fan of fiction-for-the-insane and would prefer not to read a shoddy rehashing of Tim Burton's 2010 movie Alice mashed up with American McGee's awesome video game of the same name then this is really not the book for you.
Alyssa's family has a history of insanity, beginning it seems with Alyssa's great-great-great grandmother who was the inspiration behind Lewis Caroll's classic story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. With Alyssa's mother incarcerated in the most ridiculous asylum I have ever had the misfortune of reading about (if a nurse were to casually wander around with an unprescribed and loaded syringe of some unspecified sedative just chilling in her pocket, believe me she'd me struck off sharpish) Alyssa dives back down the rabbit hole to Wonderland to right the wrongs of the past and break the curse of madness her family appears to be struck with.
*There are some very mild spoilers ahead*
I'm being generous with my three star rating because I think maybe I just didn't get this book. I mean, it's got a pretty high average rating of 4.13 on Goodreads and all those people who pushed it up to these giddy heights can't be wrong. Can they ?!!
We start out with a pretty creepy and sucks-you-right-in prologue of Mara Dyer introducing herself under her false name as suggested by her lawyer because *gasp* she's a murderer. What ensues in a freaky slow burner of a story about Mara Dyer and her hideously bad luck when it comes to people, you know, staying alive when she gets mad. Add to this the required hot dude, the mean girl and the clichéd best friend and we've got ourselves a YA best seller.
So in all honesty The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer By Michelle Hodkin starts off pretty awesome, beginning with that lush front cover - I mean, does that not just scream read me ?!! Mara is a pretty typical teen going through some not-so-typical shit - her two best friends and boyfriend died when a building collapsed on all four of them leaving Mara the only one escaping with her life. Traumatised and confused, she and her family move to Florida to begin a new life and also to allow her lawyer father to work on a pretty huge case of child abduction and murder. There Mara meets Noah, English Wonderboy Extraordinaire who has some shit of his own going down.
"The Aether flowed, corded and angry, giving the night a blue, marbled glow. After the storm, the calm skies had only held for a day. Now there was little difference between day and night anymore. Days were darkened by clouds and the blue cast of Aether. Nights were brightened by the same. They flowed together, the edges blurring into an endless day. An ever night."
Yeah okay. I did not much care for Under The Never Sky. You can check out my review to learn why. But I'm not sour. I'm fair. Everyone deserves a second chance. And Veronica Rossi, on your second chance - you win.
The first time I went skiing I spent pretty much the entire trip unsure of which way up I was. That and freezing. And sunburned. No-one warns you that the sun glaring off the snow burns skin. Why ?!! Why does no-one warn you of these things ?!! "Come skiing" they said. "It'll be fun" they said. They never told me I'd twist both my ankles around a dozen times, find the chair lift about as disconcerting as dangling dozens of feet in the air from a seemingly rickety, thin metal structure over a hard and frozen surface can be or that being smacked in the face repeatedly by shards of ice is in actual fact not at all pleasant. They assured me that throwing yourself over the side of a snow covered mountain several times in one day is great - "You'll have a blast !!!" - yeah. No. Skiing and I do not see eye-to-eye.
However .... When the opportunity arose for me to go give sliding down a sickenly steep hill strapped to two ridiculously narrow planks of wood another chance I think I must have suffered some kind of memory malfunction because I agreed. It was only as we were pulling into the parking lot and I caught a glimpse of dozens of bodies hurtling at speed down, what looked to me like a sheer cliff face above us that my stomach began to churn and the recollection of my previous experiences resurfaced - think: a ski instructor yelling at the top of his voice "MAKE A PIZZA SHAPE WITH YOUR SKIS !!!" as I flew merrily past, gaining speed at an alarming rate, all the while my knees beginning to bend in ways that no knees have any business bending. Yeah, it wasn't pretty.
But I actually was super glad that I gave skiing another chance. The view at the top, after I'd survived the chair lift ( just ) was great, we found a decent instructor who didn't feel the need to use food analogies to teach me how to ski properly and the lodge did pretty much the most awesome breakfast that I have ever eaten. I did not experience my life flashing before my eyes this time, and that's usually the mark of a very good trip.
