Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

 Considering the Hunger Games film came our last Friday, and the fact that I haven't read the trilogy since February 2011, I thought heck, why not? And I had honestly forgotten how addictive this book can be.

From the opening paragraph, I was rehooked, and easily fell back into the mood of the storyline. I think that is one of the main key features to this trilogy; it's not just a brilliant storyline, but you can follow the story easily, and I have never found that I have to force myself to read any particular bit of the book, because it's all interesting - and I think that it is actually hard to find a book that you could happily read for a whole day, solid. I also love how Collins has created the characters, making each one likeable for their own different reasons - well, okay, apart from President Snow. But I've always felt like I bond with a range of the characters, and I think that no matter who you are, or what book genre you prefer, there is at least one character you can possibly relate to - whether that be Gale, Katniss, Peeta, Prim, Rue, or even Haymitch. And I think that despite how it is set in a dystopian future, it is made realistic because of characters and how although they have bigger responsibilities, at the end of the day they are teenagers just like us. I think how Collins manages to make that connection between the books and the readers is brilliant, and is one of the many reasons she is one of my favourite authors.

If you haven't read this series and are contemplating going to see the film, please try to grab a copy and read it first! The movie definitely did it justice, but it has nothing on the book.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Torn by Cat Clarke

Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt.
Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she’s not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares…
Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.
Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever...
A compelling story of guilty secrets, troubled friendship and burgeoning love.

 So if you've read some of my Waiting On Wednesday's, you'll know I was stupidly excited when I found out that Clarke was publishing another book, and I was practically stalking out the book stores in an attempt to actually find the book - and when I did I swear I could have cried (okay, a bit overdramatic, but close enough.). It's taken me a couple of weeks to get round to reading it, but from when I picked it up yesterday, I was hooked.

The storyline was brilliant, to say the least. When I first read the blurb, it sounded like it was going to be a quite dramatic book - and from having previously read Clarke's other book, Entangled, I was prepared for it to be quite thrilling and to tackle some particularly tough issues. And it was both those things - but not quite to the extent of Entangled, which was a bit disappointing. But I suppose that the whole issue of going on a school trip and accidentally murdering one of your fellow classmates is a pretty major topic all on its own. One of the things I loved about the plot was that it wasn't the type of murder you expected it to be - from the blurb it sounded like they knew they were going to kill her - but in actual fact they didn't, and I think that really worked well,because it added another twist so that the storyline was more like; What do you do when you're playing a prank on the mean girl of your school, but your best friend goes over-the-top and pretty much kills her? And that brings up all these other questions - because Alice was there, is she a murderer too? Will she get into trouble, despite knowing very little about the plan? And I think that constant question is what made the book very addictive - you wanted to know if they got caught. If Alice was guilty. If Rae was guilty. If Cass was guilty. If Polly was guilty. However, despite the addictive storyline, I found the ending very disappointing. It was a cliffhanger - but the kind of cliffhanger that is a full-stop in the fact that there isn't going to be a sequel; that's your lot. And in a way, that was the best way to end the book - but I can't help but wish there was an epilogue, saying what happens to the four of them in the end - what happens to Jack, to Tara...there are so many unanswered questions, and I guess that will bug me for a while. So I will warn you that while it is a great read and I definitely recommend it, prepare to feel slightly lost at the end.

Despite that one flaw, I really did love the book, and for once I actually liked the majority of the characters - or at least felt the way I was supposed to about them. I really liked the characters of Alice, Jack and Rae - and I really disliked the characters of Tara, Cass and Polly, but not because they were badly characterized - the exact opposite really. I thought all the characters were properly thought-through, and each one was unique - well, with the exception of Sam and Gemma.

If you have read Entangled, I highly recommend this book. In my opinion, it isn't as good - but it isn't far off it. Clarke's novels are always gripping and interesting, and I can't wait to find out what book she will write and publish next!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.
So two of my really good friends suggested this book to me, and considering that they both having amazing tastes in books, I thought, why not? And I'm so glad they suggested it to me, because I absolutely loved it.

