Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ten Books I Absolutely Can't Wait For

Dear Blog,
the title says it all, I suppose. To be frank, I would  rather write a list of some novels that have me jumping up and down in a state of delirious excitement all at once than write one post a week à la Waiting on Wednesday, mentioning just one. So, well, in no particular order:

  1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins- all I can say is, HECK YES. 
  2. The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson-  New Dear America book.  'Nuff said.
  3. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen- I've never read the Luxe series, but 400 pages of Bright Young Things and their escapades in the Big Apple in the time of prohibition and dancing marathons looks like fun-I've had a strange interest in this time period ever since I performed in the chorus of some songs from the musical The Boyfriend with a show choir I sang in when I was nine or ten, and I got to wear a gorgeous Charleston-esque dress  my grandmother made for me.  It was basically white fabric with black fringes, but I loved it anyway/

  4. What Happened to Goodbye/Cut and Run by Sarah Dessen-(the title was Cut and Run, buit I think it got changed to the former, so I'm including both) because I am a fan.  Hence, I want to read it.  Apparently it's being released May 2011.

  5. The Legacy by Gemma Malley- the follow-up to The Declaration and The Resistance. Although I haven't reviewed them, they are to be frank some of the most awesome dystopic novels any YA dystopia fan will ever read.  And the cover is very pretty indeed.

  6. Aurora by Julie Bertagna-  speaking of dystopian trilogies, this is the conclusion to Julie Bertagna's Exodus trilogy, which I also love.  I know she's finished writing it now, but as far as I know there isn't an apparent release date and cover yet.  Alas. Anyway, the first two books are utterly mind-blowing novels and the world they're set in makes me wish that I could conjure up such awesome worlds in my own writing.

  7. Cat's Cradle by Julia Golding-I  have waited oh. so. long. for this novel to be released, and the wait is currently killing me, especially since Julia Golding is being particularly vague about when it's coming out.  Anyway,  the Cat Royal series has everything a historical fiction series could ask for; an awesome protagonist, historical accuracy, some implied romance, and lots and lots of adventure.

  8. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins- according to Goodreads, this is being released next March.   I reviewed Hex Hall a while ago for part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and even though it's not the sort of thing I'd normally read, I absolutely loved it, so I'm looking forward to reading this so very, very much.  Apparently, Sophie travels to London in this one, which will be interesting.  While not battling the Eye and whatnot, I can imagine her having all sorts of hilarious escapades.

  9. Translucent volume 4 by Kazuhiro Okamoto- because this is my favourite manga ever and I am utterly desperate to find out what happens next, especially between Shizuka and Mamoru.  I reviewed the first three manga in the series here.

  10. Lies by Michael Grant- Although this is out in the US of A,  I've saved up all my US Edition And Extortionate Postage Cost money for Mockingjay and Dirty Little Secrets, so I have to wait until the UK edition comes out (September the 6th). No matter.  It's not that long a wait, I guess. 
Well, there you go. Nine novels and one manga I will all but sell my soul to read before the release date.  Anybody else looking forward to reading these?  Perhaps you live somewhere where some of these are released already.  If so, I envy you. 

Monday, 26 July 2010

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Dear Blog,
I finished Forbidden yesterday and, well, it's kind of hard writing a review of it without just typing Ohmywordohmyword for the whole entry.  I need to explain everything in a logical, book-reviewer sort of way.

Summary (from Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Maya and seventeen-year-old Lochan have never had the chance to be 'normal' teenagers. Having pulled together for years to take care of their younger siblings while their wayward, drunken mother leaves them to fend alone, they have become much more than brother and sister. And now, they have fallen in love. But this is a love that can never be allowed, a love that will have devastating consequences ...How can something so wrong feel so right?

Review: This is, understandably, a very edgy and controversial subject matter.  I first heard about it after reading a synopsis on somebody's Waiting on Wednesday post.  I forget whose it was blog it was, actually, so to whoever it was: you are the most awesome blogger ever for introducing me to one of the most mind-blowing books I have ever read. Anyway.  Even though I finished it last night, it's been on my mind ever since, and I'm really not sure where I ought to start. There's so much I want to say- so much to say- about Forbidden, my mind is in a whirlwind of thoughts.  Where to begin?  These 418 pages pack so much into them, but I raced through it in a day and a half.  Yes, it was difficult to read, but at the same time I tore through it to find out what would happen.

Well, the story alternates points of view between Lochan and Maya, which I think works really well for the story; you get to hear what both of them are thinking, how they really feel about one another.  Although, I guess, Lochan and Maya's voices sounded kind of adult considering that they were meant to be teenagers, and their voices didn't sound incredibly distinctive from one another.  This is something that happens quite often in a dual-narrative novel, but I can overlook this, I think, because the subject matter and the way it's handled is so excellent.

