Posts tagged review
Posts tagged review
Celaena Sardothien is a heroine whose story you’ll want to read. In a life that includes the brutal murder of her parents and years training to be a skilled assassin, she now find herself in a slave labour camp where she has developed a hard heart that will take a lot to soften. When offered the chance to earn her freedom by fighting in a tournament to become the King’s Champion, Celaena reluctantly decides to journey to court and live amongst those who caused the defeat and suffering of her people.
It should have been a simple deal, fighting against other skilled soldiers and criminals to become the King’s Champion, serve for four years and then gain her freedom. What she find though is that there is a great deal more lurking at the heart of this castle and its corrupt court than she could ever have imagined.
Celaena is a great heroine. She’s feisty, witty, skilled and entertaining. She’s also arrogant, brutal, vain and self-centered at times. I love that when reading Throne of Glass, you probably won’t like her all the time. It makes her and the story much more interesting because you can’t always guess what’s going to happen. As she arrives at court, many want to know about her past, this will include, you, the reader! I’m hoping we find out more about all that has happened to her in the next book(s).
The story has a very similar premise to Poison Study by Maria V Snyder so if you enjoyed that, you’ll like this too. It’s not quite as good as Poison Study but it’s still very good. The world Sarah J Maas creates is captivating and as the book goes on, the world opens up to reveal that there is more to it than you may first think. Maas’ writing is a great balance of description and dialogue which makes for a page-turner.
The love story seems fairly standard when it’s introduced but it does become more interesting as it goes on and you’ll certainly be rooting for one of the two men in her life. The play for Celaena’s heart becomes particularly complicated with the final twists and turns of the book.
I was really pleased with this book and was craving something I would really get into and not be able to put down. I think it speaks for itself that I finished it yesterday, went out and bought the sequel, Crown of Midnight, and am now halfway through…
Rating **** 4 stars
Wow. I finally saw this on Sunday and I’m still reeling. I really like The Hunger Games film so I’m really glad that Catching Fire continues to impress and ups the ante.
As with THG, I’m impressed with how closely the film follows the book. It was also so involving and entertaining that I wasn’t constantly keeping track of what had been left in and what was left out like I normally do with adaptations. I could only sit back and enjoy the thrilling story play out.
The acting in this film is amazing. In my opinion, there’s not one person who lets it down. Obviously, Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss and you won’t be able to take your eyes off her. By the end of this film she has cemented herself in this role and you can see what she will become in the next two films.
The effects on this film are stunning too. Now I am the greatest advocate for reading books, I think they’re awesome. But I have to say, I don’t think I really got the full effect if how horrific the Quarter Quell arena is until I watched this. The poisonous fog scene was horrible to watch and the ravenous monkeys were terrifying. Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Sam Claflin were suitably terrified in those scenes and really made it believable.
If I had to pick something I wasn’t wholly satisfied with then I think it would be the balance of the love triangle. I won’t say much in case there are genuinely people who don’t know what happens and who Katniss ends up with. But considering who she ends up with, I’m not sure it will be completely believable. I think the emotions of the love triangle are slightly underplayed. On the upside of that, the political and social themes are really brought to the forefront which actually makes a welcome change from relationship drama in films! So really, I’m not complaining about the lack of feeling for Katniss/Gale/Peeta because other things are being prioritised and that’s good.
One small thing that I particularly liked was that the film ended with the same line the book ends with. Small detail but it works well in the book so why change it. I for one am very ready to watch Mockingjay!
Rating - **** 4 and a half stars.
I read Ender’s Game recently, you can find my review here. I loved it and had high hopes for this film but feared the worst. I didn’t think that Orson Scott Card’s vision of a Battle School for children in space could be realised on the big screen without becoming laughable. I had a pretty specific vision of many scenes from the books and I just couldn’t see how this film might work.
Thankfully, I was wrong. I was really impressed with Ender’s Game. The producers/directors/anyone in charge actually included all the complex ideas that make Ender’s Game so memorable - the manipulation of children, fear for the future, fear of our own darkest potential, friendship. I was worried that they would ‘dilute’ this and make the most child-friendly version possible but they didn’t. As such the film is still suitable for children but appeals to an older audience too.
