Inside Out is an accessible dystopian novel, aimed at young adults. I personally think this is one of Snyder's strongest outings yet, and very unexpec...moreInside Out is an accessible dystopian novel, aimed at young adults. I personally think this is one of Snyder's strongest outings yet, and very unexpected after her Study and Glass series of books.
Set in a whole new futuristic and dystopic world, we meet Trella, a 'scrub'. The scrubs make up the lower, and largely oppressed class of this society, and her days, like her fellows', are filled with the mundane tasks of cleaning and providing necessities (cooking, waste management) job of her society. Trella feels disconnected from her society, and spends her free time isolated in the air and heating ducts of the facility known only as 'Inside' that is her home. Her world takes a very sudden turn for the dangerous when she reluctantly agrees to help a new 'prophet', who brings hope to finding 'Gateway'--the mythical doorway to the equally mythical 'Outside'.
Trella is another strong female character from Snyder (reminding me slightly of Yelena from her Study books), and she's imperfect in a way I believe would appeal to fans of the Hunger Games' Katniss.
Inside Out reads as a sort of mix between the brilliant middle-grade 'City of Ember' (Jeanne DuPrau) and the bleak, yet equally brilliant Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins, yet it never feels bleak. Sure there's mortal peril, and stakes are high as Trella constantly risks being 'recycled' (read: executed, and her corpse recycled to keep 'Inside' running, as are all people, animals, and materials in this futuristic society). She's curious and intelligent, and while disillusioned, seems to lack the bitter edge that (fairly enough!) characterised Katniss.
It's a brilliant and thoroughly entertaining read--not to be missed by fans of the brilliant Maria V. Snyder, or YA fans who like a pinch of (very sweet and very clean) romance with their sci-fi.
Wow. I've just turned the final page of Across the Universe, and I'm not quite sure how to gather my thoughts. I'm breathless from holding my breath.
I...moreWow. I've just turned the final page of Across the Universe, and I'm not quite sure how to gather my thoughts. I'm breathless from holding my breath.
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book. I've read reviews, and I've recently read Maria V. Snyder's brilliant Inside Out, but I think that, on some level, I was expecting another loosely plotted, sappy YA romance; it's not. In fact, it's not even close. This isn't love at first sight, and it's not even a romance, though it has an element that should satisfy genre fans.
From the moment I experienced Amy's terrifying cryogenic freezing I was wrapped. The end of the first chapter of this book chilled me to the core ('I AM ice'), and for the first part of the book (until she woke), I was restlessly flicking ahead looking for more of her dreams and nightmares as she is locked in ice and terror.
Both Amy and Elder spend a lot of time being led and manipulated, rather than strongly directing their own paths, but I don't think this shows weak characterization on their parts. They're part of a web of lies and secrets so much bigger than themselves, what we're seeing seems authentic. What makes them strong is their internal resilience. Even though they can't control their destinies, they CAN fight.
Parts of the book are creepy and disturbing, but in a way that adds to the story. The Season? Eck. But every part of the book seemed so perfectly plotted, so carefully orchestrated, yet never contrived. There are some very carnal and 'adult' themes (including the female lead being physically attacked in a very unpleasant way).
And Across The Universe is just so prettily written. Full of petic, flowing, lyrical prose that dances across page after page, but somehow doesn't seem flowery.
Across the Universe is wonderful on so many levels, and I've not been so pleasantly surprised by a YA novel in a long time. It's an intelligent, mesmerizing read that I honestly believe deserves the attention it's garnered of late.
Update 26/07/2011: Over 3 months after reading this book it's still haunting me. I keep getting caught up staring out the airlock to the countless stars; feeling the claustrophobia; running from danger during the season; dreading Elder's menace. Surely that's the mark of a good book, no? I really can't wait to fall back into this book, and I'm holding my breath for A Million Suns.(less)
4.5 Stars Note: I love this book SO much, but it's let down (a little) by a very abrupt and strange ending) I’m not sure how to put voice to my thoughts...more4.5 Stars Note: I love this book SO much, but it's let down (a little) by a very abrupt and strange ending) I’m not sure how to put voice to my thoughts on Shatter Me. Undoubtedly the most hyped book of this year, I had very high expectations for Tahereh Mafi’s debut. And it exceeded all of them—over and over and over again. I think I’m in love.
Juliette has been held in isolation for 264 days.
She hasn’t spoken to another person, been touched, or breathed fresh air in all this time. Because Juliette is dangerous: her touch kills. Not on purpose—never on purpose—but the she can’t touch another living human being lest she sucks the life from them.
Outside, the world is falling apart. Famine and disease are part of everyday life, and something is very, very wrong with the planet: livestock dies, crops fail, and the sun doesn’t shine like it used to. Birds don’t fly anymore. In this world, the Reestablishment rules with an iron fist. They promised to make things better. They lied.
Juliette is pulled from her cell, and she’s made an offer: work with the Reestablishment. Change the world. Make a difference. And this is where our story begins.
So much has been said about Shatter Me, and while I was expecting it to be good, I was shocked at just how good. I think I must have read the whole book either holding my breath or gasping. I was sucked in by Juliette’s voice, and I still can’t get it out of my head—I keep hearing her thoughts whirring around my brain. Shatter Me is so many things: exciting, breathtaking, and a beautiful journey of self discovery, but, ultimately, it’s about learning to love yourself.
The stand out of Shatter Me is Mafi’s writing. Flowing, gripping stream-of-consciousness, Tahereh Mafi puts you in Juliette’s head, and it’s remarkable. I couldn’t escape. The book’s peppered with struck out thoughts and words and lines of text. All the things racing through Juliette’s head that she can’t admit to herself, she wants to say, and can’t bring herself to, or can’t allow herself to indulge in.
