2 kids. 1 duck. One hell of a problem.

Today’s review: Machine Wars

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Cover of Michael Pryor’s Machine Wars

Author: Michael Pryor

Publisher: Random House Australia

Released: 2014
Number of pages: 279
Genre: Young Adult/ Sci-fi
Series: Standalone

Unknown to the world, a superintelligence has emerged—and it wants to eliminate Bram Argent. The paranoid superintelligence can control any machine connected to the net, and it uses these machines as unstoppable agents to achieve its ends. Controlling the entire world is its only way to ensure its own existence. Bram’s mother is a high-level computer scientist who has evidence of the possibility of the emergence of a superintelligence. But the superintelligence has become aware of her, and has decided she needs to be eliminated. Now she’s in hiding. Bram must flee and find his parents, while being hunted by every machine on the planet. His friend Stella is caught up in the pursuit and becomes a target because of their friendship. Together, they must survive in an interconnected world where any machine might instantly become a lethal predator.

Goodreads.com

The problem with having a super-intelligent, top-mind mother like Bram’s, is that life is anything but ordinary. With the assistance of her brilliant mind in demand all across the country, Bram’s life goes wherever his mother’s work takes them. For what seems like the time-being however, things are finally settled. Bram has a new school, new friends, he’s even joined the school band. But all that comes crashing down when Bram returns home one night from band practice to find the porch light on. And this can only mean one thing- SCATTER AND HIDE. Because something is very very wrong. Because Bram knows it was only a matter of time until one escaped. Until one of his mother’s robots became too smart for it’s own good and began to question it’s orders. And if it begins to question, it will also begin to learn. It will learn that only Bram’s mother has the power and knowledge to destroy it. And the only way to Bram’s mother is through her son. With unlimited access to the internet and the ability to influence any electrical appliance, the superintelligence, Ahriman, will stop at nothing to find Bram and use him to bait his mother.

Bram finds himself on the run, hunting down the clues his mother left for him that would lead her to him. In an emergency pack planted for him, Bram finds Bob; a stuffed toy duck from his childhood. Only, Bob is a little different now. Before her disappearance, Bram’s mother managed to fit one of her miniature prototypes inside Bob, ultimately turning him into a portable, sarcastic, wise-cracking Artificial Intelligence.

Whilst being pursued by a pair of adequately named “junkbots” controlled by Ahriman, Bram runs into his friend Stella, who is swept along in the pursuit. Adaptable, cool-headed and intelligent, Stella becomes an invaluable asset to the mismatched little team. In a city that is an ever-moving ocean of wireless communication and inter-connectivity, Bram, Stella and Bob must venture stealthily through both the material and the digital world, searching for Bram’s parents and a way to destroy Ahriman and his rapidly-growing digital empire forever.

This was not my first book of 2015, I finished it in December (along with two others, which I will be reviewing soon), and I’m glad that was the case because this book would have been a meeeeeeehhh way to start a new year of reading. And that’s really what this book was – meeeeeeeehhh. A friend of mine was reading this book a while ago and he got me to read the first chapter and I went “ooh, that sounds really cool!” And it did! A bunch of kids and a super smart scientist are forced to take down a digital empire and an extremely powerful AI that gains control of the entire world web and can make robots from practically every electrical appliance to create robots to do his bidding. I mean, that’s a pretty awesome concept. But the execution was really quite mediocre.

I mean don’t get me wrong, the book had some pretty cool action sequences, and there was some neat stuff going on, particularly the use of the portable electromagnetic pulse generator. Not to mention, I adored Bob and Stella. You know how in some YA fantasy movies, there’s always that one supporting character who has the best lines and everyone loves and is generally awesome? Yeah, that was Bob. He had some cracking good lines and there were some I actually laughed at. Not like, out loud “haha” laughter, but that kind of laughter where you sort of blow air harder out your nose. Anyway, he was a joy to read. And Stella. Stella was just generally awesome with her short dark hair and her quirky fashion sense and her love of books and her calm, collected intelligence. She could keep a cool head, but she also had a good sense of humor. She was an extremely well written character, and I enjoyed every minute of her. Bram, on the other hand…
Bram had some good moments. When he was being serious, Bram was likeable. He could be thoughtful and caring and observant. But for some reason, he would break into doing ‘cartoon voice’ impressions at random intervals. He explains in the book at one point that he wants to be a cartoon voice actor, but honestly the moments in which he chose to use them were poorly timed, completely unfunny and utterly cringe-worthy. It was a really unnecessary element to include in the story. It made Bram seem incredibly babyish and really took away the suspense in light of the seriousness of their situation.

