Wednesday, 29 May 2013

UNREMEMBERED

Unremembered by Jessica Brody

A catastrophic plane crash leaves one survivor: a girl with no memory. Who is she? Where does she come from? Nobody knows and no one comes forward to claim her. Haunted by a looming threat she can't remember and plagued by abilities she doesn't understand, she struggles to recall who she is. But every clue leads to more questions. And she's running out of time to answer them. Her only hope is a boy who claims they were once in love. Alone and on the run, who should she trust? And what if she discovers that she is safer with a past that stays...unremembered?

I want to get this out of the way before we get started - you know what's a really difficult word to type? Unremembered. I know it's not a real word, which is probably why it just looks wrong, but it's driving me mad already. Just thought I'd share that with you. And now, onto my review...

Ohh, I was really enjoying this book. Seriously, I was starting to fall in love with it. And then they mentioned the word "laboratory."

See, I was so annoyed by this plot development that I figured out how to use GIFs on my blog.

See, I was sure the main character was some brainwashed cult member, and I was completely enamoured with that idea. It was a bit different and there were lots of places to go with it. Looking back, there was no evidence to suggest she was a brainwashed cult member. I think I read the words "survivor" and "plane crash" and thought about Chuck Palahniuk's novel Survivor. Which is about a cult member. And involves a plane crash. So, yeah, a few crossed wires there.

And it was a big disappointment for me. I feel like every other sci-fi book I pick up at the moment features something along these lines. I didn't even really realise this book was a sci-fi book. I was hoping for a psychological thriller. I'd say that therefore my lack of enjoyment of this book was my fault, I should have read a little bit more about it before buying it, but I don't think that's entirely fair.

The thing is, the writing went downhill after a while. Maybe I just didn't notice it at first, maybe there was an actual decline in quality, I don't know, but it became very predictable. And kind of dull. And a bit like every other half-assed sci-fi attempt I've read in the last few years. And the monologuing...seriously, the last few chapters are just monologuing. I wanted to cry because this book started out so well and, by the end, I was just so disappointed.

Also, just as a side note, I am sick to death of reading about crooked smiles. I bet over 90% of the population have crooked smiles and we don't even notice them.

So this book has not snagged a coveted spot on my all-time favourites list. And even though it annoyed me, I probably won't even remember it in a few weeks. It's completely unrememberable. And I can't believe I just said that.



Monday, 27 May 2013

THE 5TH WAVE

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave...

I didn't know an awful lot about this book before I read it. I knew a lot of people were talking about it, but the cover didn't really grab me, so I hadn't been all that interested. Then I spotted it in the supermarket and remembered that lots of people were raving about it and decided, spur of the moment, to buy a copy. This turned out to be both a good and a bad choice.

From the full text of the back cover blurb (I cut it down above because it was long and wordy and unwieldy), I was under the impression that the book was about Cassie, a sixteen-year-old survivor of an alien attack on Earth. There are few people left and she has to hide from them, since the aliens look just like human beings. Then she meets a boy and questions everything she knows about life and aliens and love and existence and all that kind of thing. And I really enjoyed these parts of the book. I liked Cassie, I liked her story and her chapters, and that last one is the snag.

I liked Cassie's chapters. There are other chapters, told from someone else's point of view. And I didn't like those at all. Not one bit. Now, this may be my utter hatred of reading about war rearing its ugly head again, but suffice it to say, I didn't like those chapters. Not only did I find them pretty dull, I didn't like the character narrating them, and, honestly, I don't think they were as well written as Cassie's chapters. I may be biased, perhaps I didn't notice slips in writing quality when I was too busy enjoying the story, but the other chapters seemed a bit flat and predictable for me. 

Overall, I liked this book, though I can't bring myself to say I loved it because of those other chapters. I would recommend it to other people, though, ones who don't feel like crying/screaming/throwing heavy objects when they realise they've been suckered into buying a book about war. And I have to admit that I intend to buy the second instalment when it's released, so it can't have been all that bad. I'm not sure it warrants the hype and some of the things people are saying about it, but I suppose each to their own. Maybe they enjoyed the war bits!



Thursday, 23 May 2013

DEAD EVER AFTER

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse has one last adventure in store. The question is, in the end: who will love, who will live, and who will be dead ever after?

