Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label ya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ya. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The good, the bad, and the ugly: The Red Queen (The Obernewtyn Chronicles #7) by Isobelle Carmody

The Red Queen (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #7)
Exciting ending makes up for slow rest of novel.

The good

  • Elspeth (protagonist) isn't hung up on her missing love interest, and Gets Shit Done.
  • The whole Habitat plot at the start was interesting, although it could (probably should) have been a separate book in its own right.
  • More worldbuilding - we get to see more of the physical and cultural world Elspeth lives in.
  • I guessed one of the plot twists 50 pages before it was revealed - I love it when I'm right!
  • Exciting last 250-300 pages
  • Cute ending
  • Overall, the story is a good conclusion to the series, however...

The bad

  • Too many characters, and after so long I couldn't remember who they all were.
  • Too much dystopia, not enough fantasy in a time when every other YA book is dystopian (however, it's interesting to get a combination of the two).
  • The dialogue is too formal even between characters who are close - realistically, people use contractions. 
  • I can't remember any LGBTQ representation in the book or the whole series. If there's any, it's not made explicit or positive. It's a long series with lots of characters, and The Red Queen was published recently in 2015, so there's no excuse.

The ugly

  • Needs significant editing and proofreading (Isobelle Carmody asked fans to let her "hone and polish and conclude this last book at my own pace" but it seems she didn't succeed, as it's riddled with typos as if it's a first draft - which it might be).
  • Twice as long as any book needs to be
  • Slow-paced for the majority (eg. there's no running until 250 pages in)

The summary

After years spent struggling to balance her desires with her responsibilities, Elspeth Gordie has fully embraced her role as the Seeker. Battle-scarred and lovelorn, haunted by memories of her beloved Rushton, Elspeth is not prepared for what she finds at the end of the black road she travels: the Compound, a lost community with a startling secret. As Elspeth strives against her captors, she learns that Rushton and her friends have fallen into the hands of the deadly slavemasters that rule the Red Land. And worst of all, as Elspeth stumbles, the Destroyer creeps ever closer to his goal: awakening the cataclysmically destructive weaponmachines that Elspeth has been charged with stopping. Has all her sacrifice been in vain?

Full of romance, action, and suspense, The Red Queen is a worthy finale to such a breathtakingly elaborate series.

Add it on Goodreads

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)
Finished reading on: 20 April 2016
Clickbait summary: Misandrist in Medieval Brittany joins cult that kills men, falls in love with man.

The Good

  • The red dress on the cover 
  • The weapons (main character Ismae is an assassin, so she's got a couple)
  • Medieval setting and all it entails (dresses, castles, mistresses, court politics, etc etc)
  • Believable worldbuilding 
  • Realistic and sympathetic portrayal of women for the setting
  • Interesting, or rather, intriguing politics! I never used to care for the political aspects in fiction, but recently I've found myself getting into it.
  • Theme of loyalty  
  • Decent characters (not brilliant, but better than average, I think)
  • Good writing  
  • A real page-turner 
  • Language slightly old-fashioned to match setting

The Bad

  • Is this a feminist story or not? I don't know! In some ways, yes; in others, no.
  • Would've liked to see more of Ismae's gal pals Annith and Sybella (apparently the next two books in the series are about them, which is great, but I can't cope with more assassins falling in love)
  • A bit long at 550 pages 
  • Misleading summary - Ismae doesn't fall in love with a man she's meant to kill, she gets orders to kill the man she loves, and it's not as big a plot point as it sounds. 
  • [Spoiler] Healing by sex?! Soooo convenient.

The Ugly

  • Low-born girl falls in love with nobleman. Really? AGAIN?!
  • Why the romance? Why? They could've just been friends or allies! (I need my romances to grow over a couple of books, if they have to exist at all, because I find it super boring once the characters are properly together. That's just me, though.)
  • I thought the protagonist had been set up as a man-hating lesbian assassin... and then she fell in love with a guy. (Where are all the medieval wlw? Not in this book, apparently. I'm going to have to write the wlw assassin historical fiction myself.)
  • Okay, clearly my main problems with this book are the romance and the lack of diversity. The rest was pretty good.

The Summary

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Add it on Goodreads

Friday, 26 February 2016

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms, #1)
Did not finish at 52 pages

I picked this up at my mum's library and thought it looked really cool. The start was so strong I thought it would be a great read, my first fantasy in quite a while. I was wrong.

