Friday, 25 April 2014

The Elite - Kiera Cass (2013)

2.5 stars

I bought this book as soon as I'd finished The Selection because it was so fun and enjoyable, this book definitely did not bring the same level of fun.

At the end of the first book America basically said she wasn't going to bother thinking about whether she preferred Aspen or Maxon and try to work out who she was by herself which I thought was pretty smart considering the last three years of her life had been shaped around them, but five pages into this book and it seems she's just forgotten that decision entirely. As much as I want her to start a revolution with her maids and her father and be Queen by herself, it's so obvious that America will end up with Maxon that the majority of this book in which he does something she doesn't like and then she is too afraid to ask him about it and runs to Aspen, who it becomes very clear that she has gotten over and thinks of as a close friend, is so unnecessary. Also if you hadn't picked up on the fact that you were supposed to dislike Aspen in the first book it becomes very clear that's the author's intention when he tells America she wouldn't be a good princess and trying to force her to love him. If it weren't for the Marlee plot, America and Kriss' reception, and the last thirty or so pages when she finally sets both boys straight on her feelings and stands up to the King I would've given up on this book. I had hoped the love triangle wouldn't be prominent like in the first book and we could see America using her position to make some badass changes to society but that is not the case and the one time America manages to stand up for her beliefs on television it is only because she thinks she's leaving anyway. My favourite character in this book is America's father, he's so lovely and obviously is aware of the problems with the government and is trying to learn what he can while still wanting only the best for America, his letters and scenes in this novel really lighten it and make it so much more enjoyable to read. I'll read the last book because I'm a sucker for happy endings and it looks like this triangle has finally been demolished, also if there's hope of more Marlee then I'm in. Only read this book if you enjoyed the first one and want to know what happens next.

Although America is conflicted about Aspen and Maxon, she continues spending the majority of Maxon's free time with him and when they learn about halloween, which was abolished years ago, he decides to resurrect it and throw a halloween ball with all the elite and their families. Before the ball America basically tells Maxon that she chooses him and he then asks her father for permission to propose to her. The morning after the halloween party however, they are brought to a public stage where Marlee and a guard who were caught having sex (which is illegal before marriage in this society) are being sentenced to a life as eights and have to be caned 15 times each. America goes crazy and tries to get Maxon to stop it while trying to charge the stage. She is taken away and restrained in her room and when Maxon comes to see her and to tell her he got her as light a punishment as he could she still doesn't understand how he could do that and if she ever married him how she could do the same thing. There's a number of raids and galas and Maxon starts to have feelings for Kriss so America's really crushed and leans on Aspen. The girls then have to make a presentation for a philanthropy project they would install if they became Queen and a few days before the broadcast on which they will present their ideas, America is going to find Maxon to see if he had read Gregory Ilea's diaries because he was basically an evil tyrant who stole the country. She finds Maxon making out with Celeste and then they have a giant fight where she basically asks to leave and he says he won't let her. She then decides to do her broadcast on abolishing the caste system and after they are off the air the King basically wants to kill her and tells Maxon he has to send her home. Later she is heading to the gardens when she runs into a clearly pained Maxon and before they can say much there is another rebel attack and because of his injuries a guard puts him and America in one of the small sealed safe rooms that are all over the castle and usually used by servants. Once in the closet, for lack of a better word, Maxon gets America to dress his wounds, which were obviously inflicted by his father, and that weren't the first of this kind he'd experienced. He and America finally talk over their problems and explain everything and then spend most of the night kissing and talking until she falls asleep. Just before she is about to leave the next day Maxon tells her that he convinced his father to let her stay as long as she keeps her behaviour in check, he also says that although he loves her, he cannot trust her and she has to earn that back. She decides she is going to fight for Maxon now, and then runs into the King who tells her everything he hates about her and that he's going to stop her from winning.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Legend - Marie Lu (2011)

4.5 stars

I saw this book and though I'd check it out considering it has really good reviews, then I see it's based partly on Les Mis and I'm gone, there was no way I was not buying this book and of course I loved it.

