Friday, 31 July 2015

Book Review: Half Bad

'Half Bad' by Sally Green

Rating: 4 stars

This is not an easy book to form opinions on, and from reading other reviews I can understand why Half Bad has everyone's minds so split. 

I for one, really enjoyed it. From the beginning you get thrown into a first person narrative that is so disorientating that it makes the story as a whole more intriguing. There are fairly graphic scenes of torture, where all you can do is wonder what the protagonist could have done to have possibly deserved such a punishment. 

The answer is simple: he was born. 

Nathan is the child of a White Witch and a Black Witch - the only half code in existence. If that didn't have the Witches Council tracking his every move, then it might be because his father is Marcus - the most evil Black Witch to ever exist. Everyone expects Nathan to come out just the same - another monster, another killer. 

Half Bad blurs the lines between what is classified as 'good' or 'bad', but as far as his half sister, Jessica, and the council are concerned Nathan will always be more bad than good. But how does that work when the good guys are the ones who torture you, and the bad guys are the ones who are willing to save you?

Nathan is such an interesting character, because his anger stems from how he's been treated his whole life rather than it being inherited. He doesn't want to kill people, even though that is what people expect of him. And he is definitely not okay with being manipulated. 

The other characters are also intriguing, all with their own strengths and flaws that raise the idea that no one is born good or bad, but have the ability to alter the path that they are on.

My main problem with Half Bad is that although it is about Witches, it cannot be classified as a book about magic. The use of magic is so minimal that if you were to take the characters out and place them in another setting, the story would still work perfectly. My hope for the rest of the series is that there is a bit more structure seen for this magic-realistic world that Green has created.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book Review: The Mark of Athena

'The Mark of Athena' by Rick Riordan

Rating: 4.5 stars
The Mark of Athena is where everything starts to come together. It has quickly jumped to it being my favourite Heroes of Olympus book yet, and that cliffhanger only leaves you wanting to read more. 

This book shows the seven demigods together at last, preparing to fulfil their prophecy. The characters have had time to develop in the previous books, but had fewer opportunities to interact. That was a strength in this book, as we finally got to see old relationships in new settings, and see the formations of new relationships.

There was a perfect balance between humour, plot and character development - so much so that anyone would become attached to these characters and their story.

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Friday, 24 July 2015

Book Review: The Darkest Minds

'The Darkest Minds' by Alexandra Bracken

Rating: 4 stars 

The Darkest Minds grew on my slowly, from being vaguely intriguing becoming outright amazing in the final third of the novel. It was worth the wait. 

It was so easy to fall into the setting, despite how I was initially uncertain about what the story was going to tell. The characters were well developed well beyond romantic relationships and all had different beliefs and priorities that I feel many protagonists of the genre lack - each with their own path, inspired by believable and realistic motives.

I rarely care for the male lead in novels, and yet Liam was a splendid exception to this. He was not a romantic plot device. He wasn't another romanticised creep (although the book does have its fair share of creeps). He, alongside the other characters were completely three-dimensional and aided in driving the plot forward into a complex and multi layered story that I cannot wait to continue.

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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book Review: Angelfall

'Angelfall' by Susan Ee

Book provided courtesy of Goodreads First Reads Giveaways.

Rating: 3 stars

I really enjoyed reading this book. An action packed dystopian novel with a strong female lead where romance is not the focus of the story? Sign me up.

Except it did not feel as though I was reading anything new. In all honesty, Angelfall was, for the most part, a relatively generic dystopia. I'd seen all the tropes before. I don't blame this on the book, in fact, a few years ago I probably would have adored it (I say this often, I know).

Yet I cannot get over the gaps in information. I understand it is part of a trilogy, one which I am partially tempted to continue, but despite there never being a dull moment, I feel like that was exactly what Angelfall needed - just a moment to explain a few points in the plot that seemed to be missing. 

Penryn's motives are clear from the start. Rescue her sister. For her, Paige is all that matters. Raffe's intentions were also relatively clear once trust was established between the protagonists. However, the reason behind the angel-inflicted apocalypse? Not the slightest clue. This would not be as much of a problem if the characters seemed to simply not care. I believe that Penryn asked Raffe once why his race had decided to attack, to which he responds with a simple "I don't really know" (or something along those lines) and it was left there. Had the protagonists even started to dig a little deeper and still come up with a mysterious lack of an answer to be clarified later on, I would have been more satisfied.

Earlier I mentioned that Angelfall was generic "for the most part". I say this because of the last fifty pages, and heavens know that plenty occured within a short period of time to create an incredibly unexpected plot twist which was both shocking and boarderline terrifying. But still, Penryn's lack of questioning had me confused. So much happened, and although she does not accept it as such, she does not question the motives of her enemy either.

Despite its flaws, the story itself was gripping and I could not put it down. We shall see if I decide to read the remainder of the series or not.

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Monday, 20 July 2015

Throwback to Harry Potter Studio Tour London

Throwback to when I went to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour! Whether you love the books or movies, or if you have an interest in set design, costumes, concept art or movies in general, there is something for everyone. It was a wonderful experience that I would highly reccommend!


Sunday, 19 July 2015

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Currently Reading: 'The Raven Boys' by Maggie Stiefvater

Raven Boys and Fox Socks...