The good

  • Nice cover and title made me pick it up
  • Strong start and intriguing prologue - who wouldn't want to keep reading a book whose first line is She'd never killed before tonight?
  • Super cool character names in the cast lists: Cleo/Cleiona, Eirene, Sabina, Mira, etc.

The bad

  • Character descriptions I seriously don't care about
  • Costume descriptions I seriously don't care about

The ugly

  • Plain bad writing. E.g.:
    Cleo despised politics mainly because she didn't understand them. But then, she didn't have to. Emilia was the heir to their father's throne. She would be the next queen, not Cleo. (Pg 51)
     Yep. That's the paragraph.
  • Telling instead of showing - e.g. we are told on pg 11 that Aron is keeping Cleo's secret. On pg 52 we are still being reminded (again, through telling, not showing) of the existence of this secret we know nothing about.
  • When hiding a character's identity as a plot device, it should be subtle, right? Not in-your-face eye-roll-worthy there's-no-believable-need-to-hide-her-identity-in-this-scene.
  • Incest. As soon as I picked up the incestuous vibe I wanted to run away from the book screaming. (I can handle icky things - guys, I'll remind you yet again that I'm a Spartacus fan - but incest is not one of them.) However, I held on for another few chapters, only to put it down again for good. I therefore don't know if this aspect gets any less gross or not.
  • And that's only the beginning. I looked up Goodreads reviews of this book, and other people have pointed out the bad worldbuilding and character development. I didn't even get that far into the book to notice, but I'm sure I would've found the same issues if I'd forced myself to keep reading.

The (extraordinarily long) summary:

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed... and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It's the eve of war.... Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realise that the heart can be more lethal than the sword....

(Don't) add it on Goodreads

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Curses & Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Finished reading on: 16 February 2016

I'm experimenting with review styles, so let's see how this goes. Tell me what you think of this format.

The good

  • Gorgeous cover
  • Great for young Classics nerds and fans of Spartacus (and therefore me) – Gladiators! Roman women! Pompeii!
  • Satisfied my need to read more things set in Ancient Rome
  • Cool use of Latin (which I largely understood, thanks to Spartacus)
  • Decent writing
  • Historically accurate - the author clearly knows her stuff without showing off too much; includes interesting author’s notes about the setting
  • Learnt some new things, such as curse tablets, and that Pompeii wasn’t always a Roman town (Sulla took it from the Etruscans in 80BCE)
  • Basically, the setting is the best aspect of the book

The bad

  • The protagonists (Tag and Lucia) are tolerable, unlike a lot of YA characters, but I preferred Quintus, a main character who gets forgotten about, because I love arsehole characters
  • Written in the third person but the POV changes are unnecessarily marked
  • Having only two POVs (Tag's and Lucia's) is limiting, and I would’ve liked to read a least a chapter from each of Quintus and Cornelia’s perspectives
  • Repetitive likening of Tag’s good looks to Apollo's

The ugly

  • Plot based on the romance (booooring!)
  • More gladiator and running-from-volcanic-eruption action needed (not at the same time; that drove me nuts about the 2014 film Pompeii)
  • Ending so disappointing it knocked a whole star off my rating (I was all set to give it four stars)
  • A whole lot of characters' fates forgotten due to limited POVs - what about Cornelia, Quintus, and the gladiators and slaves?

The romance

  • Childhood friends suddenly fall in love
  • Would’ve liked to see the first move between Lucia and Tag at least another 50 pages later on (I prefer slow burn). However, I did appreciate Lucia considering the difference between love and lust this early on.
  • Love triangle avoided due to an unrequited love I’m proud to say I saw from the very start (although I had moments of doubt where I was wondering if my slash goggles were making me see things that weren’t there). The suggested solution for the trio's dilemma was on my mind since then, too.

The blurb

Two star-crossed lovers.
One city on the brink of destruction.
Tag is a medical slave, fated to spend the rest of his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But he yearns to fight in the arena himself and win the freedom to live - and love - as he wants.
Lucia is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a man she doesn't love. But she's determined to follow her heart wherever it leads.
Can they find each other before the volcano destroys their whole world?

Add it on Goodreads

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Date finished: 22 August 2015

Ask the Passengers is one of the best novels I've read in 2015, and as you can see from my previous reviews, I've read some pretty good books this year. It's so good that I read it in one day, unable to put it down.

