Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TOP 13 of 2013

So this year hasn't been great in terms of reading. Trying to find 13 books out of the 37 I've read, and a couple of them being re-reads as well? Talk about a tremendous task. Still, I pulled through and figured out which ones I really liked.

Ready for the countdown?

13. Ravengirl - Audrey Niffeneger 

A modern day fairytale of a love story between a raven and a postman, Niffeneger delivers a beautiful picture book filled with a deeper meaning. Read review here.

12. Rosebush - Michele Jaffe 

Combine Crime and a bit of Psychological Thriller and you get Rosebush. At times a little creepy and others painfully captivating, Jaffe's novel was certainly an interesting read. Review here. 

11. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton 

One of the few adult novels I enjoyed this year, Cloudstreet brings back a nostalgic feel that is very much welcomed on a nice breezy day. It's a nice sweet read.

10. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein 

Set in France during the Nazi era, friends Maddie and "Verity" convey the meaning of friendship and loyalty. The bonds that are shared between friends will resonate with readers as well. Review here. 

9. The Visitor - Lee Child

The fourth novel in the Jack Reacher series, The Visitor has a surprising plot that left me captivated until the very end. It's got me on board to read the rest of the series.

8. The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper has romance and crime bundled into one great story. All three characters: Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy stay within your mind with only just one read. Watch review here.

7. The Killer in My Eyes - Giorgio Faletti

Faletti excels in the crime genre, and this is no exception. Beating out Child's novel in my list, Faletti does wonders with the mysteries of a murder. His creative mind is something I really admire. Review here.

6. Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Yet another modern day fairytale but this time a full length novel, Valente makes use of a Russian folktale to retell a love story that is bittersweet. A very refreshing change to what I constantly read. Watch review here.

The last five books on this list were absolutely amazing. Click here, to watch the rest of my top 13 books for 2013.

Hope you guys have a great New Years! Happy Holidays!

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Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein

Plot: 

October 11th, 1943 a British spy plane encounters danger whilst trying to reach France. They crash land but "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo. Desperate for information, they try to wheedle anything out of her. She's faced with two choices: reveal her mission or be executed.

Review:

I don't think I've ever read such a great war novel like this, and very different as well. Don't let the setting and the countless strategies and airplane names fool you. Code Name Verity is essentially a story of trust, loyalty and friendship. It's full of love and despair that at the end, I was pretty much devastated by what was happening and was not aware of how much I had grown attached to the character "Verity".

In fact, "Verity" is the codename for the protagonist of the first half of the novel. She is tortured into revealing the truth of the British airforce (or something like that) and caves in. What is suppose to be a report turns into a story of her meeting and becoming friends with Maddie - codename Kitty Hawk. Maddie is a predominate character in the novel, very much the main character if not for the two narrators. She continues on from Verity's recount through the second part and Wein attempts to differentiate them according to their style of language. It's easy to tell them apart and I found that I grew attached to both characters.

I really did fall in love with Verity as a character, even more so through the perspective of Maddie. They're both really badass female characters but Verity has a charm and a passion within her that resonates throughout the novel. Wein succeeded in establishing well thought out characters that had dimension and could easily sway a reader. That really added to the enjoyment of my reading.

Plot wise there were some low and high points. It was actually a pretty dense read even though the book looked small. It wasn't a fast pace read, but I could understand why readers had to plod through some moments just to get to the bigger events. When you're stuck in a jail the time is slow and that reflects in Verity's writing. It makes it realistic and I didn't lose interest despite the steady pace. I felt like Maddie's part was a little windy. I had to go back to keep checking if I was reading something right or even just skimming parts because I was getting impatient. Still, the wait was worth it with what the ending brought.

Wein was working towards a brilliant and very captivating ending. It really left me shocked and I had to reread that part over and over again to see if I missed anything. The novel was left open ended but in a very sweet manner, so that whilst Wein didn't push that ending, readers can still gather what is likely to occur.

If you think this is solely a war based novel then think again. It definitely gives a whole new meaning to the war life, and just humanity in general. I feel like we all know the stories of the Nazi period but Code Name Verity provides an aspect no one really cared to think about. It's great that Wein produced two lively female characters who held high positions in the airforce, and she really knew what she was talking about considering she's a pilot herself. There were things to fault on but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I feel like it's a novel I'll constantly remember.

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, 30 December 2013

December Haul

A total of how many books there was. I never know where to stop, seriously.

WATCH HERE!

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Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) - Samantha Shannon

Plot:

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

(Source: Goodreads)

Review:

Being the first novel in a seven book series, it gets a bit hard to judge the plot line and characters as a whole. However, the first book for The Bone Season series has certainly left an impression.

The world is a lot more complex and very confusing compared to other worlds in fantasy novels. However, Shannon's world building skills aren't very perfect. In fact, she rushes through it by throwing chunks of information in the first 50-100 pages to try and explain Scion London. Still, I persevered and slowly the picture began to form of what she was attempting to paint. Shannon's writing flows a lot better after those moments and she eases into the plot at a nice pace. It's not very slow even though the book is quite thick.

I read it 2 to 3 days though, so it was certainly interesting enough for me. I'm also willing to read the second book and am actually waiting to see what occurs after the massive cliff hanger. I'd say the series has potential.

Watch here for a more thorough review of the novel.

Rating: 3.5/5


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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Film Vs. Novel - Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 10.34.22 pm


Plot:

Both Katniss and Peeta now hold privileges beyond that of a normal civilian, after becoming victors to the 74th Hunger Games. They both tour the country to share their glory but are instead met with sullen districts, threatening to defy the Capitol. President Snow, from fear of a rebellion, threatens Katniss to prove to the people (and him) that she belongs to the Capitol. Desperate to quell the people though, Snow decides to celebrate the 75th Hunger Games with a change in the system, one that will leave Katniss fighting for her life once again.

Review:

Boy was that a movie to watch. If you ever wanted to see a proper book to movie adaption this is the movie to choose. Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, was an incredible watch. The change in directors was a great idea and I loved every minute of it. Of course there were a few moments of errrr but overall it was such an enjoyable movie. I am now onboard to watch  Mockingjay only because the same director will apparently be working on that one as well.

Anyways, watch here for a better discussion.

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

Plot: 


Mara Dyer wakes up after a coma unaware of what has happened. She's informed that in a freak accident that resulted in the deaths of her friends, she was the only one to survive. Her family decides to move to help her recover from the trauma. Instead, Mara begins to experience moments of hallucinations. It also doesn't help that she meets a boy who apparently knows her quite well.

Mara must now determine if she really is losing her mind, or are all these delusions pointing her in the right direction.

Review:

I actually picked this up because I've heard some pretty good reviews about it, care of the Book Tube community. Also because it's a psychological thriller, which I beg to differ a little but we'll get to that later.

Right from the beginning, Hodkin has created a tone that will drive the entire novel. There's an underlying creepiness that basically stays at the back of your mind. I think what worked well was that I wasn't bombarded with constant "scary" scenes. Instead, there was a build up of suspense and lots and lots of questioning. I found myself experiencing Mara's emotions like I was right beside her. We were both confused and doubtful of her sanity. It felt so real.