I can't remember the last time I felt so torn when reading a book.  One part of me desperately wanted for Lochan and Maya to be together for the rest of their lives, and I desperately hoped that they could, even though I knew that there wouldn't or couldn't be a happy ending.  I couldn't help but think: Why can't they be together?  Because, well, it's a free country isn't it? But the other half of me was squirming and thinking, eeeeeeeew!  I guess that the human brain has just got used to thinking that a relationship between a brother and sister is wrong.  In which case, it's a very disturbing book and gets your brain thinking about right and wrong.

The relationship between Lochan and Maya isn't even there at the beginning of the book. Their love develops very, very slowly, but you can see it getting bigger and bigger until it finally emerges, at which point you almost want to start cheering. It's tender, sexy, realistic, romantic and just so right, and in such moments you throw aside all thoughts about it being sick, twisted, gross, etc. But when they realise it's wrong, it dawns on the reader, too. 

It's not just their forbidden relationship that Lochie and Maya have to worry about. With their mother neglecting them more and more until she almost totally abandons them, three younger siblings to take care of, A levels and university looming, everything seems to be falling apart.  I couldn't make up my mind whether or not I liked Kit, their 13-year-old brother.  I know he was a pain to Lochan and Maya, but, well, I think what I felt for him was more pity than anything else. Willa, their 5-year-old little sister, was particularly sweet.  It was just so tragic that Lochan and Maya had to deal with all of it.

Strangely, I think that although there is a dual narrative, the book seems to be focused slightly more on Lochan out of the two, although Maya is probably my favourite character in the book because...she changes.  All good characters ought to develop and change and learn as they go along.  Not that I didn't like Lochan- he was clever, sweet and three-dimensional despite his social anxiety. 

And the ending?  Oh my word. It's devastating, heartbreaking, tragic, depressing, and...hopeful? Ish?  Right at the ending, the slight glimmer of wonder and joy made me want to curl up in a little ball and burst into tears, but I think I was too emotionally drained to even do that.  Forbidden is that powerful- after reading it you just feel like a big, empty void, uncapable of any emotions because they've been sucked out of you.  The last chapter before the epilogue...holy macaroni.  That's all I can  say. In my desperation for there to be some sudden twist in the plot to make everything turn out for the better, I didn't really realises the consequences of Lochan's actions.  But no more can I say, lest I start babbling and give everything away. 

Kudos for Tabitha Suzuma for dealing with such a tricky subject.  Who could have done it better? The answer is, probably nobody.

In five words (because Forbidden deserves more than three) : a disturbing, devastating emotional rollercoaster. 

Reccomended for: teens (probably older teenagers, as some parts of it are a bit, erm...graphic) and adults who don't mind the edgy and difficult subject matter.
Rating: 5, of course!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Dear Blog,
I finished Before I Fall  (Only the 2nd book on my 2010 Debut Author Challenge list that I've read) last night so as ever I have a review.
You may or may not have noticed that my blog background has dissapeared.  This is something to do with the website, but I hope by the weekend my blog will be restored to its normalness. 

Summary (from Goodreads): What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

Review: I disagree with the Jay Asher quote on the front cover: "You'll have no choice but to tear through this book".  To my mind, this is the sort of book you have to read slowly; savouring every single word and really dragging it out so that it never ends.  Why rush through this book and then finish it, just like that? Yes, I read Before I Fall reeeally sloooowly, like when you only have a few bites of chocolate cake and want to make them last as long as possible.  Mind you, when I say "really slowly," I mean four days, and my mother is still reading the same book that she was reading in May. 

It seems that in lots of reviews of Before I Fall, people seem to dislike Sam.  Sometimes, quite a lot.  But I thought it was kind of nice to have a book from the point of view of one of the I've-got-it-all, popular crowd type-people instead of one of the outsiders who can only watch on while the in-crowd go to parties and date jocks and all that.  And, well, although every cliché  is based behind some truth, Sam wasn't like that.  And as for her being mean, although I found Sam really likeable, because, well, if somebody goes on the awesome emotional journey of sorts that Sam experiences by way of living through the last day of their life 7 times, it's hard not to completely love them.  It was her friend, Lindsay, who I wasn't really keen on, as the plot went further and further along and we found out more about her secrets, then I couldn't help but start disliking her more and more.  And yet I felt sort of sorry for her at the same time.  Such is the emotional torment that is Before I Fall, and  by the end I still hadn't made up my mind on how much I really liked her.

And Juliet.  Even though the reader didn't find out more and more about her until about half-way through the book, she is an excellent, excellent character;  complex, disturbed, quiet, terrible, fascinating and slightly creepy.  A companion novel or sequel of some sort that goes further into her complicated character would be somewhat awesome, although it would be kind of hard to fit that around Before I Fall; it couldn't just tell the same story from the point of view of another person.  Anyway, Juliet was to my mind the most interesting person in the book.

I supposed at first that it must be hard to write about the same day seven times over.  But this book makes you realise how many possibilities there are for events in each day.  Who knows, everything could be completely different.
It makes you think a lot about this sort of thing; how one person's actions can completely alter everything.  It also makes you wander what you would do if you had to live the same day over and over, and what you would do to change things.  In which sense, it's a very philosophical book. 

