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.