Thursday, 11 April 2013

REVIEW: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Battling against a society in which love has been declared a disease, Lena now finds herself at the centre of a fierce revolution. But the Wilds are no longer the haven they once were as the government seeks to stamp out the rebels. And Lena's emotions are in turmoil following the dramatic return of someone she thought was lost forever...

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Lena and her best friend Hana, Requiem brings the Delirium trilogy to an exhilarating end and showcases Lauren Oliver at the height of her writing powers - emotionally powerful and utterly enthralling. (goodreads)

Review (contains spoilers for ALL 3 books):

I read Delirium and absolutely loved it. I read Pandemonium and thoroughly enjoyed it. As for Requiem I certainly LIKED it, but I did have a few issues, which I will submit you to now. ;)

I suspected it from the moment I picked up book 2 and by the end I knew it was inevitable. Brace yourselves... the love triangle is coming. I'm afraid I rather dislike love triangles. I think it was sparked by Twilight, and then bolstered by countless other books with the same tired formula. I'd rather just focus on the one couple, and bypass all the drama that comes with a second suitor. I'm certain love triangles can be done right but... I'm just a bit tired of seeing them done wrong.

In Delirium I completely fell for Lena and Alex. I relished every scene they had together; they seemed such a sweet, perfect couple. As a result I went into Pandemonium ready to hate Julian and... didn't. In fact I really love Julian, and that only intensified with this instalment. He's been through so much and his world was turned upside down, yet he never wastes a moment feeling sorry for himself. Instead he focuses on adapting to life in the wilds, and soon proves his worth to the rebels. This is all in spite of Lena's complete lack of support, as she is absolutely awful to him from the moment Alex reappears. I was really, really disappointed with how petty and mean she becomes. The only time she is nice to Julian is when she's using him to distract herself from Alex, or trying to make him jealous.

Speaking of Alex, I didn't find him very sympathetic in this instalment. At the end of Pandemonium I was actually (unpopular opinion alert!) not that happy about him turning up again. Because I knew the love triangle was imminent, and because I really. like. Julian! After the big Alex shaped space in book 2, I needed Requiem to remind me why I adored him so much in the first place and sadly, it didn't deliver on this front. He has a much less significant role than I expected, and spends most of it either cosied up with Coral or trying to rival Lena in the pettiness factor. I was really annoyed with his whole "I never really loved you" thing, and I can't believe Lena bought it. Pleeeease! You are both better than this.

Luckily there is much more to Requiem than the relationship drama. After the events of Pandemonium the government have stepped up their campaign against the 'invalids', and the time has come to make a stand. The tension had me glued to the page throughout and there was a certain fatality that absolutely ripped my heart in two... As well as following Lena's story we also rejoin her former best friend Hana, who has been cured and is preparing for marriage to Portland's mayor to be. At first this may all seem a bit irrelevant, but we soon learn Hana's new life is not as simple as it seems, and eventually the two story lines converge in the finale.

I really did enjoy this final instalment to the Delirium series, despite my issues with the love triangle setup. I liked the hopeful, open ending and the last few paragraphs gave me goosebumps! (the good kind) By the way, was I the only one who wanted to belt out this song as I turned the last page? 

Probably... but doesn't it fit well?!

What was your opinion on this book, or the rest of the series for that matter? :) Let me know!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (#3)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Alison Can Read & Parajunkee's View. This week's question is...

Q: Have you ever read a book that you thought you would hate? Did you end up hating it? Did you end up loving it? Or would you never do that?

I don't think I've ever really started a book thinking that I'm going to hate it- I'd rather read something I think I'm going to like! But I did procrastinate for a long time on reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. My friend kept on recommending them to me, but I thought I would find them boring as I dont usually read much high fantasy. Also I felt like I'd be wasting reading time I could be spending with something better, as all the books in the series are so long!Even after I started watching the (brilliant) TV series I still resisted reading the books for quite a while. I couldn't believe how obtuse I'd been when I finally got around to starting A Game of Thrones. AMAZING! I raced through the whole series after that and never once got bored. :) sometimes it's good to take a chance!

Hello to anyone hopping through! Make sure to leave a link to your FF so I can check it out. :)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

REVIEW: Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them. (goodreads)

We've had vampires, werewolves, angels, merpeople... and now Let the Sky Fall brings us air elementals, also known as sylphs or windwalkers. What a breath of fresh air! (ahahah gosh I'm so funny) Anyway, I was intrigued enough by the concept to pick this one up, and it definitely does not disappoint.

Messenger has created a detailed and interesting mythology around the sylphs and the different ways they manipulate and communicate with the winds. One of my favourite things was the description of the four different types of wind (northerlies, easterlies... get the drift? ;). They all have unique qualities; for example the Northerly winds are rough and powerful, the southerlies soothing and inviting... Messenger explains it all better than myself though and so beautifully, you can almost feel the breeze on your skin.