So sometimes it's good to give a thing a second chance. I'm glad I pressed on and read Through The Ever Night because really, it's kinda awesome.
"We lose and lose, but we're still here. Shaking in place, afraid of doing something. I'm tired of settling for this because I don't know if something better exists. It has to. What point is there otherwise? I can do something about it. And I will."
This sequel very neatly sidesteps the dreaded Curse-of-the-middle-book that so many trilogies fall foul of and manages to actually kick the ass of the first book, Under The Never Sky. Gone is the endless tramping through forestry, gone are the awkward, clunky romantic exchanges and gone is Aria behaving like a wet dishrag. All this shit from the first book has been replaced by well rounded, likeable characters, well paced and interesting action and some actual real live feels.
"Love was like the waves in the sea, gentle and good sometimes, rough and terrible at others, but that it was endless and stronger than the sky and earth and everything in between."
Aria and Perry's relationship, now already established, is thoughtful and believable. Having discovered that Reverie may be on it's last legs, suffered through the death of her mother and made a fool's deal with the menacing Hess to lead him to the safety of the Still Blue, Aria is kicking about in the woods when Perry stumbles across her and upon their reunion brings her to live with him at the Tide's compound of which he is the newly instated Blood Lord following the untimely death of his brother Vale. From there we follow their quest to rescue Perry's kidnapped nephew Talon, discover the whereabouts of Perry's sister Liv and ultimately find refuge for the down-on-their-luck Tides as the worsening aether storms and hostile clans close in from on sides.
Aria and Perry must keep their relationship a secret or suffer the wrath of the Tides anger at their Blood Lord being tempted by a dweller. This sounds like a bit of a lame story line, right? It wasn't. The characters of the Tides are unique, interesting and developed. Veronica Roth actually made me give a shit about supporting characters !! Hurrah !! Perry's loyalty and devotion to his people made Through The Ever Night stand out as much more than a typical YA romance with added peril - it created a story with real meaning about courage, love and family unity. There was no need for Perry to care for Cinder and later Marron, offering them shelter, food and a place amongst the Tides, but he did because he's a real stand up guy who actually gives a fuck about other people. And there was no need for Aria to give a shit about what happened to Talon but she did because she loves Perry and wants to see him happy. I like these values and I love these characters.
With lots of different threads unravelling simultaneously Through The Ever Night is fast paced and flowing. Dual POV can be a drag, with the reader inevitably picking a side and just waiting it out for the POV to return to the favoured character, but I feel like both sides of this story were engaging and interesting and actually held my interest equally. I very much enjoyed Roar and Aria's interactions. I pretty much heart Roar. He's the loveable best friend all YA characters should have to prevent them spiralling downward into a self-obsessed, black hole of introspection and incessant inner monologues of hopelessness which sadly often happens during forbidden-love story lines, particularly in YA where everything seems to get so goddam intense.
"Aria dropped her satchel against the wall and glanced at the front door, smiling at a sound beyond the reach of his ears. A second later, Roar blew into the house in a dark flash.
'Finally!' he bellowed. He wrapped Aria into a big hug, lifting her off the ground. 'What took you so long? Don't answer that." He glanced at Perry. "I think I know."
As sick as this may sound, I like the fact that everyone was in actual danger and that they had some proper urgency about them, wether it was from the destruction of the aether storms, the violence of other clans desperate to find safety or from the harsh brutality of the leader of Reverie, Hess. There was real pain and oh, the feels. Ouch. You hurt me Ms Rossi, you cut me real deep. The writing is so much more sophisticated than what we experienced in Under The Never Sky - the description is rich and vivid and despite the fact that the world building was a little thin on the ground, I felt draw into this world through the shining characterisation and, at times, some beautiful turn of phrase.
"He lay down, gathering her close. Aria slumped against him, turning her ear to his chest. She listened to his heartbeat - a good, solid sound - as the warmth of his body melted into her. She'd been in a fog earlier. Hallucinating and searching for what was real. She found it in him. He was real."
I'm not sure if I'll ski again. I don't know if I want to take a chance at my last experience being a fluke only to have the next time I give it ago return to a snowy vision of hell on earth. But I'm super excited to read Into The Still Blue for hopefully more of the same snuggly, heartfelt awesomeness.
