I really enjoyed this. The running themes of degrees of separation and also of the motivations between our actions (and inactions) could both have bec...moreI really enjoyed this. The running themes of degrees of separation and also of the motivations between our actions (and inactions) could both have become rather overdone, but instead it is intriguing and gripping. The characters are all incredibly likeable, and Watson does an excellent job of explaining the motives for and conseqeunces of their actions (eg X did this because of the way Y treated him earlier, because yesterday Y had done this, because that morning Z had done that...) without it ever feeling laborious.
I would have liked to see more of some of the minor characters: having such a big cast meant that most of them were given only a couple of pages. Still, they were well developed given the structure of the novel, and giving such focus to Xavier meant that you almost didn't notice when another character drifted off back into their own life. This is one of those books that feels like it deserves a re-read: I only really appreciated how clever the narrative was towards the ending, and I'm sure that on a second read I would find myself noticing more ways these lives intersect.
Absolutely loved this book, in the sort of way that makes you stay up way past your bedtime to finish it, and then drifting into thoughts of it all th...moreAbsolutely loved this book, in the sort of way that makes you stay up way past your bedtime to finish it, and then drifting into thoughts of it all through the next day. (less)
**spoiler alert** This was actually my least favourite of the trilogy. I found the political background in the first few chapters really interesting,...more**spoiler alert** This was actually my least favourite of the trilogy. I found the political background in the first few chapters really interesting, and then felt like Katniss being sent back into the arena was both lazy writing (in terms of re-hashing previous plots) and a huge detraction from the storyline I was actually interested in.
That said, I still read it in a matter of hours, and enjoyed doing so! (less)
Honestly, I was really reluctant to read this at first. It came highly recommended by a friend, but I picked it up a couple of times in bookshops and...moreHonestly, I was really reluctant to read this at first. It came highly recommended by a friend, but I picked it up a couple of times in bookshops and ended up leaving it because the blurb just made it sound SO AWFUL.
Obviously I eventually gave in, and I have now learned that 1) my friend is a wise wise lady, and 2) blurbs lie.
This was the best thing I have read in months.
I don't even know where to start, other than to say I loved every single thing about this. The worldbuilding was intriguing and had just enough realism to work. The idea of different factions actually worked better than I was expecting it to, and I basically fell in love with (view spoiler)[Dauntless as they were originally intended to be. I would read an entire series of books based entirely around restoring their original values and creating a kickass initiation process. (hide spoiler)]
I'm always a sucker for a strong, believable female protagonist, and Tris was everything I've ever dreamed of. I LOVE HER. That's basically all I have to say on the matter.
And it took about two paragraphs for Four to leap straight to the top of my list of fictional men. (view spoiler)[I really, really love male characters who are strong and take care of women whilst allowing said women to be strong themselves, and he was pretty much perfect. (hide spoiler)]
My only slight criticism was that there were a few minor continuity errors. Roth notes down every move the characters make, which is great when it works, but more problematic when you're visualising the scene and something doesn't work. For example, there's a scene where we're specifically told (view spoiler)[ Tris has her face buried in Four's shoulder, and then next line he's putting his forehead against hers. Unless he is considerably more flexible than I am, I'm pretty sure that's not physically possible. (hide spoiler)] It was just enough to drag me out of the narrative and spend a few minutes trying to work out the logistics of this.
If you enjoy YA lit with fabulous heroines and thrilling plots that will keep you reading way past your bedtime and daydreaming all through work the next day, I cannot recommend Divergent highly enough.(less)
I read this in one sitting, and it was entirely worth it.
I must admit that I picked up Divergent's sequel with some hesitation. Divergent had been so...moreI read this in one sitting, and it was entirely worth it.
I must admit that I picked up Divergent's sequel with some hesitation. Divergent had been so breathtakingly fantastic and knowing that the second part of trilogies tends to be the weakest, I was apprehensive that this might not quite live up to my expectations. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about.
What I really, really loved about Divergent was the initiation process, flawed as it was, and watching Tris discover her own strength through that. I would've loved for Insurgent to be entirely about restoring Dauntless to its original values, but it turns out that Roth had something else up her sleeve.
