Month: May 2016

Book Review: Touching the Void

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Touching the Void by Joe Simpson – Paperback, 224 pages – Published January 27th 1998 by Vintage Books

At school a little while ago we looked at an extract from this book, and I decided I may as well read the rest of the book too.

If you don’t already know, Joe Simpson suffered a serious leg injury while climbing a previously unreached summit in the Peruvian Andes, 1985. His partner, Simon Yates, had a life-changing decision to make that would determine who would live and who would not.

Joe tells his story in excruciating detail, with snippets from his partner’s point of view, too. He uses a lot of technical language as would be expected, which can sometimes go straight over the reader’s head. He describes his emotions, his physical pain after the injury, and the setting that he found himself in.

Things go well at first, but during the descent there is serious trouble. Joe and Simon work together to lower Joe with his disformed leg, and it works for some time. But eventually, Simon has to decide whether to cut the rope or not.

After his first injury, Joe manages to survive an unbelievably long fall. But now he’s stuck in the crevasse, alone, with no hopes of returning to camp alive. Meanwhile, Simon is having to overcome his guilt and travel alone, with several frostbitten fingers and no food or water. The journey that both men must take is truly amazing and although you know the general outcome, you find yourself reading on and on to see what happens next.

Although it seems like a pretty short book, it took me slightly longer than expected to finish it. The technicalities meant nothing to me most of the time, making it slightly hard to visualise the scene in detail. But I was still able to appreciate the difficulties and obstacles that the climbers had to overcome, and I am amazed at how they did it.

The photos included throughout the book (below) were really helpful for scene-setting, and show how stunning the views were over the mountain range.

I don’t read biographies that often, so I knew it wouldn’t be my favourite book. But it was good, and if you like this sort of thing then I would definitely recommend it. 3.5 stars I think.

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Book Review: Pretties

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Pretties by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies #2) – Paperback, 368 pages – Published May 24th 2012 by Simon & Schuster

I just finished the sequel to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and was pleasantly surprised. I liked the first book, but it wasn’t quite different enough. This book includes tons of details, adding to the development of the plot and the hidden goings-on within the city.

After the last book, we know that Tally has given herself up to become pretty, even when she knows about the brain lesions that come with the operation. She joins a clique called the “Crims” along with Peris, Shay, Zane and Fausto, who share stories from back in their ugly days and perform tricks to stay “bubbly”. Croy from the Smoke, hidden by his costume, approaches Tally at a party. He bears a gift for her, but Special Circumstances arrives and ruins the plan. Instead, Tally is given a puzzle to complete, on the other side of which lies a note from her ugly self, as well as the cure to pretty-mindedness.

Zane and Tally go through a lot together, including taking the cure. They work with the other Crims to escape the city and pull through the haze that comes with being pretty. But one of Tally’s closest friends is creating her own little group in secret.

Although Tally feels no side-effects, Zane suffers excruciating headaches after taking the mysterious pill. Tally has to work as quick as she can to get Zane out of the city and to the Smoke.

Their breakout doesn’t go quite to plan, and Tally is separated from all her friends. She meets a new group of people, imprisoned within their own little “world” – an area of land only seven days across on foot. But how is she going to get out and find her friends?

Westerfeld captures the voice of the pretties fantastically, so well that I honestly got rather annoyed at the shallow narration featuring so many irritating words. Bogus, bubbly, pretty-making… Ugh. But it helped to get you submersed in the setting and the lifestyle, and as Tally became less and less pretty-minded, the language changed with her.

The prospect of becoming a Special is introduced in this book, and brings an exciting new issue toward the end of this book. I am now understanding what things may happen in the next two books…

This series is never going to quite be one of my favourites, but I am really enjoying it. I love how the plot is becoming more and more complicated, with little details coming out here and there. I think 4 stars is about right.

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Book Review: Poison Study

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Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Chronicles of Ixia #1) – Paperback, 409 pages – Published June 7th 2013 by Mira Ink

I decided to read this series because this book was voted in for being one of the books of the month in a YA group I’m part of on Goodreads.

So the title of this book becomes quite obviously relevant when Yelena, who is destined for the noose, is given the job of food tasting for the commander. She is taught about all the different poisons by Valek, until she can identify them by their scent and taste.

Obviously, this job has its risks. But it’s still better than definite death, which Yelena was expecting after murdering the former king’s son. No one knows her reasons for murdering Reyad, but over time, the reader discovers the truth of King Brazell’s orphanage.

While working with Valek, Yelena finds herself treating the castle like her own home. She becomes friends with a pair of guards after “running away” to test the ability of the Ixian soldiers. The main chef, Rand, and the seamstress also become good company. Yelena finds herself starting to forget her past notions of running away to Sitia.

Things start to get complicated when Brazell turns up, followed by a powerful magician. Yelena meets Star, who pays people in return for information. Could one of Yelena’s friends be working for her?

The romance element of this was, to me, completely wrong. I just didn’t feel anything between the two characters (who I won’t name, so as not to spoil anything) and I think it was just totally irrelevant. I didn’t feel like Yelena needed any kind of love interest, as she was a good character on her own.

Time passing and the development of characters and relationships just didn’t feel great in this either. I didn’t feel Yelena and Rand’s friendship becoming a thing, and I didn’t feel time passing at all, really. I wasn’t excited by the book, even though the plot was clever and seemed interesting.

So I don’t have any outstanding feelings for this, meaning I’m going to give Poison Study 3 stars out of 5.

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