The tale is told from two POVs: that of Vane, a boy haunted by dreams of a strange girl and the tornado left him orphaned, and Audra, the sylph who is sworn to protect him. Dual POVs can sometimes be hard to pull off; I've read books where there was so little differentiation between voices I couldn't always remember which was which! In this case though the two voices are very distinct, as Vane comes across very light-hearted and humorous, whilst Audra is serious and lyrical. I also sometimes find male POVs difficult to deal with, as it is hard to hit a good balance between "sounds like a teenage girl" and "OMG BOOBS", but Messenger triumphs in creating a realistic and likeable guy.

Vale is also pretty funny. I enjoyed the humour in this book, and there were quite a few lines which made me smile. As well as Vale's wisecracks, I found Audra's unfamiliarity with basic human concepts like seat belts to be very funny and sweet. In fact, I would have quite liked to see more of this! After all Audra is not human, and she hasn't really had any contact with humans besides following Vale and his family around. I really felt for her on that front, she must have been so lonely.

The plot was fairly slow (though not boring) for the first two thirds, but then it really picks up and gets a lot more exciting. The twist at the end really took me by surprise, but it was completely plausible. The very end was a little bit annoying, but then they tend to be that way when setting things up for a sequel...

There was really only one element of Let the Sky Fall which I actively disliked, and that was the romance. It was very obvious from the beginning, despite the whole "oh you're so annoying" thing they had with each other for the first few chapters. I just never buy it when sparks fly and the characters are instantly in love. Partly because I'm a mean ol' spinster, but also because it really is so unbelievable! I know Vale had been dreaming about her for years already and there may be further explanations coming up, but I still wanted to gag on his sappiness sometimes. Oh and obviously it had to be not only a fated love, but also a starcrossed one... Only not really; I didn't see the reasons they couldn't be together as particularly insurmountable.

I may have heaved a tired sigh when Vale started breaking out the L word, but overall I did really enjoy this book. It was a good read, with some interesting and original world-building and sympathetic characters. I will definitely read the next book, though I am not super-super excited about it. I wavered for quite a while on whether to give Let the Sky Fall a 3 or 4 star rating. This time I'm going to be a little harsh and go with 3. Really I'm not being too mean as its still a good rating for what was an enjoyable tale, but I don't think will stick with me long enough to justify a higher rating.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#2)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Release date: 2nd July 2013 (Harper Teen)
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.
So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company. (goodreads)

I've seen some positive reviews of this one floating around, and I just can't wait to read it myself! I've read a lot of contemporary YA but only a few which really stuck with me. I think this is going to end up joining that short list though! It sounds a lot of fun and even though it's very cliche I am a sucker for the whole rich guy-poor girl thing when it's done right. July seems a long way away right now, but it doesn't seem too bad when I think about my second pick, which is...

The Winds of Winter by George R. R. Martin.
Release date: ???
There's no cover or even a hint at a release date for this one yet, but the start of Game of Thrones' third season this week has got me excited about all things A Song of Ice and Fire! I was lucky enough to race through this series after discovering them last year, so I thankfully didn't have to experience the infamously long wait for a Dance of Dragons. Let's hope The Winds of Winter comes around a bit more quickly!

Anyone else excited about these books? Or Game of Thrones S3 for that matter? Let me know in the comments below! :)

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Books in Brief: Zombie Edition!

Whilst its fun writing reviews for the books I'm reading now, I keep regretting that I've read so many great books previously. I really want to share them, but they just aren't fresh enough in my memory for a full review. As a result I've decided to try out a new feature of sorts: Books in Brief, where I will write a very diddy review of 3-4 books I want to talk about, linked by some sort of common theme. Today, I'm starting with zombies.

First up is The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

In one of my favourite books of 2012 we follow 15 year old Temple across a devastating wasteland as she runs not just from zombies, but a vengeful man determined to see her dead. Temple is brilliant, and broken. Growing up post-apocalypse has made her tough, and she does what it takes to survive with a hardened calm which masks the terrors of her past. Although written in third person, the narrative carries Temple's distinctive voice, which is part of what makes the book so memorable. You can see what I mean from the very first line:

God is a slick god. Temple Knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe.”

I was hooked from there, and even once I finished the book her voice seemed to linger in my head. This quote also leads into another thing I loved about this one: Temple's ability to see the beauty that exists even in her ravaged world. It's a reminder that no matter how dark your situation, the sparks of light are always there if you look for them.

A beautifully written book, with a protagonist I adored and some memorable supporting characters. I had to give it 5 stars.

Next is This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers.