I loved the quiet parts of Shatter Me, when little was happening. Whether it was Juliette and Adam just being together, or Juliette and Juliette, her thoughts whirring and circling and misfiring. When you’ve lived a life in isolation, the only company you have is yourself, and Juliette’s mind is fascinating. She counts everything: days, minutes, seconds, fingers on hands, cracks in walls, words spoken or left unsaid. She’s compelling, real, fragile, but with a molten core of fiery courage and strength that she’s only just beginning to discover herself. The images she paints with her words are evocative, vibrant and beautiful, and I’ve never ever enjoyed being in a character’s head so much as I did hers. Where she should be bitter, and, in part, I suppose she is, she still hopes. She hasn’t allowed the abuse she’s suffered to crystallise into hatred. I feel cheesy saying this, but Juliette is genuinely inspirational.
“I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Given it’s YA, I was surprised by the level of sexual tension and heat in this book. Though they’re never gratuitous or graphic, the pages Juliette share with her love interest, Adam, crackle with electricity.
“I'm oxygen and he's dying to breathe.”
Imagine, your whole life, never knowing the touch of another human being. One of the most basic facts of life we take for granted. And then you can. Juliette discovering touch for the first time in her life is magical. It’s like hearing music for the first time, or tasting chocolate, but a thousand times more potent and powerful.
“You can't touch me," I whisper. I'm lying, is what I don't tell him. He can touch me, is what I'll never tell him. Please touch me, is what I want to tell him.”
Of the dystopians I’ve read, Shatter Me is the most real. I believed it, and I was frightened to see a very possible future for our own world. Global warming is reality, famine has taken hold, and so have all the superbugs and diseases we fear. The world of Shatter Me is already a reality in parts of ours today. Places where people can’t afford to eat, there’ no clean water, where crops are too expensive to grow, medical care is unattainable, and government is corrupt. How many times have we seen corrupt regimes overthrown, to be replaced with one just as bad? This is happening in our world today, and is what has happened in Shatter Me. For me, it brought the reality of Juliette’s world home.
My only negative with Shatter Me is that, for me, the ending feel a little flat. I want more!
I can’t get Juliette’s voice out of my head. I can’t stop wondering what’s next, and I keep finding myself daydreaming, staring out windows in wonder at how lucky I am for the world around me. Unlike The Hunger Games, to which this has been compared again and again, and to which Shatter Me easily stands up to, Shatter Me doesn’t leave me with a stomach full of lead. It never felt bleak. It left me with hope. It deserves the hype.
From the very first chapter of Across The Universe, I was hooked, and months later I was still haunted by the gorgeous writing, eerie stillne...more4.5 stars
From the very first chapter of Across The Universe, I was hooked, and months later I was still haunted by the gorgeous writing, eerie stillness and quiet menace onboard Godspeed. So to say I had high expectations for A Million Suns would be a tiny bit of an understatement. As if I expected anything else from the brilliant Beth Revis--A Million Suns delivers without missing a beat.
While the first chapter of A Million Suns lacks the abject horror Across The Universe inspired in me, it's equally as shocking in an entirely different way. The quiet menace I mentioned from Across The Universe? It's gone, replaced with panic and unrest verging on chaos. Revis throws the reader right back in the deep end and doesn't miss a beat. Things on Godspeed are not as they seem, and tensions are high. With the removal of Phydus to control the ship's population, there are whispers of revolution, and Elder, while growing into a leader, is out of his depth and not in control. It doesn't help that the people he relies on to run the ship are keeping secrets, and this added to the confusion and mystery, while simultaneously frightening me. There's this scary idea that with each generation of leadership to pass, more and more of the ships purpose and history are lost. If something happens to Elder, what will happen to the ship? If something happens to Doc, who will provide medical care, and who will know the secrets of the Frozens and how to care for them? With the loss of Eldest, how much knowledge has been lost? Elder is struggling to maintain control... Meanwhile, Amy is tracing a series of cryptic clues across the ship that unlock secrets far more terrifying than the current political climate for Godspeed.
Across The Universe left Amy and Elder in a rather ambiguous place, and A Million Suns picks up from there. Amy is trying to forgive Elder. She has no one else on the ship in whom to confide or turn, but she desperately misses her parents, her life as she understood it, and she's in constant danger as the resident Freak. Rather than attaching herself to Elder, she considers her future and considers her options. Despite it being an easy choice, she refuses to jump into something 'more' with Elder. She asks herself what she wants and what she needs. She thinks, she considers, and I loved her for this. She truly examines what it means to love someone, and as the brilliant Braiden points out, there's a major theme of love going on here. What is love? What does it mean? Is it a choice?
I loved the shifting POV in Across The Universe, and I loved it again here. Both for the contrasting outsider/insider views of the workings of Godspeed, and watching Amy and Elder grow closer. The concern Elder feels for Amy is touching, but it's at odds with the responsibility and obligations he has to the whole population of Godspeed. Meanwhile, the reluctance Amy feels towards something more with Elder is beautifully done. Neither Amy or Elder are entirely forthright with each other, but despite hurt, complications, and a far bigger picture, Revis shows a slow, beautiful unthawing of each to the other, and when they start to work together, it's a beautiful thing... Before it all spirals back out of control. Both Amy and Elder grow in A Million Suns, and we saw more of themselves shining through. Both are very imperfect beings, and make more than their fair share of mistakes, and I found myself at turns loving and hating them. Amy's stubborn and headstrong, but this can turn to selfishness at times. Meanwhile, Elder is impulsive, and this gets him in hot water on more than one occasion.
The Verdict: Things onboard Godspeed get ugly in A Million Suns. And messy. And stay as beautiful, twisty and frightening as they always were, while only increasing in menace and intensity. I didn't think it was possible to up the ante any further following Across The Universe, but Revis pilots her ship with the effortless ease of a pro. She gives us this brilliant balance between human emotion and fallibility, sweet romance and action and mystery.
Just as beautifully written, frightening and atmospheric as it's predecessor, A Million Suns ratchets up the mystery and intrigue to almost unbearable levels. Revis delivers a sci-fi-come-Dystopian masterpiece that will thrill fans and leave them desperate for more. Now... To figure out how cryogenically freeze myself so I can survive the year-long wait for Shades Of Earth...(less)
4.5 stars Easily the most hotly anticipated sequel—perhaps release, period—of 2012, Insurgent is, and will be, many different things to many readers. A...more4.5 stars Easily the most hotly anticipated sequel—perhaps release, period—of 2012, Insurgent is, and will be, many different things to many readers. As action packed as its thrilling predecessor, Insurgent doesn’t settle for simply living up to Divergent. It ups the ante, ups the tension, increases the peril, the dangers and the odds. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t get settled. Be Dauntless: you’re in for one hell of a ride.
