Wednesday, 17 April 2013

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away. Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she's due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone. Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her- and more if she'll let him. But who can she trust amidst secrets and lies? A killer is out there - and Amy has nowhere to hide...

This book and I did not get along. I'd seen such positive reviews of it, and so many of them. To date, I don't think I've seen a negative review, I've seen nothing less than glowing commendations. That should have been my first warning, rarely do I enjoy a book with such universal adoration, and I didn't make an exception here. 

I found it slow and boring and predictable. There were a couple of things that I didn't guess, but by that point I was so desperate to reach the end and never have to open the book again that I simply didn't care. The idea behind the book intrigued me, a teenager frozen on a spaceship is woken up too early and knows the person who tried to kill her is on board somewhere. How could that story be anything less than gripping? I'm not sure exactly what happened, it should have been great.

Part of the problem for me was that I hated every single one of the characters. Actually, that's not strictly true, I didn't hate Harley. He was so much of a stereotype, though, that I couldn't bring myself to upgrade him from disliking to simply not-liking-very-much. And as for Amy and Elder, the two main characters...well, I have a confession to make - I'm a moaner. I moan and bitch and whine about things constantly, even things that don't irritate me all that much. However, it's not something I can tolerate in other people. Amy and Elder complain constantly. Endlessly. And it drove me crazy.

So I think it's safe to say I didn't like this book and won't be recommending it to anyone I know, but if you're interested in reading it, I wouldn't base your opinion solely on this review (not that you would anyway, there's just no non-big-headed way to phrase that). There are hundreds, literally hundreds of reviews out there praising this book and the other two instalments in the trilogy. I just can't see what it is that they love about it so much.

The cover's pretty nifty, though.



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN

I learnt five things while watching this film.

1 - The secret service are pretty useless overall.

2 - Taking control of the White House is actually not that hard.

3 - Wearing a pair of glasses will completely befuddle the facial recognition software used by the Americans.

4 - You look a lot more terrorist-y if you take those glasses off. It's a tough decision to make, do you want to go unnoticed or look scary?

5 - He may be awesome, but you shouldn't always listen to Morgan Freeman. I'm sorry to shatter that illusion for you, but he can be wrong.

Now, I know that list makes it sound like I thought this film was pretty lame, but, actually, I thought it was really good. It's a great action movie. Honestly, it's very impressive. Before seeing it, I'd heard it described as "Die Hard in the White House." I had my doubts. I love the Die Hard movies and I seriously doubted this would stand up beside them. The fifth one excluded, obviously.

But I was pleasantly surprised. I very much enjoyed this film. I mean, sure, the CGI is pretty bad and if you think about the plot for more than thirty seconds it all falls apart in your hands, but so what? It's entertaining, it's gripping, and there was a point in the film when I realised I honestly wasn't sure how it was going to end up. It wasn't a very long point, but it was there, and that's what's important. The acting is solid and the casting very good, the story wasn't hard to follow though if you stepped out to use the toilets then you might well miss something important, and it has the comedic moments that real drama needs.

Overall, it's a really good film and I'm quite looking forward the Channing Tatum version when that comes out (I kid you not, there is a basically identical movie due out soon entitled White House Down) though I don't really see how they could improve on this one. The only thing I feel I have to point out is why is Morgan Freeman at the centre of the poster? Seriously, of the three actors on it, he is the last one you'd put in the middle. No offence to Mr Freeman, obviously.



Wednesday, 10 April 2013

SHARP OBJECTS / DARK PLACES


 Sharp Objects and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

So, I'm doubling up on my reviews here, partly because I was too lazy to actually write two reviews, but mostly because I didn't actually have a whole lot to say about either one of these books. In fact, I said quite a lot of it in my piece about crime fiction, which I posted some time last week. You can read that here. What I'd like to add to that piece is that I correctly identified the killer in Sharp Objects and even knew where the teeth were hidden. It was just stunningly obvious and I can't believe any reader wouldn't spot it a mile away. As for Dark Places, nobody in their right mind could have guessed that ending, but it isn't a good thing. In my opinion, the ending was a mess. A real mess.

What really stuck with me about these books, though, is Flynn's obvious interest in words. In Sharp Objects, Camille, the main character, carves words into her flesh. You know, as you do. But the strange thing is the words that she picks. They are the perfect words. (You'll either agree with me here or think I'm a nutter, but just remember - I have never carved anything into my skin. I sometimes just like to trace words out on the sofa when I hear them on the TV and things like that.) Anyway, she picks words like wicked, nasty, tangle, cupcake, petticoat, queasy, tragic, inarticulate, punish, catfight, little. I don't know why these words have such resonance with me, but they do. I can't say I really "get" the whole cutting them into your skin thing, but if you were going to carve any words, it would be these ones. Flynn has just picked the perfect words. I'm going to move on now so you can all stop looking at me like that.

From Dark Places, there was an interesting thought regarding naming which stuck with me as well. I'm going to type it out for you here. Again, you'll either have the same feelings towards it that I do or think I'm crazy. I don't mind which. There's something disturbing about not even bothering with a name. Whenever I see news stories about children who were killed by their parents, I think: But how could it be? They cared enough to give this kid a name, they had a moment - at least one moment - when they sifted through all the possibilities and picked one specific name for their child, decided what they would call their baby? How could you kill something you cared enough to name? 

