I picked up this book in Hay on Wye during the festival. It cost me a whopping £1 and I'd never heard of it before, so I wasn't exactly sure what to eI picked up this book in Hay on Wye during the festival. It cost me a whopping £1 and I'd never heard of it before, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. A glance at Amazon and Goodreads did not get my hopes up. However, last night I couldn't get to sleep and I wanted a short read to send me off to lullaby-land. I picked up Doll, but on my reading headlamp (yes, you read that correctly...) and settled down.
Oh. My. God.
I know that makes me sound like a tween, but I don't care. I read the entire thing in one go. This book is truly tremendous. I have been sticking up for YA books online ever since M.C. Gurdon posted her scathing review of such titles in the Wall Street Journal on June 4th. Since then I've read a whole bunch of books which I've considered valuable texts; I've read books which were beautifully written and which held depth and meaning.
Doll, however, is one of those YA books that needs to be praised as "literature". Singer writes almost hauntingly echoing prose. The book's protagonists, Tilly and Jan (pronounced Yan) are lost and sad souls who both feel abandoned by their mothers for different reasons.
I know what you're thinking. Girl meets boy, boy comforts girl, they seek solace in each other, fall in love, live happily ever after...right? Wrong. This is what I was expecting. This is even what I was hoping for at times! But Tilly is so damaged that she doesn't want solace. Her pain is what she feels connects her to her lost mother. That...and the doll made from scraps of her mother's life. The doll which whispers in her mother's voice...
Jan is an almost diasporic figure. His mother could not look after him in his native Chile so he is adopted by the Sparks family. He feels disconnected from what he calls "[his] English mother" and cannot reconcile his two identities as he feels that he is both Jan Veron, the South American boy, and Jan Sparks, adopted son of his English parents.
The book is only short, at 208 pages, but it is so rich. The writing is amazing and the characters are dysfunctional yet dazzlingly heart-wrenching. M.C. Gurdon would absolutely effing HATE it! Because this text is dark. It's very dark. The subjects of alcoholism, self harm and depression are actually some of the less dismal themes! Even more disturbing is the beautiful was Singer explores the oppositions of truth and lies, life and death, identity and disillusion, grief and healing, madness and sanity, fantasy and reality.
Yup. All those themes which Gurdon said were harmful to younger readers. However, the messages in this book are so wonderfully handled, and the darkness so honestly portrayed and battled with that I can't help but feel that this book is going to end up being taught in schools one day. That's how I felt when I read the book: like I wanted to study it, to dissect it and squeeze every rich drop of meaning from the words. I can't actually gush enough, I don't think! No...I'm not "gushing" over this book, I'm in awe of it.
The only reason I can think for there not being a plethora of glowing, five-star reviews for this text is that people picked it up hoping for something easy and predictable, and instead found themselves with a poignant literary work which demanded more consideration than a glossy happy-ending could provide.
Identity, truth and grief are marvellously considered in this short but achingly bitter-sweet book. This is the best £1 I've spent all year!...more
I've sat on this review for a little while because I wanted to let Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children sink in. And, if I'm honest, I wanted tI've sat on this review for a little while because I wanted to let Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children sink in. And, if I'm honest, I wanted time to make up my mind about this book.
It didn't work. Letting my mind breathe like a nice red wine has not allowed the flavour of my thoughts to mellow and mature. This book was like wine in a lot of ways, I guess. There was subtlety, complexity and richness. Furthermore, it was a book I could only sip. I'm usually all for swallowing books whole but I couldn't gulp at this one.
And then there was the slight... bitterness. This book left a bad after-taste with me when I was done. Just like when you indulge in a few too many glasses of red, when I was finished with this I felt the face-palm of regret. I couldn't figure out why until I sat down to put my thoughts in line about this book.
I regretted the fact that I didn't love the book as much as I had so desperately wanted to. Ransom Riggs' writing is interesting and I loved the premise of the story. Unfortunately, the only character I liked was the protagonist, Jacob. Everyone else in the story either got on my nerves a little bit or drove me completely nutty with annoyance! In some cases this annoyance came from the characters' qualities. The love interest, for example, (whose name escapes me...) was really irritating! Take that and couple it with the almost incestuous fact that she was Jacob's grandfather's ex (I know, right?) and this was a romance that just didn't float my boat.
So many of the characters had such potential. There was one creepy li'l kid who could bring clay golems to life by giving them the hearts of living creatures. He was one of the few characters who had a bit more going on other than his peculiarity. In most other cases the peculiar children's little quirks were all they had. Their personalities weren't developed and there just wasn't much beneath the surface.
