Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Book Review: Anything That Isn’t This

Well this was a surprising read. Not just a typical YA dystopian novel, but a peculiar, artistic novel complete with illustrations throughout.

For some reason, I wasn’t expecting the strange world that Priestley created in this book. The Grey is suffocating Frank, the Ministry controlling his every decision. Most people are okay with it, comfortable in the routine provided. But Frank wants more.

First, Frank is obsessed with a girl from his school. Even after they graduate, he is desperate to be with her – he believes they’re ‘fated’. But after a while, he realises that maybe she’s not quite right for him.

This combines two typical YA romance plots – the “unpopular boy gets the cool girl” and also the “childhood friends become lovers” plot. I think it’s a bit unusual to mix the two, but I didn’t find anything spectacular about this aspect of the novel.

The whole book has a very strange abstract sort of feel to it; I was unsure at times whether to actually take what he was saying at face value or take it as a metaphor. There are loads of weird myths that are thrown around, many of which play a big role later in the book. 

The friendship with Scape was interesting; it kind of just happened out of the blue and ended in a similar way. And Mr Vertex was a weird character – it was obvious there was something strange about him, and I felt he really added to the abstract feel created.

The book kind of felt grey, but not in a bad way – as in, I felt how Frank felt about his life. I was pretty shocked by how dark it got at the end, quite suddenly. The ending was a bit of a whirlwind, followed by a moment of calm. The calmness was nice, an interesting ending that left your imagination running wild.

I didn’t really enjoy this book at first but I did eventually get into it, and quite liked it. I definitely liked the unique feel it had, almost like Coraline. 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: Inkheart

This book was orginally written in German, but has been translated into many languages over time. Obviously, I read the English edition. It’s also been adapted to a film, which I’m sure I have seen but can’t remember.

Meggie is 12, so a rather young protagonist. But this book didn’t feel overly immature, despite the young age of the main character.

The story is rather complicated, but it involves a lot of books, magic, and villains. It is quite an innocent book, I think, especially with the sweet, happy ending that it has. But again, it’s not immature or childish. 

Dustfinger was an interesting character, often walking the line between good and bad. I am interested in seeing more of him throughout the rest of the trilogy. Capricorn was quite a traditional, old-fashioned villain, giving it a sort of old fairytale feel. I loved the idea of the books coming to life when you read them.

I was also a big fan of the romantic perspective this story gives on books in general; I personally adore reading and loved hearing books being described in such wonderful ways. I definitely identify with Elinor in that way – even if my name is spelt slightly different!

It’s quite a long book but not hard to read at all. It’s sweet and innocent and exciting, with the kind of magic I remember from reading when I was younger. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The Earthsea Quartet

The Earthsea Quartet (The Earthsea Cycle #1-4) by Ursula Le Guin – Paperback, 681 pages – Published: October 28, 1993

As the title suggests, this is a collection of the first four books in the Earthsea Cycle. It took me just over a month to read it, but obviously I read about 5 books at the same time so that probably didn’t help.

The first book in this collection was published in 1968, so the writing does sound pretty old-fashioned. The last book was more modern, and my favourite of the four. But the archaic style suits the story; an Archmage in the ancient land of Earthsea accidentally summons a being of great evil, and must right his wrongs. We also meet Tenar, a girl sacrificed to the Nameless god’s, who is present in two of the stories. Ged, the Archmage, makes an appearance in all the stories, but is only the protagonist of two. The switching of POV was an interesting choice and may be an annoying feature to some, but definitely gave a lot more depth to the land.

The book is “only” 691 pages long (which, for a quartet, does not seem particularly large) but did drag on quite a lot at times. I found the first three stories to be presented densely on the page, making it take longer than average to read. The last book was a lot easier in my opinion. 

The passing of time was not documented much, but that didn’t seem to affect the story. I wasn’t particularly invested in Ged – I liked him, but didn’t feel much emotion from or for him. Tenar and Therru were my favourites – I’m sincerely hoping to hear more about Therru in later books.

This was a proper fantasy read, being commonly known as one of the most important books in its genre. It isn’t a light and easy read, but once you get into it it is rather enjoyable. 3.5 stars; only being raised by the fourth book in the collection.

