Friday, 31 December 2010

Top Ten novels of 2010.

Dear blog,
Seeing as every other blog seems to be making such lists at the moment, I feel like I'd better make one too. Besides, it would be a good way to round up some of my favourite books that have been released this year.
Note: These are all UK release dates

FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma
Is a book that I haven't stopped thinking about ever since I read it.  Nothing I could say could do it any justice, so, in three words: Heartbreaking, thought-provoking, devastating.

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
Has been one of the most  highly-praised debuts so it seems, at least that's the impression that the rest of the blogosphere gives. And it was certainly no disappointment.  Lauren Oliver's ability to make a single day and the simple rhythm of everyday life seem like the truly extraordinary thing that we all forget it is.   In three words:  thought-provoking, unique, and heartbreaking.


THREE RIVERS RISING by Jame Richards
Another book that I could sing the praises of for a very long time.  Historical fiction. Verse novel. Multiple narrative.  What else do I need in a book? (Clue: nothing)  I shall stalk Jame Richards eagerly for any other novels she may write.   In three words: poetic, heart-wrenching, fascinating.



DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C. J Omololu
Probably one of my favourite debuts of the year (of the ones I've read that is. By the end of this month I'd bought probably enough debuts to finish the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, but didn't have enough time to read them).  Anyway, I've mentioned this in several lists over the past few days, and with reason. So rarely is a disorder like compulsive hoarding touched upon in YA fiction. In three words, it's: Shocking, unique, powerful.



HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins
Imagine that Harry Potter and Fallen have a baby. Insert a more likeable protagonist, a lot of hilarious one-liners and get rid of the Boy Who Lived and a love triangle, and you have one heck of a book.  The title?  Hex Hall. Despite all the numerous influences from other contemporary novels, it was a breath of fresh air amongst other paranormal boarding school novels. In three words: Clever, Refreshing, Humorous. 

THE CARBON DIARIES: 2017 by Saci Lloyd
The sequel to The Carbon Diaries 2015. It didn't seem quite as direct as its predecessor in the effects of global warming, so much as the long-term effects and the way that nations and governments run themselves in such a nightmarish turn of events.  It lacked a certain something that 2015 had, but however it did have a road-trip across a Europe in crisis.  In three words: chilling, alarming, needed.



MONSTERS OF MEN by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking finale.  I needn't say more, but I will, because it totally blew me away.  It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me want to throw it at the wall and scream "No, that can't happen!" and it made me want to buy a copy for all my friends.   And the ending.  Whooooah, is all I'll say. I haven't read such a satisfying finale to a trilogy in a very long time.    In three words: Heart wrenching, heartbreaking, heartwarming.

LIES by Michael Grant
Mysteriously I haven't actually reviewed this, but I really should at some point.  Well, I read it a couple of months ago, and it's as surreal, unique and nightmarish as the front cover (Drake!).  In three words: Frightening, thrilling, action-packed.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson
I read this only about a week or so ago (Again I need to review this one, but I haven't had time).  It was so heartbreakingly touching, I have to include it. Now and again I found myself wondering if it brought anything new to the table, but I fell in love with it anyway, and I think that it did. Especially all the music and the little notes and poems scattered about at the beginning and endings of the chapters, like little tiny portraits of Lennie's life. In three words: touching, romantic, worthy (of all the hype) (okay, that's seven words...but anyway)


BOYS DON'T CRY by Malorie Blackman
I really, really have to review this at some point, because it's fantastic. Malorie Blackman is to my mind one of the best contemporary British authors, and Boys Don't Cry never fails to disappoint.  There's never enough fiction with male protagonists, never enough about teenage parenthood.  (Especially not from the father's point of view.  In three words: real, satisfying, truthful.

Well, that's all from me for 2010. Has it been a good year for YA lit? I think so.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

FIVE challenge: Five Great Miracles...

...That Occurred To Get Me Reading More Contemporary Fiction.
So. Day nine of the Persnickety Snark FIVE Challenge, and with that,  I present you the five novels I read this year that got me reading more contemporary novels.
I've probably mentioned once or twice how now and again that contemporary fiction holds few thrills for me.  However, as the year's gone on I've noticed that I've been reading and reviewing more and more of it; a  And these books are why.

LOCK AND KEY or basically ANYTHING ELSE BY SARAH DESSEN
I discovered Lock and Key in February, and since then I've been rapidly devouring Sarah Dessens, occasionally all in one sitting.  True, when you've read a few they all start to become slightly formulaic, but who cares when it's that well-written? When the romance is that sweet, but when the story still touches on serious issues?

FAR FROM YOU by Lisa Schroeder
Also a book that confirmed that I was completely obsessed with novels in verse. I could ramble on for a very very long time about how poetic and well-written the book is, but I need to touch on the contemporary part of it because that's what I'm here for. 
Anyway.  The main character, Alice, is one of the main reasons that I love this book so. Because she starts off irritating, and then by the end has changed into the sort of person that you'd want to be best friends with.  Her general outlook on the world was very...ordinary, and so as much as I wanted her to get a grip at the opening of the book, I guess it's no different from me if I had been in such a situation.

HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour
There are numerous books nowadays about suicide, death, and any other variation on the theme.  So it's hard to say what it is that makes Hold Still stand out. Well, to me, many things; the writing style seems to have a big impact.  And the main character, Caitlin, changes.  She doesn't just grieve and mope.  She makes friends.  She changes. She grows into someone who has lived through such a terrible event as the suicide of a best friend and come out the other end.

FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma
Because, seriously;  How many YA books are there about consensual sibling incest? And how many, of all those, are so well dealt with that something I imagine would make people all, "move awaaaay from the controversial topic" has been hugely well-recieved.  Hear hear, I should say.

LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green
The first John Green book I read, and for that I will always love it.  True, it's slightly bizarre; a boarding school in which students go to classes in their pyjamas and wander round quoting François Rabelais and García Márquez.  However, for all that everything about it seemed very real.  Miles' voice (yay for male narrators in YA!), the romance, and the devastating event that marks Before and After.

 

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Five Challenge: Great author moments (also late)

Dear Blog,
late again, I know.  But I've been insanely busy recently with Christmas and everything.
Alas, I couldn't name many YA authors I've met in person.  So like the others who couldn't fulfill a list, I'll have to list the writers that I want to meet.


