Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Title: Angelfall
Author: Susan Ee
Genre: Fantasy, young adult, dystopia
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 255
Reviewing: Style, dialogue, characters, plot
Rating: 9/10

OH MY GOD, I LOVED THIS BOOK SO SO MUCH! Everything about it was just made of so much win! The more young adult books I read, the harder it is to find something that I truly like, so now when I do find something that manages to break past my wall of apathy, I will well and truly engage in fangirl mode. So be warned.

In Angelfall, we are introduced to a world that six weeks ago, was a world that you and I could relate to. Now though, it's a post-apocalyptic mess. An army of angels attacked, bringing down cities and causing destruction worldwide. Now, anarchic gangs rule the day and things that go bump rule the night. It's a free for all.

Meet Penryn, a seventeen year old girl who is out with her clinically paranoid mother and disabled seven year old sister Paige one night when they find themselves in the middle of a fight between one lone angel and a group of them. Pen's mother runs away, but Paige gets snatched by the angels, so Penryn rescues the lone angel Raffe, who has had his wings cut off. From there onwards, a wary truce is formed between the two as they both have a common goal - to find their way to the angels' base so that Raffe can get his wings sewn back on, and so that Penryn can find her sister and bring her home. Cue ensuring chaos.

The introduction and set up for the plot was swift, we were thrown straight into it, and we had enough running commentary from Penryn to get everything we needed to know and to picture about the world without overdoing it on the descriptions. Everything was witty and fast paced, a style that was consistently carried through the entire novel. I loved Penryn's smartass comments - often I found myself laughing aloud at her observations or choice of vocabulary. And don't get me started on the amazing dialogue interplay between the two leads...!

“Why were the other angels attacking you?" 
"It's impolite to ask the victim of violence what they did to be attacked.” 

“Here, I’ll show you how to use it. Let me see your foot.” 
“That’s a pretty intimate demand in the angel world. It usually takes dinner, some wine, and sparkling conversation for me to give up my feet.”

You can really tell the author is having a lot of fun with this, and, hey, good snappy dialogue makes for some class A character interaction. With a lot of other books that I've come across, I couldn't really feel anything for the mains and for their romantic interests, just because so much of the chemistry that occurs has to be conveyed via dialogue. But in Angelfall, the dialogue sparkled, lifting the characters from the pages and bringing them to life in my mind.

Penryn has this tough sarcastic survivor chick edge going for her - she has pretty honed fighting skills, having been advised by her crazy mother to take them in case she ever needs to defend herself against her mother. Yet she's also this vulnerable girl who wants nothing more than to piece her life back together. She, like Katniss from The Hunger Games, has no dreams of glory or of being at the forefront of the action. She just wants to be on the sidelines, head down, getting on with it. Meanwhile, Raffe comes across as an arrogant, cocky teen, albeit in angel form. Yet, thankfully, he is also protective, loyal and most definitely cares about Pen - these traits only manifest later on, in his wingless state when we get to see a more vulnerable side of him.

I'm not going to say too much about the plot, so that you won't have anything spoiled, but rest assured that it's pretty dark at places, and there are a few nasty shocks - things I was definitely not expecting at all when I read this.

Final Thoughts


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Angel by L.A. Weatherly

Title: Angel
Author: L.A. Weatherly
Genre: Supernatural, young adult, romance
Summary: On Goodreads Willow knows she's different from other girls. And not just because she loves tinkering around with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into people's futures, know their dreams, their hopes and their regrets, just by touching them. But she has no idea where she gets this power from. Until she meets Alex…
Alex is one of the few who know the truth about angels. He knows Willow's secret and is on a mission to stop her. The dark forces within Willow make her dangerous – and irresistible. In spite of himself, Alex finds he is falling in love with his sworn enemy.
Pages: 512
Reviewing: Plot, characters, relationships, narrative
Rating: 7/10
I'd been meaning to read this book for a long while now, so imagine my delight when I came across it at a CRUK charity shop as part of a 3 for £1 deal!

Anyway, I want to start off by saying that if you're going to judge a book by a cover, then you may well be very very surprised. See, what I saw was a blonde girl, presumably the main character, standing in a very strong pose, head tilted downwards, giving me the eye - and that screamed badassery in a major way. So I'm going into this book having read the blurb, and expecting a feisty female with a dark manipulative side who oozes sexuality but inevitably sees the error of her ways and turns 'good'. Tell me I'm wrong.

