Monday, 17 March 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Argh, the feels. This book is one of two I've ever cried at the end. The first was Before I fall by Lauren Oliver. And now this one. The problem with this one(it's not really a problem) is that it's so close to home. A large majority of my family has died of cancer so this... well this was touching. (btw I'm hoping I'm not spoiling anything since it does have the reputation for being sad). 

I'll admit, it took me a while to read it. I bought a copy of this book on the recommendation of multiple friends but it sat on my desk for months before I finally convinced myself to touch it. Part of it was because I knew it was sad and at that point, I didn't think I would be able to handle it. Not at that time in my life. So I kept postponing it. But then I began to question how good it was really. I'm a fantasy-type girl. I generally don't like books based on this world because I have higher expectations. If they're not gonna have some weird superpower or mystery or something, it needs to fit. The characters can't stick out and be super saints. They can't somehow evade danger at every turn. Life simply isn't like that. But then... I'm also afraid of reading realistic stuff because sometimes it actually does exceed my expectations and I begin to believe it's real. To be honest, I actually did look up to see if TFIOS was based on a real story. It wasn't, thank goodness, but I know situations like this play out every day. 

The characters are just regular teenagers. And they play their parts well. Except, well, the fact that they've got a lot more going on than normal teenagers do. Which sucks, but really brings the book to life. The problem is they're flawed. Hazel, well she's got that little terminal issue. She'll have negative moments and she tries the shy away from hurting people.She's sensitive. And that's what I like about her. Augustus. He's probably the most perfect guy in the book. As a cancer survivor, he can relate to Hazel to some extent and he's determined to become her friend, but even he has secrets. They've both had to grow up too young, but they've had a lot to think about; life, death, why people do things...

The book is sad, but for the most part, it's extremely enjoyable. It's very well-written. There were parts where I laughed with the characters, there were parts where I felt angry, and then the end when it all came crashing down. 5/5 stars. A definite read.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Review: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi and his companions travel through Charyn searching for Quintana and building an army that will secure her unborn child’s right to rule. While in the valley between two kingdoms, Quintana of Charyn and Isaboe of Lumatere come face-to-face in a showdown that will result in heartbreak for one and power for the other. The complex tangle of bloodlines, politics, and love introduced in Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles coalesce into an engrossing climax in this final volume.

The last book of a series, I find, is almost consistently the best. In this case, despite loving the whole trilogy, I do love the third and last installment the most. It truly did bring the complicated storylines of Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles to a complete close. The epilogue was outstanding, mysterious, leaving room for further interpretation yet at the same time, a sure closing. All the possible issues that were brought up throughout the trilogy were dealt with and resolved perfectly. But here I am going on about the end already. About the rest of the book...

Though I enjoyed the second book, the multiple point of views got in my way a little and made me slightly annoyed. In this one, the multiple point of views were all very well done. Detailed, descriptive, action-packed. It didn't make me want to hate on any of the characters. Instead, it helped me more thoroughly understand their motives and gain a deeper understanding of how complicated the plot was. Not to mention the dramatic irony that constantly came between Froi and Quintana. Like wow... Just wow.

The series as a whole definitely jumped to one of my favourites, if not my favourite. There was so much action and intrigue involved yet still a whole lot of emphasis on the relationships. There was just enough of everything. The characters were simply amazing. The reactions and actions of the characters, though I didn't like some of them, were all clearly explained and/or motivated. They were so realistic. Stubbornness, racism, uncertainty, anger. All things that I'm generally not too big a fan of in books, yet it fit the situations perfectly.

Lumatere. Wow, I'm gonna miss it. It's an absolutely beautifully crafted world. Of all the worlds in books that I have read, this might just be my favourite. The mountains, the different countries or provinces or whatever their called. The complexity of the different languages, the tension at the borders, the palaces, the great cities, the small towns, the mountains, the plains... Loved it. 

If you're into fantasy and don't mind a complex and fairly long read, READ THE LUMATERE CHRONICLES. I found this book to be a lot easier to follow than the rest of the books in the series and I'm not sure if it's because of the writing style or because everything was closing up. Either way, after reading this series, Melina Marchetta definitely has a new fan in me. 5 stars, of course.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Turn-offs

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week has a specific topic to which bloggers make a list of their top ten books in that category.

I'm terrible with deadlines. See, I had last week's Top Ten Tuesday almost ready... And then I forgot to finish and post it. This week, I made it my goal to finish it on time. And here I was, Monday night, desperately trying to finish it. Procrastination ftw. This week's topic is Top Ten Book Turn-offs.

1) Tiny Words, Full Pages - The size of books generally don't daunt me too much. I'm willing to read a 600-paged, 3-inch thick book if it's good enough, but it has to have a decent-sized text with space in between each line. If it's hard to read the text, let alone follow the storyline, I can never seem to concentrate. Though that's just me.