The plot is pretty simple, but nice. I think I'd read somewhere that it's a character-heavy rather than plot-based novel, but I enjoyed its simplicity - it's more realistic, considering the 21st Century, small-town America setting - you don't expect huge tragedies or monstrosities, or quest for the good of mankind. Instead, you get petty teenagers, small-minded townies and family getting in the way of a girl who just wants to be herself. I don't want to spoil anything, but there is a happy ending that will make you grin. There are a couple of points that didn't seem to be resolved, such as a court appearance that didn't happen, but I loved the plot in general.

The protagonist, Astrid, is a very cool character who I could connect to. She's smart, perceptive, and funny, a non-mainstream teenager who doesn't want to be labelled by her peers. I think one of the reasons she's such a success as a fictional character is that so many of us can relate to her, no matter who we love or where we're from. I don't know how you could read this book and not love her.

Most of the supporting characters aren't as loveable, including Kristina (Astrid's dishonest best friend), Dee (Astrid's pushy love interest), and Ellis (Astrid's selfish sister), and I disliked many of their actions, but their behaviours are justifiable and Astrid forgives them, so you can't help forgiving them too. The parents are far from perfect and understanding, but how many parents are? As Astrid herself philosophises, nobody's perfect. Her relationships with all these characters are rocky, but in the end everything is sweet.

The writing is beautiful, a requirement for me giving a five-star rating. Sometimes first-person point of view in the present tense gets old, but no other style would be suitable for this novel. Astrid's voice is fantastic and it feels like a teenage girl could really be telling this story - it doesn't feel like a middle-aged woman trying and failing to write about teens, it's authentic and not overly complicated just for sophistication. I even laughed out loud once or twice, as it's funny too.

This isn't your usual kid-realises-they're-gay LGBT teen novel, because there is so much more in it. I especially loved the Greek philosophy aspect, when in YA books I usually find it a bit pretentious of a young character to be that philosophical, but it's done in a neat way that instead of hurting my brain made me go along with it because it made sense. I also enjoyed the whole sending-love-to-the-aeroplane-passengers idea because even though it's unusual, it's believable, as people do have quirks like that. Of course, I did like the questioning-your-sexuality part too, which is the main theme of the book after all, but these other ideas make it wonderful and unique.

There are so many reasons why Ask the Passengers is worth reading, some of which I've probably forgot to mention, but I can't recommend it enough to fellow teenagers and young adults, and any people who don't like their identity being put into boxes by society. Astrid questions the paradox that nobody's perfect, but this book is pretty close to it.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Date finished: 11 March 2015

I'd been meaning to read this book for about a year, ever since I did a Classics internal on The Iliad vs Troy (2004) in Year 12, and I'm very glad I finally read it. Doing this study meant that I knew the story - and loved it - so I hoped that I would also love The Song of Achilles. And I did.

I knew the basics of what would happen (I won't give away any spoilers, even though the story is thousands of years old) but this book focuses on Patroclus, a character we don't get to see much in the original story, and gives him a background, which is new and interesting. I adored seeing his relationship with Achilles develop, and there were plenty of moments that made me fangirl. There is a tonne of foreshadowing, which I kept picking up on and almost crying over. *Spoiler alert* Even though I knew what was going to happen, I kept thinking, "Maybe Patroclus won't die this time," but it happens so fast that I was not at all prepared. I don't know how to describe the plot other than epic and tragic, and I loved how the author breathed new life into characters who have been around for a hell of a long time. (That's true immortality, I think - that we still remember the names of and care about Achilles and Patroclus in the 21st Century - even though they die.)

The writing is beautiful. It flows very well and is easy to read. It's the kind of simplistic style that anyone can read and enjoy, and I loved the description and dialogue. As the book is written in the first person, we only get one character's perspective, but it's okay because it's a character we don't know much about compared to some of the more famous characters like Achilles, or Helen of Troy (*cough* Sparta!). To retell an age-old myth, emotive language is needed to give the novel some originality, and Madeline Miller succeeds in doing this.

When I first learnt about The Iliad and the Trojan War, my favourite characters were Achilles and Patroclus. As they are the main characters of this book, that remains the case. Their characterisation in this novel is fantastic and, well, there's no other way to say this, but I ship them so hard! They are complete opposites, hero and antihero, and their relationship really makes you think about friendship and love and fate. They treat each other as equals, even though all the other characters think of Patroclus as a disgrace, an exile, unworthy of Achilles, but they love each other for eighteen years, and in the end they don't get the happy ending we want for them, which breaks the heart.