The pictures were disturbing, even more so after the Afterword at the back of the book. These have me curious about Riggs' up and coming work, Talking Pictures. Other than these visual interludes, I found little else about the book creepy.
So...where do I stand? Now that it comes to thinking about how many little stars to post below, I must admit that I'm a little bit stumped. This book has worked its way under my skin in spite of my disappointment with the book as a whole. I still want to read the sequel because there really is so much potential to this premise and these characters. I'm going to give this one a 3 star rating. A cynical little voice in my head is muttering that it should be lower. A bright little voice is chirping that it should be higher. Screw them both, I'm playing it safe and sitting my butt firmly on the fence!...more
The very lovely Chicken House were kind enough to send me a copy of Undead, by Kirsty McKay for review.
Before sitting down to read this book, I had tThe very lovely Chicken House were kind enough to send me a copy of Undead, by Kirsty McKay for review.
Before sitting down to read this book, I had to have a long, hard talk to myself. Yes, I was thrilled to have finally made it into the world of happiness that is getting free books. Yes, I giggled at the fact that Chicken House addressed the book to "Not-Toooo-Scaredy-Cat Laura". Yes, I hope that Chicken House and other publishers will want to send me more books in future. But would I be willing to write insanely glowing reviews in order to achieve this latter ambition? Nope.
So, with much trepidation I opened the cover and started reading...
Thank goodness Kirsty McKay had written such a darkly funny book! It would have sucked royally for my first ARC review post to have been negative! Instead, I get to gush and hold on to my book-blogging enthusiasm! Yay!
McKay's story is told from the first person perspective of Bobby, a sarcastic teenage girl who has recently moved back to the UK from America. She's not exactly thrilled to be back, and is even less thrilled to have been sent on a school skiing trip to Scotland. Bobby is the typical outsider. She doesn't know anyone on the school bus and assumes that even if the did know them, she probably wouldn't like them anyway.
Well, she doesn't really get to give them a chance. Revelling in her otherness, Bobby stays on the bus with the driver and the class miscreant, Smitty. That's when the proverbial hits the fan! The rest of the plot I'll let you enjoy for yourself. Don;t go expecting anything wildly original, but do expect a thoroughly enjoyable yarn with great pace, funny dialogue and gory action.
The characters of the book were at once hilarious and irritating! I liked Bobby immediately. I've always liked to think that if the world were to come to an end, or if I should ever have to save the Nakatomi Towers in a vest, or if I had to face down the zombie hoards, I'd be able to do it with an entire repertoire of witty one-liners and yippee-ki-yays! McKay's Undead is full of "...a kind of dark, nervy humour. When the apocalypse happens, you've gotta have some comic relief." (Taken from an interview with McKay, found on her website. Take a look, she's funny!)
Don't get me wrong, there are a few occassions when the one-liners are jarringly at odds with the grim reality of the characters' plight. At first this bothered me, but I soon got used to Bobby's coping mechanisms. I loved the way she and Smitty - the love interest you kind of want to kiss and to kick - bounced witticisms back and forth while facing down the undead!
Every old zombie flick has to have the vapid blonde who was more concerned with keeping her nails clean than she was about lending a hand to save the day. In McKay's book, that role goes to Alice. Oh, you're going to want to choke her with her Candy Couture handbag... Then there's Pete. Pale, stinky Pete who plays the role of pasty-faced geek with a need to be right. While you're strangling Alice, you'll be silently reminding yourself to save some energy for Pete...
So the characters don't evoke sympathy, but they'll crack you up. More than that, you'll recognise them. You'll cheer for Bobby and Smitty. You'll roll your eyes at Alice and Pete pretty much every time they take a breath. You'll grimace at some of the gore. You'll never drink vegetable juice again...
This is definitely one for older teenagers as there are a few violent scenes, a creeping and constantly deepening sense of peril, along with some mild language. But then I like that in a YA book, when it's necessary. When a zombie is stumbling towards you, salivating and dead-eyed, nothing kills the mood (or the realism) more than when someone says "Oh bother..." It's patronising. McKay keeps it real, showing respect for the purpose of language and also for her readers.
Undead will hit the shelves in September and, I promise you, if you're into the classic motifs of zombie stories, it'll be well worth picking it up. This is a nice, little zom-com that will have you doubled over alternately gagging and giggling. A fantastic début!
