Sunday, 10 February 2013

Noughts and Crosses Review

Picture from Goodreads
  Publisher: Corgi
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Romance
Source: Won - New Edition 2012
Pages: 441
Rating: 4.75 Stars
Spoilers: Not explicit

Official Summary:
Callum is a nought - an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by the black Crosses. Sephy is a Cross - and the daughter of one of the most powerful, ruthless men in the country. In their hostile, violent world, noughts and Crosses simply don't mix. But when Sephy and Callum's childhood friendship grows into passionate love, they're determined to find a way to be together. And then the bomb explodes...

In Short: Wow. Slow to start but enthralling and insanely emotional.

This book...deeply affected me. And at times, I resented that. I resented how much it was getting under my skin. I began with eyes rolling because of the oh-so-obvious premise and the fact that the black writer seemed to be indulging in wish-fulfilment by saying that it was the whites who'd been slaves - but I changed my mind during the novel, completely. I'd resented how uncomfortably true it was. Why? It's about a dystopic society, inverting the situation of blacks from around the 1960s, so that blacks are in the majority - and in control. But it's not like today, where in places like Ireland we, while noticing their 'differentness', do accept them. Whites can't go to good schools, be protected by the law or work their way up the career ladder, with most of them stuck in menial jobs serving black people.

To be completely honest, it disturbed me. It disturbed me. It shouldn't have, but it did. It made me realise that we've become completely desensitised to discrimination against blacks. The author is a black woman, and every time something bad happened to the white main character I flinched inwardly. It felt like a direct attack on me. So why wouldn't it have if the victim had been black? The idea of white slaves, even if it was in the past, just seemed so profoundly wrong. The history books were all in favour of blacks and didn't mention white inventors/explorers, and I saw how wrong that is. Starting the novel I thought I'd be bored silly of the straight inversion. Instead, it struck me to the core and really made me think. A comment was made by one of the Crosses with their opinion of the noughts, which really summed up the frightening aspect of this book: (paraphrasing) There's a reason they're called blankers, you know. Blank, white faces. Blank hearts. Blank minds. That's why we have to control them.'

Callum and Sephy were such real characters. It hurt badly to see Fate conspiring against them. Every time I saw Sephy's riches or Callum's dire situation, I had to remind myself that she was black and he was white. It was difficult to see it, and that I'll admit. I loved their relationship as I got to know it better. Having read and watched Romeo and Juliet, I could see the allusions to it, the point where things were scheduled to go wrong - and did, against my fervent wishes. That's a mark of a good book, that I'm made desperately wish for an outcome. I cared. Why is it that whenever I become emotionally invested in characters they're battered and tossed around until I can't stand it? I hoped against hope all through this novel that things would miraculously improve. And it stayed true to its course and broke my heart, taking everything it could of me with it. I couldn't bear to see how Callum's family was slowly ripped apart by the L.M., and it hurt when I saw how desperate his father and brother had become. After that night in the cell I had to watch in horror as everything spiralled out of control for Callum and Sephy. As the World Book Day novella 'Callum' was included (an alternate ending) I held out hope - and my hopes were dashed. But that's not to say that I didn't get an excellent read out of it, even while my emotions were being trainwrecked. You need a book like that once in a while.

Noughts and Crosses should have gotten five stars. I took off O.25 of a star because I couldn't connect to the story for a while. But as the narrative rushed towards the ending I was almost overwhelmed. Almost? Who am I kidding? The ending is tragic and emotional and meaningful and really, beyond words. I couldn't wait to review it because I knew that I would really feel what I'm saying. I'm left shaking my head and waiting for it to fully sink in. This is a book with a powerful impact, and it certainly showed on me.

Knife Edge, Checkmate and Double Cross are featuring prominently on my To Be Read list.

Author's Website (Malorie Blackman)
Goodreads Page

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Artemis Fowl (Series) - Eoin Colfer Review

Publisher: Puffin
Source: Various
Pages: 200-500
Rating: 5 Stars, overall.