So what do we actually get?

A really shy, timid girl who is on the fringe of society, struggling to fit in at her school because of her psychic powers. Maybe I'll write my own story with the above expectations that I had, as whilst it may be clee to the chay, it'd make for some damn good reading.

But I digress. Plotwise, you have your standard lone huntsman, Alex Kylar, the tall dark stranger of a teenager on a mission to eliminate the world from angels. And these are not your standard angels - these are beautiful otherworldly creatures that crossed into our world and can only survive by feeding off the energy of humans. Normally, they manifest as humans, but when they feed, they transform into a form of light and are able to entrance the human mind into thinking that this is the best thing that could ever happen to them. Afterwards, the humans that have been fed upon succumb to insanity or physical diseases, growing weaker and weaker until they die. Now, Alex has been hunting angels for years, but when he receives an order to kill Willow, the shy, timid girl, he has some initial reservations, which of course are derived from her overwhelming beauty. Yet, there is something weird about her aura - she seems both human and angel...

You'll have to read the novel to find out more about the plot! I was sucked in by the intriguing premise, and I can tell you now that it's compelling enough to make you want to read more, yet the downfall is that it's also incredibly predictable at the same time. The reason for Willow's mother's mental illness is pretty easy to pick up on, as are the reasons for why Alex has no family, and I could very easily guess at the various frenemies throughout the book. As for pacing, most of it is paced very well, but there is one part that stretches out for ages - the hiding - and it did bore me to death. Sometimes there is too much of a good thing, and I think I'd rather wish there was more sappy romance than wishing for less. Kudos to the author for writing some very believable road trip and hideout scenes though!

In terms of relationships, I'm going to say this now: it is most definitely predictable, and it all escalates way too fast! After knowing each other for barely a week, they have both already decided that they love each other... Come on!! Reading those bits made me want to bang my head on the desk repeatedly.

I found the characters of both Alex and Willow to be really interesting at the start of the novel and was very emotionally invested in both of them and their backstories, but after they meet, fight, and then stop fighting, I felt that the characters lacked their original sparks of personality. Without conflict, they both seem to be flat carbon copies of the same essence, and that made me disengage with them somewhat, especially as their relationship progressed further.

I guess part of it must come down to the narration. What I found a bit odd was that the author uses third person for all of the characters apart from Willow, which is narrated in the first person. I've seen this done before (badly) with the House of Night series, so I was a bit skeptical about it. Personally, I think the narrative should've stayed consistent in terms of which tense was used as that way, we would get to know all of the characters on an equal level. Willow's voice isn't particularly strong, whilst Alex seems to be a much stronger character - first person would've suited him more than the third, as it would've been much more interesting to get his thoughts and reactions instead of something more distant, thus weakening the impact his character has on the story.

Final Thoughts 

Overall, I liked this story. It was compelling and different enough to make me want to read more. Looking back over my review, it appears that I have spent more time bashing the book rather than praising it but I kid you not, it's definitely worth a read! :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: High school romance
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 360
Reviewing: World, structure, characterisation and relationships
Rating: 7/10

Take a good girl and a bad guy, throw them together in chemistry class, and what do you have? Sparks flying left, right and centre! With a tried and tested premise like this, you can't go wrong. Brittany's the perfect girl, in looks, grades and sports. Contrast that with Alex, a member of the Latino Blood gang who is known to dabble in guns, drugs and general badassery. And yet, both characters are more alike than they'd like to believe...

First up is the premise. I found the world building to be great ~ Simone paints two contrasting lives ever so well, and her descriptions are neither too much or too little, just enough for us to finish off the painting ourselves. This is a realistic novel, not sugar-coated in the slightest, and not afraid of dishing out the grit in the world. I can clearly see that there has been a lot of research done to make everything as authentic as it can be ~ be it from the interspersions of Spanish, to the little details of the different lifestyles, to the gang structures and turf wars...and it really does add another level to the story.

In terms of structure, we are told the story from two perspectives: Brittany and Alex. This is great as we get the inside scoop from both angles; how one acts and how the other reacts and the thoughts that accompany them both. Of course though, with a structure like this, it's just insanely obvious that there is no question at all as to whether or not they'll end up together, just how they get there. Which the author manages to convey interestingly enough!

