Thursday, 31 May 2012

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I've read this novel before, but it was way over a year ago, and considering I wanted to read the second installment soon, I thought I should reread this and remind myself of the story. And oh my - I forgot how good it was! The setting is in a dystopian future where the Society dictates everything that happens, from what poems people can read, to what songs they can listen to, to what careers they can have, to who they are Matched to - their lifelong partner the Society decides the individual will breed the best with; their own free will has been taken from them. The plot is set around Cassia Reyes, your ordinary girl in this world. It starts on the day of her Match, where she gets matched to her best friend. But when she takes a microcard home to learn more about Xander's life, his face doesn't come up: Ky's does instead. The story is about Cassia trying to stay beneath the radar, whilst learning more about how the Society is pretty corrupt.

Firstly, I love all the characters in this book, especially Ky and Xander. Usually in love triangles, there is always a certain character you are rooting for - but not with these two. You can't dislike either one of them, because they are both so lovely. In a way, I suppose it is a bit irritating, since I'm sure everyone would want a guy like either one of them - and Cassia gets two! But you can't dislike her either because she is just as lovely, and I found that I could easily relate to her open-mindedness and curiosity. Despite the generation difference, she is still a teenager, and Condie really makes that apparent. What I think I liked best about all the main characters in general was how rebellious they all were, but in a way that was unique to them. In a Society like that, you expect most people to be quite mindless - to just go along with whatever the Official's say because it keeps them all safe. But not all of these characters do, which makes it more interesting to read because you are constantly anticipating when they are going to get caught and what for.

I also like the idea of Matching. Of course, I wouldn't like to be Matched personally, but I think the idea of it is interesting: in order to create the "perfect" controlled world, you can't even fall in love with who you want to. And in reality, that does happen for some people - and it really makes you take a step back and think about the world as a whole, and not just how things are in your particular country. I found it eye-opening.

Overall, I loved this book. If you like novels like Bumped and Divergent, I reckon you'll love this!
Rating: 4/5

Still On My Mind (#1)

'Still On My Mind' is a weekly meme hosted by Haley at YA-Aholic where we talk about books that we read ages ago but are still on our minds.

The book that has been on my mind a lot currently is Before I Die by Jenny Downham. I read this book about two years ago (? Something like that anyway) and it is by far one of the best books I have ever read, and if someone asks me "Oh hey, what's your favourite book?" my immediate answer is Before I Die. Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

I think what I first of all loved about this novel was that it isn't glorified - she doesn't miraculously recover at the end, and you know she will die eventually. It sticks to the facts, which raises awareness about the seriousness of cancer. But I wouldn't call this a cancer novel. I'd say it's about appreciating the life you have, however long or short the time you have left is. And I love it, I really do. Even though it was ages ago, I still remember bawling practically all the time and just being in love with Tessa and Adam's relationship. After I finished it, I made my friend's read it even though I practically spoiled the whole story for them because it is so good! If you haven't read it, please read it soon - especially because it is being made into a film. Actually, I think it has already been made into a film because I thought it was out, but apparently it isn't yet (films are confusing; stick to books!). So please read this amazing novel, and then go and see the film adaptation (which I forgot to mention earlier is called Now Is Good.)

So what novel is on your mind this week?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#12)

NOTE: Can I just say that I am super-freaking-excited for this book, but if that doesn't come across in this post, I'm sorry; my brain is too dead from Physics revision to properly show any emotion aside from vague indifference.
Waiting on Wednesday' is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Casual VacancySo when I found out this book was being released, I think I, like any other Harry Potter fanatic, practically cried and screamed with laughter. Yes, this week I am waiting on The Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling. Here's the synopsis:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

I suppose because it is an adult book, I am not as excited about this release as I am about young adult releases, but I'm still stupidly happy that Rowling is releasing another book. And after the Harry Potter series, I have no doubt that this book will be brilliant. I also like the idea that although many adults have read the HP series, this novel will give them a chance to really appreciate Rowling's writing skills on a level they might prefer.

So what are you waiting on this week?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Set on the island of Nantucket, STARCROSSED tells the tale of Helen Hamilton, a young woman whose destiny is forever altered when she meets Lucas Delos and tries to kill him in front of her entire high school. Which is terribly inconvenient, not only because Lucas is the most beautiful boy on the island, but also because Helen is so achingly shy she suffers physical pain whenever she is given too much attention. 

Making matters worse, Helen is beginning to suspect she’s going crazy. Whenever she’s near Lucas or any member of his family she sees the ghostly apparitions of three women weeping bloody tears, and suffers the burden of an intense and irrational hate. She soon learns that she and Lucas are destined to play the leading roles in a Greek tragedy that the Three Fates insist on repeating over and over again throughout history. Like her namesake, Helen of Troy, she’s destined to start a war by falling in love. But even though Lucas and Helen can see their own star-crossed destiny, they’re still powerfully attracted to each other. Will they give up their personal happiness for the greater good, or risk it all to be together?

