Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey (#1)

THE 5TH WAVE has been news around the blogosphere for months now with a mixed reaction to this science-fiction novel targeted for young adults. I was a little apprehensive whether I wanted to read this book after all the comments at its romance, the aliens, the writing and narrators. But then there are some amazing reviews for this book, one of which simply said "I can't explain my feelings for this incredible novel. Just read it".
So when I saw this book in my library, much to my surprise, it was the perfect opportunity to pick it up and discover the hype about this unique book.

Synopsis: After four terrifying and devastating waves, Cassie has learnt to trust no-one. Some of the remaining humans on Earth may look human but inside they are controlled by the aliens themselves. Cassie calls them 'Silencers' as they silence the remaining living. Cassie knows that she must stay alone to stay alive. Until one day when Cassie is injured, she is taken in by Evan Walker, a mysterious guy who disappears each night to 'hunt' for food yet never comes back with anything, yet he is kind to her. Cassie must choose whether to fight, to trust, to live or just give up.

Review: I think one of the problems - and strengths - of this novel is that it is SO different from a lot of YA fiction out there and a lot of readers expect this to be the next Divergent or the next Hunger Games. But there is one basic flaw right there. This isn't dystopian fiction. Dystopian is a sub-genre of science fiction. The genre of science fiction does exist outside of adult fiction although you hardly see any Children's or YA science fiction as dystopian takes up a large percentage of the market (sorry bookseller talk coming out here).
And I think that's why a lot of readers don't like THE 5TH WAVE. And do like it too. It's different, it's 'out there', it's original and it's completely different in the structure, narration and plot to a lot of books around. While dystopian asks 'WHAT IF?' in the future, THE 5TH WAVE asks 'WHAT IF?' right now, in present day.

THE 5TH WAVE is also complex, which is like a breath of fresh air for readers like me who have read SO many YA book that are similar from one another. And also very '2D' with one plot line.
This book follows Cassie primarily who is the main narrator on her journey to finding and saving her 5 year-old brother who was taken away from her. She is a civilian, merely lucky enough to have survived the waves before her. Accompanying her narrative is Zombie, a young boy who is saved when he has the deadly plague that the aliens released in the 3rd Wave. He is taken to a military base where he is learning to fight those against him. The narratives gradually get closer and closer to one another, the reader expecting constantly for them to converge until the very the last part to the novel where they finally meet in Cassie's narrative. There are also some chapters narrated by Sammy, Cassie's brother and an unnamed narrator. There is the feeling gradually increasing throughout about how unsecured and dangerous Cassie's world is which is made all together too realistic in my eyes.

Now the writing THE WRITING. Throughout this book, there is the hidden, undercurrent that something frightening and terrifying is about to happen which keeps you constantly waiting and on edge - which a narrative technique that is quite hard to achieve. The terror the characters feel on the page is so poignant to you as a reader which made me love and root for Cassie and Zombie the whole way through. I loved all the twists and turns that Rick Yancey takes you on and the fast pace just adds perfectly to that making this book at times incredibly suspenseful and exciting to read. The sequence of the plot is quite special as it literally throws you head first into the action, without any world building or knowledge of what is happening apart from the blurb so you gradually have to build up this idea of the devastation that has taken place as well as the events that have turned Cassie's life around. It wasn't, I guess, until about halfway that I truly started to enjoy the book because I was a little confused and trying to work out the world building. But I like book like that - ones that make you think.

In a few reviews on Goodreads, I saw that some say they felt the romance was too sudden, too unrealistic which I can totally see because it kind of just pops up. But seriously guys? Wouldn't you appreciate some company at the end of the world when aliens are after you? I know I would. It is quick, sure, but it works in context. The romance doesn't dominate the novel, like many other science fiction and dystopians out there, it's there at points but I never cared too much about it. And I love that - its what sets THE 5TH WAVE apart from other books and made it all together more realistic. My only problem is after THAT ending, I think a love triangle may come into the picture which may be a downfall for this series...but we'll jump that hurdle when it approaches.

I can see why there is so much controversy over this book, mostly I think because of its structure and its genre. But that is why I loved this more. I'm a little bit of a science fiction movie geek, with War of the Worlds and Back to the Future being some of my favourites so I loved to see that translate to the book world.
This is a hard genre to do well and it's clear Yancey understands the world he is trying to build especially the different complicated elements of the aliens. There are many homages to science fiction novel and movies like War of the Worlds and in Cassie's lovely, real - sometimes sarcastic - narration, you get a sense of how unrealistic some of the theories are - which makes this much more realistic and scarier.
I'm impressed by this first novel to say the least and I think the praise it is getting is well deserved. The YA book market has become full of mostly the same type of novels so it's refreshing to see something completely new and different and I hope this series, and author, lives up to that.

