Sunday, 27 October 2013

ALLEGIANT

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

So, this week I read the highly-anticipated final instalment in Veronica Roth's Divergent series. Now, I wasn't planning to review it on the blog because I'm sure people are either interested in the book and have therefore either read it or are avoiding spoilers, or not remotely interested and unlikely to read this. But then I found I had a few things to say about it, so this will be a brief review. Also, one of the points is spoiler-y (I haven't actually given away the ending, but if I'd read what I've written before reading the book, I'd be pissed) so I've coloured it white to be hidden against the background. Just highlight it with your cursor if you want to read it.

So, without further rambling...

1. Is it just me or did the journal entries feel a lot like filler?

2. Is it just me or is Four a lot less hotter now that he's called Tobias?

3. Is it just me or do Tris and Four's sections sound exactly the same?

4. Is it just me or was it really obvious what was going to happen from the moment a second narrator was introduced? I mean, I guessed the outcome months ago, when I heard that parts of the story were going to be told from Four's perspective. It was an interesting move, but I was expecting all along, so it didn't have much impact on me.

5. Is it just me or should the epilogue just have been cut?

6. Is it just me or was it actually just kind of boring?

Bonus - Was anyone else super annoyed about it only being released in hardback when the first two were only released in paperback, or was that just me?



Wednesday, 23 October 2013

THE PROGRAM

The Program by Suzanne Young

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This book got off to a really slow start for me. We know Sloane's going to end up in The Program - if she doesn't, there's no book. Well, maybe there's a book, but it's not called The Program - but this doesn't happen for 120 pages. Now, I know that a lot of stuff revealed in those 120 pages is important to the plot later on, but come on. That's just too long to wait for the inciting incident.

After that, however, it picked up considerably. The section where Sloane's in The Program was my favourite. I even cried at certain points. The only problem I had with it is that the way in which The Program removes the memories seemed really implausible to me. It just seemed ridiculous, but luckily I was distracted by everything else that was going on and so after my initial reaction of huh, well, that's stupid, I just sort of went along with it all. 

But then Sloane got out of The Program and had to try and reintegrate back into ordinary life. I was really grateful for that, since the slow beginning had convinced me that this was going to be the first book in a trilogy with no real story, just set-up for the next instalments, but then I started to get a bit annoyed with it. The problem is that I, as the reader, know exactly what's going on, and it was kind of boring to watch Sloane try and figure it out. 

But then I got to the epilogue. Now, I hate epilogues. I am of the opinion that there is never a need for one, that they're pointless and annoying and really just shouldn't exist. The epilogue here works. Really works. In fact, it saved the ending of the book. I was so irritated and frustrated by the turn the book had taken in the last chapter or so, but then I read the epilogue and all was forgiven. It really is a great example of how epilogues should be used and how to do them properly. So kudos to Suzanne Young for that.

Overall, I liked more of the book than I didn't, although my review doesn't seem to reflect that. I was wrapped up in the story despite the numerous issues I had with it, and, for a while at least, I was really rooting for Sloane. In fact, my only big issue here is that I've just discovered there's a sequel. And reading the synopsis on Goodreads, it seems I may have completely misunderstood the epilogue. And now I'm annoyed. And confused. And thinking that it sounds quite a bit like Scott Westerfeld's Pretties. So I'll be interested to see how that works out.



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

17 & GONE

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Oooh, I loved this book. It wasn't perfect, but it came pretty damn close - a hell of a lot closer than Suma's previous book, Imaginary Girls, did. It's a difficult one to talk about without spoilers, though, so I'll probably need to keep this quite brief.

Lauren is an ordinary teenage girl until she is drawn to a missing poster on a telephone pole. After that, she starts to see the girl from it, Abby, everywhere. And then she starts to see other girls who have gone missing, all of them aged seventeen. As she herself is seventeen, she worries that this means she's going to disappear, too, unless she can help the girls she is seeing.

