Sunday 15 April 2012

Looking For Alaska by John Green

Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 3rd March 2005
Pages: 272
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

My first John Green novel and all I can say is it made me want the rest! I don't really know what I was expecting from his writing style and plot but it was incredibly well written and touching and funny.

The countdown gives you a constant feeling of dread and did an incredible job of keeping the suspense. I adore the friendship Miles and Alaska and the Colonel has, couldn't wait to find out more of Alaska's past and the reasons for her complete scatty-ness.

It's not a typical 'happily-ever-after' romance novel, it will make you sad - trust me, I cried - but the story of love stays with you. The characters were brilliantly quirky, mad and funny, searching for their own sense of closure. I would happily recommend this to anyone.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 3rd May 2011
Pages: 487
Goodreads Synopsis:
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

Instantly hooked. And I mean I could not put this down and finished it in two days. Which, for me, is pretty incredible. The dystopian world of five factions, made to work because of the threat of war if they didn't, was automatically interesting to me. I instantly wanted to know more about them, who they were and why they were formed. You really did have to pay attention to detail and I found myself flicking back to remind myself why Candor was annoying to Tris!

Oh, Tris. She is a fantastically written heroine. Strong but kind of scared. Developing through the novel, growing into the person Four wants her to be and who she has to be to survive. She is so completely human, worried for and missing her family, sometimes stupidly brave and sometimes stupidly selfish but it works. Not to forget, of course, the amazing chemistry between her and Four, which after a while, I really began to look forward to.

The story was brilliantly engaging: the subtle hints of a secret revolution were almost perfectly intertwined with Tris' introduction to her new faction. While I did have my doubts about Dauntless at first, I started to come round with Tris' introduction to it, especially when Four described it better than Eric's vision for the faction. I would have picked Erudite, at least until I realised they weren't just book-nerds, they were knowledge-thirsty, kind of twisted, and power hungry. That disappointed me. Yet, throughout the book, it picked flaws in every faction and that is what dystopian fiction is supposed to do, in my opinion: find faults in our logic of "perfect".

Just insanely gripping, Roth threw us right into the train with the heroes and didn't stop the drama and awesome fight scenes until the end. I am really looking forward to what I hope will be an amazing sequel. If only just so I can find out what's the other side of the walls!

Saturday 7 April 2012

On My Bookshelf (2)

Again, don't know if anyone has this specific idea before me, if so I apologise and if not, I will happily take credit for it! I'm also aware this is awfully similar to In My Mailbox but I do not yet receive books, I buy them, so for now let's just go with it.

Looking for Alaska

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps. 

Been wanting to read this for ages - boyfriend bought for me for Easter, cute huh?

Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Uglies (Uglies, #1)Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
A present from my friend Sophie - sharing in the book love!

After The Snow by S.D Crockett
After the SnowFifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone. 

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone -- he doesn't have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl -- but Willo just can't do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family?

Another present - not quite sure what to make of it but I will reserve judgement until I've finished it.

Thursday 5 April 2012

One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost

Publisher: Avon Books
Published: 30th August 2011
Pages: 358
Goodreads Synopsis:
Having narrowly averted an (under)world war, Cat Crawfield wants nothing more than a little downtime with her vampire husband, Bones. Unfortunately, her gift from New Orleans' voodoo queen just keeps on giving--leading to a personal favor that sends them into battle once again, this time against a villainous spirit. 
Centuries ago, Heinrich Kramer was a witch hunter. Now, every All Hallows Eve, he takes physical form to torture innocent women before burning them alive. This year, however, a determined Cat and Bones must risk all to send him back to the other side of eternity--forever. But how do you kill a killer who's already long dead?

Right in there with the action, this series never disappoints. This novel tells of the witch hunter, who just happens to be a ghost that gets a body every Halloween. Sounds kind of cliché, right? Well, this jackass uses his body to torture, rape and burn alive three women every year and has been doing so for plenty a decade. Cat and Bones come across this S.O.B from a friend of their pet ghost Fabian, Elisabeth, who was one of his first victims centuries ago and has been hunting him down and trying to send him to the true grave ever since. The sick part? Kramer honestly believes he gets a body every year to do the work of God and rid the world of witches. Now, without going into a dangerous religious debate, this twisted mindset also angered my feminist side. As well as Cat's. Which made every fight scene with him all the sweeter when Cat got a punch in. 

This story does focus a lot more on Cat than anyone else. And while I love her, there just wasn't enough Cat/Bones, although I did love how strong their relationship had become. Their love and loyalty to each other really shone through in their actions and inner dialogue. However, I did miss the lack of side-plots and characters. Spade, Denise and Ian had their moments (You're shagging a woman who can turn into a dragon? Blast you, Charles, I am sick with envy! ) but they were not the focus for often, which I miss as some of the best moments come from their interactions. 

The action was as gripping as ever, but that might just be my feminist girl-power willing Cat on. Kramer was such as asshole and I really wanted him to bury a shovel in his head, not just for his completely old-fashioned motions but the sick way he acted on them and the cruel way he attacked the main characters - as she's getting out the shower? Rude! But Cat did get in some wicked comebacks, just to spite his seventeenth century ideals. 

One thing I did not appreciate in this book was the lack of explanation or even much follow-up on the whole Don and Madigan situation. Or the lack of Cat's former teammates - I live for Juan's stupid comments! While I'm hesitant to say the new characters of Tyler and Elisabeth made up for it, the story did them justice and was everything I expect from an epic Jeaniene Frost novel. All I have to say now is bring on Once Burned!

Monday 2 April 2012

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Published: 1st March 2010
Pages: 288
Goodreads Synopsis:
In the aftermath of the great fire, eighteenth-century London is a city of extremes. Squalor and superstition vie with elegance and reason as brilliant architect, Nicholas Dyer, is commissioned to build seven new churches. They are to stand as beacons of the Enlightenment - but Dyer plans to conceal a dark secret at the heart of each one. Two hundred and fifty years later, in the same vast metropolis, a series of murders occur on the sites of those same churches. Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor investigates, but the gruesome crimes make no sense to the modern mind...Combining thriller, ghost story and metaphysical tract, "Hawksmoor" won the Whitbread Book Award and "Guardian" Fiction Prize in 1985. 

It seems like such a good idea, two timeline's interweaving, kind of a crime novel crossed with something like The Time Traveller's Wife with a bit of obscure Satanism thrown in for good measure. But, and I'm not sure if this was Ackroyd's intentions, it doesn't quite come off like that. In reality, or whatever world Ackroyd is writing about, it comes across as a split-personality disorder across the centuries. Don't get me wrong, for the right audience, it is completely worth digging through the dredge of London's underbelly and the odd spellings of the seventeenth century. But I am not the right audience, for the simple reason that I prefer my fiction to make sense. Probably didn't help I read most of the second half of this novel with a cold!

Dyer, the architect in 17th C, is based on Nicholas Hawksmoor, real-life apprentice to Christopher Wren, the man behind the rebuilding of St Paul's (You can tell I've studied too much on London's history!). The story intertwines the building of his churches with the ritualistic killings (it is suggested) he performs there and 200 years later, the same (sometimes) murders being investigated by Hawksmoor, the fictional police detective it is thought to be based on Ackroyd himself. Confusing, huh? You're telling me!  

While I'm not sure if I even liked this book, I would recommend sticking through to the end. Even if the ending isn't exactly satisfying and just as confusing as the rest of the narrative.