Sunday, 29 September 2013

Book Review: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner #1
Published: 2009
Format: Kindle eBook

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

The hype surrounding The Maze Runner was quite huge; the vast majority of people absolutely adored it, and that left it put on a pedestal for me, and I was quite hesitant to pick it up due to my issues with hyped books (that is a story for another time).

The premise of the story is absolutely brilliant; nobody knows why they have been placed into this 'maze arena' known as the Glade, and this leads to the feeling of tension and mystery as they try to figure out why they have been placed there and how they are going to get out. The concept is what kept me reading, as for the most part, the book was poorly executed with regards to a few things including the character development and the progression of the book.

This book revolved around the main character Thomas, who was written about in the third person; this made the reading of the book quite detached, and I felt as though if this was written from Thomas' perspective then we would have had a better idea of what he was feeling. I generally didn't like Thomas as a character much in the first place anyways; he was always trying to be the hero in the situation, and this didn't create a confidence about him, but just made him out to be very attention seekingly annoying. Other than Thomas there wasn't very much going for any of the other characters either, they were all just, there. There wasn't any particular personality that I was drawn to as such; to me, all the characters just blended together as a group entity rather than singular people.

Although this book was extremely fast paced, I found that the majority of the things that actually happened in it were extremely stupid and inconsequential. Half of the book was spent explaining the 'glade' as it's known; what everyone does, what it all means (to a certain extent), etc. Had this been spread out across the entirety of the book it probably would have been better, but to have half of a book introducing you to the scene was just a little too unnecessary and boring for me. I can't describe it fully, but some of the things that happened in the maze were just plan weird, and at times I wondered what on earth was actually going on; not because I didn't understand the story, but because I didn't understand why it had to be so extravagant. All in all it seemed to be all plot and no substance.

The last third of the book however, enthralled me to the max and definitely had me on the edge of my seat when reading. It just all of a sudden got ridiculously exciting, and this created the tension that should have been used throughout the whole book. Something changed about it, perhaps it was just the fact that I wasn't being bored by meaningless information and was actually delving into some really gripping storyline - in fact, that most probably is the answer. Why Dashner couldn't create these feelings throughout the rest of the book I will never know, but what I do know is that that ending made me itching to get on to the next book.


Monday, 16 September 2013

Book Review: Fearsome Dreamer

Author: Laure Eve
Series: Fearsome Dreamer #1
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books
Published: October 2013
Format: Paperback (review copy)

There is a world where gods you've never heard of have wound themselves into hearts, and choice has led its history down a different path. Here a fiercely independent country called Angle Tar holds its own against the mass of technologically advanced nations that is World. Apprentice hedgewitch Vela Rue has had strange dreams all her life; vivid and mysterious and incredibly real. Now she knows that her dreams mean something more, that she has a talent - and that her government will do anything to train her in it. White is a teenage boy whose unbelievable gifts force him to flee from the fiercely unforgiving World to Angle Tar. There he is taken under the wing of Frith, a government spy who sees him as a prodigy; perhaps even the ultimate weapon they have been waiting for. But Frith has his own secret motives; and when Rue and White meet, their electric attraction may spell disaster, or change everything.

This book possibly has the most fabulous world building that I have ever read; from the off I was engrossed in this new alternate dystopian Earth consisting of Angle Tar and World - I wanted to know more, and Eve was most definitely producing more. Bits of information were scattered everywhere throughout the book with regards to the history, politics and running of the different parts of the world that there was possibly not one thing that I had any questions about. Both Angle Tar and World were described in such excruciating detail that I just felt immersed in the reading experience.

I was about three quarters of the way through when I realised that nothing was actually happening; as much as the world building was fantastic, this overshadowed the story which seemed to take a back seat. You could definitely feel the plot growing through the world building, but the story itself seemed to be more of an introduction to things that were going to happen in future books, rather than focusing on the book at hand which was disappointing.

The romance between Rue and White, as fleeting as it was, was very charming and enchanting; it reminded me to a certain extent of Celia and Marco from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It was filled with tension and unsaid thoughts which were reflected on both sides with the dual narrative that was present in the book. There was spark and chemistry, and something entirely different to other love stories that I have read of which created something that I was quite curious to see progress. I'm not a sucker for a good love story - as they are very rare in my eyes - but this was one that I most definitely was not unhappy with.