Asa Butterfield is brilliant. He managed to portray Ender’s young age while still believably transforming into a strategic leader and then dealing with the consequences of his actions. He really encapsulated the two sides to Ender and blurred the line between where one ended and the other began. He is such a believable young actor. During scenes with big names like Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, I was watching Asa because he was the most interesting. Perhaps that’s because of the character but I think Asa was a great pick for the character.
The Battle Room in the film is excellent. I had imagined something much more primitive but the version in the film is just beautiful. The special effects are impressive and you have to remind yourself that it’s not real. There is a particularly triumphant battle scene which has some suitable dramatic music that is so memorable. The music in the whole film was very emotive.
I was impressed that the film showed Ender’s isolation and the adults’ manipulation of him so well. It can never be as good as experiencing it through Ender’s eyes in the book but it transferred to the film well.
The last 20 minutes or so were really good. It was all very dramatic but also understated in a way, the drama and excitement wasn’t at the expense of emotion.
Overall, I was very impressed! I can’t really think of anything I didn’t like. I’d still recommend reading the book first, just because it’s so good.
Rating - **** 4 stars.
The Time Keeper explores the myth of how humans first began to measure time. The eponymous time keeper is Dor, or Father Time. He becomes obsessed with measuring time and before he knows it, man is measuring every second of every hour of every day. This book tells the story of the legend who prompted man’s fascination with time.
Rather than being science fiction, Albom’s novel reads like a fairytale as he uses simple language to explore a deep topic. Dor is shown to be a very human character at the beginning, before he becomes the mythical Father Time, allowing the reader to empathise with him. Albom’s time keeper is an unwilling one, once fascinated by measuring time, Dor is forced to endure humanity’s never-ending requests for more time. He discovers two people on either side of the spectrum, one who is desperate for more time and will pay any price to get it, and one who is very ready for their time to be up.
Mitch Albom’s writing is intriguing. His language is fairly simple, his novels are fairly short, yet his chosen themes are of extreme significance and complexity. The quest for more time is universal. What you may not have considered, is what if someone was forced to listen to those pleas? And so, The Time Keeper obliges with just such a story.
I enjoyed how different this book is and how it made me think about how short our time really is here. I love Albom’s message that man alone is governed by time and that this is both extremely useful and very limiting. There are countless messages that can be taken away from Albom’s simple yet memorable story, I think he intends it to be that way. Albom does not preach that we should appreciate our time or not become fixated with it, rather he portrays people whose lives have been taken over by an obsession with time.
An interesting read, one that won’t take much of your time but will make you consider how much you actually have.
Rating - **** 4 stars
…apologies for any and all time-based puns and overuse of the word time. It was unavoidable.
:: WARNING! Spoilers! ::
Apologies, I don’t normally write reviews with spoilers in but I feel that I can’t guarantee that this is completely spoiler-free.
Allegiant is the conclusion to Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy which introduced us to Tris, Four, Christina and many other characters who live in a city divided by factions, different social groups that each prize one attribute above others. This way of living presents its own challenges and allows questions of morality to arise in this dystopian world.
The story in Allegiant brings the reader to a point where everybody knows this dystopian world will be changed/fixed/improved in some way but no one can quite agree what should be done. As much as I enjoyed the dystopian world of Divergent and Insurgent, I wasn’t quite as captivated by it in this book. It’s inevitable that this book would be different as the protagonists go outside the city for the first time and learn about why their city is the way it is. I just felt that the series lost its sense of identity a little bit. I wasn’t really as invested in what was going to happen to any characters that were not the main ones.
In this book, Roth splits the narration between her two protagonists for the first time. Having read the end of this book, it’s quite evident why she does that. Unfortunately, Tris and Four are both quite similar characters so, particularly in the first half of the book, I sometimes forgot who was narrating unless it was obvious because of the storyline. They’re both strong and stubborn and determined and a lot of other generic descriptive words so it was a bit same-y at times. I love their dynamic in the first 2 books but once they’re fully together, it felt like drama was just created to keep their relationship interesting, Sorry, I know it’s harsh but hey, it’s my opinion.