At first, I wasn't too keen on how the book would be set - that it was told through letters, where the main character, Charlie, was not actually called Charlie. So I felt that I wouldn't be able to get close to any of the characters, because although it was their story, it wasn't their names - but my misgivings were false. I got attached to practically all of the characters - especially Charlie, Sam and Patrick. The way Chbosky presented each of them was brilliant - because they were so individually different, yet they were all together; Charlie was naive and insightful; Sam was outgoing and reckless; Patrick was caring and loving. And I couldn't help but wish they were all real - as if this doesn't happen ever time I read a book. But I think what made this different from a lot of other books was how realistic Chbosky made the characters and the storyline. No one was unrealistic - you can just imagine there being someone exactly like Charlie, or Sam, or Patrick, or Bob, or Mary Elizabeth is out there. Which just makes it so much more readable - and rereadable.

Another really great thing about this novel is how simple it is. Yes, it is insightful, and it does talk about a lot of powerful and contraversial issues  - but it's just told in such an easy and laid-back way that it isn't too heavy-going, yet it gets the point across. And admittedly, because certain bits weren't told in such a blunt, to-the-point way, it did take me a while to fully understand what was happening - but I got it after a while, and as you read on, you just become in-tune with the novel.

Even though I loved it, I know this book isn't for everyone. If you love authors like John Green, David Levithan and Julie Anne Peters, I reckon you'll really enjoy this novel, so I emplore you to try it! You won't regret it - hopefully.

Monday, 19 March 2012

In My Mailbox (#3)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, where bloggers show what books they have bought, been gifted or borrowed in the last week.

I feel bad for not having done one of these in ages - espec ially since I've been given quite a few books! Anyway, here we go;

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles (and other short stories) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

 A murderous rage has been unleashed. Moments after earthquakes rock the world, people start to change in the most terrifying of ways. Friends turn on friends, girlfriends on boyfriends, brothers on sisters. Nobody can be trusted.
For those who survive the first wave of killing, the world is a different, deadlier place. Michael, Aries, Mason and Clementine must battle to stay alive in a world determined to kill them. All they have is one another...but can they even be sure of that?

Can I just say that I adore the cover image? It's not overly complicated, but there are just bits hidden within it, and I honestly found myself just staring over it at times - not that that makes me sound weird or anything? Anyway, I thought the blurb made the book sound fascinating, so I thought I'd pick it up. However, I was disappointed.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it - but not as much as I expected I would. For one thing, I was a bit at odds with the characters - I thought the idea of the story being told from different points of view was good, but I couldn't help but feel irritated by some of them. I loved Aries and Mason, I thought their stories were intruiging - but Clementine and Michael's were so dull! But I suppose if you asked someone else, perhaps they'd be the exact opposite - I suppose it's just up to personal taste. I also really liked all the other characters that were incorperated into the story - in a way, it was a bit like a game as you read - because you knew in the end that it had to be those four together, so what about their other companions? Would they live, would they die...And I found myself getting attached to companions that did die - and then you had the tears, etc, etc. So for a debut novel, although not all the characters were to my taste, I thought Roberts characterized them well, and the fact that each of their stories began in such different ways was good too, because it helped to enhance the bigger picture.