In This is Not a Test Sloane Price and 5 of her schoolmates take refuge in their old school to hide from a world which is falling to pieces outside. As they listen to the zombies clamouring at the doors, fear and mistrust stretches the tensions between the group of teens to breaking point.

Sloane stands out from other zombie apocalypse protagonists in that instead of fighting to stay alive, all she really wants to do is die. In an ironic twist of fate, the disaster actually saves her life in the first chapter, when she is preparing to end it. Swept up in events, as her companions cling to survival she remains detached, quietly working out the best time to leave for good.

This is Not a Test is a book which contains zombies, but is not really about them. It is what happens within the walls of the school which is important, and the way humanity, when frightened, can be as dangerous as any supernatural monster. Summers' characters are believably flawed and sometimes frustrating, but hard to dislike. In terms of plot and pacing I was always on the edge of my seat, as the tension was palpable throughout. Whilst it wasn't on the same level as The Reapers are the Angels for me, I rated This is Not a Test a very decent 4 stars.

Finally we have The Infects by Sean Beaudoin.

After an incident at the chicken processing factory where he works, Nick is sent to boot camp with an assortment of misbehaving teens. However things take an unusual turn when their camp counsellors suddenly develop a taste for human flesh. Joining forces with another group, which happens to include Nick's school/work colleague and crush, Petal, they fight to stay alive.

Honestly, I can't say I enjoyed this one very much. I never really cared about any of the characters, and the pervasive puerile humour wasn't really my style. I also felt like it tries just a bit too hard to be clever, which turned me off. There are a lot of references to popular Zombie films, most of which I haven't seen, so its possible parts were going over my head. Maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if this wasn't the case, but I do have to point out that my ignorance never stopped me enjoying the equally derivative Shaun of the Dead.

The Infects just escapes a 1 star rating because despite my complaints it did keep me reading, and an interesting twist made it just about worth making it to the end. I also thought Nick's relationship with his sister was quite sweet. As a result, I'm bumping it up to 2 stars.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Any other zombie books you would recommend?  Let me know in the comments below. :) Happy Easter all!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Feature & Follow Friday (#2)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Alison Can Read & Parajunkee's View. This week's question is...

Q: Tell us about the most emotional scene you've ever read in a book - and how did you react?

The only book I can think of that really made me properly cry is Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go. I don't want to give away too much but if you've read it you'll know what I mean when I say "Manchee". I bawled reading the scene, and then I put down the book and bawled some more. I think I probably gave myself a headache. A lot of other books have made me very teary (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green springs to mind) but I don't remember ever having quite so strong a reaction before. I just love dogs..!

What was your most emotional scene? Drop a comment if you're passing through,and if you're a new follower make sure to leave a link so I can follow back! :)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

REVIEW: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life--someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. (goodreads)


When her Uncle Finn dies, shy and reclusive June feels she's lost the only person in the world who truly understands her. Whilst she is still reeling from his loss she meets Toby, a stranger who claims to be a 'special friend' of Finn's but according to her mother was also his killer. At first she is repulsed, but against the odds an unlikely and awkward friendship blossoms between the two. As they trade memories, June is forced to confront how little she really knew about her Uncle and his life, as well as her true feelings towards him.

I think anyone who was ever labelled as a quiet child in their younger years will identify with June on some level. She is a dreamy girl who prefers fantasizing about the middle ages to living in the real world. She is at her happiest when she escapes deep into the woods, far enough from civilisation that she can pretend it doesn't exist and she really has gone back in time. She has no real friends bar her Uncle, and her sister Greta is apparently dedicated to tormenting her. At just 14 years old, June already seems to be on the tipping point of completely withdrawing into herself, and my heart was aching for her. On the other hand I admired her sense of wonder and imagination and so much. For this reason I loved the introduction of dungeons & dragons fan Ben. He doesn't have a large role but, by declaring her fascination with all things old timey cool rather than weird, he shows that she doesn't have to enjoy it entirely in isolation.

Greta is also a very interesting character. At first she seems to be just a cardboard cut-out "mean older sister", but her unpleasantness towards June is not at simple as all that. With each turn of the page cracks begin to appear in her seemingly perfect life, and we see that she may not be entirely to blame for the deterioration of the close friendship they had when young. I felt a lot of sympathy for her by the end. Carol Rifka Brunt also explores another sibling relationship: that of Finn and June's mother, Danni. Whilst it goes some way to explaining Danni's pushy and controlling nature, it wasn't quite enough to make me like her.

This is not a happy book, but it is not thoroughly depressing either. It speaks of grief, loneliness and the unspeakable unfairness of life, but there is also hope; the suggestion that maybe we don't have to be so alone, after all. It's been a month or two since I read Tell the Wolves I'm Home yet I still find my mind wandering to certain characters and events within it. The raw, messy realness of it makes this a tale which won't be easily forgotten.