Ciao for now my friends !!
I was very kindly provided this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Cheers guys - I never win anything !! Look - even my dog was excited to receive this in the mail !!
I think the best way to describe The Flow by Caroline J Martin is bland. This book is oatmeal. It's school uniform. It's a cream carpet. It's just blah.
The Flow is the story of Britain, economically collapsed and resurrected by the ultra-religious Optimus party, a political party hellbent on control of the population through brainwashing and harsh punishment. Lexi and a group of friends begin to see through the cracks of the teachings of the Optimus party when they realise that some of the information on the Flow, their version of the internet, isn't quite right. From there we are led a merry dance as Lexi and her new bestie, Lukas work to unravel the mystery of the lies that have been told to them and their society.
I think the premise is really good, sure. But the execution? I'm not so sure. The author states at the back of the book:
One reason I wrote this book was to encourage young people - especially young girls - to be interested in science and how it can improve our lives.
And boy does it show. There's nothing wrong with this noble quest in pursuit of education for the brats (and I use that term oh-so affectionately) but when the same point is laboured over and over again, and there's a lengthy explanation of Darwin's theory of evolution and the discovery of the structure of DNA right where you'd expect the action to be sitting ..... well, that's just irritating. Having a suggestion of science, an introduction that encourages kids to want to discover more: good. Telling me three or four times the basic ins and outs of Avian flu: not so good.
British society, under the control of the Optimus party, has transformed into some hideous cult-like organisation with enforced worship and compulsory prayer. Citizens must attend the Sacellum twice daily to hear the teachings of the prophet Nathaniel Jeffries as whispered to him by the Creator. If anyone dares to question these teachings they are treated to a very public lashing, and this includes little kids. WTF?!! I had a hard time getting my head around the world building as a whole to be honest - why are the people accepting being treated this way? It's nonsensical. And what's going on in the rest of the world that they have quite happily watched a once democratic and influential country fall at the wayside, prey to a power-hungry fanatically religious, dictatorial leader? Nope - I can't accept this as a reality.
We learn later that the citizens of this new and cray-cray Britain have been brainwashed and had their memories wiped by the use of high frequency sound waves, invisible to the human ear. Uhm .... Really? Caroline Martin, honey - you want kids interested in science? Great! But how about doing some scientific research of your own and come up with a method by which the population could have had their memories tampered with in a way that's actually believable. I've not read such nonsense since I was assured that Florida survived catastrophically rising sea levels in that masterpiece, Wither by Lauren Destephano .....
So, lumped with this absurd society we battle on and meet Lexi. I think the best way to describe Lexi is lacklustre. There's nothing particularly stand out about her. She's not very interesting. We're promised she has an inquiring mind:
"We think you may have the analytical abilities that we will need to work out what is going on"
Ben informs Lexi, after summoning her to his home in an effort to recruit her to his cause of discovering the truth behind the factual inconsistencies he and his faceless sidekicks think they have noticed in the Flow. Now Ben, flattery will get you nowhere. Especially when said flattery in merely fantasy. There's nothing about Lexi that screams unusually intelligent. There's some vague explanation along the lines of "you got a bunch of gold stars at school so you must be smart" and "your Mom is kinda good at mathematics, so you must be too right?" but really, it smells an awful lot like Special Snowflake syndrome. Lexi is special because she is. Despite the fact that not one of the book's mysteries are actually solved by Lexi herself - Lukas uses his brain (as a boy he is able to you see) to work out where the hidden library is and how to get there and he's the one who puts together the information about the vaccine with Lexi just kind of stumbling along behind him, wringing her hands and worrying about bats getting caught in her hair (that doesn't really happen by the way).