Book Review: The System

The System

The System (The Killables #3) by Gemma Malley – Paperback, 357 pages – Published April 10th 2014 by Hodder (first published December 5th 2013)

I finally got round to reading the conclusion to The Killables trilogy!

It’s been quite a long time since I read the first books, so I had forgotten some of the details. But as I read, I started to remember what had happened previously and was able to appreciate the current story.

After escaping the City, Evie, Raffy, Linus and Benjamin are now trapped in a world where everyone is being Watched. People actually made a living off of being Watched by strangers around t

The world, by having people see their daily lives and every thought. But Thomas, the leader of Infotec, isn’t satisfied; he still wants Linus to create the System he had originally thought of.

Frankie is one of the most Watched girls; her boyfriend, Milo, is high-up within Infotec and has really boosted her Watcher numbers. But an anonymous message encourages Frankie to write a blog post about the UK, and Milo suddenly turns pretty hostile. Suddenly Frankie is being thrown in the back of a van, her ID chip removed and given to some random doppelganger now claiming her identity. Frankie isn’t about to go down without a fight, though, and with the help of the anonymous messager, she escapes the Infotec enforcers.

There are a lot of switches between the POV this story is being told by, but after few chapters, the characters start to come together in one story.

A group of people are determined to tell the rest of the world about the UK – which was believed to have been destroyed by the Horrors. But Thomas is not going to let that happen easily – he’s more than happy to dispose of anyone threatening his company.

The future Malley has created is, in my opinion, quite plausible. Vlogs on YouTube are already super popular, and this isn’t that big a step up from that. And the System Thomas wants from Linus is probably not too far-fetched, either.

Frankie and Milo are probably the most important new characters in this book. Frankie was developed pretty well throughout the story, slowly discovering the truth and realising how she had been manipulated by Infotec. She’s not a big fan of Evie when they first meet, though, and I kind of thought Malley emphasised that more than was necessary. Milo also developed a bit, but with more of a sudden switch being flicked later in the book.

This was a good conclusion to the trilogy, and I enjoyed reading it. It maybe tries a bit too hard to be edgy, with swear words being thrown around and things like that. Still, I liked it. I felt a bit of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies coming through at times, but not enough that it felt samey or anything. 4 stars for the final Killables book.

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Book Review: Rippler

Rippler

Rippler by Cidney Swanson – eBook, 285 pages – Published March 8th 2013 by Williams Press (first published May 26th 2011)

This book is available for free on Kindle devices and apps over on Amazon, which is where I downloaded it from.

The book begins with Sam “rippling” – become invisible in front of her friends. No one sees it happening (assuming she just fell in the river) except for Will. From here, the two of them form a close bond, and Will tells Sam about the research his sister has been doing into Rippler’s Syndrome.

Researchers studying the Rippler gene have mysteriously died, leaving Sam, Will and his sister Mickie to assume they were murdered. They need to be careful to avoid being found – especially since two of the trio have the gene themselves.

Sam also discovers the truth about her mother’s death when she was young, which has some unexpected links to the murder of the researchers. Mickie becomes more and more fearful for the safety of her little brother, and Sam finds herself afraid of losing Will when Mickie considers moving them away.

The Rippler gene is a fantastic idea, plausible and well thought through. The symptom of the gene – the turning invisible – haven’t been explained particularly well yet, but that may come later in the series.

I did find the writing a little amateurish at times; the phrase “she/he/it was explained” was repeated quite often in place of actually writing the explanation. I’m not sure if this was to avoid lengthy descriptions of things that had already taken place or just to avoid having to write it out in detail, but it was something I noticed often. Also, Swanson tries to avoid repeating names and uses what reminds me a school-child method; describing the person, calling them things like “my mother” or “his big sister” in place of simply writing their name.

There are some aspects of romance, but they have yet to be fully developed. There’s also friendship drama, where Sam’s friend, Gwyn, believes her to be in an abusive relationship. This assumption was possibly a bit too dramatic and far-fetched, but the idea of Sam being torn between Gwyn and Will was good.

I enjoyed reading this book, and am thinking about reading the next novel in the series. However, I definitely did notice where improvements could have been made. 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: Glass Sword

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard – Paperback, 464 pages – Published February 11th 2016 by Orion (first published February 9th 2016)

When I read the first novel in this series, Red Queen, I was absolutely hooked on Aveyard’s writing. So I found the second book, Glass Sword, eager to follow Mare’s story as she fought alongside the Scarlet Guard and bring the newbloods to safety. Although the book is good, it was not as amazing as I had first hoped. Still, I’m really looking forward to reading the next one.