After much reccomendation, I have decided to give 'The Raven Cycle' a second attempt.
I picked this book up a few months ago and just could not get into it, but now that I'm giving it a second chance I'm really enjoying it.
What do you think of the series? 


Friday, 17 July 2015

Book Review: Wonder

'Wonder' by R. J. Palacio

Rating: 5 stars

I seem to keep getting in a slump of reading several books in a row that I really cannot get into, only to reach this wonderful period of time where I keep discovering more and more beautiful books.

Wonder is one of these beautiful books. I don't know why I didn't read it sooner, but I fell in love with it very quickly. What really got me about the book was how real it felt. The author provides the viewpoints of August, as well as the other children in his life - and all of their behaviour is such a lovely demonstration of the different kinds of people there are in this world.

Wonder is about the kind people and the unkind people, and the people who learn and grow from their previous actions.

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Rating: 5 stars 

This is a simple book. There is no specific plot. The writing is easy. There is nothing complicated about it. I know that this is why many people did not like the book, but I think that only when you can accept it's simplicity, can you see it's beauty. 

Aristotle is an angry teenager. He has so many thoughts about the world, and he cannot seem to find any of the answers. Dante sees more hope in the world, but still does not feel like he fits in. 

I became so attached to these characters and their story, and I would gladly read it a hundred times over. 

This is a story about family and true friendship, and accepting yourself and others for who they are and how they see the world. It flows like thoughts do - jumping from one to another, not always coming up with an answer. But as Ari learns, life does not always have a set path - you make of it what you can.

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Friday, 10 July 2015

Book Review: Delirium

'Delirium' by Lauren Oliver

Rating: 3 stars

I fell in love with the concept before I even opened the book. A world where love is deemed so dangerous that it is outlawed. This concept was different - the kind that makes me wish I'd come up with it. 

Granted, I am not much of a romance novel enthusiast. I prefer romance as a sub plot to aid a story rather than being too focal, but I was willing to give this book a try. 

At times the love story felt too typical that it seemed almost as though the dystopian setting was there to support the love story rather than the other way around, and unfortunately I found the love interest rather uninteresting. Both the dystopian setting and love story could have been much stronger and more developed, but I did love looking through the eyes of the protagonist, watching the change in her outlook on life until she can say the dreaded words without fear. 

"I love you."

Delirium deals with more than one form of love, which was a welcome change. But what really kept me reading was the language. The imagry was simple and beautiful. If a bit more depth was added in some ideas, such as how autumn and leaves could reflect how the love interest is a symbol for change, and if some stronger Biblical concepts were worked in, I would have completely fallen in love with Oliver's writing style.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Book Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

'The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August' by Claire North

Rating: 5 Stars

Harry August's memory normally begins to return to him around age four - the memory of living this same life several times before.

Harry is stuck in an endless loop, living the same life over and over again from birth to death. He is a kalachakra, and he isn't the only one.

This story jumps between Harry's first fifteen lives, and how he manages to shape a new future for the world that he never intended, and how he must undo it all before it is too late.

The pace of the book was a little distracting to begin with, but after a few pages, the rhythm became familiar - anectodes building on the changes in Harry's future lives and how he chooses to live each of them differently - all of them building up to a chilling finale.

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Friday, 3 July 2015

Book Review: The Alchemist

'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho

Rating: 4 stars

After attempting to read many a book about travelling and spirituality, The Alchemist was the only one I could read with ease. The language is not complex, possibly because it has been translated, but that is not important - for the heart of the tale is so great that simply a few words could fill a soul with a thousand images.

Santiago's experiences are that of nature, love, and spirituality, but the story is not overwhelmed by religious ideas. It follows more along the lines of a a fairy tale that incorporates these ideas to aid in keeping the story afloat, with concepts that both religious and non-religious people alike can identify with, in an attempt to understand themselves and the world around them.

'"Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked.
"Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you will find your treasure."'

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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Book Review: Throne of Glass

'Throne of Glass' by Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 5 stars

Where do I begin?

This book takes place in the fantasy setting of my dreams - an element of our historical society intertwined with forests and magic - a pleasant contrast to the current obsession with urban and dystopian novels.

Unfortunately the setting did not get the amount of attention I was hoping for, pulling more focus towards the action and characters, but for over 400 pages, not once did I want to skip a paragraph because of long winding, detailed descriptions of each and every element of the castle.

No - what really stands out in this book is the protagonist. Imagine The Mortal Instruments' Isabelle Lightwood with a dash more development and personality (if it's possible), and you have Celaena Sardothien. You will not find a female protagonist like this often. The world's greatest assassin feared by everyone who could kill you just with a glance, who can be fierce and rock a ball gown if she wishes. Yes - Celaena isn't your typical girly girl, nor is she cold, calculated and heartless. She isn't forced to fit into a particular personality package, and romance doesn't save her - she saves herself.

And she is not the only three dimensional female character, for Celaena befriends princess Nehemia, whose goal is to protect her people from the King's tyranny.

Of course the book would contain romance. A love triangle, at that. But the friendship between Nehemia and Celaena is of the truest kind, and this is the relationship that Throne of Glass should be remembered for. 

Along with the Queen and the ladies of the court, all of whom have the capacity for complexity and hidden motives, this book is led by the women. If anything, it's the male characters that are underdeveloped. This book isn't about what they want, it's about what the women want and the means they will take to achieve it. The men are the supporting act. The women make the choices, and they are respected for them.

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