Tag Archives: dystopian

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

6 Nov

Series:Razorland, book #1

Published: April 12th 2011 by Feiwel & Friends

Details: Hardcover, 259 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

Great start with a tough heroine in a claustrophobic and grim dystopian world, but that fizzled out in a week plot, with a brooding male romantic interest and a forced love triangle. Be prepared for an abrupt ending. Overall, still a good read, but not as good as it could have been.

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Synopsis:

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear–to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

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My thoughts:

My thoughts regarding this book are nearly identical to Birthmarked. It started out strong with plenty of potential, but half way through the plot simply fizzled out. And so did my interest.

In the opening chapters, we are introduced to the claustrophobic dark tunnels of Deuce’s world. She belongs to the human settlement The Enclave, deep in these tunnels, a society which follows strict rules in order to ensure the settlement’s survival. Child mortality is high and children earn their names only if they manage to survive the first 15 years. On the naming day, each one is categorized into breeders, builders or hunters. Deuce belongs to the latter category, a huntress, whose goal is to protect the settlement from all the zombie-like freaks that roam around the tunnels.

Grim world, to say the least, but very very intriguing.

Deuce is a great heroine, with similarities to Katniss, which may explain the comparisons to Hunger Games on the cover. She is a survivor and a fighter who takes matters into her own hand. Her mind is more practical than sentimental.  She has a tough shell, but doubts and vulnerability exist on the inside, which just makes her that much more endearing.

Fade, the guy she is paired up with to guard the enclave, is an outcast. He was found out in the tunnels by the enclave, and it’s an enigma how he survived by himself that long. He’s quiet but strong and an excellent fighter. I immediately felt Deuce’s curiosity regarding him. In short, I was hooked!

But half way though, something unexpected happens. They leave the enclave. And that’s where it all started to go downhill for me.

They embark on a journey seemingly without plans, where each event that happened seemed rather random. Instead of focusing on the secrets of The Enclave, or why things were the way there were, the plot took a turn into typical YA territory.

Yes folks, I’m talking about that inevitable love triangle! The problem is, I would have been perfectly happy with only Deuce and Fade. The second male interest felt forced, introduced only for the sake of creating some romantic tension.

A shame.

Especially since there was so much potential there in the beginning. I almost wished that Deuce had stayed with The Enclave, despite the hopelessness of that world, since the characters and potential plot was so much stronger there.

By the time it ended I was loosing interest quickly. Good thing it was only 250 pages long, or else it might have got an even lower grade. That said, the ending itself actually lowered the grade, since there was no real closure, just a cessation of words.

Despite all my qualms above, it was still overall a decent read, and I will keep an eye out for the reviews of the next book Outpost, to be released in 2012.

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Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

21 Oct

Series: Dustlands, book #1

Published: June 7th 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover, 459 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

An outstanding debut featuring Saba, who in a dystopian future heads out in search of her kidnapped twin brother. This is an epic adventure of enormous proportions, involving cage fighting, giant killer worms, a prison break out, mad chases across the desert, sand storms and a swoon-worthy romance. And I loved everything about it; the kick-ass heroine and her palpable growth throughout the book, the sibling love, the romance, the action, the writing. Absolutely amazing!!!!

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Synopsis:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

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My Thoughts:

I just finished reading Blood Red Road, and I absolutely LOVED it!!

or

“Frikin’ amazin’, that’s what it was”. If I were to speak like Saba in Blood Red Road.

Which, after reading this book, I nearly did!

As you’ve probably heard, the writing of the book is depicted as the dialect the characters speak. That is, you’ll get sentences like:

He ain’t bin right fer a long time.

Which, truth to be told, made me wary of this book. I knew some reviewers claimed that after a few chapters, you’d get used to it. But seeing as English is not my native tongue, I wondered if that applied to me as well.

Well, fear not! I did struggle for the first few pages, while mapping a few of the changes in my head:

fer – for

jest – just

naught – nothing

bin – been

But once the major changes had registered with me, I ceased to notice. And before I knew it, I’d flown through the book in no time at all.

Looking back at the writing now, I’m glad it was depicted the way it was, as it made me get a better feel of  Saba’s world. A world of illiteracy and roughness where intellectuals don’t exist. Where all that matters is your skill to survive.

In a way, the world was fairly similar to what I usually encounter in fantasy genres. People are dirty, rough and simple, there are taverns named One Eyed Jack, the land is traveled by horse or foot, no technology in sight and it’s all ruled by an evil king. The only signs of a dystopia is the talk of “wreckers” which supposedly are us, who vanished from the face of the earth in some kind of world disaster many years ago. Traces are left from our era, useless wreckage such as broken planes and cars that can be found scattered in deserts or ghost towns.

Either way, whether the feel of the world was dystopian or fantasy, it was amazingly well-crafted. I felt as if I could turn around 360 degrees and see exactly what Saba saw with her own eyes, at all times throughout her journey.

As a character, Saba was amazing too. As were all the other secondary characters in this book. I immediately took a liking to them all, and had my first tear slip at page 71, when Saba’s sister Emmi talks about the loss of their mom. Yes folks, this is emotionally packed stuff!

Yet, it never gets too much. Saba is such a strong heroine, the kind that doesn’t take crap from anyone. She fights, she struggles and she gets on with it, no matter the circumstances. If I have ever seen a true kick-ass heroine, Saba is the one! I simply loved everything about her. Her tough act, her growth, her vulnerability, her trust issues, her red hot, her rawness and honesty. I especially loved her complex relationship to her siblings, Emmi in particular. Anyone who has a little sister will know what I mean.

There is romance, and holy smoke how I loved those two together. A match in heaven, without doubt. Both as head strong, both as fierce, both survivors. It made me swoon, big time.

That said, you should know that the romance is not at the forefront of the book. In fact, it takes roughly 250 pages before he even enters the picture. What’s so great though is that it didn’t matter. Romance or not, I was practically glued to the pages from start to finish. My mind reeled, I had trouble breathing during the action sequences, tears fell during some of the most heart-breaking family scenes. I had to stop at times, just to remind myself that “Relax Tess, it is only fiction!”.

When the ending came, I just wanted more. So thank god there is a sequel. That said, Blood Red Road can be read as a stand-alone too, since everything wraps up in a satisfactory way. There are a few open ends of course, just to keep you a little bit curious for what’s to come next. But no cliff-hangers in sight.

On a final note, what’s up with DeMalo? He played a minor role here, but I’ve got a strong feeling his role will expand. I guess we’ll find out in 2012 when the sequel is published. Cannot wait!!!

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

9 Oct

Series: Unwind, book #1

Published: November 6th 2007 by Simon & Schuster

Details: Hardcover, 335 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

In a world where teenagers can be unwound, essentially scavenged for their body parts, the  teens Connor, Risa and Lev escape and make an attempt to survive until the safe age of 18. This is an action-packed adventure, with fully realized characters I truly cared about and a frighteningly well crafted world-building. My only minor criticism was the too-fitting ending.

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Synopsis:

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

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My thoughts:

Unwind should come with a warning tag: Be aware, once you start you will not be able to stop.

It sucks you in pretty much straight away and keeps an extremely high-paced tempo throughout the book. Plenty of action, lots of twists. Every chapter ended with something breath-taking, which forced me to continue just one more page.

It’s told from the point of view of several POV’s, mainly our lead characters Connor, Risa and Lev but other POV’s will occasionally pitch in as well.

I’m not a huge fan of multiple POV’s since the various voices usually blend into each other, thus making it messy to follow. In Unwind however, it worked. More so, it felt like it was necessary in order to understand the various backgrounds of these teens. Especially Lev, the tithe, who has been raised his whole life to become an unwound.

As so many other reviewers commented, the world felt frighteningly real. I had a hard time at first believing in the premise, that is, how such a world came to be. Surely, the Pro-Choice side would never allow for outlawing abortion in exchange for teens getting unwound?

