Book Review: The 100: Homecoming (Kass Morgan)

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Details:

Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 340
Release Date: 26th February 2015
 
Blurb:

Weeks after crash-landing onto a rugged, nearly unpopulated planet Earth, the Hundred have managed to create a sense of order amidst their wild, chaotic surroundings. They work together to feed, shelter, and protect one another from countless dangers, including attacks by violent Earthborns. But their delicate balance comes crashing down with the arrival of new dropships from home–dropships carrying Glass and Luke, as well as the Vice Chancellor and his armed guards.

Suddenly, Bellamy must flee transgressions he thought he had left behind in space, as Wells struggles to maintain his authority on Earth. And while Clark searches for clues about her parent’s whereabouts, she finds herself torn between finding them and helping the injured new arrivals in camp. Lives hang in the balance, as the Colonists find themselves fighting not just attackers from the outside, but also enemies from within. 

Review:


Argh I’m finding these books so frustrating. I’ve marked this one lower than the others, but it’s not necessarily worse, I’m just tired of the series disappointing me (I know, I should stop reading, but I hate leaving a series half done!)

This book picks up where the last left off, with the Colonists hurtling to Earth, ready to disturb the life the hundred have worked to build. Drama does, of course ensure, along with a battle for peace between the hundred, the Colonists and the different factions of the Earthborns.

But none of that matters, because all of our protagonists are too busy moaning abour their love lives.

Seriously. I know I’m not exactly the champion of romances (they often annoy me) but I can get onboard with a good coupling or two. But this book is just obssessed with the petty dramas of their relationships when there’s so much bigger stuff going on.

Even so, I could accept all that – I’ve been a teenager, I’ve been in love, I know how all-consuming it can be (though I’m not convinced it takes priority in this situation) – but I just don’t believe in any of these couples. I realised part way through that they were all interchangeable. I could be reading about Glass and Luke, Bellamy and Clarke or Wells and Sasha and not know the difference: they all have the same burning passion for each other, they all see their men as brave and loyal and they all see their women looking more beautiful than ever in the sunlight. There was no discernible differences between them.

Aside from that, I felt like messages and character traits were really shoved down your throat. A lot of the start of the book was spent reminding you what happened in the first one, and who everyone was. And I felt I was constantly being told how people were feeling and what they wanted rather than being shown it.

Overall, this series has disappointed me. I really loved the idea and just wish that the plot and writing style could have lived up to my expectations.

My Verdict:

 Take it or leave it

#RandomReads – May Announcement

Hello and welcome back to #RandomReads with Stacie and Maia. If this is your first time joining us, this is where we randomly pick a theme each month and nominate a book for the other to read. We review the books and then have a bit of a discussion about them as well – feel free to join in with us by commenting/posting your own reviews in the comments and using #RandomReads on Twitter.
If you saw last month’s #RandomReads then welcome again and thanks for sticking with us!
And now, without further ado, the theme for May is…
(drum roll)
Fantasy


Argh it’s such a hard one! Fantasy is a genre I love a lot and since we got this theme I’ve been flipflopping between books trying to decide what to choose for Stacie. It’s been a tough one but I finally settled on…
(another drum roll)
Song Quest by Katherine Roberts

This is the first book in The Echorium Sequence and one that has been mentioned on my blog a few times, but not reviewed yet. It’s one from my childhood and a real love of mine. I read it obsessively when I was younger, and made two out of three of my sisters read it as well, so they could enjoy it and I could talk about it with them. And now I’m doing the same to Stacie… (God I hope she enjoys it!)
I’ll be posting my reviews over the next two Thursdays, then having my discussion post on the last Thursday of the month. As I said, feel free to join in with us (I’d love to chat with other people who have read this book!) and follow along with #RandomReads.

If you’d like to see what Stacie has nominated me to read then hop on over to see her post – and while you’re there, check out her swanky new blog, which has been done up and looks amazing!

See you next week for the first review!

Book Review: All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven)

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Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 388
Release Date: January 8th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. 

Review:
This is another of those heart breaking books á la The Fault in Our Stars and The Last Leaves Falling where the subject matter is tragic but a beautiful love story comes out of it. 

What I loved about this book more than anything were the characters. They really just sang to me, and I felt really connected to both Finch and Violet equally. While I tend to lean towards female charcters (being female myself) there was something about Finch that was just infectious.

This book deals with a lot of heavy issues and is not for the faint hearted. Violet’s survivors guilt after her sister’s death was a real driving force in the story and it was uplifting to see her slowly come to terms with it and learn to start coping, however painfully it might be, without her sister.