There are strong themes in this book that also bring out the emotions. Love and sacrifice are important, as is the concept of heroism. At one point, Achilles says, "Name one hero who was happy," and I think that quote is just the saddest thing. In this book, we know that Achilles is fated to be a hero, and he is one, but we don't know if he, or Patroclus, is ever truly happy. Like I said, this story is tragic.

In summary: This book killed me. It broke my heart with every bit of foreshadowing, and the last few chapters just hurt my soul. And I loved every minute of it, masochist as I am. If you are a young Classics nerd like me or just a lover of male/male relationships, you must read The Song of Achilles. It will break you and you'll thank the author for doing so.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1) 
Date finished: 22 December 2014

I wouldn't say this book was bad, but I didn't enjoy it. I just got frustrated and couldn't see any good points. I only picked it up because my mum gave it to me and said it's meant to be good, but it was a waste of time for me.

Okay, the good: The cover. The Jewel has a beautiful cover. So much so that I didn't want to take it with me on holiday because I didn't want to ruin it. Looking at the gorgeous cover lures you into wanting to read it.

Now, the bad. First things first: I cannot stress enough how sick I am of dystopian. This story could be set in a fantasy or sci-fi world and still work, but no. It has to be dystopia. Because that's what all the popular books are these days. And I'm tired of it. Every author wants to write the next Hunger Games or the next Divergent, and if every one of them did that, there would be no original stories anymore.

The worldbuilding is problematic. Why do they have to be protected from the ocean? Why is the city in that particular shape? Who is the government/in charge? (If it's the Exetor and the Electress, that needs to be made clearer.) Why the hell do the Augeries exist? If the surrogate/Auction thing has been going on for so long and the surrogates are brought up knowing what they have to do, why do they question it? See, I love a good revolution, but there seems to be no reason for them to rebel against what they have known for years will happen to them, when they have already accepted it. And there aren't exactly revolutionaries (that we are aware of) spreading their propaganda. These questions could be answered in the next book in the series, but if there's going to be some big reveal, then there should be more emphasis on what we do know.

I honestly couldn't understand why Violet hated the Duchess so early on. She seemed to be a fair mistress, and Violet was lucky to be sold to someone who isn't as cruel as the other royal women. I think it would have made sense for Violet to like the Duchess at first - then when she found out what the Duchess expected her to do in regards to enhancing the baby, there could have been some big betrayal and their relationship could break down.

Oh yes, there is also the problem of insta love. Violet falls in love with Ash because... why, exactly? Because he's hot? Because he likes music too? Because she thinks he's like her - trapped? So is everyone else in the city! This infuriated me. I think he could have been a cool character, if they hadn't fallen for each other at first sight. It's a shame, because he had potential to be awesome.

Somehow, the writing annoyed me. It was too...polished. Too perfect. That probably doesn't make sense, because writers spend a lot of time making sure their novel is perfect. And yet, in The Jewel it just doesn't seem genuine. Maybe I simply didn't like the style it's written in? Maybe I didn't like the protagonist's voice, if she even had one? I can't explain it.

As a recently self-diagnosed tokophobic, I could at least empathise with Violet's desperation to not get pregnant and carry the Duchess's baby. The whole surrogacy thing made me uneasy, and all I wanted was for her to get out of there. I'm not sure if that was sympathy for Violet, though, or my own anxiety speaking. But I hated that she didn't get free yet. Also, the twist at the ending infuriated me! I like Garnet, and I want to know more about his involvement in Violet's escape, but I also don't want to read the next book.

Anyway, I had a lot of problems with this book. The ideas were good, they just weren't executed well. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it either, thus the two star rating.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Panic (Panic #1) by Lauren Oliver


Date finished: 14 December 2014

When I first read the blurb of this book I was a little wary of the "new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them" line, but I was pleasantly surprised when the book turned out to be original and unclichéd, and found myself liking it more than I'd expected.

I loved how the book took me on a rollercoaster with its twists and turns, leaving me guessing as to what would happen next. I knew from the moment the tigers were introduced that they would have something to do with the climax of the novel, but I had no idea what. I also felt anxiety when Nat told Heather to drive Dodge's car for the final challenge at the end, knowing just how that would endanger Heather. I didn't expect the winner (I won't spoil it for you) to win, so that was a nice surprise. The feeling of suspense you get throughout the novel makes it hard to put down once you start reading, and that is the first sign that any book is a good one.