Roth manages to avoid the 'curse of the middle book' entirely, mainly by having so much plot to cram in that it would almost (almost) work as a standalone book. I didn't have much interest in the other factions at the end of Divergent - mainly because I would've chosen Dauntless in a heartbeat - but the romp through their varying homes and customs was interesting and unique. I really enjoyed the glimpse we got of the life of the factionless, and all of their journeying allows Roth to add to Divergent's already rich and vivid worldbuilding.
If anything, Insurgent moves almost a little too quickly. It's easy to miss vital details if you're not paying close attention, and there were definitely characters and situations that I would've loved to linger on. It's almost as if Roth has been so keen to avoid writing a book in which nothing that happens that she's tried to write a book in which everything happens - she's good enough to pull it off, but I don't think it would've hurt to slow the pace down on a couple of scenes.
One of my main apprehensions was Four and Tris' relationship, especially after it had been so beautifully written in Divergent. But again, I needn't have worried. Roth keeps it realistic without losing the romance: they don't fall into a natural, easy relationship without having to overcome their fair share of barriers, but then no one ever does. It says a lot for Roth's confidence as a writer that she doesn't feel the need to break them up or introduce any sort of triangle to keep our interest. Instead, they fight their way through not trusting each other enough, and both having things to deal with individually before they can deal with them together, and the result is a relationship which is real and honest without being perfect. I absolutely loved it.
Tris herself has to a lot to deal with. I loved her in Divergent for her fearlessness, for her determination even when she didn't quite believe in herself, for her honesty in facing up to life. Insurgent has her stepping back from this slightly, but it felt a realistic response to her heartache over Will and over her parents and over all the other crap she's had to deal with. I really, really loved that Christina didn't forgive her instantly - as much as their friendship was one of my favourite parts of Divergent, anything other than weeks of wrestling over the pain of it would have felt like cheating.
Writing realistic characters and relationships, flaws and pain and all, is clearly one of Roth's strengths, and that leaves me excited and hopeful for the final book. The first two have been so good that I'm almost wishing I hadn't discovered them until the last one was release, just because the long wait now is going to be SO HARD. And I suspect there's probably a limit to how many times I can re-read these two without ruining them for myself, which would be a disaster.
(Also, Tobias is still a ridiculous name. My greatest hope for the final book is that some crazy turn of events will leave him returning to being known as Four. Possibly a bit too much to ask for?) (less)
4.5 if Goodreads would let me be that picky. This review is going to be a little bit all over the place, due to me having far too many feelings and fa...more4.5 if Goodreads would let me be that picky. This review is going to be a little bit all over the place, due to me having far too many feelings and far too little time. The short version, however, is that this was excellent and I am now desperate to get my hands on both John Green's other novels.
The best thing about this book is the realism: the characters feel like teenagers; they sound like teenagers; they act like teenagers. As much as I love YA lit, so often I find myself halfway through and picturing characters in their early/mid-twenties rather than hormone-driven sixteen year olds. But these kids are perfect. They bicker, they flirt, they do stupid things at parties, they skip school, they actually go to school - and, more importantly, they care so much about this one girl that they (well, Q, at any rate) can't focus on anything else until it's solved.
One of the little details that I really loved was that Q actually talked to the police! When he found himself out of his depth and not knowing what to do, he acted like an actual teenager might actually do and didn't just immediately think he was the best person for the job but realised someone else might be better situated to find her! Beautiful. (view spoiler)[ The police man didn't, of course, actually help, but the book felt a lot more solid for Q's attempts to get some proper help in finding her. (hide spoiler)]
Also, the plot! This was one of those books where you find yourself stuck in the middle, suddenly realising that out of all the possible outcomes you can think of, none of them feel satisfying. (view spoiler)[ The scene in the abandoned building had me convinced that they were going to find Margo's body (and, let's not lie, I was utterly freaked out by the idea) which would have seemed a little easy and predictable, and also I didn't particularly want to spend the rest of the book reading about their grieving processes, as important a story as that may be. And them finding her at the first (or even second, or third) place they tried, arms outstretched to welcome them and just admitting that she wanted some drama..well, that would've felt a little cliche, and a little hard to redeem her character from. (hide spoiler)] Buuut I needn't have worried: John Green pulled together a plot that astonished and delighted me. I couldn't have predicted the ending no matter how hard I tried, and there are few things I love more than books that manage to surprise me whilst exceeding my expectations.
