Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Control - Kim Curran ARC Review

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Source: ARC from Netgalley and Strange Chemistry
Rating: 5 STARS
Publication Date: 6 August 2013 (Seriously, get it).
Blurb: Official burb: Scott Tyler is not like other teenagers. With a single thought he can alter reality around him. And he can stop anyone else from doing the same.  That’s why he’s so important to ARES, the secret government agency that regulates other kids like him: Shifters.  They’ve sent him on a mission. To track down the enigmatic Frank Anderson. An ex-Shifter who runs a project for unusual kids – as if the ability to change your every decision wasn’t unusual enough. But Anderson and the kids have a dark secret. One that Scott is determined to discover.  As his obsession with discovering the truth takes him further away from anyone he cares about, his grip on reality starts to weaken. Scott realises if he can’t control his choices, they’ll control him.
Things to get out of the way first:
An unequivocal five star rating. This book was amazing! I got an excellent first impression, what a gorgeous cover! It literally took me through the ringer, and I FELT ALL THE FEELS.
(Slightly more professional) Review
It really had everything I look for in a book. I think sci-fi, fantasy and YA fans will love it – actually, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t. The nearest thing I can compare it to is Jumper (another amazing one) or the ending of Catching Fire. You know that last line of Catching Fire, the one that turned readers into a ball of nerves? Yep, same in Control.
 The main character, Scott Tyler, is fascinating. He’s daring, loyal and absolutely adorable as a male protagonist. His girlfriend and fellow Shifter, Aubrey, is as kickass and sassy as you can get, and it was incredible. And there’s a particular event that happens where Aubrey thinks he’s betrayed her, and his reaction actually made me cry. Me. I often mentally cry at books, but there were literally tears.  I thought I’d conditioned myself against that, but this book really got under my defences.
 The characterisation with the other characters was fantastic too. I especially loved Jake’s tech skills and Rosale’s fierceness when she thinks Scott hurt Aubrey. The relationship was THE BEST. There’s one scene – one of my favourites – where Scott is thoroughly beat up, basically wishing he could die (much as you feel for the protagonist, don’t you just love those moments? There’s just so much raw emotion and pathos. It’s beautiful.) and Aubrey, who he thought would never speak to him again, comes and gets him out of it. The moment he realises who it is is heart-warming. She hasn’t forgiven him (she doesn’t know yet that it wasn’t his fault) but she thought he was going to do something stupid, and she came and got him out of it. I don’t know why, but this scene just really struck a chord with me. It’s plain to see that he really cares for her, and I loved it so much.
Is it possible for a book to be too intense? There were an inordinate amount of moments when a lightbulb went on in my head, saying that the scene/character/dialogue was just too much to handle. I’m used to, and expect, a book having some of these moments. But this one just had it all.
Shifting – altering reality by changing your decisions – would be such a difficult concept to pull off. But Kim Curran did it flawlessly. She did it by imposing limitations on the power – it can only be a decision you considered different choices for, you can’t undo a Shift... It was simply really skilfully written, and I powered through it.
There were very few things that I didn’t like. I felt a bit cheated by the MEGA CLIFFHANGER ending (see Catching Fire reference above), but that was only because I was so engrossed in the story and the amazing characters that I didn’t want to let go. Plus, I’ve really come to care for Scott, and the way the book ended it seems very likely that it’s going to go Mockingjay-esque, meaning no punches pulled and my poor, poor favourite protagonists being put through ever worse situations.  There was one section in the middle where I was very confused about location, but it’s not that important for your enjoyment of the story.
Objectively, it was still amazing. It had the quick-firing plot, snappy dialogue and grabbing characters that melded together to make a brilliant novel. And even when it was tense and fast-paced, it was hilarious. The dialogue managed to be authentic and still have humour. There’s even a secret government department (with a motto!) which always helps.
The action scenes at the end were thrilling, terrifying and awe-inspiring in equal measures. Scott pulls off some stunts that are truly worthy of a YA hero, and these last scenes were written like an action movie, and I mean that in the best possible way. The high-octane chases and shattering glass were so vivid.
It was so well thought-out. Scott and co. are Shifters, so they’re used to planning out every decision, But when they go up against a certain person, they don’t realise how many other choices are changing, and how impacted the world will be. It means an ending that the first-person protagonist doesn’t understand, which makes it very jarring. But that was admirably effective in communicating the message that choices have far-reaching consequences. There are details – the ‘hypnic jerk’ being an excellent example – in abundance, and the author has obviously really imagined the connotations of this world she’s created.
Not only was I able to appreciate the obvious writing talent Curran has, it was a really enjoyable read too.  From other reviews I’ve seen, it seemed like this book is better than the first in the series, Shift. Nevertheless, I’ve still ordered the first one, because I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in months. I give this my highest recommendation – coming out in August, this is definitely one to be added to your Autumn TBR list!
Author's Website
Goodreads Page