Marie Lu has said that she wanted to recreate the conflict between Valjean and Javert in a teenage setting, and as soon as I read that I had no idea why anyone hadn't done it before, it was such a interesting and complex conflict that this reworking of it was equally as interesting and complex to read about. This book alternates chapters told from June and Day's perspective and I really enjoyed both of them a narrators and as the book moves along and there are more parallels between them it's really fun switching between them. Although I love a good villian, I found that Commander Jameson and Thomas were so ruthless and uncaring that they were way more scary than loathesome and I think I'll just be relieved rather than satisfied when they get their justice. The only real problem I had with this book was that I found the conspiracy, for lack of a better word, pretty predictable and June's refusal to acknowledge it until she thought Metias also thought it was true was a bit frustrating. My favourite character in this book was probably Day, if June wasn't so ignorant for part of the book it would've been her, but Day was kind throughout the whole novel and even after June betrayed him he never truly hated her which I really liked. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian fiction and to any teenagers that want to read a good rivalry/military vs. civilian type story.

June is a prodigy, the only person to have ever scored 1500, full marks, on her trial and at fifteen she has almost graduated to be a soldier. Day is an outlaw who makes trouble for the government and who was supposed to die five years ago when he "failed" his trial. When one of Day's brothers gets the plague he breaks into a hospital to try to steal a cure and when he's leaving, after learning they had no cures left, he throws a knife at Metias, June's brother, to get away. June is told by Thomas, her brother's friend and fellow soldier that Metias is dead and when she goes to see the body Commander Jameson says she'll speed up her graduating process and she can join her unit and start tracking Day, who supposedly was the one who killed her brother. June goes undercover on the streets and soon accidently starts travelling around with Day and his friend Tess, her and Day have mutual respect and attraction for each other but after they share a kiss June realizes who he is and turns in him and his family. He is then sentenced to death and June learns that all he told her about the "labor camps" where people who fail their trial are sent is true through her brother Metias leaving her a hidden message. She also works out that Day didn't kill him when he threw the knife at him, Thomas killed him later on Commander Jameson's orders because he knew that Metias was planning to rebel after learning all this information about the government. June then plans to help Day and his brother John escape, but when the Commander moves his execution up by a day she can't execute her original plan. Instead, when it's time for his execution she frees John and gets him to hide in an airvent until she comes back past with Day, before she can free Day Thomas tells her she's under investigation and he takes her down to the weapons lab where she'd stolen an electro-bomb, which disables all guns for two minutes, from but before he can do anything to her, Kaede sets off the electro-bomb and she runs to get Day. She and John are carrying him out but they don't have enough time before the guns reactivate to get to the door so John grabs the blindfold that was on Day and runs back towards the execution block to give them time. The patriots are waiting for them outside and they take them to the outskirts of town and leave them there and when Day wakes he learns that they executed his brother in front of the crowd and called it him for the public's sake. He and June then plan to go check on Tess before returning to save his other brother, Eden.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Cinder - Marissa Meyer (2012)

3.5 stars

I bought this book based off the same tumblr post that had recommended The Selection and The Giver to me, and once again it did not disappoint me.

I didn't realize until I was a page into it that this book is based on Cinderella, and after further research I learned that the other three books in the quartet will be based on Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. It also set in the future where the Earth is going through difficult times against Lunars - people who live on the moon - due to their Queen wanting to manipulate and conquer the Earth. This book is told from varying perspectives based on who is central to the plot at that point, so about halfway through it is pretty much just alternating chapters of Cinder and Kai, but earlier on it is mainly Cinder and I think there was one or two from Dr Erland in there. I actually really enjoyed that because I got all the information straight away and it wasn't as confusing as switching perspectives can sometimes be. My favourite character was probably Iko, I thought she was really funny and I imagined her like Eve from Wall-E which was so cute when she did some things. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fairytales and novels set in the future.

Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing who has to work for her stepmother who never lets her keep any of the money she makes and always has more to demand of her. When Prince Kai comes to her shop to get her to fix his android they become fast friends and when she goes home and tells her stepsister, Peony, who is the only person in the family who she actually likes, and who likes her, she immediately insists she go with her on her trip to the junkyard to hear the details. Once there Peony contracts the leutemosis plague, a terrible fast-acting disease that means the person is taken immediately to quarrantine before they die within the next few days. Once Cinder returns home her stepmother Adri blames her for Peony's illness and gives her up to the draft, which is where one cyborg each day is recruited to test new leutemosis cures on. Once inside the palace medicinal ward Cinder becomes friends with Dr Erland who tells her she is immune to leutemosis, Prince Kai then runs into them and asks Cinder to come to the upcoming ball with him, she refuses because he doesn't know she's a cyborg but he says the offer's open is she canges her mind. The next day the Emperor, Kai's father, dies of leutemosis and when Cinder returns to the doctor's office she learns that she is a Lunar, a person born on the moon and can manipulate people into seeing her however she wants and doing things she wants them to do. Lunars with that ability were killed off by Queen Levana, the Lunar Queen, as she knows they are a threat to her power because they will realize she is holding her people's loyalty through manipulation. When Cinder fixes Kai's android she learns that someone had put a communication chip in it and had learned all the information that Kai had learned about the real heir to the Lunar throne who was previously thought to be dead. On the night of the ball Cinder makes contact with the person who had the communication chip and it turns out to be Cress (who the third book will be about) a girl who was forced into hacking the palace by her stepmother, the Queen's right hand woman, and she tells her that even if Kai marries Queen Levana she'll still wage war on Earth to get support of another planet. Cinder then goes to the ball to tell Kai the Queen's plans but once there he finds out she's a cyborg and a Lunar after she has a head to head with Queen Levana. She is then placed into custody until Levana can take her back to Luna but while she is in her cell Dr Erland comes to her and tells her that she is the lost princess and that she should escape before Queen Levana takes her and come meet him in Africa where they can work together to dethrone her.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Selection - Kiera Cass (2012)

4 stars

This book was recommended to me on goodreads and I wasn't sure about it but then I saw it again in a tumblr post of different books people would enjoy if they enjoyed certain other books or certain plot devices and I decided to get it and I'm really happy I did.

The concept of this book is kind of just like reality TV on steroids, and just like reality television it sucked me in and I had to know what America did next. I don't like love triangles and I was unaware there would be one in this book, but despite the fact that there was a love triangle, and it's pretty much going to be the main storyline of future books, it didn't really come through too strongly or even much at all in the majority of this book which was wonderful. I like knowing that a book that's main storyline is a love triangle can kind of turn it into a less important side note and I hope that it will continue that way through the next books with all the other secrets and drama it set up in this book. The thing that irritated me most about this book was that Aspen is given no good traits or real reason for why America loves him, and by extension why I should too, whereas Maxon is constantly being a good person and saying loveable things. Doing that so all the readers will want her to pick Maxon is fine, but it just makes it really unrealistic and it's ridiculous that someone as awesome as America would even love Aspen in the first place. My favourite character in this book was America, I love a good female heroine but the best thing about America is that she doesn't do big grand ridiculous acts of courage all the time, she's just a really nice person, who doesn't care about castes and wants everyone to be safe and happy, no matter their birth or circumstance. I would recommend this to people who like love stories, and fans of The Hunger Games who liked the love triangle in it.

