Sunday, September 27, 2015

[Review] Lair of Dreams (#2) by Libba Bray

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 26/08/2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 613
Source: For review
Genre: YA - Historical (14+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating: 

Captivating - what a thrilling read!

My thoughts

OMG, 'LAIR OF DREAMS' WAS SO GOOD! This is an example of a really good sequel to a series! It has its own storyline and plot, and the characters are developed well, in that the author didn't depend on the first book to serve as their only characterisation. The overarching plot of the series has vastly widened, opening up towards grander things in books to come!

The characters are such a delight. 

They all have their own demons they need to face. I don't think I've encountered any other author who has a talent of writing many different characters, able to give life and substance to them as individuals. I'm as always sensitive to the inner turmoils and mini tragedies that people undergo, which all these characters face in their own ways. Sam- of actually being seen for who he is and letting anyone else in, Mabel- identity and unrequited love, Jericho- being seen for who he is, unrequited love, freedom, powerlessness, etc,etc.

I found myself reading this book every free moment I had. 

I even brought this book to work! (I only ever bring a book to read on night shifts because we're normally too busy otherwise.) I just could not pull my eyes away, it was a masterfully strung together plot existing within 600+ pages. The description did get a little excessive at times, but it never detracted from the plot and character building long enough for me to want to put it down for long.

I loved the attention to historical detail.

 The segregation and racism towards Chinese people... This is the first time I've seen it addressed in a YA novel. Ling really grew on me. I think it's an important angle of American history and hope it is explored further in the next book. The slang and places and fashion and descriptions were little touches that went a long way. A good historical fiction novel is achieved when you know the author has done their research and they place you seemingly without effort in that historical point in time.

The romance was just... How do I even begin to tackle this topic? 

There are so many bittersweet feelings attached here, and as always I found myself being swept away by it all. Henry's pursuit for his long-lost lover Louis just tugged on my heartstrings and would not let go. And of course, the love triangle, or rectangle--point is, it's still a bit of a mess. We saw traces of it in 'The Diviners', but in its sequel we see more of it being played out. I'm all for Jericho and Evie. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the stoic man with a heart of gold, though I do feel for Mabel. I know how unrequited love feels, and I can only imagine how much harder it is when you see the one you really like be enamoured by your best friend instead of you. To want the best for those you care for, whilst also secretly resenting everything and feeling the unfairness of it all. But all in all, I'm interested to see how these relationships develop in the next book. I can't help but feel invested; there's just something about these characters that I can't get out of my mind, and along with that attachment is my desire to know how they all get on.

I loved the exploration of dreams in this book, and dream walking sounds like a power both glorious and terrifying.

I like how, in true Bray fashion, the concepts related to dream walking and the dream world and the sleeping sickness, etc, were revealed gradually. Bray writes tension and suspense to perfection and I remember distinctly that I had that rare experience of completely losing myself in a world within a book.

I'm eager to see how everything ties in.. What is the bigger picture here? Why do these people have extraordinary powers? What is Project Buffalo and how did it originate? And so on. I'm just full of questions, but I have no doubt Bray will reveal the answers in her own time.


Until then, we are left to speculate in the dark.


Quotes

First line: Every city is a ghost.

Favourites:

"'If I could dream of any place, I'd dream of a cabin on the bayou,' Louis had said at the time. 'A little cabin. Fishing boat. A newspaper fulla crawfish ready to eat.'
'Would I be there?' Henry asked quietly.
'Wouldn't be a good dream if you weren't.'
And just like that, Henry knew what it was to be in love. (115)


 "'Perhaps there are things that exist only because we make them so, because we must.' (318)

 "Evie sat up, glaring. 'I did not come to this party to hear a lecture from you, Sam Lloyd. You steal people's wallets. Don't act like you're better than I am.'
'Me? Sure, I'm a thief and a con. But not you, kid. Unfortunately, you care. I know you.'
'No you don't,' Evie said, lying back again. 'You just think you do [...] But nobody really knows anybody. We're all just a bunch of Pears soap ads walking around clean and neat, ready to wash away to slivers.' (403)



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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



Friday, September 25, 2015

[Review + Giveaway] Queen of Shadows (#4) by Sarah J. Maas

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 01/09/2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 645
Source: Bought
Genre: YA - Fantasy (14+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating: 

Gripping, emotional, edge-of-your-seat read

My thoughts

Sarah J. Maas never fails to amaze me with her gripping storytelling - one of such rarity, managing to captivate me time and time again with bone-chilling, edge-of-your-seat, tantalisingly glorious twists and turns, and unfaltering writing style. 
Her heightened ability to create characters that stick, cling and crawl under one's skin seems to be a weapon of its own. I cannot, will not manage ever to remove Aelin nor Aedion nor Rowan nor Chaol nor Dorian nor Nehemia nor Sam, out of my heart and mind. I know I am not alone in this, a reader whose connection to the characters found in a book made profound, palpable and real and lovely... For me it is something I cannot find often in tv or movies. As a sequel, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, it stands triumphant. I am still reeling from the experience, excited for the day to come when my real life friends to whom I've recommended this series get around to reading this so they too can engage and fall in love with the characters, the writing and the author as much as I have.