So, well, plot?  Does this book have a plot?  A girl dies in a car crash and lives through it seven times.  It's sort of hard to describe the book in that sense, but Sam learns so much along the way, then it feels like a journey of sorts. Even if it's just to The Country's Best Yogurt, school and a party.  It was an emotional journey, I suppose.

One thing: This is one of those books where they released it in the UK, changed the cover slightly (got rid of the Jay Asher quote and changed the font) and didn't bother changing certain words to the British spelling. As you may or may not know, I feel like screaming whenever there's a spelling mistake that the editor missed, and though having it published with some slight differences to the spelling here and there because it was first published across the pond, is no excuse.  Perhaps this is just me being a grammar freak, maybe not, but it bothers me.

And, well, to conclude with a new conclusion system:

In three words: thought-provoking, funny, and heartbreaking.
Reccomended for: teenagers and adults everywhere.
Rating: 5.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Review: A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

Dear Blog,
Today my victim is A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone. 

Summary (from Goodreads):  Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva all get mixed up with a senior boy, a cool, slick, sexy boy who can talk them into doing almost anything he wants. In a blur of high school hormones and personal doubt, each girl struggles with how much to give up and what ultimately to keep for herself. How do girls handle themselves? How much can a boy get away with? And in the end, who comes out on top? A bad boy may always be a bad boy. But this bad boy is about to meet three girls who won't back down.

Review:  As you may or may not know, saying I think novels in verse are cool is the understatement of the century.  Particularly recently, I've been devouring more of them than I can count.  I've been working my way through the verse-novel section of Sonya Sones' list of great books and novels-in-verse.   Anyway, this turned up at my local library and I borrowed it.

The story alternates points of view between three high school girls; Josie, a confident freshman, Nicolette, a junior who sees love as a power game of sorts, and Aviva, a senior whose head is full of music.   I don't know why but it seemed kind of hard to get inside their heads, and see who they really were.    All the reader really hears about is their encounter with the anonymous Bad Boy, so, well, apart from that, you're still sort of left wondering: who are these people?  This was probably why Aviva was my favourite character; I got the best picture of her.  We found out about her parents.  She had favourite songs, we knew about her parents, etc. etc. So she was really likeable.  I thought Nicolette was quite...what's the word? compelling, interesting.   And  I think I liked Josie the least- I wasn't really too keen on her from the opening lines of the book: "I'm not stuck up/I'm confident/there's a big difference".  No matter what the difference may be, I still found her hard to like.  But good on her for spreading the word about the Bad Boy (I found it strangely ironic that she wrote the message about him inside Forever by Judy Blume, considering the title and all).

However likeable they may be, it's hard to not be annoyed slightly with the characters during their encounters with the un-named Bad Boy.  You can't help but ask yourself, "What do they see in him?!"  Such is the madness of love, I guess.  But still, why?  I was particularly irritated when Nicolette (I think it was Nicolette) overheard some of the Bad Boy's friends talking about her in a mean sort of way.

A Bad Boy is a very quick read.  It's 200 odd pages and a novel in verse, but I'm sure that it didn't take me about twenty minutes (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little) to read other verse books of the same size like Jinx or some such novel.  Perhaps it just feels like it takes quicker to read because, well, it's a very easy read: fast-paced, funny, thoughtful, and realistic, and took very little brain work to read.  Whereas  the aforementioned Jinx (which was the first book I ever reviewed on my blog) was a slightly tough read in places, deep and heart-breaking and heartwarming and all sorts of other things that make it one of my favourite novels ever.  Anyway, in that respect A Bad Boy is a quick, fun  read to cheer you up without being overly shallow and frothy.

So, well, it's realistic and the characters are easy to relate to.  But remember, dear blog, it's a novel in verse, so I must say a few words about the poetical-ness.   I think it's the sort of book you'd give to teenagers who hadn't encountered many verse novels before to get them into devouring more.  The writing is simplistic and straight-forward, with not much poetical-ness or anything; it just sort of sucks you in.
One thing: I don't know if you've noticed that on the UK cover (the one shown), the girl on the front looks slightly pregnant.  Or is that just me?  Strangely, although some sex is had, nobody gets pregnant.  However, her hair looks nice.  I much prefer the UK cover to one of the US editions, on which a boy and a girl are practically eating each other. I don't like it when I  can see models on the front of books because it sort of destroys how I think they'll look.  Especially not...erm...that close up. 

Summary: (I noticed that I call the Goodreads description the summary, and I call this the summary too.  Maybe I ought to go back to calling it the "Rating and such" like I did in my first few entries): Though it won't take you very long, A Bad Boy is a quick, fun piece of escapism. Rating: 3.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Foreign Language Friday: On Love and Barley- Haiku of Basho

Dear Blog,

Since today I am
reviewing a book of Basho's
haiku poetry,

I shall write all that
I can in the haiku form.
Fun, but kind of hard.