The Story: Picking up immediately where Divergent left off, we join Tris, Four, Caleb, Marcus and Peter as they flee the Erudite attack on Abnegation, and the horrors that followed. As they head to the safety of the Amity compound, their world is now at war. With faction fighting faction, no-one is safe, and no-one can be trusted. More than just lives are at stake, and loyalties, truths, and even love will be tested as Tris fights… who? Erudite? The system? Not even she seems entirely sure who the enemy is. Something is very, very wrong with her world, and as shocking secrets reveal themselves, Tris and Four’s relationship is put to the test, along with all those with everyone they care for. This is Insurgent. And you are about to learn the truth.
Tris: In Divergent, Tris Prior established herself one of the most remarkable heroines in young adult literature. Brave, intelligent, and selfless, she has earned her place amongst the likes of Rose Hathaway and Katniss Everdeen, but like Rose and Katniss, she is imperfect, and not always likable.
Drowning in guilt and sorrow, bravery blurs with recklessness as Tris struggles with the aftermath of Divergent, of her actions and her losses. It’s difficult watching her struggle with the oppressive weight of responsibility thrust on her shoulders, but it’s a weight she largely takes upon herself. The crushing burden of the fate of her entire civilization, hanging on by a tenuous thread. There's a sense, at times, of hopelessness, and of real and ever present danger in Insurgent. In Divergent, at least until a certain point, the danger felt personal to Tris. Here it’s larger, broader, there’s far more at stake, and it’s bigger than just one person’s future.
Whatshisname? Four, or should we say ‘Tobias’, previously bastion of wisdom, voice of reason, cracks a little in Insurgent. As a certain shocking secret about Four’s past comes to light, this, coupled with Tris’ recklessness, serves to drive a wedge between the couple, and the calm, 'don't mess with me' facade he previously wore slips. We see a fragile, brittle side of him. In Divergent, it was easy to forget Four was human, despite his vulnerabilities. There's an air of authority to him, the feeling that he can handle any situation. But Four is fallible, and we're reminded in Insurgent that not only is Four barely an adult; he's a broken, hurting one at that.
Secrets & Pain & The Science of Sexy: It is the weight of the secrets and pain Tris and Tobias keep from each other from which Insurgent draws a great deal of its tension, and may also frustrate some readers. But the chemistry between Four and Tris is as present as ever, and when the two are together—and not fighting—it crackles with electricity and smoulders with heat. It’s easy to forget, in the longing for romance, that real relationships have real struggles, and at a time in a new relationship when Tris and Four should be getting to know and trust each other fully they’re instead trying to, well, save the world. It's an immense burden on the couple, and fractures form.
Honesty—The Best Policy? Where in Divergent we grew to know Abnegation, then Dauntless factions, Insurgent introduces Candor for the first time, and then the factionless. Thematically, our introduction to Candor comes at the right time. Insurgent is an uncovering of secrets, the discovery of lies. It has a pervasive feeling of discomfit, the kind felt when facing uncomfortable truths. And Insurgent abounds with uncomfortable, devastating truths.
While Divergent examined human nature, and the sequel indeed continues to do so, Insurgent looks at truth and trust. Once again we're drawn into a world defined by absolutes, but coloured by shades of grey, and the truth is a very grey thing indeed. Some secrets are hidden for a reason. Some for greed; others power, if it is not, in fact, the same thing. But what Insurgent shows is that they never come free. That for the revelation of essential truths, for knowledge—and perhaps the Erudite have yet to learn this—there is a cost. The question is what its seekers will pay. And people pay very, very dearly in Insurgent.
The Verdict: In this astounding sequel, Roth shows once again why she caused such waves with Divergent. Nothing is sacred and nothing is sure. The world she has crafted is shifting, evolving along with the minds of its divergent populace, reaching an indelible fulcrum. If Divergent was a game changer for its genre, and market, presenting a level of world building and characterization readers long for and for which writers strive, Insurgent is a game changer unto itself. This is a book from which there is no coming back.
A book to appeal to the divergence in all of us, Insurgent is leading up to one hell of an explosive conclusion. Thrilling action, impossible stakes, deepening intrigue and, of course, smouldering romance, Insurgent is as gripping and utterly addictive as its epic predecessor.(less)
Part The Bachelor, part Next Top Model, but mainly Disney princess fairytale, The Selection delivers what it’s gorgeous cover offers: beautiful girls,...morePart The Bachelor, part Next Top Model, but mainly Disney princess fairytale, The Selection delivers what it’s gorgeous cover offers: beautiful girls, beautiful dresses, and let’s not forget one very charming Prince Charming.
The Verdict: Poor, but very pretty, seventeen year old America Singer is chosen by 'lottery' to be one of thirty-five 'lucky' contestants to compete for Crown Prince Maxon's heart. Problem number one: America heart already belongs to her forbidden love—the gorgeous, penniless Aspen Leger. Problem number two: America is not the least bit interested in a stuffy, boring prince. But it was Aspen himself who forced her to enter the lottery, for the chance of a better life, and Aspen who broke her heart and his promises. She soon discovers stuffy and boring are what the prince is not. Swept up in a world of gorgeous dresses, fierce competition and a side of her world America never knew existed, she begins to realise this may just be a life worth fighting for...
My Thoughts Say what you will about The Selection, it’s nothing if not compulsively readable. While Cass doesn’t boast the most elegant of prose, her bubbly, light tone, and America’s easy manners are instant draw cards. Silly names aside, America is likeable and sweet, if not a little naive at times. In a world where strict social classes dictate what and who you can be the rest of your life—right down to your career path—America, born into a lower middle-class family of struggling artists, has known hunger and want and need, yet she's an essentially optimistic person, and rather than aggravating, it’s contagious. It’s hard not to root for this girl. But it’s this rigid caste system that may be one of The Selection’s biggest stumbling points with readers. Sound dystopian, right? Here’s the thing: It’s not. As other reviewers have commented, it would best be described as 'light dystopian', if at all.