I think it's pretty blatantly obvious that I loved this book, and adore and cherish this series as a whole. I guess I should add some substance to this review, hey?

In Queen of Shadows, Celaena has just returned back from Wendlyn, where her Fae powers and true identity as Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Queen of the fallen Terrasen were actualised, and she has a few scores to settle in Rifthold, the city that both served and enslaved her. Meanwhile, Prince Dorian has been captured by his father, the King of Adarlan, a Valg demon trapped inside of him; and Chaol has since abandoned his duty as Captain of the Guard to serve the King, now a member of the opposing Rebels, full of self loathing and dealing with his decision to run when Dorian needed him most. War is on the horizon, one that will involve creatures horrific and not of this world, and the fate of the world rests in the hands of The Assassin, the monster that Arobynn Hamel made, his protégé, Celaena Sardothien.
As I previously stated, the writing is just flawless.
The book runs by its own pace. One of the things I really like is that Maas takes the time to develop her characters, and the world-building is probably one of the greatest I've encountered in YA fantasy. I have been a fan of the writing style from the very beginning, and I'm glad to see that a consistency has been maintained as we pass into the second half of the series. She manages to keep a delicate balance of suspense, action, emotional and humor. I don't think there was one emotion that I did not feel whilst reading this book. This is definitely a book that will demand your undivided attention.
I simply could not get enough of it!


If you've been following my reviews for a while or have any idea about my taste in books or know me personally, you'll know that I tend to focus more on the emotions and the connections that I feel towards the characters.
As such, 'Queen of Shadows' really blew me away. Here we have Celaena Sardothien who has just returned from Wendlyn, now with the knowledge that she is Aelin Galathynius, the rightful heir to the throne in Terrasen, and she has to face all of the physical and mental scars from her time in Rifthold (and more specifically by the hands of Arobynn Hamel). Maas could not have done it better. She manages to bring us back to the past with flashbacks, evoking conflicting emotions within the reader. Following Aelin in this emotional journey just brings home just how much she has had to struggle to get to be where she is today, and I love her more for it.

Romance-wise, Aelin is not without her fair share of suitors, and it seems that the line just keeps getting longer. I really really adored the direction Maas took with the relationship between her and Rowan in Heir of Fire because there was no real romantic intention there. I admit I was still taken by how it has progressed in this book (I'm ashamedly very canon with my books), but upon reflection I did find it a little bit unnecessary, and it sort of felt like just an excuse to bring more sexual tension, steaminess and drama into the equation.

I admit I'm a sucker for the bittersweet and melancholy, so I quite liked the interactions between Aelin and Chaol. 

I know there is a lot of hate for Chaol now, a character that everyone used to adore until he pushed her away because she had magic running through her veins. But that's beside the point. I just like how Maas has brought both characters to this point where they're both okay, there is nothing left between them, and that's okay. That is life. I feel like this is rarely explored in YA literature. Feelings and people change. So at this moment, I'm just floating, I'll see where things go from here.

The last hundred pages or so of this book was just non-stop. 

So much happened and I could not read fast enough. Without spoiling anything, this is without a doubt a must-read. The end of this book marks the beginning of something big for the gang, and I have absolutely no idea how I can wait another year for the next book to come out so I can find out what happens next! Oh, the struggles of reading series as they're still being published...

Giveaway

IN MY EXCITEMENT I BOUGHT TWO COPIES OF 'QUEEN OF SHADOWS' :D

So what happened was I pre-ordered a copy off of The Book Depository. Not only does it take forever to arrive with shipping but they actually dispatched it like a week after the release date! Not cool. I couldn't wait. I went out the day after release day and grabbed a copy at Kinokuniya so I could read it right after I was done with what I was reading at the time.

Which is good news for one of you lucky guys!
  • 1x SIGNED and personalised copy of 'Queen of Shadows' is up for grabs!
  • AU/NZ ONLY unless you are willing to pay for postage or buy me a book in exchange :'

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Quotes

First line: There was a thing waiting in the darkness.