Green's writing is lovely: beautiful and lyrical without being saccharine or unnecessary considering the YA audience. I was a bit concerning starting the book: I'd heard SO MANY good things about his writing that I thought it might be a bit like Jasper Fforde again - a serious case of the overhype, which inevitably left me disappointed. Paper Towns, however, was just as brilliant as I'd been hoping for, and I will most definitely be picking up Green's other books as soon as I can get my hands on them.(less)
Fenton has re-written the Arthurian legend within contemporary society, with a fair amount of success. I did initially find it quite slow and predicat...moreFenton has re-written the Arthurian legend within contemporary society, with a fair amount of success. I did initially find it quite slow and predicatable: Igraine falls pregant, Merlin strikes a deal with her and Uther to hand Arthur over to grow up with a different family, Arthur sleeps with his half-sister, etc etc. Anyone familiar with Arthurian legend can see where almost every scene is going. But as the story progresses, the characters become more Fenton's own, and the new twists and turns become more fulfilling.
The drama plays out against the backdrop of global terrorism, and although I think some of the more technological talk might have gone over my head a little bit, the latter half is gripping and the events which build up towards the last chapter are terrifying in their realism.
Arthur himself is particularly believable: Fenton conveys his chivalry and strong leadership without creating a character too perfect to exist.
A slow start, but immensely improved by the second half. I've just ordered the second book, and am looking foward to see how the crisis is resolved and how the rest of the legend plays out.(less)
My favourite thing about YA lit is that I find myself genuinely surprised when the protagonist turns out to be male. Four for you, YA writers.
That asi...moreMy favourite thing about YA lit is that I find myself genuinely surprised when the protagonist turns out to be male. Four for you, YA writers.
That aside, this book failed to grip me and I'm still slightly confused as to why. I'd heard good things about it so went in expecting an enjoyable read, but I put in down in favour of a Divergent re-read 70 pages in and nearly didn't pick it back up again. I don't really have anything negative to say about it - just that neither the characters nor the plot caught my attention, and at any given point I felt like I could've stopped reading without spending too much of my life wondering how it had all been resolved.
Which is a shame, because I actually really like the concept of worker magic, but there it is.(less)
I would've rated the first half of this book about 4.5, but enjoyed the second half less.
The first few chapters sucked me straight in. The writing's...moreI would've rated the first half of this book about 4.5, but enjoyed the second half less.
The first few chapters sucked me straight in. The writing's good. The worldbuilding's good. The characters are excellent: Karou, when we first meet her, is an art student, unashamedly different to her friends and doesn't hesitate to tell us that she doesn't fit in. She's exactly the kind of girl that I want teenagers to be reading about: she's bold; she's brave; she doesn't let anyone tell her what to do; she realises that refusing to tell her best friend what's going on in her life makes her a pretty pants friend, and she does her best to resolve it. One of my biggest peeves with YA lit is that the characters so often insist on absolute secrecy even when telling friends/family would actually help them, so props to Laini Taylor for not falling into this trap. Karou tells her best friend (albeit with some reluctance, as you would expect) what's going on, and her best friend balks (again, as you'd expect), and then sticks with her when she sees the evidence with her own eyes. I like that. I like reading about girls who maintain that friendships are important even when their own life drags them off in a different direction.
The best friend is also a) a fantastic character in her own right, and b) fully content and complete in her own life. She doesn't rush around trying to get a bit of Karou's action or sit at home jealous that it isn't happening to her, and she doesn't fall into the best-friend-trap of being merely labelled as a device for exposition. I would quite happily read an entire book just of Zuzanna and Mik cavorting around Prague doing happy artsy things.