Name: On Love and Barley- Haiku of Basho
Written by: Matsuo Kinsaku (later known as Matsuo Basho)
Originally Published in: Japanese
Translated by: various people down the centuries, but this edition was done by Lucien Stryk
Summary (from Goodreads): Basho, one of the greatest of Japanese poets and the master of haiku, was also a Buddhist monk and a life-long traveller. His poems combine 'karumi', or lightness of touch, with the Zen ideal of oneness with creation. Each poem evokes the natural world - the cherry blossom, the leaping frog, the summer moon or the winter snow - suggesting the smallness of human life in comparison to the vastness and drama of nature. Basho himself enjoyed solitude and a life free from possessions, and his haiku are the work of an observant eye and a meditative mind, uncluttered by materialism and alive to the beauty of the world around him.

Review: You may or may not
know that I love haiku-  I
write some myself now

and again.  But I
feel kind of depressed when I
think about how mine

pale compared to the
beauty and simplicity
of Basho's poems.

Basho is the sort of
inspirational person
I wish I could meet.

And why do I like
them so much?  Well, Basho is
master of haiku.

He revived the form-
brought new life to the rules and
strictness of Haiku. 

He often broke
the form
throwing away rules

drifting here
and there.

His poems seem both
disconnected and
full of nature, real;

of Zen Buddhism echoes
through his work; calm and

uncluttered with the
everyday chaos of
normality and

such.  Like you can see
the flower's petals unfold
slowly but surely,

for example.  And
so Basho observes it with

I guess I better
give a few examples of
Basho's haiku.  So:

Together let's eat
shears of wheat
share a grass pillow

Old pond,
a frog.

Come, see real
of this painful world.

No hat, and cold
rain falling-

Wake, butterfly-
it's late, we've miles
to go together.

Summary: Basho is a truly, truly brilliant poet and although it only takes a matter of seconds to read one of his haiku, they stay in your head for ages afterwards and really make you think about the world in a simplistic sort of way. Plus they're short and easy to remember, so read the book a couple of times and impress your friends by reciting half of them off the top of your head. Rating: 5.

Last but not least, the
final poem that Basho
wrote before he died:

Sick on a journey-
over parched fields
dreams wander on.

Book Blogger Hop!

Dear Blog,
the book blogger hop returns as it does every Friday, hosted by Jennifer of Crazy for Books.  Which means yay! 

Each week a question is posted for those leaving their link to answer.  This week's question is:


Past (2009 or older): Winter of Peril  by Jan Andrews, Burned by Ellen Hopkins and This is All by Aidan Chambers
Present (released earlier this year): Dirty Little Secrets by C.J Omololu, Three Rivers Rising by  Jame Richards and Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok  (all of which haven't come out here in the sceptr'd isle yet)
Future (not yet released): Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, volume 4 of the Translucent manga series by Kazuhiro Okamoto, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson, and Aurora by Julie Bertagna.
While I'm here I may as well say that I'll post today's Foreign Language Friday entry this evening :D . 
So there you go.  Hop forth, book bloggers! 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Dear Blog,
I just finished Monsters of Men- about ten minutes ago. 

Summary (from Goodreads): Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they're so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge - the electrifying finale to the award-winning "Chaos Walking" trilogy, "Monsters of Men" is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.

Review: I read The Knife of Never Letting Go last winter and devoured The Ask and The Answer a few weeks later.  How many weeks I have spent looking at the cover of this book on the internet, waiting until I have enough money to buy it after having ordered a stack of yet more books of the 'net.  And then it turned up in my local library like the librarians knew about my fandom and just ordered in a copy.
Anyway.  Monsters of Men has lots to live up to, especially if Chaos Walking has fans like me.   And I would hope that it does.
If somebody asked me to describe this in five words, it would be: Oh. My. God. Freaking fantastic. And now I've said that, then I'll go on to explain why.   The proceeding paragraphs shall just be me almost entirely praising this book, so if you are like me and take pleasure out of reading negative reviews, then you shouldn't bother.

Monsters of Men is six hundred and three pages of heart-stopping, heart-wrenching war and action.  I enjoyed this, because a) I love anything vaguely dystopian, and b) I've read a heap of contemporary novels of late and needed something more distant from real life.  Hence it seemed like a good book to read, so for a couple of days I was complet
Like The Ask and the Answer, the story alternates point of view between point of view, but I jumped up and down when 1017, known as the Return, appeared and started talking from his point of view.  It was confusing at first: the Spackle give everything different names; the Land, the Burden, the Sky, the Return, the Clearing, the Knife, etc.  It makes for slightly confusing reading at first. I love how the Spackle call the people they love "his/her one in particular."  And call me crazy, but the Spackle remind me slightly of the Ood in Doctor Who, in that they're all linked with one conscious mind.  The Sky, their leader of sorts, is just like Ood Sigma communicating with the Doctor and his companions, speaking for them.  Either way, it was awesome to see the Spackle more clearly and really get inside their heads, so to speak. 