Find out more about Kirsty McKay at her website, or through Chicken House.
I'm in two minds over this book. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. In I word it was... "meh".
Let's start with the positives.
Donna was a decent protI'm in two minds over this book. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. In I word it was... "meh".
Let's start with the positives.
Donna was a decent protagonist and I liked that she had super-strength. I found her maturity and loneliness appealing, and I liked her "outsider" social status. I loved the idea of the moving iron tattoos in Donna's forearms, and the cover illustration (other than the fact that the girl in the picture seems to be sniffing her own armpit) was beautifully done. I also enjoyed the romantic element between Donna and Xan. This was a quick and simple read that I think I enjoyed. Didn't I?
All in all, if I was a decade and a half younger and had never read or heard anything else to do with fey-fiction, I might have truly enjoyed it! I guess that's not really pumping much wind in its sails is it?
Uh oh... is it time to move onto the negatives already? This can't be good.
Well, my biggest issue with this book was its predictability. From Donna's tragic childhood, to the obvious love triangle between Donna, her best friend (Navin), and Xan, I didn't feel that there were any surprises. In fact, it was all rather derivative.
The plot wasn't just thin, it was transparent. There were elements of the story which I was curious about, but which never got to be as richly described as I would have liked. For example, the magical institute where Donna attends classes in alchemy could have been made wonderful. Instead it was just kind of...there. Donna's relationship with her mentally ill mother could have been far more complex. Instead it was explored only in a superficial way.
Xan was also a drawback as far as I was concerned. He began the story as a brooding, dark mystery who had an instant connection with Donna. I liked the electricity between them, and the way they both had their secrets. Then Xan got a bit soft, for my tastes. One minute he was the quiet, dangerous type, the next he was getting doe-eyed over our heroine. His emotional 180 made me feel like Mahoney didn't know where she wanted the character to go when she began writing him.
I found it difficult to identify a truly malevolent antagonist, too. There was the skriker: a beast which killed Donna's father. There was Simon: the leader of the magical institute who seemed to be up to no good. Then there was the archetypal pretty-bitch who bullied Donna for being a "freak". She reminded me of that girl in Sabrina: The Teenage Witch...enough said, eh? (By the way, this girl was totally unrealistic. In no way could I believe that the bully-bitch would see Donna's super strength in action and yet continue to antagonise her). The fact that I can't remember her name says a lot about how dynamic a character she was.
Finally there was the evil, manipulative fey queen (another whose title slips my mind...). She was exactly what you'd expect a tricksy fey queen to be, because you've read her before in a thousand different books. What irritated me most about her is that she showed up in the last few chapters of the book! She wasn't mentioned before, there was no build up...she just showed up. It was almost as if Mahoney realised that her book was completely lacking in any kind of conflict.
I guess the more I write about this book, the less charm it holds for me. If I hadn't looked beneath the surface and analysed the book, maybe I could have liked it a bit more. It really is a shame, because there were times in the book where the writing itself was actually rather lovely.
The Iron Witch is the first book in a trilogy. Would I read the rest of the books? Maybe. But unfortunately, I don't think I'll be in any hurry to do so. ...more
Hi. My name is Laura and I am a bookaholic. It's a serious addiction which means I cannot walk past a "Buy One Get One Free" book offer. If I try to rHi. My name is Laura and I am a bookaholic. It's a serious addiction which means I cannot walk past a "Buy One Get One Free" book offer. If I try to resist such offers, I start to twitch. I break out into a cold sweat and my thumbs start to flick through intangible pages. The only cure is indulging my fetish and buying more books. I know. What a terrible condition to suffer from, eh?
So that is how I came across "0.4". I was in Tesco, buying sugary treats for my writers' club, when I saw the most beautiful stickers in the world, adorning all the books on the YA shelves. Buy One Get One Free. *Happy sigh*
After browsing for far too long, I chose Divergent, by Veronica Roth (I haven't read it yet, but as soon as I do, I'll let you know my review-shaped-thoughts), and 0.4, by Mike Lancaster. I had a whole two hours to kill before starting work so I proceeded to Maccie D's, bought a coffee and parked up in a quiet spot to enjoy some peace. Within those two hours, I read through the entirety of Lancaster's book. It's a quick and easy read, but pretty damned good, nonetheless.
I've always been a fan of dystopian fiction, and the book's Huxley-esque tagline, "It's a brave new world", appealed to me. Furthermore, I'm a classic horror fanatic and I love a good yarn about body-snatchers! This book combines these two loves and adds in a few lovely little twists, keeping it fresh.
