22 Aug 2011

MATCHED - ALLY CONDIE

SUMMARY
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...

REVIEW
Matched is an intense story about the power of freedoms. It boils down what we take for granted, like the use of words, or little mementos we keep. It asks us who we become when we have no history and no real memories - or even control over who we fall in love with. There are no personal freedoms in Cassia's society.

The story plays out between Xander, a boy that Cassia is official 'Match' with at her Matching ceremony, and Ky - the boy who's picture accidentally appears on the screen instead of Xander. What makes all of these characters so brilliant is their resilience; they are strong and push the narrative along by the slightest of actions, and the smallest of words. Cassia herself is a brilliant heroine and you really do see her develop from a youngster who follows everything the society says to a budding adult, questioning both her emotions and actions.

Dystopian fiction at its best, Matched is both thrilling and worrying. It shows what happens when we allow our freedoms to be taken away for the sake of an easy life, and how difficult it can be to regain that. Condie masters the art of language in this book. It is perfectly crafted and will make you think.

9 Aug 2011

FORBIDDEN - JANA OLIVER

THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE DEMON TRAPPERS SERIES AND MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF THE FIRST BOOK.

SUMMARY
Riley's beginning to think being a demon trapper isn't all it's cracked up to be. Her dad's been stolen by a necromancer, her boyfriend's gone all weird and she's getting warm and fuzzy feelings for someone who's seriously bad news. It's tempting to give it all up and try to be normal, but that's not an option. Because the demons have plans for Riley. And they're not the only ones.

REVIEW
Whenever I really enjoy a book that is part of a series I always pray that the rest will be as good. Forbidden does not let you down. This, the second book in the series has a bit of everything (apart really from much demon trapping, ironically). The plot moves quickly, changing narrators keeping it fresh and interesting, easily incorporating supernatural elements but making it simultaneously realistic.

Riley's love triangle (or square?) is completely one I would love to be a part of, except for mainly Simon, because I think he's a little boring, but in terms of message his viewpoint is necessarily incorporated. His struggle with the omniscience of God is both topical and important, in real life and in terms of the story. Ori and Beck on the other hand... they're the kinda guys I read teen books for. Both bad boys in their own ways, both unbelievably gorgeous (in my head, obviously). Ori develops as this smooth, perfect dream man, where as Beck is the damaged, straight-talking, angsty-type boy. Which would you go for? Only one will break your heart.

However, there are so many more important things that these books deal with than simply which is the hotter guy. For instance, its take on morality is so interesting. If you've ever read any of the House of Night series you'll know that its take on morality is so blindingly straight forward. Good is good, and Evil can be good if they beg and plead and promise to bring down those who tempted them to be evil in the first place. But the Demon Trappers series is brilliantly complex. Morality is so merged, so relentlessly intertwined, and so subjective.

5 Aug 2011

PARALNORMALCY - KIERSTEN WHITE

REVIEW
Sixteen-year-old Evie has always taken comfort in the fact that she is normal, even though her best friend is a mermaid and her ex-boyfriend is a lunatic -- and a faery. In a world where paranormals are monitored and controlled, Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency because of her unique ability to see through glamours. But someone -- or something -- starts killing vampires, werewolves and other paranormals, and Evie must figure out what's happening before they all disappear. Then a shapeshifter named Lend breaks into the agency, and Evie is irresistibly drawn to him, even though he makes her aware that the IPCA is not as noble as she once thought. With everything Evie believes suddenly called into question, the IPCA is attacked and she must choose who she can really trust. And when Evie discovers she's part of a faerie prophecy of death and destruction! so much for normal.

SUMMARY
Paranormalcy is the story of a girl who really just wants to be normal, but the fact that she can see through people's glamour makes her a prime tool of the government. Evie is hilarious, honestly. She may be the funniest character that I have read so far. I think that is one of the things that makes this book so good, whenever she is going through tough times she always uses humour to lighten the mood.

When Lend breaks in to the agency Evie's life is turned upside down - he represents what she would be if she ever considered herself a Paranormal: he's the same age and has the same confident and self-assured mindset, and, because he's a shapeshifter, sometimes literally becomes a mirror image of Evie, showing her how she would look leading his life. But Evie starts to realise that people who save you from the truth can be doing you a disservice, and she has reached the age where she wants all the facts so she can reach a decision as to who she is by herself.

What starts of as a very controlled life for Evie soon bleeds into Lend's chaotic life, and she soon realises that being 'normal' isn't always the best way of life. It's about what makes you happy. Paranormalcy is truely as story about growing up and taking the steps to become the person you want to be whilst learning to live with the person you really are. It's exciting, unpredictable and a really worthwhile read.

TEXAS GOTHIC - ROSEMARY CLEMENT-MOORE

SUMMARY
This is a spooky, electrifying love story. Amy Goodnight's family are far from normal. She comes from a long line of witches, and grew up surrounded by benevolent spirits and kitchen spells. All fairly harmless, but Amy can't wait to get to college and escape the 'family business'. But things take a darker turn when she and her sister Phin spend the summer looking after Aunt Hyacinth's ranch. Amy is visited by a midnight spectre who is clearly trying to send her a message. It seems that the discovery of an old grave on a neighbour's land has been the catalyst for an apparent ghost uprising. Aided by local friends and Ben, the handsome cowboy who just can't take his eyes off Amy, the sisters investigate. And they soon find that there's something strange and dangerous going on, deep in the heart of Texas...