Set in a post World War IV North America, the United States of the past has crumbled. But the current government is not unfair, or oppressive. In fact, the royal family are fair and friendly, if not a little aloof. Readers expecting an exciting dystopian thriller will be disappointed; abandoning expectations is key. The world of The Selection is still compelling and richly imagined, but far closer to a pre-democratic monarchy England than The Hunger Games. Think peasants, commoners, gentry, and ruling class, transported into a (marginally) fairer modern world. Action packed The Selection is not, but there is intrigue hidden just beneath its pretty, polished surface. While it is only hinted at, it is clear this will be explored in future installments.
OK, that’s the serious out of the way. Let’s move on to the meat of the story: the romance. The Selection presents us with two suitors... and thirty-five competitors. Leaving her home with a broken heart, America meets Prince Maxon, the man for whose affections she’s meant to compete; the man she’s already determined to dislike. Imagine that, when she discovers he’s a halfway decent bloke. Surprisingly kind, fair, and thoughtful, a friendship develops between America and Prince Maxon, and slowly, a tentative romance blossoms. The Selection not only presents a love triangle, and encourages team debate, it revels in it. But it’s doubtful many readers will fall for America’s first love, the selfless, intense and gorgeous Aspen, and it’s not merely because his competition is a Prince. As America’s finds room in her heart for Maxon, it’s difficult not to fall prey to his charms. Never smarmy, or ‘charming’, Maxon is unequivocally, well, good.
The Verdict: Precisely like the serial television of which it is born, The Selection is easily digestible; the kind of book that’s easy to pick up and devour in a single, breathless sitting. Don't let the reality TV show comparisons put you off, though: The Selection, while light, has heart—not to mention a lack of bitchiness—these insipid shows lack. But it’s also book which will delight or disappoint depending on expectations. Is it truly dystopian? Not really. Is it as intense as the cover suggests? No. What it is, is simple: light, fun, compelling and compulsively readable. (less)
School wasn't a happy time for me. The bonds I had to my friends felt always tenuous, and it was many a lunchtime I spent holed up in the library, sea...moreSchool wasn't a happy time for me. The bonds I had to my friends felt always tenuous, and it was many a lunchtime I spent holed up in the library, searching for something new. There was no Goodreads, then. The internet was new and exciting, and online communities were a thing I'd not encountered--
Aaah, writing this, I feel quite old. I wonder how Orwell would feel, because his seminal novel, 1984 was well before its time, but the year it takes its name from has long since past. It past the year I was born, in fact.
Moving on: My friends weren't big readers, but my mum and dad were. I devoured their book collections, and my tastes became theirs: epic fantasies, chilling sci-fi. They and their books taught me to question; to think for myself. I'm not surprised now to see my tastes ran in vein of politically subversive, and with that in mind, it seems inevitable I found myself one lunchtime with this book in my hands.
There's something special about the book you discover for yourself. My mother and father may have led me to a love of reading, but it was I who chose to keep seeking, and it was I who picked this book.
As a fifteen year old, 1984 changed my life. It's left an indelible mark on the adult I've become, and, while perhaps it's not healthy ('paranoid' and 'distrustful' come closer), it's shaped how I've grown to view politics, and how the people who govern our world do so.
Armed with the knowledge of doublethink and thoughtcrime, the world was a different place for me, and for the very first time, I grew to see the world outside me in more than just black and white, and to reject the absurdity of blackwhite.
1984 did not make me an activist, or a radical – I can make no such great claim. It did teach me to think for myself, to question; it reinforced the foundations my parents laid. So this isn't a review, not really. Just a chance to say how much this book means to me, and hope it will to you, too. (less)
Someone call the IUCN—Vampires are swiftly becoming an endangered species in young adult literature. After all, there are only so many times a teenage...moreSomeone call the IUCN—Vampires are swiftly becoming an endangered species in young adult literature. After all, there are only so many times a teenage vampire can chill out in high school before raising a few eyebrows, and readers and publishers alike demand something different. Well, in Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules, readers will get what they are craving, and bloodsuckers are most definitely in no danger of extinction...
The Story: In New Covington, a city ruled by vampires, humans can choose to be 'registered', well fed blood cattle, or starve. Allison Sekemoto lives on the fringes, unregistered, and scrapes by a meager existence scavenging for food.
That is until she's attacked by 'rabids'-- mindless vampires, who share more in common with zombies than the Salvatores--and offered a choice by an unlikely savior: die, or become a vampire, the thing she hates most. Well, it's really not a question. Allie is a survivor, and if she has to survive as a vampire, so be it. She stays with her vampire mentor, Kanin, and learning her new way of 'life', and to fight, until she is forced to flee.
Joining a group of humans searching for an almost mythical vampire-free city, Allie must try pass as human, and learn for herself what kind of monster she will become... which is made even harder as she finds herself breaking one of the first rules she learned in her undeath: never get attached to humans...
Thoughts: Believe it or not, Vampire dystopians are nothing new. Take Daybreakers, with Ethan Hawke and Sam Neill. Flash back to I Am Legend, and its unfortunate adaptations. More recently, we have Priest. Yet Kagawa takes a supernatural creature that's been done to death all over again, and gives it, well, a third life—a life after afterlife, perhaps. Kagawa builds a world of crumbling cities, deadly darkness, and to quote another reviewer, one “full of people whose humanity is slipping in favour of a harsh survivalist mentality." A world of monsters both supernatural, and very much flesh-and-beating-heart humanity, stripped to a cold, dark core.
It’s in this world we find Allison Sekemoto: street-rat human, blood-hungry ‘monster’, and in both incarnations, still just a lost girl struggling to find her place in the world. While a long, hard physical journey consumes many of the book’s hefty 451 pages, the real focus of the story is a journey far more insular: Allie’s journey towards not just accepting, but embracing herself. Learning she has a choice in the monster she chooses to be.
