Tag Archives: Young Adult

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: YA – Science Fiction – Dystopia
Series: Across the Universe #1
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2011
Pages: 398
Rating: 2/5

“If my life on Earth must end, let it end with a promise. Let it end with hope.”

Despite the mixed reviews, I succumbed to buying Across the Universe by Beth Revis due to the spectacular looking book cover and captivating summary. Although all the elements of a promising novel were present – a dystopian mystery set on board a spaceship during the longest space voyage to have ever existed, with a love story added in for good measure – the story never developed into the greatness I expected it to be. I wanted to love this but the repetitiveness of the story in combination with weak characters, ruined it for me.

That will teach me for not listening to my fellow book bloggers.

Synopsis

Following in the footsteps of her parents, Amy leaves behind the life she loves on Earth to be taken to a planet 300 years distance away. Cryogenically frozen in her body, she balances between being conscious and asleep until someone unfreezes her fifty years before she is supposed to be. Amy’s survival of her body’s thawing appears to be a fluke, and as she tries to cope with a society she doesn’t recognize or understand more people are being improperly unfrozen and murdered. There’s a killer on the ship and hiding is impossible. Who can Amy trust amidst the strangers and why did they wake her up?

Review

Across the Universe was one of those stories that put me on a rollercoaster of emotions but not necessarily all in a good way. There were a few things that intrigued me, and then there were parts that caused me to cringe at the amount of daftness our main characters seemed to display. The most surprising element of the story was the description of the technological parts of the cryogenic process and the ship that immediately contributed to the science fiction feeling.

The whole ordeal of becoming frozen was detailed to the point that I experienced a tightness in my chest that can be best described as a sense of panic gripping me. It pressed the right kind of buttons for me to become captivated. The structure of the spaceship was well thought out too. I especially liked how the passengers were able to transport from one level to another. It wasn’t a new idea but I thought it was cool nevertheless.

If the story was solemnly about technology, then yes, the elements were there and detailed and I would be done with my review. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

What was up with the characters?

There weren’t very many of them, and those we did have never burst from the page to become lively, unique characters I would have cared for. So much was left unfinished considering the extreme situation. The antagonist was exposed too quickly, too easily, giving the story the feeling of a failed attempt at a “whodunit”.

Elder’s arrogance and belief that he has a right to know everything immediately, aggravated me. He was disrespectful towards authority and dismissed all the rules. He was portrayed as a spoiled teenager who felt entitled to throw tantrums the minute he didn’t get what he wanted. His rebellion felt more like a teenager defying the rules set by his parents than the responsible character questioning the regime, thinking about the situation and the consequences of his actions that he was supposed to be.

His act of rebellion taught me a different lesson than what the author must have had in mind. The way it was dealt with, taught me it was okay to dismiss all kind of authority when you don’t agree; it taught me it was alright to ignore all the responsibilities and not think of the consequences as long as you get what you want. I understand that Revis tried to show us the problematic society and that the authority was corrupt, her message being to not blindly accept everything you’re being told by your superiors. However, the way Elder was portrayed, his youth and inexperience and the spoiled brat’s attitude, rubbed me in the wrong way. Needless to say he was my least favourite character.

Harley, on the other hand, was much more interesting than the protagonists and it saddened me he wasn’t more present. He seemed like a character with layers and I wanted to get to know him better. He questioned everything society threw at him, acting when he was confident it was the right thing to do. He was a strong character with real emotions, dealing with conflict in a thoughtful manner that it usually rendered me speechless each time his character reappeared. His story was tragic but beautiful all at once.

I’m also very confused about where the ROMANCE came from. Although Revis tried her best to make it reciprocal, it was obvious that she enforced a romance between her protagonists without listening to her characters as she wrote them.

I’m not sure how it started and how it developed but it was suddenly there without any building towards it. On some level, it portrayed the teenagers realistically, running after their hormones without any emotional connection and if that’s how Revis wanted them to come over to her readers, I wouldn’t have minded the “romance” as much. However, it bothered me that she wrote them in a way I had to believe they were “meant to be together”. It didn’t work for me, especially as it was one-sided and was more awkward than cute. If Revis had taken a different approach it could have worked but it felt unnatural in the end.

I haven’t started on how absurd it was they needed an entire book to discover the villain yet!

The way I saw it, there were three to five possibilities and three of them were villains in their own wicked way! The fact the plot took repetitive twists and voiced the same questions over and over again, was tiresome. The story didn’t seem to develop in any way.

I wasn’t much fan of the society either. In a strict sense, it was a proper dystopian novel with an organisation treating the people as a flock. If you disobeyed or showed signs of having a different opinion, you were quietly locked away on the mental ward of the hospital.