Thanks to Strange Chemistry for the ARC!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan Review

Thanks to Stephen for lending me this book, because I LOVED it!
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: April 1st, 2006
Pages: 389
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb: Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

In short: Just fantastic, incredibly entertaining.

My review:

I loved this, no matter how MG it is. The plot is really driven and light, with not a trace of introspection to be seen. It was just all-round entertaining! Sometimes, when a book isn't very entertaining I go and see if the premise deserves praise, and this one has both a great premise and an exciting plot - win-win!

I loved Percy/Annabeth (Pannabeth? Percabeth?) SO MUCH. She was just so sassy and superior, making for hilarious scenes between them. And she calls him Seaweed Brain. What more could you ask for? Yes, she was set up as a *very* obvious love interest, but so what? She was a great very obvious love interest!

The Greek mythology was handled really well! It was made very entertaining and relevant, and there were some great nudges hidden in there (like: 'Someday they'll think you're just myths, too'). Also, all the gods and their abilities were described so well, it's making me quite inarticulate. The whole thing was brilliantly atmospheric and dramatic.

The description of the cabins and Mount Olympus was beautiful and I really felt like I was right there! While I'd choose to go to Hogwarts over Camp Half-Blood any day, it was still absolutely epic. The characterisation was done really well too, even with the secondary characters. It's not that the writing was especially delicate or beautiful, but it was clear and just a pleasure to read.

I just loved how the quest went, and how the hero's arc developed. I especially loved his awesome powers in water. The foreshadowing was very heavy but just in a MG way, so I didn't mind - with a book as popular as this, you're going to know some of the basics anyway (such as Percy's identity - hmm, I wonder who his father is?) and I can't fault it.

It was interesting that Percy had ADHD and dyslexia and was being shuffled around schools. The explanation was that his brain was 'hardwired for Ancient Greek', which was a bit silly. Your brain isn't THAT hardwired for a language - if I was brought up speaking French from birth, I'd be fluent. It seems like a gimmicky ploy to make ADHD etc. kids feel better about themselves, because it might just be because you're half-god, and besides, look at these super-duper reflexes! Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't know what I can say other than that I really recommend this. I'm definitely getting the next four in the series, whether I have to beg, borrow or . . . buy. And here is a shoutout to Aylee at Recovering Potter Addict, who HAS to read this book soon and post a review on her blog!

Also, it's been made into a movie. And Logan Lerman is gorgeous, you can't say no to that.  


I'm reading one I'm really excited about at the moment, Control by Kim Curran, so look forward to that!

And I have just realised that I've been doing Labels completely wrong, so my Cloud is all messed up. I'll be fixing that in the next few days.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

25 Perfect Days - Mark Tullius Review

Publisher: Vincere Press
Pages: 322
Genre: Futuristic dystopian/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Vincere Press and Netgalley.
Synopsis/Blurb: A totalitarian state doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a slow, dangerous slide. 25 Perfect Days chronicles the path into a hellish future of food shortages, contaminated water, sweeping incarceration, an ultra-radical religion, and the extreme measures taken to reduce the population.

Higher taxes, strict gun control, an oppressive healthcare system. Complete media control, genetically modified food, experimentation on citizens. The push of depersonalizing technology, unending wars, government sanctioned assassinations. Is this collection of stories merely science fiction or soon to be fact? Are these policies designed for the greater good or disguised to benefit a chosen few at the expense of the masses? Is this brave new world the best we could do or part of a sinister grand plan?

