27 Feb 2011

0.4 - MIKE LANCASTER

SUMMARY
One day Kyle Straker volunteers to be hypnotised by his friend at the annual talent show. When he wakes up the whole town is frozen, even thought time is still moving. Kyle needs to find out what is happening to his friends, family, and the rest of the entire town.

REVIEW
I don't really have a whole lot to say about this book. It left me feeling underwhelmed but not disappointed to the point where I didn't enjoy it. I felt that it completely underrated itself and could have benefited from being longer and more in-depth.

There is a lot of YA dystopian fiction out there at the moment and this book is perched in the middle. Not bad but... average. I loved the set up; I loved that it is recorded through audio tapes and has notes where (mainly) fictional critics have tried to analyse our present, such as figures of popular culture that have since become redundant. It's actually a great way in introduce younger readers (and older alike) to the way that critics write in journals. These sections also bring humour to a book that should really be rather terrifying and i think it's this that lowers the reading level from YA to teen. The writing itself also felt rather more fragmented than it needed to be.

There isn't really much to it; I know it's supposed to 304 pages, but most of that is blank space if I'm honest. Still, in terms of plot it is certainly worth reading. I would say that it will excite younger teen readers who love aliens and computers and just generally being weirded out, I think they can gain a lot of reading experience from it. I just feel a little bit spoiled from The Hunger Games.

THE HUNGER GAMES - SUZANNE COLLINS

SUMMARY
The Hunger Games are a reality TV show put on by the Capitol to remind the 12 districts that surround it that they are in charge. Each district enters 1 boy and 1 girl, randomly chosen from name entries in big balls. And only person can win the games, meaning that all the other contestants have to die. Katniss's sister, Prim, is initally picked for the games but Katniss voluteers to take her place.

REVIEW
This book absolutely blew me away. Katniss is an amazing character, complex, clever, honest, humble and most importantly of all, she's relentlessly tough. I wish I had her knowledge. Through her character Collins highlights everything that the majority of Western humanity has forgotten about how we used to live. Katniss knows how to hunt, cook, find water, heal - everything that we used to know about survival. She crosses this instinctive knowledge with the fake flamboyancy of reality TV. 

This book had something happening all the time and is a fantastic page-turner. From the opening stages of the games where Katniss and her 'tribute' parter Peeta Mallark are introduced properly to the public, through to the games themselves. I had no idea, couldn't even guess, how the games were going to play out, and I'm willing to bet that no-one could guess at the entire plot. I didn't ever want to stop reading, to the point when I skipped desert at a meal so I could get home quicker to read...

Collins has a lot to say about humanity about what we'll watch for entertainment and about the extremes of our societies and a lot of that message is actually built and explored through the events of the book and I don't want to give too much away (although if anyone wants to email me I'm more than happy to chat about it!). There is a kind of love story but no sex, and even the violence isn't too much for a book that is essentially about death. It's more about psychological constructs, about how it is both our nature and nurture that make us who we are, but also what we know and what we experience. It explores compassion, bravery, trust and need. 

This is just amazing, and really sets the bar for YA fiction. I have no doubt that this book will become a children's classic, and so it should. And for anyone who is looking for a way to reading YA from adult that doesn't feel hopelessly mindless, this is your in. Read it, enjoy it, love it. Everyone. Please!

18 Feb 2011

THE CURSED ONES - NANCY HOLDER & DEBBIE VIGUIE

SUMMARY
The Cursed Ones, or vampires, have made their presence known to mankind. They promised to help bring peace to the world but then declared war on humanity. The identity of their leader is unknown. Most people are too afraid or unwillingly to take a stand against them. Others, like eighteen-year-old Jenn Leitner, train secretly to become vampire fighters and risk everything in the process. Alongside her is fellow Hunter, Antonio de la Cruz. But Antonio has a secret - he is a vampire fighting on the side of humanity. Jenn must battle with her hatred of all things vampire, and her love for Antonio. For together only they can bring light into the darkness the vampires have drawn over the face of the planet...

REVIEW
The main gist of this story (which will be drummed into you head by the time you've finished) is that an academy in Spain trains people to become hunters to try to rid the world of its overpopulation of vampires. The main team, mentored by Father Juan the priest consists of Jamie, northern-irish military man, hell-bent on destroying everyone in his way. Eriko, the Japanese Buddhist who is the leader of the team. Sky, the English White Witch that can do magick. Holgar, the Dutch werewolf who sometimes attacks people by scratching and biting them. Antonio, the vampire in the team that is impervious to crosses, garlic, churches and all other things that are supposed to upset vampires, and the love of his life, Jenn, the normal American girl who's parents aren't too happy about her being in Spain, and who's Grandparents used to be part of a resistance.

9 Feb 2011

ENTANGLED - CAT CLARKE

SUMMARY
The same questions whirl round and round in my head: What does he want from me? How could I have let this happen? AM I GOING TO DIE? 17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got there. As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see? Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here? A story of dangerous secrets, intense friendships and electrifying attraction.

REVIEW
Summing this book up without giving too much away is actually pretty difficult. As the blurb says, the book starts with Grace waking up in a completely white room with nothing to do but write with the pens and paper that have been provided for her. She is looked after and watched over by Ethan, who's only real part in the narrative is to spur Grace on to continue her story, which switches between her time in the room and the events leading up to it. There are two other main characters, Sal - her best friend, and Nat, who becomes her boyfriend. It's also a story of how easy it is to become 'entangled' in other people's lives, sometimes without even realising.

I really didn't want to like this book. When I started reading it I hated Grace, she was the kind of girl that I would have avoided like the plague at school - she's an underage drinker who sleeps with anything that moves. But thinking back, that isn't fair to her. I found myself finding things that I liked about her, she's fiercely loyal to her best friend Sal, and she uses falling in love as a reason to start her life over. And I think this is what makes me like the book so much - I took her to heart, and actually wanted to protect her from herself. I can hear you all saying 'she's just a character!' but you can see her downfall coming before she does, and it's heartbreaking. To the point where I was going to cry whilst reading the end on the train.

7 Feb 2011

SOULLESS - GAIL CARRIGER

SUMMARY
Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Or will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

REVIEW
I absoluely ADORED this book. Think of Jane Austen; her wit, her characters and settings, and add in the freedom of a 21st century writer, vampires, werewolves and a host of other species, and what you'll have is the Parasol Protectorate series. The characters are happily flawed, especially Alexia Tarabotti herself, who's half Italian tan skin 'pales' in comparison to the fair Victorian trend.

This is the first Steampunk novel that I've ever read, but to be honest there wasn't that many Steampunk elements. There were, of course, some fantastic machines, like the one that can make a you a cup of tea while you're happily rolling along in your carriage. It's rather a travesty that modern cars can't do this yet. Having said this, it's only the first in the series and I fully expect to see the machinery to grow. 

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