I give this a 4 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.rickyancey.com/
Pages: 457
Publisher: Penguin
Challenges: None

Related Reviews: 
Breathe - Sarah Crossan
Wither - Lauren DeStefano
Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Where I've Been

So you may have noticed since I made a grand entrance back into the world of blogging, my posts have been a little sporadic.
"WHY? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?" I hear you cry (or wish you would be asking). I hope that this post kind of clears that up.

I've acquired a volunteering job at this little grand old house nearby:

This is Ham House, owned by the National Trust. I'm currently a Room Guide over the summer which means I help visitors understand what they're looking at and tell them about the function of the room. It's been so good so far - a lot of talking - especially with those visitors that love history and want to be told about the house. I'm there every Friday now over the summer. I've always loved history but as I'm not doing a History course at university after doing the subject for 10 years since I was 7 (I'm so old now...), this is SUCH a good way to let my geeky history side out especially if a visitor asks me anything to do with the Tudors.

I've also been working a few more days at Waterstones as I need the money and they need the staff. It's been quite fun actually because I'm normally there at the weekends, I'm meeting different people who come in during the week. And I get to see the whole process if someone orders or when stock comes in to be sold - it's a bit different to my good ol' Saturday job.

(This is my polo shirt, it's about two sizes too
small for me. But I was the only one that could fit
that size...)
I've also been taking the opportunity to read and read as well as just not doing a thing after spending months always on the go, always with something to do or be working on.
I've been following The White Queen since the beginning which I like. Although as I did the War of the Roses for A level, I'm sometimes like 'That didn't happen!' when watching and I kind of know what happens in the end...

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. I'm around, just not at a computer or laptop. It's going to be a busy summer hopefully as I wait for 15th August for results day *shivers*. I still love my blog and the blogging world but sometimes life just gets in the way as I'm sure most of you know.
Keep watching out for things at Rebecca-Books. There are many exciting things coming up....

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Prodigy - Marie Lu (#2)

**This is the second book in the Legend series so there may be some spoilers in this review for those who have not read the first book. If you would like to read my review of the first book, Legend, click here**

After the amazement at discovering such a great series a couple of months ago, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of the sequel to Legend soon. With a quick perusal of my library's funky new website, a reserve and a phone call informing me PRODIGY was ready and waiting for me at my library, I had the chance to find out what's next for June and Day.

Synopsis: June and Day arrive in Las Vegas after June helped Day escape his execution. However, within hours of being there, it is announced that the Elector Primo has died with his young son, Anden taking his place. The pair join a group of Patriots - rebels fighting against the Republic government who want to see a united America once again - who are eager for June and Day's involvement. They will help Day find his brother, but only if they help assassinate the new Elector and push the Republic into chaos and revolution. It is the chance to save a nation that has been silenced for so long. But soon, June starts to question whether this is right, are they getting the full story and ultimately, what if Auden is the right person to be Elector?

Review: Okay, so I thought Legend, the first in this extraordinary series, was pretty good, very different and original from many other dystopians out there. But then I read PRODIGY. And Marie Lu just blew me away. Again. But so much more. SOMEHOW I thought this was better than Legend and that book was pretty darn good.

Part of the beauty of dystopians is the action that makes the genre a bit more interesting apart from the whole corrupt world thing. In many dystopian sequels, there is a different kind of 'second-book-syndrome'. Gone is the definition that the second book cannot live up to the first. FAR from that. The second books in many series - Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Divergent series), Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games series) and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Delirium series) to name a few - seem to just be so action packed, like EVERYTHING seems to happen. I guess it's probably because in these trilogies, there is no world-building or setting up the story neither is there any tying up loose ends or creating an ending. But I find, in all the three novels mentioned, the action becomes waaaaay too intense. Just too much to absorb for the humble reader.
BUT in PRODIGY, does that happen? NO. This is so action-packed, don't get me wrong, like literally some chapters - make that MOST chapters, I was breathless by the end, needing a little break to absorb and understand what on earth just happened. But something I found in this novel is that the action was never too much, never too intense and chaotic to read. It's almost cinematic in a way as it is so vivid that I could visualise it all happening so clearly. And THAT, my friends, is due to the amazing writing of Miss Marie Lu.