There is a lot of politics going on in this book so a great deal of the story is planning and discussing. I’m not exactly an action junkie but I would have liked a few more exciting scenes such as the memorable ones from the earlier books (the ferris wheel, the zip wire, the fear landscapes).
So let’s talk about the BIG thing that happens at the end. I don’t want to say it outright because I really don’t want to spoil people (even though I’ve put a warning on this post). I was pretty shocked at Roth’s decision to include so much death and destruction at the end of this book. It’s a very brave decision and I can’t help but admire it because it’s so easy to end things fairly happily and write in a few token deaths of minor characters. Whether this particular death (if you’ve read it, you know the one I mean…) was the right decision, I can’t say. I only finished it this morning and I’m still not sure. Everyone will have their own opinion. It did feel like quite a bleak ending to be honest, even with those few hopeful tidbits thrown in. I did enjoy the final scene, it was nice that it echoed a Divergent scene and gave the series more of an arc, a feeling of an ending.
I’m writing this review now and then I’m going to read other people’s reactions, which is always how I write my reviews. I’m intrigued to discover what other people thought of this book, in particular.
Allegiant is well-worth reading if you’ve read the first 2 in this series. I would recommend rereading Insurgent if you don’t remember it very well. I didn’t do that and I feel like maybe I should have because then I would be slightly more invested in what happened in this book.
Rating - *** 3 stars.
Russian Roulette is the much-anticipated prequel to the Alex Rider series. It tells the story of the assassin, Yassen Gregorovich, who is introduced in the Alex Rider series, who has had an eventful life, one that Rider fans will want to hear about.
The best way I can find to describe this book is that it is like ‘old school’ Alex Rider. For fans of the Rider series, there are a few firm favourites such as Scorpia, and that is the book that Russian Roulette reminds me of. This is not just because of the subject matter but because it is full of action, with a protagonist who is similar to Alex.
Yassen’s story is immediately interesting. From the traumatic experiences in his small village in Russia, to his forced servitude to a cruel, powerful man, Yassen has to cope with a great deal. You begin the book from the unique position of knowing that the child who you are sympathising with will grow up to be an assassin. This may sound odd but Horowitz pitches his story perfectly so that you understand what makes Yassen who he becomes. He never forgets to show the reader Yassen’s humanity and very real thoughts and regrets.
Horowitz has a real flair for the dramatic and the poetic. It is never overdone but it gives this book, and his others, a unique character that makes his writing so recognisable.
In many ways Yassen is a more introverted protagonist than Alex ever was. Alex had more of a bite, he was never afraid to talk back to his superiors. This is why I think it’s so intriguing that Yassen is presented as so thoughtful and so utterly defined by his experiences. It was an unexpected difference between the two characters but as they have so many similarities, it is good that they can be set apart in this way.
If you’re an Alex Rider fan, you really should read Russian Roulette. Even if, like me, you thought you’d forgotten most of the details of many of the Rider series, you will still enjoy this. It makes me want to be 14 and read this series all over again for the first time.
This novel is a rare thing - a prequel which is as much worth reading as the original series.
Rating - **** 4 stars.
Having read The Fault in our Stars over a year ago, I felt I had just about recovered enough to try out another John Green. I went for Looking For Alaska, mostly because this is the one I could borrow from my friend, not for any particular reason. I can kind of guess I’ll like all of his books anyway. What I learned from The Fault in our Stars is that once you start a John Green book, it will pretty much demand your attention and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. The story of loner Miles’ arrival at a new school and characters such as the Colonel and the eponymous Alaska, are no different.
If you’re not familiar with John Green, where have you been? But really, I have to admit, his books, when described to me, sound like EXACTLY what I go a long way to avoid in my reading choices. I don’t like books written about ‘real life’ or anything which will make me really sad, even when it’s ‘life-affirming.’ The Fault in our Stars was the first exception and Looking For Alaska is probably the second. Green’s writing is so vibrant and captivating even when things get a bit emotional that you’ll forgive him for slicing open your heart and making you cry many many tears. This is the kind of book I can get along with. Yes there are sad parts but it IS fulfilling. I finished the book with more closure than I was expecting and many more laughs to myself than I was expecting.