On the other hand, since all the human parts continue “living” in other people,  unwind is not really considered dying. Somehow, in Shusterman’s world, this twisted idea of “life in a divided state” has taken root.

Once the unwinding business established, pure greediness took over. People were getting used to the constant availability of human parts in case of accidents or diseases. And so the world ceased to care for all these unwound teens, many of them unwanted babies to begin with.

The following passage from Unwind explains it further:

“of course, if more people had been organ donors, unwinding never would have happened… but people like to keep what’s theirs, even after their dead. It didn’t take long for ethics to be crushed by greed. Unwinding became big business, and people let it happen”

Wow, terrifying world, to say the least, and somehow, every bit believable, thanks to Shusterman’s writing.

There is a touch of romance as well, to please us softies, but Shusterman keeps it there just barely visible. It never takes over the plot.

The biggest strength with the book were the characters, who were all fully fleshed out, and given realistic personalities. No Mary Sues or Gary Stues in sight. Even the bad guys had a few good traits. No one was perfect, and no one was fully evil, and I could clearly picture them all in my head.

The ending was slightly too neat, that is, everything packed up just a bit too nicely. But that’s me nit-picking on an otherwise great piece of dystopian fiction.

If you’re into dystopian this is simply put a must-read!

The sequel Unwholly is to be released sometime in 2012.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

7 Oct

Series: Matched, book #1

Published: November 30th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile

Details: Hardcover, 384 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About Cassia, who in a dystopian future where The Society control all, is matched with Xander and then finds out that it could have been Ky. Or could it? Once the doubts are there, she can’t stop thinking about Ky, and eventually falls in love. It’s slow-going, bogged down with irrelevant details and lacks any sense of urgency. I had a hard time getting to the end without falling asleep. Recommended for fans of Delirium.

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Synopsis:

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.

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My Thoughts:

I have a theory: What you think about Matched, is what you think about Delirium, and vice versa.

As you know, I was not a fan of Delirium, and consequently I am not a fan of Matched. For nearly the same reasons as with Delirium. In fact, I could almost copy and paste my whole review from Delirium and insert the appropriate names and locations because really, they are that interchangeable!

Both are set in an all-controlling society who decides where you’ll live, what you’ll work with, who you’ll marry and how many children you’ll have. Both heroines, who are strikingly similar personality-wise, meet a boy who is an outcast of the society and hence forbidden. Both girls have been assigned a match who they should fall in love with. I could go on but you get the idea.

Instead, let’s move on to my issues:

Just like in Delirium, I had problems with the world-building in Matched. For instance, I thought it odd that people didn’t seem to create anything anymore. The Society had saved 100 of everything (poems, books, songs) but nothing new was being created? It appeared as if the only tool of creation was the long-forgotten pen. But wait, can you not write a poem on your computer? It just did not seem plausible and the whole oh-so-forbidden act of writing in cursive, which is what Ky secretly teaches Cassia, had me rolling my eyes.

Just like in Delirium, I thought the romance happened too fast. Cassia started to get drawn to Ky pretty much straight away, which given what happened with the micro card, is understandable. What I didn’t understand is how quickly she thought herself to be in love with him. They barely exchanged any sentences. And when they did, it was all very stiff or dramatic.

Just like in Delirium, there was a lack of urgency. It was too slow, and there were too many redundant passages that bogged everything down so that I ended up feeling every single one of the 384 pages.

Finally, I didn’t like the writing style, which seemed to try hard to be poetic but not quite making it. Let me give you an example (from page 175):

“Can I do it? I look out at the view from the top of the hill. The sky does not have an answer for me. The dome of City Hall in the distance certainly doesn’t. I remember thinking of the angel stories when I went to my Match Banquet. I don’t see any angels and they don’t fly down on their cotton soft wings to whisper in my ear. Can I trust this boy who writes in the earth?

Someplace deep within me – Is it my heart? Or perhaps my soul, the mythical part of human that the angels cared about? – tells me that I can.”

Now, some people might like this type of writing. Too me, it just sounds overdone.  It makes me notice the author (for trying to be poetic) rather than get immersed into the story. But then, that is just my opinion. If you like a flowery poetic language with plenty of side tracks and a few philosophical rhetorical questions thrown in for good measure – then this might be the book for you.

Or of course, if you loved Delirium.

It is however the end of the series for me.

The sequel Crossed to be published on November 1st this year.

Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

6 Oct

Series: Birthmarked, book #1

Published: March 30th 2010 by Roaring Brook Press

Details: Hardcover, 362 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

In a dystopian world set approximately 400 years in the future, 16-year old Gaia goes on a rescue mission to save her parents who have been arrested for traitory. It was an overall great read, with an intriguing world-building, good writing and a kick-ass heroine. The plot that at times felt too convenient, and a few holes in the world-building had the grade lowered.

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Synopsis:

In the enclave, your scars will set you apart, and the newly born will change the future.
Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three infants every month. But when Gaia’s mother is brutally taken away by the very people she serves, Gaia must question whether the Enclave deserves such loyalty. A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.

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My Full Review:

Birthmarked started out as a 5/5.

It captivated me immediately, and for the first half of the book I had a hard time letting it go. I kept thinking about it all the time, and was dying to get back to reading whenever I was working or doing something else. In other words, all symptoms of it being a 5:er were there. But half way through my interest faded, and it didn’t peak again until just towards the end.

My overall feeling on finishing the book was that the potential was there (which is what I felt in the beginning), but that it failed to fully deliver. A shame.

But let me start with what captured me in the beginning:

The writing and the world-building drew me in so smoothly, that before I knew it, I was completely immersed into the world of Gaia, who lives outside the walls of the Enclave, the governing state. Gaia was a heroine I immediately grew fond of, because of her kick-ass personality. She was brave and tough and fought for what she believed was right.

Early on in the book, we realise that Gaia’s parents have been doing something illegal, which has been put into some sort of undecipherable code. This peaked my interest straight away, as I anticipated the unraveling of said code and secret.

We also meet Captain Grey, one of the Enclave’s tough guards, who may or may not have an interest in Gaia. He reminded me of the fierce Valek in Poison Study, which is a great compliment right there.

In short, you could safely say that my interest had been captured!

What happened next is that Gaia smuggles herself into The Enclave in order to save her parents. However, it was after some time inside The Enclave, that my interest began to fade. The plot started to feel a bit too convenient, like when Gaia needed somewhere to hide, suddenly someone would appear in a doorway and whisk her in. She would get help just about everywhere, and everything would just always solve itself, in the most random and implausible manner. I can take one or two events happening this way, but not throughout an entire novel.

Secondly, the unraveling of the secret wasn’t fully explained. I was wondering why on earth it was such a big deal, what Gaia’s parents did? And seeing as the Enclave had such a problem with inbreeding, why hadn’t they thought of said thing themselves? It seemed odd.

The ending made up for some of the short-comings, as it was action-filled, tensed and made me swoon. It’s no cliff-hanger but slightly open-ended for a sequel to fill the holes.

The sequel Prized, is to be published in November 8th this year.

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

10 Sep

Series: Delirium, book #1

Published: February 1st 2011 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 441 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

I loved Oliver’s debut novel Before I Fall. This one however was a disappointment. The premise was interesting about a girl in a dystopian world where love is forbidden. But it turned out to be slow-going, with a sketchy world, a meek boring heroine and a shallow romance. The only good thing was the writing. Sorry to say I won’t continue the series.

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My Full Review:

As you know, I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut Before I Fall. Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise that her second book Delirium was such a let-down.

Since the hype surrounding this book was massive I’m sure you’re familiar with the general plot already, but here’s a quick reminder in case you’ve missed it:

This is a dystopian novel, set in a time when love is considered a disease and the root of all the problems of mankind. The government has decided it mandatory that all 18-year olds undergo a surgery to remove the part of the brain that triggers and senses love.