I found both characters to be incredibly likeable, and definitely more real than a lot of other main characters I've come across in the genre. I was worried at first that I wouldn't be able to connect with Brittany, since she's made of riches and has it all (on the outside), but as the novel moved on, there was less focus on the externals and more focus on the internals, which definitely made me empathise with her more. Alex, on the other hand, never came across as badass as he or the author made him out to be ~ if that's intentional then kudos to the author. He had his no nonsense attitude, but his heart was definitely not made of stone from the small snippets of interaction we get with his mother, his brothers and with his best friend Paco, who is such an adorable dorkface!

Finally, onto the juicy bit ~ the heart of the novel, which is the relationship of course! Simone writes the sexual tension so well that I was feeling it all myself ~ all the longing, the increased heartbeats, the frustration of the characters not getting together when I want them to... Ahh, young love.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I thought this was a charming read. Whilst it didn't give me the adrenaline rush that other books *cough* Hunger Games *cough* does, I definitely enjoyed the sexual tension between the two leads... ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Title: The Hollow
Author: Jessica Verday
Genre: Supernatural, romance, high school
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 513
Reviewing: Characterisation, relationship, plot
Rating: 8/10
I'm a sucker for novels that have angst and that are also well written, and this novel is packed with both, so much so that I actually became depressed for the duration of time that I spent reading this - an evening and a morning. And 513 pages within eighteen hours including sleep is no mean feat!

In a nutshell, the Hollow is all about how Abbey copes with the death of her best friend. Along the way, she meets an enigmatic and decidedly hot stranger called Caspian, and finds herself falling for him. But as she tries to unravel the mystery regarding Kristen's death, she uncovers many secrets, the biggest one of all being to do with Caspian himself...

Ahh, words cannot express how much I loved, loved, loved this book! I found myself completely caught up in Abbey's angst and emotions, and couldn't help but yearn for her to be whole again. The description that Verday used, something about a vice gripping her heart, hit the nail on the head in terms of that kind of feeling. As a character, Abbey was beautifully visualised and brought to life - Verday's characterisation definitely surpasses that of the previous books I have reviewed. And Caspian...what can I say? He is hotness epitomised! There are very few main male characters that I really do fall for as often there is something lacking to them, but here, I found Caspian to be so well realised through Verday's writing and Abbey's point of view that I couldn't help but fall for him too. He is such a sweet character, so protective of Abbey, and also, so full of angst too. Nothing like a tortured soul to yearn over, hehe.

I found the developments to their bittersweet relationship to be completely believable for the time frame and world of the novel. Even though Abbey found him attractive immediately, Kristen's death was always at the forefront of her mind, which it should be (I refer you to Crossroads by Mary Ting *eyeroll*), so the build up to the relationship was slow and secondary to other factors in the first half of the novel. I loved the small things that they did for each other, like the exchange of gifts at the cemetery, the cookies and perfume that she makes for him, and the cute times they spend together in the library. Anyway, I can't stress enough just how great it is that the relationship doesn't completely take over the plot!

In terms of plot, the story is slow and gentle. There aren't a lot of mind-blowingly action-packed scenes as this isn't that kind of novel. This is more of a story that explores the way the main character deals with grief. It's very internal. Having said that, Verday takes us through half a year starting from Abbey's return to school, and we see how she deals with having to act normal, and how she deals with situations when she becomes a target of bullying. The best parts of the plot revolve around her walks through town, when she goes to the river and the cemetery, for here we get to see the real Abbey shine through.

Finally, the Hollow draws very heavily from the legend of Sleepy Hollow, so make sure you know that story - although it does get explained here too. I kinda wish I'd read the story first now though.

Final Thoughts:

So, I loved this. Verday apparently wrote all of this on thirteen notebooks before typing it up, so kudos to her! If you like angsty angst, and don't mind a more relaxing read, then this is the right book for you! But don't get me wrong, there is still enough word-candy here to get you drooling if you're also looking for the guy hotness factor... ;)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: Lament
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, romance, high school
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 356
Reviewing: Style, plot, characterisation, layout
Rating: 7/10

My first thought upon finishing: wow. I'm a big fan of the urban fantasy genre - faeries have never swamped the young adult genre as much as vampires and werewolves, so it's always a breath of fresh air to pick up a book like this, especially one written by an author that I already adore. And yet again, she does not disappoint!