...buuut (and I'm really sad to have to put any 'but', because the first half or so was such a delightful read) my enjoyment waned quite a bit for the second half. I don't mean that as a criticism of the author; if anything, it's because Taylor had sold me so strongly on the world and characters and relationships of the first half that I struggled to enjoy the second. There was also the slight downside that I spotted the twist at least one hundred pages before Karou did (although in her defence, she probably doesn't know she's a fictional character), and then desperately hoped I was wrong. (view spoiler)[I struggled to relate to Madrigal, and although her and Karou are the same person, I spent most of the chapters about her wanting to get back to Karou and find out what she's doing. (hide spoiler)]
I bought Karou and Akiva's relationship much more easily than Madrigal and Akiva's. (view spoiler)[I suppose it felt easy to see how Karou and Akiva had bonded: she got cut off from that world; he was the only 'person' left who could talk to her about what had happened: they've got a connection that she doesn't have with anyone else in the world. I get that. But I found it hard to buy the you-and-me-forever-and-ever-amen kind of love that we're supposed to believe Akiva and Madrigal had, just from one interaction on a battlefield. I would've just liked to see more (and slower) interaction between them before the endless declarations. (hide spoiler)]
ALL OF THAT SAID, I feel drawn in enough to make an effort to get my hands on the next book. It sounds like that's more focused on the plot, with this book more as a necessary prequel, and presumably with less flashbacks and retellings of history. And Taylor includes a sneaky preview of the sequel at the end of this book (at least in my copy), and that features Zazunna in a starring role, so, you know, I guess I can probably cope with reading that.
(This book also mentions 'inessential penises' within the first twentyfive pages. Just in case anyone needed an extra incentive to read it.)(less)
I picked this up from the library when I was in need of some light-hearted comfort reading and had exhausted all of my usual list. Pratchett is always...moreI picked this up from the library when I was in need of some light-hearted comfort reading and had exhausted all of my usual list. Pratchett is always fantastic for readable, entertaining novels when you're in the mood for them, or for something a bit deeper if you look for it.
The trouble with Pratchett is that I have a couple of definite stand-outs (Mort; The Hogfather; Soul Music) and I find that the rest tend to blur together. Small Gods, however, has jumped straight into my list of favourites.
Brutha himself was a delightful character: honest, naive to the point of ignorance, and literally unable to forget anything he's ever heard. I must admit that some of the finer dynamics of the city politics went over my head (see: comfort reading kick and not wanting to have to actually think whilst reading, goodness), but Brutha's delightfulness (I know I've already said that, but I really cannot think of a word that could better sum him up) kept me gripped to this. Pratchett's digs at religion come across more as fond and well-meaning observations, and, on occasion, startlingly astute comments, rather than anything intended to cause offense.
I have also now decided I wanted a pet tortoise ... so, maybe don't read this if you have a phobia of tortoises or something. Otherwise, this was a lovely read and cheered me up excellently!(less)
The main argument of this book revolves around the idea that the 'early Welsh sources' of Arthurian legend are likely to be the correct ones, and focu...moreThe main argument of this book revolves around the idea that the 'early Welsh sources' of Arthurian legend are likely to be the correct ones, and focuses on trying to situate a sixth-century Arthur within the Welsh context. This is great and, as someone who lives in the Welsh hills, it's not a stretch to say that no place seems more suited to Arthuriana than these desolate and misty mountains. The problem is that for all Blake and Lloyd are passionate about these early Welsh texts, they hardly quote from them at all. I'd have loved to see more basic information about these texts and be able to read some extracts from them, and that would also have served to give this book the solid ground to stand on which it seems to lack. The rest of their argument - looking at place names, fitting the location to what we know from the legend, looking at any actual finds which may or may not exist from there - was incredibly interesting, but I definitely felt that it needed more of a basis. If you're well read in these Welsh texts and thus don't need a re-cap, then this book is probably excellent.
It also felt too quick to dismiss certain facts and traditions without giving the readers much of an explanation for this. The grave site at Glastonbury, for example, is automatically talked of as something which has been fabricated, but this argument would benefit from an explanation or two. This lack of explanation seemed even more strange given that the most convincing argument Blake and Lloyd present is for the burial of Arthur near Rhyd Llanfair. The combination of an early graveyard found there combined with the references to Vera Historia had me perfectly convinced and, if I'm completely honest, rather keen to jump in my car and drive over to explore the site for myself. I hope that some keen archaeologists latch onto this idea some time soon and we hear of some proper excavations taking place: it seems strange that, as somewhere that could quite feasibly be Arthur's burial place, no one has yet done this.