"My name is Kyle Straker. And I don't exist anymore." So begins the story of Kyle Straker. He records his story over old Dire Straits cassettes and the use of this analogue technology is important to the tale. The story takes up four tapes, so it was never going to be an epic tale, but within those for transcribed sides is the story of how humanity changes forever.
It's hard to say much about this book without giving too much away, and I really don't want to ruin the twist for you. So I'll just say a few things.
The book is set out to be a historical document. As such, there are addendums and footnotes from a future civilization of humanity which add to the strangeness of the text. These little notes also emphasise the idea that humanity has forgotten so much of what it once treasured. (The note on the Teletubbies: a "pantheon of gods, exclusively worshiped by children (sic)" was hilarious).
The conflict of the story erupts when Kyle and three of his acquaintances are hypnotised during their village fayre. When they regain consciousness, these four individuals are confronted by the realisation that everyone they have ever known and loved is suddenly not...quite...right.
I expected a tale of "pod people" and "body-snatchers" to ensue, but 0.4 thinks outside that box. It looks at the idea of technological and human advancement in a way which I found intriguing.
I'm going to give away too much if I go on, so I shall wrap things up. I really enjoyed this quick and entertaining read. While it may be short, there is depth to the story which adds to its charm. Furthermore, the devices used by Lancaster are wonderfully and wittily employed. I would particularly recommend this book to any young, male readers you might be struggling to engage in your lives, classes and libraries!
One of my favourite things about being an English teacher is that I get to host my two writing clubs: Scribblers and Ink. My favourite days are thoseOne of my favourite things about being an English teacher is that I get to host my two writing clubs: Scribblers and Ink. My favourite days are those when I get to spend time with some promising writers of the future!
As is often the case, the youth of today has such discerning taste. When I asked them to recommend to me their favourite YA dystopian books, one of them (a guy who I'm fairly sure is going to take over the world some day... so, needless to say, he cracks me up) suggested that I try out Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series.
Now, my reading list is ridiculously long. I have a bazillion books which I've been meaning to read for an age or so. So every time one of my writers asked if I had got around to reading Mortal Engines, I kept having to apologise and promise that I'd do so as soon as possible.
I was very touched when the group decided to buy me the four books in the series as a gift! I know, how lovely!
So, with no excuses left and an honest desire to make my writers smile, I set about reading the first in the series and what an interesting read! I have been in love with dystopian writing ever since reading Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, back in school. (This is an awesome short story and you all need to read it. Spectacular!)
Mortal Engines is both an inspiringly unique read, while it also reminded me of one of my favourite PS games: Final Fantasy VII. I suppose, by that, I mean to say that I've never seen anything so hugely original within 200ish pages, while games like Final Fantasy VII have 70+ hours to sell their imaginary worlds to your senses. Reeve was brave to endeavour to do the same, and tremendously successful in doing so.
You would think that in order to create this original dystopia, Reeve would have to rely somewhat on clichés and archetypes. But he doesn't. The book's protagonist, Tom, is not a hero. Tom's best friend and the girl he seems (so far - only on book one!) to be falling for, Hester, is described as hideous more than once. She is no damsel in distress, no beautiful maiden in need of rescuing. Even the antagonist, Mr. Valentine, is a character who you can understand and empathise with to a degree. Reeve takes convention, and turns it on its head in Mortal Engines.
I can't wait to get on to reading the rest of the books in the series. So far Reeve's writing has been daring and original. But more than that, I can finally tell my writers what I thought of their recommendation: Utterly fantastic!
Dystopian fiction seems to be the new craze in YA literature, and I couldn't be happier! I've come across some astoundingly good stories in the last fDystopian fiction seems to be the new craze in YA literature, and I couldn't be happier! I've come across some astoundingly good stories in the last few months. This week I'm looking at one of the most brutal: The Dead, by Charlie Higson.
The basic premise of the book is that only children under the age of fourteen survive a disease which turns everyone else into flesh-hungry maniacs who would be best described as Zombies, although they aren't dead.
It is left to the children to survive and try to rebuild as much as they can. The book follows a group of young boys at a school where their teachers have turned on them. It is interesting to follow their struggle and I found myself feeling all of their pent-up, edgy frustrations with their broken world. We journey with them as they escape their school into the nightmarish streets of London, where all hell awaits them.