Talented harpist Dee's world is completely overthrown when she meets the mysterious and handsome Luke Dillon who she falls in love with almost straight away. All seems well at first, but little by little, she starts to realise that Luke is hiding secrets. When he is no longer able to protect her from the world of faeries, he must decide which is more important to him: his heart or his soul?

Throughout the entire novel, Maggie's writing style was always so wonderfully poetic. She finds beauty in everything that she writes about, and has a way with words that really inspires me to look at the world with fresh eyes. Her imagery was vivid, evocative, and I found myself completely drawn into her settings and descriptions. There was something so romantic about the symbol of the white bird used to portray Luke's soul, and something so bittersweet about the scene with the birds on the moon. I also loved how Maggie weaved in so many elements of Irish mythology and musicality into her writing.

In terms of plot, it was definitely believable for its genre and flowed well. I found the story unfolding and building up at a good pace, and whilst it wasn't overtly unpredictable, there were enough elements thrown in to keep me guessing. Although, my two issues with the plot are: Dee and Luke fall in love way too fast, and the ending climax happens way too fast as well, which is a shame.

I wish Maggie had spent a bit more time showing more aspects of Luke's personality. I found Dee to be a very well rounded character - she was quirky and had a lot of very teenagery thoughts, but whilst I adored Luke's tragic and tortured aura, I think he needed to feel more real. I definitely enjoyed the romance that they had going, but in the end, it lacked a bit of chemistry for me. James was absolutely adorable - pity we never got to see what he made of the whole romance and ending situation...

Finally, onto the layout of the book - I found the artwork cute and charming, and I liked how the story was divided into little "books" as it reminded me a lot of the way long narrative poems are structured and to me, shows that Maggie cares about the layout just as much as she does about her story.

Final Thoughts:

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read which I finished in less than a day, and which I totally recommend! If you're looking for something different to the dystopias and vampires that are swamping the young adult world, then look no further! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Genre: Dystopian, science fiction, romance
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 358
Reviewing: Style, characterisation, world-building
Rating: 3/10
Oh, this could have been one hell of a ride. There was so much potential here for Wither to be an absolutely breath-taking read, but in the end, it took my breath in a different way.

Don't quite capiche?

Well OK, we want a novel that's set in a dystopia world but it also has to appeal to the young adult demographic. How about we bend science and come up with a genetic mutation that kills girls when they turn twenty and boys when they turn twenty-five? And then to add further insult, how about we incorrectly call the mutation a virus, and then tell everyone that North America is the only continent that still exists above sea level (regardless of the fact Mount Everest would not be submerged)? Finally, throw in a love triangle...pentagon in this case, and there you have Wither.

Don't get me wrong, the writing style was wonderful, so much so that I finished the book in two days. Lauren has a charming poetic way with words that really captures the beauty of her weird Victorian/modern world - it's not too much, and not too florid at all. It's hard to put into words but I think the best way to describe it is wistful and reflective. Oh, and angsty. Oodles of it. In fact, I got major kicks from the air of desperation in it. You think your life is bad? Well, you ain't got nothing on Rhine Ellery.

Anyway, not only can Lauren write, she can write well, and her characters all jump out of the page. All of the supporting cast had their time to shine in the spotlight, and despite never being introduced to her brother, I still felt like I knew him through her narrative. The characters here take their time to become known to us - we are told small things like Gabriel's favourite colour and what Rose's favourite sweet is - each of them has something that's unique to them. Of course I do not understand why no one tries to kill Vaughn if he's that much of a bastard.

So now it makes me sad to say why this book only deserves 3/10.

Firstly, because the world-building is totaly unbelievable, and just does not stand up to scrutiny at all. How can they ensure that absolutely everyone on the whole continent opts into this genetic perfection scheme? And then to make the claim that the 'virus' targets all of their children such that none live past twenty or twenty-five - there is no way that turning twenty and twenty-five means time is up. People are all genetically different - all of our biological clocks age differently, so as such, what is the genetic marker that rigidly counts down the days until you hit the big zero? That just smacks of a plot device needed to give the story the angle of desperation. What would be more believable would be if the second generation was born with defects, actual deformities, and come on guys, let's be honest, 'heterochromia' is NOT a defect. Please, Lauren, open a textbook because mutation and virus are different things.