Blurb of first book: 

Artemis Fowl. You've probably heard the name.
If Internet rumours are to be believed, he's responsible for every major crime of the new century. If you haven't heard of young Artemis, the  you're lucky. You'll sleep better not knowing that someone like him is out there. But if you must know, if curiosity is eating away at you, as it did at me, then let's start at the beginning...

In this, the story of Artemis' first encounter with the fairy People, you'll find out how he hatched a plot to restore his family's fortune. You'll read how he discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous fairies, farting dwarfs and mind-blowing technology. And you'll learn how, by kidnapping Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police, Artemis almost triggered a cross-species war.

Still with me? Well, strap in, adventurers - you've never read anything quite like this..

Yours in deep cover,
Eoin Colfer.

I hope that clears things up a little, or at least reveals some of the gorgeous wit in this series.



 Fairies. Underground. Ireland as a centre for magic (I agree). Kickass, hi-tech fairies with cool acronyms (may I mention LEPRecon?). A teenage mega-genius mainly intent on excellently plotted crime. Hi-tech manor. Oblivious outside world. Yes please.


Artemis II: I'm not ashamed to say that I had a crush on Artemis when I was younger. I love intelligent, witty, sarcastic guys and Eoin Colfer goes to great lengths to show how much he ticks all those boxes. I love love love his plotting rituals and all his little quirks. Plus, his fanart is to die for. Truly an excellent character (some great quotes from Artemis at the end).

Butler: Butler is a formidable character, but being a reader you start to feel affection for him as the series develops. His relationship with Artemis is both hilarious and sweet and his fight scenes are stylish and exciting, which is always a win.

Holly: Everyone's favourite elf, Holly invented badassery under pressure. Witty, loyal and brave, she's a very endearing character. However, she is not a Dobby, with so many moments of glory throughout the series. Not that Dobby doesn't have moments of glory. Take 'Dobby is a FREE ELF'.As it develops we see a more *human* (elven?) side to Holly, and it's heartbreaking because of what she has to go through when you realise how much you actually care for her.

Foaly: Foaly's paranoia makes for great entertainment. I love the banter between him and Artemis, and the details of his technology. I enjoy his sarcastic comments towards Commander Root, and his intelligence. Having an equal conversation with Artemis is no simple task.


Always fast-moving, with an assortment of well-developed characters to add spontaneity and excitement.Interspersed with dialogue and excellent quips, these books are never boring.

Jumped out at me: Camaraderie/ Plotting:

I would have said (fairy) technology, but I'm honestly not trying to sound like a broken record here.I swear.

The camaraderie between Holly and Artemis, Artemis and Butler, Holly and Butler, Artemis and Foaly and Holly and Foaly is ever-present, and I love it. It's always shown with great wit and attention to detail.

Artemis' plots unfold with breathtaking finesse. They're a wonder just to watch. You think an element of the plan is unnecessary, and then at the very end everything slots perfectly into place. And then Opal Koboi comes in, and it gets to a whole new level.

I commend you, Eoin Colfer.


Read them. Just do it. You can thank me later. 


City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare Review

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 424
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Source: Mega Bookshop Haul
Rating: 4 Stars
Series: The Mortal Instruments (#4)

The Short Version: Not perfect, but unexpectedly enjoyable.

The Breakdown:

Initial Reaction:
I am not usually a fan of paranormalcy. Especially not paranormal romance. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. City of Fallen Angels showed that pretty decent action can go along with it. I actually didn't like the cover at all though. Get that character off my cover!

This is the fourth book in the series, and the first one I've read (comes after City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass). I actually bought it because I'd seen so many quotes from it  here! I was left guessing about many of the preceding events because I'm starting with the fourth in the series but I figured it out. Except for the Jace/Clary thing.  I know they're not *exactly* related but...Reading their backstory would help. I really should read series' in order!