I think the visual descriptions were pretty gruesome. It wasn't something to make me violently sick but at the same I did feel a little uneasy. It's what made the novel feel different to the usual thrillers. Still, I wouldn't classify the Mara Dyer series as entirely psychological thriller. True it was scary and haunting, but the novel took a turn and it became a romance in the second half. I didn't mind though, because I grew to love her romantic counterpart - Noah. He was probably really stereotypical. The mysterious, rebellious boy with a beautiful smile and just enough arrogance that it becomes attractive. I still fell for him though. I know it sounds weird, I mean he isn't real. But that's how an author succeeds in writing a character.

It's not like the romance in the novel deters from the central issue though, which was good. I wasn't going to keep reading if it was just the sappy stuff all the way through. It was still mostly about the inner conflict that Mara was experiencing.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer definitely gave me a lot of shocking moments.  It's quite possibly the one of the best novels I've read this year, having enough suspense and great plot development to keep me hooked for the entire time. The momentum rose and fell, keeping me on edge when needed. I read it in a day or so and couldn't believe how quickly I was drawn into it. Hodkin writes well, not above any other author, but certainly enough to catch my attention. Her plot is fast and intense, which I would like to thank her for. The ending finished on a massive plot twist and made me really want to go and buy the second book straight away. I mentally kicked myself as to why I didn't just purchase the entire series when I bought the first book. Still, now I have something to look forward to for next year.

I definitely recommend this - an exceptional read.

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Film: Better Man (SBS)

Source: The Herald Sun[/caption]

Plot:

Based on a true story, Better Man is a four part mini-series retelling the execution of Van Tuong Nguyen. Van was an Australian born Vietnamese, raised in the South East of Melbourne. He is famously known for being the last Australian to be executed overseas in an attempt to smuggle drugs back into Australia.

Starring Australian actors David Wenham (The Lord of The Rings), Remy Hii (Neighbours) and Jordan Rodrigues (Dance Academy), Better Man portrays the sorrows and dangers of Van's life.

Review:

The story of Van Tuong Nguyen would perhaps not be unfamiliar to most Australians, especially of the older generation. Initially, the mini series was met with opposition from Nguyen's family but SBS still went ahead an aired it.

I would have to admit I didn't know much about him even though it happened late into my primary school years. Still, it really intrigued me to see how Nguyen would be portrayed especially under a Vietnamese director as well. The series opens up to the moments before Nguyen travels to Cambodia and ends with his hanging. During that time viewers are given flashbacks to the moments in his life that lead up to and eventually determine the choice he makes.

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Monday, 16 December 2013

The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 10.03.56 pmPlot: 

1961 - Laurel, at 16, witnesses a crime from her hideout spot in the treehouse.

2011 - Laurel is now a famous actress but the event from her childhood begins to linger in her mind.

So begins her journey from the past to present, as she finds the answers to questions that have lasted for more than most her life. The lives of Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy are slowly opened up in a fascinating recount of their sudden encounter during the 1940s.

Review:

Kate Morton really hits the marks with her novels and The Secret Keeper is no exception. It makes for a great mystery/crime type of novel that isn't loaded with guts and blood, and disturbing killers. Instead, she takes on adult fiction and puts a twist to it. I find that that makes the novel really interesting and whilst the premise of this certainly doesn't sound any unique, the plot is actually a lot more surprising than expected.

It's a pretty thick read but even with the size (500+  pages) I was really immersed in what was happening. Morton has a way of writing, which really draws me in and leaves me in that world. It's probably the way she paints the scenery and the characters of the novel. I've never really seen how London exists, besides photos, especially "back in the days" but from reading I could make out the countryside and the town in which Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy exist in. Morton does get a little "artsy" in the way she writes, using really drawn out ways to explain something but it didn't detract from the story so I didn't mind much.

The plot quickens probably from part 3 onwards, which really helps with the intensity of the mystery. I think I got really hooked from that moment and had to finish the novel. The plot twist that came about really made the wait so much better. It really reminded me why I love reading Morton's novels, because she delivers in the end.

I loved Jimmy and Vivien despite the fact that they aren't major characters in the novel. I found Jimmy sweet and Vivien just wholeheartedly good. Dorothy, on the other hand, I could've done without just because she really got my nerves. There has never been a character that was insanely naive and pretty much delusional. She had ambitions but no solid plan and when it all fell apart, well then. Laurel, I felt, was only a vehicle to drive the stories of the three people in the past. She was the predominant narrator but with her moments, they were gateways to the stories that occurred during the 1940s.

The Secret Keeper has left much for me to think about, which I like. I like that I can still think about the plot and the characters involve and sort of mull over what happened. It's mean I was mentally engaged whilst reading, which is what I think most authors would want. It's not my favourite Kate Morton novel but it's definitely a very enjoyable read. I shall forever be her fan if she continues this streak.

Click here to watch my review as well!

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Documentary: Change My Race


Source: SBS[/caption]

After watching the documentary Change My Race, I found that it brought up an interesting issue that a lot of people are unaware of or at some points even ignore.

Change My Race touches on the plastic surgery industry in which many Asian women are utilising nowadays to gain more of a western appearance. It may not seem as common in Australia but it really is happening. Myself, as an Australian born Vietnamese, watched this whilst feeling very uneasy. What is it about our own ethnic features that are deemed so unappealing? Do they come off as that unattractive for girls to treat their own bodies as plastic models, readily going under the knife for more of a "white" look. I suppose in a society predominately occupied by caucasian appearances, the norm has come to that of higher nose bridges, bigger noses and pale skin. Yet, even in societies such as Korea (a place the documentary covers) the female population have also turned to westernising their appearance. The trend nowadays is that of a baby face look - the V line as they call it, which consists of big eyes, high nose and pointed chin. In fact the ideal face is displayed almost everywhere in Korea. Billboards, subway stations and the usual ads - the people are being bombarded with an option that seems almost like a compulsory step into being considered beautiful.

That is how beauty is defined according to the documentary, and the girls who undergo plastic surgery. You have to look like an Anglo-Saxon to look beautiful. I find that absolutely absurd. I've always been told to be myself, be confident in who I am and comfortable with my own skin. I'm sure many other girls also have been told that. However, that becomes a major conflict with the standard of beauty this society carries. How can I feel comfortable with who I am when I'm constantly being told by the media and peers around me that have double eyelids is better or a slimmer jaw is what makes me beautiful. Because that's what the plastic surgeon who the host interviewed told her. He actually suggested the host reduce her jawline because then she'll look beautiful. I can tell you now she looked gorgeous already.

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Source: SBS[/caption]

What's becoming increasingly frustrating is that this ideal is being pushed not only by the media but also by those closest to these girls. The documentary covered the story of a 17 year old girl who was made to undergo double eyelid surgery, nose filler and chin surgery. All because her parents think all "chinese and vietnamese" girls should do it. What was sadder was that they couldn't see the beauty in their daughter, "a 5 out of 10" beforehand and afterwards looking much "better". It really infuriated me that they felt that every girl of Asian descent had to undergo that type of surgery, and also push their daughter into it. The girl was clearly confident with her own self and didn't even want it but to please her parents she did it. I mean she is carrying their genes, so they're basically dissing themselves.

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Saturday, 30 November 2013

November Haul

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This month I treated myself by ignoring any amount of self control I have and going absolutely bonkers. As you can see from the pictures, I bought a fair few books.

Click the link here to watch my November Haul!

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Raven Girl - Audrey Niffenegger


Plot:

Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven. This begins the story of a postman and a raven who later have a daughter, referred to as Raven Girl. She grows up as a raven in a human body, feeling misplaced in the world. Then she is given the chance to change herself and the life she has tried hard to exist in.