Anyway. My next point - how can one extrapolate that this degeneration of society would then lead straight into polygamy and that it would become such an accepted and widespread thing? It's just too far-fetched! This was what really disgusted me at the start of the book - that in this world, there was no moderation or morality imposed upon the 'rich' people, that there were no governing forces and nothing in between the rich and the poor. Later on, we learn that pedophilia and rape are given the OK in this world and heavens, it's just so wrong! Seriously, I think it's just plain irresponsible of the author to write a thirteen year old who is so up for it, and then to have the publisher's approval to bring this into the world.


Final Thoughts...

As I said before, this could have been a really good book. It kept me reading and reading until the very end, and I was totally gripped by the narrative. If you take away everything that's wrong with the world, suspend your moral issues, then this is just a simple kidnap and imprison story. It could be set in any time, any place, and just so happens to be in a dystopian world because let's face it, that's the Next Big Thing. I only wish that Lauren had chosen to make her debut with something less plot-holey, because damn, she can write well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Dystopian, romance, science fiction
Summary: On Goodreads
Pages: 489
Reviewing: Opening, plot, characterisation
Rating: 6/10
To find out if you are Divergent, circle the traits that you possess:


If you chose more than one, then you are Divergent and are therefore a danger to this society! Sounds a bit strange? Yeah, I don't really get this world either.

This book has had tonnes of praise. There's drama in almost every chapter, adrenaline rushes by the buckets, and enough heartbreaking scenes to have you reaching for a box of tissues. Oh, and let's not forget the customary romance that seems to be an obligatory part of the package now for young adult dystopia. Not bad for a 23 year old's debut novel, eh?

OK, I'm not gonna lie - the opening did not make me want to read on. I didn't buy into the world (and still don't, but that's beside the point), and went to bed feeling a bit disappointed and let down by the all the hype, but resolved to carry on reading it the next day. And you know what? I'm glad I kept going - once the author started dropping in hooks about the mystery of the Divergents, I sat there and read the book until I hit the last page.

Beatrice a.k.a Tris is your typical Amnegation girl, like one of those charity workers or nuns you see on the street. All her life, she has belonged to this 'faction' of selflessness, and as such, her personality and thoughts have been shaped by her environment. No wonder the opening was a bit dull. Now, at the age of sixteen, she gets to choose which faction she will belong to for life. And then the rest of the book is all about the tough initiation into that faction, plus a tiny snippet of plot towards the end. To me, it definitely feels very much Hunger Games, as another reviewer has pointed out here.

In terms of plot, the story is pretty straightforward. Girl chooses a path for life. Girl spends the next 400 pages being initiated into that life. Girl then finds herself in the middle of a faction war in the last few chapters. Cue some customary romance and character deaths along the way. To me, it felt like the plot only got going halfway through - I think the author wasted far too much time on the introductions. Yes, we get it that the trials are brutal. Yes, people have to fight each other. But so much of the excessive violence could have been condensed and still have the same effect.

To me, the most interesting characters were Tris and Al. Tris, because she goes through character growth from originally being a sap to...becoming less of one, and Al, because he is the most broken character and displays a wide range of reactions. Peter was the predictable jerk, Christina seemed to serve no purpose other than to apply make-up to Tris, and Four just didn't do it for me. I think it's because I've had enough of young adult fiction where older guys fall for younger girls who've never had boyfriends before. And after finishing the novel, I still don't like Tris. She just didn't feel real enough to me, as if there was something missing - like, when she made jokes and threats, when she acted hard, all of it felt way too forced, as if her character growth was being pushed too quickly in the space of the pages to be completely believable. Plus, she forgets about all of the deaths way too quickly...

Nevertheless, you gotta have respect for someone who isn't afraid to kill off her cast.

Final Thoughts...

In conclusion, I'm glad that I did read this book as it raised some interesting moral issues, and I liked the sci-fi technology aspects that were introduced despite there being major flaws in the world-building - see here. Pigeon-holing people into one of five qualities - of course that's a recipe for war! Anyway, the writing was pretty solid and the dialogue believable, but at the moment, I am still sitting on the edge of the fence as to whether or not this book deserves the recognition it has gotten. Not as good as The Hunger Games, but definitely better than Delirium.