JOHN GREEN (Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, etc.)
Enough said, I think. Because, well, who wouldn't want to meet John Green?  Someone who's never read any of his work, I suppose.  I pity them.
Anyway, I seriously doubt that anyone such as John Green would ever come within a hundred miles of my small corner of south-west England, being far too awesome an author, with far too many fans in more populous places to bother with towns like mine. 

MARGARET WILD (Jinx, One Night)
So I can beg her for the secret of writing such powerful verse novels.

LISA SCHROEDER (Far from You, I Heart You, You Haunt Me, etc.)
ditto.

AIDAN CHAMBERS (This is All, Now I Know, etc.)
 Because from what of his works I've read, he seems like a very philosophical sort of person.  The chances are slim but I'd love to talk to him for a very, very long time about the Dance sequence, which I'm in the midst of devouring.

ANNE-LAURE BONDOUX (The Princess and the Captain, Life as it Comes, etc.)
My all-time favourite foreign YA author.  I don't know if she can speak English, and I can't speak French either, but if ever I meet the author of the amazing novel that is The Princess and the Captain then I'd have to try French anyway. 

Well, that's all. Now I'll post this and have to catch up with FIVE (challenge, that is) posts from the last couple of days that I've missed.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Five challenge: Hopes for YA in 2011

Dear Blog,
Another Persnickety Snark FIVE post, a day late again, alas. I really have to get my act together.
Anyway. So today I'll be listing my five hopes for YA fiction next year.

  • That we get over this paranormal rut that teenage fiction seems to be stuck in.  It seems that all a book needs these days for it to sell is a love triangle, immortality in one form or another and a black cover with a single inanimate object on it.
  • Novels with LGBT protagonists that don't just focus on them coming to terms with their sexuality. There's an increasing number of YA novels with LGBT narrators/protagonists, and I think that's awesome; but a little variety in that genre would be even better.
  • More comedyComedy comedy.  Spud, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Georgia Nicholson, you know the sort of thing.  I wish that I could rattle off a few more such names, but alas I can't.  Because, well, there isn't enough of it. 
  • Interesting, complex antagonists.  I'm increasingly less satisfied with the state of contemporary antagonists/villains. "Bwahahaha behold my evil!" is not enough. Why are villains the villains they are? What led them to make lives a misery for the protagonists? We need more Claude Frollos in YA lit.
  • More translated teenage fiction. I love fiction in translation; it's both a crossing of language and culture and an insight into another place. And while I could rattle off a couple of European teenage authors, it is oh. so. hard to consistently find them.   Jostein Gaarder and Haruki Murakami, for example.  rock my socks, but they don't write directly for teens.
Well, that's about it, I think. Have you got any such hopes?  What do you think?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Five challenge: Most anticipated titles of 2011 (also a day late)

Dear Blog,
More from the Persnickety Snark FIVE challenge, again a day late because of loads of Christmas-related things getting in the way.  So this morning I'll be listing my most anticipated titles of 2011. 

This was a hugely difficult list to make.  Hence the fact that I also had to include a 5½ because just 5 wasn't enough.
1. WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman
Has already been published in France, so of course now I'm hugely envious of my neighbours across the Channel, and contemplating taking an intense crash course in French so that I can read it before it gets released to the English-speaking world, which isn't until April.  I'm not sure if I can wait that long.

2. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis
Because this seems to be one of the most anticipated books of 2011 and there's much hype about it.  It had better not be a disappointment, and it doesn't look it.  I hope it's not one of those times when I see a book and I'm like, "Oh!  It looks prettyful!" Because, just look at the cover.  But then I'll start reading it and it might turn out to be slightly lame, because I always judge books by their covers.  And the only way to find out if it it's any good or not is to read it.

3. DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
Naturally I may or may not be slightly envious of all the bloggers who have ARCs of this.  Who wouldn't be?  Lauren Oliver. Writing dystopia.  Yes, you heard me. Dystopian fiction.  Lauren Oliver.

4. WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen.  Enough said.

5.ENTANGLED by Cat Clarke
Is another debut that I've heard many, many good things about.  Oh, and the cover is utterly gorgeous. 


5½ BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys
It's grey,  dammit, but I can disregard that because I don't know if it's being released in England yet and so I'd better stick with the American spelling.  Also it doesn't matter because historical fiction set in Eastern Europe is pretty hard to come across in YA.

Well, that's just about it, though there are several more I'd love to add to the list if I could. All for now, because I'm in the midst of devouring Burned by Ellen Hopkins and I can't stop reading it for time spans of more than twenty minutes.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Five challenge- Great Re-Reads (a day late)

Before I start, I'd better say: Merry Christmas!  to the rest of the blogosphere.  I hope you're all having a day of varying degrees of awesomeness.

Now I can get on.  I was something of a blogging fail yesterday, because I never had time to post my entry for day four of the  Persnickety Snark FIVE challenge- books that I love to re-read. So, here's that entry now, and later this evening I'll probably post the entry for today, which I think is my most anticipated novels of 2011.
Anyway.  On with my list for today.  In no particular order;
ICHIGO MASHIMARO/STRAWBERRY MARSHMALLOW by Barasui
I could read these five volumes over and over am  I love slice-of-life manga, and these kawaii escapades of four tween girls and their sixteen-year-old friend Nobue never cease to amuse me.  It's silly and plotless, and that's precisely why I love it.  The girls get up to many comical comings-and-goings, but whatever they do, laughter and cuteness ensues. 

SABRIEL by Garth Nix
is the first novel in the Old Kingdom trilogy.  I'm not sure if it's the best- Lirael is probably my favourite- but it's certainly still excellent re-reading material, because it offers something new each time you read it. 
A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett
It's hard to say quite why I love this book so much.  I mean, Sarah's too good to be true, Becky is a walking stereotype, and how I want to beat Ermengarde round the head with a hardcover copy of Crime and Punishment.  The whole thing with her initial despair and the happy ending is hugely overdone, and Lavinia is to my mind the only character who's any fun.  So why do I love it so much, then?  Hmm.  I think just because it's so universal.  Everyone can feel hard done by, and anyone could lose a relative.  And anyone could rise above all the bad things in their lives. 

IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
The first time I read this was in May, and I've read it about three times since then.  I obsess over this book for many reasons; the subject matter, the writing style, the characters, all the classical music and just the sheer amazingness that results when these factors are all put together.  Much, much love for this novel and everything about it.

JINX by Margaret Wild
Same goes for Jinx as If I Stay.  Stunning poetry, plot, protagonists, and fragile portrayals of suburban life, that anyone and everyone should be able to connect with.

That's all for this list.  More from me...well, in a little bit, actually, when I post my list that's meant to be for today.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Five challenge- Great Series

Dear Blog,
today the subject of the Persnickety Snark FIVE challenge is great series I've read this year.   I'll mention that most of these are all the UK release dates, seeing as confusion can occasionally ensue when I mention books that have come out this year in the UK but came out last year in the Land of the Free.  So, in no particular order:

GONE by Michael Grant
2010 release: Lies
I've read the first three books in these series (which is going to be six books, I believe).  They're all fantastic;  Disturbed, disturbing, and always, always exciting.  One of those series that's great fun to imagine what it would be like if you were one of the characters.

DEAR AMERICA by various authors
2010 release: The Fences Between Us
I have to include Dear America because it's been one of my favourite series since I was nine, and it got relaunched this year. Booyah.  So even though I have potentially outgrown them, they are some of my ultimate comfort reads. 

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
2010 release: Mockingjay
perhaps this could be considered cheating, in that I've only read the first two books, but the third is the one that came out this year. Well, I don't care, because The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are both, despite a mere handful of flaws, worthy of a mention.

CHAOS WALKING by  Patrick Ness
2010 release: Monsters of Men
Sci-fi setting? Check.  Unique hero? check. Fantastic heroine? check.  Complex antagonists? Check. Likeable supporting characters? Check. Fast-paced plots? Check.  Gripping opening? Check. Intriguing sequel? Check. Stunning conclusion? Check.  What more do you want from a trilogy? 

TRANSLUCENT by Kazuhiro Okamoto
2010 release: Volume 4
To my mind, Translucent grabs the top spot in any Underrated Shojo Manga Ever list.  It's a will-be quintet- Volume 4 was released in August, and volume 5 is yet to come- and everyone who claims to like shojo manga should read it, even though nobody I've spoken to who claims to like shojo manga has read it.  What's not to like?  Are the characters not realistic enough for you?  Not enough action going on in the utterly charming romance?  Pah. 

Well, that's all for me this evening.  I made a rash promise to a friend I'd send her the first hundred pages of my NaNoWriMo novel for Christmas, and none of it is edited.  So all for now. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Five Challenge: Great Book Covers

Dear blog,
day two of the Persnickety Snark FIVE challenge, in which I blog about which five books of 2010 have (in my opinion) the most gorgeous book covers.
This was a hugely hard sort of post to write, because anyone who stalks my blog frequently knows how much I love book covers, however many times I buy books with nice covers and then they end up being totally awful.
Anyway.  So here are my five favourites, in no particular order.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson
The UK cover is nice, but the US edition is even better.  (That is, the one I've pictured here).   I'm currently reading it-almost finished- and it seems so relevant to the book.
Anyway.  Much love for this cover.

HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly
So I haven't actually read this yet, but look at that cover.  That alone makes it worthy of my to-read shelf on goodreads.  However, I hear it's also about music, and that's a bonus.

 LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden
Haven't read this either. Still,  I love simplistic book covers, and so the cover of Losing Faith is right up my street.  And it's pretty. 

FALLOUT by Ellen Hopkins
*drumroll* the grand conclusion to Ellen's gritty trilogy about Kristina Georgia Snow and her addiction to methamphetamine.  I love this cover because it's so relevant to the book; what you see is what you get.  A raw, disturbed and disturbing rollercoaster that follows the lives of three teenage siblings.

LIFE, AFTER by Sarah Darer Littman
Tree. Flowers.  Beautiful font.  Enough said.

Well, that's all.  It was irritatingly hard to pick my five favourites, so I'd better post this entry before I change my mind about some of them. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Persnickety Snark FIVE Challenge- Five Great Debuts

Dear Blog,
I thought I might partake in the FIVE challenge over at Persnickety Snark and thought it might be a fun way to summarise all the awesome literary things I've come across this year.
Today's day one- and so the topic of my bloggery is five great debut novels I've read this year.  In no particular order, then:-

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins
Because comedy- comedy comedy, with actual amusing statements and scenarios and not just the occasionally  snarky comeback- is so hard to find nowadays. And along with excellent characters and an amusing twist to the whole girl-with-magic-powers thing that seems irritatingly common in contemporary YA fiction, there's a good dose of laugh-out-loud hilarity.

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
Imagine the film Groundhog Day and Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere had a baby. Replace Bill Murray with an 18-year-old girl and swap dull plotlines for an utterly compelling idea. Throw in an utterly gorgeous writing style and a satisfying ending, and Before I Fall is it.


HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour
...actually came out in the US of A in 2009, but I believe it was released this side of the pond this year.  It's one of the most touching, heartrending books I've read for months, and one of those books that's bursting with poetic writing and beautiful illustrations.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J Omololu
Compulsive hoarding.  Flashbacks.  Fast-paced plot.  Remarkable narrator.  Do you want to read it yet?

THREE RIVERS RISING by Jame Richards
Three Rivers Rising makes me very happy for a number of reasons.  The main one being, it's a historical fiction YA verse novel.  The combination of these things is basically my ideal reading material, but alas something that seems pretty few and far between. Anyway, it was everything that I could have asked for- great poetry, a relatively untouched topic in historical fiction, and an interesting love story. I'll be interested to see what Jame Richards writes next.

Well, tomorrow's topic for the FIVE challenge is great covers of 2010.  That should be interesting. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

In My Mailbox 17 or The One with the Classics

Dear Blog,
In My Mailbox, as ever, hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren fame.