This book has left me a little confused, however, as the story just seemed to end. There was no final resolve, and although there was a cliff hanger as such, it wasn't one that had me begging for the next book in the series. I felt a little bit of confusion, and to a certain extent, resentment for just stopping mid story, and I just don't see how it could end like that. Despite this, I will be picking up the next book in the series, if not for the world itself, but to see if it truly does start to pick up and go somewhere. The story has so much promise it's unreal.


Friday, 13 September 2013

Book Review: Norwegian Wood

Author: Haruki Murakami
Series: -
Published: 1987
Format: Paperback Kindle eBook

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Having never read a Murakami before, I was extremely impressed with this book; it depicts the life of Toru through the ups, and mainly downs, of his newly adult years. It is the story of a regular twenty something who is going through life - life isn't all butterflies and rainbows as is depicted in a lot of books, but is in fact sometimes gritty and rough to bare, which I feel is a more life like representation that this book illustrates wonderfully.

The writing in Norwegian Wood is absolutely beautiful and to think that this was translated from Japanese, it's amazing that it still held its rhythm and flow. It was in fact the flow of the prose that kept me reading, and although I'm not always one for overly descriptive scenes, this book knew where and when to stop. It was the descriptions of feelings and thoughts more than anything that I enjoyed; this created a bond between myself and the characters that I haven't felt for a while in a book and I genuinely cared for each and every one of them.

There's something about this book that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I can't quite put my finger on it, there's something different about it. All I can say is that I thoroughly loved this book and I still think about it to this day.


Monday, 19 August 2013

Book Review: Into The Grey

Author: Celine Kiernan
Series: -
UK Publisher: Walker 
Published: 2011
Format: Paperback (review copy)

I think the fire changed us – me and Dom. I think that’s how the boy was able to see us. Though he’d been there for every summer of our childhood, we’d only been stupid boys until then. Stupid, happy, ignorant boys. And what in hell would he have had in common with two stupid boys? But after the fire we were different. We were maybe a little bit like him. And so he saw us, at last, and he thought he’d found a home…

I picked up this book on the pretence of it being a haunting ghost story; it definitely fulfilled it's promise on that front, but it was just so much more than that. Rather than focussing on the ghost story itself, I believe that this book depicts the deterioration of Patrick Finnerty as his twin brother Dominick is being slowly taken away from him by the ghost of a young boy.

Kiernan beautifully depicts in her writing the strong bond between these two twin brothers, and this makes their separation all the more tragic. You see the trauma and the confusion that Pat is having to go through, and his slow descension into despair at the hurt that he is living with alone without the rest of his family to help him. The development on this front is absolutely fantastic, as you can clearly see Pat losing his grip on everything that he knows, and this isn't something that suddenly appears; it happens through a series of events and the loss of not knowing what to do next.

With regards to the ghost story itself, some of the scenes were so incredibly haunting, that I found myself quite afraid as to what was going to happen. The tension and suspense elements of this book were timed to perfection; it wasn't over baring or too obvious and I found myself getting rather creeped out by a lot of it.

Not having read a lot of books of this genre before, I was pleasantly surprised, and would mark this as a book to start off with if you're unfamiliar with ghost stories. This is one of those books that leaves you wanting more, and it has definitely encouraged me to delve deeper into the realms of the unknown.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Book Review: Down The Rabbit Hole

Author: Juan Pablo Villalobos
Series: -
UK Publisher: -
Published: 2010
Format: eBook

Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants and the odd corrupt politician or two.

Upon picking this up I wasn't too sure what it was about; all that I knew was that it was on the kindle daily deal for 99p, and that was enough to make me pick it up after hearing Jean from Bookish Thoughts speak about it on her YouTube channel, coincidentally posted on the same day. 

The plot line definitely threw me at first - you are shown the world through the 7 year old eyes of Tochtli, who seems to be living in a fantasy world of zoo animal pets, rooms full of gems and his collection of marvellous hats. It isn't until this fantastical way of thinking doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon that you realise, this isn't a child's imagination but a child's real life situation in the middle of a drug dealing family. 

You generally wouldn't think twice about seeing a film or reading a book about drugs and drug dealers, as for the most part they star an adult part which for some reason doesn't seem strange to us as we watch it. However, seeing it from a 7 year olds perspective is extremely shocking; to have a child witness the acts of violence and betrayal surrounding the scene is not something that I would think anyone would want their prospective child to grow up around, and this to me seems to be the main motive of the story.