What bothered me was the level of “equality” that they strived for to the point it became racist. The people on board of the space ship all had the same physical characterisations: same skin, eye and hair colour: one big, happy family. The ideology: when everyone looks the same, there can’t be any argument so society wouldn’t get disturbed and all is well. Apparently, if we would look all the same, we wouldn’t have to deal with “bad” people such as thieves, murderers, kidnappers, rapists and so on. As if this type of “equality” would make a human’s nature “good”. It expressed a narrow-minded ideology from centuries ago that shows exactly why there are still problems in the world today.

When you take away the differences in a society, I can imagine that there would be less conflict as a result but that doesn’t automatically mean that everyone within said society thinks the same or shares the same opinions. In that way, Across the Universe’s society is a bit naïve as well.

Final Thoughts

Across the Universe ticks off all the boxes when it deals with fancy technological stuff that we expect from a science fiction novel. The mystery of a murderer running loose on a space ship would have been great if the characters had been given more depth and were worked out properly. The plot could have been less see-through and repetitive. All in all, there was a lot of potential with this book but it didn’t fully flourish and that’s a shame.

Did you enjoy Across the Universe? What did you think of the romance in this novel? Did you think the choice of character names was unique?

More books by Beth Revis:

Across the Universe series:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standalone:

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Currently Reading: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is THE author you should look for if you want to read a contemporary novel; whether you’re a teenager or an adult, she’s got it all! Each time I read one of her books, I’m convinced it’s the best one yet. With Carry On, a fiction based upon her fictive fiction in Fangirl (which I love so much! Read my review here), Rowell has tried something different: a young adult fantasy. To say that the stakes were high when it came out, isn’t even a fraction of the truth. My fingers itched to start reading this new book of hers, especially after watching Katytastic’s review on youtube.

HOT or NOT?

Eh. Hmm. Good question. Let’s be honest. I’m not a fan. I’m currently at page 279 and I’ve got to admit that I’ve considered DNF-ing. Multiple times. Especially when reading Simon’s point of view. You might already know this if you follow me on twitter and/or Goodreads. The moaning is intense. I expected so much more of a Rainbow Rowell novel.

There are so many things wrong with this novel but the main issue is the fact that she wrote a book based upon a fictive fiction, in a fiction called Fangirl, that’s clearly based upon the Harry Potter series. It’s not even hiding  the similarities. It’s all there for each and every Harry Potter fan to read (and get annoyed with).

That should have been the first hint that it wouldn’t be as grand as all her previous works. After all the commotion of Fifty Shades of Grey being based upon Twilight (and not looking remotely like Twilight, except for the rich Grey family and Anna’s awkwardness), I would have expected things to explode with this one. I didn’t have an issue with FSoG (it originally being a fan fiction and all) but I do have a problem with this. It’s not original. FSoG is original-er (but less good in the writing aspect).

The second issue: the story begins at year eight and Rowell expects her readers to know all about Simon, his world and what happened in the previous years, which makes reading it somewhat abstract and confusing, especially at the beginning.

I don’t know about you but with fantasy, I need world-building. No matter how much it looks like Harry Potter, it isn’t. Even A Very Potter Musical understands this and it IS Harry Potter…or well, a totally awesome parody of Harry Potter, at least. When you add names and creatures, you have to explain them. A pixie in The Mortal Instruments, isn’t the same as a pixie in Harry Potter nor would/could it be the same in Carry On or in the Iron Fey series. Describe what a pixie is, for Crowley’s sake! Or where Watford is situated. You’re writing a fantasy! Not a contemporary. There has to be descriptions and explanations!

Don’t get me started on the spells/incantations!

That’s right, Amy. They’re cringe-worthy, and I don’t even mean most of the time, but all the time! The spells are based upon sayings and children’s songs. Why? I don’t know. Because it didn’t need much “research”? If there’s one thing that makes Harry Potter ah-mazing, it’s the spells and the way you can link it to Latin. There’s an origin and a system in Harry Potter. The spells in Carry On…meh.  At least the explanation of why they’re spells is somewhat…okay. Ish.

Each time I see the book resting beside my bed, calling me to continue my reading, I have the exact same reaction:

The only, and I seriously mean the only, thing that keeps me from DNF-ing this book, is Baz. He’s a great character and his point of views are the best. He arrived at the right point. If he hadn’t, I would have stopped reading it already. Now, I’m just high with Baz and I sort of have to see how things develop with him (if you know what I mean, *suggestive eyebrow rolling inserted here*).

