Friday, 26 August 2011

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld (2005)

This was a reread for me, I'm reading these books again for an assignment and I really enjoyed this book the first time and again this time.

The main character Tally kind of annoys me at first, but once her character develops and gets a bit more depth to her thoughts I really like it. The second half of this book is definitley the better part of the book.

The book tells the story of Tally Youngblood, it is set in a futuristic time when the human race has evolved and now when a person turns sixteen they get an operation that makes them beautiful and their status is changed from an "ugly" to a "pretty". Tally is an ugly who can't wait to be pretty, when she befriends Shay, she learns that there is a place people can go if they don't want the operation; The Smoke. Shay asks Tally to leave with her to The Smoke and Tally refuses, however Shay leaves her a set of directions to get there just in case. When Tally goes to have the operation a division known as special circumstances steps in and tells her she must follow the directions and go to the smoke to activate a tracker they gave her so they can disable The Smoke and make all those inside pretty. When Tally gets to The Smoke she learns that the operation also gives the person leisions on their brain that stop them making their own decisions, Tally then decides she doesn't want to leave or betray her new friends, especially David, whom she has fallen for and throws the tracker into the fire. This immediately activates the tracker and the specials arrive, Tally fights the specials and escapes with David, they then rescue seven smokies and a newly pretty Shay, from special circumstances headquarters and start a new Smoke in the Rusty Ruins near town. David's mother thinks she has found a cure for the brain leisions except Shay refuses to take it as a test subject, so Tally gives herself up so she can try the cure then give it to Shay and all the other pretties.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Graceling - Kristin Cashore (2008)

This was a birthday present from my co-blogger, and I used it as a reward to motivate myself to slug through April Fool's Day - which surprised me by being amazing. This is a very good book for a debut author. Graceling won the 2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature. I can draw a lot of parallels to The Hunger Games especially since Graceling's protagonist is Katsa and the Hunger Games produced Katniss. It reads well and easily with well developed characters and just the right amount foreshadowing.

I liked it, it lends a great change from the paranormal genre. I am excited to read its companion/prequel Fire, which was released last year. A third book - Bitterblue was meant to be released this year, but its still progressing, but I found out that it is set eight years after Graceling which shall be interesting. My one personal criticism (which is kinda silly) Why does girl always have to met boy and live happily ever after?! I was excited for a book with a strong woman with no love interest to split her power. But no, my hopes were dashed about halfway through. Nevertheless, my recommendation of the book stands despite my feminist assertions.

Katsa is Graced with killing. She is called a Graceling and all Gracelings have eyes with a different colour in each. Her uncle, the King, has been using her to manipulate and torture her subjects since she was a child and accidentally killed her funny uncle. Then one day on a mission, she saves a kidnapped old man who she believes is guiltless. The man she saved is actually the father of the Lienid King. His grandson, the Lienid Prince Po arrives to stay with his grandfather. But Po has a  gold and a silver eye and is Graced with combat skills, and is the only real competition Katsa has ever faced. They are confused as to why anyone would want to kidnap grandfather. They trek across the lands to find King Leck who they conclude must have taken him. Katsa finds out that Po's true Grace is mind-reading and is very angry with him. He keeps it a secret from everyone, even his family to protect himself. They reconcile and Po digresses that he thinks that Katsa's real Grace is not killing but survival. Po also believes that one-eyed Leck has a secret Grace of mind-control which is why his reputation is so esteemed. The pair begin to fall in love. They reach Leck's  kingdom only to see him kill his wife and his daughter flee from him. Leck's Grace has an instant effect on Katsa, but not Po. Po manages to pull Katsa away and they traipse through the mountains with Leck's young daughter Bitterblue. Po goes back to kill Leck and is shot and badly injured. He cannot carry on so he makes Katsa leave him behind. She agrees, but only because his Grace is extending to awareness of all things, not only people. Bitterblue and Katsa make it through the icy mountains thanks to Katsa's survival Grace. They go to Po's castle only to find Leck already there, having brainwashed the Lienid family. Katsa is instantly under his spell, but has a moment of clarity when Leck mentions revealing Po's true Grace, and impales him through his eye, killing him. She goes back for Po, and finds that he was blinded by the shot and relies completely on his Grace to see. Katsa stays with Po out of love, she previously refused to believe in. The two then they part ways temporarily - Po to lead his kingdom and Katsa to teach young girls like the newly coronated Bitterblue how to fight.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Coming Out - Danielle Steel (2006)

My mum recently bought me a few second-hand Danielle Steel books. And I'm not really sure if I'm a fan. I've disliked more than I have loved. This book has little depth. The title is a little double entendre, one meaning being the twin girls who are coming out into society as debutantes. And the other foreshadowing revelations to come.