Lu moves the plot incredibly fast especially with the duel narrative from Day and June, but there are these moments that arise from the surface, moments of romance, kindness, sadness, fear, death. All these emotional moments that once she slows the writing down, the reader appreciates them in full. It's incredibly hard to describe, but if you've read the novel, I really hope you understand what I'm jabbering on about.
There is something compulsive about Marie Lu's writing. She just makes me want to read and read on and on which had me telling myself 'I'll go to sleep after this chapter'. I read half of the book in a couple of hours late one night which as a slow reader, that is a huge achievement for me.

Ah! The characters! I loved June and Day much more and I just love that both these characters share the spotlight in the narrative. These are both quite complex characters who both have a real depth to them and that is handled perfectly. They continue to develop individually and in their relationship together yet none of the aspects that make them so unique and likable in the first book is lost at all.
Some authors have a habit of not developing or evolving their secondary characters which most of the time, make books better or worse whatever the genre. In PRODIGY, that certainly happens in Kaede and Tess as well as the addition of some new characters like Razor, a commander, and Anden (who is just too lovely!). I thought some characters that were in the first book, like Thomas, were left out a little bit. He does appear briefly but then doesn't return so I hope he comes back in the third book.

Can we just pause and look at the ending? I mean Legend was a little bit of a cliffhanger, with me literally about to fall of the edge. BUT THIS ENDING IS JUST...AH. IT'S SO MEAN.
Without ruining anything, for the last quarter of the book, I was sitting there thinking 'This is such a closed ending'. Like it seemed like an end to the series but I KNEW that there was a third book and I was thinking 'What the hell is going to happen in that book then?'.
THEN. POW, POW, POW. All these events and things are thrown at me and before I can react, before I can even think, before I absorb these sudden change of events, it's the last line of the book and once again I'm turning the pages frantically looking for the rest of the story. So basically, watch out for that killer of an end. Because it's unexpected. So unexpected.

If this review didn't quite illustrate my thoughts, in a sentence: this book was brilliant. So brilliant. (okay so two sentences).
It's hard to fathom how good it is and what makes it this good but I'm pretty sure if you read this series and enjoyed it as I did then you'll understand. I haven't come across an amazing dystopian series like this since Divergent, and I read a lot of dystopian fiction. I'll be in the queue for definite for the third and final book and eagerly anticipating with Marie Lu is going to face me with now.
Go buy this book. Buy this series and celebrate the beauty of reading. This book reminded me I'm so in love with reading. And that is just what the doctor ordered.

My thoughts are pretty much summed up in this review I found on Goodreads including the whole thing at the beginning about wondering what I would do if I encountered a zombie. True fact.

I give it a 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://marielu.org/
Pages: 371
Publisher: Penguin
Challenges: None

Related Reviews: 
Legend - Marie Lu
Noble Conflict - Malorie Blackman
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Divergent - Veronica Roth

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Noble Conflict - Malorie Blackman

I was first introduced to Malorie Blackman when I stumbled across Noughts and Crosses in a bookshop, really loved the first few pages and then fell in love with that series. And any British teenager in their late teens will remember the CBBC series of Pig-Heart Boy, an adaptation of one of her books!? I was both amazed and creeped out by it.
I actually met Malorie Blackman at my local library about 2 years ago with my friend which was like reliving my childhood - she was so lovely too. She mentioned at the time she was working on something a lot like Noughts and Crosses but a bit different which I knew would appeal to me when it was released. So when I first heard about NOBLE CONFLICT and then *dun, dun, dun* saw it on Netgalley, it was like I was 8 again.

Synopsis: Kaspar has grown up in a world founded on peace and harmony after a bitter and destructive war that destroyed much of the world. The rebels on the outside of the city still attempt to cause war and take back the land that they think is theirs. Kaspar is part of an elite fighting force called the Guardians who protect the city, its inhabitants and the High Council but without destructive or violent weapons. Soon after Kaspar joins, he meets a rebel face to face. But this rebel is a lovely girl called Rhea. From this moment, he is haunted by memories and visions that do not belong to him as he starts to realise the secrets that have been hidden about the rebels and what Kaspar is actually fighting for.

Review: With the amount of dystopians on the market, you would think another one - like NOBLE CONFLICT - would get boring. But in all honesty, this is one of the most original I've read.
Everyone would like a peaceful world where society was based on non-violent actions and this is what Blackman plays upon.

I completely think this book justifies why Malorie Blackman is Children's Laureate. I mean, some of the surprises I didn't see coming at all, some I did (mostly because she hints SO MUCH along the way plus I have weird 'read between the lines' English skills). There are so many twists and turns throughout the story that do keep the narrative moving mostly as well as interesting. There are some really thought provoking incidents and moments and I can see a lot of issues that can be translated to present day - much like in Noughts and Crosses.

