Monday, 25 November 2013

The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns - Chris Colfer (2013)

2.5 stars

I bought this book when it came out because I wanted to support Chris Colfer and also see what he would do in a sequel to The Wishing Spell.

I'm sure as a child I would have loved these books, they remind me of Enid Blyton's books, however reading them as an eighteen year old is not really the target audience. I love the creativity of the whole world though and this book manages to weave so many different fairy tales together in different ways that I can't help but wonder how long Chris has been planning these books and all the characters. My favourite character in this book was Rumpelstiltskin, he was a really lovely person to read about and a nice occasional break from the main storyline chapters. I would recommend this series to any children that like adventures and fairy tales.

Alex and Conner haven't been back to the land of stories in a year and they have accepted it until their mother is kidnapped by the evil enchantress. They then make their way back to the world and meet up with Froggy who is dating Queen Red Riding Hood now. The enchantress plans to take over the entire land of stories and the human world and kidnaps the fairy godmother in front of everyone to prove it. Alex and Conner then go on a quest with Jack, Goldilocks, Red and Froggy to retrieve all the items needed to create the wand of wonderment. Alex finishes making the wand with the Enchantress' pride by insulting her in front of all the kings, queens and fairies that she's kidnapped and then defeats her without the wand, by forgiving her and removing the hate that fuels her magic. The fairies then decide that the threat that the enchantress posed was too great and they must separate the two worlds forever, however Alex decides to stay in the land of stories, while Conner and her mum return to the human world.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins (2010)

4 stars

Even though I didn't want to, I had to keep reading the series once I'd started and although this is my least favourite of the trilogy I still enjoy it.

The first time I read this book I hated it with a passion, after reading it a second time I see that some things aren't as bad as I originally thought they were, and also that it was still wonderfully written, if a bit rushed in parts. I realised that the last books in trilogies are usually the weakest, with it mainly being about rebellion and bringing down the regime that has been oppressing the characters, but entertaining me, so the fact the the author managed to incorporate the games into this book again was really clever. I obviously hate what happened to Peeta in this book, however after reading it a second time I understand a lot more how everyone is damaged from the games, and that he recovers a lot more than I remember him doing so the first time I read it. Someone told me that the only reason I hate Gale is because the author makes you hate him in this book, which I think is completely untrue, he was always very passionate about his hate for the capitol and this book just gives him the proper circumstances to be vocal and active about it and helping in the rebellion. I think that if you disliked Gale before Katniss associates him with the final bombings then you definitely disliked him for his character, maybe the association with the final bombings makes people dislike him even though they previously didn't but that doesn't bother me as much as his personality before that. My favourite character in this book was Finnick, it amazes me how much of his personality is shown in this book when he isn't even in it that much and he and Annie are possibly the cutest thing in the whole series. Overall I think this is an excellent dystopian series that is not only for young adults, I think people of all ages can enjoy it.