We meet Lena, who only a few weeks before the operation does the unthinkable. She falls in love with a boy.

Okay, so the premise sounded intriguing and I was expecting a similar roller-coaster ride as the one I was taken on while reading Before I Fall.

Instead I was treated to about the most boring story I have ever read. I got to the end, but it sure involved quite a bit of struggles on my part. Let me explain why:

The plot is practically non-existent for the first half of the book and then some. Meaning, you could easily flip forward a few pages and not miss a thing. Oliver writes beautifully, I get that. But I wished she would have cut some of her descriptions as they bogged everything down. It felt like the book could have been slimmed down 200 pages and still kept the story line intact. It felt like there was so much fillers!

I also had a hard time connecting to Lena, the protagonist. Do you remember in my review of Before I Fall how I said that the heroine was a breath of fresh air from all the other ordinary plain and meek heroines out there. Well, unfortunately Lena falls straight into the latter category. She did not seem to have one single trait to make her stand out. Apart from maybe indecisiveness and low self-esteem. How Alex would fall for her and not her charismatic best friend Hana is a mystery.

The romance was (once again) of that “fall at first sight” type which I am beginning to loathe. After only a few weeks of knowing each other, Alex and Lena are already proclaiming their eternal love for each other, where they are literally ready to die for each other if so be it. Romantic? I don’t think so. Stupid is more like it.

The boy Alex seemed like a generic and bland perfect-type of guy. Always saying the right thing. No chemistry nor sparks in sight. Yawn.

The dystopian world was a joke. Now, as you know, if a story pulls me in, I am more than willing to suspense belief of an incomplete dystopian world. Here however, because of a non-existent plot, the many holes in the world Oliver had created were kind of hard to miss. A couple of things bothered me:

1) Why had the government decided that love of all things was to be considered dangerous, but not some other emotion, such as hatred, jealousy, fear etc? What had happened that made masses of people beg to be lobotomized, to have their love removed? None of this is explained more than a vague “love made people do crazy things“. Sorry Lauren, but I need more than that to believe in the world you’ve created.

2) I found it hard believing that the pre-operated teens could co-live with operated adults and still want to go through with the operation. Wouldn’t any normal teen who hangs out with both loving uncured teens and cured glazed-eyed adults realize that something is very odd about the way this society runs? Wouldn’t tons of teens oppose to this operation? In for instance Uglies,which deals with a similar world, Westerfeld solves this dilemma by keeping pre-operated and post-operated people separate. Which made much more sense to me.

3) I did not see how the government could think this made for a more peaceful society. There were obviously a lot of violence going on, what with the raids, the crypts and so on. All the violence in the book contradicted the whole notion that love was the root of all the problems/wars/disturbance of mankind.

4) The government is said to be very controlling. Yet it seemed as if the teens could get away with just about anything, such as break curfew a number of times, jump the fence to the wilds, hold huge parties in abandoned houses, listen to illegal music on the internet and so on. I certainly didn’t get the feeling that it was all that controlling and I never felt scared of the authorities.

If I were to sum everything up, while reading this book, it felt like I was the one who had been lobotomized, to have love removed, because the only feeling the book provoked in me was indifference. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing the series.

The second book Pandemonium to hit the shelves in March next year.

Review: Wither by Lauren Destefano

1 Sep

Series: The Chemical Garden #1

Published: March 22nd 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Details: Hardcover, 358 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

In a dystopian world where life span has been shortened to only 20-25 years of age, Rhine is married off to a wealthy guy to produce children. I loved the original concept, but quickly got bored when I noticed that the whole book took place within the house, and that nothing ever happened. The romance was non-existent and the characters underdeveloped. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

This dystopian book by debut author Lauren Destefano created quite a stir when it the shelves earlier this year, receiving quite a few stunning reviews. Enough to peak my interest. It is also found at the top of my “next book to read” – poll. Thanks as always to all who voted!

And so, here I am a few chapters in:

As we enter the story, a couple of girls have been kidnapped, and 16-year old Rhine is one of them. She and two others are picked out and taken to a big mansion where preparations start to make all three of them wifes of the Governor Linden.

Meanwhile, we learn that genetic modifications of the human race has sucessfully cured cancer and other diseases. But now it has backfired, and created a uncurable virus, which kills men at the age of 25 and women at the age of 20. People desperate to find a cure kidnap young girls to be mated and experimented upon with young men.

Yes, this is truly a grim world. But intriguing, as I have absolutely no idea of what will happen (and you know how I love unpredictability in my books!). Rhine has just tried on her wedding dress for the first time, and is about to get married, along with the other two girls. Will she be able to escape? Will they find a cure?
 
 



 
 
After finishing the book:

Okay, so I’m gonna cut to the chase here: I did not like this book.

Surprising actually, because I thought I would, considering that favorite web sites such as yareads rated it 5/5.

Now, the reason why I disliked it, wasn’t because of the serious topics dealt with in this book. Topics such as polygamous marriages and a child brides. None of that shocked me. I’ve read and seen a bunch of books/movies far worse than that.

Nor did I care too much about the dystopian world not being sufficiently built up, like so many other reviewers have commented on. I did notice it, for instance that it seemed a bit strange that Rhine was able to roll around in silk, take bubble baths, and eat strawberries when supposedly the entire world (except the states) were lying below water. I also found it strange that when so many orphans were running around on the streets (given their parents’ premature deaths), there was still a need for “gatherers” to force girls to marriage rich men and produce babies. I mean, wouldn’t there be an abundance of orphaned girls willing to do this in exchange for food and shelter?

Yet, I can easily forget holes in a dystopian world if the story pulls me in, and this my friends, is where it fell short for me. Not the serious topics, nor the plot holes of the dystopian world, but the story itself.

You see, I found the story lacking. Rhine is taken into this house with her two sister wives, and forced into a marriage with Linden. Then what?

We learn that Linden is completely innocent (or naive) regarding how his three wives ended up in his house. His father is apparently the mean one. We are told repeatedly how that father is a huge threat, and yes, he is obviously not kind judging by the first chapter. Yet, we never actually see any proof of the supposed threat that he is, apart from the fact that he has this cellar where he performs dissections of bodies that have died in order to find a cure. Sorry, but that does not qualify as a big threat.

We learn that Rhine has a twin brother and is desperate to find a way out. Yet, I didn’t really see why she was so desperate. Sure, the house was a prison, but certainly a very comfortable one. Especially if compared to the harsh realities of the world outside. Linden is infatuated with her and grants her every wish, which makes me wonder: Why not just ask him to have her brother being brought there? Problem solved!

The whole book seemed to revolve around her wanting to escape, yet nothing ever happened. She would lie in bed, have a manicure, eat some strawberries, take a walk in the garden, lounge with her sister wives in the drawing-room, take a bubble bath, order some food and repeat the whole process again. Lie in bed, have a manicure, eat some strawberries…you get the idea.

It got so tedious after a while it took all my will power to keep going.

There is a tepid romance as well involving a staff-boy and Rhine, but seeing as he was absent for most part of the book, it was hard to care or feel anything for those two.

The only thing that I liked was the relationship that developed between the sister wives, and how they stood up for each other. The character that stood out the most was quiet Jenna. I liked her.

Other than that, it was just plain boring.

The sequel is called Fever, to be published in Feb 2012.

Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

18 Jul

Series: Maze Runner, book #2

Published: October 12th 2010 by Delacorte Books

Details: Hardcover, 360 pages

My Rating: 2.5/5

My Summary:

Second installment of The Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas and the gladers discover that the maze was only the beginning, as they enter phase two in the trials set up by WICKED. Interesting world, but would have liked less trials, and more on the background of the project. I also keep having issues with the underdeveloped characters. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

The Maze Runner told the story of a couple of teen boys who find themselves in the center of a giant maze, with no recollection of their pasts. I didn’t outright love the book, but I thought it was intriguing enough to want to read the sequel. The ending in particular had me hooked as it promised revelations about the reasoning behind the maze, and more on the dystopian world outside.