Would I say that Carry On is hot, based upon where I’m currently situated in the story? …..Weeeeellll….let’s just say: it’s not.

What are you reading this week?

and more importantly: are you enjoying it??

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Cover Image by Goodreads

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Series: Legend #1
Publisher: Penguin
DOP: 2013 (original 2011)
Pages: 295
Rating: 5/5
ISBN: 978-0-141-33960-3
Twitter: @Marie_Lu

Day is a fugitive the Republic has trouble with catching as he goes against the laws in order to find a way to make it easier for his poor family. June works for the Republic, resolute in finding her brother’s murderer and avenge his death. They have nothing in common. Two different backgrounds, two different opinions and yet, when their paths cross there’s something that intrigues them about the other, forcing them to be faced with the consequences of their own background and the knowledge they have on the Republic.

Marie Lu’s world has been written in such an attention-grabbing way that it was hard to put down the book. With an action packed plot and a very well built world, was Legend the answer to my long lasting reading slump. Told from two perspectives, Day’s and June’s, the plot evolved to a crescendo that kept me turning page after page, something the books I’ve been reading lately lacked.

Continue reading Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Image by Goodreads

Title: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: YA, fantasy –> Fairies
Series: #1 The Iron Fey
Publisher: 
Harlequin Teen
DOP: 2010
Pages: 363
Rating: 3/5 stars
ISBN: 978-0-373-21008-4
Twitter: @JKagawa

On the day Meghan Chase turns sixteen, a Changeling has appeared in her home, replacing her brother Ethan. On a quest to find him, Meghan discovers the Nevernever and all its mythical creatures. Jumping from one adventure into another, Meghan meets Grimalkin and comes eye to eye with the Winter Prince, Ash, who chases after her to capture her for Queen Mab. Then, she’s summoned to King Oberon’s Summer Court and has to obey his demands, taking her further away from finding Ethan. On top of that, another King lurks, poisoning the land of the Faery with iron.

While reading The Iron King, the first book in The Iron Fey series written by Julie Kagawa, it felt like a modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Both girls step into an entire new world and are introduced to the fantastical creatures of the Nevernever, creating a likewise magical vibe that’s so known from Alice in Wonderland. Not only did it have a sense of Alice in Wonderland, Kagawa doesn’t hide the fact that a few characters, Puck, King Oberon and Queen Titania, are taken from Shakespeare’s comedy play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kagawa took from both worlds and created an unique view on the Nevernever, where two faery courts stand opposite of each other for power and a third Iron King is rising to destruct the Nevernever and change it forever. Within this background, Meghan Chase tries to find her younger brother Ethan, who’s been abducted to this foreign land.

Although there’s a hint of comedy with the addition of Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Iron King is not. The fantastical creatures are cruel towards humans, bullying and using them for their own entertainment or as a late afternoon snack. On a few occasions, there is fighting added and here and there curses are thrown along. In the land of the Faery, being in someone’s debt can cause more trouble than preferable and one of the creatures that actively seeks for deals it can make, is Grimalkin, a talking cat who guides Meghan through the Nevernever (and reminding me a lot of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland).

 photo Puck Quote_zpsjntavx8g.jpg
Quote from The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Puck and Grimalkin were my two favourite characters in this book. Grimalkin, mysterious in his ways of knowing almost everything and disappearing when least expected, felt like a trustworthy friend even though it’s clear that one should be extremely careful around him. His blunt, to-the-point remarks gave him a dry sense of humour whereas Puck was the opposite, recognising authority but simultaneously taking the mickey out of them. His humour created light-hearted moments between the serious, and sometimes scary, adventures Meghan undergoes, erupting snorts on more than one occasion.

Nonetheless, there were a few things that bothered me while I read The Iron King. Perhaps I’m getting old, and if I do you may definitely call me so, but I experienced Meghan’s journey as a rapid jumping around from one disaster into another with not one moment to catch my breath and process what’s been happening and who and what everything within this world was or represented.

Kagawa shot one fantastical creature after the other to her readers with a minimum of description and although this reminds me a lot of J.K. Rowling’s “this is my world, accept it without questions” attitude, J.K. Rowling at least had the curtsey of describing her creatures; even if we already knew how a dragon looked, her dragons were distinguished and not just a dragon, giving the reader a moment to picture the image and accept it. I tried to remember all the creatures Meghan came across with but I had to drop my towel into the ring; I lost my sight of them. I was often confused, not able to remember and imagine the fantastical creatures she encountered.