I don't want to give away too much of the plot but I'll say it's gripping stuff! What is so spectacular about this book is how very grim it is. Higson pulls no punches with his writing and I love that he respects the YA audience enough to be honestly dark with them
In the book, fathers kill sons, parents eat the flesh of their children, the "Sickos" gnaw at their own flesh in efforts to get to the more tasty treat of young human flesh. Beyond the sickness, we see the fragile line of sanity which the boys walk as they are forced to kill, cheat, confront the seemingly insane ravings of a boy "prophet" and make terrible decisions, all in order to survive.
The story...the sickness... begins with a video posted on youtube. The video of "The Scared Kid".
I thoroughly recommend this book, which is also, by the way, the prequel to The Enemy, another amazing read!
I'm a BIG fan of the audiobook and, as such, I'm a member of audible.co.uk. Every month I get a credit to use on an audiobook of my choosing. This monI'm a BIG fan of the audiobook and, as such, I'm a member of audible.co.uk. Every month I get a credit to use on an audiobook of my choosing. This month, a lovely librarian friend of mine (@asamum on Twitter, or you can see her website at www.asamumbooktopia.com - follow her!) recommended I try Personal Demons, by Lisa DesRochers. Being a trusting soul I promptly spent my credit on the title and set about listening. This review will talk both about the text itself and the Audible Productions recording. As I listened to the book, I apologise for any misspellings in the names that might appear.
The book is divided into two distinct narrative voices, those of Luc and Frannie. Michael Nathanson narrated Luc's narratives and Sara Barnett voiced Frannie's. At first I thought they had cast too young a voice for Frannie, but Barnett's expression and emotional clarity quickly won me over. She made DesRochers' writing take on an extra dimension. Michael Nathanson's narration was actually kind of swoon-worthy. I think I could listen to that guy read the phonebook and I'd be quite content. So it was extra swoon-worthy as he had such a vivid character and voice to portray.
Luc is a demon and his job is to tag Frannie's soul for Hell. He has lived for thousands of years and was born in Hell itself. He is not a good guy. However, when Luc meets Frannie, something about her changes him and eventually he has to choose between being damned to torture in the Lake of Fire for all of eternity, or walking away from Frannie and letting her seek comfort in the arms (not to mention wings) of her angel protector, Gabe.
(As a quick "aside", The only thing I actually didn't like about this book was the naming of some of the characters. Lucifer "Luc" Cain is the demon, Gabriel is the angel, and Mary Frances, a.k.a Frannie, is the human whose soul hangs in the balance. I thought the names were just a bit too pointed...Actually, I thought they were about as subtly as being slapped in the face with an anvil!)
So, Luc or Gabe? It seems like an easy choice, right? Both want her, both end up loving her, but whereas Luc needs to damn Frannie to Hell, Gabe can offer her Heaven. It should be easy, but DesRochers works the narrative so that you can't help but want all the wrong things for Frannie, even though the result of her choosing Luc seems like a damnable mistake.
I found myself completely enthralled in Frannie's confusion and, as a reader, I didn't know what I wanted for her! The two male leads, Gabe and Luc left me feeling off balance and I therefore empathised with our heroine. That's not to say that she didn't piss me off royally at times! Okay, she has an angel and demon manipulating her feelings and overwhelming her raging teenage hormones, but still... keep it in your pants, girl! She seemed a little flakey at times and I just wished she'd make a decision and stop basking in the attention. Then again, if I had the likes of Luc and Gabe lusting after me (though I suppose only Luc is capable of lust...it being a sin and all), I'm not sure I'd want to cut either of them loose either.
The sequel to Personal Demons is called Original Sin and it will be out this year. I'm both thrilled and dismayed by this. I'm thrilled because I adored the first book and loved the characters. I'm dismayed because I'm not sure I can take any more bumps in the road for Frannie! I felt so torn reading this book that I now feel I need to read something easier on the soul! Pun intended.
We've all heard the warning: "Never judge a book bThe books: 1. Wicked Lovely 2. Ink Exchange 3. Fragile Eternity 4. Radiant Shadows 5. Darkest Mercy
We've all heard the warning: "Never judge a book by it's cover". I disagree. I think you can tell a lot about something based upon the packaging. Certainly when it comes to books! (I was wrong once, and that was with The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. The cover made me yawn but the book was awesome!) I'm a sucker for a sexy cover and an intriguing title. So Wicked Lovely was always going to make it onto my reading list!