2) Multiple POV's - I don't always hate these. Sometimes they're actually done really well and the characters are deep and realistic enough. However, most books that have multiple POV's do eventually get on my nerves. One character's chapter almost always seems to be more thrilling and action-packed than the other. And the other is generally frustrating with some stubborn person who refuses to change their views. It makes it a bit realistic at times but most of the time it just makes me want to skip certain chapters of a book.

3) Love Triangles - It's not that they're always bad... But there are those times when they're just so cheesy and stupid that they simply don't work. Oftentimes, the third wheel(the person who is basically the main character's competition) is made so ridiculously flawed that it's no wonder that the main character gets the girl/guy.

4) Popular Girls/Cliques - These are already annoying in real life. Do I really need to read about them?

5) Stupid Main Characters - Dramatic irony is one thing. Stupid unjustified decisions that seem to lengthen the plot merely because the author felt like writing a longer book is another. 

6) Unrealistic Characters - Maybe they're almost like superheroes(even if they're not really supposed to be) or maybe they befriend people WAY to quickly to be real. Either way, if odd characters distract from the main plot, it's a big turn off for me.

7) Nothing Happens - You know those books where you're constantly waiting for something mindblowing and exciting to happen? And you keep waiting? And you're struggling through the book and you realize that you're already more than halfway through the book and nothing has happened? Yeah, hate those.

8) Train of Thought - My thoughts are hard enough to follow in my own mind, so when there's a story that jumps all over the place like the author just happened to ramble on about something and then change subjects, I find it hard to follow. It's cool sometimes, but not for a whole book...

9) Incorrect Facts - It's really funny when some author uses some facts of some sort to try to make a point or explanation in the story. It's even funnier when the facts are fake when they're not supposed to be. 

10) Quotations - One or two quotes are okay. Or even a small quote at the beginning of the chapter. But when you quote a big hunk of poetry and then discuss it, it's a little too much. Or even slightly lesser cases. Basically, write your own stuff. Quotes distract from the story.

Those are my turn-offs. What are yours? Link me to your TTT in the comments below. :)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home ... or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior's discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood ... and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

To be honest, this was a hard book to read. It wasn't that it was a terrible bore. Far from it. But there was so much detail that it was difficult to catch everything, let alone make sense of it. Being in school, I've been slightly more tired than usual lately and have had less chance to read for longer periods of time. This is definitely not a good book if you're looking for a light read. I found it so difficult to focus while I was thinking of other things or just simply tired and braindead. The formal language really didn't help either. 

There was a lot of dialogue in this book. Much more so than in Finnikin of the Rock. Which simply means that the text is even more important. When I said that the formal language didn't help with the focusing, I meant it, but I can't imagine it fitting well with informal language; particularly since the majority of the book is centered around royalty and nobles.

Marchetta really weaved this story together well. The details that I did catch were impeccable and the storyline was flawless(probably because of all those little details). There were times that I had little clue as to what was going on but I get the impression that that was deliberate as things were later revealed. A lot of the time something small, like a game about shortening names, would come back later with an extremely large amount of significance. There was also a moment when I laughed out loud merely because it reminded me so much of Star Wars. Or maybe it was just so funny because for once I actually fully understood something in the book. I don't know. 

There were a few things that annoyed me in this book that  kind of turned me off. One was the changing point of view. Unlike many other books, I was not annoyed by the changing point of view as it was done tastefully. It wasn't constantly changing enough to break the flow of the story but only enough to build the suspense. This was great because I did get a sense of how large the story truly was. However, I also tend to find a certain point of view that I dislike and thus always want to skip that part. In this case, there were times when I got extremely annoyed with Lucian. The constant racism and inaction while everyone else was out there doing cool things, discovering new things... His confusion was plain frustrating.

There was a lot of suspense in this book. However, it was unique in that I wasn't trying to figure out what happened next. Instead, I was more looking forward to what kind of information was going to be revealed next. Particularly that evil, evil cliffhanger at the end. Nothing drastic happened at the end that had me going "NO! I NEED TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM!!!"(Like for example the end of The Mark of Athena). But things were revealed that had me so confused about what I just read that I now have to read the next one to figure out what happens. 

If you're looking for an easy read, I definitely do not recommend this book. (Plus, for it to make sense, you would have had to read Finnikin of the Rock before.) However, if you are into fantasy and magical worlds and think you can handle it, READ IT. Despite my ranting about how I was confused at times and some characters annoyed me, it is still a super good book. Truly. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my Fall 2013 TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week has a specific topic to which bloggers make a list of their top ten books in that category.

I haven't done this in a couple of weeks. Partly because I was busy, and partly because those ones did seem to take a lot of thought. For me anyhow. So kudos to those who did them. This week's topic is Top Ten Books on my Fall 2013 TBR List. And of course, I've got a whole bunch of those.

Here goes! In no particular order...

1)The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I've been meaning to read this book for the longest time. And recently I've had someone almost ordering me to read it. *cough*Rachel*cough* So if I can somehow get it from a library. Or maybe just steal it from somewhere, I hope to read it.

2)The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson - I own this book... So I should kind of read it at some point. Just have never gotten to it.

3) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - I've heard it's a cute book. I've heard a couple people recommend it. It's not normally the type of book I read but I'm willing to give it a shot.

4)Allegiant by Veronica Roth - I know it's not out, but it's supposed to come out in October. That's fall, right? MUST READ!!!!

5)Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter - So I read the Heist Society recently. Loved it. This is the second book. Hopefully it won't let me down like many other sequels I have read.

6) Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - I've lost track of how many times I've seen Veronica Rossi and Under the Never Sky mentioned across book blogs. I feel an obligation to read it. I mean, it looks pretty good too. That always helps with motivation. ;)

7) City of Glass by Cassandra Clare - I did try to read this a while ago but I accidentally ruined it for myself by reading the synopsis of the City of Fallen Angels. Luckily, I've forgotten what the spoiler was. And hopefully I won't do that this time.

8) Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - I don't quite understand the synopsis but there's dragons and royalty and it has good ratings and the title page looks cool. Seems like it could be pretty good.

9) Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta - The ratings of this book are outstanding. After reading Finnikin of the Rock, I feel this urgent need in me to finish the rest of the series. Once I get a hold of them of course. I have no clue who Quintana is but I want to. I hope to finish the Lumatere trilogy by Christmas.

10) On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Basically I want to read a bunch of Melina Marchetta's books as I've been thoroughly impressed by both the book that I've read and her ratings. Even though this isn't the normal type of book I read, the reviews are enough to convince me that it is definitely worth a read.

Can't wait to read these. If I do get to them... Hopefully I do. I'm bound to stumble across them at the library at some point. These are at the top of my reading list. And I truly do desperately want to read them.

Tell me your TBR List in the comments below. Or even better, give me a link to your TTT! I wanna see what other books are out there. And maybe put a couple more on my to-read list.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Between Shades of Gray is one of those books that shock you through the brutal lack of humanity. The title truly is accurate in that it is in a very grim setting. Truth be told, I almost had trouble going back to the book the day after I started reading because it truly was too gray. I also found that I wasn't particularly emotionally attached. It wasn't that it was because I haven't had the experience of going to a concentration camp. Of course I haven't and I desperately hope that nobody in the future ever is forced to. It was merely that Lina seemed detached. To me, a rather large part of the book almost seemed like an objective history book on concentration camps. Yes, it was horrible, but I didn't particularly feel the horror of it through Lina. 

Well, for the first part anyways. The ending was outstanding. I was hit by the emotion in the end. As people died and hope began to dwindle... It's hard to think of it as if it actually happened and much easier to think of it as a fiction book. I loved the emotion Sepetys weaved. It was so touching and heart-breaking. A really well done ending.

The love story as well! It wasn't at the forefront of the story, which made it even more precious. It was so sweet. I wanted them to get together sooooo much. With all the horror around them, there had to be some hope, right? A beam of light? It just seemed to complete the story. It truly was just what the story needed.

Like many historical war novels, Lina had flashbacks of the good ol' days. Shown in italics to differentiate from the present, she often remembered moments with her art and with her family. It was touching and a bit of a contrast from the grim scenes of the rest of the novel. Unfortunately, I often found it a little choppy. There were times where I thought that the memory really did accent the present event and that it flowed nicely into it. Unfortunately, there were times that I didn't particularly enjoy the flashback. Sometimes it felt like - not that it was forced - but it seemed quite random. I'm sure had I thought about it, I could have figured out a connection, but in the moment reading it, I didn't really get it and it broke my flow of concentration.

Between Shades of Gray certainly did give me knowledge of the lesser known side of World War II. It wasn't in the fact that it followed the perpetrators but that it followed the Lithuanians, deported by the Soviets. Normally, when I think of World War II(and I'm assuming most other people think about this as well), I think Germans, Nazis, Jews. Maybe Pearl Harbor. Sepetys showed the less known story of the Lithuanians and that made this book unique.

I would certainly recommend this book to history lovers. To many readers, I imagine that this book has the potential to be rather boring, but the moving scenes at the end and the grim truth of the past certainly make it worth it. To me, anyhow. 4/5 stars.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere. 

But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.

In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance, and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.

Wow... This was a long and complicated book. And I loved it. The style really reminded me of Nancy Farmer's in that Marchetta did a really good job creating a complex fantasy land without distracting from the plot of the story. 

It's one of those books that I will really want to reread in the future. There was so much going on; so many little details that I know I missed something! All the characters seemed to have a particular part to play and the romance was simply cute! Confusing, yes. But, in a good way. There were mixed emotions, fights, misunderstandings... And the romance wasn't even the main point of the plot!

I mean, wow! Twists and turns! It certainly wasn't particularly predictable. Yes, we all hope for a happy ending, but the ending really wasn't clear. Some scenarios were hinted at but they weren't really confirmed until they happened. 

The characters were realistic, the plot was amazing, the world was intriguing... I definitely recommend this book to anyone slightly interested in fantasy. Yes, it is a fairly big book and it's a little daunting. It's also a little hard to get into because it's so complicated. But it's amazing once you do. 5 stars. Definitely.