After the battle in the Bowl of Bones, Cal and Mare are on the run. Everyone knows their faces, their stories – the stories Maven and Elara are telling, anyway. Cal, the fallen prince, the murderer of the king and his own father. And Mare, the Lightning Girl, to one who corrupted the prince. And of course, the Scarlet Guard are being hunted.

Farley, Kilorn, Cal, Mare, and Shade steal a jet from the Scarlet Guard’s hidden island, and set out to collect as many people from Julian’s list before Maven finds them. Sadly, they are not always the first ones there. Eventually, they have a small army ready, just in time for meeting Jon – a newblood with vision that stretches farther than any Silver eye’s. He hints at their fate, the action they should take. In three days, they will free both Reds and Silvers from Corros prison.

As always, this war brings death. One death is particularly important, but I won’t ruin it. And one death honestly broke my heart. (I was kinda hoping they would come back throughout the whole of the rest of the book, even though I knew they were dead.) I was so not expecting that death.

The not-relationship between Mare and Cal is continued, and sort of developed. They clearly still care for each other, but try not to let their affections get in their way.

Honestly, I didn’t like Mare that much in this book. She came across as kind of stuck up, often pointing out how she was so “valuable” and “special”. She also became colder and more comfortable with murder, but that would happen to most people in a violent environment like hers. Still, I felt like she lost some of her original charm and personality, and became too harsh and, well, bitchy.

Also, Mare misses Maven (or the person she thought he was, anyway) which is natural. She tries to remind herself that he was never truly like that, and that he was always a monster. But I actually found myself still rooting for him, hoping for him to come out innocent. I just don’t seem to hate him as much as intended.

Despite Mare’s character flaws, the story was still great. The ending has definitely left me wanting more. What will happen now that the truth is out? Now that the imprisoned Silvers are free to tell their stories? I can’t wait to find out. 4 stars.

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Book Review: Kahayatle

Kahayatle

Kahayatle (Apocalypsis #1) by Elle Casey – eBook, 385 pages – Published June 22nd 2012 by Elle Casey

I can’t actually remember where I got this – probably Instafreebie or from the author’s newsletter – but I know I got my copy for free.

The book’s about a couple of kids coming together after the death of every adult and young child. It’s hard to survive, with everyone fighting over any supplies, but things are getting really bad – as in, cannibalism bad.

Bryn partners herself with the skinny, gay kid hiding next door, despite knowing he’s not gonna be much help in the defense department. He tells her about the death of his little sister – eaten by other kids. They decide it’s no longer safe to stay where they are, and are proven right when attacked inside their home. They plan to retreat to the everglades, where the swamps should be inhospitable enough for others to avoid them, but still safe enough to survive in. On their way, they find Bodo, a German exchange student.

Eventually, they do end up at their destination. But the everglades – or Kahayatle, as the indians call it – hold many new problems.

I did notice a fair few grammar mistakes, and just generally found this book a little unprofessional at times. Often, I find unprofessional books really hard to read – but I actually enjoyed this. I’m even considering buying (or borrowing) the rest of the series.

The tiny bits of romance did seem a little out-of-place, not integrated particularly well sometimes. But I suppose it’ll be developed later in the series, and I didn’t find it too lovey or anything, which is definitely good.

With a bit more polishing, I think this could easily be a 4 star book. But for now, I’m going to give it 3.5. It was a good read, but there are some improvements that could be made.

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Book Review: The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child (Mortal Gods #3) by Francesca Simon – Paperback, 320 pages – Published December 1st 2016 by Faber Faber

I finished this on Tuesday but have had some technical problems, which is why I’m posting it now. (Sorry.)

Apparently this is book #3 in the Mortal Gods series – but I read it believing it to be a standalone novel and really enjoyed it like that. It’s another short, new YA book, which a pretty large font to fill up more space. I never used to like short books, but I’ve found some I’ve really enjoyed recently, including this one.

One of Loki’s (monstrous) children is Hel, a girl with a perfectly normal human body… except her legs are deadLike, full-on decaying dead. Still, she’s a goddess, even if she’s never treated as one.