Review:

Ever since I read the premise of this story, I was intrigued and very willing to give it a go. I only got my hands on it today and finished it in 15 minutes. It's an 80 page modern fairy tale, and there are illustrations that take up some pages. Definitely not a long read.

I was quite surprised by the length, but apparently everyone else who has read it knows how short it is. Whoops. However, despite it being small it's been able to create some sort of impact on me. I'm not sure writing a review 10 minutes after reading it is the best idea but I've had enough time to mull over it.

Whilst traditional fairy tales usually contain lessons on good triumphing over evil, and acting righteously is the best way Raven Girl differs a little. The dark and mysterious tone of the story meant I had to think a little about what it was trying to convey. I found that whilst it was a sweet story of love crossing boundaries and the more controversial issues of human nature, essentially the story comes down to just being who you want to be.

Raven Girl felt entrapped in a body that wasn't right for her. Her entire life was lonely and she had a father who could not understand her. Eventually, she sought to become what she had always dreamed of, however absurd it was. Of course there were protests but at the end, it was the people who mattered most that accepted her for who she was. I took that from the story and loved it. It certainly brings to mind a lot of issues that are circulating, from gender to race. Somehow Raven Girl is able to disregard the different natures of a being and portal a world where anything and everyone can exist as a whole.

It was written beautifully, perfect for a fairy tale. Niffenegger starts the story off with a traditional beginning, similar to "once upon a time". She gets right into the crux of things as the illustrations are able to assist in building scenery and images. The illustrations aren't very pretty but they are striking. At some points they also become quite creepy, or maybe it's just me. I noticed that the writing was predominately short sentences but when I was reading it, in my mind it sounded very much like how a parent would read a bedtime story to their child.

Niffenegger has been able to create a fairy tale fit for the modern reader. I liked the interesting concept behind it and will try to find a lot more modern fairy tales to read from now on. There were still a little things I was iffy about, such as the rushed ending, but with the interpretation I got from the story I overlooked that.

It is an enjoyable and haunting read. Brilliant even for some younger readers. The story is actually being made into a performance and if I can, I shall try to watch it.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente


Plot:

Marya Morevna meets her fate one day, who takes her away to a land that only exists in fairytales. His name is Koschei and he is the Tsar of Life. Marya learns to help fend off the Tsar of Death, Koschei's brother, in countless battles over territory. Then she meets Ivan, a man who can give her the chance to relive a normal life again.

A Russian folktale retold as a modern day fairy tale, Deathless tells a story of love and war with a magical twist.

Review:

I really enjoyed Deathless, which was a great change of scenery compared to the usual novels I read. The modern day fairy tale really gave me some nostalgic feelings, back to when I was reading/watching fairy tales as a young child. Except Deathless is a lot more similar to the Grimm Brother's fairy tales so I don't really recommend for younger readers. Only because there are few dark and pretty explicit scenes.

It was intriguing from the very beginning and the ending was actually so surprising. It got really sad and I was quite shocked, in a good way though.

Do check it out, Valente's writing really shines in Deathless. It's the correct tone for a fairy tale so that was enjoyable as well.

I go through the novel a lot more thoroughly(-ish) in my latest video here.

Rating: 4/5

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Friday, 15 November 2013

November TBR

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Yes, I know it's basically halfway through the month already but I've only been able to start reading now.

Currently I am reading Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, which has been quite interesting actually. I am definitely going to write a review on that. Then I plan on reading:

  • A Clash of King ("A Song of Ice And Fire" #2) - George R. R Martin


If the the second book is amazingly captivating I am probably going to end up reading the entire series. If not:

  • The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

  • Eyrie - Tim Winton


It's not much but seeing as I only have 16 days-ish to read, hopefully I'll get through it all.

Watch my video (where I talk about what I've written basically) here.

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Game of Thrones - George R. R Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

a-game-of-thronesPlot:
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.
As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
(Source: Goodreads)
Review:
I will admit I am slow on the uptake for this series but better late than never, right? The hype around the TV certainly made me very curious about the series and so I decided to read it before actually watching it.
A Game of Thrones is definitely a long read. It took me probably a month or two from the day I bought it to finish. It's not that it was boring or anything, just that I needed time to actually sit down and focus. For a novel that big there were a lot of complexities that does require some thinking. Initially I was pretty confused with all the similar names of previous Kings and the structure of the kingdom but that didn't affect my reading, much. In fact afterwards it really didn't matter whose name was who, so long as you understood the main plot line.
The novel is written through the point of view of different characters. Each chapter is titled by the name of the character telling the story. The Stark family plays a central role but there are also appearances of Daenrys, the last living heir of the previous regime and Tyrion Lannister who's sister is Queen of the Kingdom. There's never a moment missed though, so I'm not too bothered by the constant voice changes. Although I do feel like there were some minor voices that weren't necessary.
The character themselves could probably be split into two categories - those that I like and those that I don't. I don't even think there's a middle ground. They all certainly left an impression good or bad but I found some of them pretty cliche. For example, the two sisters being total opposites, one a "girly" girl and the other a tomboy. The characters that I probably like the most are Daenerys and Jon for reasons that would probably spoil the novel so moving on.
What I enjoyed was that the novel delivered a typical story of a fight for the throne in a more intriguing and dark way. There's a lot more controversy surrounding the throne and who is the rightful heir. Things that aren't morally right but happen anyways. Furthermore Martin's creativeness is to be applauded for producing a unique setting and the different tribes and families that contribute to the story. Daenerys becomes part of a tribe - the Dothraki, house warriors. Their culture is both fascinating and repulsive. I know a lot of people think Martin probably went too far but there are cultures that exist, with practices that are beyond what we think is morally right. I could see their humanity through Khal Drogo though.
The repulsive in their practices along with a lot of nudity and sexual intimacies are some things I would've liked to be reduced. I'm not a prude and I have heard things are worse in the TV show, but at the same I felt like the story could've done without some of those things. Amongst those are also reoccurrence of misogyny, which I did overlook because the world is pretty much a patriarchy. Still, Martin does try to embody power in most of the major female characters - Ayra, Daenerys, Catelyn and Cersei - which I appreciate.
The ending definitely grabbed my interest and has spurred me on to read the next book. If you have an interest in fantasy, history and adventure do give A Game of Thrones a try. It's different from what I have read and gripping enough to continue on with the rest of the series. I do hope that with the length and amount of books following this, there are a lot more character developments. Just a warning, this isn't really suitable for younger readers considering the content it contains.
Rating: 3.5/5


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Monday, 11 November 2013

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

6a00d83451bcff69e20120a4d81e15970bPlot:

Oskar Schell's father, Thomas, dies during 9/11. One night he finds an envelope hidden inside a vase in his dad's closet. The envelope contains a key. Oskar sets out on a journey to find the right lock, encountering strangers and stories that will eventually help him find the right closure.

Review:

Don't expect a conventional formed novel. The book is long but there are images that add to the story, including one that really brings out strong emotions. There's also a couple of pages of just numbers that can be decoded via the keypad of a phone but I didn't get time to do that. What I liked the most though was the pages that had words written over words until the page went black with just the overlapping of writing.