Since I'm supposed to be reviewing these books, I probably ought to say something more than just "look! Look at these quotes I've picked out!" Despite guessing the outcome ridiculously early, I did quite enjoy Sharp Objects. There was enough going on that I was engaged, though this may have been solely down to me becoming obsessed with the words the character was obsessed with. Dark Places, not so much. It got off to a good start, when a character says on page five "that mean old bitch across the street bit it," I'm pretty sure I'm going to like that book. My main issue, I think, (other than the ending which I won't dignify by talking about) was the way it jumped about. The chapters alternate between Libby in the present day, and other family members on the day of the murders. The thing is, when I was reading the present day stuff, I was bored and wishing we could get back to the murders. When I was reading about the day of the murders, I was bored and wishing we could skip back to the present day. I don't really know why that was, but I just couldn't get into this book at all. It lost me around the fourth or fifth chapter, I'd guess, and never won me back again. I probably wouldn't recommend it, but I would recommend Sharp Objects. You know, as long as you don't mind knowing the ending 300 pages before the characters do.



Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Problem With Crime Novels

So, I'm currently reading Sharp Objects, the debut novel of Gillian Flynn, who wrote the smash hit Gone Girl. I've been thinking quite a lot recently about crime novels, since I'm attempting to write one, because I actually don't read very many of them. I'm not a huge fan of them, although I watch quite a lot of crime dramas on the TV. I've been trying to nail down exactly what it is about crime novels that I don't really like, and I think I've finally done it.

You see, I like to guess who the murderer is. I don't really think about it, my brain just suddenly taps me on the shoulder and goes "it's that character." I know who I think the murderer is in Sharp Objects, I'm utterly convinced of his/her guilt, even though I'm not even halfway through yet.

If I'm right, I'll be annoyed because the writer made it too obvious.

If I'm wrong, I'll be annoyed because it was so obviously someone else all along that the whole thing is very unsatisfying and the reveal ends up ruining the book.

Regardless of what happens, the writer can't win. I'll never be completely happy about a crime novel, because I'll never be happy with the revelation of the villain. Now, I'm sure you can point me towards hundreds of books where you know who the villain is all along and it's not a whodunnit so it doesn't matter, but quite frankly, those books sound kind of dull to me. The intrigue is in the mystery. I am intrigued by Sharp Objects and dying to find out who the murderer is. Even though I know I won't be happy about it.



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

WARM BODIES

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

'R' is a zombie. He has no name, no memories and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead. Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows - warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can't understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins. This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won't be changed without a fight...

I toyed with not actually reviewing this book at all because I didn't enjoy it at all, really. Now, I'm no stranger to negative reviews, but the problem here is that there wasn't anything wrong with the book - nothing I can point to about the story or the characters or the writing - I think maybe it just wasn't for me.

It may have something to do with the film adaptation that was released recently. I didn't actually see the film, though I wanted to, but I saw a lot of trailers and clips and interviews where Nicholas Hoult talked about it in detail. I think I had a vision of what this book was, and it turned out to be completely different. I'm not saying I would necessarily have enjoyed it any better if it had been the book I was expecting, but it would have been a very different read. 

Gotta love that cover, though.



Monday, 1 April 2013

BURN FOR BURN

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY...
THEY GET EVEN.

Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person– her ex-best friend– and she's ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she's not the same girl anymore. And she's ready to prove it to him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won't stop until they each had a taste.

Have you ever written a book on your to-read list and then, by the time it actually got released, picked it up and thought "why on earth did I want to read this book?" That's kind of what happened here. I dimly remembered what it was about, which was a win because I often forget what a book is about when I look at the list the next time, but after I bought it and took another look at the back cover, I was a bit concerned. It didn't really appeal to me at all, if I'm honest. So, basically, I did not really expect to like this book.

And I loved it.

Well, almost. There are a couple of little things that kept me just shy of loving it, but I did really, really like it. It's told in first person, but the chapters shift between Kat, Lillia and Mary, all of whom have completely different voices. It's quite subtle, too, I think, and would be a good book for anyone who wants to get a better idea of how to write different teenagers well. It's also really quite realistic, which came as a relief. The things that have happened to the girls are realistic, and, for the most part, so are the things that they do to get revenge. I just sort of fell into it and didn't want to crawl back out again once it was finished.

But, as always, there are a couple of negatives, the first being the ending. It just sort of stops. In a really stupid place. I need to know what happens next, but honestly, my first thought was along the lines of "I hope there isn't a sequel." Even though I really liked the book, I'm not sure there's scope for a sequel (let alone the trilogy I've since discovered this book is going to be a part of) and I'm afraid one would spoil this book for me.

The other issue, and it's a fairly major one, is the supernatural element. Have another look at the book description at the top of this review. Does it sound like this book should have a supernatural element? No, it doesn't. It did not belong in this book and it didn't make any sense to me. It really confused me. Mostly because it was a really half-assed attempt at anything, and it should have just been left alone. It reminded me of the first Mara Dyer book, where again I wasn't expecting anything supernatural. Except here, it confused me, whereas in Mara Dyer, it just flat-out pissed me off.

So, you have been warned. Part of me wishes I knew these things before I started reading, that way I would have known what to expect and they perhaps wouldn't have bothered me so much. I can't say that for sure, but I like to think it's true. This book was really, really good, it just suffered from a few odd little things that didn't need to be there. And I guess the same can be said of so many good books from over the years. I would still recommend this book to many of my friends, all of whom should be prepared to have me nag them about it until they give in and finally read it.