Basically, world with vampires, warlocks, werewolves, Shadowhunters, Angel, STRONG references to an almighty catch my drift. The *under*current of God would have been a bit of a turnoff but it avoided it somehow, a spectacular feat when put beside my aversion to authors being too preachy in their professional works. The outside world is oblivious to what's going on, just the way I like it. Can you imagine how bad Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant (and many more) would have been if the public knew about magic?!


Clary: I noticed that a lot of the novel is spent with different characters talking about Clary, not necessarily with her talking, which was interesting. Of course, she featured prominently, being on the cover and all....the relationship between her and Jace was interesting enough, but I'm very glad it wasn't made the focal point of the novel. I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE PARANORMAL ROMANCE! UNLESS THE PROSE IS ACTUALLY UNBELIEVABLE
 and will keep you 
Jace: To be honest, I just love Jace's fighting scenes to bits. I love where his speed and skill are described, because they're somehow the opposite of a certain 'skin as hard as granite'. As in, at the right moments and not overwhelming. I didn't really appreciate his dreaming episodes. Very angsty. But they furthered the plot, so I'll let it go.

Simon: I really liked Simon, actually. He was one of my favourite characters because I subconsciously identified him as the underdog and sided with him. I'm not going to avoid spoilers too much, the book's been out long enough. Don't crucify me, I usually do. His 'coming-out scene' with his mother (I just made you think he's gay, even though he isn't. Didn't I?) was excellently written and just the right side of angsty. You can always count on a paranormal for that! OH MY THE MARK OF CAIN.

There are so many other characters. Wait until you read the book!

I've heard say that this was an unnecessary addition to the original trilogy. While I haven't actually READ said original trilogy *cough*, I really don't think it was. there were plenty of events in it and since I've decided not to spoil it after all, I can't tell you what they are. What I CAN say is that one scene at the end, which reminded me of a terrifying Snow White coffin scene, was brilliant.. Look out for it when you read it. Which you are going to do, aren't you? Of course. The plot isn't exactly fast-moving, but it's not noticeably slow and will keep you plenty entertained. 

Jumped out at me: Issues, issues everywhere.

Cassandra Clare is really not afraid to jump in the deep end. With controversial issues, she's got all the bases covered. Let's see now. Ho- Actually, I wrote all this and then backspaced it. I think people will take offence. Sorry.


Initially slow, but it really grew on me towards the end. Hilarious quotes. A terrible cliffhanger. I'll definitely be reading City of Bones/Ashes/Glass!

I think you should go here next...

That last one is quite negative and the first one is positive. Nobody ever said I wasn't balanced! Oh wait, I did. Today I bought a dystopian with prize money from a book review contest and I have an excellent review of that on the way, so come back soon! 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Blood Ties - Sophie McKenzie Review

Before I start the review, some news. My school ran a book review competition just after Christmas and I entered my review of Partials by Dan Wells which is here  . There were hundreds of entries but I came second and got a voucher for a bookshop, which means more reviews for you! I was happy with second, since I accidentally handed it in late anyway. Moving on.

Official Summary:
A gripping thriller from the Richard and Judy award-winning author of Girl, Missing, Sophie McKenzie.

When Theo discovers the father he thought died when he was a baby is still alive, he's determined to find him. The clues lead him to the lonely Rachel, who has problems of her own, including parents who compare her unfavourably to her long-dead sister.

But when Rachel and Theo are attacked by men from RAGE - the Righteous Army against Genetic Engineering - at Rachel's school disco, they are rescued by strangers and taken to meet a mysterious figure. There, they both make some startling discoveries about their identities, which will affect their past, present, and future in dramatic and life-altering ways...

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Christmas Present
                                                          Genre: Fiction, Thriller
In Short: Gripping, enjoyable, fast-paced novel with a little humour thrown in. I'd read it again.
Rating: 4 Stars
The Breakdown:

Initial Reaction:
No, this book is not a crime novel. Although it touches on that. Ignore the title, it's a clue to the big reveal at the end of the book. Look back on it later and wonder.Overall it's a  nice cover, nothing too fancy. I am really diversifying in my taste in genre!