Allie is tough, callous, and she makes no apologies. She is a survivor, and survival really is of the fittest in her world. Yet she grows over the course of The Immortal Rules, not only becoming a tougher, more ‘badass’ girl, but a kinder, more selfless one. In a world where selflessness can see you dead, or starved, Allie is an oddity, and perhaps doesn’t even realise it herself. In the change from human to vampire, she struggles to cling to her humanity—the essential goodness, and innate compassion we define as ‘human,’ for the Immortal Rules is nothing if not a fascinating study in ‘human’ nature—but it is interesting to note she is perhaps more ‘human’ as a monster, than she ever was with a pulse, and a warm, beating heart.
While certainly there, and indeed a key, beautifully done part of the plot, the romance in The Immortal Rules is subtle. It's an organic thing, slowly growing throughout the book, but it's not its focus. This is Allie's story. Her growth. Her choices. Her monster. But her relationships, whether romantic, warm, cold, or the fascinating dynamic she shares with her mentor, are crucial and compelling.
The Verdict: The Immortal Rules is many, very exciting, things. It's action packed, it's cinematic, it's romantic and exhilarating, but it is also something more: A quality of storytelling and strength of narrative that lift it above 'just another' vampire book, or indeed, as trends lean more and more in the direction, another dystopian. Kagawa's storytelling has a depth, and her world building scope, that lend The Immortal Rules a decidedly grown-up feel. Not in the sense that it has only adult allure—though it is certainly a novel that has the cross market appeal of the likes of The Hunger Games—but it is a story with a depth and maturity; one that is fleshed out and fully grown, and is the work of a writer comfortable and confident in her ability—and rightly so. Kagawa tells her story with the easy grace and unflinching honesty of a master, and it would not be so hard to compare it to the likes of Suzanne Collins, or an early-era-Obernewtyn Isobelle Carmody.
Bleak, cinematic, utterly compelling and—most excitingly—new, The Immortal Rules brings some fresh blood to the YA scene… exactly what those lurky vampires were waiting for. If you thought vampires were safely buried in their crypts, staked, or put out in the sun, think again. The Immortal Rules is a very different take on the parasitic creatures of the night, and it's not a romanticized, sanitized version, either. Sharing something more akin with zombie horror and Mad Max than a teen romance, The Immortal Rules is a dark, gritty study in human nature. After all, what separates us from monsters, from the things that go bump in the night? You're about to find out.
Look, I have a confession to make: I’ve known about Divergent for months, and I’d intentionally ignored it. I saw the cover and thought it looked... I...moreLook, I have a confession to make: I’ve known about Divergent for months, and I’d intentionally ignored it. I saw the cover and thought it looked... I don’t know. Like action? Wasn’t interested. Then someone had to go and rave about it, and ignoring it was no longer an option (it was an eminently convincing rave). There’s nothing Divergent doesn’t offer: high stakes, intrigue, action, romance and characters I’ve fallen in love with. Putting this book down at 3 in the morning to sleep is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Sound good? You have no idea, and I’m just getting started...
In a dystopian future, society has divided into five factions, who co-exist in peace. At an appointed time, all sixteen year olds choose the faction with whom will align themselves for life: Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless) or Dauntless (the brave). The faction they choose will dictate their behaviour, their future, and possibly cut them off from their family. To live factionless is to be cut off, drifting, unwanted, and not a life at all.
Beatrice Prior is sixteen. Her time to choose has come. Renaming herself Tris, she leaves her family, joins her new faction, and starts the terrifying and competitive training that will shape her future. But danger surrounds her on all sides. Tris worries about Faction unrest, one of her fellow initiates is a psychopath, and the life she’s chosen may just get her killed...
Tris: Selfless, brave and intelligent, Tris is an extraordinary character. Faced with more or less sanctioned threats to her life and sanity as part of her training, Tris doesn't just survive, she thrives. She learns to stand up for and protect herself, and question who she is and wants to be. Despite growing up meek, she’s a fighter, and she grows into her strengths over the course of Divergent. She has backbone, and she has self respect.
She's not pretty, sweet, or charming... she's her own amazing self. And she's allowed to be... and that's not only OK, that's awesome. I loved this girl. She's the perfect balance between action-chick, brains and heart.
One, Two, Three... Enter Four. Tris’ enigmatic trainer, Four is tough, fascinating, and... kind of scary. Despite an intimidating outer shell, Four is layered, his character nuanced, and he has depths we slowly begin to see as he and Tris grow closer. I loved the humour and Tris and Four shared, and the level the (sometimes) seem to 'get' each other one. The chemistry Four and Tris share is electric. A living, sparking thing that consumed whole scenes, pages and chapters. Tris has never so much as kissed a boy and each of Four’s touches are new, exciting, and hold an intensity and heat that I swear wouldn’t be out of place in an adult romance.
Absolutely Absolute: Divergent presents a rather chilling picture of what humans are really capable of. When a single trait is prized and cultivated in isolation from all others--intelligence without selflessness; bravery without compassion; honesty without wisdom--values which do make up the best of humanity are taken to extremes and become ugly, twisted, perverted things. You remove any selflessness from intelligence, and you wind up with greed for power, knowledge, and corruption.
You've heard the phrase 'absolute power corrupts absolutely', but Divergent posits that absolutism itself is the danger. The world in which Tris lives tried to eradicate war by cultivating the best of mankind. This worked for a long time, but ultimately, it relies on an expectation of innate goodness in human nature... A nice idea, but no one--not even 'good' people--are black and white, and Tris' world is filled with people who are most definitely grey--many of those she loves included. Tris is starting to see cracks form in her world. Tiny hairline fractures that could topple the whole structure. It's a dangerous time to live in the world of Divergent.
The Verdict: Exciting, terrifying and completely and utterly captivating, Divergent had me sold from the get go. I shared Tris’ excitement as she joined her new faction and began to learn and understand her new way of life, and herself. I also shared her fear and trepidation when people began to show their true natures, and learns her world is not as safe as it seems. Despite a society that has come to value one defining trait over all others, and requires people to act within the parametres of it, we begin to see other aspects of the characters in Divergent... and it’s often scary seeing what some of them are hiding behind their outward show of faction loyalty.
