In preparation for 2014, I created this presentation on Haiku deck.
In preparation for 2014, I created this presentation on Haiku deck.
All good things must come to an end. And so over 2013, readers have seen a number of very popular dystopian series publish their final books. Some of these concluding novels have been applauded, while others have been described as disappointing. It must be a difficult thing to bring all the plot threads together in a way that satisfies all readers (I was never happy with who Katniss ends up with in Mockingjay).
I am going to run through some of my favourite series of the past three years with links to the concluding books on Goodreads for you to see how well they are doing. I will start with Across the Universe by Beth Revis, who was the first to publish the third book, way back in January 2013.
The three books are :
Across the Universe (my review from 2011)
A Million Stars (my quick review posted at Goodreads that didn’t make it to this blog)
Shades of Earth ( a must-read for me these summer holidays – can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! Wish this was our cover.)
Another series I started, but never finished is The Chemical Gardens trilogy by Lauren de Stefano. The three books are:
Wither (my review on Goodreads. This one had my favourite of the three covers)
Fever (my even shorter review that explains why I never finished the series)
Sever (which I never bought. It came out in February 2013)
On the other hand, I had high expectations for the conclusion to Delirium by Lauren Oliver and am glad to report it didn’t disappoint. The third one came out in March 2013. My reviews at Goodreads are so short, they aren’t worth linking. But there are lots of other people who raved about all three books. One amazing thing about this series is all the short stories that Oliver wrote in between the novels. They serve a couple of purposes – they keep people interested and they offer glimpses into secondary characters which enrich the world building and the series. The three books are:
Requiem (third book came out in March 2013)
It was a long wait then from March to October, when the next lot of concluding books were published.
For me the most consistently enjoyable trilogy is the Legend series by Marie Lu. Admittedly, I haven’t yet read the final books of the next three I plan to include, but so far, based on what I have seen, I think this will stay true. Lu got it all right – the characters remain noble and committed to their cause; the narrative stays within the bounds of authenticity, and the climax and subsequent conclusion are better than just satisfactory. The three books are:
Legend (my review from 2011 on this blog)
Prodigy (one of the few books where I gave more stars to book 2 than book 1)
Champion (lots of reviews on Goodreads where it’s averaging 4 and a half stars out of 5, and it only came out on November 5 2013)
Divergent was the surprise hit when it was first published in 2011. The film version reaches our screens next year. Veronica Roth followed up with Insurgent and finally we have Alliegant. Apparently, there is a lot of disappointment about the final book. The word ‘boring’ is being bandied about, and I don’t think there’s anything worse for a book to be called. The three books are:
Divergent (lots of reviews on Goodreads)
Insurgent (my own explanation of why I wasn’t totally won over)
Alliegant (am yet to read it. Soon hopefully)
The last three I want to mention don’t really fit into my original group. Their final books won’t be out till 2014, but they are really early 2014, so I am just going to ignore my own rules and list them as well.
I first read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi in November 2011, and maybe by that time I had my fill of dystopia, but actually I got sucked into this one too. I do hate the cover we have in the library, and thankfully there is a better option for newer readers. The second one, Unravel Me has got a great average score, but when I read my own review, I wonder if I will make an effort with number three, Ignite Me, which will be published in February 2014.
While I absolutely loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I found the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight both gruelling and depressing. But the writing is so luminescent, that I am sure I will have to read the third book, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Plus those covers! So beautiful.
I think this is my longest blog post ever. Never again! It took three days. Back to just one book, one review.
I have loved all of A.S.King’s books so far: Please ignore Vera Deitz; Everybody sees the ants and Ask the passengers. Her latest one, Reality Boy is just as thought-provoking, just as raw, just as clever.
Here we have Gerald, 17 years old, struggling with a very difficult past – a mother who put the whole family on a reality TV show when he was just five; a psychopathic older sister who bullied and terrorised him, and a therapist who continues to tell him that he is not in the right place to get involved with a girl. How Gerald is holding it altogether is a mystery to readers. And yet he does. With humour and deep breathing, and by not getting close to anyone. The girl he is attracted to remains ‘checkout operator #1 girl’, long after he starts to talk to her, thereby allowing him the distance he needs to feel safe and in control.