This was an interesting week, in which as well as my usual choice of reading material, I braved the dark waters outside my usual comfort zone of teenage fiction, and delved into the classics section of my local library.  The result was:

FOR REVIEW
The Amulet of Smarkand: A Bartimaeus Graphic Novel by Johnathan Stroud and Andrew Donkin

BOUGHT
When I Was a Soldier by Valerie Zenatti
Checkmate by Malorie Blackman

BORROWED (Mostly from the library, but one or two came from relatives)
The  Body Finder by Kimberley Derting (currently reading) (yes, that is a reindeer bookmark.)
The Diary of Ma Yan  by Ma Yan (obvs.)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (after much pestering from my father)
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (also currently reading, but semi-abandoned in my scramble to finish the 2010 Debut Author Challenge)
BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (not pictured, the only reason being I only remembered I'd got it this week after I'd taken the picture).
And that was all, I think.  What about you?

Friday, 17 December 2010

Foreign Language Friday: Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

Dear Blog,
Be warned: this is a very, very long review. I don't actually expect anyone to get to the end of it.

Name: Notre-Dame de Paris (or The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Written by: Victor Hugo
First published in: French
Translated by: John Sturrock
Summary (from Goodreads):  In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmeralda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmeralda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo's sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in one of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century.

Review: It's a tricky business being a bookworm and/or book blogger. Because you read a lot.  Well duh, I can hear you say, what else would you be blogging about if you were a book blogger?  but let me finish.  It's hard because you read a lot; and you want to talk about the books that you read, but talking about them cuts into your reading time. And seeing as you read so much, your chances of coming across awesome books are pretty high.  But then there are so many good books, you set the bar higher for books that when you've finished them make you go whoooooah holy snood* that was awesome.
Anyway.  I can safely say that Notre-Dame de Paris (or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), is one of those Holy-Snood-This-Is-Awesome novels.

Victor Hugo is my hero for many reasons, but one being; he wrote the book in four months.  Yes, around 200,000 words in four months.  That's like doing NaNoWriMo four times over. So I look up to him for being able to pull off such a feat, and he's probably the first person I'd say if someone asked me the question, "If you could invite any authors to a dinner party, dead or living, who would you invite?" he would be on the VIP list.
In the midst of my novel-writing frenzy that was November, this was one of the few books that I actually stopped hammering away at my laptop for in order to read.  What's not to like, and what does it miss?  Nothing.

I had better warn you; it's a painfully difficult book to get in to. Practically nothing really gets going until 170 pages in or so; a lot of it being banter between various minor characters and the escapades of Gringoire, a bumbling philosopher who's nice enough at first until his comings and goings seem to get slightly irrelevant, and then you're like, "okay, thanks Gringoire, but you really should get going now."  A similar character is Jehan Frollo, brother of the infamous Dom Claude (who I'll get to later).  But Jehan was highly amusing, and his arrogance and foolishness was actually what amused me so much.  As the plot progressed he became a welcome distraction from all the darkness was occurring, until his demise.  Which was actually to me a bigger loss than any of the other characters in the multitude of those who died, because despite his flaws and however annoyed he made everyone else, he was like a sudden pause of rain in a thunderstorm.

Another, and probably the main, thing that stands in the way of actually getting to what's otherwise known as the good part are some of the descriptions.  They go on for chapters, I kid you not.  The descriptions are utterly beautiful, it's true, but after 20 pages describing the cathedral your mind starts to wonder.  Some whole chapters could easily be skipped, unless if like me you get consumed by guilt for skipping things out, especially if you're one of those people who endeavours to finish books, because that's hugely hypocritical (strangely I have no problem with giving books up if I don't enjoy them- I just dislike skipping passages out).  Perhaps I should have taken the fact that I was contemplating skipping out a few passages as a sign that I should have given up, but I didn't want to.  Especially seeing as the rest of it was so compelling. 

And about the plot, the relevant parts themselves- well,  it was well worth it. I would say that the plot was fast-paced, but that would be lying, so I won't.  Instead I'll say; persevere.  Get past those unneeded dialogues, those descriptions that go on for pages, and in short you have a story that's so dark, and so fascinating, and so incredible, when you've finished you're asking yourself why you had ever contemplated giving it up. It's romantic in a twisted sort of way, and both disturbed and disturbing.
Mostly because of the characters. 

Who should I start with?  Well, Quasimodo I suppose, seeing as he seems to be made out to be the protagonist.  He wasn't as central to the story as I had expected; but he was still a good character.  The only word I could really use to describe him would be...interesting.  I had a lot of misconceptions about him; so he was largely a complete surprise.  I wasn't sure what to make of him, even by the end; did I root for him (yes)? Did I pity his devotion to Esmeralda, or admire it (not sure)?  And speaking of Esmeralda, she was another surprise.  Only sixteen, so she wasn't all that different from any other teenage girl in the fact that after a while what was supposedly heartbreaking naïveté just actually seemed to be a pathetic yet inescapable form of lovesickness.  My general attitude towards her was; "Yeah, I hate that you should be the object of Frollo's desire, and I really want you to escape his lecherous clutches, but honestly?  Please get over Phoebus, and then I'd like you a lot more." 
Oh, how I hated Phoebus.  What did she see in him? In this respect Notre-Dame is no different from some contemporary teen novel.  It's like The Truth About Forever and Living Dead Girl and a baby (You're probably all, "The Truth About Forever, what the heck?"  But seriously:  Phoebus=Wes). Also that would be some messed up pregnancy, with Notre-Dame being almost 200 years older; but this is all hypothetical. 

I said I would get back to Dom Claude Frollo earlier and now I will, because I'm saving my favourite character for last.  And why is such a character my favourite? I have a thing for misunderstood, tormented villains for one.  But also, and mostly, because he has so many different dimensions.  He's the most three-dimensional, well-developed character that I've come across in months. He doesn't come into the book, properly, for over a hundred pages.  And when he does it's two chapters that basically describe his childhood and such.  He's a fascinating character from the start, and it's interesting to watch him change; how his first attraction towards Esmeralda gets bent out of shape into a terrifying obsession .  He's weak, but you fear him.  He's sinister, but you pity him.  He's tormented, but you understand him. 
Yet his demise was hugely satisfying.

So I wonder if I must seem slightly geeky for writing such a hysterically enthusiastic review about a classic that often gets overlooked because it's commonly associated with an animated film.  But, really?  I hope I've done it justice.  And Kudos if you got the end of this review.   

In three words: fascinating, incredible, loooong.
Recommended for: everyone who doesn't mind a challenge.
Rating: 5.  OF COURSE.