The characters are well-built and react well off one another. The novel is written in third person which for some I can see they would not particularly connect with Kaspar then. However, I found this didn't hindrance anything and actually allows the reader to see the action from more than one point of views yet without confusion. Kaspar is a character that many may find annoying  - he has grown up thinking he knows the right thing but this is soon changed. For me, I found him engaging, strong, determined and someone who was just misled. Actually, he reminded me a lot of June from the Legend series by Marie Lu. There are some good secondary characters too - Voss, Mac, Rhea, Dillon. Even when bad things happen to them, despite the third person, I still felt emotion for them.

In spite of this, not every book is perfect. The thing that stood out for me was that this book was slow in pace and in all fairness, the real action was in the last quarter of the book. The first part was great with the superb world-building that is some of the best I've seen. Then there's a lull. A big incident happens. Rhea appears. And then, pow, it all slows down. I actually found some of the middle part quite hard to read because in all honesty, I got a little bored.
So reasons? Well, I have two. Number One - there are two main storylines or issues running throughout the story. The discovery of knowledge about the founding of the city, the High Council and the rebels and then running parallel is the strange problem of Rhea and the whole memory thing. About halfway through the discovery/lies thing comes to the foreground.
Then, because of reason Number Two, this book is written in third person which works for the majority of the book but in this bit in the middle, not so much. It is interesting and kind of essential to the plot but I just think it did let the book down a little bit. I don't know - maybe I just anticipated this book too much.

I did like this book, I assure you and it was a true Malorie Blackman novel. Despite some of my writing issues as well as the humour seeming quite forced at times, this novel (literally and metaphorically) explodes in the final chapters turning everything on its head and leaving the reader with this sense of both a closed ending with Kaspar's story ending far beyond the last page. This is certainly far from Noughts and Crosses (but can anything be better than those books?) but it's not far off.
It's just so great to see a British author finally on the young adult dystopian scene.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.malorieblackman.co.uk/
Pages: 368
Publisher: Random House
Challenges: BBC

Related Reviews:
Legend - Marie Lu
The Declaration - Gemma Malley
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The S-Word - Chelsea Pitcher

When I saw the blurb for this book on Netgalley, I knew it would be a book I'm interested in. I love me some serious contemporary writing and having literally just left college, I completely felt like I understood and could relate to the issues addressed in this book.
So when I wanted something a little more serious for my holiday reading, I knew this was the best book for that.
This looks to promising, it showed school in a realistic, edgy, harsh light that didn't glaze over the real issues surrounding most schools for teenagers. If a book can do that well, I'll support it until the end.

Synopsis: First, it was SLUT scribbled over Lizzie's locker. Then, it was SUICIDE SLUT, a week after Lizzie Hart killed herself - written in Lizzie's own handwriting.
Lizzie Hart's reputation is ruined when she is caught in bed with her best friend Angie's boyfriend. The weeks that follow make her life a living hell leading to Lizzie committing suicide. Angie feels like she could have done something to stop Lizzie but still has so many questions unanswered. A week after the funeral, pages from Lizzie's diary and graffiti start to circulate around the school. Angie starts an investigation into finding out who drove Lizzie to her death and avenge Lizzie. However, Angie's own anguish and anger over Lizzie's death and abandoning her best friend in her final weeks bubbles to the surface threatening to consume Angie.

Review: Well, this book was intense.

I think everyone has had experience in dealing with name-calling especially in a school environment. I know I certainly have, having been called a mixture of 'anorexic', 'bitch', 'neek/geek', 'weirdo' and 'poshy'. I think people don't quite appreciate how a name, how insignificant it might be to them, can cause such harm to someone else.
The events that happen to Lizzie that lead to her downfall are quite extreme to say the least and like the ultimate examples of bullying. I found the idea that a whole school would turn against one person quite extreme in my opinion because I doubt the things that happen to Lizzie would go that far.
Regardless, I loved that this book looked into the effects and the reasons behind why we define people with a tag. Like one person can only be a bitch or a slut or whatever and nothing else and I definitely think so many more books need to deal with these kind of issues instead of breezing over the reality of high school/college/secondary school.

There's also a look at real teenage issues like finding your own identity, sexuality, relationships, domestic violence, rape - all written in a sometimes harsh light that left me quite uncomfortable at times but sort of empowered too. Not many books can do that, but THE S-WORD certainly can.