The plot was fast-paced the whole way through; the sort of book where you start reading and when you emerge for food/a drink/sleep/whatever you look down at the page number and you're like, "whoah!  I'm on page 200 already?!"  Monsters of Men is full of people, humanity, war, aliens and explosions.  There are LOTS of explosions, most of which either go BOOM! or whoosh.  None of this action seems to get tiring, at least not to me.

There is more than one side to all the characters in this book, where hidden dimensions to all of them are revealed.  I wasn't sure what to make of Todd for a lot of the book, seeing as he seemed to trust the Mayor an awful lot and sort of went along with whatever he said.  Now and again I wanted to hit him with my hardcover edition and shriek, "don't you get it? This guy is pure evil, no matter how many times he says he has been redeemed!  Get away from him now!"  That said, with Mistress Coyle being equally complex and creepy, and the Spackle advancing on all sides, there didn't seem to be many places to run and hide.
So Mayor/President Prentiss and Mistress Coyle are some of my favourite characters in the books in terms of character, even though I don't actually like either of them.  They're both very complex and confusing peopl
Viola was indeed a fantastic character and I wish very, very much that she was a real person. I got all sentimental at the end of the book when I was thinking about when she had first appeared in The Knife of Never Letting Go.  So much do I love these characters, I get slightly emotional at leaving them at the end of the book.

Speaking of the end.  The last 50 pages are, well, made of the purest awesome you could ask for. They're particularly heartbreaking but then Patrick Ness of fixes aforementioned broken heart by putting it together with cellotape. But he only uses cellotape, so it is a very shaky mending that still slightly leaves you in tears, be they of joy or sadness (I did actually start to cry properly somewhere towards the end).  But cellotape sort of holds things together, so everything is (slightly) stable at the end, and while sort of wrapping things up leaves plenty of questions, seeing as it finishes just as more settlers arrive on the planet, which is known only as New World.

As soon as I finished this, I just sort of lay staring at the ceiling going "oh. my. word." As you do when you finish a truly awesome trilogy (i.e Tales of the Otori, the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, and His Dark Materials, which I read when I was eleven and haven't read since, though I really ought to).  It could just be me, but when a trilogy sort of blows me away like that then I just end up feeling empty in a devastated sort of way; these characters whom I've lived and loved alongside are just gone, and it's like a friend dissapearing suddenly until you next re-read the trilogy.  Anyway, I totally got that having read the last few pages, which I both tried to slow down and covered the last line with my hand so I wouldn't dare to peek ahead.

My only criticism is that especially during the exciting parts particularly (although I guess every. single. moment. of this book is white-knuckle ride through dystopian awesomeness), to emphasise the frantic urgency the author cuts off sentences-
just like this-
which means that there are no full stops-
and though it seems urgent and terrifying-
there are no full stops for-
whole pages-
which me being a grammar and punctuation freak got on my nerves slightly.

Summary: Heartwrenching, heartbreaking, heartwarming. Awesome, awesome, awesome.  Rating: 5.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

In My Mailbox 12

Dear Blog,
IMM returns, hosted like always by Kristi over at The Story Siren.

I got five books this week, all from the library, and all of which I've wanted for absolutely ages:

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (yay!)
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (reading this at the moment.  amaaaazing)
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Yay!  Especially Yay about Before I Fall, Make Lemonade and Monsters of Men, which I've wanted for aeons.   I reserved Before I Falll from the library about two months ago, so it must be pretty popular.  And Make Lemonade and Monsters of Men just appeared in the Teen section of my local library.  They hardly ever get new books in, dear blog- the Gods of literature must favour me today. 

Anyway, that was my literary week.  What about yours?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Review: Massive by Julia Bell

Dear Blog,
This is a slightly short review, alas, but life interrupts my blogging like it too often does *sigh*.

Summary (from Goodreads): Weight has always been a big issue in Carmen's life. How could it not? Her mom is obsessed with the idea that thin equals beautiful, thin equals successful, thin equals the way to get what you want. Carmen knows that as far as her mom is concerned, there is only one option: be thin.
When her mother sweeps her off to live in the city, Carmen finds that her old world is disappearing. As her life spirals out of control Carmen begins to take charge of the only thing she can -- what she eats. If she were thin, very thin, could it all be different?

Review: I don't normally read a lot of contemporary fiction, and even less about eating disorders.  Mainly because I find it slightly depressing.  But you may or may have not noticed that I'm currently on a contemporary fiction kick, and so I bought it at a library sale a couple of weeks ago.   
I am a very lucky person.  I've never had anorexia or bulimia, and nor has anybody I know.  However, this means that I don't know if Massive describes having an eating disorder accurately or not.   One thing: am I the only one that's noticed that while the title of the book is written on the weighing scales on the front, the needle is actually pointing to the very smallest number of the scale, as if nobody was stood on it at all?  As if you were overweight, even if you weigh nothing at all. Perhaps I look at the covers of books too deeply.
  Massive is the sort of book that makes you want to go into the kitchen and eat something just because you  you don't want to suddenly and mysteriously want to be as thin as possible.  It also makes you realise how sinister some mother-daughter relationships can be; both should definitely read this. 