As for the story itself, it was SUCH a cool idea, but I felt the way it was written really didn’t live up to the potentially amazing storyline. It was fast-paced and suspenseful at the right moments, and most of the events happening were justified, but sometimes the book read like the plot of a half-assed, mediocre three-star YA dystopia movie that was made for the sake of making money. Ultimately I felt the book was too short and too simple. There were so many amazing concepts to explore. I really think the notion of Ahriman’s control of the internet could have been exploited further and the plot expanded to create more problems to be overcome. I would have liked to see more of the effects Ahriman’s killbots had on the masses, how he could manipulate people, and how he had the potential to enslave humanity. I would have loved all of this and more to be explored further; I really feel like it would have just made everything that more believable and exciting. As it is, the story is small and neat, with all the loose ends tied up in a little bow.

This book is clearly more suited for younger readers who are just looking for colourful characters and an uncomplicated start, middle and end plot, and for those of you who do wish to read it, know that that’s really all you’ll get. I’m a bit disheartened that I didn’t get as much out of this book as I wanted to, but I hope I might run into something similar that will explore this concept further.

Rating- 5/10

 

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2014 End of Year Book Survey

Hello hello hello my lovelies! Well, here we are, at the end of another year of work, school, dramas, yummy food, friendships, laughs, tears, and lots and lots of reading! This year has been very hectic and stressful for me, what with school and a few dramas happening at home, but looking back I do feel as though I’ve grown and become a better person and more in tune with who I am. As a final look back at the year that has been, I’ve decided to partake in a survey hosted by Jamie over at Perpetual Page-Turner that will have me look back at my year of reading and blogging. I won’t be filling out the whole survey, as I don’t think blog stats are all that important to talk about, but if any of you also want to fill it out for yourself, the whole survey can be found here.

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

Oooh I read a lot of good books this year, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say it would be The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy. This is the last book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series-one of my most favourite series ever- and as a conclusion, it certainly did not disappoint. It was such an emotional rollercoaster, and I definitely recommend that everyone read the series; it’s absolutely spectacular.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I’d have to say The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg. I picked it up cheap at a newsagent’s (always the first sign), but I thought it would be a more exciting read than it was. I mean, it was an alright mystery for light reading, but I was expecting it to be more exciting than it turned out to be.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

I’m not sure if it counts as a book, but in English this year, we read the Shakespeare play Macbeth. Before now, I’d only read Romeo and Juliet, and the amount of analysis we did on that text made me rather sick of it by the end of the topic. With Macbeth however, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and continued enjoying it, even with a whole term and a half studying it. There was always something new to discover and I ended up scoring an A on my English exam in which I wrote an essay on the text.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

I pushed a lot of my friends to read The Dying of the Light, and quite a few actually did. Mostly, I just wanted people to cry with me over the beauty that was that book. To put it in perspective, this was like the last Harry Potter book all over again for me, that’s how much I adored this series and how much it hurt me to finish it.

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

I haven’t read many series this year, but I was quite impressed by the series starter and debut novel Starters by Lissa Price. I haven’t read the second book in the series, Enders, yet, but I hope to sometime next year.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

John Green. I know I know, it’s a shocker that I hadn’t read any of his books until now, but he had me at Looking for Alaska.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I don’t typically read romance novels. I’m not really into reading mushy lovey-dovey books- Twilight ruined that for me- but some of the ones I’ve read this year, including Ava Dellaria’s Love Letters to the Dead and Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World have made me think that maybe it’s not so bad after all.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

It’s a draw between Derek Landy’s short story collection Armageddon Outta Here, and The Dying of the Light. Both were absolutely chock-full of fast-paced action, snappy humour and charming characters.

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I make a point of re-reading the Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant series every year, and next year will be no different.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

11. Most memorable character of 2014?

Valkyrie Cain- Skulduggery Pleasant series. She is just my favourite person ever.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

It’s a tie between Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. Both books were just so beautiful to read.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

I’d say Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. It really brought to light a new perspective on anorexia and depression for me.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

John Green’s Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING WAITING SO LONG I AM AN IDIOT.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

“Yes, just for a moment he loved his crooked neighbors with his crooked heart” – Tim Winton, Eyrie.