Angie is a character that you are made to dislike. As she is part of the popular crew at her high school, she is mean, obnoxious, rude and manipulative throughout as well as this kind of casual, relaxed attitude to all that is going on around her. It's only really when you delve deeper into this novel, when all these surprises and secrets that Lizzie kept from her best friend come to light and the effects of the mysteries she is unraveling that we see a more humane, emotional person in Angie that does have a heart and did care for her friend. It's heartbreaking in a way, and I think that just adds more and more to the intensity of this novel. The same was how I felt for Lizzie. Although she's already dead from the first page, through Angie, the mysteries and her diary, the reader discovers Lizzie's true character as well, who it is clear is very different from those around her, especially Angie. I'm not sure how I felt about these characters in the end. While I was sad for Lizzie after all that happened, there was just a touch of something in the story that made is slightly unbelievable. Like ALL those things happened to one girl, I'm not sure. As I read in one review for this book, both Angie and Lizzie are very dramatic and I think it's this that stopped me enjoying the story completely.

The book is dark as much as it is intense and I liked this alternative style of showing this high school setting which isn't used very often which I think is best shown through the writing and themes. The writing itself is unique and that is so, so obvious from the first page. The narration I found was very choppy and at times rather unsympathetic and harsh which I really didn't like when talking about these themes. I found it got better as I got more into the story but it's certainly something that could have been refined. I don't know, maybe I'm just being critical or there is a purpose for having it that way but regardless, for me it just didn't work that well.
There are a lot of surprises running through the narrative, some more obvious than others (totally didn't see the surprise at the end coming!). I liked how this novel dabbled in many genres - thriller, contemporary, romance, mystery, all working quite well.

The day I finished this novel, I found out that a guy I had grown up with before losing contact with him when we were 12, had died at 18. It was that and this novel that impacted on me once again how short our lives are in reality even if being a 80 seems to far away at the age of 18. There are so many secrets and lies we all keep within ourselves that we could potentially leave without telling anyone and it's clear this effect happens to Angie as Lizzie's hidden knowledge attempts to consume her.
This is a hard-hitting novel with many uncomfortable moments, surprising revelations, themes that need to be addressed far more often and at it's heart, a dark, intense narrative that does make you think. Sure, there are lots of things that could be done differently or didn't work, but this is one of the only books I've read that deal with suicide, self-harm, rape, domestic abuse so vividly. And there is needs to be far more books like this before we can move forward and combat these issues.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for allowing me to review this book 

Author's Website: http://www.chelseapitcher.com/S-Word.html
Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Challenges: None

Related Reviews: 
Undone - Cat Clarke
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Speechless - Hannah Harrington

Monday, 1 July 2013

Long Live Google Reader

So as many of you kids may know, Google Friend Connect and Google Reader will live no longer after tomorrow, 1st July 2013. God knows why but that's not the point.

For those who, like me at first, are like 'Er Rebecca, what are you talking about?!', Google Friend Connect is that little square white box to your right where you can 'Join This Site' and for me, has 120 followers. Then Google Reader is the list of the latest posts posted by the blogs you follow on your Dashboard in Blogger (I believe this is right).
Therefore, by Google Friend Connect being discontinued, those 120 followers that I have gained so happily in three years of blogging will disappear. I know 120 is not a lot at all considering I've been here for three years, but watching that number grow over the years makes me so...proud I guess and happy with what I'm doing here. Perhaps Google Friend Connect's departure will be good - make people less competitve on followers and look at posts and share those posts we love. However, I have a feeling that free, happy, care-free place will not come about and everyone will be looking at the amount of comments and pageviews they have as a replacement.

ANYWAY. I know that you know you want to keep up with whatever is next for Rebecca-Books. So here are a few hints of ways you can follow me.

Bloglovin' - For me, it's a bit like an outsider version of Google Friend Connect/Google Reader. You follow the blogs signed up to the site and the latest posts come up when you log in. And it's all done by a click of a button. When you sign up, you can import the names of the blogs you follow onto here and there you have it, all your favourites on a page.
Follow here

Twitter - I'm always around on Twitter. You can follow me @rebeccabooks - come follow me on there, I've love to talk to anyone that enjoys my blog.
Follow here

Please help keep Rebecca-Books and the blogging world active by following us and helping in the transition from the much loved Google Friend Connect to the new platforms. I guess it's good to have something different and unique in a while, it's just a shame that it was so soon.

Soon, there will be reviews for Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman, The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper, The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher as well as discussions, guest posts and a blogoversary week this July.

I'll end this post by thanking all of you who have followed, commented and supported me over the years. I appreciate it so, so much especially throughout the difficult times in my life such as my exams, leaving school and the death of those close to me. We can all look forward to more posts on Rebecca-Books.