For such a short book, it's quite slow-going, and the bulimia/anorexia part of the book wasn't as huge an aspect of the story as I had thought.  It's about mothers, daughters, friends (and how evil they can be), growing up and many things in between, and although bulimia is a main part of the story, all these minor subplots and elements make up the rest of Massive and what ultimately drives Carmen towards eating disorders.  Carmen doesn't really want to be thin, doesn't really start throwing up her food until about half of even two-thirds of the way into the book.  I guess that's probably quite realistic- you can sort of see the change in her attitude towards food from the beginning of the book to the middle to the end, unfolding before your eyes.

Carmen was a nice enough character; nothing remarkably special, and, quote her mother in one scene, "God, do you ever say anything?"  I loathed her mother, Maria and didn't feel sorry for her in the least- but I think you were meant to dislike her. It's kind of hard to describe every person in the large cast of characters in such a small book, which means that some people are kind of distant and we never really understand them.  Carmen's grandparents, for example.  All we know about them is that her grandmother is overweight and her grand-dad won't cut down the hedge in the front garden.   It was interesting how perhaps Carmen's grandmother was always eating and then her daughters were forever dieting, and then it sort of passed on to Carmen, like a downward spiral or a circle you can't get out of.

One thing: At the end of the book, Carmen and her friend Paisley burn some Barbie dolls.  Although it was poignant and one of my favourite scene, burning plastic is bad.  I know this because when I was younger I put a plastic mixing bowl in the microwave while trying to melt some chocolate to make some fridge cake.

Summary: disturbing but in some parts funny in a twisted sort of way, and makes you think about food and families and how once something gets started it's hard to stop.  Rating: 3.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Foreign Language Friday: I am David by Anne Holm

Dear Blog,
Foreign Language Friday returns, after my not having done it last week *sigh* I didn't mean to, but if I can't do it on Friday then it's not Foreign Language Friday, is it?! 
Speaking of which.  Although people rarely actually comment on my reviews, it would be good if any of my 62 followers would be nice enough to reccomend some cool foreign-language novels I haven't reviewed yet.  I don't want to run out.

Name: I am David (originally published as  David)
First Published In: Danish
Translated By: Anne Kingsland
Summary (from Goodreads): David's entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?  David's extraordinary odyssey is dramatically chronicled in Anne Holm's classic about the meaning of freedom and the power of hope.

Review: I got a copy of this a few years ago...I think it was my eleventh birthday...and I re-read it a couple of weeks ago.  And, well, we all love a good bit of Danish literature now and again, don't we? (the answer is YES).  Even if I've probably outgrown it slightly. But I suppose anybody from ten to a hundred could read it and still enjoy it, really. 

If I was to say one thing about I am David, it would be; this is a very strange book.  It begins in a concentration camp somewhere in eastern Europe.  Because I am a geek, I figured out that if he has to go directly south to get to Thessaloniki  (Salonica), then he probably starts off in Ukraine, Romania, possibly even eastern Poland, though he gets to the coast relatively swiftly so I doubt he was that far off, and it'd have been easier for him to just cut across Germany to get to Denmark.
Anyway, it's set in a world that's sort of like ours but seems slightly different.  For one thing, a 12-year-old boy certainly wouldn't have spent his whole life in a concentration camp, for two reasons.  1) he would have died by then, surely, and 2) the second world war went on for 6 not 12+ years.  Sorry.  That's the geek in me again. 

Although the story itself was moving, the writing seemed strangely distant, and almost kind of wooden in some places.  I suppose this probably fitted into the context of the story; other vaguely similar books like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Silver Sword, less seems to be more and supposedly is better at getting inside the characters' head.  After all, the main characters of the aforementioned books go through some pretty scary stuff (and I'm pretty sure that I am David is the least...erm...harrowing out of them).  But still, he's 12 and he travels across Europe on an epic journey that would make most hitchikers jealous.  Anyway, although I guess it kind of fitted the story, I wasn't too taken by the writing style, which seemed to watch David from a distance rather than live with him, and sounding almost calm even at the beginning of the book when he was escaping from the concentration camp.

So even though I couldn't really get inside his head, I thought David was likeable.  He was resourceful, clever, trustworthy (perhaps too much so at some points) and it was strangely endearing the way he didn't fit into the outside world.    And he keeps going!  I like him for this.  If I was by myself, running from Them, I would just curl up in a little ball and cry.  And then realise that I was free and be all "Booyah!  Europe is mine!  I am free!  Goodbye, concentration camp!" Such is my madness. 
It's a very moving book.  David's journey is inspirational, hopeful, and so on.  Ultimately  it is full of the triumph-of-the-human-spirit and kindness-of-human-beings and endurance that human beings like. 

One thing I didn't really *get* was the ending.  It seemed slightly rushed and didn't really make sense, even when I re-read the last couple of chapters a few times.  But regardless of how believable/realistic it was, at least it was a happy ending, which after everything David went through is what he deserved. 

Summary: if you don't mind the weird ending and the strange writing style, then I am David is worth reading and makes you think in a calm, quiet sort of way.  Rating: 3. 

