Monday, 19 August 2013

Pure - Julianna Baggott Review

Genre: YA/Adult Dystopian
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 431
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

Pure is bleak, it really is. Startlingly so. It's a highly original and shocking dystopian set-up when set next to the YA market, and it has really powerful moments. and it's not what I thought it would be when I first saw it mentioned.It is a work of fiction that pares back all the lies to show an unflinching version of the truth. Inspired by nuclear warfare and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I found it frighteningly authentic and meaningful.

The world Baggott builds is brutal, devastating and phenomenally beautiful. Pressia's little ornaments, her  wire birds and butterflies, stand out as pinpricks of light in a desolate world. 

The author has the power to get us into the heads of her characters, to understand what makes them tick. We can go from liking the main characters to hating them to loving them in the space of one book, but they will always be far more real than we would care to admit. 

Partridge, a male lead and a Pure (as opposed to Pressia and Bradwell who are fused, wretches), has now become my fictional crush. I fell in love with him (and lived vicariously through Pressia's eyes to see him) when he was first introduced.  I could sympathize with him, imagining having to adjust to a completely new world outside his sheltered life in the Dome. He's like a child at first, utterly vulnerable in this dangerous new world that he's escaped into. But he copes admirably and becomes a brave, capable character (even if he is eclipsed by Bradwell in the end). 

I have to say though, I didn't like the amount of tropes used here. There's a simply ridiculous amount, and that includes the whole half-siblings thing and the not-actually-dead trope and '{Insert name here}, I am your mother'. But I could get over that. My one major gripe is this: it shouldn't be a series. I loved the book, I really respect and admire it. I don't care if it would have had to be an 800-page book, I wanted the sense of finality that would have fit so well with the theme. It doesn't need to be dragged out. Maybe that's a wise move commercially, but when faced with the vitally important issue behind this book I believe it should be a standalone. Not only are standalones refreshing, this book just deserved to be one. The only thing YA about it is the ages of the characters, and so I fear that the teenage protagonists will just becoming annoying in a series. And because of the way the blurb introduced them, I was really surprised when Pressia and Partridge didn't become love interests. 

But believe me, I'm only wishing it was a standalone because I loved it so much. Tough love. 
And for the record, the world-building was my absolute favourite thing about this whole book/series. I don't care what happens next, the world will still be beautifully imagined. It is a pity that the things she describes so elegantly are so repulsive.Four stars. And Pure? You deserve your place on Time's most notable books of 2012 list. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Birthday Book Shopping Part 1!

There aren't many, but I've only completed phase 1 of the book shopping. Still, it's enough to keep me very, very happy for a while. Especially because these are all books I've been dying to get for ages.



From my boyfriend
(Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor [Excited to read that prose!] should go in here but the image is not co-operating).

From my sister

I am absolutely delighted with all of these. Plus, Skulduggery Pleasant Book 8 is coming soon
and I still ahve half of my birthday money left to spend on (you guessed it) books!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Divergent - Veronica Roth Review

Synopsis: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her
Ah, Divergent. So, so much hype and yet I still didn’t read it until long after the sequel came out.  I could say that I was just trying to ease the pain of a cliffhanger but that would be an utter lie. It has just been something that I took far too long to get around to buying.
Fortunately, I did really enjoy it when I got it eventually. You probably know the drill by now: society split into five factions according (officially) to what a person believes stops war and (unofficially) to personality. Sixteen-year-olds must choose the faction they wish to devote their life to, and here our protagonist Tris comes in. Never mind that that wouldn’t actually make a safe society.
Tris, or Beatrice, is not actually a very likeable main character – which is why it’s so commendable that I liked reading from her perspective anyway. Born in Abnegation, she’s never fully fit in with their selflessness. So, of course, she goes and makes the choice with all the excitement and danger and explosions. Way to conveniently pull the plot forward, Tris!
Then there’s the romance. I hate romance most of the time, and in parts this relationship just annoyed me, but it’s grown on me. And by the sequel I was very afraid that they’d separate, purely for the fact that it added so much necessary tension.
It fell down on the world-building, especially when compared to, say, Matched. It gave all of these interesting details so that I badly wanted to find out more, and then it wouldn’t tell me. Like, for example, what the initiation is for Erudite. It was just bare on that kind of details.
Okay, cynical as that sounds, I did really really like the book.
Divergent won its way onto my Favourites shelf (where it resides alongside such worthy specimens as Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Slated, Partials and The Hunger Games) by being so damn entertaining. And quotable, very quotable.
A clever thing done by this book is letting fans interact with it. Like Harry Potter, where you might declare yourself a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw, you could be Dauntless or Erudite. (I have always been Ravenclaw/Erudite, by the way).
Roth seems to have a truly brilliant imagination in dreaming up the different simulations and trials. They’re engrossing and entertaining –even if they don’t have much substance.
At this point I didn’t even care much about the (wait for it) dystopian set up, because I waited until the market was supersaturated with dystopians to read one of the best of them. I just loved the reading experience, and I can assure you now that that’s not objective at all.  
It’s actually a difficult one to analyse. I do think it lived up to the hype, but it’s not exactly one I’d find much pleasure in discussing. That privilege goes to its sequel , Insurgent. I liked Insurgent for all the reasons I didn’t like Divergent, and I will of course be reviewing it soon.