Enough said, I started reading The Scorch Trials and I’m now a few chapters in.

We enter the story exactly where The Maze Runner ended. Thomas and the other gladers have been rescued and are enjoying their first night of good sleep in dormitories provided by the rescue team. But that peaceful sleep shatters the next morning when all hell breaks loose.

The first thing they notice is that their dormitories are surrounded by screaming “cranks” – which is what the insane disease-affected people are called. Then, they discover that the entire rescue team has been murdered in the kitchen. Thomas finds that his friend Theresa has disappeared and in her place there is a new boy, Aris, who appears to have come from another group who also went through the maze.

Not surprisingly, Thomas already overfull head is now swarming with a million new questions. As is mine. Thankfully, just as my head is about to explode with questions, a man appears in the dormitory. And he reveals the following:

The Maze was phase one of a series of tests which essentially were designed to monitor the reactions of the human race, and pick out who is the most fit to fight the world catastrophe which is currently going on in the world right now. The man also tells them that Phase two is about to begin, which is predicted to be even tougher than the maze (if that’s possible).

The next day the boys are instructed to march outside the dormitories, into the blaring sun of a destroyed world in order to complete phase two. And this is where I am now. The boys are marching through a desert land towards a city, and I can only imagine what they will encounter there. Crazy cranks for sure..but what else?

 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I can’t help but feeling a bit disappointed. I read this sequel in order to understand why someone would put the boys through the maze. I read it in order to find out more of the dystopian world outside. None of that materialized here.

Instead, we got a rehash of the maze runner. The only thing that changed were that the boys now knew that they were being put through some kind of trials. Apart from that little detail, it was the maze all over again. The boys stuck somewhere, where they had to survive various “variables” thrown at them, all directed by the creators of WICKED. In the end, the sequel didn’t bring us anything new. It felt very much like a middle book, whose only goal was to take us readers to the book three where the BIG CONLUSION will be revealed. I could have easily skipped the book entirely and gone straight ahead for the final book The Death Cure instead, and not feel the slightest lost.

The biggest downfall however were the lack of development in the characters. I said it in The Maze Runner, and I’m saying it again here. I could not connect to the main character Thomas. Which is strange, since I’ve been following him through two full books now. I’ve been watching him being beat up, betrayed, kissed and what not else, and all I feel is nothing! I’m wondering if it is because he’s got a bit of that Mary Sue syndrome, always doing the right thing in every situation, always good at everything he does. I’ve never been a fan of characters that are too perfect. Yet, even so, it’s strange that I care so little about him.

And that goes for the rest of the characters. Apart from maybe Minho, I couldn’t have cared less who died and who survived. Granted, we know very little of the other characters, which in itself is another fault of this series. When they start off on their phase two journey in this installment, there are twenty or so boys in the group. Yet it seems as if Thomas (as well as the reader) knows of only Newt, Minho and Frypan by name.  The rest of the group is reduced to nameless stand-ins, only there to be killed along the way (in order to spare the main characters).

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance either. I mean, it felt like Thomas had more chemistry with Minho than with Teresa. Likewise with Brenda. There was just nothing there, and I consequently got tired very quickly of all the angst regarding these two girls. I wish it had been skipped all together.

The question is now: Will I continue the series?

These first two installments are promising a final conclusion to the series that will explain the grand scheme of the WICKED . Only, I am almost positive I will end up being disappointed again, just like I was disappointed with the escape from the Maze.

You see, I don’t think there is a brilliant solution. There is all this talk about variables and killing patterns and how it’s all supposed to bring them closer to a cure. Considering the awful things these boys have gone through, there has to be a seriously brilliant solution to explain all this, and frankly, I don’t think there is one. Dashner did not deliver in regards to “the solution” to the maze,  and I have a strong feeling he will fail to deliver in the last installment as well. Hence, I’ve decided to leave this series.

The final installment The Death Cure to be published in October this year.

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

19 Jun

Series: Divergent, book #1

Published: May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

Details: Hardcover, 487 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

First book in trilogy. In this dystopian world, Tris chooses a faction to live in and the tough initiation ritual begins. This amazing book includes lots of action but also great character development, a wonderful kick-ass heroine and one of the most believable romances I have ever read. In short, WOW what an amazing book! I cannot gush about it enough!! If you read one book this year, read this one!!!

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A few chapters in:

The Hunger Games did to the dystopian fiction in young adult literature what Twilight did to vampires. Namely, increased the popularity of the genre by tenfold!

Since reading Hunger Games, I’ve read a number of dystopian fictions, each time in the hopes of coming across the next book that will blow me away.

Divergent is the next much-hyped debut out there, said to be the next Hunger Games. But do I really dare to believe that’s true?

You see, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, because I know by now from experience that a hyped-up book doesn’t always equal amazing (see my review of The Maze Runner).

Divergent has however surfaced as the next book to read in my poll (thanks to all who voted!!) and I checked the average score on goodreads (4.55), which is promising. What if it really is the next Hunger Games? Time to find out!

I’m now a few chapters in. Beatrice lives in a society which has been divided into five factions, each faction valuing one personality trait above all others. In Abnegation, where Beatrice lives, they value selflessness more than anything else. Self-indulgence in any form is prohibited, and it’s asked of you that you help everyone else before yourself.

We enter the story when Beatrice has just reached 16 years of age, and hence is about to choose which faction she is to live the rest of her life. Most people simply decide to stay where they are, as it’s known territory for them, and they get to be with their families. In fact, transferring to another faction is very unusual.

Along comes the day when Beatrice has to make that choice and she’s debating with herself. She knows that she never truly fitted into the Abnegation life style, yet is she prepared to leave her family for good?

The decision she makes surprises everyone, most of all herself. And before she knows it, she is taking part of a fierce initiation ritual, together with a few other new-comers. The thing is, if you fail the initiation tests, you end up on the streets as a faction-less, which is a fate almost as cruel as death. In other words, she has to make it, right?

And this is as far as I’ve got.

But wow, so far, I am seriously liking this. I’m only a few chapters in and am already feeling the pull..big time!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I finished this book at 3.30 am. I had to work the next day. Enough said. This was freaking amazing!!! The kind of book that had me wishing I had a grading system that allowed me to give it more than 5. Because a 5/5 just does not seem enough.

It’s also the kind of book that makes all other books pale in comparison. You know, I almost fell into a slight book depression after reading this one. Because, what now? I knew that anything I’d read in the next couple of weeks (months?) would not be half as good. How depressing is that?

Then again, THANK GOD I did read this one, because WOW what an amazing reading experience it was. I felt like I was completely and totally emerged into the world Roth had created. The book literally swallowed me whole, hence why I got 3 hours of sleep on the night I finished it.

It’s said to be the next Hunger Games. Well, yes there are definitely similarities. For one, there is the dystopian world, then there is Tris, who is a kick-ass heroine and a bit of an underdog who goes through rigorous training and tests with possibly deadly outcomes. The main similarity however was this:

No force in the universe could have made me put the book down.

Do you remember me saying that in the Hunger Games review? Well, folks, for the second time since I started this blog, I am saying it again. This is a book  that you will NOT be able to put down. Period. A word of advise, clear your schedule before starting it!

So enough with my rambling, what was it that made it so gripping?

A combination of things really.

* The Action. Most of the book deals with the initiation rituals, which included plenty of nail-biting action scenes and fascinating ways to test the new recruits, all of which had me racing through the pages.

* The world-building. I loved how complete it felt. There are so many details and characters, all vividly described that I literally felt as if I were walking around in those dungeons myself.