Not that any of that lasts for long.
This is an intense study about a boy, and by extension the novel also explores some issues about contemporary life: that of celebrity status, that of living in a dysfunctional family, and the need to break free to figure out who you are. There’s a point where Gerald and Hannah kidnap themselves and send ransom notes to their family. Their demands are quite simple: ‘I don’t like the way you treat me. Please listen’.
This is great stuff. Read November 2nd 2013. A different review is posted over at Goodreads.
Living with Jackie Chan is beautifully written, with a very authentic portrayal of a teenage boy coming to grips with the harsh reality of his impulsive actions. Desperately keen to lose his ‘virgin status’, Josh sleeps with Ellie and of course, she gets pregnant. All of this occurs in a book called Jumping off Swings which I have never read, but I didn’t feel like I missed much by diving straight into this one. Although I would be interested in the end, because at the start of this one, Josh is barely holding himself together. His anger and hatred of himself is powerfully depicted. So, it must have ended on such a downer.
Josh cannot stand to stay in his home town after his irredeemable (in his eyes) behaviour, so he moves to his uncle’s apartment, (about 4 hours drive away) to finish his senior year in an attempt to get into College. It takes ages for Josh to really start to make peace with himself, and along the way, he meets a group of people who help him.
First and foremost is the Jackie Chan of the novel – Josh’s uncle Larry. I tell you, this man is awesome. He is so upbeat, so funny, and so gentle with Josh (who he calls Samurai Sam) that his role in the book in extremely significant. He never pushes too hard, but the one time he does, it results in Josh picking up karate again, and partnering the girl-next-door, Stella.
Although their friendship develops during karate, Stella has an extremely possessive boyfriend, and the tension this creates causes much of the angst of the narrative. If I was to have one little niggle, it would be that there are a number of Josh’s thoughts are repeated unnecessarily throughout the story, sometimes using the exact same words. It was really obvious, and it resulted in drawing me out of the story.
I was really satisfied with the ending. Positive and hopeful but not in a cloying or over sentimental way. It was realistic and I appreciate authors who don’t feel the need to sugar coat everything. I think some of you boys will like it.
Highly recommended. Read October 11th. A version of this review was originally posted at Goodreads.
I bought some new books. These are just a few of them. Hope you have been reading these holidays.
Every Breath is being touted as a new sexy thriller. Maybe that’s meant to draw young adults in, but I found it much more intelligent and witty than that. It uses references to Sherlock Holmes lore as a fun, irreverent way to establish the narrative as detective. I found the prologue also to be distracting and misleading, but once the story gets going, it’s exciting and fast-paced.
Rachel Watts and James Mycroft have lived two doors down from each other ever since Rachel’s family left their bankrupt farm. We are thrown in to this friendship four months in, and not slowed down by the details of how they became be friends. They just are, and we accept that. Mycroft is a genius with a damaged psyche and Rachel’s practical nature is the best thing for him.
When one of Mycroft’s friends is murdered, the pair stumble into solving the crime (although not so much with the stumble, but more because of the determination of a boy who has already seen too much death, and who needs to make order from chaos). Rachel is not sure what is the best way to go, and she oscillates between wanting to stay out of the mess, and wanting to learn more. The climax at the zoo has all the elements mystery lovers want: danger, an evil psychopath and sacrifice.
This is tense, exciting and quite humorous. The romance doesn’t overwhelm the mystery, but it’s there, for which I am grateful. These two truly care for each other. It’s grand. And on the last page, there is a blurb for the next instalment. Double grand!
A version of this review originally posted on Goodreads. Read Sept 13 2013.
Highly recommended to those of you who love a murder mystery.
I think it is interesting what Tamora Pierce has done here. She has taken us back two years before ‘Melting Stones’, and glimpsed Evvy when she was only 12 and first meets up with Luvo. I had forgotten about the book when I read this, so it might send some readers back to ‘Melting Stones’ to see Evvy’s development (and that is never a bad thing).
The evil Emperor in ‘Battle Magic’ is truly wicked. I sometimes felt in previous Pierce books that the main characters had a pretty easy time of getting out of trouble. But here, our little band of heroes really have to struggle to defeat him.
