Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Earth Girl - Janet Edwards Review

(Yes, ironically the only day I have enough time off to write a blog post is Christmas Day. Also, while I hate to post 2 five-star reviews in a row, the books I've been reading lately are just so good I can't help it.)

Earth Girl - Janet Edwards
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: August 16th, 2012
Rating: 5*
Pages: 358
Source: Borrowed ARC

Synopsis: A sensational YA science fiction debut from an exciting new British author. Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.


                                                                                                * * * * *                                                                                                          

I knew I'd like Earth Girl from the start. The title and gorgeous cover of the ARC copy certainly helped, as did a recommendation I'd seen in KISS magazine, but I think it was the blurb - the first paragraph of the synopsis above - that got me. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. I mean, I've read books about space and I've read plenty of futuristic YA, but the way this presented was just brilliantly original and catchy. 

An interesting part of Earth Girl was its focus on history. Most of the futuristic YAs have seen - well, they do world-build, of course, but Earth Girl was different in that we were given this neatly described future and then the main character, Jarra, was actually interested in the past; so we get to live vicariously through her as she learns. Interestingly, right now (i.e. the 2,000-2300s) was referred to as prehistory, and that was the time she was interested in studying. 

That led me on to probably my favourite thing about the book. Jarra is such a well-rounded, fleshed-out character. She's a great example of character-driven action. She applies to University Asgard - you know, the one everyone says she can't get into - because she wants to. The plot elements don't just happen to her - she drives most of the things that affect her. Plus, she has her own ambitions and wow is she driven.  I don't think I've read of a YA heroine who wants to become a historian before. 

And okay, maybe she is a bit of a Mary Sue with her mad skillz and talent at everything she puts her mind to, but her personality is flawed so I think it balances out. And her personality flaws are realistic - I can easily understand her anger and frustration when the rest of the galaxy sees her as handicapped. 

The supporting characters were well done too. I think Janet Edwards used them to overturn bucketloads of high-school tropes, with people defying stereotypes (for better or for worse). Jarra and love interest Fian develop such an interesting (non-romantic) relationship from the start since she's tag leader and he's tag support, so he has the responsibility of swinging her out of danger on excavation sites. It wasn't handled in a damsel-in-distress way at all either. 

The plot alone would probably merit a 3.5* rating as it's not perfect, but instead of solely sci-fi adventure we also get a lot of self-discovery for Jarra. Like seriously, her character arc is brilliant, and I think it comes from all the choices she has to make and the fact that she faces consequences decently. 

Finally, Earth Girl was great fun to read. I must have genuinely laughed out loud at least 20 times throughout - the author has a great wit and it shows through in her characters. The book just flowed and - although I didn't read it very fast - was just so enjoyable. What a debut - highly recommended. 

P.S. I am very surprised that there's a sequel, but I'll get it and see what it's like. Also, warning, there are quite  few rude jokes. Nothing graphic though, and the futuristic slang helps disguise it.  And okay, the creationism bit was stupid (when is creationism ever not?) but it was only one line, ignore it. I wish I had time to go into detail on the world-building and colonising other planets. Just trust me, it's fab. 

Favourite Quote: 
"My immune system can't survive anywhere other than Earth. I'm in prison, and it's a life sentence." - Pretty good summary of Jarra's feelings. 

''We were adults, we were free, and we were scared.'' - Ooh, soundbite. Coming of age, duh.





Bye for now, and Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor Review

Publisher: Hodder (UK)
Pages: 418
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Rating: 5*+
Source: Bought, Waterstones.

Synopsis: (Bear in mind, this book was much much much better than the synopsis would suggest, so don't pay too much attention to it).
"Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always came."

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Review: 

Wow, where do I even start with this book? It utterly blew me away, and it left we gobsmacked at the end in the way I adore. It is the only paranormal I have ever unequivocally loved, and I have literally been ranting and raving to my friends and lunch times, forcing them to read/buy/love it with me. No seriously, I literally hadn't even finished the first page before I started praising it.

Oookay, where to begin. First off, I love love love the main character, Karou. Even her name is brilliant - it's like having a good Tumblr url, if you have a good name you'd better have good content/character to back it up. Her hair is blue! It grows straight out of her scalp, blue! (We do learn the reason for this, by the way, and damn is it a good one). She's probably the best-realized character I've seen since Hermione Jean Granger. The other two main characters, Zuzana and Akiva, were stunning. Because of Zuzana, this book passed the sexism test (no easy feat): do the female characters have a single conversation throughout the course of the novel that doesn't revolve around boys or shopping? Yes? Pass! Zuzana is small, and loves puppeteering, and has a sense of humour and a fiery temper, and we see all of this instead of just being told it.

 Akiva is completely unexpected. In every early appearance of his he surprised me, and continued to do so - sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad, but always in a way that tied me ever closer to the story. The stereotypical paranormal roles of human and demon/human and angel are pared back to their bare bones and brought in an entirely new direction. The chimaera and the seraphim were brilliantly imagined, so that their description was genuinely awe-inspiring - not disappointing.

Even the minor characters had their own little quirks. Most importantly, they had purpose and hell, the characters had character! Zuzana's musician boyfriend is one. Also, how cool is it that someone other than the main female protagonist actually had a love life - a life of her own, that Karou wasn't the centre of the universe and that Zuzana rightly called her out when she deserved it?

Another thing I loved was the prose. It's been said in every review I've read, but it's so true. Laini Taylor is a miracle worker! This was the only paranormal book I've ever wholeheartedly loved, and that's probably because she writes so beautifully that the book takes on a sort of fairytale air. The words were literally a pleasure to read, and that is not an exaggeration. It could so easily have been butchered YA, and instead it was incredible. And fun. Seriously, not only was it beautiful but it was also fun to read.