Katniss is now living in District 13 with all the rebels under the leadership of Coin, a harsh woman who has questionable motives and wanted to save Peeta not Katniss. Katniss agrees to be their mockingjay, the symbol of rebellion for the rest of the districts, as long as the rest of the victors have immunity if they win, including Peeta. She and Gale shoot lots of promos that have her visiting wounded of many of the districts and then fighting lots of the capitol fighter hovercrafts which bomb a hospital. The capitol fight these promos with film of Peeta who manages to warn district 13 that an attack on them was coming before his blood spatters the screen and Katniss realizes they are torturing him for everything she does. She just shuts down and only Finnick can sympathize as he has the same fears for Annie. Coin then decides to send in a team to retrieve Peeta so Katniss can continue to function normally, however when she sees him he tries to kill her. It turns out the capitol hijacked him, using tracker jacker venom to confuse all his memories of Katniss so he hates and fears her. Coin then announces that they will make an attack on the capitol in a few weeks but Katniss can't go as she hasn't been to any training sessions. She and Johanna then go to every training session in three weeks and Katniss gets put through into a squad with Finnick, Boggs, Gale and a few others that are basically going to be filmed the whole time for more promos and not doing much real work. However before they go, Plutarch shows them that the capitol is rigged with pods that can contain any horror or defensive weapon that can be detonated by any nearby motion and Finnick and Katniss realize that they are just going into another arena. Once at camp on the edge of the capitol one of their squad is taken out and replaced by Peeta and Boggs tells Katniss that now she has united the districts Coin has no use for her and can use her death as a martyr to her advantage. As soon as they go down a street with supposedly few pods, Boggs steps on an unknown one and has his legs blown off, he gives control of the squad to Katniss who then tells them she's going to kill Snow and they can help her or turn back. They all continue with her except Peeta who thinks he'll go crazy and kill them all but Katniss can't leave him and brings him anyway. Once they are in the underground Snow releases some alligator like mutts who smell like blood and hiss Katniss' name as they search for her and only her, Cresida, Pollux, Gale and Peeta survive them and Katniss sees Finnick scream and then his head ripped off by one as she rises out of the underground. They then make an attempt to get into Snow's mansion however he had a guard of all the capitol children surrounding his mansion, and Katniss sees a capitol hovercraft drop some parachutes to the children which then explode, wounding them. All the rebel medics rush in, including Katniss' sister Prim, who turns to see her just as the remaining parachutes explode larger than the previous ones killing her, the other medics and the children and seriously wounding anyone in the square like Katniss and Peeta. Katniss reefuses to speak after she wakes and is wandering around the mansion when she comes across Snow's room where he tells her that if he had a hovercraft he would've used it to escape, bombing the children lost any loyalty the citizens still had to him, implying it was Coin's fault that Prim died. When Katniss goes to shoot President Snow in front of all the citizens, instead of shooting him, she shoots and kills Coin and when she goes to bite down on her suicide pill, Peeta's hand is there and he rips it off her suit as he can't see her die. She is declared mentally unstable and not accusable for her actions, she moves back to 12 with Haymitch, Peeta and a few other citizens of 12 who couldn't live anywhere else. She marries Peeta and has two children with him.

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (2009)

5 stars

After reading the first book, I immediately started this one, because even though I've read them before they are incredibly addictive reading.

Despite giving this the same rating as The Hunger Games this is my favourite book in the trilogy. It introduces really diverse new characters, and brings whole new facets to the old characters like Haymitcha and Effie. While reading this book I couldn't help comparing it to the movie as I had seen it the day before, and it is so spot on, some scenes are literally word for word as they are in the book. I also really enjoy this book as it has Katniss realising what her presence is doing and that a revolution is forming, but it's not all she thinks about and bases her choices around like in the third book. I still think about how long it must have taken the author to think of the arena for this book, because once she'd thought of the overall idea I have no idea how long it must have taken her to come up with all the individual horrors that it contains, I think the complexity of the arena also makes me enjoy this book even more. My favourite character in this book is Peeta, my beautiful boy with the bread. I think this is the best book for his character as Katniss gets to know him in this book and realizes that she does need him in her life.