* The main character Tris. It has been some time (perhaps since Katniss) , since I felt so much for a heroine as I did with Tris. She is such a multifaceted character. She’s vulnerable, strong, brave, selfish but also protective, tough but also doubtful. I was with her on every step of the way!

* The secondary characters Christina, Will, Al, Peter, Uriah and Eric. They felt as real and fleshed out as the main characters, having both good and bad traits (well apart from Eric), stemming from different pasts and each with personal motives behind their actions. There is loyalty and encouragement, but also betrayal and mistrust. No one is perfect, just like in the real world.

*The romance. It doesn’t take a forefront, yet is one of the most wonderful romances I have read in some time. I loved the fact that it wasn’t a love at first sight, rather took time to develop slowly.  And I adored their dialogues together, every moment they shared gave me heart flutters. I had to skip back and read their scenes together again, once I finished. That’s how hooked I was. My favorite scene is when he shows her his most vulnerable side in the fear landscape. Let me tell you, my heart was racing along with Tris’s during that scene. Simply amazing.

Overall, I also loved the fact that it felt so unpredictable. Up until the end I had absolutely no idea of what was going to happen. And since I don’t want to destroy that unpredictability for you, I’m going to finish here, before I give anything else away.

All I’ll say is that  if you haven’t read this book yet, what are you waiting for? Go out there and get your hands on it now. You will not regret it!!!!

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

17 Mar

Series: Hunger Games, book 3

Published:  August 24th 2010 by Scholastic Press

Details:  Hardcover, 390 pages

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Summary:

In this final installment of the much acclaimed Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss finds herself in the middle of a civil war in Panem. It turns out that district 13 exists, and they are bent on destroying Capitol. I loved the two previous books, but found this one to be a little bit too much on the darker side for me. Still a good book, which I recommend anyone who is following this series to read. Just be prepared for a somewhat painful ride, that´s all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few chapters in:

I must be the last person on earth to read this last installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy. At least, that´s how it feels. Its two predecessors took me by storm, and I was anxious to read this final part, yet other books came in between – well you know how it is.

Anyway, here I am, finally about to read the final part of Katniss’s story! I have managed to avoid reading any reviews and so I have no idea of the content – not a small feat considering the endless stream of reviews that have been flooding the web ever since its release in August last year.

What I couldn’t escape noticing however was the general opinion of the book, which seems to be quite a bit lower than the other two. Why that is I have no idea. Time to find out:

This final book continues just after Catching Fire left off. Plutarch, the head of the Hunger Games, has been collaborating with the rebellions, and managed to save Katniss from the arena just as it exploded. Other tributes like Finnick and Betee were also saved, while others such as Peeta, were captured by the Capitol.

As Katniss recovers from her injuries in the hospital of district 13 – the headquarters of the rebels – she becomes aware of how far the country has got into a full-on civil war. The first and biggest shock is that the Capitol bombarded the entire district 12 – killing all the habitants – save from a few thousand that managed to escape to district 13.

The second biggest shock of course is that President Snow has got Peeta, and the realisation that Peeta may very well be dead – or if not – under ongoing torture.

It’s a grim world to wake up to – and I understand when Katniss feels the desire to hide in the oblivious clouds of the morphine provided to her at the hospital. Nevertheless, the world is calling her. The rebels did save her for a reason. And they need her as their Mockingjay- the symbol of the rebellion.

After some hesitation, Katniss decides to play along with the rebels, and accepts the various missions they have in store for her – essentially various tv promos to promote the cause of the rebels.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but so far so good.


 

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I finished it last night. And I’m having troubles collecting my thoughts.

So let’s start with the most important question: was it as good as the first two books?

No, it wasn’t.

There, I said it. I still liked it, and I recommend anyone who has read the Hunger Games and Catching Fire to go for it. Just don’t expect the same thrilling ride provided in its predecessors, that’s all.

But let’s start with what was good:

First of all – the extended world-building. Collins knows her world well, there is no denying that.

In this final book, we are provided with explanations to what happened during the dark years. We are given the background story behind district 13 and how it was able to escape the Capitol and become self-sufficient. In short, many more details are provided to give you a clearer picture of Panem and its history, as well as the workings of the current civil-war. All this was really intriguing.

What I loved as well was how she (Collins) manages to make it all so realistic. There is a civil war going on and there is nothing heroic about that. War in any form is pain and misery which is described really well here. Even though the Capitol are the bad guys, the rebels are no angles either – as shown in one episode involving Katniss’s preparation team. It is also illustrated how difficult it is to stay sane in a war – to not become as evil as your enemy, especially if influenced by revenge, as in a scene involving Gale and some minors in district 2.

And what is to happen if the rebels win the war? Will the new leader provide a better example than president Snow? As in real life, there are no guarantees. Nothing is black and white. And this is precisely what I like with Collins. Despite its dystopian setting, it all felt so very real!

Yet, the harsh reality of a war provided here made it a very grim book to read. A bit too grim even.

You see, as you may recall from my review of the Hunger Games, I need some light and warmth in a book in order to really devour it. There can be darkness and cruelty, as long as there is some heart and warmth as well. What made Hunger Games so good was that despite its cruel premise, warmth was also present as well.

In this installment however, the darkness was overwhelming. Apart from a few heart-warming moments (usually involving Finnick or Prim), everything was just so sad and dark that it was downright painful to read.

Moreover, our heroine Katniss is crumbling, physically and mentally (understandably of course considering everything she´s gone through) but it made it a painful read to follow her. It reminded me of following Tally on her aventures through the Uglies Series, where it towards the third book Specials turned from exciting to painful to read , simply because Tally was falling apart.

I also found that this installment had a much slower pace. While the other two books provided a non-stop fast-paced tempo, Mockingjay provided more time for reflection. There were a lot of flashbacks towards the other two books, and Katniss spent time reflecting over things that mattered, and how she became the Mockingjay and what that meant – for her and for the rebellion.

This is certainly not a bad thing as it provided a better insight of the course of events of this series. Yet, because of it, quite a few chapters in the middle of the book got a bit repetitious. Apart from the promos Katniss would make combined with the occasional stay at the hospital, the plot did not seem to move forward for a large chunk of the book.

The final reason why this book did not resonate with me as much as the other two was the absent Peeta. I didn’t realise how much Peeta meant to me in this series before he was taken away, as a prisoner of the Capitol. I devoured the moments he and Katniss had in the previous two books. Peeta to me was the reasonable voice, the heart and warmth of the series, the much-needed support to Katniss. Without him, the story lost a bit of its magic.

The Bottom Line

In short, this was a good solid final installment. Yet I had no problems putting the book down for a few days and it didn´t provoke any gasping out loud moments, nor tears.

In other words, it was good – but not great.

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

22 Nov

Series: Maze Runner, Book #1

Published: October 6th 2009 by Random House

Details: Hardcover, 374 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Set in dystopian future. Thomas wakes up in a lift that takes him up to an expanse populated with dozens of other kids, surrounded by a maze. Together they have to find a way out before they’re killed. Not as amazing as the similar Hunger Games. Action-packed and with an intriguing premise, yet I felt slightly disappointed at the end. Sequel Scorch Trials out now.

A few chapters in:

As you know, I loved The Hunger Games. Which is why lately I have been looking for, not only the next Twilight, but also the next Hunger Games, meaning a mind-blowing dystopian young adult fiction.

Not surprisingly, The Maze Runner comes to mind. Ever since it was published a year ago, it has drawn comparisons to The Hunger Games. And so, I had to see for myself, is it as mind-blowing? Is that even possible? Time to find out!

I’m now a few chapters in. Thomas, our protagonist, wakes up in a lift. He has no recollections of his former life, in fact, all he remembers is his first name. When the doors of the lift open he finds himself in “The Glade”, a huge expanse surrounded by massive stone walls, and met with a dozens of other boys, ranging from 12 to 17 years old.  He soon learns that all the boys have arrived through that lift, with their memories wiped clean, just like Thomas.