Through these twenty-five interlinked stories, each written from a different character’s point of view, 25 Perfect Days captures the sacrifice, courage, and love needed to survive and eventually overcome this dystopian nightmare

I put off reading this book for a long time because of other books I had to review and it somehow fell to the bottom of the pile. I regretted that at first but eventually realised it was the right decision. I'll explain below.

So, the book is an exemplary, textbook dystopian, and a hugely chilling one at that. There's mandatory sterilization and weight limits for people - if you don't fit under a certain (very low) weight, no matter your height, you get (to my knowledge) vaporized (wasn't really explained). Hint: People went to such lengths as having limbs cut off. Scary. Then there are the weapons, which basically erase the targets from the world with plasma, literally wiping them out until they're not even visible.

At first, I was very impressed with the world-building. It was terrifying, but all the dystopian elements were obviously thoroughly thought out and original. It's truly a world of terror, and that was echoed on every page. An element I liked was that the church, the Way, had basically taken over the world, and it was the enemy. It was a theocracy gone terribly, terribly wrong. Then the 'blue eyes and blonde hair' nod to Nazi ideologies.

I really enjoyed a couple of the characters, but it was incredibly frustrating when I only saw them quickly and then if they came back they were, as in one case, probably in some really dire situation about to be exterminated. It wasn't just thrilling, it was genuinely frightening. I have to respect it for that, but I actually got scared while reading it, and not neessarily in a good way (read: a few nauseating incidents).

There were some excellent scenes, but here's where the problems started.

Many of the scenes themselves were well-written, brilliant even. But there was no cohesion in the overall story - try as I might, I couldn't actually locate a plot. I just spent the whole story in a state of confusion, nonplussed by the bewildering cast of characters. There was an evil ruler, but no particular person to root for. There was even a glossary of characters at the end of the book, and unless it's high fantasy, that's not usually a good sign.  

Yes, events happened. But as someone said to me once, plot is not what happens. Plot is how the characters react to what happens. Lots of things happen, and the frustrating thing is that they could make for a good story. Except that I didn't know who was doing it, and why I should care because I wasn't invested in any character! The book is in third-person, so it's not like I had to keep checking back to see who was talking - I could see the name in front of me but because there was no character continuity, I didn't understand who that person was supposed to be and what their relation to the events was.

As far as I could see, there was no main character. It was like a collection of short stories set in the same elegantly-described world. I could take the people who participated in the climax as the main characters, but I'd only seen them in one other chapter! There were some very creepy, chilling and sometimes nauseating dystopian details, but they were never once explained and I just felt horribly confused.

I understand that the book is part of a series, but I just felt cheated by the ending. Perhaps if it had pulled all the strings and different characters together it would've redeemed the book and made me treat it as a work of genius, but all it did was depose the Big Bad Guy, and it was rushed and confusing at that. I really didn't know who was doing what. I mean, I noticed the author bringing recurring chracters along but I'd just see the name and think 'Hm, that name sounds familiar but . . . who are they again?'

After reading some other reviews, I realise that it is indeed a kind of collection of short stories. I had known it spanned several generations, but I maintain that it would've been better to focus on a small group of memorable characters. Perhaps my thoughts are flavoured by the amount of YA I read (this is adult) but that was my personal experience.

I was unfortunately disappointed at times. While the start was still as odd on the character and plot front, the world-building led me to believe that there'd be some miraculous coup d'état at the end that would explain everything, but it was like the whole book was devoted to description of the dystopia and situations in it and the flimsy resolution was just thrown in as an obligatory afterthought. So there's a warning - don't let excessive exposition get in the way of your plot, because it can damage a book that really had potential. It covers one day a year over many years, and I would have understood this a lot more and probably had a better reading experience if that fact hadn't been omitted from my web-ARC (reading copy).

Technically, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, it is a very good book, a disturbing and powerful cautionary tale against a theocracy. But it cannot be denied that I didn't come out of it feeling satisfied, thus the mediocre rating. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the book at the moment . . . mainly as though I missed something major. But I believe that a book is largely for entertainment value, and it would've been nice to have more continuity and a solid ending. I'm sorry this book and I got off on the wrong foot though - next time I swear to read the blurb first!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Top Ten Beach Reads

I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which I'm really starting to like! And yes, I will have a real review up this weekend, never fear.