Book Blogger Hop!

Dear Blog,
the Book Blogger Hop returns as ever, hosted by Jen of Crazy for Books fame.  
This week's question is:

Tell us about some of your favorite authors and why they are your favorites!

My answer:
Heh.  This is a very hard question.  Well, to my mind Celia Rees and Mary Hooper are the absolute masters of YA historical fiction.  You cannot claim to be a historical fiction fan without having read at least one of their books.  They're exciting, the protagonists are believable and easy to relate to,  and it's pretty much always historically accurate.
I don't tend to read much contemporary fiction, but I'm a huuuuge fan of Sarah Dessen.  Lian Hearn writes fantastic samurai/fantasy/romance books, Garth Nix is the ruler of YA Fantasy, and I look up to Geraldine McCaughrean as a writer because she has the ability to write about everything from every genre.

Anyway.  Hop forth, bloggers.  Let the fun begin.

PS I'm here today, so I'll post the Foreign Language Friday entry for today this evening :D

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Dear Blog,
I finished Paper Towns this afternoon.  I know that the picture is the US edition as opposed to the UK one, but I couldn't find a good-quality image of the right size of the sceptr'd isle edition.  No matter.

Summary (from Goodreads): When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Review: I read Looking for Alaska about a  month ago and completely fell in love with it, and a couple of days after finishing it I ordered Paper Towns off Amazon.  I haven't had a chance to read it since then, but decided to read it now so that it didn't just blend into my bookshelf and not read for another two and a half years, à la Artemis Fowl and Many Waters (neither of which I've actually read yet).  Although, John Green's writing is too good to put off from reading for very long.

Paper Towns is similar to Looking for Alaska in many ways.  Margo and Alaska are kind of alike, just because they're clever and worldly and mysterious.  There's one scene on page 77/78 where Q is describing Margo which seems almost identical to the "In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla, and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette" scene in Alaska.  But I don't really care because it's so beautiful and well-written (as was the "she was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing.  She was a girl" part in Paper Towns)  And Miles and Quentin had similar characteristics, too, but all these similarities matter not because all these people are awesome-  the sort of people you wish would just jump off the page. I certainly wish that Margot would open my bedroom window one night and take me on awesome all-night escapades.  Too bad that stories are fiction, however realistic the characters may seem.  But that's how you know that characters are truly great, I guess.  Not only do you belive they could be real but you want them to be. 

Paper Towns has that brilliant mix of being funny and making you think.  It's the sort of book where you don't want to just add a couple of your favourite sentences to your Favourite Quote section on Goodreads, but the whole thing.  Indeed, as well as being deep and philosophical in a John Green sort of way, parts of it are hysterically funny.  Parts of it are certainly rude.  Generally it's both at the same time *sigh*. Boy humour...what more can I say?  Anyway, at some parts I was laughing so hard my little sister was giving me weird looks and asking if I was okay.  Which I was.
I don't tend to read mystery novels, but this is more than anything else a mystery and, like any good one, keeps you guessing.  Although I did get a bit annoyed about two thirds of the way into the book when we knew that Margo was in a paper town but not exactly where.  So that sort of got on my nerves because Q didn't actually get on the road until part 3 (to my mind the best part of the book).

I'm not really sure what to make of the ending, which I won't reveal because it will wreck the whole book.  Was it right?  Was it dissapointed?  I can't really tell, and will probably have to think it over for a few days before I come to any conclusions.  

Summary: excellent no matter what you make of the ending. Funny, thoughtful, exciting, rude, and absolutely awesome.  Rating: 4/5.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Review: Postcards from No Man's Land

Dear Blog,
I bring with me a review of Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers, which I read last week and was too busy doing holiday-type things to review at the time. 

Summary (from Goodreads): Jacob Todd is abroad on his own, visiting his grandfather’s grave at the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem in Amsterdam. There, he meets elderly Geertrui, who tells an extraordinary story of love and betrayal, which completely overturns Jacob’s view of himself and his country, and leads him to question his place in the world. Jacob’s story is paralleled in time by the events of the dramatic day in World War II when retreating troops were sheltered by Geertrui’s family.

Review: I've been meaning to read the Dance sequence for a few months, since I saw the epicly huge This is All in a library and didn't have enough space in my bag to take it out.  I haven't been back to that particular library since, and since it's not in my area (though, being the weirdo I am, I have about 3 different library cards to supply me with books from all around southern England), I can't order a copy.  Anyway, I've been so busy buying and borrowing other books I'd sort of not gotten round to it.  Eventually I ordered a copy of Postcards off Amazon (seeing as I don't have room for This is All on my bookcase).  How glad I am that I did.
Although Postcards is the fifth book, I think you can read them in any order.  I have.  

First things first: this is a very complex book.  In my failed attempt to explain it, this will no doubt be a very confusing, all-over-the-place review that makes little sense.  The story is split into two halves and tells two stories; that of Jacob, a 17-year-old in Amsterdam, circa 1995, and Geetrui, who is a terminally ill woman whose side of the story is written as a letter to Jacob about her life towards the end of the second world war.   

