Monday, 25 March 2013

Turning the Last Page

Some books affect us more than others. And some go beyond that, leaving us emotional wrecks with difficulties moving on. Oops. You’re left hopelessly fangirling until you finally get it out of your system. Well, I’ve succeeded. I’ve come out alive, and you can too.
It can strike unexpectedly, as happened to me. I assigned Partials a five-star rating because it was a brilliant, inspired book. But then Fragments came along and if I could give it six stars I would. Not only did I have nothing to fault it on, it just emotionally attacked me. All the time. My emotional responses were weirdly heightened during Fragments, so that when the smallest thing happened I physically felt it. That is not normal and it felt like my mind had been hijacked. Stupid book.
They’re the books where you still feel like you’re with the characters . Contemplating reading other books just seems wrong because you’re still stuck on the last one. The ones which stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. You can’t read anything else for a while because it could never compare. And reading another book means accepting that the old one is over and that you’ve moved on.  By the end you feel like you’ve suddenly lost half your friends. It’s an astonishingly potent feeling.
I was young (eight or nine) when Deathly Hallows was released. I still queued up for it on the first day and dressed up as Hermione Granger, which meant that I won a coveted copy free that day for winning the fancy-dress competition. I remember being six and constantly asking my mam when the final Harry Potter was going to come out, after reading the first three when I was four and racing through them at an alarming rate after that. This actually led to her buying me another copy of Half-Blood Prince, much to my disgust. You can imagine six-year-old me like ‘Mam, you don’t know anything! Hogwarts has seven years so OBVIOUSLY there’s another book!’ (I didn’t quite understand that authors had to have time to physically write the books first at the age of six).  Even though I was beyond excited for Deathly Hallows and adored it, I think I was too young for it to affect me as deeply because I just didn’t have the emotional capacity then. It’s only after re-reading the series that I understand a lot of the tragedy and joy of it. I also didn’t feel as distraught at the end, which is a small mercy, I now realise.
Here’s the action plan for The End.
1.      Give yourself time.
Reread the ending. Read some of the start, if you want to. When you turn the last page, let yourself just sit there and think about what the hell just happened. This is especially useful if you plan to write a review and don’t want to be entirely incoherent.
2.      Don’t  commit to things in that heady post-book rush.
Trust me on this one. Your brain isn’t functioning properly after the overdose of awesome it has just experienced, so you have to be careful. DO NOT start writing a fanfiction within five days of finishing the book. If you genuinely can write one, write the whole thing before you upload it. Otherwise you’re going to find yourself in an unpleasant situation with people asking why you haven’t uploaded and you realising that you’ve run out of steam.
3.      When you’re ready, get it out!
My favourite way to do this is to write out everything you feel about it. I’m lucky to have a book blog, so I can publish that kind of thing. This kind of review isn’t exactly professional or detached-sounding, but I think people enjoy them, because they’re heartfelt. They can also be far too long, which is where editing comes in. Ha, as if.
So now I send out a call to fellow readers – I know you’re out there! Tell me how you get over amazing books, or if you want to try my method. Or just laugh at my over-the-top reaction, I don’t know. 
-Rose.
*I accept no liability for following my advice. That might be a bad idea.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Fragments (Partials #2) - Dan Wells (Advance Review!)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Author: Dan Wells
Pages: 564
Source: Netgalley
Published: March 29th, Ireland/UK
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, science fiction
Rating: 5 stars +