I’m often left rattled by dystopians, as I see a possible future for our own world. While this is not necessarily the case in Divergent, I see so much of our world already in it. Wars started by lust for power, greed, misunderstanding. Media games and manipulations motivated by politics. The lengths people will go to prosper themselves. The world Veronica Roth has built is vivid, real and frightening, and despite turning the final page on Divergent, it’s still with me, quite literally haunting my dreams (goodness I'd like a good night's sleep). 3D characters I care about, a surprisingly electric romance, stunning betrayals and stakes so high they threaten to topple an entire civilisation, Divergent is not to be missed.
BIG LOVE to the fabulous daydreaming_star for the read along. Amazing books? EVEN MORE AMAZING with amazing company xx(less)
From the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Obernewtyn, to the stark contrasts of poverty and lavish opulence in Pan Am, Dystopian – YA’s enduri...more3.5 Stars
From the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Obernewtyn, to the stark contrasts of poverty and lavish opulence in Pan Am, Dystopian – YA’s enduring wunderkind – comes in many shapes and sizes, and never has it seemed it so normal and suburban, yet so alien, cruel and wrong as in the alternate reality of Kat Zhang's What’s Left of Me.
The Story It's an accepted certainty that every person is born with two souls, two girls or two boys, opening their shared eyes for the first time, as separate and unique as they are one and whole.
It's just as certain that one of those souls will evanesce. Dominant and recessive, one soul born to lead, and to live, the other destined to disappear. Two children within the body of one, with their family, friends, and their world, expecting one to die. Hoping one will fade.
Addie and Eva, Eva and Addie are two such souls. Addie, strong, in control, destined to live, and Eva, destined to... not. But Eva didn't fade when it was her time. Eva clung to life, and now the two girls go about their life, Addie leading, and Eva an ever-present witness, both hiding. Because having two souls, being a 'hybrid', is illegal. Eva and Addie hide in plain sight, from everyone. Even their family. Until someone notices the girl hiding inside, and offers her the unthinkable: a chance to walk again. To breathe. To speak. Trapped inside her sister's body for years, how could they say no? The 101 While, in many ways, Kat Zhang’s debut is an introspective, reflective story, it also carries in its pages a suffocating unfairness, an immense corruption and cruelty that seeps deep enough to rattle bones. I’ve always felt this ‘type’ of novel can go two ways: leaving the protagonist – and reader – feeling empowered, rallied, ready to fight; or adrift in a world of corruption so vast they feel hopeless. What’s Left Of Me left me feeling frightened and small, unconvinced that, hybrid or not, a protagonist so ‘ordinary’ and powerless, so much a normal schoolgirl, could ever overcome a system and government so corrupt, and, honestly, I’m not entirely sure how that makes me feel, or how I feel about the book on a whole.
While it may sound oxymoronic, the lack of grounding in our world, the sense of ‘this could really happen, gives What’s Left Of Me a fantastical feel, but also robs it of frightening impact often granted by the same, yet it feels peculiar to comment on as, in all ways but the obvious – of two souls sharing a single body – there is a profound sense of normalcy to What’s Left Of Me, and an almost Stepford-like suburbia. But this suburbia doesn’t last for long, and despite sixteen years of practice for Addie/Eva, neither does the ‘normal’ façade.’
The relationship between Addie and Eva is the tale’s strongest facet, their pull and push, and the conflict between two very different people with very different desires forced to share one body, one life, is beautiful and painful to witness. This aspect alone is enough to make What’s Left of Me compelling, but a book is never one thing: Animal Farm is not a story solely about talking Animals, and The Hunger Games is not only a story about a girl who’s a decent shot with a bow falling for a baker. Great books are the product of many pieces falling into place cohesively. What’s Left Of Me was like a jigsaw with matching shapes, but not colours.
When we talk of series – and What’s Left Of Me is planned as a trilogy, I believe – it’s not uncommon to hear the term ‘Middle Book Syndrome’ referring to a slump mid-series, or a book two which serves as little more than filler. What’s Left Of Me, being book one, does not have this problem, but ‘Middle Of The Book Syndrome’ may be a more appropriate term. A shocking change in scenery mid-book lends the book a very different – and far darker – tone than that with which it starts, but it also trips pacing. It’s worth noting What’s Left Of Me is very much a character-driven story, but its contemplative tone has moments teetering dangerously close to dull in what should be the novel’s most tense moments.
While What’s Left Of Me is not without its flaws, it remains a lovely story. Quiet, meditative, heavy with stifling oppression, it offers moments of extraordinary insight. Reflecting on what we leave behind as we turn from youth to adulthood – in the case of this world something profound and tangible – What’s Left of Me serves as powerful allegory for the sacrifice of self, of youth, of the self-imposed requirement to conform we each battle.
The Verdict: Filled with achingly beautiful moments of contemplation, and a dystopian side so oppressive, suffocating and cruel in its subtleties and familiarities it’s crushing, What’s Left Of Me is a wonderfully unique story. The concept is extraordinary, and the interplay, the push and pull, the balance between Addie and Eva is compelling and beautiful and heartbreaking. At its worst, it dances close by the boundary of boring, but at its best? It’s breathtaking. I liked What’s Left Of Me. A compelling start to a very promising series.(less)
Chilling, creepy, visceral and exciting, Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt is many things: Dystopian, paranormal, survivalist fantasy—but mainly, it'sgood.
The...moreChilling, creepy, visceral and exciting, Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt is many things: Dystopian, paranormal, survivalist fantasy—but mainly, it's good.
The Story: In a world where 'people' are not at all like you and I lives a 17 year old boy named Gene. Gene is many things: A survivor, an expert at deception, but most of all a freak. Instead of fangs, he has unsharpened incisors. While the sun makes 'people' melt and disintegrate, Gene can withstand ceaseless daylight. Instead of a healthy diet of blood and raw meat, Gene needs water and fruit to survive. Gene is a freak. A heper. A human. And if people knew what he was, he would be something else entirely: dead in seconds.