It has an ending. Quite a good ending, in fact. In her last book, Suma's characters did all kinds of impossible things without an explanation. In this one, however, Lauren does impossible things and by the end, there's an explanation for it. Which was nice. Reading the two books back-to-back means that comparing them is unavoidable, so I'll just say that the writing here is just as stunning as in Imaginary Girls, the characters and the storyline are interesting and engaging, and there's an actual, proper ending. I would highly recommend this book. To everyone. Seriously, go buy it.



Monday, 21 October 2013

IMAGINARY GIRLS

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be contained or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby. But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has deeply hidden away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

This book started off really well, but gradually became disappointing. The writing is beautiful, the characters and the plot are really interesting, and I was completely wrapped up in it until I realised that no explanation for any of it was on its way. 

The title meant that, from pretty much the first page, I was convinced that Ruby was imaginary, that Chloe was suffering from a kind of Tyler Durden thing, in which she was really doing all the things that she gave Ruby credit for. I'm pretty sure that isn't what happened. I can't say for certain, because I have literally no idea what did happen, but I'm fairly certain Ruby was real. I mean, other people could see her and talked about her, but then Chloe wasn't exactly the most reliable of narrators.

I enjoyed the story, sure, I was really into it, but the ending was completely unsatisfying. I don't mind ambiguous endings, often they're my favourite kind (although no examples come to mind), but here it just didn't work. There was all sorts of impossible things happening, but then the story just ended with no ending or resolution. And I needed something more. 



Friday, 11 October 2013

UNSPOKEN

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met - a boy the rest of the world is convinced is imaginary. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she doesn't complain. She runs the school newspaper and keeps to herself for the most part - until disturbing events begin to happen. There has been screaming in the woods and the dark, abandoned manor on the hill overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. As Kami starts to investigate for the paper, she finds out that the town she has loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets- and a murderer- and the key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy who everyone thought was imaginary may be real...and he may be dangerous.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This book was a big surprise to me. I'd read a lot of good things about it online, and I'd been really keen on it until I saw that hideous UK cover (more on that later), so I kind of expected to hate it when I finally got around to reading it. I really, really liked it. There was a patch in the middle where I started to get bored, which I think is more down to the fact that I read that section while tired and grumpy than some issue with the actual book, but overall it was really good.

Kami is a great character. She's funny and bright and she knows how to take care of herself. Honestly, if I had to compare her to another character, I'd say she's a little bit like Buffy Summers, and that's a great compliment. The other characters are, for the most part, well-written and interesting too. I think Angela was definitely my favourite, and I quite liked Kami's parents as well, partly just because they were around. It was nice to see a character with living and only minorly dysfunctional adults. In fact, the only characters I was unimpressed by were the Lynburns, who seemed quite stereotypical to me. I can't say much more about that without giving away aspects of the plot, but they didn't seem particularly original to me.

There were a couple of little niggles for me, though, such as the fact that Sorry-in-the-Vale didn't strike me as being very authentically British. This is something that constantly irritates me about books set in the UK that aren't written by UK-based authors, and I found it noticeable here. Another little annoyance was the presence of a character - a throwaway character, but a character nonetheless - named Jocelyn Fairchild. Like Clary's mother in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. The author who is quoted on the front of the book. And who is, or so I am led to believe by the internet, a good friend of Sarah Rees Brennan. That bugged me. I'm already deeply suspicious of cover quotes when I know the authors are friends, but reading that name in the book made me wonder if Cassandra Clare had actually read the book before writing a nice quote about it.

Now, the cover. That hideous, hideous cover. I've blogged about this specifically before, about how this UK edition is foul, particularly when you compare it to the very nice US one, but I got a nice surprise when I was reading the acknowledgments at the end of the book. "Thank you for my cover, the most beautiful cover in the world (sorry, all other covers, you tried, but it just wasn't enough)...Thank you to Beth White, artist extremely extraordinaire, for creating it: I love it more than I can say." Which is all very nice, except Beth White did not design to cover on the front of this book. Somebody called Nick Stearn did. There is a whole paragraph dedicated to the beautiful US cover, which amused me very much.