Favourites:

"Arobynn continued to pin her with that lover's gaze. 'Nothing is without a price.' He brushed a kiss against her cheekbone, his lips soft and warm. She fought the shudder that trembled through her, and made herself lean into him as he brought his mouth against her ear and whispered, 'Tell me what I must do to atone; tell me to crawl over hot coals, to sleep on a bed of nails, to carve up my flesh. Say the word, and it is done. But let me care for you as I once did, before . . . before that madness poisoned my heart. Punish me, torture me, wreck me, but let me help you. Do this small thing for me--and let me lay the world at your feet.' (23)

"She dared to look up at him, her elbow brushing his forearm. 'I missed you.'
His mouth tightened. 'We weren't apart that long.'
Right. To an immortal, several weeks were nothing. 'So? Am I not allowed to miss you?'
'I once told you that the people you care about are weapons to be used against you. Missing me was a foolish distraction.'
'You're a real charmer, you know that?'(242)
The whole page 326 scene at the grave.
"'I stopped caring,' Asterin said at last. 'About anything and everything. After that, it was all a joke, and a thrill, and nothing scared me.
That wildness, that untamed fierceness . . . They weren't born of a free heart, but of one that had known despair so complete that living brightly, living violently, was the only way to outrun it. (504)

"'You make me want to live, Rowan. Not survive; not exist. Live.' (527)

Page 613 - The whole scene between Aelin and Rowan. <3
"'What was it like?' Manon asked quietly. 'To love.'
[...]
'It was like dying a little every day. It was like being alive, too. It was joy so complete it was pain. It destroyed me and unmade me and forged me. I hated it, because I knew I couldn't escape it, and knew it would forever change me.' (634)

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



Saturday, September 12, 2015

[Review] One by Sarah Crossan

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 27/05/2011
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 270
Source: Bought
Genre: YA - Contemporary (16+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating: 

A special, heartbreaking story

My thoughts

Wow. This was such a beautiful story, and I an not ashamed to admit that the ending brought me to tears.

'One' is a young adult novel, written in verse, told in the perspective of conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi. So many thanks goes to Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this important book. For the short time I have spent with these characters between the covers I will take to heart the lovely messages and lessons Crossan has imbued in me with her storytelling. For me this is such a special book, as are all contemporary/realistic fiction... because it is just about people- their fictionalisation is merely an aside.

Grace and Tippi are fourteen when they are forced out of homeschooling. At Hornbeacon High, they are, unsurprisingly, subject to much scrutiny and hostility by the school body. However, they find friends in eccentric I-don't-give-a-damn Yasmeen and cool, not-so-perfect Jon, with whom Grace quickly becomes smitten. There are issues in their family as well. Their normal sister, Dragon, aspires towards ballet and will make any sacrifice to get there. Their dad is fueled by booze, unable to secure a job. And mum is placed in the middle of it all, a heavy burden to bear.

I loved the formatting of this book. Verse is generally hit or miss for me. The lesser time spent immersed within the pages before the story ends proves to be either a blessing or a curse. What I found in 'One' that I rarely find in other verse novels is connection. I felt connected to these characters, ESPECIALLY Grace. I loved her quiet soul, and my heart ached for her and everyone involved in her life. She and Tippi are seemingly different as can be, but ultimately their bond and love for one another is simply beautiful and a powerful thing to behold. At its core it has allowed me to re-evaluate the sanctity of the relationship shared among sisters: for all the disagreements in the end we are bound together, until death may tear us apart.

Crossan explores the many facets of life as one of conjoined twins, and it is clear that some research took place. She addresses love, image, future, death, and the effects it may have on the family as a whole. I have never really thought about how life must be like for them. Essentially they are just people, but things that we give no thought to in our daily lives are a major feat to them. I like that psychologists and doctors were involved, as well as the press in Caroline.

As expressed already at the beginning of this review, the ending broke me. I don't want to get into it because anything I say will be spoilerific, but man... Reading this book has been a truly unique experience. It is for these kinds of books that I read for, the kinds of books that leave you not as you were, but as a person changed for having read something so special. This is the first book I've read by Crossan, but after this I will definitely seek out more of her stuff (I have Apple and Rain...)



Quotes

"But when I read,
     I am completely alone.
I have privacy from her
    and from everyone.
[...]
And yet,
somehow,
knowing that Jon has run his eyes
along these pages
and digested the very same words
I am devouring,
makes me feel like
     I am tasting him, too. (160-1)



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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



Thursday, September 10, 2015

[Review + Movie] Paper Towns by John Green

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 01/10/2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 305
Source: Gift (Box Set)
Genre: YA - Contemporary (14+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating: 

Solid read

My thoughts

The Book

I go in writing this book review with anxiety, because it is another case where I didn't actually write any notes so I'm just going to write off the top of my head, which also means I'll be pulling things out of my ass. But. Luckily I did discuss this book out loud and over text message so I've at least got my feelings sorted out. It's just a matter of getting it all out in a fairly comprehensible way...