There is a huge twist near the middle, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm not going to say it because it would be a huge enormous unforgivable spoiler, but wow. You'll understand what I'm saying when you read it (and you will read it, won't you?) - the semi-new character introduced as a result of the plot twist, whose name stars with Mad, is made likeable even in the short amount of pages there are left to describe her. admittedly, I would've liked a little more from *Karou*'s perspective, but this was brilliant as well so I won't complain. It also gave rise to some of the most tragic, beautiful lines I have ever read. You'll see.

(Here, have one of the less tragic ones: 'Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book -- a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos -- and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.' I mean, how cute is that?)

It's one of the few books where I didn't mind that there are sequels. Yes, I'm almost afraid that these won't live up, but if they do then they'll cement my new view of Laini Taylor as my favourite author. Also, I want a movie from this book. Naow.  Please.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey Review

The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey Review
I went into this one with high hopes – most of which were, sadly, dashed. It has so many rave reviews and recommendations from bloggers I trust, so I went out and bought it in my local bookshop for my birthday. And I liked it at the start, I really did. It had lots of cool astute little observations that made me think, ‘Hm, why didn’t I notice that before?’ and like the author more for it.
Unfortunately, it mostly went downhill from there. It just wasn’t as ... brilliant as I was expecting it to be. The prose was easily functional, and very pretty at times, and I felt sure that The 5th Wave would become one of my favourite things, but some of the big story-wide things just weren’t right.
The thing is, it’s difficult to discern exactly what I didn’t like about it. I really enjoyed some of the character’s POVs (although main character Cassie became annoying with her fixation on Ben Parish in the middle of a bloody apocalypse), like Zombie (hint: not an actual Zombie. Zombies do not feature in this novel, thankfully) and Sammy. Many reviewers were annoyed by Sammy’s point-of-view sections (he’s five, so he sees things pretty simply) but I found them very sweet and quite endearing actually. If only Cassie’s sections had endeared me to her a bit more. I adored the front cover. I loved the imagination behind each of the four/five waves (although I preferred the first three; the details behind the last two were too sketchy to really get any satisfaction from).
I think the way the plot was executed was what let the book, and me, down. It’s such an interesting and tantalising (although not entirely original) premise, but the way it plays out – well, let’s just say that it took me about a week to read. That long a time means a book is certainly not keeping me gripped to the page. It dragged in the middle. A lot. She was wandering and being shot and having to spend weeks recuperating and it wasn’t skipped over. Instead we read about every excruciating detail – all of which were just intended to set up and carry through an utterly ridiculous, fake, non-swoonworthy relationship that just stank of plot tropes.
Lest I go off on a rant about YA romance, I’ll just pull myself back and state the facts.
1.       That romance was creepy, simple as. Just stalkerish – first there was the whole changing-her-clothes-while-she-sleeps thing, and then there was the standing outside the bathroom door for no apparent reason other than to ensure her safety. To ensure that she doesn’t trip and die in the bath, just like Edward and a certain brunette Mary Sue with a name that rhymes with Shmella.
2.       It was just terribly contrived. Yes, obviously they were desperate in this big bad apocalyptic world to find some companionship, but it was just annoying to see them do it that way. Also, Evan, when she says no to a kiss that means no, okay? Not that you paid any attention to that in the book.
3.       I don’t intend to spoil this for anyone planning to read the book, but that ‘plot twist’ was a) predictable and b) tiresome. Just don’t, Mr. Yancey. Please don’t.
Okay, onto some good things. I really liked some of the one-liners in here. Cassie is supposedly the witty one, but I actually really liked Zombie and Ringer’s lines – their military training gives rise to plenty of dramatic and hugely cinematic lines and scenes. Cassie gets some good ones in too, though – take the well written one with them carrying the world on their shoulders - but that’s mainly because she has about half the narrative.
I went into this after being told by a fellow blogger that is was a standalone. Nope. It’s the first in a trilogy... which does explain the ending I despised. There were no answers. Nothing got resolved – in fact, everything just got turned upside down all over again. Not exactly the reward I wanted after getting through hundreds of pages. Also, whoever made the dust jacket: please don’t compare it to Ender’s Game.
3.5   stars for the good bits.
P.S. Bear in mind that these were my personal opinions. This book has had phenomenal success, and there are plenty of great bits in it – there were just more that weren’t to my taste.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

King Dork - Frank Portman Discussion

Hello! I wanted to start another type of book post, one that’s a little less formal than my reviews. I’ll call it a book discussion and probably do it for books that aren’t recent and aren’t being promoted. Maybe I’ll even do some of these in tandem with my proper reviews, exploring a certain issue within them ... and feel free to join in in the comments, I’ll take whatever you say into account!
This particular specimen came from a shelf in my room reserved for books I felt ...meh about, the ones that I feel deserve a re-read if I’m ever in the mood for them. That’s what happened with this book. It did move up the ratings chart on the second reading (because I could actually understand a lot of it now that I couldn’t at eleven or twelve) from two stars to three point five.
So. King Dork is basically a big mystery involving this teenage boy’s dead father, Catcher in the Rye, lots of giving out about high school and, well, teenage angst all over the place. Not a love triangle in sight – wait. There was one, actually, and it ormed a pretty big part of the story. It just wasn’t a carbon copy of all the other YA ones, and that made it less annoying.
To be quite honest, I didn’t really care about the plot that much (I’m seeing a pattern here). I was much more interested in the really cool substories and funny little details. Yes, I wanted the mystery the whole thing was building up to to be solved. Obviously – the author certainly spent so much narrative time on it, it really had to be the major theme.
One subplot that I found distasteful at twelve but well, interesting (hey, it’s good to know how the male psyche works) now was the one with King Dork’s (admittedly limited) interactions with girls. But believe me, he really should’ve been older in that book. As a 14-year-old (!) he went WAY too far. Just ... go with it, you’ll enjoy the book more.
Then there was my favourite part, his ‘band’. He and his best friend Sam Hellerman are in a ‘band’ together – they make up a new one all the time and devise a band name, album names and covers. The only thing they don’t do is actually write/play songs. Uh oh. I must say though, some of those names were hilarious – they’re even included all together in a handy section in the back! Here are a few great examples, all quotes from pgs. 327 – 331 of King Dork.
Some Delicious Sky, aka SDS
Treble and Vocals: Squealie
Thick Bottom and Industrial Arts: Sambidextrous