And things just keep getting weirder. During the day, there are four exits left open in the stone walls surrounding The Glade, inviting the boys to explore the maze outside. Yes, a giant maze surrounds the place! Every night the exits close, whether to protect the boys from horrors outside or to prevent them from escaping, I don’t know.

After only a few chapters, my mind (along with Thomas’s) is already swarming with questions. Let’s just say I’m intrigued!

After finishing the book:

Ok, I have finished the book. What did I think?

Well, I know that I loved the beginning with the intriguing mystery of a maze with moving walls. Yet, it wasn’t as great as I expected it to be. Still an enjoyable read, and I kept reading because I wanted answers to all my questions. But it never truly gripped me and I’ll get to why in a moment.

Like I said, the start of the book was as intriguing as it gets. We have Thomas finding himself in “The Glade”, with a dozens of other boys. All their memories have been wiped clean, and no one knows anything about who put them there and why. All they know is that “The Creators” are providing everything they need to get by, and that a gigantic maze surrounds the place. It’s assumed that the only way out is to find a way out of the maze. The only problem is that the walls of the maze move, and that the grievers (some sort of horrible monsters) come out at night, restricting their exploration of the maze to daytime only.

Quite early on we realize along with Thomas that somehow he is special. Despite his memory loss, he senses a strange familiarity to the surroundings, especially the maze. What is also weird is that as soon as he arrives, things start changing.  Previous to his arrival, the boys have been having more or less the exact same routines for nearly two years. Not surprisingly, the sudden rupture of these routines scares the boys, causing some of them to cast suspicious looks at Thomas.

A few of the boys however are on Thomas’s side right from the start, in particularly Minho, Newt and Chuck who all came across as really nice guys, each in their own way. There is also one girl involved, who arrives soon after Thomas, but spends most of the time in coma.

All of this, which I just described, really intrigued me. I wanted to know how the boys were going to solve the maze, which role Thomas played in the whole thing, who the girl was, and generally why the boys had been thrown in there in the first place!

However, while we do get answers to some of these questions, I couldn’t help but feel disapointed at the outcome.

—  SPOILERS!!  —

Firstly, their escape was not how I expected it to be. I mean, they figured out the solution thanks to Thomas recuperating some of his memories. But if he hadn’t remembered what to do, they would never have gotten out. Hence, the smart logical solution I was expecting, something that would make me go WOW, I never thought about that!! – turned out to be no solution at all.  Given the intriguing mystery of the premise, I was expecting some clever solution. So even though it was exciting to see them fight their way out, it was also bit of a let down, if you get my drift.

—  END OF SPOILERS  —

What I also found somewhat disappointing was the lack of depth in some of the characters. I did care to some extent for the supporting characters Chuck, Newt and Minho, but I felt oddly detached from Thomas. Not that he bothered me but I felt indifferent to what happened to him, which I’m pretty sure was not the intention of the writer. When the girl woke up from the coma, I had a hard time caring for her too, and I didn’t feel the connection the two main characters supposedly had. Possibly, because we are only told that they used to know each other but never shown any background story. (Which makes sense given their memory loss). This may grow into something more solid in the sequel. I hope so.

The Bottom Line:

Disappointments set aside, I did burn through the book in a matter of days, eager to find the answers to all my questions (some of which are still left unanswered). It’s a good book, a page turner and the start of an intriguing albeit slightly depressing series. If you like dystopian fiction I recommend you to put it on you TBR-list. But it wasn’t the type of amazing book that have you gasping out loud. For that, you need characters that you truly care about.

The sequel is called Scorch Trials, which I will most likely read in the near future. After all, too many question marks are left hanging and I remain curious to what will happen next!

Review: The Forrest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

3 Oct

Series: The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, book #1

Published: July 2009 by Gollancz

Details: Paperback, 310 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

About Mary who lives in a village surrounded by a fence to keep out the zombies that populate the forest. One day there is a breech in the fence and she and a few others manage to escape. Ryan has created a cruel and fascinating dystopian world. Unfortunately too much time is taken up by Mary’s inconsistent and whiny thoughts. All in all, ok but not great. There is a sequel.

A few chapters in:

I heard somewhere that zombies are the new vampires. I don’t know if that’s true, it remains to be seen. What I do know, is that I have never read a YA fiction before involving zombies. That alone made me curious about this book. I am now only a few chapters in, and it has grabbed my attention.

Mary lives in a village in the middle of a forest. Nothing unusual about that, except for the fact that their village is closed in by a high metal fence in order to keep out the zombies (or the Unconsecrated as they are called) who populate the forest. Once in a while, a human gets too close to the fence and is bitten by the zombies, thus turning into one of them. At the start of the book, this very thing happens to the mother of the Mary. She lost her father to the zombies only months previously, and now finds herself all alone, but for a brother who doesn’t want to have anything to do with her.

She seeks refuge with the Sisters, a religious group of women – who are also the rulers of the village. This is as far as I’ve got but I am intrigued by the original plot. Let’s see what happens next..

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I finished the book last night. What did I think?

Well, it started out great and I was really intrigued by the premise of Mary discovering secrets within the sisterhood – the rulers of her village – in the middle of the forest of unconsecrated. There were indeed secrets – the sisterhood was withholding the truth from the villagers, and I got really eager to find out what truth exactly?

But then, instead of exploring that route, we are treated to all of Mary’s thoughts regarding the brothers Harry and Travis and how she is not happy about the way events have unfolded between the three of them. Usually, I am a fan of romance, but in this particular book I found that it bothered me. As if I wanted to shout – get a grip! – to Mary. She was under constant threat, one way or the other throughout the whole book and it felt as if all she cared about was who she had been bound to marry before everything happened – and how terrible it was that it had not been the right guy.You’d think that things like that would lose its importance once your whole world crumbles to pieces? I mean who cares if you were marrying the wrong guy – it’s not happening now anyway because the world as you know it has dissappeared. Now please quit pondering the past and get yourself and your friends saved from the immediate danger happening right now!

So no, I couldn’t relate to her – and not being emotionally invested in her made me lose some interest in the book. Unfortunately.

Because it is a fascinating world Ryan has created, cruel and fascinating. She is certainly not taking the safe road – a happy ending approach. It really does feel quite realistic (as far as realism goes in a world of zombies). Some very bad things happen throughout their journey – so terrible it was hard to read at times – the harshness of it all – the heart-breaking decisions they have to make. By the end of the book you will be craving for some light – some warmth. And that may happen. The ending was interesting and definitely made me want to check out the sequel.

The Bottom Line:

The only problem is that the sequel is sure to continue via the thoughts of  Mary, and being as little invested as I am in her, I wonder if it is worth my time. I can only hope she grows. Sequel is called The Dead-Tossed Waves.

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

5 Aug

Series: Hunger Games, book #2

Published:  September 1st 2009 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 391 pages

My rating: 5/5

My Summary:

Ok, so finished this sequel to the Hunger Games in record time. Suspense from start to finish. And ending with a cliff-hanger again, so can’t WAIT for the last book Mockingjay, out this month!

My Full Review:

Like everyone else in the blogosphere, I absolutely loved The Hunger Games, and I was dying to read the this sequel Catching Fire. Even though my expectations were rocket high, it did not disappoint. Just like the first book, I was sucked into the story and literally read the whole thing in one sitting.

It begins where it left off in Hunger Games, with Katniss and Peeta returning to district 12 after winning the games. At the end of those games, Katniss pulled out deadly berries, forcing The Capitol to accept both her and Peeta as winners, or else they would have committed suicide. This little act of rebellion has not gone unnoticed, and the 12 districts of Panem are now boiling under the surface, so much in fact that President Snow himself pays a visit to Katniss house. He tells her that she better try to calm down the situation while touring the districts on the following victory tour, or else someone she loves will pay.