I have to preface this by saying that I'm a fan of John Green. I appreciate, support and am constantly inspired by his vision and all that he's doing, and all that he's done, with Nerdfighteria. I adored The Fault In Our Stars, and would religiously praise its genius--even if locked up in a guillotine and the only way to be freed would be to sell this book out, all I would say is, "Chop my head off, good sir!" Heh. Anyway. So, there is obviously risk of bias here, which I have tried to keep to a minimum. I gave this book a 3.5 stars because while it was full of some really good and meaningful messages, it could have been more; and the characters generally came across as flat and irritating at times. Despite that, I sped through this book fairly quickly (just over a week-- a feat in my reading slump days). It was an absorbing read, because I wanted to know WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO MARGO ROTH SPIEGELMAN! Also, the fact that I have marked over 10 different quotes with post-its during my reading of Paper Towns speaks volumes...

Smart and awkward Quentin 'Q' Jacobsen has lived out his high school years watching his childhood friend, neighbour and crush, Margo Roth Spiegelman, from afar. Ever an enigma and the hottest topic of discussion, she would be reported to have done the next crazy thing or other. Until one night, she sneaks into his bedroom inviting him to join her in a revenge plot, aka. "The Best Night Of Your Life". After one magical night, so crazy and glorious, Margo disappears. This is not the first time, so no one is all that concerned... except Q, and neither Prom nor Graduation will stand in the way of his finding her.

I admit to being a hopeless romantic, so the story of Q and Margo really drew me in. True to form, Q lets his obsession and practically lifelong love and longing for Margo utterly consume him, such that he becomes quite single-minded and selfish to the needs of his closest friends Radar and Ben. Sound familiar? It's not all that uncommon, but in a novel it became quite grating and frustrating when Q would not listen to reason and would instead berate his friends for Not. Supporting. Him. His best friends Radar and Ben, as well as the other characters (whose names evade me now) didn't speak out to me loudly or genuinely enough for me to really care for them, but they had their moments. One such scene that I can recall is the bathtub scene (which they ruined in the movie imo).

This is a funny book. I liked the many quirks, quips and moments exchanged between characters. And it is a relatively light read that highlights some iconic and important moments teenagers undergo as they near the end of high school life. Despite my gripes with this book I look toward it with sincere fondness; while it could have been more, for me it still served as a nice portrayal of teenagers doing things. The shenanigans and adventures they go through together have proven to be quite memorable, as I can still recall many-- the exploration of the abandoned warehouse, and the night Q spends there while his friends go to a high school party; the road trip (of course); the night with Margo (duh)... Paper Towns is quite a bittersweet story, but it is, I guess, true to life. I'm not going to go into the selfish nature of Margo, because I'm not the sort of person to do so. Maybe it's because on some level I can understand. I may not agree with her methods, but I understand. For me that's enough.

The Movie

I knew going in that I would say something about the movie. I mean, I read Paper Towns in anticipation of the film adaptation. But. I'm not a movie buff by ANY stretch of the imagination (a mark of a good movie for me is if I DID NOT FALL ASLEEP THROUGH IT...), so I'll keep this sweet and simple.

I liked it. It drew most of the greatest moments from the book and brought it to the big screen in a generally satisfying way. One thing I missed sorely was Sea World. That One Night is so special to me, and I wanted it to be done with justice. (It plays out a million times better in my imagination.)

They also brought along Angela to the road trip, an amendment that shocked me. When she came along with them, I shout-whispered to my bf, "THAT WASN'T IN THE BOOK!!!" I thought it was unnecessary, but I don't care enough to discuss this point further. (My failure as a movie reviewer is showing!)

All of the important things are still there. I think the casting was just fine. I rarely if ever fuss over casting as long as the acting is decent. I would give the movie 4 stars. It stands on its own and is entertaining. The shallowness of the characters certainly doesn't show as obviously. It is highly likely I will even watch it again in the future!


Quotes

"'That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people would want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste. (37)

"'How was making out with my leg?'
'Pretty good,' I said, which was true. [...]
'I shaved this morning for precisely this reason. I was like, 'Well, you never know when someone is going to clamp down on your calf and try to suck out the snake poison.' (75)


"'...You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Orth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it's going with my girlfriend--but I don't give a shit, man, because you're you. My parents have a shit ton of black Santas, but that's okay. They're them. I'm too obsessed with a reference Wet site to answer my phone sometimes when my friends call, or my girlfriend. That's okay, too. That's me. You like me anyway. And I like you. You're funny, and you're smart, and you may show up late, but you always show up eventually.' (194)

"There are so many people. It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined. (257)

"...this girl who was an idea that I loved.
And it is only now, when she closes her notebook and places it inside a backpack next to her and then stands up and walks toward us, that I realise that the idea is not only wrong but dangerous. What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person. (282)



I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



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