The story is basically made up of he family's history weaved throughout Oskar's journey through unsent letters from Oskar's grandparents. His grandfather writes letters to his dad whilst his grandmother writes letters for him. If that makes sense. It does get a little confusing at first because there's really no indicator there's a shift in person but Froer's tone change is great that you pick up quite quickly. It is easy to telly he difference between Oskar and his grandfather although perhaps the voices between his grandmother and grandfather take a little more effort to tell apart.

In fact, Saffron portrayed the mind of a year 9 old exceptionally well. It's easy for a child to get lost in their thoughts and just talk about what's at the front of their mind, without really thinking. That's how Oskar in terms of his perspective. He retells moments with his dad but drops off and then picks up a little later. It's like a "keep you on edge" tactic, which does work - sorta.

I loved Oskar as a character. He was realistic and quite hilarious with his blunt attitude. Although at times I felt as though the things he did seemed a little far fetch for a 9 year old. Froer does try to rationalise it a little but at the same time I was like really. It didn't affect me a lot though. The minor characters really shone as well. Grandmother was a character that drew so much sympathy from me, whilst his grandfather just made me angry. He was pathetic and a coward.

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Vampire Academy - The Trailer




A couple of months back I wrote a post about upcoming movie adaptions of books including the supernatural series by Richelle Mead, Vampire Academy. I was pretty unsure about it just from hearing the rumours, but I just stumbled upon the trailer today and had to share.


Movie-Poster-vampire-academy-7296338-414-495

Thoughts:

Hmmm. My initial excitement about the movie quickly subsided and I have to admit, I'm kind of disappointed. The trailer starts out with the Rose's voiceover  introducing us to the world of vampires. Cut to her best friend feeding from her and then a speech about blood. Then some other scenes that look a little too sexualised for my liking.

I really don't know where to start with this. Everything just seems wrong, which is pretty harsh but that's just how it is. The mood, setting and actors.

It's like the director is attempting to create a comic and sensual feel to this, which doesn't exactly mirror the novels tone. It's suppose to be a lot more dark and adventurous. There are quite intimate scenes in the novel but compared to the larger scale of things, I wouldn't have expected it to make it into the trailers. Although it can be an attention grabber for more mature viewers. I'm not sure that make out scene was actually done under gaudy red lighting. I think I've pinpointed the feel down to being a little bit like Gossip Girl but the supernatural version. Instead of actually being about a battle between the different types of vampires, it just seems to be about high school drama. Something I do not want this series to be turned into to.

vampireacademy-trailer-jumbo-jpg_163746


The actors are also not what I personally imagined the characters to look like. Lissa Dragomir (the blonde girl in the trailer) is suppose to be breathtakingly gorgeous. Whilst Lucy Fry is pretty, she doesn't fit that supermodel-like appearance Lissa is suppose to have. Although maybe it's the fangs that make her mouth look funny. I'm still not sure about Zoey Dutch but I think it could work. So long as she can portray the perfect badass then I'm all cool. There wasn't the appearance of Dimitri although I've heard he's actually Russian so at least he can pull off the right accent.

From what I've seen, I think the movie is just covering what is in the first novel. I've made a pretty a big judgement from just a 1:27 video and so I dearly hope that I am wrong. I guess adaptions from novels are always going to be risky, especially if there is a large fan base. Too many expectations to uphold basically.

Watch the trailer here

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

Plot:

The tale of two lovers in a dictionary styled diary. The novel boasts a simple context: boy meets girl who fall in love but hit rough surfaces throughout their relationship. The emphasis of the imperfection of love is scattered throughout the story, leading readers on the same path they are destined to walk.

Review:

The structure of the novel was definitely something I liked. True to it's title, Levithan has expressed the emotions and experience of love through single words, much like a dictionary. It changes up the traditional form of novels and makes for an easy and interesting read. Levithan is so focused on setting out the novel as a dictionary that the sequence of events is lost in the story. Instead, readers are given different snippets of the relationship between the two characters according to the words. The moments aren't chronological but adds up to create a beautiful and raw love story. By doing this, Levithan also gives a little more edge to the plot. He can switch the pace and leave a parts unfinished only to revisit it with an unexpected twist later on. 


However, the selection of words in the novel play as a disadvantage. Half of the words don't belong in everyday language and only people with a large bank of vocabulary would be able to know the meanings. If you could be bothered, read it with a dictionary. If not,  good luck. It's possible to get the jist of the word through the context from the passage but it would be nice to not feel so confused sometimes with words such as: libidinous, stanchion and vagary - just to name a few.

Looking past that though, The Lover's Dictionary certainly demonstrates the inability to define love with one explanation. Instead, Levithan must scour the dictionary and give readers a selection of words that add to the meaning. Just one simple word can hold so much and I love that this novel creates that feeling. Also, whilst Levithan provides different words to explain love they don't necessarily have to make sense for every single person out there. That's why, even though I was slightly distracted by the use of "big" words I could also understand that sometimes love just won't make sense. If that was done on purpose than props to Levithan for conveying such a strong emotion just through words.

It's also a great way to convey the flaws that come with relationships. It's never a smooth ride and readers can experience that from the narrator's recounts. There's love of course but also frustration, dislike and just exhaustion.

The Lover's Dictionary is an easy read. It provides an insight into the life of two people in love but that's about it. I breezed through it and there were moments when I felt warmed by it. However, I can say it's probably not for everyone. I've read other reviews and can agree that people who are in love would appreciate it more. It makes for a great place to get quotes from though (just saying). I liked it though. It's realistic enough and certainly doesn't raise hopes of leading a perfect love life.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath


Plot:

Esther Greenwood is an intelligent, young woman earning herself an internship at a magazine company in New York. There she befriends her co-workers and live a fast paced life. This eventually crumbles and she is forced to return to Massachusetts, her hometown. She is unable to pick herself back up and soon loses her only identity. In trying to find herself, Esther's mind begins to derail.

Review:

Plath is an exceptional poet and her writing does not disappoint in The Bell Jar. I was unsure as to how a poet was going to transfer their talent into a longer form of writing but that concern quickly faded. Her writing flowed at a pace that taunted with your emotions.

What made The Bell Jar so amazing was how perfect Plath's explanation for "the bell jar" is.  It's a feeling that could never have been put into words yet, Plath delivers a story that exemplifies its meaning exceptionally well. It's this feeling that most, if not all, of us experience at some point yet, can never determine what it really is. That is until you read this. There's this dawning moment where I was like, so that's what it is.

The novel is set during the Rosenburg's trial and execution (1950s) yet, Plath mainly focuses on the world that exists inside of her character. In Esther's recounts, it is predominately a reflection of the self. It portrays how consumed humans are in our own thoughts, not much else is noticed. So that when such a historical mark is made in US history, the character is not concerned about.  Likewise, whilst characters are introduced they never linger.  Readers don't even hear about them again once Esther moves on. Except for Buddy Wilkinson who I suppose triggered such a strong emotional response that became embedded in her. Even then, her thoughts of him was never in a positive light. The characters only sat on the fringes of Esther's world and most became a catalyst or reason for Esther's decisions.

The entire novel is frighteningly relatable. What starts as normal spirals into chaos, and revelations only lead to break downs. I found Esther a very likeable character despite her damaged mind. She sort of became a mirror that reflected thoughts or emotions that seemingly creep out during moments I least expect. I think that' what I enjoyed the most. Finding a novel that expresses everything you cannot say. There's an instant connection.