*Yes, I have been watching a little too much Vlogbrothers lately.

Book Blogger Hop!

Dear Blog,
I haven't participated in this meme hosted over at Crazy For Books for a few weeks, mostly because I've been too busy.  However, I'm in search of new blogs this week, so I'm participating again.
Anyway. As with every week, a question is posted along with the Linky for participants to answer.  This week it's:

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"
My answer: It's an interesting question.  Some books can have entirely suckish plots and incredible characters that still make it excellent; some books have an interesting plot but the most loathesome characters in the universe.  So I think that it's the characters that can matter the most; it's easier for a character to strike a chord with you than a whole plot line.

Well, that's all.  Hop forth, book bloggers.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Review: Dirty Little Secrets

Dear Blog,
Because I refuse to give up the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, however much I'm failing.

Summary (from Goodreads):  Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.
For sixteen years, Lucy has kept her mother's hoarding a secret. She's had to -- nobody would understand the stacks of newspapers and mounds of garbage so high they touch the ceiling and the rotting smell that she's always worried would follow her out the house. After years of keeping people at a distance, she finally has a best friend and maybe even a boyfriend if she can play it right. As long as she can make them think she's normal.
When Lucy arrives home from a sleepover to find her mother dead under a stack of National Geographics, she starts to dial 911 in a panic, but pauses before she can connect. She barely notices the filth and trash anymore, but she knows the paramedics will. First the fire trucks, and then news cameras that will surely follow. No longer will they be remembered as the nice oncology nurse with the lovely children -- they'll turn into that garbage-hoarding freak family on Collier Avenue.
With a normal life finally within reach, Lucy has only minutes to make a critical decision. How far will she go to keep the family secrets safe?

Review: Whoah. Hang on a minute.  Let me just collect my thoughts together.
...
...
...
Okay.  Now I can begin.
Wow.  Dirty Little Secrets is the most shocking, disgusting and fast-paced novel I've read in a long time- the sort of book that you long to stop reading yet you can't not read on. 

It reminds me a lot of Gayle Forman's If I Stay.  It's set over 24 hours or so, with lots of flashbacks here and there to add extra dimensions to the story.  And unlike many books with flashbacks, in Dirty Little Secrets these little elements of the past are relevant. They give some more background to Lucy's mother's compulsive hoarding, seeing as she's dead for most of the book that takes place in the present. 

Lucy was one of those characters that you couldn't not dislike.  Not with everything that happened to her.  Her voice was clear and direct, even in descriptions never straying away from what needed to be said.  She seemed kind of tough and cynical, I suppose, slightly bitter and even snarky in a way, but she did have underneath all that an interior which was so real and true, that showed that she really did feel
Her mother.  My reaction towards her is kind mixed; do I pity her, or do I just loathe her for messing Lucy's life in such a way? Both, probably, at different times.  The flashbacks portrayed her in the past; but it's hard to see who she was in the present (yeah, you've probably got some clever answer for that)- perhaps who she was would have been different to who she is.  Was, I mean, seeing as she was dead. Eh...now I'm confused.  Moving swiftly on.
Speaking of family- one of my favourite scenes in the book was actually when Lucy's sister  Sara came to visit while she was frantically trying to clear out the house.  I don't know why, but the glimpse into Sara's car...It gave me chills.  I could just see the whole book playing out again, providing that she had a daughter of her own.  I guess it shows how things can appear to be so natural and how the environment can have such an effect on a childhood.

While I'm on this scene, I'll say that the reason it struck me so much was the way it was written.  The writing style was fantastic, for lack of a better word.  You know how some writing styles can be absolutely perfect for the subject matter (examples: Jinx, Green Angel, The Book of Everything)?  Well, Dirty Little Secrets is exactly like that.  C.J. Omololu seems to follow the rule don't use two words when one will do, or don't use a longer one in place of a shorter, but still the descriptions of the house are excellent.  Though one can't be achieved without the other, I'm not a fan of tidiness so much of minimalism, and standing in empty rooms make me happy.  So some of the scenes described made me feel almost claustrophobic, in a way.  I've never wanted to be sucked into a book so much; how I'd want to get into that house and try and restore things to order.  Even though I am unbelievably squeamish and one of those people who if she encounters a spider runs as far away as possible in the nearest direction.  But the way it was written; the descriptions of the house, of Lucy's despair and resentment, the flashbacks; I didn't need to wish that I could be there to attempt to turn things around.  More often than not, I was there. 

The ending.  Hmm.  It was, I suppose, fitting to the rest of the book; brief, rushed, and totally shocking.  But I can't help but ask: Did it really resolve things?  Not entirely, I don't think.   It's hard to discuss too deeply without giving too many things away, which is something I would not want to do.  I'll leave you to make up your mind about it; and I'm not sure I'm a hundred percent convinced.  It resolved things, sort of...for the time being.  One word: Sequel.
Oh my God yes.

To conclude; despite what may or may not be a slightly disappointing ending, Dirty Little Secrets is an excellent, excellent book that shouldn't be missed among the hordes of awesome debuts- no pun intended- that have been released this year. 

In Three Words: Shocking, disgusting, powerful.
Recommended for: Everyone.  Seriously.
Rating : 5

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Review: Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks

Dear Blog,
I've written loads of reviews since the chaotic month that was NaNoWriMo, but I've been so busy since all of them have ended up being half-finished or some such. 
Anyway.  This is going to have to be a quick review because it's just gone 10:30 here and I have a German lesson tomorrow morning and I've done barely any homework. 

Summary (from Goodreads): Moo Nelson likes to be alone. Overweight and shy, Moo is constantly mocked and bullied by his cruel classmates. He's happiest spending time on a secluded bridge above the highway, watching the cars go by. One day, from his special spot, Moo witnesses a crime that changes his life forever. He sees a car chase and a murder--and suddenly Moo's a celebrity of sorts. The police, the lawyers, and even the bullies are now really interested in Moo. But so is one shady character who seems intent on tracking Moo down. Now all Moo has to do is find out the truth behind the crime...before it's too late.

Review: I've heard many good things about Kevin Brooks since I started spending hours engrossed in book blogs and such.  Hence when I saw Kissing the Rain at a library the other day and finally decided to borrow it.
How glad I am that I did!  My expectations were pretty high after having heard rave reviews 90% of the time, and it was certainly no disappointment.