Katniss and Peeta are about to go on their victory tour six months after the games. They have barely spoken and must now pretend to be lovers again for the citizens, to ensure that Katniss will do this, President Snow comes to visit her and tells her that she must do this to calm the districts who saw her act with the berries as a rebellion. He tells her if she doesn't convince the citizens he will have no trouble hurting her family or loved ones like Gale, who kissed her in the woods when she returned from the games, which Snow somehow knows about. At the first district they go to Peeta gives some of their winnings to Rue and Thresh's families and Katniss makes a moving speech about Rue before the Peacekeepers start shooting some of the citizens. Katniss then tells Peeta about Snow coming to see her and they decide to get married. However at the end of their tour Snow tells them that wasn't good enough. As the next hunger games is a quarter quell, something special must happen and this year it is that the tributes will be reaped from the existing victors which means Katniss is definitely going back into the arena. Katniss then goes to Haymitch and tells him that this games they have to save Peeta, not her, and he agrees to help. Haymitch's name is drawn out and Peeta immediately volunteers and once they are in the Capitol they and the other victors do everything they can to try to disrupt the games and anger the capitol citizens which is why Peeta tells the audience Katniss is pregnant. The games still continue though and once in it Katniss and Peeta ally with Finnick and Mags who soon gives her life so Finnick can carry Peeta out of poisoinous gas instead of her. They are then attacked by monkeys and a tribute from 6 sacrifices herself for Peeta when he is about to be killed by one. Johanna then brings Beetee and Wiress to join their pack after they escaped a segment of blood rain. Wiress then tells Katniss that the arena is a clock, with each wedge bring a new horror each hour. Wiress is then killed by one of the careers who is then killed by Katniss, and Johanna and Finnick kill another before the other two escape. Beetee then tells them of his plan to run wire from the tree that gets struck by lightning at midnight and noon down to the water which will hopefully electricute the other tributes. Katniss and Peeta must then separate as he must stay with Beetee at the tree and she and Johanna have to run the wire down to the water, however after a few minutes the wire is cut and Johanna attacks Katniss and tells her to stay down. Katniss then runs to try to save Peeta however when she gets to the tree he is no longer there and Beetee is collapsed with a knife that has some of the wire attatched to it. Katniss quickly works out that he was trying to get it to the forcefield to blow it up when the lightning strikes so she attatches the wire to her arrow and shoots it into the forcefield right before the lightning strikes. She then awakes in a hovercraft next to Beetee and gets up to find Haymitch, Plutarch Heavensbee and Finnick talking, after they tell her that Peeta was taken by the Capitol she attacks Haymitch for saving her instead of him.  She is drugged again and the next time she wakes up to Gale telling her that her family is safe but there is no more district 12.

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (2008)

5 stars

I first read this series in 2009 and after seeing the latest movie, Catching Fire, on Thursday I had to reread them.

This series is so well written it only takes me a few pages to get hooked into the story, I think Katniss' perspective is very easy to relate to and that's part of the reason everyone loves these books so much. When I look back on the book I'm surprised to see the games take so long, about 240 pages, because I get so drawn in they seem much shorter when I think about that actual part of the book. My favourite character in this book is Rue, although I love Peeta, I just think that Rue was such a standout character in this book without even having many pages to her. I think Rue is probably one of the best characters that Suzanne has in the entire series, and she really makes all the points the book tries to show about poverty, harsh policing of everyone, and meaningless death with her few conversations with Katniss. I think this series is almost required reading for people who can handle a book all about children dying.

Katniss lives in a future where once a year 24 children are chosen and put in a televised arena where they must fight to the death in what is known as the Hunger Games. When her younger sister's name is drawn to go into the games, she volunteers to take her place and ends up going in with Peeta Mellark, a boy who saved her life when she was younger and was starving, he took a beating from his mother to feed her bread from his family's bakery. Before she goes into the arena she learns that Peeta has loved her his whole life so any way the games end will be terrible for him, her mentor tells her to go along with it so she can get more sponsors and possibly live longer while she's in the arena. After a few days in the arena she learns that Peeta has teamed up with the "careers" who train their whole lives for the glory of winning the games and she must set a nest of tracker jackers, wasps that cause hallucination and sometimes death, on them. She gets stung in the process though and Peeta fights off the careers so she can escape them and he gets wounded in the process. Katniss then teams up with Rue, a small girl from district 11 and while helping her blow up the careers food, she dies and Katniss kills her killer and sings her to her death. It is then announced that there can be two winners of the games if they are from the same district so she goes and finds Peeta. His wound is giving him blood poisoining and she must get the medicine from the cornucopia where everyone else will be getting something else they need from. She gets the medicine after being saved by Thresh, the boy from Rue's district, and she and Peeta both recover from their injuries and go on to win together. It is then announced that the rule is renounced and there still must be only one winner, Katniss get out some poisonous berries and her and Peeta decide to both take them because they have to have a winner and must let them both live rather then having them both die. This turns out to be the case however Katniss is now in trouble from the Capitol having shown such rebellion and Peeta learns that she was faking her love for him he stops speaking to her.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini - Mark Leyner & Billy Goldberg (1995)

3 stars

I read this because it had an intriguing title. It did provide informative answers to all the questions it posed. I now swallow my chewing gum without a qualm. The only problem was that the interesting information was interspersed with stupid IM between the two co-authors. The problem with a doctor and a comedian working on a book together is that some parts are boring and other parts try too hard to get a laugh.

