Saturday, 29 October 2016

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo
4 Stars
Verdict: Enjoyable if you don't overthink it.
#2 Rise and Rising
#3 Siege and Storm

Alina Starkov is a lonely orphan who lacks energy, until she releases a dormant power, one that could destroy the creatures that plague Ravka. She's torn from her best and only friend Mal and forced to learn the ways of the magically elite known as the Grisha.

Alina’s transformation is a beautiful thing to read. She sheds her uncomfortable cartographer self and grows into someone completely distinguishable.

There were some surprisingly girly parts in this, from appreciating clothes and magical makeovers, to gossiping and best friends. Only a touch, but enough for me to say I understand why the cover is purple.

I loved the way magic was used in this book, but I found there was a lot to learn and even more left unsaid. Why is sunlight so amazingly powerful? I never really knew until very late in the book. While I loved the Russian touch, I later discovered it wasn't particularly well researched... I guess it didn't actually matter while reading it, although it's a little disappointing to learn. Oh well.

I also found it played to a lot of the usual YA tropes, which is almost impossible to avoid with so many good books out there. It made it predictable in places, but it's still very enjoyable to read.

I'm torn between 5 stars and 4 stars... At the end of the day, I’m still in love with this book. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but if a magical, romantic fantasy with Russian influences takes your fancy, then you might be in for a treat with this one. 

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

5 Stars
Verdict: Beautiful. Brutal, but brilliant.
#2 - A Torch Against the Night

Laia is a slave, spying on behalf of the resistance in order to rescue her brother. Elias is a soldier, facing trials to become the next emperor in a broken kingdom.

I’d heard a lot about this book beforehand, but I never thought it could live up to the hype. Maybe that helped manage my expectations, as I absolutely loved it.

The writing style is beautiful, igniting imagery from sentence to sentence. It opens on a life-changing moment for Laia where her family is ripped apart, and the pace doesn’t let up after that. When the POV flipped to Elias, the reluctant solider set on escaping his villainous fate, I was hooked. Tahir managed to keep both Laia and Elias' perspectives taut at all times so that each chapter left me longing for the next.

The characters are likable, and so are the love interests, which makes room for a sticky love square. I have no idea who to back, but I can't wait to see how it unravels across the series.

The trials reminded me a lot of the triwizard tournament from you-know-where, except there's less puzzle to them and more emotional turmoil. One of the trials in particular will stay with me long after I finish this review. I didn’t think the writer would go there, but they did…It made me feel that anything could happen – even terrible things that I wish wouldn’t, but that’s what made it more exciting.

This book made me feel loss and sacrifice, hope and victory - so many feels. The brutal commandant made me fear for both the characters at all times. Sometimes I read books and think I could survive that terror, but not the commandant. Usually, books tend to build up a horrible character and they turn out to be redeeming in some way, but not the commandant.

It ends on a high, managing to both grant closure and entice me to read on. I can't wait to get hold of the sequel!

Source: Bought it.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Book Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

5 Stars 

Verdict: Endearing, funny, thoughtful.

I’ve already pestered my significant other and he enjoyed it too. It’s the type of book you just have to share with others to find out what they think of bits here and there. So much to think about, so many funny observations delivered in a way that made me smile throughout and almost cry in other places.

How does a seventeen year old end up in customs with an urn, thirteen grams of marijuana, and with half the world in awe of him? From the perplexing opening, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put this book down for long. I wanted to know how it all came together, how a teenager ended up in such a mess, and how on earth would he get out of it.

Alex’s logic is dry and simple, often creating humorous explanations that I just had to share with the nearest person. There was a moment when Alex’s mother has dragged him to Mr Peterson’s front door, and the scene is so perfect and funny I really wish it were true.

I liked the mix of misfit characters too. The alternative mum, Ellie the rebel, Mr Peterson the loner. Even Alex himself has been isolated from his peers through illness, and never quite sees eye to eye with them the way most kids just do. His perspectives almost felt like he had an adults mind, especially his enjoyment of learning, but other areas of his life are fairy naive which leave him a misfit it all worlds.

The book also deals with difficult topics in an honest but sensitive way, with the help of Alex's unbending logic. It left me with a lot to think about, long after I'd finished the last page. 

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Book Review: The Girl on the Train

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins
5 Stars
Verdict: More captivating than Gone Girl (controversial, I know!)

I like characters to be a bit messed up in the head. I need them to do things I wouldn’t dare to, and get caught up in avoidable messes. This is definitely one of those books.