Hel has learned to just deal with what she’s got in life and carry on. But when she’s kidnapped and taken to Asgard – the home of the gods – she finds an unexpected light of hope. His name is Baldr, and he’s the only one who’s ever treated her like she’s normal. The only problem is that he’s married.

And then, just to make matters worse, Hel is literally thrown into the underworld, sentenced to be the queen of Nifelheim for all of eternity. It’s cold, smelly, and soon enough, full of dead people. She’s alone, plotting her revenge on the gods, with no chance of escape – but at least it’s hers. She can build her own fortress without anyone guiding her; she can order the dead around however she pleases. And she can have a high seat ready, beside hers, for when Baldr inevitably comes for her.

What she wasn’t planning was a third seat…

Anyway, Hel has created Hel for the dead, the End of Days is drawing nearer, and dear old Dad has dropped by for a favour. All very… fun. 

I thought this was a really different kind of book. The narrative voice is really sarcastic and youthful, pretty funny too, as well as still sounding like a Norse goddess. She also sounded somewhat modern, too – which I suppose would be the case if you were immortal. Sometimes I found her to find a little too sarcastic and bitter, a little too chatty and “different”. I don’t know, it just didn’t sound all that natural sometimes.

The whole Norse theme was refreshing – not some paranormal YA romance that you see everywhere – and really well told. Hel was a really interesting character, too; modern enough to relate to yet still believably a Norse goddess.

As I said, I read this without realising there were other books before it in the series. I didn’t realise that at all while reading – I didn’t feel like I was missing anything and still enjoyed it plenty. I’m going to say 3.5 to 4 stars for The Monstrous Child. I’ll have to look out for the other books.

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Book Review: Ensnared

Ensnared

Ensnared by A.G. Howard (Splintered #3) – Paperback, 416 pages – Published January 13th 2015 by Amulet books

I read the first novel of the Splintered series and immediately fell in love with it – purchasing the entire series as paperbacks. This is book #3 in the series by A.G. Howard.

If you haven’t read the first two novels then I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say what I can about the plot and character development (of which there is plenty).

Alyssa takes us on another crazy journey, from the human realm through AnyElsewhere and, of course, Wonderland. Again, she finds herself stuck between her two halves – and between her two loves.

Along with her parents, Morpheus and Jeb, Alyssa must banish Red’s spirit forever, return Wonderland to its former glory, and find a way to balance the two halves of her heart. But the travel to this magical realm has changed Jeb, and he’s found something he’s not willing to leave behind anymore.

There’s a lot of madness and magic in this, which is my favourite part. The pure craziness and mystery of Carroll’s Wonderland is captured beautifully by Howard. There are weird and terrifying creatures – my favourite being the strange butterflies native to AnyElsewhere, even if they do endanger the life of one of our beloved characters – as well as beautiful landscapes and clever backstories. The whole origin of Carroll’s story is put into question, Alyssa slowly uncovering how he discovered the magical land all those years ago.

The main part of this is about Alyssa trying to placate the two halves of her heart. After her previous run-in with Queen Red, there’s something strange going on inside her heart – something that hurts when her human side and netherling side are fighting. What’s wrong with her? How can she live like this?

And Morpheus and Jeb still aren’t the best of friends, either. They’re almost constantly competing for her affections – despite being stuck alone together for who knows how long. I’m always routeing for Morpheus, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.

The ending is quite a nice compromise, a clever and clean way to stitch everything together. And the epilogue is really good, in my opinion. I won’t tell you what happens. But it’s short and brief, leaving so many questions and opportunities at the end that makes me reeeally want to read the companion book.

It is sometimes a little too perfect, if you know what I mean, but it’s not sickeningly good or sweet. I think the solutions they conjure are really creative and clever, and when they’re in trouble I’m always wondering what they’ll come up with this time.

As for development, Jeb and Morpheus have a clear “epiphany” sort of moment toward the end. But I found that Alyssa also developed a lot, slowly – little realisations that shape her being over time, shape her as a queen.

I do love a good Wonderland story. This isn’t, in my personal opinion, quite as the first novels, but I still really enjoyed it. 4 stars for Ensnared.

Check this book out on Amazon here.

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Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

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