Thursday, 10 October 2013

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Stressed single mother and law partner Kate is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a telephone call to say that her teenaged daughter Amelia has been suspended from her exclusive Brooklyn prep school for cheating on an exam. Torn between her head and her heart, she eventually arrives at St Grace's over an hour late, to be greeted by sirens wailing and ambulance lights blazing. Her daughter has jumped off the roof of the school, apparently in shame of being caught. A grieving Kate can't accept that her daughter would kill herself: it was just the two of them and Amelia would never leave her alone like this. And so begins an investigation which takes her deep into Amelia's private world, into her journals, her email account and into the mind of a troubled young girl. Then Kate receives an anonymous text saying simply: AMELIA DIDN'T JUMP. Is someone playing with her or has she been right all along?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I really, really liked this book. That's not something I get to say very often, especially about a book that I was greatly looking forward to. I think part of the reason I wasn't disappointed here is that I actually found it quite difficult to get into at first. It's quite slow to start, especially given the dramatic action that kickstarts the story, and I was worried that I'd signed up for a long, difficult read.

And then a few chapters in, I was completely engrossed. The story flits between Amelia in the days leading up to her death, and Kate in the weeks following it. This builds to dramatic conclusions in both cases, and the tension in the final quarter of the book is almost intolerable. I stayed up very late, determined to finish it before I went to bed because I just had to know what happened.

Amelia's sections of the story were, to me at least, quite reminiscent of the Gossip Girl TV series - teenagers attending an elite prep school, and all the bitching and backstabbing and sheer brutality that goes on there. I'm a big Gossip Girl fan and so I loved these sections, but I felt they were nicely off-set by Kate's chapters, which had a much more serious tone. Their relationship is what ties it all together, though, and I couldn't help comparing it to my relationship with my own mother. The whole idea of how much does she really know about you was compelling, and to see both sides of that was really unusual. 

There were, of course, parts that I didn't get along with so well, in particular the way in which Amelia's death was investigated, both by the police and then by Kate. Not being an expert in forensic investigation or anything technological, there were multiple times when I doubted what I was being told. Perhaps somebody could download all the emails and texts that Amelia ever sent in her entire lifetime and print them out, without access to any of her passwords, but it seemed unlikely to me. The speed at which things happened didn't seem right to me either. Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. I would highly recommend it, although I would make sure to add a warning about powering through the slow start - it gets really good, honest.



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

SOULMATES

Soulmates by Holly Bourne

Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect matches for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love…thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

The concept of this book really interested me. I'll be honest, I wouldn't usually be drawn to a book with a heart and the word 'soulmates' on it, that's just not my kind of thing at all. Truthfully, I'm not big on romance. So the idea of soulmates meeting being a catastrophic thing was intriguing.

Sadly, that's not really what this book is about. Sure, it comes into play eventually, maybe in the last fifth of the book? Mostly, though, this book is about the cringe-inducing relationship between Poppy, a hardworking and studious Good Girl, and Noah, the brooding guy in a band. Poppy doesn't believe in love or soulmates, she laughs at her friends who have boyfriends and has decided she won't even look at a guy until she turns nineteen, but then she falls head over heels in love with the brooding guy from a band. It was even more hideous and cliched than it sounds.

Interspersed with all the boring falling-in-love stuff, there are these annoying chapters that break the flow of the narrative to show scientists sitting in a lab and getting all worked up about Poppy and Noah meeting and falling in love and Endangering The World. I hated these bits as much as the love story bits. The thing is, it seems as though the author wants to build tension and suspense about what's going on in this shady government laboratory, but anyone who's read the blurb knows exactly what's happening, so why bother? I know the author probably had no say in what the blurb says, but it just defeats the purpose of all these sections.

I have mixed feelings about the ending. I won't say what happens, although there are really only two ways it can go, and I'm not sure which one I wanted. I think part of the problem was that, by the time I'd trawled through five hundred pages to reach the ending, I really didn't care what happened. It's such a shame, too, because the premise of this book really interested me, but it just wasn't the book it claimed to be. It was a love story with some poorly constructed additional bits lobbed in for good measure. And that's not what I wanted to read.