I won't go through all of the books individually. Instead, I'll try to review the series as a whole and that way you might just want to go out and invest in the whole bunch. You should.
The story is a 21st century fairytale, which revolves around several protagonists. Each of the books had a different focus and, at first, this put me off. After reading Wicked Lovely, and loving the central character, Aislinn, I was disappointed when I found out that she would barely feature in the second book. My disappointment lasted about three minutes. Marr manages to make every character as deep and detailed as the next. Their rounded development makes them come to life on the page and I found myself honestly empathizing with mortals, fairies, rowen-men, ice queens and dark kings alike. As the books develop, you not only feel for the "innocents" of the tale, but also for those who you might have first judged to be antagonists. The fairy regents in the books are mostly manipulative, conniving creatures and at first you really want to hate them. But you just can't. It's hard to hate when you are given such intimate insight into their thoughts, feelings and desires. Marr, far lack of a better word, "humanizes" even those who seem to be demons at first glance. My favourite aspect of the books was the strange dynamic of love and desire between four of the central characters. Aislinn begins the series as a mortal girl who has the ability to see invisible fairies, and she is in love with her best friend, Seth. As a reader you want them to become more than friends, but then along comes Keenan, the Summer King. Upon him is a curse which means he has to find his queen in order for his court to become as strong as it could be. Keenan is beautiful, enticing, mysterious and a master of manipulation. His seduction of Aislinn leaves the reader breathless. You feel like a traitor for wanting Aislinn to succumb to his advances and this reflects Aislinn's own sense of confused desire and betrayal as she battles with feelings for Keenan, which are part of her nature, and her feelings for Seth, which rule her heart.
It would be easy to dislike Keenan for what he puts her through, but he's battling his own demons. In order to be a strong regent, he must find his queen. However, as he tries to find and entice her, he has to cast aside his feelings for the woman he truly loves, Donia.
The Aislinn/Seth dynamic was the most interesting to me, so again it was almost disappointing that it takes all five books for them to finally become all that they could be. However, it does allow you to get drawn in to the characters' sense of anticipation, desire and fear. Their love might be predictable, but its depth is also reassuring. It's the sort of love which everyone wants and I loved the way that Marr emphasises how complicated real-life love is. There are no easy rides. Marr uses a fantastical world to make the romance even more realistic than the type you can often see in fiction, whether it be for young adults or not. To me, this demonstrates Marr's respect for her audience, a willingness to let them know that romance isn't always sunshine and roses.
I don't want to give too much away so I'll leave it there. The BEST way to explore the magic of these books is to go out, right now, and buy them. I invested in the audiobooks of the last two texts as I'm a busy woman and having the magic of Melissa Marr's beautifully written worlds and characters in my head made going about the everyday business of being so much nicer!...more
"The Strain" and "The Fall" by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
This week's review is another two-for-one deal as I'll be looking at the first two b"The Strain" and "The Fall" by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
This week's review is another two-for-one deal as I'll be looking at the first two books in the Del Toro/Hogan vampire trilogy. The third is coming out this year and I can't wait!
First of all, let me confess my adoration for Guillermo Del Toro. Pan's Labyrinth is one of my favourite movies of all time and when I found out that its director had co-written a vampire trilogy, I felt all shiny inside! I knew that Del Toro and Hogan wouldn't be presenting me with any more angst-ridden, heart-of-gold-but-terribly-scarred vamps that have become so popular. Don't get me wrong, I actually quite like the Twilight books! I'm just sick to death of the whole fan-girl obsession that it has ensued. I don't care if you're "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob". I really, really don't. How about you all join "Team Shut-The-Hell-Up"? I'm not bitter...
No. Del Toro and Hogan pay homage to the original terror that the vampire myth began with. The Strain begins with the haunting image of a Boeing 777 on the runway of JFK Airport. Nobody is communicating from it, the lights are out and the shutters are down. At this point we are introduced to the hero of the story: Dr Ephraim Goodweather. On some levels Eph's character is somewhat typical: he's a brilliant scientist whose genius turned him to alcohol and away from his wife. All he wants is to gain custody of his son and live happily ever after. Typical in outline, but Eph is rounded and his frustration with the powers that be will have you empathising to a degree that will make your blood itch.
Book One, The Strain, deals with vampirism as a disease. The Boeing 777 carried a coffin full of dirt... but the body is missing. Jusef Sardu should be in that coffin. And yes, Jusef Sardu is a vampire. A bad ass vampire who has no desire to be loved or understood or turned into some boy-band lookalike wannabe... Sardu just wants blood. Blood and power.