Overall, an interesting read, but may come across as somewhat indecipherable to those unfamiliar with Wales and the Welsh language, and it would have benefitted greatly from slowing down to explain the sources they're working with. It has, however, left me keen to do more investigating of these Welsh sources... and to take a little trip up to North Wales sometime soon.(less)
I finished this book, but that's about all I can say for it. I've enjoyed reading Joe Simpson's other mountaineering books, but his foray into fiction...moreI finished this book, but that's about all I can say for it. I've enjoyed reading Joe Simpson's other mountaineering books, but his foray into fiction has come with an overabundance of adjectives and a definite lack of a good editing job. Part One is hard to plough through: pages and pages of flowery descriptive sentences, with no dialogue as the plot just follows one man trying to climb his way out of a desperate situation. I skimmed quite a few sections(/pages) hoping it would improve, and I'm a climber/walker myself, so I can only imagine that this would be even more boring for folks who aren't familiar with the terminology and equipment used. I do feel like he has the remnants of a good book here: it just needs an awful lot of editing and a bit more action.
In terms of the plot, it did improve (slightly) in the second section. I found Cassie to be at least a mildly interesting character, but it was a shame that we never got to find out more about her life. (view spoiler)[The scene with her watching the northern lights and then deciding to return to Patrick was one of the only ones that really caught my attention, but she was never fleshed out as well as she could have been. (hide spoiler)] I liked Patrick considerably more in the second part too, and enjoyed seeing how he'd changed, (view spoiler)[but I couldn't help but feel that his spending twentyfive years in the hut was slightly beyond the bounds of belief, even after such a tragedy as the one he'd experienced. (hide spoiler)]
And besides the problems of the prose, the endlessly gruesome and unnecessary descriptions of injuries and corpses, and corpses revisited several years later, have left me somewhat repulsed and creeped out. It's not often that I actually regret reading a book, but I think this might be one of those cases. I haven't had any of these complaints about Simpon's writing in his factual accounts, but he needs to learn not to overwrite before constructing another fictional narrative.(less)
I wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book the way I did. I started it when I was having a bit of a slump where nothing really appealed, and as...moreI wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book the way I did. I started it when I was having a bit of a slump where nothing really appealed, and as I want to read more classics this year and this one happened to be sitting on my kindle, it seemed like a good place to start.
I can understand why some people haven't enjoyed it. The writing is occasionally jarring; the discussion of slavery does at times read more like an essay than a novel (which is by no means a bad thing, but possibly not what everyone expected when they picked this book up); the quotations from the Bible and the christian preaching could easily come across as heavy-handed. I get that if you're not a christian or you're looking for something which is constructed more as a novel rather than to convey a message, this might not be the book for you.
That said, I absolutely loved it. The characters were real and intense and loveable, even when they were wrong. Certain events that took place had me sobbing. And for all it wasn't Dickens, the writing held some beautiful fragments - the sort that catches your breath and leaves you paused to re-read it again and again. I loved it. There's a certain power, too, in reading something that has changed the course of history, in knowing that the same words you're reading and think contain obvious truths were earth-shattering in their day.
It's not without its flaws by any means, but this is a book that will stay with me for a long time. (less)
2013 is apparently shaping up to be the year in which I read lots of genres that I wouldn't normally go near, and then end up loving them.
Surprise sur...more2013 is apparently shaping up to be the year in which I read lots of genres that I wouldn't normally go near, and then end up loving them.
Surprise surprise - I never read romance! Never ever! I have nothing against a bit of romance as a subplot, but my problems with pure romance novels tends to be that a) the writing is (generally) awful; b) the girl is (generally) a cliche and/or really irritating; c) I get really bored of just romance really quickly. Buuut this one came very highly recommended by a couple of friends, so I thought I'd give it a shot. And I LOVED IT.
I read it all in one sitting whilst snowed in, so I suspect that over the next couple of days I'll probably mull over a couple of aspects of it that weren't perfect: the slightly implausible (and unnecessary?) twist at the end and the lack of backstory for Harry, amongst other minor things. But at the end of the day, this was a really really enjoyable read, and I think sometimes it's okay for fiction to be just that, without having to have a deep convoluted message.
I really loved Olivia in particular, and it was refreshing to find a heroine who is confident and so assured of her own strengths: she knows she's pretty. She knows she's smart. And her acceptance of those was a delight in what feels like a sea of heroines who are defined by their insecurities.
The relationship between her and Harry, and particularly their transition from friends to disliking each other to falling in love, felt natural and SO MUCH FUN. Quinn's writing was intelligent and witty without being over the top. And honestly, I could ramble on here for ages, but this was just a really, really fun read, and I mean that as a massive compliment. An absolute delight, and one I'm sure I'll be returning to.(less)