Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The End So Soon?

Yes. I'm afraid it's true. Life hit, and I just can't keep up with all the reviews. My reading rate has drastically decreased, and I can't find the time to write the reviews so quickly. So, I'm integrating the book reviews into my other blog on a rotating basis.

I'd like to apologize to those of you who read this when I post reviews, but rest assured, I will be posting reviews along with other random things about living in the UK and writing! It's just been too much for me to keep up with 2 blogs. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my main one. But, I've created a new bi-weekly schedule that will include a mix of things such as book reviews and interviews with authors/writers. I may even get the gumption to do a contest. We'll see...

So, if you're interested in that, follow me on the other blog! And thanks for following the reviews here and commenting. I'll move over these reviews as some point, but will start the new schedule with ones you haven't seen before. :)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials by Scott Westerfeld
US Pub. Date: 11 September 2007 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 6 November 2006 (Paperback)
400 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian

After having read the previous two books in this series, I couldn't wait to read Specials. This book is the final book in a trilogy centering on the main character, Tally Youngblood(1). It starts out where Pretties left off, this time following a group of teens called the "Specials". I won't give away who makes up that group or what they do, because that would be spoilerish. I will say, however, that the main themes that have run throughout the series continue in this one.

One critique I have of the series in general is that the books seem to follow the same pattern of growth, and this was somewhat unsatisfying to me, because I felt like all the growth I'd seen in the previous books were discounted so that the characters could have a lower point from which to start.

Otherwise, Specials was very action-packed, well-developed, and exciting. I found myself so attached to these characters that I hadn't started out liking that I cried in certain parts of the book. Anyone who knows me will realize that's a big deal. I rarely cry while reading books.

The ending not only left me satisfied, but changed. It left me with lots of questions about society, myself, and what we all do to make ourselves attractive. How far would we go? Would we give up ourselves, our sense of independence? Would we give up our freedoms? Out of context, these questions probably seem superficial (I mean, why would I give up my freedom just to be pretty?), but after you read the books, I think you will understand where I am coming from.

I enjoyed this series immensely, and would recommend it to anyone, really. There was humor, action, great characterization, and a tiny bit of romance.

  1. There is actually a fourth book in this series, which I have not read but plan to soon. The fourth books doesn't center on the main characters from the trilogy, but they apparently make appearances throughout.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
US Pub. Date: 1 November 2005 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 3 July 2006 (Paperback)
384 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian

Pretties seemed to follow much the same formula as Uglies, but perhaps with less action. Once again, I didn't find this book life-altering, but I wasn't looking for that. It's a good escapist book, and it reads very quickly. I liked the descriptions of people and locations, as it made things easy to imagine. The same theme from Uglies seemed to run through Pretties, but possibly with a stronger focus on choice and personal strength/will. I appreciated how Westerfeld didn't just make all the teens compliant with the powers that be. Instead, the characters seem real, fighting for independence while still trying to figure out who they are and what they are made of.

On the downside, I didn't feel extremely fulfilled by the ending, but I had the same feeling with Uglies, and it's probably (hopefully) due to my not having finished the trilogy yet. I found the characters more annoying in this book than in Uglies, but I think that might have been part of the author's intent. Overall, however, I enjoyed reading the book. I wasn't reading from a literary critic standpoint or with the idea that I was finding the next great piece of literature. If that's something you are seeking, I probably wouldn't expect you to like these books in general. It is a great way to escape to the future with a group of teens who have some decent adventures and grow (albeit, it the same way they grew in Uglies) from the beginning to the end.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
US Pub. Date: 8 February 2005 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 8 July 2005 (Paperback)
448 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian

Note: The next several posts will be about the books in this series. Although I have read all the books, I will write the reviews from my perspective after I finished each one instead of going back with the mindset of having read the whole series. I think it's important, because my opinions and the way the story affected me changed as I kept reading.

I chose this book because it was recommended to me based on some other books I had read. After reading the back of the book, it sounded like it would have good escapism potential, which is the main reason I read. Uglies filled this need. I was easily swept up in the story and plot line from the first chapter. Tally's voice was strong and my younger self (the "me" from the old days) immediately felt a connection to her, wanting to find out more about her life in a world in which I wasn't familiar. The idea of the book, a society which is obsessed with looks for reasons you discover later on, was intriguing to me. Westerfeld did a wonderful job raising questions about what it means to be pretty and how that affects your happiness. The message was there without being in your face, which I appreciated, and I think teenagers would appreciate as well. 