Another thing I'm still kind of unsure of is how the story was played out. When you read the blurb, you think that the four characters would know each other, and that'd it be about them surviving together - but actually, they don't. And I'm still confused about how easily they seemed to find each other and get together. Because at the beginning, everyone of wary - and of course they should be, since anyone is capable of killing them - yet in the end, they're pretty much like, oh yeah we're in a hurry, you look nice, let's just team up! And I can understand that it was suddenly quicker and the tension was much higher, but no one in those kind of situations would let their guard down that much. I was also annoyed that you still don 't know exactly what's happening to the world, and that you don't know how certain people - like Twiggy and Daniel - know what's happening, but no one else does...But I guess that's all part of the cliffhanger, and admittedly it does make me want to read on. For a debut novel, it is good, and I think that because she is passionate, as she writes more the books will become better and better, and I just know this series is going to end up being fantastic. So, I'm going to stick it out - if you love mysteries and a lot of action, I'd definitely recommend this.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

For years, Regan's brother Liam has been nursing a secret. By day, he is Liam, a passably typical boy of his age; at night, he transforms himself into Luna, his true, female self. Regan loves and supports her brother and she keeps his Liam/Luna secret. Things change, though, when Luna decides to emerge from her cocoon. She begins dressing like a girl in public; first at the mall; then at school; then at home. Regan worries that her brother's transgender identity is threatening her own slippery hold on normalcy. 

I have no clue about what to write about this book. I feel completely speechless. When I saw my friend reading this book, I immediately asked if I could borrow it after her. Having read Keeping You A Secret by Peters, I know what kind of standard her stories have - and this was definitely no exception. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a book that truly grasps the topic of LBGT - yes, a lot of fantasy novels have the main character as this beautiful girl, with her cool best friend, and some awesome gay best friend who she can go shopping with. But those books never get down to the nitty-gritty of what it's like to actually be the one who is supposedly 'different', so I suppose I find books like Peters kind of rare - special. And honestly, this is actually the first book concentrating on Transgender I have ever read - and I completely fell in love with it. I think the fact that it was told from the point of view of the sister - Regan - was brilliant, because it was like you were both in the dark about this topic - not fully understanding it, as someone who is transsexual would. I also thought it was brilliant because of the fact Regan was all Luna ever wanted to be, and I liked the fact that although Luna had everything Regan wanted - smarts, a best friend - Regan had something that Luna wanted but could never have. Well, up until she began her transition, that is. I just thought it was such a cleverly crafted novel, and it really did show me the hardships that transsexuals can go through, without being overly depressing. And even though I promised myself I wouldn't cry, at the end I just couldn't stop myself. The ending was both disappointing and perfect - it was the best way to end it, but I just didn't want it to happen; I wanted to know what was going to happen next! Peters is an absolutely amazing author, and I really think that if you are curious about the topics of LGBT, you should really give her a try. Unfortunately, if you don't live in America, it may be a little bit more difficult to get your hands on a copy, since most book retailers don't have them in stock. But maybe see if you can order it in? If not, Amazon is definitely the way to go. And any book of hers you get - it won't let you down. They are brilliant.

Blood Ransom by Sophie McKenzie

Clones Rachel and Theo now live thousands of miles apart. They keep in touch, but things just aren't the same. When Rachel discovers that evil scientist Elijah is still working in secret for a section of the government and about to murder Daniel, she sets out to rescue the little boy, but her plans backfire with disastrous consequences. Theo sets off to find her.

 So one of my good friends suggested this series to me - and oh my gosh, if you've read my review on Blood Ties, you'll know I absolutely love it. So when my friend let me borrow the sequel, Blood Ransom, I was really eager to read it - and I wasn't disappointed. Both books kept up the theme of suspense and mystery, as well as loyalty and friendship. I think a reason a lot of people like this series is because it is fast-paced, and something is always happening; there are no long boring bits, which appeals to people of all different ages. However, although I did like this book a lot, I didn't like it as much as Blood Ties, because as fast-paced as McKenzie's books usually are, I just think it was a bit all over the place - one moment they were in America, then Scotland, then in Norway. Although the topic of clones is a bit sci-fi, I think the fact that they were all over the place made it more unrealistic, and harder to grasp the awfulness of the situations they were put in. But despite this, I think it is a very good book, and I'd recommend it to any sci-fi fans, and anyone who likes quick, easy-to-read books.
Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