Beware of slight spoilers:

Katniss and Peeta head out for the Victory tour, looking every bit in love as ever, reinforcing the false view of start-crossed lovers who pulled out those berries in an act of love, rather than rebellion. None of this matters though, as the next Hunger Games is announced as a special 75th Hunger Games. Tradition states that every 25th year, a twist is to be introduced in the Hunger Games. This year, not surprisingly, President Snow has come up with the twist that the former victors have to enter the arena, one girl and one boy from each district, thus throwing Peeta and Kaniss into the Hunger Games round 2.

Meanwhile, it seems as if some districts are rebelling – all though The Capitol is doing their best to silence the news. There are also rumours circulating regarding district 13, which was supposedly completely destroyed as a punishment for the previous attempted rebellion. But what if district 13 still exists?

End of spoilers

There is more, but I don’t want to give too much away. I loved every bit of it though. It was as much of an emotional and action-packed roller-coaster as the first book. Once I started I simply could not let it go. The ending left me aching for more. What a terrific trilogy this is turning out to be, I am truly amazed by the story-telling abilities of Suzanne Collins! If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Review: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5 Aug

Series: Hunger Games, book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Scholastic Press

Details: Hardcover, 374 pages

My rating: 5/5

My summary:

One of the better books I’ve read in recent years. Impossible to put down. All though brutal at times, also sweet, full of warmth and with great characters. The story is so good that I find it hard not rattling on about it to everyone I know. This is simply put a must read!!

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Life in District 12 isn’t easy for Katniss and her family. Ever since her father died the girl has spent her time saving her mother and little sister Prim from starvation by hunting on forbidden land. But worst of all is reaping day. Once a year the government chooses two children from each of the twelve districts to compete against one another in a live and televised reality show. Twenty-four kids and teens enter, and only one survives.

When Prim’s name is called, Katniss exchanges herself without hesitation to compete alongside the baker’s boy Peeta. To survive in this game you need to win the heart of your audience, and so District 12’s trainers come up with a plan. Why not make it as if Peeta and Katniss were in love with one another? But in a game where only one person can live, Katniss will have to use all her brains, wits, and instincts to determine who to trust and how to outwit the game’s creators.

My thoughts:

Wow, that’s all I can say, really wow! I heard about this book, it was generally people raving about it on various book-blogs and I considered reading it. Still hesitant, because it seemed so brutal and I wasn’t sure if I was up to reading a “lord of the flies”, with kids running around beating each other to death. But as I accidently happened across the book at the local library I decided to give it a shot, and boy am I glad I did!

If I’ve called other books page-turners, I think I’ll have to invent a new meaning for the term, because this was such a page-turner that no force in the universe could have made me put the book down, once I started! It’s a 400+ pages book and I literally read it in one sitting, cancelling all other activities I had planned for the day. The story is so good, that at times I had to stop and just marvel at the turn of events the author had created.

But here I am rattling on..let’s get to the review:

As seen in the synopsis, this is the story about Katniss who in a dystopian future takes the place of her sister in the yearly tournament Hunger Games. The Hunger Games have been created by the Capitol (the government) to ensure the people in the districts are reminded each year how helpless and powerless they are up against the Capitol. This is to prevent the people to rebel, which is something that happened many years ago.

Each year, each district is forced to send two of their kids to fight against their lives in an arena filled with dangers, created by the Capitol. Only one kid is allowed to survive.

Katniss, our heroine is from district 12. Ever since her father died in a mine explosion, and her mother consequently went into a depression, she has been the food supplier of the family, mainly hunting game out in the forbidden woods outside the district.

She is a tough girl, and as a reader you believe and vote for her straight away as someone who actually might make it alive through the games. Complications arise though when the other kid from district 12 is chosen, a boy named Peeta. He seems like such a good boy and well, without saying too much, let me just say I rooted for him pretty much immediately. But only one is allowed to survive, right?

We enter the Hunger Games, and there are some turn of events here that literally had my gasping out loud. Yes, there are 24 kids here, who are to be slaughtered in  a number of ways. Yet, seeing as we are following Katniss, who is not present at most of the deaths, it’s not as cruel as you might think. Instead, as a reader you focus on her, and how she will survive. I don’t like when things get too cruel and dark. Generally, I need some heart and warmth to keep me going in a book. But let me assure you, that despite the cruel premise in this book, there are some real heart-warming moments. That’s what makes it so good.

I really only have one minor criticism, and that is the ending, which clearly needs a follow-up. It’s not exactly a cliff-hanger but you will want to read the next book, Catching Fire, pretty much straight away.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #4

Published: October 2nd 2007 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 417 pages

My grade: 3/5

Fourth book in the Uglies series, more a companion book than sequel. The setting takes place a couple of years after “Specials”, and follows a new heroine, japanese Aya. I didn’t think it was as good as the rest. It felt a bit like a bleak reproduction of the first book Uglies and only picked up for me half way through when Tally (heroine in the first 3 books) shows up.

Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #3

Published: April 15th 2006 by Simon Pulse

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My grade: 3.5/5

My summary:

Ok, so while I did read this book in record time, just as I did with the first two, I was a little annoyed by the plot this time. Firstly, I was annoyed by the repeating factor, and having to get to know a new Tally yet again. Secondly, I think what bothered me was that I saw so much potential building up in Pretties, which didn’t play out as I thought in Specials. Having said that, the fact that it did get me annoyed also means that I cared, and so it wasn’t all bad. So yes, it’s still a good read.

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

“Special Circumstances”:

The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now she’s been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

My thoughts:

Warning:  if you haven’t read Pretties yet, you may not want to continue, as this review most likely will contain spoilers!

I started this book with a bad feeling in my gut. It felt kind of hopeless to have  followed Tally through such an exhilarating ride in Pretties, seeing her coming through it OK against all odds, to just be crushed down and forced to change again, by the authorities.

Actually, this is how I would describe this book, painful and sad. Still a page turner though, just not as enjoyable to read as the others.

As can be guessed by the title, our heroine Tally has now become a Special, as in one of the very Secret Police who chased her all through the two first books. Her brain has been altered and all though she remembers everything in her past she views it in a different light. She also has a new body with superhuman qualities.

While Pretties included Zane for the most part, Specials includes Tally’s friend Shay, as they bark on many Special Circumstances journeys together. This was one of the painful parts, to see the two of them trying to chase down old friends. Also, I’m not a big fan of Shay, and so I didn’t enjoy all the time Shay got with Tally in this book. I know she’s a victim of the society just as much as Tally, but she seems weaker, more insecure, and as such ends up in all sorts of unstable situations. Consequently, she is the root of most of Tally’s problems. She does redeem herself in the end though, about time!

So the bad gut feeling continues. By the end of the book another tragic event happens, and I swear I almost gave it up right there and then. But the final chapters do leave some hope regarding Tally, so do keep reading.

All in all, this last book was not as good as the rest. It’s still a page-turner and if you have got invested into the characters, you will want to know what happens. Just prepare yourself for a somewhat painful ride.

Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #2

Published: November 1st 2005 by Simon Pulse

Details: Paperback, 370 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

I was glued to the pages in Pretties from start to finish. This is as action-packed as the first, and once again ending with a cliff-hanger, so make sure you have the third book ready by the time you finish!

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.

My thoughts:

This is the second book of the series Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. It’s very much a continuation of the first book Uglies – no extra explanations provided for newcomers – so you definitely need to start with Uglies.

I should also warn you that if you haven’t read Uglies,  don’t continue reading this review as it will contain spoilers!

So as for the review:

While Uglies explained the world of the “Uglies” – those who had not undergone cosmetic surgery, Pretties explains the life of the Pretties – what life is like post-operation.  At the end of the first book “Uglies”, Tally decides to become pretty, so that she can try out the cure that David’s mom has developed for the altered Pretty brain. Thus we continue following our heroine, but this time as a Pretty.