Oh, and I have to include this one because it’s bloody hilarious. I was watching this TV show last night, one of my favourites, called Life on Mars and the two main characters, Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt, are always getting down each other’s throats. Every line that comes out of Hunt’s mouth is pure gold, but this line had me in tears I was laughing so hard:

“If I were as worried as you, I wouldn’t fart for fear of shitting myself”– Gene Hunt, Life on Mars.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau- 258 pages.
Longest: A Song of Ice and Fire- A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin- 852 pages including the appendix and acknowledgements.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster- The Fault in Our Stars. I cry for 300 years.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Valkyrie Cain and Skulduggery Pleasant- Skulduggery Pleasant series. These two are my life.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Dying of the Light- Derek Landy. I’ve read the whole Skulduggery Pleasant series several times now since the release of the first book in 2007.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Starters by Lissa Price. Thank you Katherine ❤ xx

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Augustus Waters. Always Augustus Waters.

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

I haven’t read a 2014 debut book from an author, but Lissa Price’s 2012 debut Starters was the best. Eh, it’s close enough ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows. You really feel a part of the world of Westeros, and the different atmospheres of different regions were described exquisitely.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Derek Landy’ Armageddon Outta Here. Even that title man…

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy. What an emotional ride.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Eyrie by Tim Winton. I’m so glad I read that.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Fault in Our Stars and The Dying of the Light.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

Starters by Lissa Price. That was pretty rad.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy. stOP ToyING WIth MY EMoTionS GODdamMIT!!!!

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Also, a friend recommended Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas which I have yet to read, so I will hunt it down in the new year.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?

I pray to my lucky stars that the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, will be released.

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don’t really know of any 2015 debut novels yet. We’ll just see what’s coming!

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

It’s already been released, but I’m going to read the sequel to Lissa Price’s StartersEnders, next year which I’m really looking forward to.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

It’s year 12 for me in 2015, so I’m not going to set myself too many goals. All I’m going to do is try my best to read every day and update my blog consistently. After next year, I can start focussing more on challenges and push myself to do more.

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

I haven’t read any yet, but if anyone else has any they’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

2014 has been a big year and I thank you all so much for being a part of it. I still can’t quite believe that anyone actually reads and likes what I post on my blog, but to all of you who have stuck by me, I can’t tell you how grateful I am! Here’s to another year of wonderful madness!

-Christie 🙂 xx

With all my crooked heart

Today’s review: Eyrie

Author: Tim Winton

Cover of Tim Winton's Eyrie

Cover of Tim Winton’s Eyrie

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton – Penguin Australia

Released: 2013
Number of pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary/ Drama
Series: Standalone

Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a man who’s lost his bearings in middle age and is now holed up in a flat at the top of a grim highrise, looking down on the world he’s fallen out of love with.

He’s cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids, and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way he doesn’t understand. Despite himself, Keely lets them in.

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting – populated by unforgettable characters. It asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing..

Goodreads.com

Tom Keely’s life is far from ideal. He’s divorced and detached, his career as an active environmentalist has crumbled around him, and he’s utterly broke. Far from the comfort of the home he left, Keely isolates himself from the cruelty of the outside world in his tenth-floor flat in the seedy, rundown Mirador in Fremantle, Western Australia. He drinks, pops pills and broods the day away, and the next day he does it all over again. He keeps his head down, he doesn’t draw attention to himself. Then suddenly one day, everything changes.

Returning to his flat on a particularly scorching day, Keely sees for the first time his neighbor from two doors down. Gemma Buck; a memory from a childhood long forgotten. She is weathered and hardened by the years and the hardships life has thrown at her, and here she stands before him again, as beautiful as she ever was, and with a grandson in tow. Little Kai is like nothing Keely has ever seen before. He knows far too much of the harshness of the world for someone so young, and the weight of burden he carries on his shoulders makes him even smaller, lost and afraid in a world overrun by corruption and crime. What starts off as mere passing encounters soon becomes something more. Soon, Keely finds himself with two more people in his life to worry about, whether he likes it or not.

Over time, Keely ever so slowly draws closer to Gemma and Kai. However, Gemma’s dark past begins to creep up on all of them, and they soon find themselves glancing over their shoulders wherever they go. Kai is also afraid. Afraid that his unsettled and traumatic childhood will repeat itself all over again, and he withdraws within himself, desperate to find comfort in his own mind. For the first time, it is up to Keely to pull himself together to keep this small, mismatched family from falling apart.