I read few thriller novels, for no apparent reason other than the fact that I don't tend to do gore and depressing things aside from apocalypse literature and the occasional film (Or an Ellen Hopkins novel.  Who doesn't want to read the most disturbing amazing contemporary YA lit out there?)  There wasn't much gore at all in Kissing The Rain, aside from the occasional fight (Oh, and the murder of course), and it was so...compelling.  Any depressingness was so well-written and enthralling that I couldn't help but want to devour it all in one sitting.  I'm sure I would have, had not small trivial things like eating and Christmas concerts with my string ensemble and such gotten in the way.

As well as being an utterly gripping plot in itself, I think that it wouldn't have been half the book it is if it wasn't for the writing style (if that last sentence makes any sense).  It's told on the first person, from Moo's perspective, and his outlook on the world is what makes him such a fascinating character, and the way he tells things.  For instance, the monotony of his life and the RAIN call for him to rename the days of the week: Oneday, Twoday, Threeday, etc., with Scatterday and Dumbday making up the weekend.  And the RAIN is the bullying that he has to put up with (and tries to ignore) at school because of his weight.  Such things seem like vital things for a unique character.  Some people complain that Moo's grammar and spelling, which are deliberately left uncorrected, make for an annoying and hard to decode book. I, however, loved it.

It took me a little while to get used to the way that he goes from one point in the story to another point in time which is referred to as now.  Now mainly concentrates on his emotions at the time, leading up to a certain event, which turns out to be a trial. Everything else just leads up to it, until finally everything is now.  Not to say that everything outside of now is just narration- it's not.  There's lots of monologue, and lots of rambling stream-of-consciousness thoughts.  But they're so direct in their rambling sort of way, every little thing that he says contributes. 

As for the  characters.  Moo was probably the only character that I did really like, mostly because Moo's own sense of paranoia and doubt about them, and there was no distinct good or bad side to the network of judges, criminals and lawyers that pressurised Moo for the truth. I do know however that I disliked Brady for a lot of the book- he was one of those characters that I just wanted to hit over the head with a hardcover copy of Anna Karenina.  Alas, fear is fear and I think that's what got the better of him more often than not.  Also, Moo's parents.   Providing I hadn't already worn out my copy of Anna beating Brady around the head then I probably would turn it on his parents.They were just so...ignorant.  I suppose mostly because Moo never really spoke to them about anything.  But was that because they never spoke to him?  This could go on for a while, but the dynamics (or lack thereof) in his family were frustrating. 

And the ending?  Whoooooah.  I shall say no more about it, leaving you only to throw the book against a wall and scream "No, curse you, Kevin Brooks, for ending it like that!" much the way you did when you read Catching Fire.  The ending, or lack thereof, is probably what stopped me from rating it a 5. The rest of the book was so good, the ending should have at least concluded things better than it did.

 I'd better mention that this is another one of those books that I've read it reviews can be with all its English dialect "awkward for the American reader".  All I can say is, enjoy it, because Moo is what makes it so unique.

In Three Words:  gripping, gritty, true.
Reccomended for: Everyone who hasn't read anything by Kevin Brooks yet.  Seriously, go and read it now.
Rating: 4.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Dear Blog,

Summary (from Goodreads): When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. He's also a washed up child prodigy with ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a passion for anagrams, and an overweight, Judge Judy-obsessed best friend. Colin's on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships, transform him from a fading prodigy into a true genius, and finally win him the girl.
Letting expectations go and allowing love in are at the heart of Colin's hilarious quest to find his missing piece and avenge dumpees everywhere.

Review: You may or may not know if you've been reading my blog for a while that I am a total fangirl of John Green's works after I read Looking for Alaska last summer.    Paper Towns followed quickly after and now, alas, the only of his works I have left to read for time being are his collaborate novel with David Leviathan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  Anyway, so no doubt I shall spend a lot of time in this review comparing it to his other works, and I'll probably repeat myself once or twice.
Anyway.  So I had pretty high expectations for An Abundance of Katherines and, most of the time, it didn't disappoint.

Maybe it's just me, but you can't help but speculate slightly at this formula: a protagonist with some strange personality quirk, a highly amusing sidekick, a strong love interest, and a lack of parental authority.  So there wasn't really much new, but it's physically impossible to not enjoy anything by John Green.  He is, along with Sarah Dessen, one of my few favourite contemporary authors.  It doesn't matter, at least to my mind, if you can start to predict what's going to happen.

A lot of An Abundance revolves around mathematics.  I should probably mention that all of this was totally lost on me because my knowledge of maths is totally appalling and I probably have the same mathematical knowledge as an eleven-year-old.  All the discussion and examples of the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability went over my head.  I did read the appendix at the end, by the way, but I just ended up saying to myself, "So, he's written a formula...which will tell him how long a relationship will last...so this line here is supposed to represent today...eh..." Maybe it was just me being mathematically challenged, maybe not.  Maybe there were just too many numbers.

That said.  Despite all that, like Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines is full of small, quirky facts that you wouldn't have known otherwise.  Read John Green books and you'll become one of those interesting intellectuals who can surprise their friends with things that none of them know.  Become cultured and exciting and intriguing and have people look up to you (or else just think that you're slightly bizarre). 

Colin was a nice enough protagonist.  He wasn't quite as humorous as Q and he didn't have so much to learn, I suppose, as Miles.  And his incessant whining did get on my nerves considerably a little at the start.  And for all his three dimensions, he seemed almost overly dependent on having a Katherine constantly at his side- though Lindsey Lee Wells was a welcome surprise, she was still amorous material.  That doesn't mean I disliked her.  Nay, I thought she was actually pretty awesome, and if there's any romantic material in a novel I like it to be sort of like her; Clever. Witty. Sassy.

The writing style is, strangely, told in the third person, which was a nice change.  And I think that's what actually set Colin apart from Q and Miles.  In not narrating the whole story, it made his dialogue and his thoughts seem even more...original, I guess you could put it.  If that makes any sense. 

So.  Hmm. Is it a good book?  Yes, definitely, compared to a lot of the novels in the vast expanse of YA lit.  But is it as great as I was expecting?  Hmm, not sure. When novelists are so fantastic I think it's hard for their second and third novels to live up to expectations. 