The whole concept of this game, "Panic", where these teenagers risk their lives in a series of challenges over the whole summer in order to win a huge amount of money is a creative one. It's not like The Hunger Games, where the tributes have no choice but to participate, and have to kill their opponents to win. In Panic, the players have all decided to play for their own reasons - usually the money - and they all know each other. It's just as ruthless, but there are legal issues and it's not publicised. So no, Panic is not just another Hunger Games, and I think it is actually better. The fact that this book only came out this year and the film rights have already been sold to Universal just goes to show how great it is. And it will make a fantastic movie - you'll feel for the characters, despise the antagonists, and be kept in suspense.

The writing itself is pretty good, too. It's nothing special, but it's clear and descriptive enough that you can picture what's going on, and it gets the message across. Lauren Oliver doesn't show off by using fancy language features when the story itself is interesting enough and doesn't need to be embellished.

The characters all had their distinct personalities and goals, which was a bonus. I sympathised with Heather, wishing she could leave Carp behind, and Dodge, wanting to get revenge for his sister, was also believable. Heather and Dodge had surprisingly similar problems with their families, and from the blurb I first thought that they would get together. Thankfully, that was not the case, and it was made clear early on that they wouldn't happen. They both get their happy ending, though - that's what matters.

Overall, Panic is a great new YA novel and I enjoyed it a lot. I would recommend it to anyone who likes YA fiction but is sick of the dystopian genre and the usual trope of the two leading characters ending up as a couple. Take it from me, and pick it up!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Innocent Darkness (The Aether Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Lazear

Innocent Darkness (The Aether Chronicles, #1)
Date finished: 10 August 2014

Steampunk and faeries - two things that interest me and the two things that made me read this book. These elements wouldn't normally go together, but in this novel they do. And they complement each other. The concept is a fantastic one, literally.

I liked Noli as the heroine, since she is the average "strong female character" that is found in most YA books, but she wasn't a walking cliché, like so many are. She's just a really cool girl, the type you want to hug and be friends with. And I appreciated that. From the cover, I was worried that the book might be a bit crap, with an intriguing concept and a boring protagonist, but that was not the case. As well as Noli, I also liked V and Charlotte (although her character was a little clichéd) and sympathised with Kevign. With characters I liked, I thought I was going to enjoy this novel very much.

The plot was also quite good. It was unpredictable and made me want to read more. However, it could have done with more hints and twists to make the book really stand out. I think that would have been an improvement. The book was a little long and not too much happened, as there was so much description and analysis of emotions of the characters. I think there should have been less of that and more foreshadowing and giving hints about who certain characters are, for example, Queen Tiana. It would have been much more exciting for the reader to put the pieces together and realise that she is V's mother, instead of being told.

The writing itself was pretty average, and there were a few editing mistakes or typos. I wasn't wowed by the author, which would have been okay, except that she did too much telling and not enough showing. I know that that is difficult to do, but it doesn't hurt to try. As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of description, which is fair enough for a book with a fantasy setting, but I felt like there was too much. I'm more of a dialogue and action person, myself. And the inner monologues - I don't mind them in general, but I felt, especially towards the end of the book, that they got repetitive. We don't need to know everything about the characters. They are allowed to keep their secrets and remain mysterious even to the reader! Oh, and sometimes the language was too modern - I saw "guys" and "okay" used between more authentic terms, when the book is set in 1901, albeit an alternate 1901. I think the author was too worried about the plot and setting to put more effort into her style and accuracy, which is a shame, because this book could have been worth four stars, if the writing were better quality.

All in all, Innocent Darkness is a good book, but not a great book. It's interesting enough, but doesn't have the wow factor to get a higher rating from me. If you like steampunk and/or faeries, as I do, and want to read something that follows the girl-accidentally-wakes-up-in-another-world trope without being clichéd, you should read it. Just don't blame me if you don't love it.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf

The Watch That Ends the Night 
Date finished: 15 June 2014

This book took me a long time to read, but it was definitely worth it. I can't remember when my interest in the Titanic began, but it was more than a few years ago, and since then I've only read a few novels about it. I've seen Titanic twice, naturally, but I haven't come across that many YA books about it.