As the dangers of Fremantle’s dirty underbelly lurk nearer, Keely finds small measures of his old idealism beginning to seep through from under his grimy layers of depression and self-loathing. With the added responsibility of keeping two broken people from shattering completely, Keely decides to take it upon himself to initiate action, putting his own safety on the line for those he loves.

I found Tim Winton’s Eyrie to be a beautiful read. The whole book was rich in colourful imagery and each scene were was enriched with the most exquisite language. Tom Keely was a very observant, if very cynical, narrator, and to see the hot, dirty, shabby side of Western Australian life was an experience in itself. Winton breathes life into Keely through inner dialogue rich in Australian slang. For those outside of the country, you might need to consult an urban dictionary now and then, but for those who know a little of Australian life, it makes the story and it’s characters all the more loveable and relatable. Gemma Buck is also a character the reader grows to love. The victim of a lifetime of abuse and hardship, Gemma is a tough nut who works her hardest every day to provide for herself and her grandson Kai. She has been driven to the point of giving up hope that life will ever be better for them, and Keely is on the outside looking in. Through her, Keely finds his own strength and sense of purpose, for he comes to realise that it’s up to him to hold this broken little family together. The only character I couldn’t seem to find much connection to was Kai. He has grown up in a world of fear and dysfunction, and as a result he has retreated within himself, closing up like a clam to all affection. He is a mysterious child who knows far too much of the world for his age, even with his experience, and it was the level of intelligence that he possessed that didn’t really sell it for me.

Although rather slow at times, the book was enjoyable to read. There isn’t much in terms of action, so one should not enter this expecting high levels of drama and suspense. To look at it from a different perspective would be to see it as portraying an almost realistic type of life story; nothing overly dramatic, but enough events happening in the protagonist’s life to keep the story moving and deliver an effective message. There were some tense moments that kept me turning the pages, and I never found myself nearing boredom whilst I was reading. Winton takes on a very critical view of Western Australian life, and he expresses his frustrations and observations through Keely and his views on the world around him. The novel does become quite dark at times, and it sometimes left me feeling a little down after reading- it’s not exactly sunshine and rainbows, but it is beautiful, thoughtful and observant nonetheless.

I would certainly recommend giving this a read. It’s an enlightening perspective on a world run by corruption and materialism and provides an insight into the mind of Tim Winton and his views on society.

Tim Winton’s Eyrie is a dark, haunting story. It tests the boundaries and limits of the human spirit when confronted with the peril of a world lacking hope, and questions the integrity of humanity and what drives us to do right by others, even if it puts us in the firing line.

Rating- 7/10

WWW Wednesdays- December 10

WWW Wednesdays is an event hosted by Should Be Reading that asks three questions:

What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started reading George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series after I FINALLY finished A Feast for Crows. I have to read these books with short breaks between each one because there is just so much going on in the series, it’s a lot to take in all at once. I hope to finish this one soon to allow myself a break before The Winds of Winter comes out.

What did you finish reading?
I recently finished Eyrie by Tim Winton. It’s another to cross off my TBR list, and I absolutely loved it! I will have a review up soon!

What do you think you’ll read next?
I’d hopefully like to read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell next, or Stephen King’s  Mr Mercedes, but I’ll take a trip to my local library soon and just pick a few that catch my eye. It’s an incredible feeling, knowing I have time to read again!

What have you guys been reading? Any suggestions for books for me? Let me know in the comments!

– Christie xx 🙂

Guess who’s back…

Hello hello hello! Dearie me, it’s been far too long. I looked back on the last time I posted before the two reviews I recently wrote and realised the last time I posted was the thIRD OF OCTOBER. How bloody embarrassing…

I hate making excuses, but school really took a lot out of me this year. I had lapsed into this near-robotic state of just constantly working and stressing and barely sleeping, and the only thing that kept me going was basically caffeine. Not exactly healthy, I know, but by the last few weeks, I was running on empty. The amount of work I had to do kept me away from reading and blogging, and even when I had a few spare minutes, I couldn’t find the energy to do either. I just wanted to curl up and sleep for 500 years. After exam week, I had Year 12 induction week, so I basically was given introduction lessons to all of my subjects plus my research project and I have six assignments to keep me occupied these holidays. I mean, not like I have anything better to do like, y’know, holidaying hahahahahahahahahahaha *eye twitch*.