Rachel. Pains me to even think of her. She’s miserable, living to regret, barely getting by. She’s completely hung up on her ex even though he’s clearly no good for her or anyone for that matter. Her life has hit rock bottom in the type of way that breaks both your ankles to stop you from getting back up.

She watches a house from the train, or more specifically a young couple living a life she isn’t ready to part with, and because she’s a self-destructive meddler, she gets herself involved in their troubles. This isn’t her story, but she makes herself a part of it against her better judgement.

There seems to be a lot of Gone Girl comparison, so I’m just going to say it: both my partner and I preferred The Girl on the Train. We found it more 'readable'. Not as shocking, but interesting earlier on, and enough twists to be commended on. Maybe it's because we live next to a train station, or maybe because I'm from Oxfordshire (although I don't think the author is because there isn't a station in Whitney)? No, that's not it. We just both absorbed the book like Jack Daniels in Rachel's gut.

There is a moment towards the end which had me cringing slightly. There's a traditional villain monologue, but at that point the book had already slotted into place and it needed to end quickly. Its not the best way to end a book, but it's certainly the quickest.

Anyway, I'll be off to see the film with friends this week. I've lent it to someone and they've almost finished it too. Three whole reads in under a week - poor book's already tatty!

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Book Review: Delirium

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
5 Stars
A dystopian romance with prose to die for.

Imagine a world where love is a disease, one that you’re cured of when you graduate. A disease you live with for years and years, watching others get cured before you, their lives boxed off into neat little ‘compatible’ categories. That’s what Lena is facing, and it all seems a normal-but-scary part of life, until she meets someone who shows her the truth about love.

Lena is fairly ordinary. She could be you or me. She’s skin for you wear while you read. I prefer characters with a bit more bite to them, but she grows throughout the book in a way that made me back her.

I liked how friendship and familiar love is just as strong a theme as the romantic side, and I found Lena’s friendship with Hana more intriguing than the romance. It was almost painful to read how the two grew up together and drifted apart, and I desperately wanted them to overcome their issues and become stronger than before.

I also loved the idea of The Book of Shhh, which is quoted in the story when explaining deliria nervosa. In fact, each chapter starts with snippets of various propaganda material, each interesting in their own right, layering the world-building with every chapter.

The overall plot is fairly predictable. Once you’ve read a few dytopians, you know how this will play out from start to finish. It reminded me of The Island, The Giver, even Divergence, and definitely We. The beauty of this book is not what happens, but how it makes you feel, and this one packs a punch to the heart in every sentence.

Some of the prose felt superfluous, slowing down the pace so that the author could show off her awesome imagery skills. I think some it could be shaved off, although I wouldn’t go as far as it say purple prose. Every line had a purpose, every word breathed life into the story. The imagery is exceptional, powerful and passionate as if the authoress was born to write this book. It just felt a long winded. Extended. Repeating the point. You get me?

I knew early on it would get five stars out of me. It’s a dystopian romance with prose to die for, and if you like the idea of the concept, you’ll probably fall in love with this book.

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review: The Fifth Wave

THE FIFTH WAVE by Rick Yancey
5 Stars
Verdict: Utterly immersive.

I picked up this book knowing it will be a rough ride, and so the opening didn’t disappoint. The concept isn’t actually original, but it pulled me in and kept my heart racing. I felt the setting immediately, and became immersed within a page.

The blurb is melodramatic, vague , and utterly gimmicky. This book is actually about a girl who has survived waves and waves of unnatural disasters, who needs to survive just that little bit longer to fulfil a promise to her brother, and a boy, who is being trained as a soldier to fight for humanity - a battle that already feels lost.

The characters are what make this novel exceptional. They’re broken, fighting for survival, and struggling with trust in a world ruined by the previous waves. Their whole lives are gutted out for us to see, mixing past and present to make us feel the weight of their personal baggage.

It’s the questions they asked which really kept me engaged throughout. I wasn’t really expecting the story to split off at different characters in different situations, but once I could figure out who was taking – which got easier throughout the book – it gave a rich sense of world building. This is one of those novels where I wasn’t counting the pages, but enjoying the ride, and disappearing inside the world and enjoying it from start to finish.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’ve seen the reviews and I’m not really too surprised they’re a little low. It’s not the story than makes this book epic, it’s the characters and the emotion embedded in the writing. It’s the reader’s imagination too, as a lot is left for pondering, wondering, imaging what would happen to you in this situation. That’s not always an easy thing to convey in a film. What is easy is the generic alien invasion action, and that’s not really the beauty of this book.

Source: Bought it myself!