There's not a lot that can be said about Lexi's abilities to be honest because she ain't got none. She's alright as a heroine - she doesn't fall in love with Lukas or Ben, while yes, she's kinda self centred, she also manages to have some considerate thoughts towards her mother and her friends and she shows some genuine concern for the fate of her neighbours and the other townspeople - but she just has this personality void. I imagined her to have these dead, vacant eyes; staring out at the world in perpetual mild confusion because she's just so incredibly blah. Her favourite pastimes include listening to music under the duvet with her friend Tish, eating popcorn and seeing a movie every Saturday night. If Ben hadn't approached her and drowned her in flattery I highly doubt she would have made any kind of move to discover the lies of the Flow herself because, while she's very good at following other people around, attempt to stand her up on her own and she promptly falls flat on her face like the cardboard cutout she is. She had zero initiative.
Lukas was marginally better in terms of get-up-and-go but he was still entirely faceless, with no family or friends besides Lexi and barely a single independent thought in his head. I mean, these kids don't even go to school. There's some mention of classmates and they seem to have an endless supply of homework but do they ever appear to actually set foot inside the school gates? Nope. I did enjoy Lukas' discovery in the hidden library though. That was sorta cool. He and Lexi trek down there and find a whole bunch of banned books about science. The Optimus party's extremist religious stance had completely denounced science as witchcraft and evil and against the Creator's wishes (yeah, we're stepping back several centuries in thinking, reasoning and research here. For some reason) and every member of society has been forced to accept that modern medicine and understanding of how the world works is redundant when prayer will, in fact, cure all. Okaaaay. It's a bit wild, but their realisation that perhaps what they have been taught is illogical and backwards is interesting and the description of the hidden library is pretty awesome - one copy of every book ever written ?!! Sounds like heaven !!!
The ending was ..... I don't know. The ending was inexplicable. An old abandoned hospital with everything left exactly as it had been a decade previously? Security cameras in said hospital still function perfectly? Microphones on said security cameras for a start, present and for a second, picking up precisely the right incriminating sentence at precisely the right time? It was all a little too inconvenient. There wasn't really enough actual threat for me to muster more than a "meh" in response to what was happening, especially when as a whole, the book was as bland as cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
One thing I absolutely loved about The Flow was the packaging. The cover art isn't particularly inspiring, but the paper the cover is made from is wonderful! It's soft and thick, as are the pages, and the type is shiny with the paper a proper sharp white. Very impressive.
I have no drive to continue with this series (I believe it's a trilogy) because sure, it wasn't terrible but it made me feel tired. It wasn't hugely boring as the pacing was good and every plot point advanced the story. I just ..... I don't even know. It was 2D. That's probably the most accurate description. There was a lack of depth and it was devoid of any real feeling or urgency.
I hope everyone is having a magical March !! See y'all after !!
This is such a difficult book to review because I'm genuinely unsure about how I'm supposed to feel about it. Like, what exactly was Matthew Quick's intention when he created Leonard?
On the one hand he seems to be a character for us to side with, feel sorry for, understand better through his memories and flashbacks. And on the other hand I want to kick him until he's down and then stomp on his neck because he's a little shit who needs to get a grip.
Leonard Peacock decides, on his 18th birthday that he will kill first his ex-best friend and classmate, Asher and then himself because he's isolated and alone and afraid. We follow him and his inner monologue for a little over 24 hours, experiencing his reality and his memories as he struggles to find something to live for.
I love reading stories about people who are a little bit fucked up. People are endlessly fascinating. Everyone views the world slightly differently, taking their own experiences and opinions and mashing them up with whatever is happening in front of them to create their own interpretation of the situation. And sometimes, as in Leonard's case this situation can fail to resemble reality even a little bit. Leonard is of the opinion that everyone is an "übermoron" and that nobody cares about him. He's the smartest person to ever breathe, he's violently pretentious and has no need to follow any rules ever because he's completely above everyone and everything. So in short, he's an irritating little fucker. But he's also incredibly sad and a product of his horrific past experiences. Do you see my dilemma? I hate him, but I feel for him.