It's a fairly basic story. The huge problem it has is that Steel constantly over-emphasises the attributes of the characters. And then it's like ten pages later she's forgot she already described the character and goes for take two with some rephrasing. What annoys me most is that the protagonist is a flawless housekeeper, loving wife, caring mother of four, devout Jew and full-time lawyer - all of which she achieves to perfection easily with no juggling or time constraints. It's unrealistic and vaguely insulting to working mothers.

Olympia is happy with her life. She loves her job, her second husband and her kids. She is from a wealthy, high-society family and receives in the mail an invitation for her two twin daughters to attend a debutante ball. She is excited to have her daughters experience the same magical night that she did. One daughter, Virginia is ecstatic to be invited, and immediately wants to go shopping. The other  - Veronica - refuses to go on account that it is an elitist, discriminatory, outdated event. Her Jewish husband is even less keen - he refuses to attend on the grounds that is discriminates against Jews and blacks by only inviting girls from white, blue-blooded families. Olympia manages to get her mother-in-law on side. Olympia buys a dress with Virginia, and they also pick one for Veronica. Veronica relents and agrees to go as their biological father refuses to pay for their tuition if they both don't attend the ball. The girls go off to university and the matter is shoved in the closet for a few months, but Olympia is worried about her oldest son Charlie who has been introverted of late. Then when the girls return home the week before the ball, all hell breaks loose. Olympia and her youngest son get the flu, her mother-in-law has a fall and breaks her ankle and Olympia catches sight of Veronica's new tattoo - a big multi-coloured butterfly that spans her back. Problem is, Veronica's been bought a backless dress. The mother-in-law saves the day by whipping up a stole to cover the horrendous tattoo. Then Veronica's date turns up with bright blue hair. But the committee soon sends him away to dye to to a natural colour. The night goes ahead and all is well, except Olympia wishes her husband was there. Lo and behold, the guy turns up. Then while Olympia is dancing with her son Charlie, he tells her that he is gay.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Before I Die - Jenny Downham (2007)

Mac lent this book to me saying that I would cry like a baby, I did not, but I found this book very depressing.

This book is very sad, as it folllows Tessa Scott as she is dying from Leukemia and tries to complete her bucket list. I didn't sob like a baby for thirty pages, like some people, however there were one or two glistening tears on my cheek. I found this book very refreshing as it wasn't all emotional and touchy feely like most books about someone dying are. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a bit of a tear-jerker.

For plot summary see Mac's previous blog.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Starcrossed - Josephine Angelini (2011)

I really like this book. It had a massive cliff-hanger, with so many unanswered questions and now I have to wait for the sequel. Props to Angelini for branching out and not utilising werewolves, vampires or even the nephilim but demigods - that being the descendants of Greek gods. It was really hard to put this book down, so it was devoured pretty quickly.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Forever - Maggie Stiefvater (2011)

I was so excited to buy this book when it finally came out, I have read Shiver and Linger and loved them so very much and I couldn't wait to find out how it ended. I wasn't disappointed.

The Wolves of Mercy Falls have had me hooked since Christmas last year and this book was a delight to read. It is much like the previous books in the series so if you liked the other ones then you'll love this one for sure. It has the perfect balance of humour, drama and romance that I love. I read this book in one day and I love the love between Sam and Grace and had to know that they had a happy ending and although I wasn't quite happy with the diplomatic ending that Stiefvater wrote, it was good enough for me.

The book starts from Shelby's point of view as she kills a girl who we later find out is Olivia. There is a lot more wolf perspective in this novel than in the others because we often see the wolf pack thorough Grace's wolf eyes. Tom Culpeper is starting a hunt to kill all the wolves and he manages to book the helicopter in 14 days, Sam then wants to capture Grace to make sure that she survives over any others. While Cole and Sam are looking in the woods for Grace they see that she has fallen into a sinkhole, they manage to save her and she helps them decide to move the wolves to avoid the hunt. While looking through Beck's journal Cole learns that to move the wolf pack one must stay human to throw images to another wolf so that wolf can lead the pack to the new location. While moving the pack the hunt is moved up and the wolves were going to make it until Shelby attacks Beck and scatters the pack when they are in the middle of an open field leaving them open to be shot from above. Cole, Shelby and Beck are shot among many others, so Isabel drives into the middle of the shooting so her dad will stop. The remaining pack successfully relocates to the peninsula they were aiming for, and Cole survived the bullet wounds. The book ends with Sam and Grace together and Sam asking Grace if she's sure she wants the cure even though at the moment the odds were fifty/fifty, Grace reminds him that she trusts Cole, and she takes his hand and they walk away together. I was happy with the ending because you can decide whether she survives or not, in my personal opinion if she had died it would have ruined the book so I loved that it was a sort of open ending. Recommended for anyone that liked the previous books or anyone that loves a good romance.