I was incredibly delighted to receive Fragments for review. Any readers of my blog will probably know how much (too much, I mention it all the time) I loved its predecessor Partials. I’m so happy to say that Fragments more than lived up to it, and finishing it has left me in a state of mourning. Partials finished spectacularly, with so many subplots pulling together at once in a thrilling action sequence, and somehow that huge momentum was kept up into the sequel – and I’m very impressed.
For an introduction to the trilogy, read my review of Partials (the first book). I’ve often found that the middle book in a trilogy isn’t as well executed as the rest, but Fragments joins Catching Fire on the list of those which keep the action alive. And Fragments is – dare I say it – even better. I’m finding it hard to order my thoughts about it – the feels. Too much.
Tension and drama are ever-present. Every other chapter ends in a cliffhanger and not just ordinary ones, killer cliffhangers. Sneak-up-and-eat-you-in-your-sleep cliffhangers. You feel breathless in parts, seriously.
The characterisation is just too brilliant. Kira’s character develops so much during this book. In Partials she goes from trainee medic to daring scientist, and here she becomes a bonafide heroine and leader. She’s not too perfect either; she headstrong and a diehard rebel. We learn at the end of Partials that she is *SPOILER* a kind of Partial *END SPOILER*. But she’s different. We find out so much about her during the book, as well as the incredible revelations about the creation of the Partials, RM and the Failsafe. And this was expertly woven in with the action scenes. It impressed me that part of her journey is to discover who and what she is, but it’s done with no introspection.
There is a variety of character types as well, even among the protagonists. In Partials Marcus was forgettable, just ‘the heroine’s boyfriend’ but in Fragments he had the narrative without Kira for almost half the story. I heard about this before reading and was wary; I didn’t think Marcus could have such an interesting, fresh perspective, but he did. He does a very important, intimidating task, but with him Wells shows that you can be a strong protagonist without being reckless. When he comes up with his plan, it’s presumed that he’s being foolhardy ad throwing himself into danger with a vain hope. But he replies ‘Who am I – Kira? I’m not doing this alone, I’m going straight to the Senate.’ He then mobilizes the state to do what nobody has dared to before, and without needless danger. I think that’s such an inspiring message – the smart scientist-medic gets to be a hero at last!
I fell so in love with Samm during Fragments. He’s intrigued me in Partials but here we saw so much more of his personality. Wells also poignantly shows the strengths and weaknesses of the Partials, making them seem both more and less human. Here’s a spoiler, but you know it had to happen: Samm realizes nearing the end that he’s fallen in love with Kira. But he’s unable to express it, because Partials show emotion through the pheremonal Link Kira doesn’t have. The link is used instead of body language and tone of voice, so although Samm is a quick learner, it’s still tragically difficult for him to show the oblivious Kira his feelings. I felt like screaming, because Samm deserves her after all they’ve been through together. He’s loyal, kind, smart, soldiers on against impossible odds and defies the bounds of his genetically engineered nature to love her. The heartbreaking part is that *PARTIALS SPOILER* Partials can’t procreate, and Samm is designed to die from his expiration date in a year. *END SPOILER* He’s so noble and self-sacrificing – why must Dan Wells give me all these feels? One of the great things is that there’s just a hint of romance and it’s between characters that have been developed enough that you care for them. Even though I was waxing eloquent about Marcus earlier, maybe he can die a heroic death so Kira and Samm can be together. That’s how much I love Samm – I’m willing to commit or condone fictional murder so he can be happy. It’s going to be a nasty shock for Marcus when he finds out the truth about Kira anyway. Revelations like hers were unfurled with breathtaking finesse, to the point where I was left shaking my head in wonder at how Wells does it.
The quest has a blessedly clear aim – cure the expiration date and RM. I love the power balance; both Partials and humans desperate for a cure for their respective diseases and torn apart by war. Wells shows extraordinary expertise on things from war tactics to genetics to chemical poisoning. I was so afraid that one of those dull, protracted camping trips would happen, but thanks to the superior, witty, badass Heron and the alternating of perspectives between Kira’s quest and Marcus’ mission, momentum was never lost.
There is also a hint of black-and-grey morality, which Vale shows Kira is necessary for post-apocalyptic survival. She is trying to do amazing things, and learns that she has to make some sacrifices. There is lots of philosophizing, but it’s done so well that it enriches the plot instead of interfering with it. There are no stereotypically good or bad characters, and plenty of thought-provoking ones – like Heron. An espionage Partial model, she was literally designed to be better at everything, but that is a technical specification instead of a lazy Mary Sue and reminds us of just how expertly her DNA has been engineered, like when she says ‘I’m an espionage model, and we’re designed to beat everyone at everything.’ Partial society is divided into strict castes, according to their design specifications, and nobody disagrees because they know that that’s simply their design.
There are many poignant moments, like when Afa joins their group as the IT expert. He is a computer genius, but he lived in isolation for twelve years after the Break, believing himself to be the only human left in the world, and has halfway lost his mind. In a rare moment of lucidity, he says ‘I know what I am. I do my best.’ And it’s so heart-wrenching. Add to that the tale of how Marcus survived as a five-year-old when his parents, like everyone else’s, died from RM during the Break, making himself cereal every morning until the milk ran out and he had to venture out into the world alone to find someone, anyone to explain why his parents were dead, and it leads to an emotional and intensely thought-provoking read. 
There was a great authenticity to the world-building. The layers of mildew and rot in buildings after twelve years of disuse, the shattered glass in every window, the blown-up bridges, remnants of the Partial War.  And especially the lack of knowledge the Plague Babies – people like Kira, Marcus, Maddie and Xochi – who  were young children when the world ended and didn’t remember computers or the internet, things that are second nature to teenagers today.
I am giving this my very highest recommendation. It comes out in a week, and it (along with Partials) should be the first thing you buy. But beware, it has probably the most evil cliffhanger I've ever seen that's sure to lead to an action-packed third book.
It’s a well thought-out, thrilling, touching and far-reaching post-apocalyptic read, and it’s honestly amazing.
And now I can’t bring myself to read any other books because they can’t possibly live up to Fragments. Help me.
- Rose

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Quick Announcement

Just a very short post to say that A Very Potter Senior Year is here! I'm still working my way through A Very Potter Musical but I'm excited all the same. Have a look! It's on YouTube by Starkid.