The Bell Jar contains a lot more meaning than what my hurried reading has picked up. Its a novel you can barely grasp a hold of unless you constantly churn the thoughts through your mind and revisit it. I plan to, once it's not so fresh in my mind. I know there is much more I could've picked up on but what I have discovered is already satisfying. It leaves you with a lingering nostalgic feeling and somehow rainy days don't seem so bad after all (how poetic). Sometimes there's also moments of "well, that escalated quickly".

Plath has contributed with an exceptional piece to literature and there is no reason to not read The Bell Jar. You won't regret if you do, trust me. It has quickly climbed into my top 10. I would love to spend this entire post discussing it but then I'd spoil it. Just read it, that's all I'm saying. It's an eye opener - definitely life changing.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Counting Down: My Top Five

5. Scatterheart - Lili Wilkinson

Plot:

Hanna Cheshire is the spoilt daughter of a wealthy businessman. She has been served on her entire life and tutored by young Thomas, who lets her know of the world outside her home.

Hanna suddenly becomes abandoned and must fend for herself. Before she understands what is happening, she placed into jail and shipped off to Australia as a convict for a crime she didn't commit.

The story of Hanna's journey across the seas unfolds into a story of her growth as a person and a romance that was never meant to happen.

Reason:

This is a story that has stayed with me ever since I was young. Ok, not that young but still just in my teens.

It's got a pretty simple plot line but has a level of complexity that makes it intriguing and memorable. Hannah's led a  pretty sheltered life so when she realises how bleak the world actually is, compared to the usual fairytales, it becomes a life lesson. I felt like I travelled along with her across the seas and everything that she experienced left a mark with me.

There are characters who still, after all this time, have a place somewhere in my heart (?). I found that Hannah was more of a vehicle than an actual character but whilst I was reading it, it didn't bother me. She definitely drove the plot with her first person view. It was the people around her that I developed an emotional attachment with,  especially Meg. In the story, she becomes like a mother/sisterly figure for Hannah and is downright badass as well.

I would say there are moments that might not be so appropriate for younger readers, depending on what you've been exposed to. Those that left an impact for me are the heartbreaking ones, which I think made the novel so much stronger. It's never smooth sailing and Hannah learns that during her time on sea. It creates a realistic world, not necessarily relatable but in a world readers will know.

Don't mistake Scatterheart to just be about the soppy romance. It's about finding identity, trust in the people around you and most importantly, being yourself. It probably is a bit more on the girly side, not saying boys can't read it, but it's just gorgeous and there's the bonus of a tale/myth being told as the title of each chapter.

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Night Road - Kristin Hannah


Plot:

Lexi and Mia find similarities in each other despite the differences in their background. They become best friends immediately and Mia comes to rely heavily on Lexi. This concerns Mia's mother, Jude, at first. However, after the girls have a night out with Mia's brother, Zach,  Jude finds that her worries over a friendship is minute compared to what she has to face. Their lives take a turn and nothing will ever go back to how it was before.

Review:

Night Road centres around four characters, Lexi, Mia, Zach and Jude. It can be split into two halves, the first being Mia and Lexi's friendship during high school and the second their adult lives.

I understand that the time jumps are necessary to quicken the plot but sometimes came across as choppy. There was a lot that wasn't covered, which I'd like to have known about but I guess Hannah thought it wasn't necessary.  Also, the time jumps would have been more successful if the voices of the characters had changed to match their ages. It seemed like the adolescent characters were just transported into the future without really ageing. Their tone and use of language stayed consistent throughout, which made the time jump seem a little unbelievable and made me feel a little annoyed.

Character wise, none of them really stood out to me. I think Hannah tried really hard to add levels of depth to her characters but they still felt flat to me. Both Lexi and Jude went through childhood problems, though neither the same, which affected their decisions in later life. Mia was socially awkward and Zach had too many expectations to uphold. Jude was the most annoying character, I can't even begin to explain how much I wanted to just slap her across the face via the pages in the novel (if that's possible). Yes, she was a protective mother and had her reasons for most things but her stubbornness and inability to let go made me want to just shake her and say snap out of it. If Hannah was aiming for that response in readers she certainly succeeded.

The novel though, comes down to its message, which I felt was great. Teenagers do make a lot of hasty decisions, especially on the brink of adulthood. Night Road explores the consequences of such decisions and it's effect in the long run. The concept of family also made its way into the plot, which did create an emotional tug. There were moments where I felt a little sympathy for the characters, especially Jude. But that quickly faded (as explained above).

Hannah's attempt to create a world that the current generation can relate to is well done. She could've probably made the first half a little less modern in order to transition into the second half better, making it more believable but it wasn't too noticeable.

Night Road had great moments but it also had quite a few bad moments. I powered through the novel though and it did leave an impression. There are pretty shocking moments and you probably will fall in love with Zach, even if he doesn't come off as a strong character.

Rating: 3/5

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Most Anticipated: Pages to Movie Screens


The adaptions from novels to movies have rapidly increased and with the latest release of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones, I've come up with a list of the most anticipated books gone movie releases.

In no particular order, because really who has the time:



1. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

Can we please take a long moment to really let this seep in. The Book Thief will actually be made into a movie! Eeek! I really cannot contain my excitement. The plot is based a Liesel moving in with a foster family during the Nazi period, and how the time affects her own childhood. What is absolutely fascinating is that the entire story is narrated by Death and if rumours are true, the movie will stay true to this. The film is set to be released in December this year, starring Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse.



2. The Hunger Games - Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)

Katniss Everden returns in the second movie to the trilogy The Hunger Games, with actress Jennifer Lawrence and actor Josh Hutcherson reprising their roles. Katniss and Peter's actions at the end of the game creates an unintended rebellion against the Capitol, which leaves their lives in danger. I sincerely hope that this time the movie fairs better than last time. I wasn't particularly fond of the first movie but will anticipate Catching Fire because of how good the series really is. The movie is set for November, this year.



3. Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead)

This is my love for fantasy novels coming out now and nothing could make me happier then actually having a great series about vampires being made into a movie. Let me tell you now, it is quite different to Twilight (thank gosh) so remove any prior thoughts about vampires because you are about to be proved wrong. Rose and her best friend Lissa belong to a world made up by three different types of vampires: Moroi - the royal; Dhampirs - half human half vampire, bad ass fighters and Strigoi - the ones who kill for blood. Get ready for some seriously sexy characters and (hopefully) great action scenes - February, 2014.



4. The Fault In Our Stars (John Green)

Perhaps the most anticipated young adult novel turned movie, the casts for The Fault in Our Stars have been finalised and should be released in 2014. Upcoming actress Shailene Woodley will play Hazel Grace, a girl suffering from a terminal illness. At a Cancer Kid Support Group she meets Augustus Waters and then her world is completely rainbows and butterflies. It might sound cheesy but it is actually beautiful and I cannot wait to see the magic between Hazel and Augustus on screen.



5. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Although not a lot has been revealed around this movie, it apparently has been confirmed that Selena Gomez will be playing Hannah Baker. The story is about a boy, Clay Jensen, who receives a box of tapes that have been recorded by Hannah before she commits her suicide. It lists the 13 reasons why she kills herself. I, for one, will be so excited to see how they film this if it is to be produced. I'm not sure about Selena playing Hannah but as of now, I'm going to put this under the rumours category.