In Three Words: not quite Alaska.
Recommended for: John Green fans.  Despite a few flaws it's worth it.
Rating: 4. 

In My Mailbox 16

Dear Blog,
It would seem I haven't participated in IMM for a while, hosted as ever by The Story Siren..  Mostly because I've been trying not to buy too many books.

FOR REVIEW
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate

BOUGHT
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Read-I'm writing a review now)

FROM THE LIBRARY
Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks (currently reading)
Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo (not pictured because I had to return it to the library) (I shall have to talk about this in a Foreign Language Friday post next week)
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert (ditto)

Well, that was my literary week.  And what about yours?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Review: I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Dear Blog.
NaNoWriMo is over, which means that I've got more time now for book-reviewing.  All my time got sucked into an infinite void of writing, writing and more writing.  Anyway, it's over now, so you can expect many more reviews from me.

Summary (from Goodreads): A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.
The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones.
Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?

Review: First things first- if there is one thing that you need to know about me it is that I am totally obsessed with music. 
However, armed with a classical guitar and a double bass, Mia of If I Stay is more my calling.  Still, whether it's rock or baroque I love books involving music because no matter what the genre or era or instrument, the passion for the sound and such is the same.  So I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is one of those books that makes me want to punch the air and yell, "heck yeah!"  This is what it's all about. 

I should probably mention that it is in some respects a very clichéd book, and the plot is hugely overdone. There's mothers who abandon their daughters, quests to find aforementioned mothers,  drug addictions, underground venues, stalkers, cigarettes, abuse, and casual sex among other things.  It has all the trademarks of a sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll novel.  Yet it's still enjoyable escapism, and you can't help but want to go along for the ride (especially if you've spent a while trying to conquer something with a title like Etude Opus. 60, no.5 in A Minor) (which I frequently do). 

The star of the show, no wordplay intended, is Emily Black, the tough lead singer in her punk-rock trio She Laughs.  She is for the most part fearless and gutsy, but her emotions are really what drives her-  for instance, she spends a year going across America trying to search for her mother. She's intelligent, I suppose, but you can't help but snort at her impulsive recklessness now and again.  But, well, it wouldn't be any fun if she didn't take such risks, would it?

The story is told through her point of view, most of the time (I'll get to the parts that aren't in a minute). Her voice seems kind of careless, as if looking back on her past she really thinks nothing of everything that she goes through.  She sounds kind of distant, if that makes sense, as if just casually recounting the events of a slightly boring day rather than actually her teenage years up until the age of about twenty-three, the later years of which totally change her life.   But she sounds so calm about it, like, "Yeah, and then my supposed boyfriend tried to kill me, and I had to run away.  It was really no biggie."
There are a few chapters, however, describing the comings and goings on Emily's mother, Louisa, which are told in a distant kind of third-person, portraying her life and coming back to her now and again while Emily is growing up.
I suppose one of my main complaints might be- it takes a very long time  to really get going.  It reminds me a little of The Hunger Games is that the real stuff doesn't come into it until about a hundred pages in.  But the first 100 pages sort of build up to that, describing her childhood and early teen years, and how she had decided that rock-n-roll was the path she wanted to follow from a young age.  It's not exciting, but it's essential, and so worth getting through.
 
Still, it makes for an interesting read.  It's a teenage book, but I think that those who are now adults who were teens in the 90s, when most of the book takes place, would enjoy it too.  Especially if they were as into music as Emily was. I, however, missed out on this, being a small girl who watched The Wild Thornberrys  at the time.   Such recent times seem kind of unvisited in teenage fiction, so I found it pretty interesting. Like something I missed out on because I was a) too small and b) too busy wishing that my parents had a comvee. not from a small town in the Midwest with a huge empty warehouse in which bands turn up to make music and stagedive. 
 
Anyway.   Read it, and see for yourself.  You'll either think it's hugely overdone and a shaky sort of debut novel, or else you'll just be able to toss that aside and go along for the ride.
 
In Three Words: Gritty, musical, exhilarating.
Reccomended for: teenagers...and adults, too.
Rating: 3.5

Sunday, 21 November 2010

my 2011 Debut Author Challenge List

Dear Blog,
well, it's that time of year again when the 2011 Debut Author Challenge is hosted by The Story Siren.  So I thought I'd better make a list of all the books I plan to read next year.

Before I start, I had better mention that so far my attempt at the 2010 Debut Author Challenge has been something of an epic fail.  Mostly because I didn't join until April, and to be frank it's been ridiculously hard to get hold of most of the books I've been wanting to read for the challenge, they've all been in hardback and the postage is extortionate.  That said, I have three books on my shelf I'm yet to read and I've just bought two more from Amazon, so I haven't entirely given up.

Anyway. I haven't been put off by this, and next year with those extra four months (and hopefully some more money) then I'm up for partaking again.  Hence,  so far my list is:

  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetis
  • Clarity by Kim Harrington
  • Entangled by Cat Clarke
  • Exposed by Kimberley Marcus
  • Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
  • Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
  • Posession by Elana Johnson
  • Rival by Sarah Bennet Wealer
  • So Shelly by Ty Roth
  • What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
  • XVI by Julia Karr
  • The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (this, while already out in the States, hasn't yet been released in the UK, so it can count towards my attempt at the Challenge)
I suppose that I'll add more if I find out about any more awesome-sounding books.  And when I read the books I'll edit the post by marking ones I've read with italics or some such.

