Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Tune in Tuesday (#1): Book Playlists Edition

Tune-in Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger from GReads. The theme for March is Book Playlists! Ever heard a song that reminds you of a book? Or maybe while you're reading you think, wow I know a song that would be perfect for this scene! If so, share it!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver & Lions in Cages by Wolf Gang

One of my favourite books and one of my favourite songs! When I first heard "Lions in Cages" it instantly made me think of dystopian novels as a whole, but in particular of Delirium. I think the lyrics and the overall tone fit both Alex & Lena's story and the atmosphere of their world in general pretty well. It's not too hard to guess which line always chills me a little.

In the city where I'm from,
There are lovers 'til the dawn.
and you stayed up to see the sun,
I couldn't wait that long.
Who's gonna get up after we're gone?
Who's gonna get up after we've fallen?
who's going to pick up what we've done wrong?
Who's gonna get up after we're gone? 
In the city, where I'm from
Lions in cages, just for fun
But you will pace around your cage, and wait for night to come
In the city where I'm from
they shoot you down, if you run.

This is Shyness by Leanne Hall & We are Young by fun.

The slightly off-beat, quirky sound and the theme of being young and the idea of feeling limitless for one night really reminded me of This is Shyness.

Tonight, we are young
So I set the world on fire,
We can burn brighter,
Than the sun.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

REVIEW: Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

Summary (Goodreads)
I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare, pushing aside thoughts of Alex, pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead. But the old Lena is dead too. I buried her. I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite

WOW. Okay, I have to admit I was putting off reading this book. I absolutely love-love-loved Delirium, but I was so scared that Pandemonium would go off in the wrong direction, I didn't dare start it! Now of course I realise how stupid that was, because it was wonderful and had me glued to the page from start to finish.

The chapters in Pandemonium switch between two time frames: "Then", which follows Lena when she first arrives in the Wilds, and "Now", in which she is involved in a Resistance mission. I actually really liked this format as it kept things fresh. I could never stop reading because I was so desperate to keep finding out what was happening in the different sections! Lauren Oliver kept them very well balanced, and I never found myself aching for one and skimming the other, as I sometimes do when two stories are intersected in this way.

I loved Lena in Delirium and I love the new, tougher Lena just as much, if not more. I don't want to give too much away, but I think it's pretty much a given that there's going to be some sort of romantic element going on here. As worried as I was that I wasn't going to like this, I really did. Perhaps not as much as I adored Alex & Lena in Delirium, but still!

Of course there were plenty of new characters to meet and there were quite a few who stood out to me. Raven was deliciously complex and though I hated her at times, I could completely understand whey she behaved the way she did. From the very first scene with Julian I was dying to know more about him and I wasn't disappointed. I felt so sorry for him and admired his bravery throughout. I also liked Tack a lot, I really hope he'll have a decent part in book 3 because he remains a bit of an enigma here.

I'm really struggling to come up with any negatives for this book. I suppose at times the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed. There was one point when I wanted to scream at Lena because she kept saying that she had a bad feeling about something but she never did anything about it. Also the ending... I just knew it was going to happen and when it did I have to say it felt like a bit of a cheap trick. Also: meanest cliffhanger ever! It does makes me worry a little about the direction Requiem will take. However I'm pretty sure even if my fears were to come true, Lauren Oliver would still pull it off wonderfully.

She is definitely amongst my very favourite writers. She has such a beautiful way with words and I often found myself wanting to stop and flag or copy down a particularily lyrical phrase. Whilst some books get bogged down with pretty words and forget about the plot and characters though, Lauren Oliver keeps both very engaging throughout. There are a lot of tense and action-packed moments in this book and at times I honestly found I was holding my breath and could feel my heart beating faster as I read! Overall it's easy for me to say that I absolutely adored this book, and I cannot wait to read the final instalment in 2013, no matter what happens!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (#1)

Q. What is the best book you've read in the last month? What is the worst book you've read in the last month?

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis has got to be the best book I've read this month, and one of the best I've read in ages. It's a heart-wrenching read but I felt deeply for all the characters involved and the writing was absolutely beautiful, especially considering it's been translated from German. On the other hand I just could not get into Fallen by Lauren Kate.  I didn't like the main character, Lucinda, very much and every time she had a scene with Daniel I found myself rolling my eyes... I ended up giving up on it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (#1)

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, which spotlights the upcoming releases we're really looking forward to!