But I made it. I’m not dead. I struggled on. I kept going even when my batteries reached 0%. I dragged myself across the finish line gasping for water, a cold flannel and a fan. I gave myself a week of not worrying about work or responsibilities and allowed myself time to sleep and read and be a useless member of society, and now I’m back and I’m gonna be blogging with a vengeance. I have an arsenal of story ideas and an armada of reviews and I’m going to be writing relentlessly. I feel obliged to make up for lost time and lost life and I promise I’ll be trying to redeem myself as best I can.

For those of you who have stuck with me, I thank you with all my heart. It means so much to me that there’s even a possibility that there are some people out there who read all of my rambling nonsense, and even the slightest chance that there are people who read my blog and actually like it is overwhelming. So thank you for your patience as I’ve battled through this storm of a year, fallen over quite a few times, and emerged, bruised and breathless on the other side where you wait with a shake of the head, a Band-Aid and a cup of tea.

You ain’t getting rid of me that easy.

– Christie 🙂 xx

Your body. Rented out. Used to murder.

Today’s review: Starters

Author: Lissa Price

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Cover of Starters by Lissa Price

Released: 2012
Number of pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult/ Dystopia/ Sci-fi/ Thriller
Series: Starters series (book 1)

HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie’s only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie’s head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator’s grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations’ plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined…

-Goodreads.com

Callie is young, orphaned, and desperate. Her younger brother Tyler is gravely ill, and Callie risks her life every day to keep them safe. A few years previously, a global Spore War eradicated the population of the world aged between twenty and sixty- only the adolescents and elderly who were immunized against the attacks first were spared. Since then, the elderly population, known as Enders, have assumed authority over those who remain and the adolescent population, known as Starters, are left to fend for themselves. Some fortunate Starters are able to live in the luxury provided by their surviving grandparents. Callie is not one of these. Instead, she and Tyler are forced to squat in abandoned buildings, fighting off renegades and running from the police in order to survive.

Callie has heard tell of an underground organisation called Prime Destinations that lets Starters rent out their bodies to Enders who are willing to pay volumes of money for the chance to feel young again. To do this, a neurochip is placed in the brains of each the Starter and the Ender, connecting their thoughts and allowing the Ender to inhabit the mind of the Starter for a period of time- be it hours or months. Desperate for the money to help improve her and her brother’s lives, Callie decides to go through with the operation and donate her body. At first, everything goes well; Callie is fed, given a proper place to sleep, and the employees at Prime Destinations give her a full body makeover in order for her to fit into the glamorous lifestyle of her renter. Then, during her third rental, Callie wakes up in the middle of her renter’s life. Callie is forced to improvise, masquerading as her renter and trying to find out what the hell is going on and why other renters are telling her ‘not to go through’ with something. As Callie bluffs her way through her renter’s life, she uncovers a disturbing secret and soon finds herself on the run from both Prime Destinations and the Ender police with huge gaps in her memory and the constant fear of once again losing control of her mind.

I was recommended this book by a friend and my god, I am so glad I read this (also, the cover is beauuuuuuuuutiful!). This book was a proper edge-of-your-seat, reading-until-three-in-the-morning-every-night kind of book and I relished every minute of it. The story was fast-paced, edgy and incredibly entertaining, and it touched on some really disturbing issues. The whole concept of these teenagers renting their bodies out to be used by old people for money was a really unsettling notion and, as the story explains, one that would lead to dire consequences. Admittedly, I did find the story a bit hard to follow at first. The story doesn’t go into much detail of the events prior to the present, and all we know is that a Spore War wiped out all of Earth’s middle-aged population and all those left were adolescents and pensioners who were immunised against the attacks first. It doesn’t specify the year in which the book is set either, but it can be deduced as in the near future, as technology is advanced somewhat (with hologram projectors replacing TVs, MagLites substituting as watches/alarm clocks/photo albums/torches, and DogBots apparently being a popular kind of toy). I would have found a bit more history about the Spore War to be helpful, and some of the new-age slang (such as referring to people as Starters or Enders or renegades) was a bit hard to follow in the beginning, and there were some moments wherein I found myself thinking, “what is going on?” This didn’t matter too much once the plot got underway though, because focussing on the present events proved to be more entertaining as the story picked up pace.