I wasn't sure what to make of Jacob at first.  At the beginning of the book he reminded me a little bit of  Simon from Exchange by Paul Magrs; timid, shy and slightly boring, but as the book went on and he changed as a person, I liked him more and more.  Though on the whole he still wasn't particularly amazing (Now, male protagonists must be as likeable as Sammy from Struts and Frets and Miles from Looking for Alaska in order for me to really, really like them)
However.  To my mind, Geetrui and her 1944 companions really steal the show.  This is for many reasons: she's a more likeable character, her relationship (with Jacob's grand-father) was true love- Although Jacob learns a lot from his exploration of life and love in Amsterdam, there's no proper passion, no undying love.  Which, now and again, is absolutely awesome.  Little flings over the course of a few days interest me not.   Also, it was set in the past.  If you read my blog often then you'll know that Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres.  So it makes me happy that Postcards had an element of that.

In the afterword of my copy, Aidan Chambers says that people tend to watch Jacob but live with Geetrui, therefore making her side of the story more compelling.  This was, to my mind, true.  It was heartbreaking and hopeful and exciting and romantic.    
The way the author wove Geetrui and Jacob's lives together was very clever and well thought-up. I love stories where multiple lives intertwine in a clever and awesome sort of way. 

Postcards is a very serious book.  Not serious as in, depressing, but serious as in full of philosophical, intellectual-type quotes that make you want to go through the book with a highlighter to mark out all the important passages.  If I liked to vandalise my books that way, I may well do that, but I don't like to hurt books that way.  Indeed, if they wanted certain pages to be hot pink/neon yellow/other highlighter colour, surely they would have printed them like that? 

Summary:  Not as amazing as I was hoping it would be,  but I'm definitely going to read the rest of the books in the Dance Sequence.  Expect more Aidan Chambers reviews to come.  Rating : 3.75

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Dear Blog,
I took Hush, Hush camping with me last week and I haven't had time to write a review since then *sigh* what more can I say?  Unfortunately, I must have a life outside the internet or my neck will get even more stiff than it is now, my eyes will turn square and I'll start getting Cyberspace Withdrawal Symptoms every time I have to go for just five minutes.  Anyway. 

Summary (from Goodreads): For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.  For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Review: It's true that if somebody holds up a book and, while summarising it, mentions "paranormal" or "urban fantasy", or "for fans of Twilight", I will probably run a hundred miles in the other direction.  I haven't read Fallen, House of Night, Kissed by an Angel, Vampire Academy,  the Morganville Vampires, Beautiful Creatures, Shiver, the Dark Divine, Wicked Lovely, or anything else that looks remotely paranormal.  This is probably because I really don't buy the whole hype around Twilight.

It's also true that Hush, Hush is effectively Twilight but with angels.  There are many, many similiarities; everything from being attacked on a night out on the town, as they say, to sitting together in a science class, which is sort of annoying.  I suppose it must be kind of tricky to write something truly, truly original in the paranormal genre these days, but surely not everything had to be almost exactly the same?  Hmm. 

One thing I really didn't like about this book was Patch.  I think the whole bad-boy impression the reader got about him was what was supposed to make him so mysterious and attractive.  But to my mind he is a stalker, and even when he and Nora were in love and he saved her life numerous times, I still wasn't too keen on him.  If I were to have a fallen-angel boyfriend, I would at least like him to be sweet and tell me why he was stalking me.   Eventually, though, all is revealed and Patch becomes Nora's guardian angel , which sort of works out well for them both. 
Despite the fact that I didn't like Patch, Nora was a likeable character. She had a best friend, she was critical without being overly emo-y, and SHE TALKED!  She had a mind of her own, even though for lots of the books evil angels sort of messed around with it and made things appear that weren't actually there.  She was a pretty cool character (compared to Bella, she was nice, but compared to Sophie from Hex Hall she seemed a little lacking in awesomeness.  I feel guilty writing this review, like poor Nora can't really win.

Another thing that got on my nerves was that although we as the reader know about Patch being a fallen angel, although Nora begins to sort of work things out, she doesn't really find out the whole story until about three-quarters of the way through the book. But the cover and the writing that says "a fallen angel...a forbidden love", etc, etc.  The whole book just screams, "FALLEN ANGEL! FALLEN ANGEL!" Which sorts of takes the fun out of the mystery element of the book.  In which sense, it was pretty predictable. 

Despite plot-related flaws, other stuff such as the pace and the writing style were good.  It certainly sounded realistic from Nora's point of view.  The descriptions were good, the action scenes were exciting, it was creepy in the creepy scenes and the romantic scenes were, well, romantic, even though Patch creeped me out a bit. 

Summary: well worth a read, and I'll read the sequel, Crescendo, when it comes out, even though Hush Hush is not absolutely amazing and lacks originality. Oh well, it was pleasant enough, and I'm glad I read it.  And sorry for so many comparisons to Twilight.  Rating: 3.