Kat Zhang- What's Left of Me
Release date: September 19th 2012 (Harper)
NEVER LET ME GO meets HIS DARK MATERIALS in a beautiful, haunting YA debut, the first book in The Hybrid Trilogy.

Eva and Addie live in a world where everyone is born with two souls, but where only the dominant one is allowed to survive childhood. Fifteen years old, and closer even than twins, the girls are keeping Eva, the ‘second soul’, a secret. They know that it’s forbidden to be hybrid, but how could they ever be apart?

When a dramatic event reveals what really happens to hybrids if they are discovered, Eva and Addie face a dangerous fight for survival, neither wanting to be the one left behind…

Both Never Let Me Go and His Dark Materials are amongst my very favourite books so it's no surprise I felt a little bit dizzy with excitement when I saw this blurb. The premise sounds so interesting and the cover is beautiful too, I just wish September wasn't so far away!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

REVIEW: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Summary (Goodreads)
"It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. And then you're dead."

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back. Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival.

As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest. Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Ever since I first learnt about Black Death in primary school (pretty sure I didn't sleep for a week!) I have been both terrified and morbidly fascinated by the idea of deadly pandemics. It's hard to imagine anything more horrible than watching your loved ones being picked off by a silent, invisible killer, never knowing when or whether it would finally sink its claws into you. And worst of all it could strike at any second, as the unsuspecting Kaelyn and the rest of her small island community soon find out.

First of all, I love Kaelyn. When we meet her at the beginning of the book she is quiet and socially awkward. She is far more comfortable in the company of animals than her peers, but doing her best to face her fears and make some more friends. Little does she know that she will soon have bigger challenges to contend with than inviting a classmate to sit next to her, but when the time comes she definitely rises to the occasion. She develops a great deal through the course of the book and was, to me, a very likeable and relateable protagonist.

The story is told through a diary which Kaelyn writes for Leo, an old friend of hers who left to study on the mainland. Events start out quite slow, but I was definitely never bored. There is a gradual build-up of dread as the virus affects its first victim, and then the second, before quickly beginning to snowball out of control. Events are almost entirely constrained to the quarantined island with little insight as to what is going on in the rest of the world, which reflects the claustrophobia and isolation its inhabitants feel.

Naturally there is a love interest for Kaelyn, and whilst it didn't blow me away I did think that their relationship was very sweet and believable. I definitely gave a little internal cheer when they finally kissed! I was even more impressed with the emerging friendship between Kaelyn and Tessa, whom she originally thinks to be aloof and boring.

I would definitely recommend The Way We Fall to any fans of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. There are many likeable and well-developed characters, and it is interesting to see their relationships are affected by the circumstances they face. I will definitely be reading the sequel, The Lives We Lost, as soon as I can get my hands on it and am looking forward to finding out how things are faring for Leo, Kaelyn's brother Drew, and everyone else outside of the island.

My Top 5 YA Trilogies

Since it's impossible for me to review all the wonderful books I've read over the years AND have some sort of life (even if it mostly revolves around reading new ones), I decided to do a little feature on some of my favourite YA trilogies! The comments are mostly just my impressions, but I've also put a link so you can nip over to Goodreads for a summary if you aren't familiar with the series. Anyway, without further ado, number 5...

5. Garth Nix: Abhorsen
Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
It's actually been quite a while since I read these books but, like another trilogy that's going to pop up later in this list, they were staples of my childhood. I read them over and over again and those battered old copies on my bookshelf at home show it! I usually tend to favour the first book in a series but in this case it is the second, Lirael, which I always enjoyed the most. I loved reading about her adventures in the library (needless to say the Clayr's library held more than just books!) and I was hopelessly jealous over The Disreputable Dog. The. Disreputable. Dog! Come on, just that name sums up how much you need to read this series!

4. Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay.
I'm willing to bet this one came as no surprise! Like everyone else and their mother I loved The Hunger Games, and am waiting with bated breath for the film to come out (not long to go now!). It's possibly a little bit sadistic but I absolutely love dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, and The Hunger Games is definitely up there with some of my favourites. From the beginning these books refuse to let up, once you start reading it is just impossible to put them down. I am not a fan of love triangles but I really liked both Peeta and Gale (unusual for me as I'm usually quick to take sides!). It's hard to believe that anyone could have missed The Hunger Games series now, especially with all the film hype, but it definitely live up to the reputation.

3. Diana Wynne Jones: The Castle Series
Howl's Moving Castle, The Castle in the Air, The House of Many Ways.
I absolutely had to get one of my ultimate favourite authors, Diana Wynne Jones into this list! I first came across her after watching the Miyazaki anime adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle and whilst I loved that, the actual book just blew me away. What I love most about DWJ is her deceptively simple prose and convoluted plots, which are always pulled together in the most magical way at the end! And of course like anyone else who has read these books I can't help but adore beautiful, infuriating Howl. Who can say they don't love Howl? Whilst actually quite unrelated to each other in ways, these three books tie together nicely and are all equally brilliant in their own ways, though I have to admit have a soft spot for the one that started it all.

2. Patrick Ness: Chaos Walking
Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask & The Answer, Monsters of Men.
What can I say about these books? I've been recommending them left, right and centre ever since I started The Knife of Never Letting Go. There's a lot of YA Dystopian novels about these days (as we all know) and as much as I adore a whole lot of them, Chaos Walking easily takes the crown for me. The series gripped me throughout and I loved Todd's unique voice, but I have to say my favourite character by far was his brilliantly simple-minded and heartbreakingly loyal dog, Manchee. I've never met a more realistic "talking" animal in fiction before; he really is the quintessential pup! Characters you can't bear to let go of and a pace that never lets up, I just cannot recommend these books enough!

1. Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials
Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass.
It was a hard choice but it just had to be this at the top of my list. I first read His Dark Materials when I was about 11 but I've read it countless times since. It used to kill me how much I wanted my own daemon- and it still does! What I love about HDM is that despite being a "children's" book it doesn't skirt around difficult issues. There are certain scenes in Northern Lights which chill me more than any horror or thriller, and some in The Amber Spyglass which break my heart more than the most tragic romance. Philip Pullman was my ultimate inspiration when I was a child and I won't be losing my admiration anytime soon! (PS: never talk to me about golden compasses... it's called an alethiometer! ;)

Monday, 12 March 2012

REVIEW: 0.4 (Human.4) by Mike Lancaster

Summary (from Goodreads)
It's a brave new world. 'My name is Kyle Straker. And I don't exist anymore.' So begins the story of Kyle Straker, recorded on to old audio tapes. You might think these tapes are a hoax. But perhaps they contain the history of a past world.

This was a really, really interesting book. I think part of what makes it so good is the way it unfolds and so I’m going to try and give as little away as possible, whilst still giving a tiny bit more information than the blurb. The gist of it is this: Kyle Straker, his friend’s girlfriend Lilly and two adults volunteer to be hypnotised in a backwater village talent show. However whilst they are under this influence, everything changes. Suddenly their parents and friends are acting strangely, and it is left to the four of them to out why...

The story is presented as a transcript of some mysterious old tape cassettes recorded by Kyle, interspersed with author’s notes which explain apparently archaic concepts such as reality television and Coldplay. It was a refreshing format and I especially looked forward to reading the notes, which were often funny little digs at pop culture and academia. As for Kyle and co. themselves, whilst I did not exactly dislike them I did not feel particularly attached to them either. The one exception to this was Mr. Peterson, despite the fact his back story was condensed into a few paragraphs. Possibly it is an effect of how short and fast-paced the book is, but I never really felt like any of the characters were fully developed. Similarly the attempts at romance felt rushed and thrown in; I really felt the book would have worked better had those been left out altogether.

Despite the flatness of the characters I did find this to be an extremely gripping read. I got through most of it in one night and yes, there may have been a few times I felt a little bit creeped out walking around in the dark after reading it! The scenes in which Kyle realises there is something wrong with his parents were especially thrilling, and there were a few moments which made my heart jump into my throat.