So in anticipation for the upcoming release of the next installment of this series, Dreamless, I decided to reread the first one - Starcrossed. And it was as every bit as good as I remembered it, if not more. The plot is basically about the main character, Helen, and how she finds out she is a demigod with some freaking awesome powers. Her realization that she's a demigod instantly sets off a series of chain reactions, with serious consequences. Wow, okay, I sound like I'm writing out another synopsis. On to the review:

I really love the idea of Greek mythology, and I genuinely find it interesting. I think the idea that history is constantly repeating itself and that Scions are forever in a cycle encircled around the Fates and the Furies is fascinating. I mean, imagine having no choice but to follow what they say - because what they say is how it is. One of the biggest story plots I think for the next book is Helen and her friend's trying to get every Scion out of that never-ending cycle, which should be super interesting because it will mean that she has to visit Purgatory (or that's what I take that it is, anyway. They don't specifically say that, but anyway...)

I also love the characterization of Helen, Claire, Lucas and Hector. For me, I find them to be the four main characters in the book, even though it is pretty much just centered around Helen and Lucas. Each one of them has very different personalities, so when you put them all together it leads to hilarious outcomes. I also like the relationship between Helen and Lucas, and throughout the entire book you know there is some underlying secret as to why they can't properly be together that Lucas is keeping from Helen, which does keep you on your toes throughout the novel. But, for me, although I do like it, some aspects of it were a bit unbelievable. I know the novel is based on fantasy and mythology, but I think the aim of novels like this is to inspire the reader to imagine that their best friend could suddenly turn around and go "I'm a vampire/demigod/werewolf/mythical-being-that-isn't-ready-but-it-actually-is-because-I'm-one", so I suppose that from these books I do expect a certain aspects of realism from them. And whilst I did find a lot of it believable, their relationship just didn't work for me. I hate to say this, because the book is so addictive and amazing, but their relationship did remind me of Edward and Bella for Twilight. And everyone knows that I'm not a fan of that. When the pair were apart, they were both lifeless, and days in the books passed when they weren't talking without Angelini writing about them, as if life was suddenly meaningless to them. And whilst I know the story behind Helen of Troy and Paris was that they were so desperately and passionately in love that they couldn't be apart, it's still a bit pathetic, and Helen never came across to me as the pathetic, clingy, needy type, so that did spoil it a bit for me.

Anyway, despite that one flaw (in my eyes, anyway) this book is amazing - this series is amazing! - and I am so excited for Dreamless, I can't even speak about it. Look out for a review coming your way in a week or two!
Rating: 4/5

Friday, 25 May 2012

Follow Friday (#8)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read where you meet and follow different bloggers.

Question of the Week: Dreamcast the book you are currently reading.

OH MY OKAY. That is a great question. I am currently rereading Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini in the lead-up to Dreamless being released next week!

Emma Stone wallpaper
Emma Stone as Helen

Landon Liboiron as Lucas

Annasophia Roberts as Claire

Alexander Ludwig as Hector

If Starcrossed is made into a film (fingers crossed!) if this is not the cast I will cry lots. Hint hint, future director, hint hint.

So what are your dream cast's?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill

Ros met Jono online just a couple of weeks ago. Now Jono's beautiful ex-girlfriend Freya has disappeared without a trace...and disturbing evidence is coming to light. So Ros agrees to help him search for her - but she is hiding a secret of her own. This is only the beginning. This story is about to get pretty twisted.

I've had my eye on this book for a while, and was really pleased when Panmacmillan sent it to me in the post. The story is about a girl - Ros - who meets a guy - Jono online. Their friendship develops, until Jono's ex-girlfriend, Freya, goes missing. So Ros decides to help Jono in finding her. The problem? There have been a lot of abductions around the time Freya went missing, and the police suspect that Jono has something to do with her disappearance.

The story is told from both Ros and Jono's point of view, which I thought really fit this story well - because you know Jono is innocent, and it really builds up the tension because you're constantly wondering if he'll be wrongly put in prison...and then there is also that niggling feeling of, what if he did do something, but the catch to his story was that he lied. But, it wasn't like that - which I think was bad in the sense that that could have been a really good twist to the story (hence Pretty Twisted?) but I'm glad it didn't happen because I wanted to like Jono - and I did.

I really loved the characterization of Ros and Jono. Nowadays, I tend to not like reading books where the main character is younger than me, because I can't get properly wrapped up in the story - but I found that I didn't feel like this with Ros,  and could relate to her in a lot of ways - both when I was fourteen, and now. I'm pretty sure that a lot of you have guessed that I have made interwebby friends myself, and I know the feeling when people say "Oh, you met a boy? He's a pedo, don't meet up with him, he'll hurt you," And I know things like that could happen, but guess what? Me and my family went and met them, and I am still great friends with them to date. I'm not suggesting that is the best way to make friends, but I understand how irritating it can be when everyone makes assumptions. Another thing that I think the majority of the teenage population can relate to is how a lot of people believe it is not possible to be 'just friends' with the opposite sex - there is always something sexual involved. But it isn't that way, and that link throughout the whole book made it quite believable and realistic.