The Watch That Ends the Night is an incredible verse novel with fascinating characters. Obviously, since we all know what happens, and it happens it such a short period of time, the book is character-driven, with 25 different character perspectives (including the iceberg and the ship rat). Each character has his or her own unique voice, and although it is written in verse, it reads almost like a normal novel, which I love. I think my favourite characters to read about were the crew members, since usually you only get to read about/see the passengers.

The writing in this book blew me away. It flowed really well, and the ideas and thoughts at the end of one character's part segued into the start of the next character's. The imagery was amazing and I could see the lives of the characters clearly in my mind. On the inside cover it claims "Allan Wolf offers a breathtaking, intimate glimpse into the lives of two dozen passengers and crew, told with astounding emotional power". That's absolutely correct. It's very emotional (especially in the last two chapters) and intimate, as you see the private thoughts, hopes, and plans of the individuals.

Not only was this extremely well-written, but the author did a hell of a lot of research too. You can see in what I call the appendices (they're not really, I'm just gonna call them that) all the resources he used to get things historically accurate. Now that takes patience. He deserves a round of applause just for taking the time to do such thorough research. Whew.

In short, The Watch That Ends the Night is a wonderful book and if you like a) interesting characters, b) the Titanic, or c) a book that will make you question humanity, you must read it!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Elites by Natasha Ngan

The Elites 
Date finished: 27 April 2014
Original review, ie. not posted on Goodreads
While I was reading this I thought that I'd only give it three stars, but then I finished it and decided that hey, it's original and unique, so why not give it four? Because, hello, it's a dystopian novel set outside America! And how many of those have you read? Okay, that little fact there might be the main reason that I liked it so much. Oops. But honestly, it is so refreshing to read something that isn't American, something that's written in proper English. 

I love the cover, which is usually what makes me pick up a book in the first place. Cover, title, author. (But not always in that order.) Anyway, yes, I like the background image and the girl dressed in awesome action-movie-type-clothes. And the font of the title. I'm a sucker for cool fonts. 

One of the best things about this book is that everything was resolved. There's no need for a sequel, because the author is good enough to get the conflict solved in one book. Most dystopian novels are in trilogies (Hunger Games, Delirium, Divergent, etc...) but the narrative in this one was fast enough to not need two more books afterwards.

One thing I didn't like so much was the lack of explanation of the setting. We don't find out much about what caused the other countries and cities to fall, and why Neo-Babel was the only one to survive. I would have liked to know, and I'm sure that one paragraph would have been enough to tell us.

I liked having a heroine who isn't white European. So many books have non-white supporting characters, but in how many is the actual protagonist a different ethnicity? So I enjoyed having the Chinese ("Red") Silver go through her struggles.

I thought the romance was sweet, although I kind of wish it had happened just a little bit later on. I guess I just love angst, and the thought of Silver and Butterfly shouting "I love you"s in the middle of an action sequence is me being a romantic.

I absolutely adored the ending. It was so powerful. Those three lines: Something bright. Something strong. Something precious. They're just perfect to end a book with. They highlight Silver's character and applaud her journey.

In conclusion, this book is definitely worth reading! I recommend it to all readers who love dystopian YA novels. It's fast-paced, thrilling, and there is rebellion and romance. Go ahead and read it.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Of Poseidon (The Syrena Legacy #1) by Anna Banks

Of Poseidon (The Syrena Legacy, #1) 
Date finished: 24 April 2014
This is one of those books that I read in 24 hours. I'm glad that it wasn't any longer than 320 pages, because I think that that would have made the book worse. The book wasn't terrible, but it wasn't brilliant either. From the blurb, I wasn't expecting much, which is a good thing as it turns out.

This book was like Ingo (by Helen Dunmore) for teenagers. I was going to say that it's a more mature Ingo, but if you consider how immature Emma (the protagonist) is, you can't say that it's a mature book at all. I always loved mermaids when I was little (at age six I apparently told my mum that when I grew up I was going to be a marine biologist and save the endangered mermaids) and are still vaguely interested in them today, at age sixteen.

The title is kind of misleading. With a name like Of Poseidon, you think of the Greek gods, not mermaids - sorry, Syrena. So that annoyed me a little. Especially since on the cover you can hardly see the Of bit.