Finch, on the other hand, goes the opposite way, and gradually gets worse throughout the book. Even though I kind of knew where it was going, it didn’t make it any less painful. I wanted to shout at him to get help and sort things out, but it’s not always easy for people to do that (and definitely not easy for Finch). I loved his quirkiness and the fact that it was all weirdly rational, rather than just being another quirky YA hero who’s there to save the female from herself.

That said, I wasn’t sure about that aspect of their relationship sometimes. I loved the way it grew and how it seemed so natural for them to become friends (at Finch’s insistance) and then slowly more. But I don’t like the idea that it just took a good man to help Violet find herself again and start living after her sister’s death. I’m simplifying a bit there but there seems to be a bit of a trend towards that these days and it irritates me.

When all is said and done though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. When it came to the climax and I found myself speeding up reading because I was desperate to know what happened, and when it hit me what did I was left with such complicated emotions, I dwelled on them all day. It’s always so good to see mental health issues discussed in an honest way in books for young adults, and this is one of the better ones.

My Verdict:


OMG GEE WHIZZ How have you not read this yet?!

Check out my soundtrack for All the Bright Places here

If you enjoyed this, you might like It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Top Five… Princesses and Queens

Last week I read two of the Selection series books (The Selection and The Elite) and in honour of those reads, this week’s Top Five is Princesses and Queens! Unfortunately America doesn’t make this list as she’s not a princess or queen (yet…where I am in the books anyway!) And I guess this can also honour the newborn real life princess as well….
5

Redd Heart 
The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
Redd Heart is one of my favourite evil queens. She’s got that perfect balance of power, crazy and pure evil that makes her so entertaining to read. I love seeing what she turns Wonderland into when she finally gets to rule. Though I don’t think she’d be too happy to see who’s number one on my list…
4

Princess Cleopatra
Cleo (Lucy Coats)
Everyone knows what an amazing Pharaoh (Queen, basically) Cleopatra becomes, but in Coats’ novel we see her as a princess, struggling against two powerful/evil sisters, being the Chosen One of Isis and generally being awesome. You can read a bit more about Cleo’s story in this interview with Lucy Coats
3

Jadis/The Queen of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
Jardis could easily have made it into last week’s Top Five Witches, but she’s slipped in here under her unofficial title of Queen of Narnia. She’s one of the characters who terrified me as a kid but I also couldn’t wait to read more of her. She also made me very suspicious of turkish delight…



2


Daenerys Targaryen
A Song of Ice and Fire series 
(George R. R. Martin)
She has a dozen different titles saying she’s Queen of This and Princess of That and (most importantly) Mother of Dragons. Daenerys has always been a favourite of mine in the books as she grows so well into her role as a leader, and remains strong despite the men around who try to crush her. I hope she lives to the end!
1

Princess Alyss Heart
The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
It’s Alice in Wonderland, but as a real princess (then later queen) of Wonderland. As a young princess Alyss is mischievious and fun, but after seeing her parents murdered by evil Aunt Redd she grows up pretty fast (in our world, no less). She becomes the ultimate warrior queen and I could read her story forever.

I actually found this pretty hard, I need more princess/queen story suggestions!

Book Review: The Elite (Kiera Cass)

 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Release Date: April 23rd 2013
Summary (From Goodreads):


The Selection began with thirty-five girls.

Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?
America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.

Review:

Having enjoyed The Selection (the first book in the series) I went straight on to this book without taking a break in between, so they kind of blended into one book for me. However, there was a marked difference in The Elite for me and that was that…. SO MUCH MORE HAPPENED!

This is why my review of The Selection was a little muted. I had really enjoyed it, but after going straight into The Elite, I couldn’t help but think not a lot happened in the first book, comparatively. While the focus was still very much on the love story, I felt in this book there was more to keep me interested.

The main thing that I loved was Marlee’s storyline. I won’t spoil it here, but it seemed to come out of nowhere and really shocked me. It was the kind of thing I’d expected more of in the first book: the brutal reality of life in the palace, where harsh decisions have to made and punishments need to be dished out. This was by far my favourite part of the book.

America’s indecision and constant swinging between Maxon and Aspen did get on my nerves a little, but that’s mostly because I don’t see the appeal of Aspen very much. I just don’t see the connection there, and when America is with him she can be a bit simpering and annoying, whereas she seems much more herself (and likeable) with Maxon.

While I still feel I know very much where the story is going, there were a lot more plot twists and surprises in this book, and it’s really made me want to read on (I’m awaiting approval from Netgalley for The One, fingers crossed!)

If you enjoyed The Selection then I think you’ll definitely enjoy this book, and if The Selection left you wanting more then I think you might just find it here.

My Verdict:



Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: The Selection (Kiera Cass)

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 336

Release Date: April 24th 2012

Summary (From Goodreads):

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Review:

I made a mistake after reading this book, and that was to read the sequel straight after it (seriously, I devoured it in a day, there was no stopping me). Because of that, I think I’m marking this book a little lower than I would have if I’d read it on its own. Perhaps a little unfair, but what’s done is done!