Another thing oddly realistic was the connection they had to the murderer. When you see news like that, you think, Oh what are the chances that that will happen to me? But then again, what were the chances of it happening to that girl? I think the novel brought across the fact that stuff like this does happen to people out there, and that is is real. I think the fact that obviously Ros or Jono would know the murderer was quite Murder-Mystery-Cliche - but I liked it because it shows what a small world it is, and that you don't know what happens behind closed doors.

Wow. I just read back that last paragraph, and I sound so depressing. But to wrap it up, I really enjoyed this book. It doesn't have your typical Girl-Gets-The-Guy ending, which I really liked, because too many books nowadays are based around happy endings, when the likelihood of it happening in real life is minuscule. I think Blaxill is a really good author, and I found this novel quite an easy read, so I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who perhaps isn't a major booknerd but likes a good story when they do read. If that description applies to you, go and get this book now! You won't regret it.
Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#11)

Waiting on Wednesday' is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

So I haven't done one of these in ages! Anyway, the novel I am waiting on currently is pretty obvious if you've read some of my latest reviews: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Clockwork Princess will be the third and (final?) book in the current Infernal Devices series. Now I am completely hooked on all Cassandra Clare books, but particularly this series, and I am practically in tears over the fact that this book will be released in March 2013, which is practically a year from now. I don't think I can last that long (yes, I am in an overdramatic mood). But on a serious note, this series is honestly brilliant, and if you've never read a Clare book, I'd definitely recommend that you start with this trilogy. You will not be disappointed.

So what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

I do believe that I haven't read a book this fast since...The Hunger Games? I finished it about twenty minutes ago, and I am still reeling from speechlessness - and let me be the first to tell you that I am often not speechless.   I am containing my inner fangirl right now, but I want to screech with happiness and excitement and THIS BOOK WAS SO FANTASTIC! Oh my gosh. I say a lot of books are addictive, but this is a whole new level. Yesterday, I read about 300 pages. Because I couldn't put it down. Literally. I was waiting to go into Geography, and I was reading it; I was walking around my school and reading it (and bumping into several people, but that's besides the point); I ignored my friend's at lunch because this book was practically glued to my fingers. Now that probably sounds like I'm being overdramatic, and the book technically wasn't glued to my fingers, but it might as well have been. I don't think I can find words to properly explain how great this was, but I'll give it a go:

First off, the overall plot: in the future, a city is split into five different factions who each have different morals: Amity believe in kindness, Abnegation believe in selflessness, Dauntless believe in bravery, Candor believe in truth, and Erudite believe in knowledge. At the age of sixteen, on a specific day, everyone has to be put through an aptitude test, and then the next day and forced to choose which faction they want to belong to for the rest of their lives. The catch? The city motto is faction before blood, meaning that if you choose a different faction from your family, you are not allowed to see them again. Now many people say that this book is a lot like The Hunger Games, but I disagree. This version of the future is so much harder, and I love the idea of it because, in a way, it is plausible; one way to end war is to split up humans into groups where they can get along with one another. But when they are put together, the war rises again. I think the moral behind this story is that you can't contain human beings and control them to try and maintain peace, because everyone is individual and has a range of different qualities - you cannot expect people to be able to completely fit into just one category. And that is what happens with Tris, the main character. She is a Divergent, as the title suggests, which means the aptitude test didn't eliminate four out of the five factions out, meaning that she could fit in with two or more. The story is about her fight to fit in with one faction: but how is that possible, when really, you belong to several?

Even though I don't want to sound like a mushy sop, my favourite part about the book was the relationship between Four and Tris. From the start, you don't really know where it's going to go - does he like her in an intimate way, or does he view her as an annoying little girl? He's dangerous but so gentle at the same time, that at moments you are worried he will hurt someone, and the next moment you are worried someone will hurt him. I loved the suspense their relationship had, because most of the time you're not sure what is going to happen: it could go any which way, which keeps you on your toes as you read.

I did like the characterization in general, to be honest. In a lot of books, it is kind of set out already about which characters the audience will like and dislike - and admittedly, you hate Jeanine, Eric, Peter, Molly, Drew...but with the other characters, Roth allows you to form your own opinion about them - Christina, Will, Al, Marcus, Tobias, Tori, Caleb, Uriah, Marlene, Zeke - I bet if I went around asking people, they would all feel attached to different characters than myself. Personally, I adored Tobias, Tori, Caleb, Uriah and Will.

Overall, I adored this book, and I am in love with the series. If you loved The Hunger Games, Matched, Bumped, Noughts & Crosses and any other dystopian-future book, you will adore this just as much, if not more. I'm going to try and get my hands on Insurgent, the next in the series, very soon: so watch this space.
Rating: 5/5

Monday, 21 May 2012

In My Mailbox (#5)

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.

So what's your haul been this week?

As a note, I understand what has happened around The Story Siren and plagiarism (for those of you who don't know about these events, go here for information), but at the moment I am on the fence as to whether I should stick with IMM, or change to an alternative meme. This is because a) it isn't really any of my business and b) I don't know whether to give her the benefit of the doubt and accept her apology, or to side with those plagiarized. But over the next few weeks I will decide whether I'll stick with this meme or will change to a different one. Lesson learned today, kids? Don't steal someone else's work: it will always end badly.