All in all, I think this book is best suited for the coffee table. Instead of reading it cover-to-cover, I would just recommend you flick to the questions that interest you.

Here are some questions the book answers:

Why do people seem more attractive to you when you are drunk?
Can you swallow your tongue?
Will using a cell phone give you a brain tumour?
Should you starve a fever and feed a cold?
Why do you see stars when you are hit in the head?
Can you get high from licking a toad?
Why do you laugh when tickled?
Is it bad to crack your knuckles?
Does it really take seven years to digest chewing gum?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Stephanie Meyer (2010)

1 star

I read this because I had a copy of it on my Kindle and I had just read the rest of the Twilight series. I didn't thnk much of it, I thought it was mostly a money-making endeavour. It wasn't even a particularly interesting character to expand on. I think the first few chapters I read of Midnight Sun (Twilight told from Edward's perspective) were much more enthralling.

Bree can barely remember her human life. All she knows is her thirst and the newborns she has grown up with. She befriends Diego and he informs here that vampires can go in sunlight without being harmed, despite what their leader told them. They begin to question their nameless and faceless creator. They are sent to destroy a group of  'rogue' vampires (The Cullens) with all of their newborn strength. Bree does not believe what they're doing is right and doesn't join in. Carlisle lets her join them, despite the fact she is very tempted by Bella. When the Volturi finally show up, once all the newborns are already killed, they also kill Bree because she is a liability.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

4.5 stars

I bought this book years ago and started it, but never finished. When my boyfriend mentioned that it was his favourite book, I decided to pick it up again. Once I started reading, I didn't understand why I had ever stopped. It is a really good book, especially since English isn't the author's first language - his command of English is excellent (very reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro). It has won several awards like; the Boeke Prize, the Barnes and Noble Discover Great Writers Award and the Literature to Life award.

It was made into a film and released in 2007 - have a look at the trailer.I haven't seen it yet, but I would love to. I highly recommend this book. I loved it so much that the next book I read was A Thousand Splendid Suns - also by Khaled Hosseini.  It is heart-wrenching and tells you much about the author's view of life in Afghanistan in the 60s. This is one of those books that changes how you think. Read it.

Amir and Hassan have brown up like brothers, playing together throughout their young lives. The difference between them being that Hassan is Amir's servant's son, and a Hazara - an ethnic minority.  As they grow, Afghanistan is changing. They love running kites, a national pastime, and strive to win the local competition. On the day, the boys race to get the last kite that has fallen so they can win. The two separate, and Amir then sees Hassan being attacked by two of their peers. He pretends not to see and takes the kite home to show his father, Baba. Years go on and Amir and his father relocate to USA, where they will be safer. They struggle financially for a while and when things get better, Baba gets sick. Amir falls in love and gets married, always haunted by the thought of Hassan. When Baba dies, he gets a message from his old mentor, who wants Amir to visit him in Pakistan. Amir goes and Rahim Khan tells him that Hassan in dead, but his son is still alive but captured by the Taliban. Amir goes to find him and realises that the same man who attacked Hassan is now abusing his son, Sohrab. A struggle ensues, and Sohrab manages to use his slingshot to shoot the man in the eye, the pair escape and Amir asks Sohrab to live with him. The adoption official says it is near impossible, as there is no way to prove his parents are dead. Amir tells Sohrab he may have to live in an orphanage for a while. Amir and his wife manage to get through the red tape and adopt Sohrab, only to find he has tried to kill himself. He lives, but doesn't talk. When they take him back to California, he is still withdrawn. Until one day, Amir takes Sohrab kite-running and manages to get a smile out of him.