6. Uglies (Scott Westerfield)

Again, I am unsure of the production of this but there has been some sort of confirmation after postponing it in 2011. This has got to be one of the best dystopian series I have read and I'm glad that something from my childhood will be exposed for the younger generation to see. Essentially, once young children reach the adult age they are transformed into "pretties" and moved into a new world to live. There, the "pretties" party day and night and live the life. Tally, the protagonist, is about to reach that moment when she befriends Shay and realises that there is more to the world than looks. It's time to show all those other dystopian novels what a good plot is really about *clicks fingers*.

c2ebc-84424577. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

Whilst I didn't enjoy the novel I actually have to say, I'd think it'd work better as a movie. The novel dragged things out too much, which bored me a little but compacted into movie form could work well. It's a thriller about married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. Amy disappears on the day of their anniversary and Nick becomes number one suspect. Police get involved and basically everything escalates quickly. Then massive plot twist. And bam! It's a great concept, just hope that the movie executes it better than the actual novel itself. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, it'll be a long wait with the release sometime in 2015.

Rumoured: The following movies are those that I am uncertain about but have been listed on IMDB and I definitely would love to see being produced.

200px-WickedLovely

8. Wicked Lovely (Melissa Marr)

The world of faeries and humans collide in this fantasy novel as Keelin, the Summer King is determined to find his Queen before summer perishes. Enter Aislinn who can and has always been able to see faeries even though she pretends not to by fulling her three rules: don't stare, don't speak and don't attract faeries. She finds herself drawn into the world she never wanted to know and her life begins to change. Aside from the gorgeous names, I would love to see how the faeries will be portrayed, especially their costumes.


Forgotten - Cat Patrick
9. Forgotten (Cat Patrick)

London Lane can never remember past but can see her future self. Her memory is wiped every night and she will wake up in the morning and read what she must do that day and notes she has to remember from previous days. She then meets Luke Henry and her unique mind becomes a complication. It's definitely big on the romance but I found the story touching and interesting enough to keep coming back to.

Tell me what other book adaptions you can't wait for!

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

August Haul

I didn't buy much in terms of individual novels but I absolutely burnt a hole through my wallet this month.



I bought two series:

  • A Song of Fire and Ice - George R. R Martin; yes, definitely jumping on the bandwagon with this but so far I'm at the first book so far.

  • Uglies - Scott Westerfield; the earliest dystopian type novel I remember reading. It's definitely worth a read, especially if you think the recent dystopian novels are good i.e. Hunger Games and Divergent.


And the long awaited addition to Philippa Gregory's The Cousin's War series:

  • The White Princess - Philippa Gregory; review here.


I am definitely being kept busy with Uni so far so I haven't invested time in reading. The one novel I really want to read next is Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper but I shall wait until I am financially able to buy it.

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Rosebush - Michele Jaffe


Plot:
Sometimes the truth is a very thorny thing.

Jane is found unconscious in a rosebush after being hit by car. She can't remember anything about the incident and the police think it's just the usual hit and run. That is, until Jane's memory comes back about the night before.

It turns out there's a lot more than what everyone wants to believe.

Review:

I found Rosebush to be one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in awhile. It met with most of my expectations and I wouldn't mind reading it again.

The romance in the novel was much like any typical teen love story. The popular girl dating the popular boy, and they're perfect together. Well minus some hiccups. In comes a gorgeous male nurse and a hot friend who has the same interest as the protagonist. Add all these factors together and you get - chaos. It's not really believable but I didn't mind it too much considering there was a lot of character revelations from the interactions that occurred between the characters.

I think none of the major characters really stuck with me. Even Jane wasn't enough to have me connect with her. Only Bonnie made a mark not because of who she was but because of the message she brought across. Most of the characters were just easy to despise. That's about it.

However, that doesn't distract from the plot. I started out thinking it was a simple teenage novel with a mysterious twist to it. Instead, I got layers that held up a colossal structure. There's so much more to the supposed hit and run, so many things that add to one chilling truth. Many of the characters have great depths to them that it makes for an engaging read. It's also got quite a lot of messages for young readers, ranging from family and friend issues to trust and jealously. Basically the issues that a lot of adolescents have to face on an everyday basis.

Also, the thriller aspect was every bit what it should be. There was suspense, mystery and twists. I never suspected a thing, just assumptions that changed from time to time. When the culprit was revealed I was like wow, okay. I see. It was surprising and sort of scary at the same time.

I'm glad I followed my instincts and read this. Already, I have been drawn back into the story after skimming the ending again. It's not very memorable but that's good for me because that means I can read it again whilst developing new thoughts. Definitely give it a read.

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, 22 August 2013

The White Princess - Philippa Gregory


Plot:

Daughter to King Edward IV, Elizabeth of York is betrothed to Henry Tudor and finds herself being Queen once Henry takes the crown from Richard III. Elizabeth cannot find a place in court whilst Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort controls everything. She resents Henry for killing her lover, Richard. Then news comes that a boy is mustering an army in neighbouring countries and claims to be Richard, Duke of York, coming for his rightful throne.

Elizabeth must decide where her loyalties lie - with the husband she was forced to marry or the house of York and the boy who says he is her younger brother.

Review:

The fifth instalment of The Cousins' War series depicts the life of Elizabeth of York, as Queen of England and the beginning of the Tudor era. As a massive fan of Philippa Gregory and her historical novels, I just had to get myself a copy. The White Princess is probably the only novel that I won't be raving about, unfortunately. It's got her writing style and thorough research so that it seems realistic enough but the plot and characters were just a drag.

I was looking forward to reading through Elizabeth's perspective, after encountering her in prior novels and sensing how intelligent and charming she was. However, I got nothing of the sorts in this novel. I am disappointed as to how Elizabeth seems so passive throughout the entire novel, making it almost weary to read if not for Gregory's great writing. The women in her previous novels all had strong and independent positions, paving their own ways and using their wit to create plans to benefit for themselves and their family. I don't get that with Elizabeth. She is merely just a vehicle used to tell the story, a figure that everyone knows but hardly does anything. I suppose Gregory couldn't change history, even if it is fictional, but the novel portrays Elizabeth as a character in the shadows watching or hearing from others about what is going on. She is never in the thick of things, which leaves her seem weak and almost boring.

Gregory does play on the fact that Elizabeth was rumoured to be Richard III's lover and adds elements of that into the novel. It is merely memories for Elizabeth but if Gregory had included maybe a chapter of their times together before transitioning into Henry VII's reign it would've raised the excitement of Elizabeth just a little. She would've had more character if I had witnessed the passion she felt for Richard as opposed to constantly just thinking about it and telling readers how much she aches for him. It would allow for her romantic affair with him to be a little more realistic, instead of sounding like a one-sided love.

I do love, though, how Gregory sticks to the portrayal of Margaret Beaufort from The Red Queen in this novel. Margaret Beaufort will forever be an ambitious and annoying lady, who believes God has chosen her son to be King. She has the same characteristics that made her  the antihero, both here and in her own novel. Also, how Henry VII was portrayed was fascinating. It seemed so realistic how his fears and suspicions ate at him and that England would not recognise him considering he had been exile for so long, and never received any comfort from people he knew. It was easy to feel sympathy but also a hatred towards him for his harsh manners. Out of all the characters, I think King Henry VII and Margaret, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, was most realistic. Maggie for her gentle and caring image and Henry VII for his ruthless manner, which I expect a king to have in order to get where he is.