I was curious going into this book because I’d heard pretty mixed reviews and it didn’t really sound like something I’d enjoy. But I was wrong.

Sure, the book had its flaws. My main gripe was that it was quite predictable, but at the same time I thought that was a little unfair: without it’s predictableness (America getting picked for the Selection, Maxon falling for her etc) then there wouldn’t really be a story. There was also something quite simple about it: the characters were sometimes a bit stereotypical and the world felt a bit underdeveloped. That said, I still enjoyed it.

The pace felt really gentle: nothing overly dramatic happened, everything just kind of sauntered along but, for some reason I can’t explain, I really enjoyed it. America was very likeable, not too perfect to be annoying yet pretty and talented enough to be in the Selection. Her main flaw for me was Aspen: I didn’t believe in the relationship for some reason, so her longing for him while faced with someone as lovely as Maxon was unfathomable.

I felt I’d like to know more about the world they lived in: about the castes, how they began, and more importantly, about the rebels. While we saw a couple of attacks and heard vague bits of information about them, I really wanted to know who they were and what they wanted. They were so nameless I didn’t really feel the threat from them.

I felt some of the other girls were a little bland: I forgot names of a lot of them very quickly, but I guess that was because they were doomed not to last too long. Marlee was obviously a favourite, being so sweet and friendly, but I did like Celeste and her massive bitchiness. I expected more characters like her to be honest.

This was a really great start to what looks to be an interesting series. I love that the concept isn’t really too far away from things that happen these days (I remember a certain show about girls wanting to marry ‘Prince Harry’). I’ve already eaten up the second book and can’t wait to read the next ones.

My Verdict:

3

Soundtrack Saturday: Only Ever Yours (Louise O’Neill)

Soundtrack Saturday is a weekly meme created and run by Erin at The Hardcover Lover. I’ve been meaning to do join in and do a soundtrack for a while now, and (finally) here it is. 

This week I’ve chosen to make a soundtrack for Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill, which I read a few weeks back and adored. 

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Losing Sleep – Charlotte Sometimes 
(the Beginning Song)

I’m awake and I’ve been losing sleep
I’ve been fighting all my demons
I’ve been getting weak
Cause I’ve been trying, trying, trying 
To be anything other than me

Ever Since the Chocolate – Rachel Sermani 
(Comparison Studies)

They clawed about my dress and now I’m naked
Tore holes in my soul about my neck.
The doctor says I have to wear a jacket
But as darkness falls I see this light, it’s burning at the fog and
I’ve followed ever since.

 Two Steps Forward – Emmy the Great 
(frieda and Darwin’s Song)

but
I knew you best back when love was just a feeling that ran out between my legs onto the, back of my dress
onto the clothes that i was wearing

Help I’m Alive – Metric 
(the eves Song)

I tremble
They’re gonna eat me alive
If I stumble
They’re gonna eat me alive
Can you hear my heart
Beating like a hammer

 Masterpiece – Meg and Dia 
(the eves Song)

Done by the hands of a broken artist.
You painted black where my naked heart is.
I finally know what wrong is.
Now I finally know what wrong is.
Carved like a stone with your hands still shaking.
On display through a soul still breaking.
Aren’t you proud you’re the one that made me?
Aren’t you proud you’re the one that made me?

Furniture – Amy Studt
(Meeting the Inheritants)

                                                             I am only flesh and bones,

Splintered glass and tattered clothes,

behind the skin, my fragility,
behind the skin, a skeletal impracticality,
I am only pieces of you,
held together with paper glue,
behind the skin, my divinity

behind the skin, my only sanctuary 

Pay Us No Mind – The Staves 
(frieda’s Song)

Easy come, easy go,
Tell me things I want to know.
Drink until your lips are black,
You’ve given things you’ll never get back,
Oh you silly thing

Cold sheets of linen,
Doomed from the beginning.
Do what you will,
Leave the worry to the women;
That’s our game to play

Bittersweet – Archis 
(isabel’s Song)

I could show you now but you’re never gonna see
Cause you’re watching me go up in smoke
I could shut it down, when I lose, you’re gonna leave
But you know that I’ll fall out alone
There’s secrets that you know
And secrets that I hold

Bath is Black – Marika Hackman 

(the Ending Song) 

Even though you think

To push me from the bath into the sink
I can still get clean
From everything obscene

So just pass me the soap
And I will scrub so hard to have the hope
That one day I’ll be free
And flies won’t follow me

But if the bath is black
And the soap is old
You’re turning the hot tap but the water is cold
Try as you might
Everything you’ve done has been washed out