I also enjoyed the other cast of characters, although I found it difficult at times to identify with them (unlike my connection with Tally). There is definitely a struggle between two groups of people here. Those who want to keep the world "pretty" and those who don't. It wasn't immediately obvious what was going on, which allowed me to raise questions, get more interested in the story, and, ultimately, continue reading the other books in the series. All in all, this was a good, quick read. There was a good amount of action along with some character development. Although the message is a serious one, I wouldn't say it transformed my life, but wasn't looking for a book that would do that.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
US Pub. Date: 9 December 2003 (Hardback)
UK Pub. Date: 2 May 2006 (Paperback)
416 pages (US version)
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Historical

This is the first in a series of three books about Gemma Doyle, a wealthy late-Victorian teenager who is sent to a finishing school outside London after some mysterious events lead to the death of her mother in India. The first book is kind of a lead-in to the next two books, and introduces the main characters that appear throughout the series. 

 Gemma is an outcast at first, but comes to make some friends throughout this book. She also discovers that there are supernatural things happening to her and in the surrounding areas. So, the series covers her realization of herself as a person and as something more. She really kind of grows up over the course of the trilogy. I thought this book was a little more superficial than the next two in the series, but really, once you keep reading, it becomes apparent why that is. Overall, this was a great book. The characters are strong-minded, for the most-part. I also liked that the social rules of the time were threaded throughout the books. The fight against evil was superimposed upon the fight of the social hierarchy, and it blended well.

I wouldn't say this is a self-contained book, and the action picks up in the second(1) and third(2) books. The only real issue I had with this series is that it's told in first person present tense, which was something I hadn't encountered before(3). After about 100 pages, it no longer bothered me, as I was completely wrapped up in the characters and the story. This series is as much character-based as it is action-based, giving a good mix of the two.

  1. * Rebel Angels (US Pub. Date: 23 August 2005 [Hardcover]; UK Pub. Date: 2 July 2007 [Paperback]; 560 Pages [US Edition])
  2. **The Sweet Far Thing (US Pub. Date: 28 April 2009 [Paperback]; UK Pub. Date: 5 May 2009 [Paperback]; 848 Pages [US Edition])
  3. ***Since reading this series and joining a writers' forum, I've read many more stories written in first person present, and it seems that this is becoming more pervasive in YA literature.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Review: Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

US Pub. Date: 1 March 2007 (Paperback)
UK Pub. Date: 1 August 2007 (Paperback)
496 pages (UK version)
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Having only gotten into paranormal fiction in general over the past year or so, this was my first book about a succubus. I have read the Vampire Academy series, so I knew I liked Richelle Mead's writing. I was rather excited to start Succubus Blues, and I was not disappointed!  

Basically, this first book introduces us to Georgina Kincaid and a cast of characters (most of them her friends) on either side of the "struggle for good and evil". The characters all had individual personalities that shone through, often making me laugh.  

Throughout the book, we, along with Georgina, try to figure out who or what is stalking the immortals in Seattle. This gave me a nice element of mystery, which is really the genre of book I started out with a long time ago. I loved wondering whodunnit, following through the reasoning of the characters, questioning everything that happened, and generally trying to solve the mystery myself.  

At the same time, we see Georgina dealing with her feelings of being a succubus, especially after meeting two guys. On the romance end of things, there seems to be an overarching theme that stems back centuries (or millenia??) with Georgina of choosing between love and lust, which I found intriguing.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved Georgina, and found her funny, yet flawed. There seemed to be character growth over the course of the book, and the plot was interesting. I would recommend this book to others who like paranormal romance with a touch more plot and maybe a tad less romance than your typical romance novel.

Note: The previous books I've reviewed on this blog have been Young Adult. This one is not, and, therefore, has mature scenes (especially given the romance element) and language.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Blog Update

It looks like November is shaping up to be a busy month with work and writing. I hope it continues to be this busy, actually, because it means I using the degree I spent 23 years in school to get. Plus, I'm hoping to finish a writing a book. I haven't been writing long, and I think it will help my writing ego if I can at least finish something. :)

With that, I am setting a posting goal for myself, specifically related to this blog. I plan to post one review every week. That means on top of everything else, I'll have to keep my reading schedule in tact! That shouldn't be difficult since I have six library books and about ten books I own staring at me from the bookshelf.

There are several completed series I've read, and I'm still trying to decide if I should review them as a whole or individually. I think it will come down to whether or not each book is self-contained. But, I haven't completely decided. But, I will be posting some reviews from those series. I also foresee some non-YA book reviews coming soon, because a lot of the books on my shelf at the moment fall in the adult paranormal romance genre. Fun times!

If you have book questions about the books I've reviewed (or ones I haven't yet) or want to recommend something to me, email me! I've added an email address to my profile, so I should be able to receive and reply to emails.