You guys, I have really exciting news - I never have to read another Sookie Stackhouse book again! I really am very excited! For anyone wondering why I've continued to read a series that I honestly can't stand now, it's because I liked the first few and, because I was given the first eight as a set, I carried on reading. Then I kind of needed to know what happened, even though I hated the writing. Like, really hated it.

So, with that out of the way, let's talk a little about this last book. The last one. Ever. Sorry. This book managed to make me angry within the first eight pages, by telling me who Sam is. Sam is a character who has been in the books since the very first instalment. I don't need reminding who he is. I do not have brain damage. What I do need reminding of, however, is what happened in the last couple of books. That explanation did not appear. I mean, seriously, they're discussing people and events that I have literally no memory of, leaving me utterly lost, but Harris explains to me who Sam Merlotte is. I am not even kidding.

The really annoying thing about that - I'm not going to go into the story or anything else that was wrong with the writing, suffice it to say that it was not a good read - is that I discovered once I'd finished the book that my edition had a load of exclusive "interviews" with the author at the back of the book. These interviews turned out to be Charlaine Harris talking a little about each book in the series and recapping them. Why was this not at the front of the book? There were forty-seven pages dedicated to recapping the last twelve books. It even refers to them as "re-reading notes," so why were they at the back of the book? You read those and then dive into the last book. Which idiot decided it made sense to put it at the back of the book? That makes no sense!

And then there's the ending. I won't tell you who Sookie ends up with, let's just say that it was not what I wanted. What I wanted was for Sookie to decide she didn't need to end up with anybody, that she could be happy on her own and would be. That's what I wanted, though I knew it would never happen. As it is, she makes what I consider to be the obvious choice. At the beginning of the book, Harris states that she knew she could never make all her readers happy with the ending, so she just went with what she'd always planned. I can kind of respect that, even if I'm one of those unhappy readers. Honestly, I've read more hundreds of pages of this nonsense than I'd care to admit, so I doubt I would have been a happy reader no matter what the ending turned out to be.

So, all in all, if you're thinking about reading this series, I'd give it a miss and stick to the TV show (although the last series was dire). If you've read the others, I'm sure you'll read it anyway, regardless of my comments, because sometimes you just have to finish what you start. I will make one last comment, though, and it's an important one. Where was Eric? Eric is the one saving grace of these books and he was, for the most part, utterly absent. Which is just not okay.



Wednesday, 22 May 2013

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In a city filled with the dead and dying, while a nightmarish war rages halfway across the world, the grieving look for answers in photographs and seances. It's 1918. San Diego. And a girl who doesn't believe in spirits steps off the train and into a new life...

First off, I just want to say how beautiful this book is. The cover is great, the actual book under the dust jacket is surprisingly pretty and the design work carries on to the pages as well. It's a stunning book. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite as impressed with the story.

It's my own fault, really. I was drawn to this book because of the mention of spirit photographs and seances. I overlooked the mention of "a nightmarish war rages halfway across the world." If you visited this blog before, you might know that war bores me thoroughly. I do not like to read about it and I go out of my way to avoid books set in times of war. So I should have been more careful, because this book has more war stuff than anything else. The spirit photographs and the seances are really just the set dressing in this book about the war. If anything, the key story here is about shell-shocked soldiers, I think. The supernatural stuff is what interested me, though, and I wish there had been more of that.

That being said, I thought the writing was very good. This is Cat Winters debut novel and - as long as the description doesn't mention war - I'll happily read her next book. The writing is fresh and lively and, though I kind of felt that the main character Mary Shelley Black was the stereotypical over-correction to avoid a stereotypical character - I really hope that sentence makes sense in other people's heads - I did enjoy reading quite a lot of this book. It's just unfortunate that the all the war-related things left me cold.



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

THE NAME OF THE STAR / THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH


The Name of the Star and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Okay, so I was going to review these books separately, but everything I wanted to say seemed like a comparison of the two, so it made more sense to join them up like this. I really, really enjoyed these books. The Name of the Star, the first one, has a much stronger story but The Madness Underneath was more enjoyable overall. The story in The Madness Underneath sort of fizzled out halfway through, or rather never really got going properly, but I think Johnson is setting up the foundations for the story of the next book. The second book was more about the people, about Rory coming to terms with her new life and skills and figuring out where she wanted to go. It also has one of the most infuriating endings I've ever read. Seriously, I can't even begin to explain how much I need the third book right now.