For seventeen years Gene has evaded detection by following the rules: don’t blink, don't sneeze, don’t cough, laugh or smile, and he's done well. But then The Ruler announces something extraordinary: a Heper Hunt, the first in ten years. Chosen by lottery to be one of the 'lucky' hunters—one the last to ever taste extremely endangered heper flesh—Gene must use all his tricks to survive. Cut off from proper food, water and deodorant, the other hunters are beginning to smell something... Well, not fishy. Something far, far more delicious...
My Thoughts: Fukuda’s ‘People’—for people is what they are in this world, and you will not see them referred to otherwise—are not quite vampires. More like the unholy love child of a vampire/zombie/human union: they think, they reason, they can, in fact, reproduce, and live normal, healthy lives. They are, in many ways, just like you and me, but they crave human flesh with unbridled hunger. They possess no control, and they have no internal struggle or moral quandaries to romanticise. These people would like nothing less than to tear your arms from your sockets and slurp your brain up like soup. Yet they are not so different. They have families, schools, parties and children. Teens have boyfriends and girlfriends. Friends share jokes. It’s amongst these ‘people’ that we find Gene, and start to question what, exactly, ‘human’ means.
Gene is a fascinating character study, a walking, talking, dichotomy—a lesson in Doublethink. He lives by careful rules: don't be caught out by the monsters, remember who you are—human—different from the monsters, better, all while, in some dark, secret place, longing to be a 'real' person, himself.
Gene’s humanity is an interesting thing. More than desire, longing, desperation, one thing has been deeply ingrained into the fibre of his very being: survive. At any cost—any length—survive. This need to survive can manifest itself in very ugly ways. If a human is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone for his own survival, what does that say about his humanity? Has he lost what it means to be human, or is it that need to survive, that tenacity and determination to cling to life despite the most desperate of circumstance, what makes him—and us—human, instead?
So The Hunt poses an interesting question: what is ‘human’? People mercilessly hunt hepers. They are cold, calculating, cruel; but is this any different from shark and seal, or lion and antelope? Is it different from humans and the billions of cattle, chickens, and sheep slaughtered each year to feed ‘humans’? So Fukuda asks us this: are People as bad as they sound, or just the top of the food chain? Is Gene himself any better? He leaves it to the reader to decide, and therein lies his brilliance. Fukuda's characters—even his heroes and heroines—are not always likeable, or easy to connect with, but it seems to be the point. They are flawed, at times ugly, but always interesting.
A steady, calculated creepiness and menace hang over The Hunt, and every page is coloured with a heavy sense of desperation. There are bigger games at play, and while the players have yet to reveal themselves, it becomes very clear Gene is a pawn. But this is where the comparisons to Chess or Checkers must stop. The Hunt is not a book of black and white, or perhaps even varying shades of grey. It’s a thick, muddy quagmire filled with hidden traps and dangers.
When Fukuda writes action, he holds nothing back. In contrast to Gene's carefully practiced facade, and the lingering sense of dread and foreboding that shrouds every word of The Hunt, every moment of flight, every fight, every suspicious glance ratchets up the tension and flies along at breakneck pace. Sharp and vivid, Fukuda writes with an emotive brilliance. The kind that will leave your throat parched and aching with Gene’s thirst, longing for rest, and scratching your wrist in laughter—oh, wait... you don’t have a funny bone there, either?
The Verdict: Dark, tense and brilliant, Fukuda’s debut is not to be missed. Flawlessly combining chilling creepiness with nail biting tension and action, The Hunt is The Hunger Games, with the focus on the game—the mind game that is: The manoeuvering, the politics, the conspiracy, unravelling alliances and secrets. While not quite as action-packed as the name might suggest, The Hunt moves at electrifying pace, and will deliver thrills and chills to boys and girls (grown up ones, too) alike.
First Thoughts: Read, finished, LOVED. I have so many FEELINGS. Happy. Sad. Hope. Sorrow. Everything about this book...there's a greater sense of urgency...moreFirst Thoughts: Read, finished, LOVED. I have so many FEELINGS. Happy. Sad. Hope. Sorrow. Everything about this book...there's a greater sense of urgency and purpose, and... Oh, the characters. WOWOWOW.
Sequels are tricky things; even more so 'middle books'. With a happy romantic union cemented in book one, how does the author sustain chemistry? With a journey underway, how does she maintain momentum on route to a distant conclusion? Is it time to answer questions? Pose them? Fans are demanding creatures—the more ardent, the more so—but, as readers, our favourite authors win our trust for a reason, a reason Veronica Rossi demonstrates in Through the Ever Night.
We left Aria and Perry locked in a joyous embrace in Under the Never Sky, and it is where we find them in Through the Ever Night. But their reunion is not to be a drawn out, happy thing. Peregrine of the Tides is now Peregrine, Blood Lord of the Tides. Where once he enjoyed unfettered freedom, the weight of hundreds of lives now rests on his teenage shoulders, and his people do not take kindly to a daughter of the people who stole their children sharing their home.
Aria finds herself no less entangled. Charged with the hope of those who exiled her, Aria must find the Still Blue, a fabled land free from the deadly storms of the Aether sky, or face the death of all she holds dear.
It’s a dark place to find Perry and Aria, and where Under the Never Sky ended with hope, Through the Ever Night quickly forms fractures and wears it down. Aria, exiled from her home, without family, and trapped as a pawn of the manipulative Consul Hess, is isolated, even from Perry. She’s strong and selfless, and, having developmed a quiet wisdom, finds herself torn between love and sacrifice. Though Perry owns her heart, Aria—an outsider amongst the Outsiders—can see her presence undermining Perry’s new and fragile leadership. She’s faced with difficult choices, and each direction leads to pain and isolation. It’s the first of many obstacles the couple faces, and creates a wedge, forcing larger cracks.