REVIEW
Texas Gothic is the first book of this new trend of reviving the old 'southern Gothic' and I can't say I'm against it. The setting of the Texas hills is so exotic from me as I live in the centre of urban England so I was initially fascinated by that. The premise of the books itself is also pretty unique; it's like Charmed meets CSI and it works out pretty well.

While their Aunt is away Amy and Phin look after their Aunt's ranch. Their whole family are witches with individual powers, whilst Amy has subconciously rejected hers and becomes the family's 'liason', who keeps the outside world from truely believing that they do magic. Whilst at the ranch the neighbouring farm accidently uncover a skeleton whilst digging to build a new bridge. 

I don't want to give away too much more because the story is pretty intricate and yet easily unravelled so instead I'll tell you about the characters. Amy is really sweet; though young she is strong minded and sharp-tongued but still rather laid back compard to her older sister Phinn. Phinn studies the Paranormal at University and is in essence a Paranormal scientist. This is one of the reasons I was attracted to the book because I love the ideas of Spiritualism (although both Amy and Phinn actually know that ghosts exist because their Uncle is still haunting the Ranch). 

Texas Gothic is great fun: it's amusing, it's sweet and it shows how important family is, but also how dangerous family feuds can become. It's quick-paced and interesting, and you're never really sure where the plot is going to go next.

FORSAKEN - JANA OLIVER

SUMMARY
Riley has always wanted to be a Demon Trapper like her father, and she's already following in his footsteps as one of the best. But it's tough being the only girl in an all-guy world, especially when three of those guys start making her life more complicated: Simon, the angelic apprentice who has heaven on his side; Beck, the tough trapper who thinks he's God's gift, and Ori, the strikingly sexy stranger who keeps turning up to save her ass. One thing's for sure if she doesn't keep her wits about her there'll be hell to pay ...

REVIEW
For a long time I felt that YA Paranormal romance was becoming the same, repetitive sludge that I really wanted to avoid. And then I read Forsaken. I'd put off reading it for awhile because of the fear of being disappointed but I couldn't have been more wrong. From the first page I was hooked. Before I start my twinkly-eyed speech about Beck I'll tell you a little about the plot.

Riley is the daughter of Paul Blackthorne, Demon Trapper extraordinaire. When something happens to him out trapping one day, Riley is left to pick herself up and carry on her Trapper family name. Whilst fighting against a dystopian future that sees everything rationed and controlled by the Vatican (apparently the leading authority on the Devil and his minions) Riley finds out that not everything is what it seems within the Trapper circles. 

Jana Oliver is brilliant at scenery and character development, and please, let me come on to Beck! I love this bad boy, more than I loved Jace from the Mortal Instruments series, more than I love Sam from Shiver. He is a Southern hottie with a beautiful drawl, and even my Feminist side says he can call me 'girl' any time. He's an older man, mid-twenties, and probably too old for Riley, but oh so much more perfect than her fellow Trapper apprentice 'boyfriend'.

Anyway, with the fangirl-rant over, I can finally tell you that this is a series that I'm really excited about. I was devastated to finish this first book, especially as Ori doesn't really appear until the end and I can just tell he's going to give Beck a run for his money. I don't think many people would be disappointed with this series. Oh, and the demon's reminded me of the aliens from Men in Black.

LOOKING FOR ALASKA - JOHN GREEN

SUMMARY
First drink, first prank, first friend, first girl, last words! A poignant and moving novel about making friends and growing up. Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words -- and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, to seek what the dying poet Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska pulls Miles into her labyrinth and catapults him into the Great Perhaps. Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another.

REVIEW
I first picked up Looking For Alaska after being commanded to by someone at work, and actually I'm pretty glad I did. It didn't initially blow me away but it grew on me and as I got deeper and deeper into the story I desperately wanted to know what this main even was. The story is split into two halves; BEFORE and AFTER. You might guess what the event is before you get to it, but it won't make it less poignant.

The book centres around Miles, or 'Pudge', who is very much like Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He's a clever boy, not particularly a misfit but would rather have more intellegent friends than the people he knows at school, so he follows in his fathers footsteps and enrolls at Culver Creek school. There he meets his room mate, the Colonel, and Alaska, the beautiful, smart and mesmerising girl-on-campus.

What I loved most about this book is that it teaches you and makes you think, and for that I think it should be a staple book of any teenagers reading. At it's heart it is a philosophical exploration of friendship, grief and our place in the universe. Through school we are supposed to learn about how the world thinks, how religion builds who we are and how we deal with the inexplicable things in life. It's also about seizing the moment, and how you never really know who someone is without knowing the events that have built them.

Though this book may not change you life, I do believe it will give you a new perspective on things. Maybe even you will search for your own 'Great Perhaps' out there someday.
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