The reason why I’m mentioning this: at some point I had Shrek in my mind when I read about ogres but when I googled it later, the ogre looked a lot scarier! So suddenly, the entire meaning of the act when the ogres appeared changed. Instead of cute greenish monsters that wouldn’t hurt a fly, the image is replaced with vicious beasts! As you can see, the connotation of this scene can vary 180 degrees, depending on your own emotional association with the word “ogre” and if you’re like me, having grown up with Shrek…well…what more do I have to say?

The minimal presence of description of the monsters and the constant jumping from one fight and flight moment to the other, has put me off from giving this book a four star rating. The pacing was fast without fluctuations and thus giving me no time to think and process the new world. Too slow paced is boring but too fast paced can be mind dazzling. A nice mixture of both would have been preferable.

On a different note, have you seen the cover of this book? The colour is cleverly thought of, adding to the belief that fairies live in forests and unconsciously forcing the buyer to the connection. The chapters were introduced with cute twirls (because at first glance, faeries do look beautiful and cute) but when looking closer, the thorns on the twirls added an extra dimension to be careful around faeries: they are deceiving, nasty things! Brilliant!

More books by Julie Kagawa:

The Iron Fey series:

 

 

 

 

 

The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten series:

Blood of Eden series:

Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

Talon series:

This was the first book I read for the June series for the #SummerofSeries challenge. If you want to read more about the challenge and which books and series I’ll be reading during the summer, check out this post.

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 photo abundance-of-catherines_zpsfowpqm9u.jpgTitle: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2013 (originally published in 2006 by Dutton Books)
Pages: 213
Rating: 3/5
ISBN: 978-0-141-34609-0
Twitter: @johngreen

An Abundance of Katherines tells the story of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who is desperate to find the one thing that will set him apart from others now that he’s turned into an adult. He’s so engrossed into finding that one special thing when the nineteenth Katherine dumps him. Hassan, his best friend, decides it’s time for a road trip and as they leave, both Colin and Hassan are in for an adventure as they figure out who they are and want to become.

With The Fault in Our Stars having been adapted into a film last year, and Paper Towns coming to our screens in July, John Green has become an international phenomenon and an author you don’t want to ignore in YA. His books have been talked about and loved, which isn’t surprising as Green knows how to capture his audience with heart-breaking plots that turn your tears into smiles and laughs. Nevertheless, An Abundance of Katherines didn’t tick all the boxes I expected from a book written by the talented John Green.

The difference between Green’s other books and An Abundance of Katherines is that they deal with more approachable characters, which makes it more relatable for his readers. This story has a protagonist that’s very intelligent but with intelligence also comes a different style of telling. Prodigies have a different way of thinking and Green jumps from one thing into the other, throwing a few mathematical terms in between that often make you lose sight of what’s being told (unless math is a subject you understand). Thankfully, most things mathematical are explained in a footnote so don’t let this fact alone keep you away from reading the book.

 photo Quote An Abundance_zpstehrcb6p.png
An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

Although Colin is not my most favourite character in book world, his personal drama is more relevant. Obsessed with finding that one thing that will make him unique (aren’t we all?), he neglects the Katherines he’s dating. Each one of them dumps him until the nineteenth Katherine is the final straw. Seeing his best friend wallow in unhappiness, Hassan decides a road trip will help to lift Colin’s spirits. They meet Lindsey, who’s the first person that seems to understand Colin but she is at the same time the opposite of him. While Colin wants to be different, Lindsey changes her behaviour depending on whom she’s speaking to and with this, Green creates strong and diverse characters.

Green isn’t only famous for his heart-breaking stories but his writing style is important too. In An Abundance of Katherines, he uses a mixture of techniques. While Colin reminisces on his past relationships in cleverly intertwined flashbacks, the flashbacks itself are addressed in a nonlinear narrative, demanding its readers to be attentive in order to understand the meaning behind all the Katherines and how they shaped Colin into obsessing about his theorem.

Despite of the writing style and interesting use of vocabulary, the story never captivated me like the others I’ve read before. It didn’t enrich me; it didn’t feel as special. A lot has to do with the mathematics, even though I’ve studied it myself (yeah…I did. Honestly.). It felt distracting and boring and slowed down the reading pace significantly. At some parts I experienced a hard time to pick up the reading from where I had left it and found myself skimming the pages to determine how long it would take me to the end.

John Green is amazing, of that I am sure, but this book is one of those that just didn’t make it to my high standards. It doesn’t mean I won’t read the rest of his books though. He is, like I’ve mentioned before, an author you shouldn’t miss out on and perhaps you like reading about child prodigies, graphics and theorems, who knows?