Looking For Alaska is really well-structured and will build up your anticipation and your fears and then a BIG event happens. I won’t spoil anyone but what is great about this book is that you get to see the real aftermath of the big event. It would be so easy to put this 20 pages before the end and finish off with a few stock phrases and with no satisfactory ending. Green doesn’t do that. He provides you with some answers eventually while still letting you make your own mind up.
I’m not sure whether it’s because I read The Fault in our Stars first but Looking For Alaska didn’t seem quite as good. The characters are witty and interesting but the influence that TFioS had on me was really something.
I do intend on reading more John Green but not yet. Maybe it’ll be an annual John Green. I’ll make it a thing. Which one should I read next year?
On a future earth where the air is toxic and humans have been forced to live underground, Howey tells the story of a brave few who wish to know exactly what happened to their world. Living in a silo deep underground, humans fear being put to cleaning - being forced out into the treacherous outside and given their one last task of cleaning the lens which allows those underground to see out. But is there more to this toxic air than meets the eye?
To put it simply, Howey has created a unique world. His vision is imaginative and captivating. It is also has that elusive thing - originality. I did not read this and draw comparisons to other novels, I simply drank in Howey’s brilliant description and let him to build his own world and his own characters. The protagonist, Juliette, is engaging, real and understandable. Her reactions to the extreme situations she is forced into are great to read and feel very relatable, despite the fact that her life is very different from our own.
Howey effectively portrays the claustrophobic mindset of the people in the silo. People of all ages live there and none of them have ever been on the surface of the earth. They live in fear of even thinking about the outside in case they are declared a threat and put to cleaning. Wool is a real page-turner because it is unlike anything else. There is an unrelenting mystery at the heart of the book as a few people begin to dig deeper into why they are underground and investigate the motives of those who are in charge.
Wool is well-worth a read if you are a fan of dystopia. It’s intelligent, excellently paced and will stick in your mind long after you’ve moved onto your next read.
Review - **** 4 stars.
I cannot believe this film has finally come out. It feels like it has been in the making for so long and we’ve had so much promotion stretched out over a long time but finally, it is here! City of Bones has been one of my favourite books for a really long time. It’s got this quality about it that makes you want to reread it and find out more about the Shadowhunters’ world. Boy, does Cassandra Clare oblige. With The Infernal Devices, the planned The Dark Artifices, the mysterious TLH, The Bane Chronicles and numerous snippets and extras, Clare knows how to keep readers happy. Safe to say, my equally eager friend and I went into the cinema with high hopes and a slight dread that it might not be all we hoped.
There were a lot of good things about the film. Lily Collins wasn’t too far off what I imagined as Clary. She was definitely the character who I felt was best portrayed and most similar to the books. Jamie Campbell-Bower has a lot to live up to with Jace’s charismatic personality and witty comeback for everything. I don’t think he quite pulls it off. BUT. I think it’s more problems with the script, than it is his acting. The script and the dialogue were what most bothered me about the film. Clare’s books are witty and captivating to read, fans will easily whizz through the latest instalment in a day or two because they’re such a thrill to read. The dialogue in the movie was pretty stilted at times, there was one line about how Jace has never met an angel until now, that was just way too cheesy. I don’t know if I’m remembering things incorrectly and this is actually from the book but it really didn’t work on screen and it was a teensy bit gushy at times.
I enjoyed Robert Sheehan as Simon, definitely not what I imagined but his character worked really well on the big screen. I liked Alec and Izzy too but I have a feeling that might be due to having read the books. They didn’t get many lines really and I can’t help but feel people who haven’t read the books won’t really appreciate who they are, which could be a problem when they are involved in more important storylines later in the series.
I loved the final climactic battle with Valentine, Jace and Clary. They played fast and loose with the book a bit here and I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet, but the ‘snow’ makes for a great visual effect. I have to say though my friend and I were not fans of what they did with the sibling issue. I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say that I completely understand why they’ve presented it as they have, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Overall, I’d say the film is about 60-70% right. I’d love to give it 100% but there are a few things that I have to be honest about and admit that I didn’t like. But hey, this is all my opinion! I’d love to hear what other people thought.