Characters? Galen is intriguing. Toraf and Rayna are hilarious. Rachel is mysterious, and Emma is okay. But, ohmysweetgoodness!, for the protagonist I was hoping for someone more mature, someone who acts their age. Someone who doesn't act like a freaking twelve year old when she's eighteen. 
There are a lot of cliches in this book. The whole Half Breed thing, and one person in the couple not going to live as long as the other is so Lord of the Rings. The girl finds out she can hold her breath underwater for hours and talk to fish thing is so Ingo.  The girl dates other guy to get first guy jealous thing is so every American YA novel. The shark attack thing is so Soul Surfer. Sigh.
Recommendations: You know what? Ingo is better. For a good mermaid book, read that.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Prince of Shadows 
Date finished: 19 April 2014
Original review, ie. not posted on Goodreads

This is one of those books that isn't actually that good, but I enjoyed nonetheless. It had its flaws, but for some reason I liked it anyway. I absolutely loathe Romeo and Juliet (I studied it in Year 10 - we read the play and watched both the 1968 and 1996 films), but I've read another book about Benvolio and Rosaline, so I was intrigued to read this author's take on the background characters.

It was refreshing to read something in the point of view of a male character, because most YA books I read have the usual strong female character. So it was nice to have a hero instead of a heroine for a change. (And before you ask, yes, I am a feminist.) I don't know, I just feel like girl protagonists are taking over the YA genre, and boy protagonists shouldn't be neglected. I loved reading the notes and diary entries of the other characters though, and I worked out the curse before Benvolio did (not sure if I'm smart, or if that was the author's intention). It was nice to have a short break from him every fifty pages or so.

I didn't like the pace of the novel, though. It was very long (I read it nonstop for two days before I got to the end) and it took ages and ages to get to the Capulets' ball, which is where Romeo and Juliet really starts. And I felt like the end scene was a bit rushed, but that could just be me.

I loved that Mercutio had his secret lover, and that Romeo and Juliet had a curse on them. I've always found their romance ridiculous, so it was good to know that the author (and the protagonist) feel the same, and gave a new and exciting reason for their relationship. I remain of the opinion that what Romeo and Juliet had was not love.

Having a thief as the protagonist was an interesting choice, and I think it was a good decision. It added suspense to a not-so-suspenseful story, and made a lot of plot points possible. You don't generally read about thieves, and I quite liked that Benvolio didn't steal to keep other people's jewels, as he was a good character.

One thing that I will complain about, however, is Rosaline. Don't get me wrong, she's fascinating (to think that she actually managed to turn down Romeo! Smart girl.) but it got boring the way that she was referred to throughout the whole book, but didn't appear in all that many scenes. It annoyed me a little. The title may as well have been Rosaline Capulet.

But all in all, I did enjoy this book, and I would recommend it to teenage readers who like romance and historical novels.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1) by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman 
Date finished: 19 September 2012
Review originally posted on Goodreads

I read Northern Nights by Philip Pullman in September. I really enjoyed the book, and continued to read the rest of the series. The story starts when the main character, Lyra, and her daemon, Pantalaimon,  accidentally see an attempt to kill her uncle, Lord Asriel. They stay hidden and overhear what her uncle says to some of the men at the college about Dust and his expedition to the North. Later she meets the wonderful Mrs Coulter, and it is arranged that Lyra will go to live with her. Before she leaves she is given a mystical device called a alethieometer, and told to keep it a secret from Mrs Coulter. For a while Lyra lives in the city with Mrs Coulter, and everything is great, until she discovers that her wonderful guardian is really evil. Lyra runs away, and is caught up in an adventure involving armoured bears, witches, gyptians, Gobblers, and the North in an attempt to rescue her best friend, Roger.

Lyra is a strong character, and changes throughout not only this novel, but the whole series. She becomes braver, and more accepting of what happens to her. She is a very good liar, and while usually this would be a bad thing, she manages to save her  and her daemon's skin by doing so.

Later on in the series you are told that the Church is evil, and what they call God is not really the Creator, but a being who wants to manipulate the human race.  I found this very entertaining, and accepted it as an even more brilliant part of the story.

What I most enjoyed was the magic/fantasy part of the story. Lyra's alethiometer tells her stuff she wouldn't normally know, and reading about the witches was very enjoyable. Also in Northern Lights there are different worlds, but it isn't until the sequel, The Subtle Knife, that we read about them, and the story moves in three different worlds.

The language was good - the story was well-written, although there were a few too many adverbs (which I dislike with a passion), and I didn't like that  some of the words were written in American spelling, even though the author is English.

All in all, I recommend this book to anyone who likes a strong female heroine, and doesn't mind negative views on religion.
I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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