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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Killer In My Eyes - Giorgio Faletti

Plot:

Mayor Marsalis' son has been found dead in his apartment. The killer's left him naked and in a position identical to Linus, a character from the comic-strip Peanuts. Ex-cop Jordan is called in to investigate the death and soon there are a string of other deaths replicated in the same way. Along with Italian investigator Maureen Martini, Jordan must find the murderer before other characters are killed.

Review:
There are two concepts that I am absolutely astounded by in the novel, enough to think Faletti is an actual genius:
One, the idea of  moulding a well-known cartoon strip into something so sinister. I would like to award Faletti with an award for creativity because I would never have thought that Snoopy and his friends could play a part in a murder mystery And two, the reason for the title, which I really can't explain cause then it just ruins the novel. To put it simply, sometimes you just have to see it to believe it.
Like his other novels, Faletti's able to introduce a number of characters that somehow interlink with each other (sometimes by a bit too much coincidence) without making the plot confusing. The characters are there for a reason, whether to help solve the mystery or help the development of a character. They're not fleeting and suddenly forgotten, they're introduced and stay till the end. Faletti is able to develop his characters quite well despite the limited timespan the novel is set in. There are certain attachments that can be made with the characters and surprisingly, I felt it with the minor characters more than the protagonist. I love the fact that everyone is flawed in this novel. Everyone including our hero. Even the victims who  you are suppose to feel sympathy for actually leave much more of a bitter feeling.
While reading a Faletti novel there is a lot of deducing that will happen and sometimes I'm so certain it'll be this person, but with The Killer In My Eyes no matter how much I thought about it nothing seemed plausible. So when the major revealing happened I was surprised but also a bit confused. You know the whole, where did this come from, which (thankfully) the plot explains later on. It was unexpected in the fact that you just never pinpoint that character in the first place. I guess that is a successful aspect in writing a crime novel, the unexpected moments are always the best.
This is the third novel I've read from Faletti and I have to say I held high expectations. I've always admired his talent in springing the surprise at the last minute, making the mysteries so much more thrilling. The same happens in The Killer In My Eyes but for some reason it just didn't create the same reaction I had with his previous works (see reviews for his other novels here). That's not to say it was bad, it just wasn't his best. I still thoroughly enjoyed it though, majority of it was great. For a tiny portion it was a bit slow paced but I guess it needed to start building the intense again instead of just being on a high the entire time.
Most of the time if an author sticks with a particular genre their novels just seem like a carbon copy of each other, just with different character names and setting. With Faletti everything is different and that's what I love about his style of writing. It's always something new that has you completely engaged. Grab a copy and settle down because you'll be sucked into the story before you know it.
Rating: 4/5

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July Haul

July was probably the month I went crazy with my purchases for this year. Blame it on All-Books-4-Less for having $3 sales!

I found myself reading a lot more young adult novels, gravitating towards romance/finding yourself novels including:

  • Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher; I bought it even though I've read it before. I felt like it stuck more the second time, even though it felt like the protagonist acted more like an antagonist.

  • How To Save A Life - Sara Zarr; review here.

  • Night Road - Kristin Hannah; I've been meaning to review this so some quick thoughts: it's definitely emotionally impacting but the pace is a bit too hurried.

  • Alice - Judith Hermann; a collection of short stories about Alice and the deaths she encounters in her life, which should be eye-opening and thought provoking but didn't really mean much to me.


I picked up a couple of thriller/crime novels as well:

  • The Killer In My Eyes - Giorgio Faletti; review will be up soon!

  • The Invisible Ones - Stef Peney; the blurb makes it seem promising but I haven't gotten around to reading it just yet.


And then there was the hybrid:

  • Rosebush - Michele Jaffe; this was definitely my favourite out of everything I picked up. It was intriguing, engaging and I was pretty much hooked. 


I flew through a lot in July but with uni already starting I suppose I needed to read in advance. I'm not sure what I want to read this month so I'm going to ask for suggestions. Leave a comment below!

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Friday, 26 July 2013

How To Save A Life - Sara Zarr



Plot:

Mandy is 17 and pregnant. Jill's father has just passed away. Jill's mother decides to adopt Mandy's baby. Not only does Jill oppose, she resents Mandy. Their lives begin to get tangled in ways they both would not have expected and soon they must face problems they tried so hard to hide.

Review:

The story is told through Mandy and Jill's perspective, each narrating in a different chapter. Zarr has been able to create two different voices that make the characters believable. It's not just changing the font but also the tone and perspective that allows us to see two totally different people. However, although Zarr succeeds in this area, the character of Mandy lacks features that an 17 year old would have. While I was reading it I felt like she was in her mid 20's, almost 30 because her voice was so much more mature and her thoughts made it seem like she had years of knowledge unlike Jill. Although, then again, Jill was portrayed slightly more childish. I guess because of Mandy's background, she may have been forced to grow up faster than usual and I'm pretty sure Zarr tried to explain that throughout the novel but it still didn't feel right. Also, as a reader, it was hard to create any attachments with either Mandy or Jill. I feel inclined to be more sympathetic to Mandy though, as her story unfolds. Jill just came across slightly annoying and lacked depth. Her character was just angry or sad with bursts of happiness most of the time. The only character I really felt for was Dylan but that slowly took a back seat as well.

The plot was touching at moments, especially through Mandy's perspective but it was also predictable. A lot you could pick out after a couple of chapters. There are few shocks but it just flowed through most of the time. What I appreciated was how Zarr tried to explore the different relationships and how much some of it meant to a person, even if it never seemed like it. The ending was sweet as well, I liked how Zarr managed to tie off the entire story neatly. It left me feeling satisfied, which is usually how I like to feel after an ending.

How To Save A Life isn't exceptional but it's a nice read if you're looking for something to float through. It's got a nice meaning to it and a solid plot that doesn't leave you confused. Give it a try, you might like it more than I did.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Plot:

Setting: North Carthage, Missouri

On the day of Nick's fifth wedding anniversary, his wife, Amy, disappears from their home. Initially, his innocence is certain and the support he receives is immense. Then Amy's unknown best-friend points at Nick and the police begin to find suspicious evidence that link to him. Suddenly Nick is the number one suspect

Review:

Gone Girl does everything a thriller should do. It's intense, shocking, grotesque and quite disturbing. That's about the only positive about this novel. Flynn produced a novel that had me sitting on the edge, that's for sure. I waited and waited and waited and waited just for the answer. In between that time there are a million twists that add depth to the plot. A simple mystery spirals into a haunting thriller that is quite the nail biter (excuse the cliche). The turning point in the novel needs only one word to describe it: wow.

However, all that ended at the finale of the novel. I am a reader that expects an amazing plot to end with a massive bang! Gone Girl did not deliver that. It was like enjoying a cool, fizzy coke and then taking the next sip only to find it flat and thick. How unsatisfying. All that time reading it and I was pushing for the ending, the moment where I close the book and say yes, it was a fantastic read. All I could say was oh, is that it? The ending is the do or die moment for me. It absolutely killed the book. Definitely the most disappointing aspect.

Flynn writes very well but was somehow quite dull. The first half was a drag and I had to really persevere  (I found myself becoming drowsy every so often), just for the sake of the answer. Perhaps this was because of the background information that Flynn included in order to set up the anticipation. The second half was immensely better, it was so easy to dive in and be completely engaged with what was happening.