The story separates the couple quickly and, apart, Through the Ever Night shows Perry’s analogous strengths and weaknesses. It seems that, in story, nuance and detail, Rossi may be playing favourites with her children. There’s a weight given to Perry’s story, an extra layer of complexity which render Perry’s pages the most memorable. If, perhaps, Under the Never Sky was Aria’s tale, this is Perry’s. Perry is caught in an unenviable position between right and wrong, instinct and reason. Seen as ‘rash’ by his tribe, he is judged not entirely by his actions, but a violent undercurrent of desperation. He’s torn between the ability to act with the freedom he has always known, and his responsibility for hundreds of lives. It is a painful thing to witness, but Perry, as Aria, demonstrates remarkable growth over of the course of the story. Both battle very real internal foes, as well as external: doubt, fear, desperation and betrayal are demons they both face in varying degrees.
While Aria and Perry are separated by distance much of the novel, they are never far from each other's thoughts, and each grows stronger individually. While second instalments frequently see couples breaking up and angst filled confrontations, the couple share something profound, and it shapes them, but they have purposes and goals. Neither abandons their friends and responsibilities because they cannot live without the other.
It seems as though Through the Ever Night could easily pose as a parable for the pressures of childhood and young adulthood in the modern world; the conflicting worship of youth, but the push to learn faster, grow faster, mature, absorb, and assimilate. The burdens its young heroes face are crushing and unfair, yet ultimately the story concerns itself more with love and friendship and family. There are messages to be found, certainly, but they are much like images seen in clouds on lazy days: there for those who choose to find them, regardless of their creator's intent.
The Verdict: With the final page turned and many months of time free for reflection (the trilogy's conclusion is, after all, not expected for a year), I find myself reluctant to leave Aria and Perry's world behind. The Aether sky shines and flows in my imagination, and its characters whisper, beckoning my return. Rossi proves a talent for creating hope, sweet and pure, as, despite the tale's darker moments (of which there are many) I find myself lingering not on the pain, but on its hopeful final pages, on reunion, smiles, and a wish for tomorrow.(less)
Ten years ago, atomic bombs destroyed the world, leaving two groups of survivors: those maimed, burned, and horrifically deformed by the fire and radi...moreTen years ago, atomic bombs destroyed the world, leaving two groups of survivors: those maimed, burned, and horrifically deformed by the fire and radiation; and ‘Pures’—a lucky and select group who escaped the explosions unharmed, safely tucked away in a massive glass bubble called The Dome.
Pressia survived the explosions outside. Life is hard, food is scarce, and Pressia is nearing her sixteenth birthday—the time when she will be drafted for military service with OSR. She’ll be forced to kill, or be used as target practice.
Partridge escaped the Detonations unscathed, safely tucked away in the Dome, which is more or less ruled by his cold and distant father. His mother and brother dead, Partridge doesn’t quite fit in with the other boys and people of the Dome. He has an independent streak that is dangerous in such a controlled community, and when a slip of the tongue from his father suggests his mother may still be alive—outside—Partridge decides to escape.
As a series of coincidences drive Pressia and Partridge together, they must fight together to survive... but who are they fighting? Who’s the enemy? The pieces start to come together into a much, much bigger picture, as the two discover their lives are more closely intertwined than they could have imagined.
P1 & P2:
Pure is told (mainly) through the shifting POV of Pressia and Partridge. They’ve both suffered, and both of their lives were long ago stripped down to one defining purpose: survival. But they both seemed very naive, and very young.
When Partridge escapes the Dome, we see through his eyes, and it gives the reader a lens of relatability. And I tell you what, I needed that lens, as Pressia, for me, felt detached, cold and aloof. She needs to be to survive—but it made her hard to relate to. In this, she reminded me a lot of an early-era Obernewtyn Elspeth. And this book started moving at about the same pace. Read: glacial. Which brings me to:
I love the cold, but this is ridiculous: Pure gets off to a VERY slow start. While Baggot had me enthralled with her achingly beautiful prose and vividly imagined world, it seemed as though very little actually happened. So much of the book was spent setting up the world, the politics, the characters; but little happened with them. I suspect book two will feature more action, but the gorgeous prose quickly lost its appeal and grew flowery, leavimg me agitated and impatient for the book to get on with it.
Squick! I struggled with the descriptions of the bizarre physical deformities of the Detonation survivors. They’ve become fused with objects, other people or animals, and it left me squirming. While the healthy and whole people running the Dome are deliberately subjecting their children to procedures designed to genetically alter them for strength, intelligence or obeisance, the survivors outside struggle with mutations that will eventually kill them. It’s creepy and sinister. This isn’t a criticism of Pure, rather, it’s praise: Baggot is uncompromising in presenting the uncomfortable truth of survival in this world, but it’s no less hard to read.
Seriously? Pure is peppered with implausible coincidences, yet the plot wouldn’t make sense without them. The whole storyline is held together by a thread so thin it constantly threatened to break. This is meant to be set in a large city, right? Yet Pressia, Partridge and co keep stumbling across people, places, clues or objects from the past to help them on their way, and I kept thinking ‘yeah, right.’ Finding familiar places or people from ‘the before’ over a place that size, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with so many people dead is hugely unlikely.
The Verdict: Julianna Baggot creates a disturbing world in Pure, too close and familiar to our own to be comfortable. It’s an uncompromising picture of what humanity is capable of, and I hated it, because I could actually believe it—but I didn’t want to. Yet, while Pure is packed with fights, flight and conspiracy, lengthy descriptions and sparse, sometimes stiff, dialogue made it feel very slow.
Pure deserves the praise it’s garnered. It’s beautifully written, frightening, intensely emotive, and well thought out and researched. It’s so many amazing things, bundled into what should be an amazing book—but I didn’t enjoy reading it. I struggled through all bar sixty-odd pages of it, and it had a rather open, unstatisfying ending. Turning the final page I was left feeling sad, emotionally drained, but mainly just relieved it was over. Nevertheless, Pure will appeal to lovers of dystopian fiction—especially fans of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn. It just wasn't for me.
To be fair: if I was to rate this book completely objectively, based on writing, world building, imagination and execution, it would deserve 4 stars. I’ve decided to rate based on my enjoyment of it... and I struggled with this book. So, forgive me, but: 2 stars.
Pure was kindly provided by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks you guys!(less)