 Although I tend to read books for older teens which are more emotionally charged, I have loved Dessen's books for years now, simply because of how simple they are. They each have a similar theme: a girl is troubled, and she finds a boy who somehow turns her life around. Now while I am all about women not necessarily needing men, I think I adore her books because of the fact that they are so different than what I tend to read; they are light and you know they're going to have a good ending, because hey - that's part of the theme too. However, I have to say this wasn't one of my favourite works of hers. I adore Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, and Lock and Key. But this was just dragged out a bit too much for my liking. You want her and Dave to get together - yet practically nothing happens to them. And Dessen builds the story up to a climax - and then you're left feeling disappointed, because the surprise wasn't as good as you thought it was going to be. But then again, I think this has a lot to do with my age range. Although I wouldn't recommend this particular book to anyone over the age of 15, I still would recommend it to any younger persons, because she really is a brilliant author, and she definitely manages to connect the characters with her readers - depending on their age, of course.
Rating: 3/5

Friday, 2 March 2012

Author Interview: Jennifer Donnelly

When I found out that my first author interview would be with Jennifer Donnelly, I was absolutely ecstatic! Jennifer is the author of five novels; two of which I have read (Revolution and A Gathering Light), and a series I really need to read (The Tea Rose). She currently lives in New York with her husband, two daughters, and two rats.

Hello Jennifer, and welcome to the blog! Now, I've read both of Revolution and A Gathering Light, and I have to say I adored both of them, as well as the lead characters of Mattie, Andi and Alexandrine. But I was wondering - who is your favourite?

Thank you, Nina! I honestly don't have a favorite. They're paper children to me. I love them all equally, but in different ways as they're such different people.

Ah yes, I can completely understand that. Personally, I really liked Alexandrine, and found her story quite intruiging. What inspired you to write her into the French revolution?

Alex herself inspired me. She walked out of the mists of my imagination as I was struggling with the telling of this story. She was hurrying down a night street in late 18th century Paris, carrying a bundle in her arms. She stopped suddenly, turned and looked at me -- as if she was taking my measure. After a minute or so, she beckoned. And I followed her. And bit by bit, she told me her story.

So, in a way, Andi is a bit like you? In the fact that she was drawn into the story by Alex and her letters?

Not exactly. I was drawn into the story by an article I read years ago in The New York Times titles "Geneticists Latest Probe: The Heart of the Dauphin." It told the story of a tiny heart in a glass urn in the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris. I was hooked from the first line.

And it proved for an interesting story, too! Do you think that in the future, you will continue to write books that are based around letters from the past?

They've certainly been inspiring so far! I'm always attracted to words coming from people who've gone before us, but I think each story is different and requires its own unique forms and structures. 

Yes, I agree; a story usually makes itself, huh? On that topic, are you currently writing a new novel? And if so, can we sneak a bit of information about it from you?

I am indeed working on a new novel -- two, actually. Both are for teens, but that's all I can say at the moment!

Really? Okay, now I am stupidly excited. Thank you so much for this interview, and I wish you the best of luck in your writing career; as of now, I am eagerly awaiting for those two new books!

Thanks so much, Nina! All best wishes to you!

Are you excited as I am? I should hope so! Jennifer is such a lovely person and a brilliant author, and I genuinely can't wait until her new releases. If you haven't already read one of her books, I definitely recommend it - they are literally life-changing. So watch this space, people - watch this space.

Book of the Month: February

I really can't decide what the book of the month this month will be! I adored both The Fault In Our Stars and Beautiful Chaos...But I think it has to go to The Fault In Our Stars! I literally could not put it down for days, and all through it I was crying, snotting and laughing - not very attractive, but necessary. I know I have said this a gazillion times, but if you have not read a John Green book, get one! They will literally change your life, I promise you that. Even though it was just recently published, I am already awaiting whatever genius story Green comes up with next. DFTBA, guys! (Don't Forget To Be Awesome!)