The characters are unlikable. Whether that is Flynn's intention or not, I do not know. Both Nick and Amy have no redeeming qualities that make you want to like them or feel sympathetic towards their situation, which is weird seeing as they are both placed in situations everyone would tend to feel sorry for (especially Amy). The minor characters are just in the background and I hardly take notice of them. I don't even remember most of their names. There are characters that add an interesting twist in the plot and provide quite a bit of entertainment but there's really no hook that readers can connect to.

I guess when I picked up this novel I had a lot of expectations about it, seeing as how it has garnered many positive reviews. Maybe that's why I felt like it was such a let down. Overall, it was okay. It wasn't exceptional, although it could have been with how great the plot was. If you're a thriller fan than try it out, it might suit your taste. I just felt like it needed to be a little more compact, to the point, and have something drive the readers home quickly.

Rating: 3/5

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

City of Lost Souls (Mortal Instruments #5) - Cassandra Clare

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't read this series then this review may reveal plots of the previous books.



Plot:

Jace has disappeared, along with Sebastian, from the rootop. The search for him is met with little result. In desperation, Clary decides to take action herself. However, her joy dies when she realises Jace is bound to her brother, Sebastian, with the blood of Lilth. Along with her friends, Clary embarks on journey to save not only the boy she loves but also the Shadowhunter world.

Review:

Welcome back to the world of Shadowhunters and the constant obstacles that Jace and Clary face during their relationship. The latest instalment was met with anticipation after Cassandra Clare had left fans on a cliff in City of Fallen of AngelsCity of Lost Souls certainly explains what happens to Jace and Sebastian after the rootop incident but seems to centre on the romance of the characters in the novel. It does come across as quite frustrating, the lack of the original plot of the series. What was once a battle between Valentine and Shadowhunters has now circulated to just the relationship between Jace and Clary, and also the other characters. Yes, they are important as well but I wanted a lot more badass fighting scenes and 'good vs. evil' moments. Not to say that there isn't, it's just limited. Clare tries to add those elements of the supernatural one but they seem more like snippets, that flitter in and out, and almost confuses the entire storyline.

However, because Clare is able to establish such strong bonds between her characters and readers, it is easy to fly through the entire story. I read it all at once. There are times when you get tired with the constant intimate moments between the couples (almost inappropriate for readers under the age of 15), but you are kept on the edge with wanting to know who is good or bad, and what will become of Jace. Clare can produce suspense and readers will go along with the ride.

It is only once you reach the end that it feels like the fifth instalment is quite unnecessary. What was once a promising trilogy, it seems as though The Mortal Instruments series is going with the hype, and has now extended to more of a romance series then anything. The series seems to have lost the original plot but overall, is still enough to keep diehard fans from continuing on the adventure. At least until the last book. I am a fan of the series, just not the last two additions.

City of Lost Souls is not the best of the series, it's just okay. There are some shocks and twists to it but it will mostly suit fans of Clary and Jace who will love the amount of time focused on their relationship.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Speechless - Hannah Harrington

Plot:

Chelsea Knotting is known for her big mouth. She'll spread any secret she knows and never feel any guilt about it. Until one night when it leads to a near death incident. Chelsea loses all her friends and becomes an outcast.

She vows to be silent from then on.

Review:

Speechless definitely was a surprise. It was different to expectations, in a good way. As a Young Adult novel I had thought it would lack in depth. Instead, it consisted of many lessons to be learnt.

The character, Chelsea, comes across as annoying and needy in the beginning. Her constant need to run her mouth almost wants readers to punch her because who really wants to read about a snitch. Except, it's this flaw that she tries so hard to work on, which changed my mind. She becomes relatable. At 16, who didn't find themselves spilling dirty deeds to their best friend and wanting to belong to the 'in' crowd? Harrington does leave room for some sympathy towards Chelsea, as she becomes a victim in some way.

The plot takes a serious turn after the first couple of chapters. It leaves a lot to think about, touching on the issue that is constantly debated about. It'll ruin the novel if I reveal what it is but it is a major issue. This is the pivotal moment, which differentiates Speechless from other novels in this genre. Harrington tackles this well known issue in a very simple way but conveys the best message.

During the novel you are also introduced to various characters that are likeable immediately. They become like a close knit family to Chelsea but also to readers. This is what I liked about the novel, how easy it was to read because of the characters.

The novel itself is different, in terms of the concept included, but it is also similar to typical Young Adult novels with the cliques in High School and the blossoming relationship that was bound to happen. Yet, those moments don't ruin the novel. Harrington has delivered a very enjoyable novel that contains an important message but also a plot that has readers continuing to read on. It's a short read, definitely for those who like teenage drama straight from High School.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

You Against Me - Jenny Downham

Plot:

Mikey McKenzie's sister, Karyn, has accused Tom Parker of raping her. Mikey is out to seek revenge for his sister. Ellie Parker, Tom's sister, only has one thought to defend her brother. Their paths soon cross and suddenly their lives can't stop going forward.

Review:

Did Tom Parker commit the crime? That's the question that readers hang onto until the final chapters of You Against Me. The novel pulls readers with it and doesn't let them go until it finally ends. That's how it felt like for me. You start off not knowing who is telling the truth - Karyn or Tom. Except the novel is narrated through Mikey and Ellie. Mikey creates the link of sympathy readers share for Karyn whilst Ellie almost demands readers to trust Tom. The sides you take shift as soon as the narrating perspective changes. It's hard not to feel sorry for Karyn, hiding from the outside world who judges her. It's hard to see Tom as guilty after hearing what he has done for Ellie ever since they were young.

Along side the mysterious case is the developing relationship between the two main characters. Yes, it was bound to happen. But it's not like you start the novel not knowing that Mikey and Ellie are bound to enter a relationship at some point. Their relationship actually adds to the depth of the novel. Their constant battle between loyalty to their family and the passion they feel for each other. Although Downham makes it out as love, during the time frame that the plot takes place in, it is not that realistic to really call it love. They are definitely drawn to each other, so I call it passion (and certain amounts of lust). Their relationship keeps readers interested as well, curious as to how it will end up.

Downham keeps readers on the edge, not leaving any hints to what really did happen.She has a knack of taking the most serious issues to create a plot that just stays with readers. The idea of rape may seem like it will be too much to handle but it is actually the opposite. It addresses the stereotype of low-socioeconomic families vs. middle/high class families and the idea that girls who wear certain revealing clothing are just "asking for it". There are a lot of family themes underlying the novel as well.

Jenny Downham is known for her previous novel, Before I Die, and so You Against Me carries a lot of expectations. Let me tell you now, they are quite different. It's not so much that one novel excels while the other is just average, it's just that from what I have heard, the anticipation really does make You Against Me a slight disappointment. I guess it's lucky that I do not remember much about Before I Die so I read this novel with a blank slate. It was truly an enjoying read, I went through it in one night. It definitely leaves readers emotionally overwhelmed though, which could be good or bad. I finished at 12AM and could not go to sleep until 2AM. You feel the sadness, the anger, the disappointment. It is actually all there.

There is so much more that I could say about this novel but if I had to have one complaint then the ending left me slightly unsatisfied. The question that circulates the novel is answered. Of course it is (otherwise I would've gone nuts) but it feels as though the novel started off high and led me through an intense ride only to drop off. Just a bit.

I would still recommend this novel though. Try it out, you fall to love Mikey. At least I hope you do, just like I did.

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