More books by John Green:

Covers from GoodReads

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Image from GoodReads

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Books
DOP: 
2014 (originally 2013)
Pages: 261
Rating: 5/5
ISBN: 978-1-4472-6322-7
Twitter: @rainbowrowell

After eighteen years of living together with her father and twin sister Wren, a timid Cath begins her first year at the university of Nebraska no longer co-living with her sister. Socially awkward and nervous to take these steps on her own, Cath hides in her room, turning to what she knows best and feels safest with: frequently updating her Carry On, Simon fanfiction while she waits for the eighth and final book in the Simon Snow series to be released (a homage to Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling).

After reading and watching all the praise her work has recently received online, I decided it was time to see for myself what all the hype was about and it’s fair to say that Rainbow Rowell didn’t disappoint. With this coming-of-age story, Rowell managed to capture the insecurities of freshmen seamlessly. What was most remarkable about Fangirl was how realistically Rowell managed to portray the ‘crazy’ feelings that come with a fandom, combined with simple but efficient dialogue and characters that could have stepped straight from the book to be your next best friend.

Continue reading Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Image from GoodReads

Title: The Immortal Rules
Author: 
Julie Kagawa
Genre: 
YA, fantasy (vampires), dystopian
Series: #1 Blood of Eden
Publisher: 
Harlequin Teen
DOP: 
2012
Pages: 
485
Rating: 
5/5
ISBN: 
978-0-373-21051-0
Twitter: @Jkagawa

Vampires rule the cities, keeping all humans inside the city’s walls to protect them from a rabid’s attack and ensuring themselves to have humans at their back and call whenever they are thirsty. Allie, being an Unregistered human, and thus being off the vampire radar in the city, has only herself and her group of survivors to rely on. With food being scarce, Allie is constantly on the look out, searching new places for edible food. One day, she finds herself in food heaven and driven by hunger, she guides her group towards it. But then, fate strikes and Allie finds herself wounded and in a desperate state, until she meets Kanin.

The only other book I’ve read by Julie Kagawa, was The Iron King, the first book in her Iron Fey series, a few months ago and let’s just say that I wasn’t overly excited. Hence, it’s the reason why I have yet to write my review because I can’t pinpoint what I disliked exactly. So I was sceptical when my best friend recommended the Blood of Eden series. I seriously doubted her sanity at this point but she offered me the first book and here I am, definitely a lot more excited about this than I was with The Iron King!

The Immortal Rules is the cocktail of fantasy I have been waiting for since Twilight* by Stephenie Meyer. Scratch that. It’s the fantasy I was dreaming of while reading Twilight and only realising afterwards there was something missing! There’s action (which, let’s be honest Twilight lacked…) and adventure and although there’s romance in it too, it’s not over-the-top-romanticised like Twilight either. It’s realistic, as far as fantasy can be realistic and yes, sometimes it might be a bit predictable but I can’t have it all, can I? This world is full of tension and attacks but it’s always nicely balanced out with a moment of relaxation, helping the readers to catch their breaths and refocus again. This book is the perfect example on how a story should be built. Let me show with a graphic:

Graphic_TheImmortalRulesRabids are the equivalent of zombies and the vampires have a hierarchy. A hierarchy! That’s right. It’s the first time I’ve read about a vampire hierarchy. Normally, they are just the dominating race (in secret). Now they’re just that: dominating the world! Hell to the yeah! Actually, Rabids are sort of dominating this world too. Scary creatures….very scary creatures. Especially when they bite you.

Without revealing too much about plot twists I really liked being able to read a vampire story from a different point of view. The emotions Allie went through fitted perfectly and were exactly what I imagined it would be like. No disappointments there. The priest was a nicely added bonus. Despite me hating him to extremes, I could imagine his character in this world, guiding the humans to ‘Utopia’ or Eden in this scenario. He was a nice representation of all those who only see black and white and never grey. And don’t get me started on Zeke. He can be my boyfriend any time. *fangirl crush*

Besides world domination by vampires, this story actually has a decent plot in which romance is not the key element. Vampires are searching for the answer on how they can reproduce without creating a mutant off-spring (aka a rabid) while humans are searching for a way out and Allie, well, she finds herself in the middle of this mess.

I would recommend this book to anyone who’d like to read a fantasy about vampires and zombies rabids that includes action, a bit of romance and a few life lessons on how to open up your mind, broaden your horizons and don’t always accept what people are telling you what’s good and what isn’t.

*I’m not a Twilight hater, I liked it enough to read the series twice and went to marathons in the theatre but honestly, it had flaws. A lot of flaws and since it’s written in the same fantasy genre (vampires obviously) I can’t help but compare it with. Especially since everyone knows Twilight. Don’t kill me!