Rating - *** 3 stars.
:: Mild spoilers for The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials ::
The Death Cure is the conclusion to James Dashner’s Maze Runner series. The trilogy begins with Thomas’ arrival in a gigantic maze, knowing only his own name, and the action does not let up… until The Death Cure.
Thomas as a main character is great. He’s a fairly normal boy of whom a lot is expected. The relationship between Thomas, Newt and Minho has developed well and I still enjoyed hearing about the three of them. However, Teresa and Brenda, Thomas’ mild ‘love interests’, if you can call them that, are as dull as dishwater in this book. A lot more could have been made of Thomas and Teresa’s complicated relationship as they’ve had a lot to deal with in the past two books in the series. They should have plenty to talk about in this book but they never seem to have the deep and meaningful chat the reader is waiting for.
It’s been a while since I read The Scorch Trials (Book 2). I’m not sure if this affected my view but I just found the book frustrating. I wanted to know what the reasons were behind Thomas and his friends’ suffering and how it could all possibly end, so I kept reading. I have to say I found the ending disappointing and entirely unsatisfactory.
The morality of WICKED’s actions and Thomas’ feelings at the violence he is forced to commit could all have been developed much more. Events were glossed over as if Dashner felt his readers couldn’t cope with anything more complex. I’m sure this isn’t how Dashner felt but that is how it came across to me.
I really don’t like writing negative reviews. I want to find great books that I want to tell readers about, not ones that I think you should avoid! I just can’t help it with this one. I was hoping for a good conclusion to a series that started so well, but this isn’t what I got.
Rating - ** 2 stars.
I started this book really wanting to love it. It’s a funny way to start a book but its one of the ones that I’ve seen in the fantasy section and picked up a dozen times because it has a cool white and blue cover. Well, I finally bought it and read it!
The Final Empire introduces us to Vin, a street urchin, who discovers she has the power of a Mistborn. She is able to burn metals inside of her and use them to give her strength, enhance her senses and move about with ease, amongst other things. Luckily she meets a group of people who want to show her how she can put her powers to good use. Hence, adventures.
This is a review of two halves because I feel this is a book of two halves. Or maybe a book of a third and then two thirds. Hmmm. It’s a very slow starter which is frustrating. I liked the main characters and the world was just about set up sufficiently but not a lot happens. There is a lot of planning but not much happens for about 200 pages. If there would just have been more action at the start this would have been a really great book.
However, it gets better. I promise. If you can just get to around 200 pages in, the rest of the book is really worth your effort! The action really picks up and I found myself really interested in the two main characters. Vin and Kelsier, the man who is teaching her, are well-developed by the end of the book. I particularly like Kelsier and his backstory. Also, one thing that Sanderson does really well, is write fight scenes. When the action picks up, Sanderson is great at describing it while keeping up the pace and providing a tense read.
This is an odd book to recommend or review because I was tempted to give up early on but loved the last 150 pages or so. A mixed review for a mixed book but I’m actually tempted to read the rest of the series because I’d like to see what happens.
Rating - *** 3 and a half stars.
Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender Wiggin is a gifted child who is chosen to be a student at Battle School, a place where children learn to fight in space against Earth’s alien enemies. At just 6 years old he is taken from his family and expected to perform under extreme pressure in a place where only the adults know how important Ender really is in the war effort.
Can I first say, the cover of this edition is not great. I really think it makes it looks like a book for young teens and I’m definitely not saying it’s not for them but it is for older readers too. Ender is just 6 years old and is still a child by the end of the book but the story will hook readers of any age.
I loved this book. Since I finished university I’ve been trying to find a book that’s really grabbed me and not let me stop thinking about it. This is it. The premise is interesting and I enjoyed reading a bit of science fiction for a change, I’m usually a fantasy reader. This book is strengthened by great characterisation. Ender’s personality is really distinctive by the end of the book and you can’t help but sympathise with him.