And I will be publishing a long post this weekend, I promise.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Review of Department 19: Battle Lines - Will Hill


Department 19: Battle Lines - Will Hill

Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Publication Date: March 28th 2013 (3 weeks from now)
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 544
Genre: Thriller/Paranormal
Series: Department 19 (#3)
Rating: 5 STARS!
Official Synopsis:

It's always darkest before dawn.

Secret government unit Department 19 is recovering from evil vampire Valeri Rusmanov's deadly attack on their base. The Department’s newest member, teenage operator Jamie Carpenter, is tasked with training up a new squad, as his friends and colleagues desperately search for ways to try to stop what is coming.

The timing couldn’t be worse for a coordinated, global attack on a number of maximum security prisons and hospitals—with the already-dangerous inmates now on the loose and turned into vampires. One of the escapees has a deep connection to one of the darkest moments in the history of Department 19 and embarks on a quest that threatens to expose the existence of vampires to the public. And with each day that passes, the regenerated Dracula gets stronger, bringing Zero Hour closer.

In this third instalment of the epic Department 19 series, Will Hill delivers higher—and sharper—stakes than ever before.

In short:
This book was honestly absolutely amazing. Towards the end especially, it epitomises 'thriller' beautifully.

*NO SPOILERS*

The Breakdown:
Battle Lines (#3 in Will Hill's Department 19 series) is set in a world where Dracula, vampires in general and Frankenstein are real. Department 19 is a clandestine government department dealing with supernatural threats, and it is AMAZING. One great thing about the third book is that it explains everything, subtly, so that if you can't read the first and second books you'll understand OK, but that if you have you don't get bored by CONSTANT REPETITION. *Sweet Valley High, you did it wrong. Inheritance Cycle, you did it right.* Just saying.

I loved the characters in this book. Loved. Jamie Carpenter is an excellent character to have as the hero. I mean, look at his personality! This is the kind of thing high-calibre YA is made of! Teenage, Highly talented, temper....And he has flaws! Flaws are so important! Where would Hermione be without her bossiness? Would the Hunger Games even exist if not for Katniss' rashness? So yeah, I adored Jamie, especially his gradually more grown-up attitude towards Morton.

THE MORTON SITUATION. Yes. I felt like kicking John Morton as events unfolded. At first I thought it would just be a good way for Jamie to demonstrate his leadership skills, but no. Why, Will, why? The way it ended for Morton...well, can we just say that it really added drama? And tension? And a million other things that I'm afraid I cannot reveal for fear of spoilers?

Valentin. You will love Valentin's enigmatic character. I did, anyway. He is 'cheerful, arrogant, funny, and endlessly charming', according to the book, and well, that just about sums him up. Valentin is what vampires are supposed to be! Yes, he's charming/cheerful/funny (do I spot any similarities between him and a certain Skulduggery Pleasant?) but he MUST have that arrogance, to set it off. This is how it's done. Take note.                                                                                                                                     

I really admired the way drama was built in this novel. Without giving away too much information, there were plenty of incidences I could actually point it out. One of my favourites, the old conflict between duty and natural instincts for Larissa. By the way, Larissa is an epic character, let's find a moment of glory for her...oh yes, may I mention the gaping hole through her stomach that she didn't even notice? That's not really a spoiler. Come on. A quote that I thought was applied particularly well for her was 'contempt she has become all too used to'. Am I making you curious now? Because it's out in three weeks, and you're going to have to survive *curl up in a ball* *try not to cry* *cry a lot*.  I loved 'No one inside Blacklight was remotely confident of stopping Valentin' [if he tried to fight them]. It's a war, even if it's secret! You need that sense of helplessness, futility..which you then overcome, preferably with much ado and celebration. 

 Another dramatic line was 'Bob Allen feared Jamie Carpenter'. It doesn't really play a big part in the story so I feel safe to put it up. This is what I like about Will Hill's writing. It's succinct. clear and powerful. No use of silly purple prose (You know who I'm looking at here). This was an action-driven story and it's important that it remained that way.

I've heard - everywhere - that this series is aimed for boys, yada yada....but please! Break the trend! Yes, there are bloody moments, but they aren't arbitrary, not gratuitous moments of violence to appease those who like it. You should know that I despise it when authors don't stay faithful to the story line, instead bending it directly to suit established tropes. That is what reduces great books to average ones! Thankfully, Hill stayed away from this, and any gorey moments were saved for points where they were needed for the plot.

One of my favourite parts of this series is the secrecy. I love spy organisations - they're so versatile, and deadly. Hill utilises this brilliantly. The Loop is a fantastic setting, which would be great for a movie.

Read this book. Once I got a chapter in it took me by surprise and I loved it.









Oh and I know, I know. I am a terrible person for not posting in so long. Will you believe me if I tell you that I've been INCREDIBLY busy? The main thing has been my Mock exams (so glad they're over). We finally got our results back - I got 4 As, almost everything else B+ and one B, yay. 

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Until next time,
             Rose.