Tochtli, having grown up in this bad environment, has been severely corrupted and is quite a self proclaimed precocious child as he knows a lot of things that other boys of his age wouldn't even have the knowledge to imagine. This leads me to think about the idea of nature versus nurture; would Tochtli have been the same if he hadn't grown up in this setting? Would he have had different beliefs and ideals? Or is there a capacity for evil in your genes when you are born? These are questions that I don't believe anyone will truly know the answers to, but this book definitely brings those questions to light and makes you think about them more.

Upon the completion of this book, I was a bit dumbfounded as to how to respond and how to judge it; for the first time in my life I didn't have an initial gut reaction to a book, which is good in itself as it means that the book truly did affect me and it provoked some real thought. I'm still not entirely sure what I think of it, but from what I can deduce now, it wasn't so much about the plot line as it was about human nature and seeing things from a different perspective, which doesn't necessarily make it a good read, but definitely makes it an interesting one.


Friday, 16 August 2013

Friday Reads: 16th August 2013

My reading habits have been absolutely abysmal over the past few weeks, and this is largely due to the fact that for the first time in my life I have actually been extremely busy - I know it's hard to believe. From tonight onwards I plan to stay in, save some money and actually read to my hearts content and catch up with some reviews. 

Into The Grey by Celine Kiernan
This book is a ghost story, and being only 70 pages in I am finding this very creepy already. I am not massive fan of horror as a genre with regards to film, but I have never (other than Carrie by Stephen King - but that was ages ago) read a horror book let alone a ghost one, and I am quite intrigued as to how it will develop and make me feel when reading it.

So far, I can feel the tension building and there was one point in the book where I could vividly imagine what happened, and it actually made me shiver. I'm very excited to see where this one takes me.

Starters by Lissa Price
This book sounds as though it's another YA dystopian novel; teenagers renting their bodies to old people so they can feel young again. I just hope it isn't another typical book of that type full of unnecessary "insta-love" triangles and the like, because to be quite frank, I am getting extremely bored of reading about the same things in different plots.

I am not going to let this negative prejudice deter me from enjoying this book however, if it is in fact enjoyable. Each and every book should be read from a blank slate and the plot line does sound amazing. We'll see.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Bookish Alphabet: A

This will hopefully be a little weekly segment where I highlight a book beginning with every letter of the alphabet; it could be one I've read, one that's been on my TBR for a while or one that I am looking forward to the release of. 

About A Boy by Nick Hornby
When I first started this book I wasn't quite sure what to make of it; the plot wasn't really very interesting, it just didn't seem to be going anywhere spectacular and I started to find it quite boring. It wasn't until a little further on in the book that I realised it wasn't about the storyline; it was about the deeper meaning of growing up in both adult and child senses of the word. 

About A Boy was the first book I read that focussed on emotions and life changes rather than on an overly complicated plot line, and this was a little bit disconcerting as I wasn't sure how to interpret it as a reader. After my initial confusion I found it extremely refreshing to read - the idea that Will (the adult) and Marcus (the child) still had the same amount of growing up to do was really intriguing to read about, and the character development that Hornby described throughout the book for both of them was extremely well written and believable. 

After hearing that Nick Hornby's other works like High Fidelity and Fever Pitch are better reading than this one makes me extremely excited to try some more books by him, as I was found this to be a surprisingly good read for me.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

WWW Wednesdays | July 31st 2013

Originally created by MizB

What are you currently reading?
The End Of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas - I'm not sure what I think of this book so far; it seems to be quite pretentious in its writing style in the way that it's trying to be more intelligent than it actually is. She is name dropping lots of philosopher names and quoting them, but it all seems to be a little misdirected and it's coming off in quite a bland way. I am only about 100 pages into the book, so I am going to see how it goes and hope it gets better.

 What did you recently finish reading?
Various Pets Alive & Dead by Marina Lewycka - this definitely surprised me at how much I actually enjoyed it. I wasn't expecting to like it that much from the off due to the fact it revolves around topics that I am not too interested in and find quite boring, but despite all of that it was very interesting to read. I have never read anything about human nature and how different people lead their lives and it made me really think about my own life and how I live it. It was a real eye opener and I'm definitely going to try her other books.