I'd just like to point out the irony that is an Irish person making a beach read list. Yes, we just had a week-long heatwave with temperatures as high as 21 degrees Celsius (that's incredible for Ireland, ok?) but it's certainly over now and LOTS of rain has been predicted for the coming months! I suppose I could indulge in a little wishful thinking and imagine myself on a beach though...

1. Tall Poppies - Louise Bagshawe

This one literally screams 'beach read', to me anyway. And it's not too vapid either, with a gripping plot and twist.

2. How to be Popular - Meg Cabot

Some interesting issues raised here, but all very easy to digest.

3. Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

Especially the early books in the series, because they're hilarious and not too heavy.

4. Dark Angel - Eden Maguire

This one is excellent, as light paranormals go.

5. Any of the Heartland series - Lauren Brooke

Very easy, but heart-warming. Good for people who like horses.

6. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

If you don't mind crying on the beach.

7. Airhead - Meg Cabot

Entertaining all round.

8. The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

This character has literally nothing to worry about, so she spends all the books making up worries. Can get irritating when you look at it, but fun to read at the time.

9. The Mel Beeby - Agent Angel series - Annie Dalton

Apart from the overuse of the word 'vibes', these are hilarious.

10. Little Women - Brown Watson

This book is gorgeous. I put it at the end because I'm not sure if it qualifies as a beach read*, but it's my all-time favourite classic.

*N.B. To me, a beach read is a book that you can read while being distracted by noisy siblings climbing on you, so it has to be quite simple and easy to get into at a moment's notice. Which means that I don't have many beach reads.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Top Ten Favourite Quotes

For the first time, I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Just this time I decided to choose my own topic (Let's pretend it's May 28th - Tuesday Freebie). I think someone's favourite quotes say a lot about them, so I'm listing my Top Ten Favourite Quotes!

10. 'To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.' - Oscar Wilde.

Oh Oscar, you legend. Also, 'Take everything in moderation, especially moderation.' I think you just wrote to amuse yourself with your smug ingenuity.

 9. 'Easy reading is damn hard writing.' - Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is so true. I love reading beautiful prose, but having started writing a novel, it's rare that writing like that comes without very hard work. Of course, when it does it feels sublime.

8. 'You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams' - Dr. Seuss.

I'm incredibly sentimental, and I fall too hard. But this is still a gorgeous quote.

7. 'These violent delights have violent ends,
     And in their triumph die; like fire and powder,
     Which, as they kiss consume.' - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

This just gives me chills when I hear it. We studied Romeo and Juliet for the exams, but it's also on the first page Breaking Dawn. And, not that I'm a Twihard, but I think that gives it a certain quality...any book written with that in mind is powerful, at least in the parts which truly show the spirit of Friar Laurence's statement.

6. 'Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel like I should be doing something else.' - Gloria Steinem.

I often find myself unable to study because I'm being tugged towards writing. During exams, I feel guilty writing. Then again, I feel guilty when I don't!

5. 'One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.' - Plato

I like a lot of Plato's quotes. I think I'm going to spend a good bit of the summer after the Junior Cert reading him. Should be an interesting experience.

4. 'I've been spending the last eight months, thinking all love ever does is break, burn end....
     But on a Wednesday, in a café, I watched it begin again.' - Taylor Swift, Begin Again.

This was one I loved when I wasn't single, but it stays with me now, because it's so full of hope.

3. 'So many books, so little time.' - Frank Zappa

Oh, the bookworm life.

2. 'You cannot hope to sweep someone else away with the force of your writing until it has been done to you.' - Stephen King.
I practically live by this in my writing. I celebrate those scenes. For example, you write a genuinely sad scene and it actually makes you cry. That's one of the most important things in writing, I think.

1.  “Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” - Apple, Inc.

I love this quote. I think it really reflects the originality of Apple products and it's just so inspirational, because I'm one of those people.

3. 'Always.' - Severus Snape.

Just how emotionally loaded was that line?

My exams start tomorrow, can you believe it, (I have 10 of them) so I'm getting this post out of the way now, but I'll be back next week!

So, what did you think? What are your all-time favourite quotes? Comment below!