Well, until then I had better start saving.  I'll have a lot of postage to cover.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ten More Books I Absolutely Can't Wait For

Dear Blog,
because now and again every blogger needs to make a list of all the books they are just dying to posess.
So, in no particular order-

Where She Went by Gayle Forman- If you haven't discovered the amazingness of If I Stay you haven't missed out on a pretty good read so much as one of the most fantastic YA novels of 2009.  And since I heard that there was going to be a sequel I've been drifting about in a state of happy delirium.  Apparently this is going to be set three years after the events of If I Stay, and it's told from Adam's perspective.  The girl on the front cover intrigues me.  Is it Mia? Or some other girl who we are yet to meet?  The mind boggles and I fangirl flail in anticipation. 
Passion by Lauren Kate- because Fallen and Torment were pretty good reads, and it will be interesting to see how things conclude after the big build-up to things in Torment. 
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater- Because who isn't eagerly anticipating the third instalment to the Wolves of Mercy Falls novels? As with Torment it will be interesting to see how things end up for the wolves. 
Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances by Various Authors- Because my inner steampunk has been showing herself of late I've been in search of some good steampunk fiction of late.  Also being a fan of short stories at the moment, this anthology seems like a good place to start.  Plus the cover is utterly gorgeous, if you haven't noticed.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis- I don't know if you've seen the cover for this, dear blog, but if you have then surely that's reason enough to want to get a hold of  it.  Plus it's set in the future, in a spaceship, and claims to have romance, mystery and suspense.  What else does a girl need in a book?
Delirium by Lauren Oliver- Lauren Oliver.  Writing dystopia.  Need I say more?!  I have a little countdown clock on the sidebar of this blog so I can just spend hours absorbed in watching the minutes tick by until I can read it.  Which is just proof of how little a life I have, dear blog. 
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher- Another dystopian novel.  The moment I saw this mentioned on the blog I Swim For Oceans, I've wanted to read it.  The world is in crisis and life is in short pretty suckish for mankind- at least that is as far as the protagonist knows, until they meet someone who completely transforms their word view.  In that respect, it sounds like a pretty typical dystopia, but it's one of those formulas that I don't mind because there are always different ways of working around the norm.  It hasn't quite got that tired yet.  At least not to me.
Entangled by Cat Clarke- It's kind of hard for me to describe what it is about this book that intrigues me so much.  I think it's just, well, the plot sounds intriguing, is all.  I haven't read a novel like this in a while, and if the reviews on Goodreads are anything to go by, then it doesn't disappoint. 
But I Love Him by Amanda Grace/Mandy Hubbard- Admittedly I tend to stay away from scary abuse novels, but I'm currently in the depths of writing a Lit fic novel about consciousness and other deep, rambling things that a teenage girl probably knows next to nothing about but has opinions on anyway.  Strangely, wondering so deep into the depths of the human mind is actually making contemporary, earth-like things seem almost like relief.  A welcome injection of reality, a reminder that people have problems both bigger and smaller than just being a figment of someone's imagination.  If any of that makes sense.  Which probably to a sane person it doesn't.
Clarity by Kim Harrington-  In three words, it looks: Magical.  Mysterious.  Enthralling.
Posession by Elana Johnson- There's a theme running through this somewhat, dear blog.  In case you haven't spotted it then the recurring theme is sinister dystopian novels with beautiful covers that look like they radiate awesome.  Well, with reason, I think.

Well, that's it.  Everyone always says that you should live in the now, but how can you when the release of books like these is just around the corner?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Dear Blog,
Review.  I have one.

Summary (from Goodreads): Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s now facing three Examiners, and her grueling all-day Examination has just begun. If she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society.
But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And that the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be.
In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim?

Review: I've been after this book for a couple of months since I saw this edition of the book- there are several different covers and this is probably one of my favourite.  It seems the most symbolic of the nature of the book, or rather to what it really is about: a man and a robot.  For instamce, the cover of the edition that I actually read looks like this, and while nice enough (okay, absolutely beautiful)  is actually slightly irrelevant.  No.  This cover is simplistic and seems to sum things up perfectly. 

Genesis is not dystopian fiction, as is all the range in YA nowadays what with Uglies and The Hunger Games and such. Nay, quite the opposite.  The world in Genesis seems kind of like the world in Allegra Goodman's The Other Side of the Island, but seemingly not as sinister and disturbing in an overly-perfect kind of way.  You seem to get the impression that despite a few shady goings-on and experimentswith robots, the sealed island, all seems to be functioning well to compared with how things were on Earth before.  Speaking of which, I can't tell whether or not I liked the massive dump of information at the beginning of the book. To provide the adjudicators some background, Anaximander basically catches the reader up on what's been occurring on Earth throughout the mid-21st century- Wars, oil crises, disease and bad things, in general. So it's useful to have such a summary, even though it's entirely for the readers' sake.

The writing style is quite unusual.  The whole book takes place in a four-hour entrance exam to the mysterious Academy taken by fourteen-year-old Anaximander (I'll get to Anax in a minute).  It alternates between a calm, distant sort of third-person and transcripts, which makes for pretty interesting reading.  Parts of the book seemed to unfold almost like a film in front of the reader, the ending in particular, which is completely unexpected (I'll also get to that in a minute).

It's kind of hard to talk about Anaximander, mostly because the true protagonist of the story is Adam Forde, Anax's historical hero.  Still, you know that Anax is strong, determinded and very intelligent indeed.   Read Genesis and be amazed at her speeches and opinions on consciousness that go on occasionally for pages.
Adam is also hugely (and even more) likeable. Perhaps it's because of all the interesting questions that the book asks about humanity, he seems like a perfect example of all that is life.  He's clever but foolish, witty but arrogant, confident but headstrong.  His flaws and numerous imperfections are actually what make him so perfect a character. I was probably grinning like a twit as I read the deep discussions between him and Art, the robot he stays with for several months, for his sheer perfection and awesomeness.
Speaking of which, you've got to love Art.  He's witty and snarky  in a hilariously automated sort of way, but not outright entertaining so much as thoughtful at the same time.  The dialogue between Adam and Art leaves the reader constantly switching sides.  One minute you think that Art's in the right, and then the next Adam has his comeback and you're rooting for him. 

There's very little action in Genesis at all, so it's not thrilling in that sense.  But the ideas, the story itself and the big questions about what makes a human human are so intriguing you can't help but devour the book faster than you can say Philosophy. It reminds me a lot of Sophie's World with all the deep discussions about life and the universe and so on, as well as some of the monologues and longer speeches which seem like Bernard Beckett is asking his own questions, and then thinking up answers for them as he goes along.

The ending was...weird, with a lack of any better description.  It was probably the only thing that stops Genesis being rated a 5.  It was kind of rushed, unexplained and "oh.  What just happened there?"  It's hard to describe without much of what happens being given away.  So I'll just leave that a mystery and say: meh.  It was a shame that the book had to end like that.

In Three Words: Refreshing, deep, thought-provoking.
Recommended for: anyone who wants  a change from the norm.
Rating: 4.