Card makes good use of split narrative as chapters begin with short conversations between the adults in charge of Battle School who are making the decisions in Ender’s life. This gives the reader a perspective on the full extent of their manipulation. The growing mistrust of the adults in the novel is very much like The Hunger Games as children are being used as weapons and tools. The back of this book states ‘there is no teacher but the enemy’ but you don’t have to read too far before you’re wondering whether there is no enemy but the teacher.
Surprisingly, Ender’s siblings are really well-developed characters too . When they’re first introduced I didn’t expect to see them again but I was pleased to see they had a role to play. The only thing that is unbelievable about this book is the ages of Ender, his siblings and all of the children at Battle School, really. You do have to remind yourself that they’re supposed to be between 6 and 12 years old roughly and they do seem very advanced. But hey, I guess that’s part of the story so it can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.
This novel is little over 300 pages but it felt like so much happened. By 100 pages or so the story and the book’s world felt very settled and well-rounded. The writing and world-building is so good that it provides another example where a book doesn’t need 600+ pages to make an impression.
Rating - ***** 5 stars.
Meghan Chase discovers her links to the world of faery and is forced to attempt to rescue her brother from those who would wish to control her power.
Kagawa’s heroine is pretty dull it has to be said. She’s not particularly unique and seems like a very average, indistinct young adult heroine. She also gets rescued quite a lot which is particularly annoying. She falls for Ash, the tall dark stranger who we’ve all met before in other books, dare I say Twilight? Eeks.
There are a few good ideas in the book, I liked the theory that our technological advances are shrinking the faery world because of a lack of belief. However, the writing is clunky at times. The storyline jumps from scene to scene quickly and the action is quite fragmented. The pace does pick up towards the end of the book and I did want to know the ending. However, I’m not dying to know what happens next and won’t be reading any further.
Not an awful book but there are plenty of others that are better.
Rating: ** 2 stars
The Giver was first published in 1993 so I guess you could call it a forerunner of all the dystopia we’re reading now. It’s the story of Jonas who lives in the Community where there are strict rules governing every aspect of the citizens’ lives. When they reach twelve years old every child has a career chosen for them and Jonas is selected for a special honour within the Community.
The writing is fairly simplistic and would seem to be aimed at maybe 12+ readers perhaps, but the content is certainly food for thought for any reader. If you’re interested in dystopia, it’s a great read because the society depicted is really interesting. The simple writing style makes it an easy, quick read with a good plot and world-building. The childlike telling of the story contrasts starkly with the serious plot matter well because it is presented in such a thought-provoking, matter-of-fact way. The simplicity isn’t a hindrance, it actually opens up the story because there is less of an authorial slant to the writing.
I really enjoy dystopia so it’s fun to read an older one. I feel like there’s a different kind of claustrophobia to this story, perhaps something more primal. It teaches you to appreciate difference and shows how dull life would be if we all had to experience the Sameness that exists in the Community.
Rating - **** 4 stars.
This is Rachel Hartman’s debut novel set in a fantasy world where humans and dragons have settled upon an uneasy peace. Dragons are able to appear in a human form as a saarantras but many people still fear them and wish to disturb the peace. Goredd is ruled over by a royal family and Seraphina is the music mistress at court and has secrets which must be kept hidden at all costs.
Fantasy fans will be drawn in from the first page as Hartman sets up her world well and introduces an intriguing premise. However, if it is a fast-paced book you are looking for, this is probably not for you. I found this book confusing because I was hooked at the start but then the pace slowed right down yet I did not want to stop reading. This actually took me about 3 weeks to read which is mad for a book which is less than 400 pages! I’ve been busy but still, the only way I can describe it is that it is really enjoyable to read. The writing is well-balanced in that it is not overly descriptive but it is still a really enjoyable experience to read.
The main character Seraphina is engaging. As she tries to find her place in a society which is divided between dragons and humans, the reader is lead through the complexities of the situation in Goredd. Other characters like Glisselda, Kiggs and Orma aren’t overly memorable but one of my favourites is Abdo as his character becomes a lot more interesting in the last 50 pages of the book.
I really feel that if you are in the mood for an easy summer fantasy read and just want to enjoy the writing style, you’ll like Seraphina. You won’t be rushing to the end to find out what happens but you’ll enjoy the journey.
Review - 3 stars ***