Green Sabbath
GUITAR: Monsignor Eco-Druid
BASS AND INDUSTRIAL SABOTAGE: The Grim Recycler
DRUMS, PERCUSSION, ACOUSTIC AND SEMI-ACOUSTIC DRUMS, CYMBALS, TAMBOURINES, COWBELLS, CHIMES, GONGS, TOMS, SHAKER EGGS, BONGOS, STICK CLICKS, WOOD BLOCKS, PERCUSSION, PERCUSSION AND MORE PERCUSSION: Todd Panchowski.
FIRST ALBUM: Our Drummer is Kind of Full of Himself
Balls Deep
GUITAR: Comrade Gal-hammer
BASS AND EMBROIDERY: Our Dear Leader
REAL FANCY AND IMPORTANT PERCUSSION: The Lonely Dissident
I like how you can remember the story of the book from seeing a band time, each representing a point in King Dork’s life (there are 23 over the course of the story).
There were loads of funny little things that popped up around the place. Like teachers mispronouncing things (a theme that’s carried through to the mispronounced glossary at the end to comic effect) and so, so much Catcher in the Rye in different forms. Another bonus for King Dork is that it was very light reading – fairly big text and spaced pages, great for a break between heavier books. And the glowing recommendation from John Green can’t hurt.
I do have one gripe that dropped it 1.5 stars in my mind. The mystery isn’t solved! Threads start to come together and it all looks really promising and then in the end it’s utterly inconclusive. What a pity.
Still, quite an enjoyable read, if not very tasteful because it so very realistically portrays a teenage boy’s mind. Just go into it for fun, if you go into it at all.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

I finished my novel!

I know, so late. But I have a good excuse (two actually, but the other one's for another post.)

I finished the first draft of my novel on the 27th of August! It's 100,000 words (400 pages) long, and I wrote it during the summer after my Junior Cert (and during it. Whoops. Wonder what effect that had on my results coming out on Wednesday?). I must say, I'm very proud of it - I've always wanted to write a novel. Besides, it makes me feel good that I accomplished my goal for the summer (write 90,000+ words in 90 days).

I have to wait six weeks now to get some distance from it before I can start the second draft and editing and stuff. Not sure how that's going to go - my perfectionism will no doubt make things more difficult than they have to be.

I'll probably have a post detailing how I wrote it up sometime, but for now I just want to give a shoutout to the Sweeneys for being so supportive when I finished it. Guys, you're awesome.

It's funny, because for the vast majority of it (i.e. up to about 93,000 words) I was very strict with myself about writing 1,000 words a day (or a multiple of that, but never an odd number). Towards the end I was just so elated and desperate to get it done that I wrote around 3,670 words on the second-last day and 1,666 on the last. Both numbers I wouldn't normally put up with, but look - I got it done, didn't I? Oh yeah! and wow, it was emotional when I was typing THE END.

Then again, I haven't actually celebrated finishing it, and it seems like something that ought to be celebrated. any ideas? :)

Monday, 19 August 2013

Pure - Julianna Baggott Review

Genre: YA/Adult Dystopian
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 431
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

Pure is bleak, it really is. Startlingly so. It's a highly original and shocking dystopian set-up when set next to the YA market, and it has really powerful moments. and it's not what I thought it would be when I first saw it mentioned.It is a work of fiction that pares back all the lies to show an unflinching version of the truth. Inspired by nuclear warfare and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I found it frighteningly authentic and meaningful.

The world Baggott builds is brutal, devastating and phenomenally beautiful. Pressia's little ornaments, her  wire birds and butterflies, stand out as pinpricks of light in a desolate world. 

The author has the power to get us into the heads of her characters, to understand what makes them tick. We can go from liking the main characters to hating them to loving them in the space of one book, but they will always be far more real than we would care to admit. 

Partridge, a male lead and a Pure (as opposed to Pressia and Bradwell who are fused, wretches), has now become my fictional crush. I fell in love with him (and lived vicariously through Pressia's eyes to see him) when he was first introduced.  I could sympathize with him, imagining having to adjust to a completely new world outside his sheltered life in the Dome. He's like a child at first, utterly vulnerable in this dangerous new world that he's escaped into. But he copes admirably and becomes a brave, capable character (even if he is eclipsed by Bradwell in the end). 

I have to say though, I didn't like the amount of tropes used here. There's a simply ridiculous amount, and that includes the whole half-siblings thing and the not-actually-dead trope and '{Insert name here}, I am your mother'. But I could get over that. My one major gripe is this: it shouldn't be a series. I loved the book, I really respect and admire it. I don't care if it would have had to be an 800-page book, I wanted the sense of finality that would have fit so well with the theme. It doesn't need to be dragged out. Maybe that's a wise move commercially, but when faced with the vitally important issue behind this book I believe it should be a standalone. Not only are standalones refreshing, this book just deserved to be one. The only thing YA about it is the ages of the characters, and so I fear that the teenage protagonists will just becoming annoying in a series. And because of the way the blurb introduced them, I was really surprised when Pressia and Partridge didn't become love interests. 

But believe me, I'm only wishing it was a standalone because I loved it so much. Tough love. 
And for the record, the world-building was my absolute favourite thing about this whole book/series. I don't care what happens next, the world will still be beautifully imagined. It is a pity that the things she describes so elegantly are so repulsive.Four stars. And Pure? You deserve your place on Time's most notable books of 2012 list. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Birthday Book Shopping Part 1!

There aren't many, but I've only completed phase 1 of the book shopping. Still, it's enough to keep me very, very happy for a while. Especially because these are all books I've been dying to get for ages.

Bought

































Gifts

From my boyfriend
(Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor [Excited to read that prose!] should go in here but the image is not co-operating).















From my sister


I am absolutely delighted with all of these. Plus, Skulduggery Pleasant Book 8 is coming soon
and I still ahve half of my birthday money left to spend on (you guessed it) books!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Divergent - Veronica Roth Review

Synopsis: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her
Ah, Divergent. So, so much hype and yet I still didn’t read it until long after the sequel came out.  I could say that I was just trying to ease the pain of a cliffhanger but that would be an utter lie. It has just been something that I took far too long to get around to buying.
Fortunately, I did really enjoy it when I got it eventually. You probably know the drill by now: society split into five factions according (officially) to what a person believes stops war and (unofficially) to personality. Sixteen-year-olds must choose the faction they wish to devote their life to, and here our protagonist Tris comes in. Never mind that that wouldn’t actually make a safe society.
Tris, or Beatrice, is not actually a very likeable main character – which is why it’s so commendable that I liked reading from her perspective anyway. Born in Abnegation, she’s never fully fit in with their selflessness. So, of course, she goes and makes the choice with all the excitement and danger and explosions. Way to conveniently pull the plot forward, Tris!
Then there’s the romance. I hate romance most of the time, and in parts this relationship just annoyed me, but it’s grown on me. And by the sequel I was very afraid that they’d separate, purely for the fact that it added so much necessary tension.
It fell down on the world-building, especially when compared to, say, Matched. It gave all of these interesting details so that I badly wanted to find out more, and then it wouldn’t tell me. Like, for example, what the initiation is for Erudite. It was just bare on that kind of details.
Okay, cynical as that sounds, I did really really like the book.
Divergent won its way onto my Favourites shelf (where it resides alongside such worthy specimens as Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Slated, Partials and The Hunger Games) by being so damn entertaining. And quotable, very quotable.
A clever thing done by this book is letting fans interact with it. Like Harry Potter, where you might declare yourself a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw, you could be Dauntless or Erudite. (I have always been Ravenclaw/Erudite, by the way).
Roth seems to have a truly brilliant imagination in dreaming up the different simulations and trials. They’re engrossing and entertaining –even if they don’t have much substance.
At this point I didn’t even care much about the (wait for it) dystopian set up, because I waited until the market was supersaturated with dystopians to read one of the best of them. I just loved the reading experience, and I can assure you now that that’s not objective at all.  
It’s actually a difficult one to analyse. I do think it lived up to the hype, but it’s not exactly one I’d find much pleasure in discussing. That privilege goes to its sequel , Insurgent. I liked Insurgent for all the reasons I didn’t like Divergent, and I will of course be reviewing it soon.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Hi! So, at the moment I'm still at CTYI but we're in the computer room today trying our hand at web journalism i.e. blogging. It's actually been mandated that we use Wordpress so I am, but as it's not co-operating at the moment I thought I'd drop in here, to my trusty Blogger.

CTYI is coming to an end, with less than a week left, and I will of course write down everything I can remember from it once I go home. I really wouldn't like to forget any of this, because it's been the best thing I've ever experienced.

Usually when I'm really looking forward to something, I blow it up in my head until it's reached such epic proportions that reality couldn't possibly match up to it. I was both astonished and elated to see that CTYI surpassed even my most ridiculous expectations. It has been, quite literally, magical. Often I feel like holidays/things I've been looking forward to pass too quickly, but the great thing about this is that each day has been so incredibly busy that it feels fulfilling. Still doesn't change the fact that I'm going to cry when it ends, but I'll know that it's been so worth it.

A lot of things follow the principle that 'you get out of it what you put into it'. I came here expecting that CTYI would be the same. In some ways it has been, but the amazing thing is that even the people who were a bit reluctant or shy seem to be having a great time. As far as I can see, there's no way you can't.

I arrived with a strange collection of things in hand, including a pirate sword, a multi-coloured dressing gown and 15 packets of Instant Noodle. Incidentally, these are common things to see in CTYI. I was shown to my room (I'm a residential student) and can I just say, it's gorgeous.

Back when I can, only two days left!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Top Ten Favourite Beginnings/Endings in Books

I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I didn't number them becayse I can't choose between a lot of them, but these are all in my top ten.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling) - Ending

It was a huge shock (Dumbledore!) but it was a really dramatic ending and I have to repect that.

Fragments (Dan Wells) - Beginning

This really kept up the momentum from the previous book, and it was a great entrance into a brilliant book. Started with a bang!

Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked (Derek Landy) - Ending

CURVEVBALL! The last chapter epilogue was just THE BIGGEST TWIST.

Partials (Dan Wells) - Ending

I don't know why I loved this so much. It was just enjoyable.

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) - Beginning

Not the exact beginning, but the reaping - it was excellently described and really let me into the world.

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox - Ending

All the plotlines melded really nneatly and naturally here, I loved it.

Temeraire: Throne of Jade (Naomi Novik) - Beginning

Drama was just brought right up from the start, as was the emotional core of the story.

Temeraire: His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik) - Ending

The ending to this one was really heartwarming after all the adventure, I must say.

Blood Ties (Sophie McKenzie) - Ending

This all tied in really neatly, and the description was beautiful.

North Child (Edith Pattou) - Beginning

This really brought me into the faiytale world well.

So those are my Top Ten for this week! Leave links to your own TTT in the comments, or if you don't have a blog you can just suggest some endings in the comment itself!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Guest Post: From Reading to Writing

As I'm away on holiday right now, Oliver Dahl, who blogs at The Dreamers Adventures, is here with a guest post. Presumably, if you're reading my blog, you're a bookworm - so here for your viewing pleasure is a post about how reading tastes translated into his work as a self-published author. Enjoy, and be sure to check out his blog on July 13th for my post on how to write dynamic characters - and stick around on his blog for a look, you might like it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It doesn't take long as a writer to hear the tossed-around phrase, "write the kind of book you would want to read."

When I first started (trying!) writing books, I hadn't heard of this writer adage. I almost discovered it on me own, though under different words and ideas. This was around the fourth or fifth grade.

"Little kid" me wanted to read a book. And not just any book, something with dragons, twin boys, characters like me that I could connect to, and dwarves and elves of my own variation. I wanted to read something that had a colorful, vibrant, unique, and constantly changing setting. I wanted to read a book with magic, and a wizard, and a desert, with a rickety old bridge like in Indiana Jones. I wanted to read a book that, quite frankly, didnt exist.

No matter how hard my little heart looked for something like this, I couldn't find anything. Sure, there were books that were close, and aspects of those books added more little things to my list of things I wanted in would I thought would be a perfect book. When I realized that no such book really existed down to the minute details that I wanted, I realized that I could write it. I could write that "perfect" book. And maybe other kids like me would want to read it. And that's how it all started. I still have the crinkled pieces of notebook-paper that the first pages had been written on.

If you haven't been able to tell already, I have quite a few tastes that I look to satisfy in the books that I read. Oftentimes, I joke about the length of the self-filed genre of my first book, The Dreamers. I classify it as "Modern YA scifi fantasy adventure." What a mouthful. Now if I could only fit in action and "contains cheesy knock-knock jokes" in there somewhere. Hmm...

If we take that adage I first quoted, and apply it right now, you can assume that because I wrote a book in that genre, I enjoy reading in that genre as well. And you would be absolutely correct. Michael Vey, by Richard Paul Evans is another book I would classify in that long genre. I absolutely love fantasy, science fiction, YA, Dystopian fiction, and most subgenres between. My favorite "genre" however, is a mixture of all of these set in modern times. Rick Riordan is a great example of this. Suzanne Collins' "Underland Chronicles" is another. I love how almost believable their stories are. You can make yourself believe that Camp Half Blood exists. You don't know for sure that it doesn't. And that is what I love. Wheras in generic fantasy fiction set in the typical medieval ages, you know it didn't happen because of history books. (The dragons are a little bit of a clue, too...) And, if not for the Doctor or time travel, we could rule out our scifi as impossible as well. It's the slim chance of possibility that draws me in to modern fiction.

"So you're saying... There's a chance?" :)

Alright, I'm getting sidetracked. Like I have mentioned in a post of mine, I think that everything that we write comes from somewhere else. Everything we write comes from other stories that we have seen, read, listened to, and experienced. It is my belief that if we never experienced anything, heard, read, or saw any form of any story, we would be unable to write. Due to the fact that most of the stories I read as a kid were fantasy, scifi, and fiction in general, those stories that I experienced and enjoyed became stored into me.

The things that I have read really are the things that I write. Mixed together with my own experience in my mind like a blender, I make new idea "smoothies" from every story I know. And again, because most of those stories I know are fiction, most of my smoothies are, too. To keep going with this rather strange smoothie metaphor, if my most of my ingredients are berries, (fiction) then most of my resulting smoothie is going to be, too.

Well, I guess that's it for now. I hope my rambling and impromptu smoothie-metaphor-filled, button-pushing made sense. I hope that before you leave, though, you'll check out some of my smoothies. Er, I mean... Books. That's right. :)


Born in 1998, Oliver Dahl is the oldest of five children and lives in Idaho. Previous to finishing middle school, The Dreamers had earned him the a spot as one of Idaho's Top 50 Idaho authors (2011). The title of Idaho's Student of the Year (2012) preceded both the publication of Dahl's second novel, The Nightmarers, and the completion of his freshman year of high school. Oliver's books have spent time in the top percentages of books on Amazon.com. Authors like Brandon Mull, Obert Skye, and Richard Paul Evans own autographed copies and have expressed interest in The Dreamers. Dahl is also an awarded musician and engineer. He has as twice as many Oscars as Leonardo DiCaprio, and has won the Tour de France as many times as Lance Armstrong.


He can be found in too many places online.
Website BETA: www.oliverdahl.weebly.com
Blog: www.TheDreamersAdventures.blogspot.com


Facebook Page: Click here to view my page.
Twitter: @OliverWDahl.
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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Stupid White Men - Michael Moore Review

Stupid White Men – Michael Moore Review
Genre: Non-fiction, Politics  
Source: Bought
Rating: 3.5 Stars
In short: Entertaining, thought-provoking, well-researched enough to be funny  – but lacks rereadability.
I read this book again this week after reading it for the first time about two years ago. It’s one of my favourite non-fiction books, brimming with political satire and sarcastic hilarity. Unfortunately, what makes it so novel and fresh in the first place means that reading it again takes the pleasure out of it a little. Still definitely one to get from the library or borrow though. It went to the top of the UK bestseller list before it was even released in the UK, and it really is a triumphant feat of sleuthing.
Another good thing is that you can just choose chapters at random because each is an independent unit. With names such as ‘Dear George [Bush]’ and ‘Kill Whitey’ and ‘the End of Men’, it’s a delight to read and you’ll always find something to interest you.
Something Moore does well is make your blood boil. He somehow comes up with hard, unexaggerated facts that have mysteriously stayed out of the public spotlight, and waxes eloquent about the oppression and corruption that nobody notices.
The last chapter and the epilogue were where Moore fell down in my estimation. I don’t know whether he lost inspiration or something, but he stopped being as witty and hilarious as he had been throughout the rest of the book. And as I said above, upon rereading it you aren’t as shocked by the facts and things he says so it isn’t such an enlightening read. Still, the first time around you really enjoy it, and it is a damn good book.
For almost all of the book, Moore is furious. And funny. And furiously funny. The End of Men and Kill Whitey especially are great chapters to show up misogyny and racism, and he does it all with a sense of humour.
So there you go. It irked me that the UK and Irish version left out a section because we don’t have the Freedom of Speech Law, but hey, that’s the law.
 *** *** ***
I'm currently on holidays, if you call CTY early college a holiday, without internet - this is a scheduled post. I can't reply to comments as fast but continue to leave them and I'll reply when I get a chance!


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Matched - Ally Condie Review

Source: Library   
Pages: 366
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her match. Society dictates he is her perfect partner for life. Except he's not. In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love. How many children they have. Where they work. When they die. But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, she is determined to make some choices of her own. And that's when her whole world begins to unravel...

In short: Enjoyable, thought-provoking dystopian - very YA.

Review: I'm feeling a lot of cover-love for this one (go Theresa Evangelista!). Cassia trapped in the orb is an excellent descriptor of the book to come. Besides, I've seen a lot of good reviews so I had to get it.

The funny thing is, when you boil it down I would usually HATE the premise/theme of this book. It's literally centred around romance and a love triangle. I have never seen anything MORE love-triangle-y. (love-triangular?).

But what's amazing about this book is its dystopian elements. The dystopian world Ally Condie creates is vividly described and quite terrifying in its very utopia.  On paper, it's a perfect system. But when you throw human beings in, it's restrictive and unjust. The little details that Condie lets slip out subtly - the Officials completely choosing someone's line of work, their partner, their possessions - really build up to create a good picture of it all.

It was really enjoyable and light. It's not a hugely long book, but there's a lot of information in it - and even with that it's not done with a heavy hand, which I'm very glad of. As well as that, there were some genuinely thought-provoking parts that seem to be missing from a lot of dystopians lately. The government has everyone die on their eightieth birthday, because it has decreed that after that quality of life decreases so much that the person shouldn't be alive at all. That was really chilling, and brings up topics like pre-emptive euthanasia. Then there were the measures the Officials took to keep everyone equal and not questioning, like when they raided homes for artifacts. Again, hints of Communism. Not loudly, but just enough to make you compare it to today's world. And they incinerated libraries (!!!).

And then the romance. I am not a fan of romance. This one was done well, actually, but I still don't like it being the main focus of the story. So, the conflict is that Cassia is expected to love the person she's Matched to, but because of some big conspiracy/mistake, it doesn't exactly work out as planned. She sees someone else, and starts to fall in love with them, breaking every rule in the book.

Here's what I did like about the romance. Her 'true' love interest, the unsafe one, encourages her to open her eyes, to see past the forced safety of Oria and become a bit of a rebel. It makes her into a defiant, proactive heroine and I really liked that. Also, with the way the love interest is done it's exactly like Slated by Teri Terry (one of my favourites, my review here), to the point where it's uncanny.

There were some quite clumsy metaphors, as if the author was just trying to get them in - like the one about Sisyphus. I get the point, and I understand that it was meant to symbolise their struggle and acts as a catalyst for Cassia's transformation, but it just seems forced.

Other than that, a highly enjoyable book that leads well into its sequel in the trilogy, all the books of which (Matched, Crossed and Reached) are out now.


P.S. I got contact lenses, after 13 years of wearing glasses! This is exciting! Also, I have to get Fractured, Slated's sequel. And Divergent. And Insurgent ... I have less than 2 weeks until holidays so I have to get my books lined up soon.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Control - Kim Curran ARC Review


Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Source: ARC from Netgalley and Strange Chemistry
Rating: 5 STARS
Publication Date: 6 August 2013 (Seriously, get it).
Blurb: Official burb: Scott Tyler is not like other teenagers. With a single thought he can alter reality around him. And he can stop anyone else from doing the same.  That’s why he’s so important to ARES, the secret government agency that regulates other kids like him: Shifters.  They’ve sent him on a mission. To track down the enigmatic Frank Anderson. An ex-Shifter who runs a project for unusual kids – as if the ability to change your every decision wasn’t unusual enough. But Anderson and the kids have a dark secret. One that Scott is determined to discover.  As his obsession with discovering the truth takes him further away from anyone he cares about, his grip on reality starts to weaken. Scott realises if he can’t control his choices, they’ll control him.
Things to get out of the way first:
An unequivocal five star rating. This book was amazing! I got an excellent first impression, what a gorgeous cover! It literally took me through the ringer, and I FELT ALL THE FEELS.
(Slightly more professional) Review
It really had everything I look for in a book. I think sci-fi, fantasy and YA fans will love it – actually, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t. The nearest thing I can compare it to is Jumper (another amazing one) or the ending of Catching Fire. You know that last line of Catching Fire, the one that turned readers into a ball of nerves? Yep, same in Control.
 The main character, Scott Tyler, is fascinating. He’s daring, loyal and absolutely adorable as a male protagonist. His girlfriend and fellow Shifter, Aubrey, is as kickass and sassy as you can get, and it was incredible. And there’s a particular event that happens where Aubrey thinks he’s betrayed her, and his reaction actually made me cry. Me. I often mentally cry at books, but there were literally tears.  I thought I’d conditioned myself against that, but this book really got under my defences.
 The characterisation with the other characters was fantastic too. I especially loved Jake’s tech skills and Rosale’s fierceness when she thinks Scott hurt Aubrey. The relationship was THE BEST. There’s one scene – one of my favourites – where Scott is thoroughly beat up, basically wishing he could die (much as you feel for the protagonist, don’t you just love those moments? There’s just so much raw emotion and pathos. It’s beautiful.) and Aubrey, who he thought would never speak to him again, comes and gets him out of it. The moment he realises who it is is heart-warming. She hasn’t forgiven him (she doesn’t know yet that it wasn’t his fault) but she thought he was going to do something stupid, and she came and got him out of it. I don’t know why, but this scene just really struck a chord with me. It’s plain to see that he really cares for her, and I loved it so much.
Is it possible for a book to be too intense? There were an inordinate amount of moments when a lightbulb went on in my head, saying that the scene/character/dialogue was just too much to handle. I’m used to, and expect, a book having some of these moments. But this one just had it all.
Shifting – altering reality by changing your decisions – would be such a difficult concept to pull off. But Kim Curran did it flawlessly. She did it by imposing limitations on the power – it can only be a decision you considered different choices for, you can’t undo a Shift... It was simply really skilfully written, and I powered through it.
There were very few things that I didn’t like. I felt a bit cheated by the MEGA CLIFFHANGER ending (see Catching Fire reference above), but that was only because I was so engrossed in the story and the amazing characters that I didn’t want to let go. Plus, I’ve really come to care for Scott, and the way the book ended it seems very likely that it’s going to go Mockingjay-esque, meaning no punches pulled and my poor, poor favourite protagonists being put through ever worse situations.  There was one section in the middle where I was very confused about location, but it’s not that important for your enjoyment of the story.
Objectively, it was still amazing. It had the quick-firing plot, snappy dialogue and grabbing characters that melded together to make a brilliant novel. And even when it was tense and fast-paced, it was hilarious. The dialogue managed to be authentic and still have humour. There’s even a secret government department (with a motto!) which always helps.
The action scenes at the end were thrilling, terrifying and awe-inspiring in equal measures. Scott pulls off some stunts that are truly worthy of a YA hero, and these last scenes were written like an action movie, and I mean that in the best possible way. The high-octane chases and shattering glass were so vivid.
It was so well thought-out. Scott and co. are Shifters, so they’re used to planning out every decision, But when they go up against a certain person, they don’t realise how many other choices are changing, and how impacted the world will be. It means an ending that the first-person protagonist doesn’t understand, which makes it very jarring. But that was admirably effective in communicating the message that choices have far-reaching consequences. There are details – the ‘hypnic jerk’ being an excellent example – in abundance, and the author has obviously really imagined the connotations of this world she’s created.
Not only was I able to appreciate the obvious writing talent Curran has, it was a really enjoyable read too.  From other reviews I’ve seen, it seemed like this book is better than the first in the series, Shift. Nevertheless, I’ve still ordered the first one, because I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in months. I give this my highest recommendation – coming out in August, this is definitely one to be added to your Autumn TBR list!
Links:
Author's Website
Goodreads Page


Thanks to Strange Chemistry for the ARC!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan Review

Thanks to Stephen for lending me this book, because I LOVED it!
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: April 1st, 2006
Pages: 389
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb: Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.



In short: Just fantastic, incredibly entertaining.

My review:

I loved this, no matter how MG it is. The plot is really driven and light, with not a trace of introspection to be seen. It was just all-round entertaining! Sometimes, when a book isn't very entertaining I go and see if the premise deserves praise, and this one has both a great premise and an exciting plot - win-win!

I loved Percy/Annabeth (Pannabeth? Percabeth?) SO MUCH. She was just so sassy and superior, making for hilarious scenes between them. And she calls him Seaweed Brain. What more could you ask for? Yes, she was set up as a *very* obvious love interest, but so what? She was a great very obvious love interest!

The Greek mythology was handled really well! It was made very entertaining and relevant, and there were some great nudges hidden in there (like: 'Someday they'll think you're just myths, too'). Also, all the gods and their abilities were described so well, it's making me quite inarticulate. The whole thing was brilliantly atmospheric and dramatic.

The description of the cabins and Mount Olympus was beautiful and I really felt like I was right there! While I'd choose to go to Hogwarts over Camp Half-Blood any day, it was still absolutely epic. The characterisation was done really well too, even with the secondary characters. It's not that the writing was especially delicate or beautiful, but it was clear and just a pleasure to read.

I just loved how the quest went, and how the hero's arc developed. I especially loved his awesome powers in water. The foreshadowing was very heavy but just in a MG way, so I didn't mind - with a book as popular as this, you're going to know some of the basics anyway (such as Percy's identity - hmm, I wonder who his father is?) and I can't fault it.

It was interesting that Percy had ADHD and dyslexia and was being shuffled around schools. The explanation was that his brain was 'hardwired for Ancient Greek', which was a bit silly. Your brain isn't THAT hardwired for a language - if I was brought up speaking French from birth, I'd be fluent. It seems like a gimmicky ploy to make ADHD etc. kids feel better about themselves, because it might just be because you're half-god, and besides, look at these super-duper reflexes! Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't know what I can say other than that I really recommend this. I'm definitely getting the next four in the series, whether I have to beg, borrow or . . . buy. And here is a shoutout to Aylee at Recovering Potter Addict, who HAS to read this book soon and post a review on her blog!

Also, it's been made into a movie. And Logan Lerman is gorgeous, you can't say no to that.

_________________________________________________________________________________

I'm reading one I'm really excited about at the moment, Control by Kim Curran, so look forward to that!

And I have just realised that I've been doing Labels completely wrong, so my Cloud is all messed up. I'll be fixing that in the next few days.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

25 Perfect Days - Mark Tullius Review

Publisher: Vincere Press
Pages: 322
Genre: Futuristic dystopian/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Vincere Press and Netgalley.
Synopsis/Blurb: A totalitarian state doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a slow, dangerous slide. 25 Perfect Days chronicles the path into a hellish future of food shortages, contaminated water, sweeping incarceration, an ultra-radical religion, and the extreme measures taken to reduce the population.

Higher taxes, strict gun control, an oppressive healthcare system. Complete media control, genetically modified food, experimentation on citizens. The push of depersonalizing technology, unending wars, government sanctioned assassinations. Is this collection of stories merely science fiction or soon to be fact? Are these policies designed for the greater good or disguised to benefit a chosen few at the expense of the masses? Is this brave new world the best we could do or part of a sinister grand plan?

Through these twenty-five interlinked stories, each written from a different character’s point of view, 25 Perfect Days captures the sacrifice, courage, and love needed to survive and eventually overcome this dystopian nightmare


Review:
I put off reading this book for a long time because of other books I had to review and it somehow fell to the bottom of the pile. I regretted that at first but eventually realised it was the right decision. I'll explain below.

So, the book is an exemplary, textbook dystopian, and a hugely chilling one at that. There's mandatory sterilization and weight limits for people - if you don't fit under a certain (very low) weight, no matter your height, you get (to my knowledge) vaporized (wasn't really explained). Hint: People went to such lengths as having limbs cut off. Scary. Then there are the weapons, which basically erase the targets from the world with plasma, literally wiping them out until they're not even visible.

At first, I was very impressed with the world-building. It was terrifying, but all the dystopian elements were obviously thoroughly thought out and original. It's truly a world of terror, and that was echoed on every page. An element I liked was that the church, the Way, had basically taken over the world, and it was the enemy. It was a theocracy gone terribly, terribly wrong. Then the 'blue eyes and blonde hair' nod to Nazi ideologies.

I really enjoyed a couple of the characters, but it was incredibly frustrating when I only saw them quickly and then if they came back they were, as in one case, probably in some really dire situation about to be exterminated. It wasn't just thrilling, it was genuinely frightening. I have to respect it for that, but I actually got scared while reading it, and not neessarily in a good way (read: a few nauseating incidents).

There were some excellent scenes, but here's where the problems started.

Many of the scenes themselves were well-written, brilliant even. But there was no cohesion in the overall story - try as I might, I couldn't actually locate a plot. I just spent the whole story in a state of confusion, nonplussed by the bewildering cast of characters. There was an evil ruler, but no particular person to root for. There was even a glossary of characters at the end of the book, and unless it's high fantasy, that's not usually a good sign.  

Yes, events happened. But as someone said to me once, plot is not what happens. Plot is how the characters react to what happens. Lots of things happen, and the frustrating thing is that they could make for a good story. Except that I didn't know who was doing it, and why I should care because I wasn't invested in any character! The book is in third-person, so it's not like I had to keep checking back to see who was talking - I could see the name in front of me but because there was no character continuity, I didn't understand who that person was supposed to be and what their relation to the events was.

As far as I could see, there was no main character. It was like a collection of short stories set in the same elegantly-described world. I could take the people who participated in the climax as the main characters, but I'd only seen them in one other chapter! There were some very creepy, chilling and sometimes nauseating dystopian details, but they were never once explained and I just felt horribly confused.

I understand that the book is part of a series, but I just felt cheated by the ending. Perhaps if it had pulled all the strings and different characters together it would've redeemed the book and made me treat it as a work of genius, but all it did was depose the Big Bad Guy, and it was rushed and confusing at that. I really didn't know who was doing what. I mean, I noticed the author bringing recurring chracters along but I'd just see the name and think 'Hm, that name sounds familiar but . . . who are they again?'

After reading some other reviews, I realise that it is indeed a kind of collection of short stories. I had known it spanned several generations, but I maintain that it would've been better to focus on a small group of memorable characters. Perhaps my thoughts are flavoured by the amount of YA I read (this is adult) but that was my personal experience.

I was unfortunately disappointed at times. While the start was still as odd on the character and plot front, the world-building led me to believe that there'd be some miraculous coup d'├ętat at the end that would explain everything, but it was like the whole book was devoted to description of the dystopia and situations in it and the flimsy resolution was just thrown in as an obligatory afterthought. So there's a warning - don't let excessive exposition get in the way of your plot, because it can damage a book that really had potential. It covers one day a year over many years, and I would have understood this a lot more and probably had a better reading experience if that fact hadn't been omitted from my web-ARC (reading copy).

Technically, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, it is a very good book, a disturbing and powerful cautionary tale against a theocracy. But it cannot be denied that I didn't come out of it feeling satisfied, thus the mediocre rating. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the book at the moment . . . mainly as though I missed something major. But I believe that a book is largely for entertainment value, and it would've been nice to have more continuity and a solid ending. I'm sorry this book and I got off on the wrong foot though - next time I swear to read the blurb first!