There are lots of deaths, mostly of characters that are quite minor, but readers are certainly shown how horrible war is, and how greedy people can be. Briar and Rosethorn are wonderful, and we meet a warrior called Prahan who is excellent, as is the God-King and of course, Luvo.
This is action-packed story, filled with insight and compassion. Many of us have been reading Pierce books for many years, and it’s good to see that she continues to write quality fantasy that depicts strong female characters, as well as a couple of my own personal soapboxes: LGTB characters treated as if they are just the same as other people. And ethnically diverse characters trying to overcome prejudice and stereotypes.
Review originally posted on Goodreads. Read September 19 2013
Over the last couple of years, I have begun a friendship with a local author, Christine Bongers. She spends some time in our library and borrows some books to read, and in the course of this, she asked me to read her yet-to-be-published manuscript, a story tentatively entitled ‘Intruder’.
I read it, and loved it (of course) and then talked to her about it. Just last Friday, she announced that the book will be published and on her blog, she gave me a little shoutout.
It’s gratifying, a little bit humbling and lots exciting that I may have had a tiny part to play in the publication of this book. The blog entry is here.
The self promotion ends now.
And if you want to have a look at her writing up till now, I have both of her previously published YA novels in the library. Dust and Henry Hoey Hobson.
So there was this book. And you guys didn’t love it. Or really even give it a chance. Which is strange truly, because it’s full of all the things you like: Murder, mayhem, and mystery. It’s got the lot!
The main character of Unspoken is a girl. Kami is half- English, half-Japanese. She’s the nosiest, most pushy, most direct and most funny protaganist I have seen in a while. And she’s also nuts. Because she talks to this voice in her head. His name is Jared and he has always lived in her head, and she’s never alone.
So of course, what happens in this book, is that Kami discovers that Jared is actually a person whose family have now moved to the small English town (more like a hamlet), where Kami’s family lives (it’s go the best name ever btw – Sorry-in-the-Vale), and they cannot believe the other is real.
While trying to cope with that huge shift in their world view, Kami & Jared also have to deal with the discovery of sorcerers trying to enslave the town, the murder of one of the girls at school, and the role each has to play to defeat this cruel, all consuming magic power.
Sarah Rees Brennan does not care about her readers’ feeling AT. ALL. I say this with conviction, because she tears my heart out every books she writes (all listed here) and then lets people call her evil for hurting us so much. I tell you, there is not a better author out there for putting her characters through hell and back, and even then, don’t assume everything will be happy every after either…
Anyway, this is meant to be about Untold, the second book in the series. it has just been released. The angst continues. The plotting against the evil sorcerer continues, and the action is filled with humour and insight and a pretty terrific storytelling ability. I like that Rees Brennan’s characters are flawed and not all that good at communicating. There are occasions of miscommunication, and noble sacrifices to be made and one very scared 10 yr old boy.
Look, it’s beautifully written, it moves along at a great pace, and the up-in-the-air resolution will have you pulling your hair out for the next one (not due till 2014). In the meantime, you could check out her some of her other books, which I have in the library.
The main character is a mystery to us. The blurb at places like Goodreads will spoil her identity and I think it would be better to read this book without knowing anything about Meg and let the puzzle reveal itself slowly just as it does to the other main character of the novel, Simon.
What makes this paranormal book stand out is the writing. It is exquisitely beautiful, with lots of interesting details about all the characters and the landscape, so that this rather strange land and its strange inhabitants come alive for the reader.
I liked this very different portayal of a paranormal world. Instead of all the creatures being hidden from the humans, ‘the others’ are depicted as being the indigenous peoples and once the humans arrived and had to learn to learn within their parameters. There is an uneasy alliance between the two groups, and there are aspects of this narrative that seem more dystopian than paranormal. But as well as that, there is also a magical element and a bit of a romance and lots of action and mayhem.
As Meg’s generous spirit entrenches its way into the hearts of these creatures, we see the beginnings of a rift developing. The fragile truce is exposed and the future of the two races is put at risk.
This is highly intelligent, gripping stuff – the way all adventure books for young people should be written. Enough ick to get you guys interested, enough sophistication to keep us oldies happy. Seek it out today.