Many moons ago, when I was still in high school I made the misguided decision to take this god-awful AH English class in my final year before I skipped out to go travelling. I was an A student in my Higher English class. It was piss easy so I thought what the hell - how much harder can Advanced English be?! It wasn't that the class was difficult that gave me the desire to wield an AK-47 in there and be done with the whole charade, it was the fact that the tutor was so goddam up herself she made my jaw ache every time I set foot in that fucking room. On the first day of class when hopes were still running high, she had us all sit round in a pissing circle like a bunch of five year olds and share with the class what we had been reading over the summer. People were spouting off all kinds of shit like the best sellers (whatever they were that year) and some classics in prep for this bullshit. I had done exactly zero prep. Same as I did for every class. How I ever got a B in higher French I guess I'll never know, as rather than spending the year diligently learning vocabulary and practicing my verbs, accent and writing skills, I spent the year gambling in the library, at Pizza Hut or smoking behind the cabins. Good times.
So anyway, it wound it's way round to being my turn to announce my literary tastes to the world and I did not like the way this was going, not one little bit. I'm a connoisseur of YA fiction. I like the fast paced plot, the delightful impossibility of some of the stories, the snappy, quirky characters and easy going writing style. As far as I'm concerned, most adult fiction (particularly the best sellers) can go fuck itself. It's pretentious, try-hard, look-at-me bullshit. I do not care for it. Short sightedly, I expressed this opinion and was promptly asked what the hell I was doing in an Advanced Higher English class. Keep in mind this class is designed to offer students the option to enter University English at second year. It's some intense shit. A hush descended on the assembled students. Grins broke out. And that was when I knew I was so done with high school.
Dismissing YA is a fools game. There are real diamonds in there. There are incredibly talented authors writing YA and it's hugely popular. Refusing to take YA seriously is like refusing to eat tortilla chips dipped in Nutella - you're missing out. The tutor hmmm-ed and moved on and then proceeded to take nothing I submitted for my portfolio seriously. She needed to get a grip. My friend also took this class. She sat in the back and napped. When she left, the tutor approached her very apologetically, clearly embarrassed that she had misplaced this girls entire portfolio. The girl assured her that while disappointed, it wasn't a big deal failing to admit the she hadn't actually submitted a single piece of work the entire year and therefore there was no portfolio for her to collect unless you wanted to count the two cardboard covers strung together with only empty space and unfortunate failure nestled between. Yeah - that tutor really wasn't on top of things.
The point I'm trying to make, in a roundabout way is that dismiss YA all you like but you will miss incredible books like World After by Susan Ee. This book is fucking gold. Lightening fast paced, addictive and terrifyingly delightful. What an awesome series this is shaping up to be.
We join Penryn as she comes rushing back to life following her tussle with the angel-scorpion monstrosities resulting in a deep paralysis, below the angel's aerie. At her side is her bat-shit crazy mom and her little undead sister with razor blades for teeth. What follows is a whirlwind scramble for survival as Penryn tries desperately to piece her fractured family back together in the face of the looming angel-apocalypse, helped of course by her darling Raffe as he searches for his lost wings.
(Most anticipated = most YA books added on Goodreads as of February 20th, 2014 when we collected the data. View the entire list and see how the rankings have changed here.)
• Lauren’s first YA standalone since Before I Fall!
• On sale March 4th
• The final book in the Partials trilogy!
• On sale March 11
• The first book in a new series!
• On sale March 4th by Farrar Straus Giroux
• This is Julie Murphy’s debut novel!
• On sale March 18
• The first in a futuristic series about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.
• On sale March 18
• The third book in the Slated series.
• On sale March 6 from Orchard Books
Editor’s Note: After posting this, we realized that Shattered is being released in the UK in March and in the USA in May. It is releasing in May in the US from Penguin with a different cover.
• The first in a new series!
• On sale March 11 from EgmontUSA
• A standalone, contemporary romance.
• On sale March 8 from Entangled Publishing
• A bind-up of five prequel novellas, available in print for the firsttime!
• On sale March 4 from Bloomsbury USA Childrens
• This is the second book in this fantasy, mystery series.
• On sale March 4 by Tor Teen
• This is the sequel to Spellcaster!
• On sale March 4
• The first in a new fantasy series!
• On sale March 1 by Skyscape
• A super-cute paperback original!
• On sale March 11
• A new dystopian standalone!
• On sale March 4 by St. Martin’s Griffin
• This is Amy’s debut YA novel!
• On sale March 11 by Soho Teen
• Mythology and fantasy combine in this new book!
• On sale March 11 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers