Friday, 18 January 2013

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld Review

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13581049-uglies

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Official Summary:
Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait for the operation that turns everyone from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to party. But new friend Shay would rather hoverboard to "the Smoke" and be free. Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The "Special Circumstances" authority Dr Cable offers Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
                                                      
                                                       Source: On loan from a friend.
                                                       Publisher: Simon Schuster Children's.
                                                       Length: 425 pages.
                                                       Rating: 4 Stars.
                                                       Genre: YA negative-utopian.
                                                   
In short:  Not perfect with the storytelling tone the whole way through but when the climax hit, amazing. Good set-up and plot unfolding.

The Breakdown:

World-Building:
This is actually one of the most realistic (but quite disturbing) worlds I've discovered lately. With the way the media is, it conceivably could happen. I liked the idea of the surgery and the types of Pretties, Middlies and Crumblies. Those, Rusties and Smokies were great names. The hover-boarding was really interesting and made for entertaining reading. I loved the detail about the deposits of metal everywhere because it is such a cool source of power. Excuse me, I would like my hoverboard now please.

Characters:
Tally: Tally...was a good enough main character, in that she was a good way to get the story through. But I wouldn't have thought of her as a character in her own right until well through the book. I loved her fire-jacket escape. I liked her escape to the ***** but I didn't like the reason she went there. Sometimes I want my main characters to defy the plot and just get what they've always wanted. That's why I didn't entirely write off Tally as a character. i started to feel for her after a while.

Shay: Hmmm, Shay... I really didn't know what to think about Shay. I liked her when she was teaching Tally how to hoverboard. I liked her in the Rusty Ruins. I liked her when she was in the Smoke. I didn't like when she went there. To be honest, in my head I was screaming to Tally 'NOOOO GET PRETTY YOUR LIFE WILL BE RUINED!'. I had come to care for her and I resented Shay's bad influence. I really, really didn't like Shay as a ******, although that was presumable a device of the author to teach us the effects of the *********.

Peris:  I HATED Pretty Peris! He was OK some of the time, I know, but he was the perfect example of a Pretty, and NO.

David:  All I can say about David is that he fulfilled his purpose in the narrative. I really liked Maddie and Az though.

Plot:
The book starts off by saying that the sky was the colour of cat vomit. That should provide a clue that it likes to take unexpected turns. The start wasn't exactly gripping but it wasn't boring either, I just had to pay attention...but it was worth it in the middle and at the end. I LOVE THE STORY OF THE SMOKE. In any place where there's been massive progress/revolution there's always going to be a community who do not want it. And this was that encapsulated perfectly. THE CLIFFHANGER ENDING WILL KILL YOU. I NEED THE SEQUEL. GIVE IT TO ME NOW.

Jumped out at me:
The way their world works. I loved how most things were fueled by magnetism. It's renewable. And it's cool. There is a grid of metal laid out through the city. That just reminds me of Wi-Fi, but even cooler. Be warned, if you have unlocked Wifi, I WILL use it. I have to be an internet fiend, with this blog. AND THE RUSTIES WITH *THEIR* STURDY METAL BUILDINGS.

Overall:
You won't have to drop everything and get it, but definitely worth a read. Four stars!

Other Reviews:
http://www.zoesbookreviews.com/2011/05/uglies-series-by-scott-westerfeld.html
http://wornpagesanddustyshelves.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/book-review-uglies-by-scott-westerfeld/
http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/uglies

Get it:
Amazon
Waterstones

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Partials - Dan Wells - Review


Photo from Goodreads.com
Official Summary
Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partialsengineered organic beings identical to humanshas decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.
When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.  Combining the fast-paced action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Battlestar Galactica, Partials is a pulse-pounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in questionone where our sense of humanity is both our greatest liability, and our only hope for survival.
Source: Bought for my birthday in Waterstones.
 Publisher: HarperCollins

Length: Paperback, 482 pages.

Reason for Reviewing: 1. It was such a good book and 2. The sequel, Fragments (available to preorder now on Waterstones.com) is coming out soon so I wanted to remind myself and you of Partials.                                                      

My reading time: 1-2 days, depending on other commitments.

THE SHORT VERSION
I loved this book. Loved the issues, the world-building, the science - one small glitch but 5 Stars.

THE BREAKDOWN

INITIAL REACTION
I knew I'd love this book from the moment I saw it in on the shelf. Normally I hate characters on my covers but this was an exception. The tagline is amazing also. I actually don't think I read the summary until I'd already bought it, which was a bit careless, but it all turned out for the best.

WORLD-BUILDING
Some have said that this book took a while to get going, but that's because of the fantastic world-building. I loved learning about how the apocalypse had happened and I loved RM. In the fictional way. Obviously. I personally loved how the book went into such detail with the virology because it complemented the fantastical side nicely. The premise of the book is entirely plausible, with the possible exception of RM, which doesn't exist, of course. But perhaps in the later books of the sequence more will be revealed about it. Well, of course it will, otherwise I will come knocking on your virtual door, Dan Wells http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net/. You shall do as I say. Because great writers always listen to me...
Overall the world-building was very intriguing, except for the few parts where it got bogged down with descriptions of gardens and pregnancy...Although I liked the Hope Act, it was very interesting. I'm just cold and heartless sometimes when it comes to the personal bits.

CHARACTERS
Kira: While I didn't feel any great attachment to her until the middle of the book, she was a great main character and really drove the plot along. I started to adore her once I saw her working with the virus. As a medic she was interesting and nice to read about; as a lab scientist she shone. I love science. And, as a lot of people have said, female scientists. With attitude. Also, I loved how her *relationship/communication* with Samm developed.

Samm: Samm, I love you. It was so interesting when he was being discussed and, again, I loved it so much when he started to talk to Kira. And he was a hero! It was so sad how distrustful everyone was of him...but they weren't entirely at fault, of course.

Marcus, Maddie, etc.: Seemed nice and fun. Didn't really make much of an impression on me - my one criticism of the characters is that a lot of them seemed to blend into one. Because of that, I didn't think Marcus made much of an addition to the plot but I don't remember him very well so don't take that to heart.

PLOT
I seem to be alone on this one, but I thought the plot timing of Partials was close to perfect. The beginning set it up really well, and wow, the last part...was really intense. I can't reveal them here, but I LOVED each event going towards the end and the suspense just built and built, with interventions and I wish I could say more here but that would be mean so I can't. Sorry. I especially loved, and was shocked by, since I strangely hadn't seen it coming at all, the revelation about a main character at the very end and the consequent course of action leading onto the SEQUEL!

One thing: The summary compares Partials to The Hunger Games, or at least links them. I don't really think it should, apart from that it draws attention to this wonderful book. They're not similar at all, apart from being futuristic. But that doesn't diminish the merit of Partials one bit. Seriously. Read it.

JUMPED OUT AT ME - SCIENCE
I really enjoyed the detailed descriptions of Kira's findings and the way her *lab* equipment was portrayed pretty accurately too. The virology was discussed really knowledgeably, which was very interesting in itself, so well done Dan Wells. I thought that each additional discovery, as well as her initial failure, were really intriguing, so this part jumped out at me in Partials. I also really liked the idea of the Partials themselves and the politics behind them.

OVERALL
Partials was a thriller with a great world-setting and interesting issues raised but not too heavily.

STAR RATING
Definitely fits into 5 stars for being thought-provoking, interesting and thrilling.

GET IT:
Waterstones - http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/dan+wells/partials/8824045/
Easons - http://www.easons.com/search.aspx?query=Partials
Amazon.com - (Kindle version) http://www.amazon.co.uk/9780062071040-Partials-ebook/dp/B00739WG8U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357419442&sr=1-1





Friday, 4 January 2013

Speaking His Mind

I know I'm late off the mark on this one, but I just found out by coincidence that Daniel Radcliffe (one of my favourite people in the world because of his excellent job in Harry Potter) publicly said he is an atheist. And just for the reason that he spoke his mind I feel I really have to say, well done to him.

One, for not being afraid to speak his mind. He says he is a 'militant atheist when religion starts impacting on legislation'. I got the original information from http://www.towleroad.com/2012/02/daniel-radcliffe-disgusted-by-anti-gay-gop-presidential-candidates-has-talent-crush-on-ryan-gosling.html after a Google Search, by the way. It's a very good article. It made a bit of a fuss when the news was fresh but I thought it deserved to be resurrected, no pun intended, in the face of what's going on around us today. I was very impressed by the way Daniel was standing up so strongly for gays. I think it's really, really important in today's society.

Two, people can get away with being a member of just about every religion I can think of, but where is acceptance for homosexual people? In the article Daniel strikes out at homophobic politicians and I wholeheartedly agree. He did a cover shoot for Attitude magazine and says that he's delighted people thought he was gay. He's been around gay people his life and supports equality for them. This is a new generation and I'm part of it. We're supporting equality for everyone. We want to move past this archaic view of things. You have your religion, that's fine, He'll have his. They'll have none, thank you. That doesn't necessarily mean *they* (or whoever is in their place) think that you're wrong about EVERYTHING, but I'd like to agree to disagree. Well first, I'd like to open your mind and make you think, but if that can't happen, let's just agree to disagree.

What some people fail to understand is that agreeing to disagree involves choice. If gay marriage is legalized, obviously not everyone is going to become gay and get married. Because it's THEIR choice. The LGBT community can then take advantage of their perfectly natural right - to be happy. How are they going to be happy? By loving who they like and having equal status with them. Just because they're different doesn't mean they're second-class citizens.

The last thing I like about this news is that it shows Daniel Radcliffe's rational, fair side. We are human beings and regardless of what kind of supernatural being(s) is out there, all we KNOW we have right now is each other. So live and let live. No gay person is going to come up to you and force you to marry them if gay marriage is legalized. It's not going to hurt you but it'll benefit them. Every worldview I know of says that we were all created equal. So thank you, Daniel Radcliffe, for publicising that.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

5 New Year's Resolutions for a Bookworm

I have decided that this year I am making New Year's Resolutions that I will actually enjoy keeping. The things I enjoy most? Learning and reading. This is going to be fun.

1. Don't let myself be too distracted from reading.
Within reason, I want to read a little more this year. Last year I read 30 big books in the month of June but only one every couple of days for a lot of the school year. It's my favourite thing to do so I don't want school to get too much in the way of it. I'm sitting the Junior Cert this year so I have to focus on that, but I don't want to forsake my passion either.

 Also, I can pretend reading is studying for English, although I doubt that excuse would be accepted. My parents once told me off for reading particle physics instead of studying Junior Cert science. Oops.

2. Learn some astrophysics and particle physics.
I'm sorry, but after reading a few books about it I can't not. I mean, it probably makes me an ubernerd but it's honestly really interesting and good for your head as well. And in the Junior Cert I'll just ramble about the basic things and hope the examiner gives me some points for the particle physics.

3. Learn to read my schoolbooks and enjoy them...
Because otherwise there is no hope. How can you resist the temptation to read? Anything, rather than the books you (if you're me) read in the summer before second year and understood then? I mean, I do know most of the subject matter so can it really hurt if I read a bit for pleasure? My parents mysteriously don't seem to see it that way...

4. STOP BEING DISORGANIZED.
I think there's actually a name for people like me, 'spacey'. I have no problem memorizing what I need for school but don't even try to ask me to bring in a worksheet, it probably ain't gonna happen. I have improved lately (I got an accordion folder! You should be so proud!) but there's still a bit to go to avoid my notes succumbing to the pressure to become crumpled and unrecognizable at the bottom of my bag.

5. Update more regularly.
I am truly sorry and promise to update more frequently. In my defence, I only review/ discuss books that are worth it. This means that all my reviews sound strangely positive but believe me, they're not all I read. I hereby apologize and give you, reader, full permission to hound me in the comments if I don't post soon enough. Did I really just say that?

Any big resolutions I missed out on? I should have written 'Study' but, really, why would I write that down when enough people (parents, teachers, friends) are shouting it at me already? Now, I must go do some accursed study. Wish me luck.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Wonders of the Universe - Prof. Brian Cox

I rarely read non-fiction, but this book captivated me. The 'book of the acclaimed BBC TV series' written by Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen deals with what it says on the tin - and it captures a lot of very heavy material in the most enthralling way. I got it for Christmas and it is honestly my second-favourite Christmas present ever and one of my most precious possessions (My new iPod just edged it out in terms of functionality and portability, but it's still amazing).

There are four sections to the book - 'Messengers' (Light), Stardust (Stars and Creation of the Universe), Falling (Gravity) and Destiny (Fate of the Universe). It really doesn't pull any punches and suits anyone from an accomplished astronomer to an intelligent/willing preteen without sounding too  heavy or, on the other hand, patronising.The book is filled with breathtaking pictures of space as well as beautiful pictures from here on Earth.

The first chapter shows the importance of light, being the only connection we have with everything outside our Universe and discusses its properties, as well as some interesting scientific discoveries about it...and some gratuitous photos of gorgeous landscapes, of course. My favourite part of this chapter had to be this quote

'Two and a half million years ago, when our distant relative Homo habilis was foraging for food across the Tanzanian Savannah, a beam of light left the Andromeda Galaxy and began its journey across the universe. As that light beam raced across space at the speed of light (duh), generations of humans and pre-humans lived and died, whole species evolved and became extinct, until one member of that unbroken lineage, me, happened to gaze up at the sky [...] triggering a cascade of wonder in a complex organ called the human brain that didn't exist anywhere in the Universe when the journey began.'

So we're seeing the Andromeda galaxy as it was 2, 500, 000 years ago. How could something like that not amaze you?

Also discussed is the Hubble Telescope. We can *only* see 2.5 million years ago, to the beginnings of our species with the naked eye. But there is much more than that. The book charts the Hubble's history, with the delays in launch time and a mission to space purely to fix one of its mirrors. Astronauts from the Shuttle Endeavour spent ten days in space - basically giving it glasses. Which I liked a lot, because I have to wear them too! What's been called Hubble's most important image was shown and explained - the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

Some of these 'blobs' are over twelve billion light years away. Nearly as old as the Universe itself.


Stardust talks about the birth, development and death of stars (my favourite part? SUPERNOVAE!). It also discusses the basic building blocks of the Universe and how they came into being...Which basically can give a nerdgasm. Also, the Big Bang and subatomic particles - explained so that you can actually understand them! Well, I did and I'm only fourteen. And wow, those pictures are amazing.

Seriously though, this was my favourite section of the book and it has so much material to get you genuinely excited.


Falling has lots of interesting stuff too, especially NEUTRON STARS and why they're so dense - and tells us that that surface gravity is 100,000,000,000G. Nom. Basically neutron stars are just intense. In every aspect. Temperature, gravity, density, exotic structure, magnetism... They're very cool. Oh, and Newton's Law as well as Einstein's Theory of Relativity feature.


Destiny predicts the Universe's ultimate demise, which it explains has to happen because of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, Entropy. How it will happen isn't known, because it's so, so far away, but it's interesting to speculate.


I love this book. An awful lot, seriously. I think I almost started to hero-worship the guy who taught me some particle physics in such a way that I understood it. This would be a fantastic birthday present for anyone who has the slightest inclination towards Science or just general nerdiness. Which I'm very proud of, by the way. Warning: If this falls into the hands of some teenagers, they may bend the ear off you talking about protons, neutrons, quarks, supernovae...and basically everything else in this awe-inspiring treasure.