Blood Ties is futuristic in its science, but not noticeably so. It might not be set in the future at all, actually, if what's done in the story could possibly be done at some high-tech resort in the world today. The scary truth is that with someone intelligent enough at the helm it probably could. I like the background story, Rebecca is very intriguing.

Rachel and Theo were refreshingly...normal after all my kickass heroines. Rachel's backstory was heartbreaking and realistic, especially the constant comparisons with her dead sister. Theo's fraught relationship with his mother and his over-independence were great to read about. The characters were great vehicles for the narrative as well. The scene with Roy at the start is excellent.

There is a fast, driven, purposeful plot and it's great fun, to put it simply. The momentum of the energetic first scene is somehow sustained throughout the whole novel and builds towards the climax, and what a climax it is. The narrative is satisfyingly filled out and runs smoothly.

Jumped out at me: Am I ALLOWED say Science AGAIN?
I've said Science already. I apologise. Of course I don't. I'll change to technology instead. I wish I could say what the actual technology is, but that is the biggest spoiler I can possibly think of so it's not happening.

Overall: Very likely to be re-read if you buy it. Also, get Girl, Missing by the same author. Though I have yet to read it it's said to be very good and is on my TBR list.

North Child - Edith Pattou Review

Photo from
North Child - Edith Pattou
Synopsis: Rose was born into the world facing north, and as a north child, superstition says that she will be a wanderer, traveling far from home. This prophecy is fulfilled when she is taken on the back of a white bear to a mysterious empty castle, where a silent stranger appears to her night after night. When her curiosity overcomes her, she loses her heart, and must journey to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to reclaim it.

Source: My house-cum-library

Genre: Pure fantasy, fairy-tale.

Length: 512 pages

Publisher: Usborne Publishing, February 2006

In short: An unexpectedly enjoyable epic fantasy.

The Breakdown:

Initial Reaction: This is a long book. I actually didn't notice that - I often read far longer - but I know it matters to some. Trust me, you'll fly through it. And it has a beautiful cover, the kind you'd want to keep on display on your shelf.

Setting: This was a big breakaway from all my dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels and I actually really enjoyed it. I really liked the detailed description of Rose's home life and then the castle - wow, that was delectable. The sumptuous description really fuelled my imagination and I loved how I could travel the world and beyond in the space of this one book. The Palace sounded chilling but that was, of course, on purpose. I could see its cold beauty and I have to admit, I was drawn into Rose's awe-filled perspective.

Rose: Rose Rose Rose. I was proud to have this character as my middle-namesake. I loved reading about the stories of her childhood and the secret of her wind-rose was captivating. It was fascinating to see the transition from adventurous, careless toddler Rose to adventurous, courageous teenage Rose. I was honestly charmed by the effect she has on everyone around her, her special spot in Father's heart and her determination and perseverance in the face of the unknown. A seriously admirable heroine.

Bear: White Bear, whose alter ego would be a HUGE spoiler if I were to say it, was such an endearing character. I felt heartwrenchingly sorry for him in the chapters of his stilted, laboured speech. At the very end...Perfect.

Neddy: Neddy reminded me of myself. A mixture of him and Rose would definitely be me. I adored the scenes where he looks after Rose, because he is an inspiration to her even though she disobeys him sometimes. He still loves her, and it's beautiful. I also liked his cute little scholarly ways, it was like looking into a (distorted) mirror.

There are many other characters but I think you should wait to read the book and find out who the Queen is for yourself. Prick an ear at Eugenia's superstitions. Keep an eye out for Tuki.

Plot: There are five first-person narrators. Don't be put off. The narrative still runs smoothly and the short chapters will make you feel like you're flying through it. I love the sweeping plot, it makes for an exciting and heartwarming story.

Jumped out at me: FairyTale narrative

The storyline in this novel is beautifully woven together. It's an adaptation of the fairytale East of the Sun and West of the Moon so it stands to reason that it should be like this but it's a true classic.

A beautiful fairytale for everyone to enjoy.