The other thing that was very noticeable to me as a British reader, was how well Johnson nailed that aspect of it. Rory's just arrived in London for the very first time and is encountering British people. Normally when this happens, it's all tea and lah-di-da, but she created a very good depiction of British habits and speech tics and whatever else. I was really impressed, mostly because I'd been wary of this very thing when I picked up the book. This did slip a little in The Madness Underneath, where tea seemed to be mentioned on every other bloody page, but overall it was done very well. 

I don't have very much else to say because I'm wary of spoilers - believe me, I could gush about these books for hours - but go and read them. Immediately. And then come back so we can talk about them together. Oh! And also go follow Maureen on twitter, because she's awesome. I followed her for months before I finally got around to reading some of her books, and her writing is just as entertaining as her tweeting.



Friday, 10 May 2013

THE HOST

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

In the interests of total honesty, I did see the film before I got round to reading this book, which has been gathering dust on my bookshelf for years. In fact, it didn't even rate a place on the bookshelf, it was sitting in one of the towers on top of the bookcase. I didn't mind the film (I can't remember if I actually reviewed it or not, but I've got a feeling I didn't) but I spent a lot of time watching it and thinking 'this would work so much better as a book.' Well, I was partially right.

The communication/interaction/relationship between Melanie and Wanderer works a hell of a lot better in the book, because it doesn't rely on a naff voiceover for one of them and muttering to herself for the other. It didn't really work in the film, but in the book it does. It works well and it's a relatively interesting relationship, though similar to the one featured in Kat Zhang's What's Left of Me, a book I utterly loved.

I really hated most of this book. Seriously, I wanted to die every time I picked it up. It's just so long and boring. Seriously, they could torture people by reading it to them. It was terrible. It was dire. It's just so dull. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of nothing happening. Now, I've been told by people who read the book first that it's a lot mor exciting when you don't know what's going to happen, but I can't quite believe that. I can't see this book being in any way exciting, unless perhaps you were missing half your brain or something. It is dire.

I will concede there's a point, maybe 400 pages in, that it picks up for a while. Around the time the main character's brother is dying, I think it was. Even though that bit featured in the film, it was interesting. And then it got a bit dull towards the end, then picked up for a while, and then had a really stupid epilogue that made me want to rip the book in half. Sadly, I'm pathetically weak and the book remains intact. Maybe I didn't enjoy this book because I saw the film first. Maybe I didn't enjoy this book because it was similar to What's Left of Me but boring. Maybe I didn't enjoy this book because it was just plain awful, I don't know, but I didn't really like it. I probably wouldn't recommend it.

Hey, look at that, I made it all the way through the review without mentioning Twilight. Check me out.



Wednesday, 8 May 2013

THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Pat Peoples knows that life doesn't always go according to plan, but he's determined to get his back on track. After a stint in a psychiatric hospital, Pat is staying with his parents and trying to live according to his new philosophy: get fit, be nice and always look for the silver lining. Most importantly, Pat is determined to be reconciled with his wife Nikki. Pat's Parents just want to protect him so he can get back on his feet, but when Pat befriends the mysterious Tiffany, the secrets they've been keeping from him threaten to come out...

This book. I can't even describe it, really. I saw the film twice when it was in cinemas and loved it so much. The book is slightly different, the ending is completely different, but there are small differences throughout. That's to be expected, of course, there are always changes when a book becomes a film, and I can see why the changes were made. The thing is, I saw the film first and loved it, so the changes felt odd to me and so I ended up not loving the book as much as the film. I'm sure if I'd read the book first, it would have been the other way around, but I didn't. So it wasn't.

It really is a great book, though. Pretty much every chapter made me want to cry. Pat is just so sweet and lost, and I think knowing what was going to happen had an impact on how much the book upset me. I knew what was coming but he couldn't see it, and I just wanted to protect him from it. I've never really felt like that when reading before, like I needed to stop before something terrible happened to the characters.

The really big difference between the book and the film is Tiffany. Now, I love Jennifer Lawrence and I think she was excellent in this film - fully deserving of her Oscar for the role - but I can see why people were upset when she was cast. She's much too young to play the Tiffany of the book, who I believe was supposed to be around 35. I don't think her age was really important to the story in either format, but I can see why people who'd read the book baulked at the casting.

All that's left for me to say is read this book. Read it. Now. Not even kidding. Read it.