All but three of the passengers on the Boeing are dead, pale, and bloodless. As soon as the few survivors are let out into the world, life as we know it is doomed, because each of them carries the disease. Del Toro and Hogan envisage vampirism as a parasitic invader of the body. It acts like the cordyceps fungi: a fungus which can control its hosts in order to get food for itself. In this case, the vampiric disease takes over the human hosts in order to get blood and continued contagion.
So how does Eph hope to save the world and, of course, his family and friends from the inevitable destruction of mankind? With the help of Van Helsing of course! Except his name isn't Van Helsing, it's Abraham Setrakian. The old, wise pawn-shop owner who has a long history with Sardu. He is the one who guides Eph to the conclusion which needs to be made: a virus is spreading throughout New York. That virus is vampirism.
I won't say too much about The Fall as I don't want to be too spoilerific. So, I'll keep it short. In book two, mankind's "fall" is highlighted in two ways. First there is the obvious fall into the hands of the disease. As soon as those three survivors went home to their families, the disease spread. Then to friends and neighbours. Then those friends and neighbours went home the their families, friends and neighbours. The dominoes just keep falling. The second fall is one which has already happened. The world might be doomed because of the virus, but it's allowed to happen because of the greed and corruptability of some of those in power in the book. This isn't dealt with in a heavy handed way...but it will leave you gritting your teeth in rage and frustration as only a good book can.
The third book in the trilogy is out this year thank goodness! I'm on the edge of my sofa to find out how and if the world can be saved. I'm rooting for the characters and mourning them already as it just seems so hopeless! I thoroughly recommend you pick these up, especially if you like the good old SCARY vampire stories. Oh! And if you liked Justin Cronin's The Passage I think you'll love this. Cronin wrote the beginning and the end of the world war with vampires, but he didn't go into much detail about the middle (I guess his book was over 1000 pages so we won't blame him for this).
Del Toro and Hogan create suspense, fear and an utter sense of hopelessness in the first two books of this trilogy and I just bet you'll be hankering after the third as much as I am.
I recently finished "Warm Bodies" by Isaac Marion and found it to be an amazing read. I never would have believedI AM A ZOMBIE, BUT IT'S NOT SO BAD...
I recently finished "Warm Bodies" by Isaac Marion and found it to be an amazing read. I never would have believed that I could feel such empathy for a leading man who feasts on human flesh. But Marion's unusual protagonist "R" is really very compelling.
Perhaps one of the most interesting ideas in Marion's book is the suggestion that in R's head, he is still eloquent and philosophical. But the act of converting thoughts into action, like driving a car and speaking in sentences of more than four syllables, is too difficult. Maybe I enjoyed this idea because these days my head is the same poetic place it's always been, but suddenly the acts of talking and writing coherently seem stilted and lifeless.
What saves the day in "Warm Bodies", of course, is love. When out hunting, R feasts upon the brain of a wisened lad by the name of Perry. After doing so he is able to recall Perry's life and his love for a woman named Julie. When R sees Julie crouched and scared, he makes the decision to protect her and not feed on her.
What happens next is touching without being clichéd or corny. Love transforms both R and Julie. As their names might suggest there is something of a Capulet/Montague thing going on here. There's also another zombie called M who is evocative of Shakespeare's Mercutio, a father blinded by prejudice, and even a balcony scene. None of this is crudely obvious and the plot is vastly different, but still; I appreciate the hints.
Overall, I think I loved this book because it highlights something about humanity as a species. It would be trite to say that we are all becoming zombies blah blah blah... and that's not really what I'm on about anyway. What I loved was the idea of love being possible even against unfathomable odds. When R meets Julie, he goes on a journey of discovery with hopes of feeling his blood warm in his veins again. He wants his heart to beat once more and he wants it to beat for her. And the heroine is not so vastly different to her undead suitor. What makes her different to the rest of her colony, however, is her ability to accept R's affection and to return it with her own. Sometimes love, no matter how it's seen by the majority, can be enough to bring life, or at least rebirth, to even the grimmest of stories....more
By now, we all know that I'm a bit of a fangirl when it comes to dystopian fiction. Something about the end of the worlWhat if love were a disease...?
By now, we all know that I'm a bit of a fangirl when it comes to dystopian fiction. Something about the end of the world as we know it appeals to me! I'm one of those weirdos who has a plan for when the Zombie Apocalypse hits us, or when Captain Trips comes a-trip-trip-tripping to our doorsteps. Don't get me wrong, I don't have an underground bunker ... yet.