What do you think you'll read next?
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - This is the series that I've always wanted to finish, as I absolutely adored the first book, but have never got around to. The first time around it was due to the fact that I only had the three books in one hard bound volume which was ridiculously heavy and clunky to read from, but I have recently bought singular copies of each of the series from a charity shop so I have no reason not to read them any more. Now is that time.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Review: Various Pets Alive & Dead

Author: Marina Lewyca
Series: -
UK Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2012
Format: Paperback

Marcus and Doro were part of a commune from the late 1960s until the early 1990s: lentils, free love, spliffs, radical politics, cheesecloth blouses, sex, housework and cooking rotas, crochet, allotments. Their children have grown up rather different from them: primary schoolteacher Clara craves order and clean bathrooms, son Serge is pretending to his parents that he is still doing a Maths PhD at Cambridge, while in fact working making loadsa money in the City; while third child Oolie Anna, who has Downs Syndrome, is desperate to escape home and live on her own. Once the truth starts breaking through, who knows what further secrets will be revealed about any of them?

This book revolves more around social talking points than in depth plot and character development; it highlights the idea of living in a communal setting in the late 1960s, and the trials and tribulations that go alongside it. It details how these people lived, their views and opinions on the situation, and how different generations react to these living conditions.

In the past I've been more into fantasy fiction with overly complicated plot lines and mythical creatures, so when it came to the start of this book I was hugely skeptical. The skepticism was started when I was introduced into the world of marketing and economics, (two areas of which I have a complete and utter disinterest in) with Serge - I have read books before, and got extremely bored with talk of money, politics and other general topics, but with this one I thought it was strangely interesting, and found that I was learning a massive amount about finance along the way.

The idea of learning was a big one for me when reading this book; as well as the finance aspect, I felt as though I was learning about a different way of life and of living, which compared to my own, is extremely strange to me. Their ideologies, their habits, their lifestyle; it all seemed so alien to me that it was ridiculously intriguing. Learning and critiquing about other peoples lifestyle choices makes you really think about your own more than you would have before.

Nothing and everything happened in this book - it was mainly spent with the characters reminiscing about things that had happened in the past at the commune where they all lived. There was, however, a sub plot for each character which highlighted things about their personalities and how they've grown since their commune days. This change of topic was not a relief but a refreshing change to the anecdotes that were remembered from the past.

Various Pets Alive & Dead is a wonderful book, and being something that I would not normally pick up, I am most certainly glad that I did.


Monday, 29 July 2013

First Impressions: A Clash of Kings

Currently being 100 pages into this book, I thought I'd give you my thoughts of the book so far. I am taking my time with this 800 page extravaganza of a book, I'm going to take my time and absorb all of the new information that is coming my way. When I read A Game Of Thrones, I read half of the book had a break with another one and came back to it fully refreshed; this is what I plan on doing again as I think this will be the best course of action for such a beast of a book.

So far I'm absolutely loving it, we're seeing the aftermath of the plot in the first book, and it's really interesting to see how everyone is reacting in their different ways and how all these different sides are forming. The plot is just thickening by the minute, and you can see through the writing that it will just keep getting thicker with storyline, character development and twists, as already in 100 pages you can see the changes in the different characters and how they're reacting to the different circumstances they have happened upon.

From the off I've reservations about this book however, due to the fact that my dad has only just recently managed to finish it and wasn't truly impressed in comparison to the first one. I've gone into it with a negative outlook, but so far I have been proven wrong and long may I hope it will stay that way.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Charity Book Buys

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is my author of the moment; his writing style is hilarious, witty and just plain addicting. Of his works I have currently read Shades of Grey and his Nursery Crime series, both of which I absolutely adored. The one series that I have not tried so far of his is Thursday Next, so when I saw this book I just had to pick it up to give it a go.

The author obviously drew me in to picking this book up on first glance, but the cover was what sealed the deal. I have only ever seen the cover with the multi-coloured car on the front and this one topped that; it's bright, eye-catching and just so simple and minimalist that it's wonderful.

The Book Of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

I have only ever read PS I love you by Cecelia Ahern and I must say, I absolutely adored that book. Ever since then, I have always had this prejudice with her books that they're all going to be romance novels, which I am not a massive fan of, but I definitely had to double take when I saw the blurb of this book.

Again, it was the cover that drew me to buying this book, but the idea of a book about books did have a massive impact on that decision as well. I absolutely love reading books about books, or books about book characters as it's always something that I can relate to and appreciate.

I had never even heard of this book before picking it up, but I am really interested to see what Ahern can achieve with a book that (I'm being led to believe) isn't romantic.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I went through a phase a while back of searching on Goodreads for books with brilliant typography designed covers - although this isn't the cover that I wanted, this is the book that I was drawn to through the other cover. I added it to my to be read pile not really knowing anything about it, and still not really knowing what the story is about. 

Despite my lack of knowledge on this book, I have heard nothing but good things about it and I am really looking forward to finding out what all of the fuss is about.