America Singer is a Five, in a country where castes are now ranked like numbers with royalty as Ones and criminals as Eights, she's in of the poorest castes that make their meager living as artists. When she recieves a letter in the mail that she can apply for the Selection, a competition where a girl from each of the 35 districts is drawn at random to go live at the palace to compete with each other for the Prince's heart, her mother insists she put her name in so they might get an elevated status and some more money to live on. America doesn't want to enter as she has a secret boyfriend, Aspen, who is a Six but who she loves and wants to marry, but he also insists that she enter because she's worth it. On the day of her entry she runs into Aspen's mum who tells her she thinks he's going to propose to a girl because he's been saving all his money, America is so happy that she looks wonderful for her entry photo. The next night when she goes to meet Aspen she cooks him a wonderful meal and his pride is so wounded because she thinks he needs the food that he breaks up with her, then her name is called from her district to go into the Selection. Once there she quickly strikes up a friendship with Prince Maxon and she tells him the whole story of her and Aspen, as well as informing him of how people in the lower castes live which he uses to change policy, and he tells her the details of the constant rebel attacks and seiges and she tries to help him with them. Just as she's starting to believe she could fall in love with Maxon, Aspen appears as a royal guard and tells her he made a mistake in breaking up with her. There is a particularly severe and scary seige on the castle and Maxon then lowers the pool of girls down to 6 so as to not have as many of them in danger, America is one of them and when he explains why he kept each girl, due to her status, relations or popularity with the crowds, he says he didn't have a strategic reason for keeping her. When Aspen comes to her room that night she tells him that he can't kiss her and that she's going to work out what she wants, Aspen then says (of course) that he's not giving up this time.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Giver - Lois Lowry (1993)

5 stars

It took a long while for me to buy this book because the synopsis didn't really sound like much but seeing the trailer for the movie was enough for me to finally read it, and when I finally decided to get it I read it in two days.

This book was so much shorter than all the other dystopian novels I've read, it was only 180 pages, but it just showed me that sometimes all the other detail in the dystopian novels these days (*cough* love triangles *cough*) is just so uneccessary as I enjoyed it a lot more than some other more recent ones I've read. It's told from the perspective of Jonas which I really enjoy, but it does get a bit annoying when he can't see the outcome of his decision so I don't know if it worked out well or not, so I'm excited to see whether the movie will expand on what happened without him. The concept was this book was so simple but so thought provoking, who are we without memories and how do they shape us? It was really interesting reading about how important feelings were to them when they didn't really know what they were. My favourite character in this book is Jonas, it's rare that the main character in a novel is my favourite usually due to a combination of seeing all their flaws and enjoying the traits of other secondary characters more, but in this book I just agreed with him so much and just really liked him as a character and a narrator. I would recommend this book to anyone that has never read a dystopian novel and wants to see what they're like, or any fans of dystopian fiction and the concept of memories and how they shape us.

For anyone interested, here is the trailer for the movie coming out later this year:

Jonas lives in a society where there are fifty new children born every year and each december they go up an age group. When they turn 12 they are given their assignments for how they will contribute to society and Jonas gets the job known as the "Reciever of Memory" of which there is only ever one at a time and it is a position of the highest honour. When he meets the previous Reciever of Memory, who nicknames himself "The Giver" he learns that he must have all the memories that the giver has of human history. He slowly learns about love, war, colours and starvation among many other things through experiencing the memories that the giver transfers to him. They soon decide that their society needs to know and understand these things so they make a plan for Jonas to go missing and assumed to be dead while he travels as far away as possible so his memories will be released into the city. The plan would have worked however Jonas learns that the baby that his family has been looking after is to be "released" which Jonas learns means they will be killed because he can't sleep through the night. Jonas then takes Gabriel, the baby, in the middle of the night and leaves on his bicycle with only the food he could gather and a blanket for Gabe. He bikes far enough that the memories mostly leave him, but he eventually runs out of food and the temperature gets so cold he can't make it much further. He manages to transmit a memory of sunshine to himself and Gabe to warm them up and that gives him enough strength to get to the top of the hill he'd been climbing to find a sled on the top which he slides down on into a warm welcoming house, but the story is unclear as to whether that actually happened or he was merely recalling those memories as he and Gabe lay dying.