There is certainly no slow beginning here. We are quickly thrown into Tally’s adventures in Pretty town. Already in the first chapter, her former “Uglies friends” from The Smoke (rebellious town outside of society) contact her, thus making her remember some of her past, which has been quite fuzzy since the operation (for reasons explained in the book).

She finds an accomplice in Zane, one of the guys in her group of “Pretty friends”, and together they bark on a journey whose goal is to free themselves from their pretty minds, and the city.

If I was a bit hesitant towards Uglies at first,  Pretties was exciting from start to finish. I could not let go of the book! There were a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, I was so invested in the heroine Tally that my heart felt with her in every step along the way. Secondly,  the prequel Uglies had already sparked my curiosity for how the Pretty world functioned. In the first book, we experience Pretty Town through Tally’s eyes as an ugly – that is, at a distance, so I was really eager to find out more about that world in closer details. The main reason however for me liking this book was the new addition of Zane as a character in the story. I immediately rooted for him and loved following his relationship with Tally.

As in Uglies, the plot continues to twist and turn and true to his form, Westerfeld provides a number of things to reflect upon in our society – things I discussed in my review on Uglies. But not only that, while reading Pretties I was also starting to see shades of grey, as in I was starting to wonder if the “bad guys” really were that bad.

The “bad guys” are The Specials who keep interfering in Tally’s life. They are the secret police (The Specials is short for Special Circumstances) who operate whenever a threat from the outside is detected, essentially anything threatening the Pretty World that they have created.

Of course, I knew that The Specials are supposed to be the bad guys. After all, they alter people’s brains without permission which is clearly not OK. But what if the purpose of The Specials is good? I mean, they are trying to avoid a repetition of what happened to “The Rusties” – the people before them (us) who nearly brought the world to an end through wars and environmental catastrophes. At one point in the book, one of the Specials describes humanity as a cancer tumor to the world – unable to live in it without destroying it. And well, at the rate we are currently going at destroying our world, I can’t help but wondering if it’s true.

So, what I asked myself was: how much damage are you allowed to cause (as in what the Specials did with the Pretties), for the sake of the greater good (not destroying the world)? Tough question with no easy answer, but it sure had me thinking.

As for the ending, I was sort of guessing where it was heading, considering the name of the third book. Yet, the way it happened shocked me, as it felt so cruel. Once again, my heart felt with Tally.

All in all, this was a great and exciting read, with an ending that made me throw myself over the third book in the series “Specials”.

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

5 Aug

Series: Uglies, book #1

Published: February 8th 2005 by Simon Pulse

Details: Paperback, 425 pages

My grade: 4/5

My Summary:

Great series set in an distopian future that makes you think about the way things are in our society. Very fast-paced and action-packed. There won’t be a dull moment. With a love story as well, all though it’s not the main focus of the story. Highly addictive read!

See my full review here:

Synopsis:

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.

My thoughts:

Uglies is the first book in the Uglies Trilogy. At first, when I started reading it, I thought it was just  a light and fun read; a page turner yet not something I’d lose sleep over, a 3 out of 5. But as I read more, I found myself getting more and more invested in the characters. By the time it finished (and it finishes with a cliff hanger) I literally threw myself at the next book Pretties, thankful I had already acquired it. So it does get better!

The book starts with the young heroine, 15-year old Tally, who is an “ugly”. She has been left alone in “Ugly town” since her slightly older best friend Peris, has moved to the “Pretty town” (for his 16th birthday) to have his operation. In this dystopian future, Tally lives in a society in which everyone has major surgery on their 16th birthday, to become supermodel gorgeous. Before the operation, as a normal person, you are thought of as ugly, and thus every teenager longs for the day of the operation.  So does Tally.

Things change though when Tally cross paths with Shay, a girl who has opinions on the society in which they live, not completely accepting it. When Shay runs away just before her 16th birthday to escape the operation, the authorities force Tally to choose between staying ugly for life or to find and bring back her friend.

Tally decides to go after Shay, and well, that is essentially where the adventure begins. I won’t say too much, as there are so many surprising twists and turns in this book, it is best knowing as little as possible.

There were a couple of things that I really liked about the book. Firstly, the plot of the story makes you think about the way things are in our society. Not only about our obsession with beauty and what price is worth paying for it,  but it also makes you reflect on the environmental issues of our world. In the book, our society is constantly referred to, as the utterly stupid society who lived in such an unsustainable way that it nearly extinguished the world. This truly makes you think about how we live our life. One example is when someone tries to explain to Tally what “newspapers” used to be in our society; essentially books printed for a one-day-use to be thrown away the day after. All those trees wasted for a one day read. How utterly stupid and wasteful, Tally reflects. And I can’t but agree.

I also liked how Tally, the main character grows throughout the book, as in the rest of the series. She starts off as a quite immature girl, completely unaware of the effect her society has had on her, but gradually becomes stronger and also more likable.

There is romance, but it’s not the focus of the story. Actually, that happened very quickly, I did not even see it coming (and I’m usually good at spotting those things). Consequently, it’s not something to swoon for, and never really made my heart racing. Still, it’s kind of nice that it’s happening. It sort of adds to the story rather than makes the story if you know what I mean.

Finally what I liked about this book is how you gradually get to know more and more about the society they live in, as Westerfeld reveals secrets throughout the book. He keeps you on the edge, revealing bits and pieces here and there, but always leaving things out, so that you are wishing for more, and keep turning pages.

Uglies does not feel like a stand-alone book, and as I mentioned before, you will most likely want to keep reading the next two when it is finished. It kind of draws you in gradually. Starting light and easy and then before you know it you will be hooked. If you like books like The Host and Hunger games, I’m pretty sure you will like this series as well.

Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

5 Aug

Series: The Host, book #1

Published: May 6th 2008 by Little, Brown and Company

Details: Hardcover 619 pages

My grade: 4.5/5

My summary:

If you liked Twilight, you will most likely love The Host. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is the story of an alien set in a dystopian future. Meyer proved in Twilight that she writes excellent character-driven plots with great love stories and this is no exception. Just make sure to get through the first 100 pages or so which may seem a bit slow. After that you won’t be able to let the book go.

Update:

It appears as if Meyer is planning a trilogy here. Sequel to be called The Soul and the third installment has been named The Seeker. No release date is set yet, apart from sometime around 2012,  if all goes as planned. Let’s hope that it does!

See my full review below:

Synopsis:

The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. But Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves–Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

My thoughts:

I have to admit I was a bit sceptical at first, towards this book. Firstly, it is written by Stephenie Meyer, the author of the much adored Twilight saga and I feared that the she might have experienced a one-hit wonder with the series, as is so often the case.  Secondly, the plot of the book didn’t seem all that appealing to me. Sci-Fi has never really been my thing, and the synopsis of some alien rooting itself into a human host hardly did much to convince me of the contrary.

But I needn’t have to worry. This book really is great! It is rather slow at first, and it takes a while to get into the details of the story, but then something happens about 100 pages in, and it takes off for real. Suffice to say that it took me about a week to complete the first 100 pages or so, then 2 days to read the rest (500+ pages).

This book isn’t so much a sci-fi story as it is a story about survival against all odds and relationships put into extreme circumstances. There is romance as well, in the form of a love triangle (or to be exact quadruple) – something I can assure you has never been seen before, but very much believable, thanks to Meyer’s writing.

To me, the best part of the book was the characters and their interactions with each other during the course of the story. This is where Meyer proves to us again, just why we fell in love with the characters in Twilight. She really knows how  to develope her characters well. Once again in Host, it is as if you know all the people (and one alien) inside and out, so well in fact, that you feel and breath with them. On finishing the book, I felt really sad having to leave the great bunch of people I’d come to known throughout the book.

All in all, this is a great book which I highly recommend.