This was a very quick read but definitely not a shallow one, and it leaves you a lot to think about. However I did find my final view of it was slightly bogged down not only by the characterization but also by some logical inconsistencies, especially surrounding the 1.0’s interest in Kyle’s tapes and his being able to record them in the first place! But despite its flaws 0.4 was still a very compelling tale. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the premise for the sequel, 1.4, but I will definitely give it a shot!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

REVIEW: A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Summary (from Goodreads)
Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.

I’ve had this book sitting in my kindle for quite a while and I finally got around to reading it recently. I was expecting it to be an okay read, but I ended up enjoying it an awful lot more than I thought I would.

When we first get to know Rosalinda Fitzroy, she is admittedly infuriating. Passive and frankly insipid, she doesn’t seem to react very much to anything that happens to her and is zealous in telling everyone how stupid she is. There were times I really wanted to scream at her, such as when she gets attacked early on in the book and then doesn’t tell a soul, and of course when she decides to abandon her beloved dog for two weeks(!!). However there are reasons for Rose’s behaviour and as they slowly came to light I found she became a very sympathetic character.

But even before finding out everything about Rose’s past, I did feel for her. Lost, lonely and pining for her parents and the boyfriend she inadvertently left behind, it is no surprise that Rose attaches herself to Bren, the first person she meets in this strange new world. As much as I rolled my eyes at how quickly she falls for him I did find it believable under the circumstances, especially as no one else really seems to have time for the poor girl! And though I felt awful for Rose when her confession doesn’t work out, I really liked how things turned out between them in the end.

I think possibly what really sold this book to me was the relationship between Rose and Otto, an odd alien hybrid born from a disturbing science experiment. Unsurprisingly Otto has a heart-breaking back-story, and is drawn to Rose, who has her own troubles. Otto does not talk and as the two are unable to communicate through his usual means at first, they resort to sending messages to each other. I loved these scenes; they felt very cosy and intimate and offered a great deal of insight into both of the characters. Otto was prone to poetic turns of phrase and on occasion this veered on awkward (a line about the “tea tone” of Rose’s eyes really made me cringe at one point). However was largely forgivable, seeing as they were communicating in writing and he was hardly a normal boy after all. The nature of their relationship is left pleasantly ambiguous, which is very fitting considering, and I’m really interested to see how it develops in the sequel (there WILL be a sequel, right?).

However, although I adored some of the characters, some of the others left little impression on me. In particular I never really warmed to Xavier for some reason (well, maybe a bit more near the end), whilst Rose’s foster-parents and Bren’s school friends were all very one-dimensional. Also whilst the new slang was inventive there were a couple which I found a little clunky; ‘conn’ and ‘burning’ threw me off a couple of times. On the other hand though I thought the use of ‘coit’ as a swearword was amazing.

In the latter half of the book there are quite a few shock revelations and whilst I’m sure some people saw them coming a mile off they took me by surprise, and one really did take my breath away! Another left me feeling more than a little uncomfortable, something I believe I’m not alone in. However it did not spoil my enjoyment of the book and I can see how it made some sort of sense, under the circumstances.

The world created by Anna Sheehan here is an engaging one and I am definitely interested to read more about it, especially regarding the thorny ethical issues surrounding the Unicorp firm, to which Rose is heiress. There were also some really nifty new technologies- and some really creepy ones too. (one word: Plastine) However for me the world-building was mostly just a nice background to Rose’s personal story, which really has stuck with me. The not-so-perfect aspects of her life before stasis were very skilfully revealed and when Rose realises the extent of it... it really is heart-breaking.

Overall whilst A Long, Long Sleep lacked that special something which places a book amongst my favourites, it was enjoyable and highly readable. I’ll be looking forward to reading more of Anna Sheehan’s work!

Coming Soon

Starting a blog at the height of my final semester of university is probably not the best idea, but here we go anyway! I already spend a lot of time reading books, and I already spend a lot of time reading other people's reviews once I've finished reading books, so surely I can eke out a little time for writing about them?