Monday, 6 May 2013

BY ANY OTHER NAME

By Any Other Name by Laura Jarratt

New girl, new school, new home, new life - everything about Holly is new. That's the point of witness protection; nobody knows the truth. But one wrong move will put her whole family in danger...

I didn't really like this book. I've been trying to work out why that was, because I was sold on the words "witness protection" alone. I think part of the problem was that the reason Holly was put in witness protection in the first place was completely ridiculous - some Russian mobsters kidnapped and almost killed her friend, the daughter of a Russian diplomat. I mean, what? That's so clich├ęd that I can't even get my head around it.

The next problem, the autistic sister, and I feel like that should be capitalised. There is no reason that I can see for Holly's sister to be autistic. It doesn't advance the plot, it doesn't add depth to Holly's character. In fact, it just comes across as preachy and annoying. And then there's a guy who had his legs blown off in Afghanistan. It's like these characters are simply there to reinforce the "don't stare, don't point" message we all got as kids. And it annoyed me. The book, or I guess the author, assumed I can't handle disabled people, whether physically or psychologically, and it really bothered me. There was no need for Holly's little sister to be autistic, it just seemed so false and awkward. It also seemed to me that the fact that Katie had to go to a special school because of her autism would have made the family a lot easier for the bad guys to find than it actually was. They hacked some girl's Facebook account when they could have just visited every town with a special school. What? No. Just no.

Something that surprised me, though didn't necessarily bother me, was that the book was set in the UK. Actually, no, it did kind of bother me, for the reason I stated above. I know witness protection schemes exist in the UK, but this country's a lot smaller than the US, where I assumed the book was set. Normally, I wouldn't doubt the ability to hide in the UK, but the autistic sister needed to attend a special school. There are only a handful of these schools in the UK (there may be more, but I only did about a minute's googling and my point still stands). There isn't one in every town. The bad guys knew about the autistic sister, it wouldn't have taken them long to scope out each one until they saw her and then follow her home. You could probably do it in a couple of weeks.

So, overall, you can probably tell that I was not a fan of this book. There was just too much that didn't add up or make sense to me, or was so ridiculous that I wanted to throw the book across the room. I can't see myself reading it again or recommending it to anyone else, but if you'd like to give it a try, you are welcome to my copy.



Thursday, 2 May 2013

MY SOUL TO TAKE

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

She doesn’t see dead people, but...She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

I wasn't really expecting to like this book, so why I actually bought it is kind of beyond me, but I surprised myself. I've hit a bit of a slump where paranormal is concerned, everything just seems a bit meh. At best. So I didn't think I was going to enjoy this one, and I did. It's a bit different, it's fast paced and it actually isn't reminiscient of Twilight in any way I could see, despite the claim on the front cover. 

Kaylee is a banshee, well, actually, she's a bean sidhe, and this was my only major problem with the book. It didn't matter how many times I was told that bean sidhe was pronounced like banshee, I didn't read it like that and it was incredibly jarring. I mean, what was wrong with using the word banshee? Would it have been in any way detrimental to the book? No. No, it would not. The other annoying thing about the whole bean sidhe thing? It was italicised. Every. Single. Time. And that infuriated me. Sure, the first few times, fine, but every single time? No, thank you. And if she'd just used the word banshee, there wouldn't have been any need for italics at all.

I mentioned in my quick review on Goodreads that I'd almost definitely be buying the second book in this series, but now I'm not so sure. The thing is, it works as a standalone book, and I can't really see how a second book would work. I mean, there is a lot of scope for a sequel, as Kaylee finds out more about being a banshee and the shadowy worlds that cross with ours, but how many people can die in her small town before it becomes ridiculous and irritating? I think I might ask around about the second book and find out a bit more about it before I commit to buying it - something I never do - to save myself from any disappointment.  That being said, I'd definitely recommend this instalment to fans of paranormal YA.



Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Unauthorised Absence

So, I've been a little quiet on the blogging front for the last couple of weeks. I've been busy with work stuff and reading and life - there was a wedding (not mine) and a basketball play-off final (which my team won. I didn't play, just to be utterly clear). And I'm probably not going to be around much this month either, but instead I'll be over at http://flash-31.blogspot.co.uk/

Last year, a group of us wrote a flashfiction every day for a month, using paint colour names as prompts. This year, we're doing the same thing but with song titles. The first few flashfictions are already up, so you should definitely go check it out, and that's where I'll be for the next month, although I've got some book reviews scheduled to go up here over the next couple of weeks.