#RandomReads Discussion – April Discussion

For the final post in April Random Reads, I’m going to be chatting about this month’s two Random Reads books in a bit more detail.
Our theme for this month was ‘Books that have been turned into a film’. Oddly enough, I’ve not actually seen the films that these books have been turned into, so I can’t really comment much on that…but I do have plenty of stuff to talk about which didn’t make it into the reviews.
I’m going to start off with The Book Thief as that’s the book Stacie picked for me to read. I said in my review that I had a story about this one so here it is…
My copy of The Book Thief was stolen.
There’s some kind of irony for you there.
I say stolen… I lent it to a friend who didn’t give it back for a long time (that’s why I don’t lend books!) and finally got lost in her breakup with her boyfriend (I hope he’s enjoying it!)
I have quite conflicted views about The Book Thief which I didn’t really bring into my review too much. It’s really interesting and well written and has some beautiful descriptions, but for some reason I just can’t get into it like I do with other books. It’s a shame because so many other people seem to love it – Stacie’s review is really glowing and I agree with all the points she makes, but for some reason I just can’t love it like everyone else does.
Another thing that I briefly touched on in my review was the use of metaphors and similes. Sometimes I loved them and felt they created a beautifully vivid picture, but other times I really stumbled over them as they just didn’t make sense to me. I think I like my writing a little simpler and to the point: The Book Thief tended to drag on a bit and sometimes I wished there was a little less flowery descriptions and a little more straightforward storytelling.
In terms of the film, though I haven’t seen it, I can’t imagine it doing the book justice. I don’t know if they kept the Death narration going, which is a pretty key part, but aside from that, I think it’s the words in The Book Thief that make it the story that it is. 
Although I’m glad Stacie made me read it again, I don’t think it’s one I’ll be picking up again.

Now on to Stardust which I nominated for Stacie to read.

Again, I think we had slightly differing opinions and she seemed to enjoy it more than me.
I’ve been reading a lot of Grimm tales lately and, while I love them and find them fascinating, I can’t read them like I do with normal books. There’s something about the way they’re told which is kind of distant and I can’t really connect to the characters as real people – because in a lot of cases, they’re not, they’re just a way to get a message across.
I don’t mind this in the Grimm tales because they’re so short, some less than a page long, but in Stardust it just didn’t work for me. It’s hard to care about a character you don’t feel connected to, and that’s how I felt about Tristan. Sometimes he irritates me with his actions, but other than I really didn’t feel much of a connection to him. 

Unlike The Book Thief I think Stardust would make a great film (probably is a great film, just not one that I’ve seen…) It’s just got that magical quality that I feel would look beautiful on screen, with enough interweaving plot lines, drama and romance to make the perfect film.

Stacie has done a lovely discussion about Stardust, which you can read here, as well as her reviews of Stardust and The Book Thief

After participating in this (first) Random Reads, I’ve read two new books and have resolved to watch two new film adaptations as well. I can’t wait to see what next month’s brings! Check back next Thursday to see what the theme and books are.

Book Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini)


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Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 444
Release Date: May 1st 2006
Summary (From Goodreads):


Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.
Review:
I made the mistake of Googling this book before I read it and found out the author committed suicide not long after the book was published and it made it all the more sad and poignant to read.

I struggled to get into this at first because of the dialogue, but I put this down to the fact that I have never been an American teenage boy. And after the first few pages of boy talk, when Craig is on his own, I found myself connecting better.

Craig’s illness is really relatable and it really shows that depression isn’t something abnormal or not understandable: it’s an illness with symptoms like anything else, and more people need to realise this. It’s also easy to see how life puts on these unnecessary pressures as well. My younger sister is 14 and cries every day about her GCSE exams, because she thinks if she doesn’t do well she won’t go to uni and she won’t get a good job and that’s her life over. It’s similar to Craig’s fears and I find it heartbreaking that she’s worrying about that at that age.

I thought the book started a little slow: I was expecting the majority of the book to be set in the hospital, but it took a while to get there, and I didn’t understand the significance of some parts (it came to me later though). I enjoyed Craig’s point of view as a narrator but didn’t find it easy to connect with him sometimes: his obsession with getting some girl action was a little annoying, especially considering his mental health position and where it got him.

I thought the characters were all very fleshed out and colourful, especially the ones inside the hospital – although this sometimes worked against them, as I felt they could be a little over the top some time.

The ending gave me conflicting feelings. I thought it did suggest a little that with a positive attitude and a new girlfriend you could make your depression better, which isn’t really something I believe. But I liked the fact that Craig wasn’t ‘cured’ as such, just getting into a better place.

Once this book got going, I really enjoyed it, but all the way through I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad it is that Ned Vizzini lost his own battle with depression. I hope his light hearted but poignant book has helped others with their own battles.

My Verdict:



Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!