*Ponders how to go about getting an underground bunker...*
Anywho! My love of dystopia met with my love of good, old-fashioned romance in Lauren Oliver's Delirium, lent to me by the lovely Emma of Book Angel's Booktopia. The premise of this text is that love has been identified as a disease, and everyone undergoes "The Cure" for the "deliria nervosa" on their eighteenth birthday. Lena, the female protagonist from whose point of view the narrative is told, is seventeen. And wouldn't you know it? Just ninety-five days away from getting her cure, Lena falls in love.
I absolutely love the idea of love as a disease because I think we've all been there, haven't we? We've all had someone get under our skin and fester there feverishly like some kind of viral invader. We've all felt breathless, got a case of clammy hands and cotton-mouth. We've all had trouble sleeping, felt the lethargy, had trouble eating or focusing all because of that crazy li'l thing called love. So love as a disease? Yeah, I can buy that.
What bothered me about the book (and it's a teeny niggle because overall I liked it) was the lack of real control that the society really had over its subjects. It uses lies and fear as any Big Brother should, but there was only minor evidence that they were anything more than just a menacing bogeyman used to keep the kids in line. I found that Lena and Alex (the boy she falls in love with) got away with far too much in a society which had supposedly battened down the hatches in order to guard against the big bad wolf which is love.
Those of you who read my review of Oliver's first novel, Before I Fall, will know that I had a problem with the protagonist of that book. Well, the same goes for Lena in Delirium. Once again I began the book despising the voice of the story. She was weak, frightened, controlled and kind of a pain in the ass! But Oliver makes you sympathise with Lena, just as she made you warm to Sam in Before I Fall. If the personal, emotional journey that characters go on is the most important part of a tale, then Oliver is damned good at spinning a yarn. In both of her books now, the character you begin the book hating, grows up, changes and learns from the conflicts thrown at them. You may not grow to love them, but you certainly grow to admire them, to sympathise with them and to cheer them on. And I like that. It's far more realistic than the overly-admirable characters of too many YA books.
Overall, Delirium is a book which justifies the current trend for dystopian fiction. It is the first part of a trilogy and. as such, ends on a painful cliffhanger which left me feeling desperate for the next installment.
I thoroughly recommend this read. It is gripping and absolutely beautifully written. Oliver's writing is almost breathtaking at times and the sophistication of her prose says a lot for how much she respects her young audience.
Now to sit back, chew unattractively on my fingernails and wait for book two...
If it is possible to be both a self-confessed pessimist and a hopeless romantic then that's me. This is perhaps why Matched appealed to me so very mucIf it is possible to be both a self-confessed pessimist and a hopeless romantic then that's me. This is perhaps why Matched appealed to me so very much.
Matched is a young adult dystopian romance which brings many Orwellian questions home to a younger audience.
These days the idea of Big Brother brings to mind a voyeuristic television show where exhibitionists parade around a glaringly bright house, making fools of themselves in hopes of making a quick buck.
Thankfully, Condie reminds us what Orwell and Huxley were trying to say with their original dystopian masterpieces. She takes familiar ideas of society being controlled by government indoctrination and propaganda, and manages to rejuvenate them. The pessimist in me thoroughly enjoyed hating the society in which Cassia, the heroine, lives. It is a society which controls where people work, when they die, how many children they have and even who they love.
Of course, anyone who has ever had a crush on completely the wrong person, (and surely that's everyone?) knows that love and lust cannot be weighed and measured. It cannot be controlled.
Matched provides an interesting love triangle between the three main characters. Cassia and Xander are matched and you are glad that they are! Xander seems like a great guy: a sensible choice. But what teenage girl, what woman, chooses "sensible" when shown the option of "mysterious" and "exciting"? Ky provides both and is the proverbial spanner in the works.
As a reader I was drawn into this triangle and really felt for Cassia. Because hers is a tough choice! I found myself rooting for both the male leads, especially at first.
The underlying conflict of the seemingly "ideal" society of Matched, works to beautifully highlight the conflict raging in Cassia's own heart.
We live in a world where we are pretty much always on somebody's CCTV, where advertisements corner us from every form of media, and where Internet dating sites tell us that they can "match" us to a perfect partner based on deep aspects of our personalities. Matched is a poignant and intelligent book which will leave you both asking questions and positively drooling for the sequel....more