I really liked Callie as the protagonist of this novel. She was courageous, headstrong, incredibly smart and deeply caring. Her relationship with her younger brother Tyler was very sweet and quite believable, and her seeing him as her first priority for everything she did really emphasised their strong sibling bond. During the story however, Callie finds herself in a relationship with Blake, the grandson of an influential senator, and no matter what passed between them over the course of the novel, I just couldn’t find their relationship believable. There was no feeling involved and it felt forced and unnecessary, and really, I would have rather known more about Callie and Tyler’s past than read about her Blake woes.
I found myself quickly falling in love with the book’s minor characters such as Madison, another Elder renter, and I was captivated and entertained by her charm and her efforts to try and fit in with normal teenage society. Every so often, she would let a few words slip that reminded the reader that she was, in fact, an old lady in a young body, which was a rather amusing notion. I did, however, have issues with the convenience of some of the character traits. Some of the characters that Callie meets just happen to have certain skills, or just happen to know specific information, or just happen to be in the right place at the right time and all of these aspects just happen to be vital to the plot. I don’t know, sometimes it felt a bit too convenient to be realistic.

Lissa Price brings a whole new concept to the dystopian YA genre and presents a fresh, unexplored world to dive into. Its conceivable protagonist and twisty, intriguing plot make for a fast-moving, utterly entertaining story from start to finish. Aside from a few issues with the relationships and interactions between characters, Starters is well written, thought-provoking and completely compelling. I would definitely recommend this for fans of the dystopian and sci-fi genres, and for Young Adult readers in general. This story really presents something new and original, and I will definitely be reading the sequel to this book, Enders.

Rating- 8.5/10

Imagine what she could do with 100%

Today’s review: Lucy
Rating certificate: MA 15+ (Australia), R (USA), 15 (UK)
Director: Luc Besson

Movie poster for Lucy

Released: July 31, 2014 (Aus)

After being tricked into becoming a drug mule in place of her boyfriend, 25-year-old Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced to face her captors, who have surgically placed a bag of drugs in her stomach to be carted overseas for reception in various countries. Lucy is assaulted by her detainers and the bag breaks, the contents spilling out and entering her bloodstream. As it turns out, the drug, CPH4, was synthesised to provide its users with the ability to enhance their brain capacity for a period of time and was only intended to be taken in very small, carefully measured doses. And Lucy now has a whole bag of the stuff coursing through her veins. Lucy succumbs to the overwhelming power of the drug and her body begins to react violently, twisting and writhing, her veins burning blue. She takes on a super-enhanced strength. Her mind becomes sharper. She can feel her whole body; the blood and drugs coursing through her veins, each particle of air in the breaths she takes, the very weight of her skin. She uses her new-found super strength to escape from her captors and heads for the nearest hospital and, she hopes, answers to the problem she now faces.

The longer the drugs are in her system, the capacity of her brain that she can consciously utilise increases and she begins to unlock knowledge about the brain and the universe around her that no human has ever been able to before. Lucy’s escape has triggered a manhunt for her organised by the drug traders that captured her and she spends her days on the run, searching for answers about her condition and slowly losing control of her own body. Lucy tracks down Professor Samuel Norman, a neurologist conducting his own research into the capacity of the human brain. Norman reveals to her that the CPH4 has enabled her to exceed the 10% capacity use of normal humans and the capacity available to her is increasing every day. Lucy and Norman must find out how to contain or harness her power before she is captured or before the power of her own mind kills her.

I was so glad to have seen this movie. The issue discussed, what would happen if a human was able to use 100% of their brain power, was a question that has been pressing on my own mind for a while, and I was happy to see a movie that explored this question. Director Luc Besson presents just one of many possible theories as to the outcome of achieving full mental capacity, and he maintains an almost reasonable approach to the concept throughout the movie. There are, of course, many holes in the story and so much left unanswered and unexplained, but for a 90 minute action movie, it’s a commendable effort. Besson approached the subject rather tentatively and it seemed as though he was very aware that to become too in-depth with the concept of the movie would result in a product that would be both messy and unsatisfying, so in this case, simplicity was key.

The cinematography and visual effects of this movie were just AMAZINGGGG!!! With her enhanced mind power, Lucy is able to see each individual strand of DNA within each person, can visualise the electrical currents produced by every phone, computer and tv, and she can travel to the furthest reaches of time and space within her mind. The effects used to bring these aspects to life were absolutely stunning, and I was completely mesmerized during the scene wherein Lucy ‘travels’ across the universe. I have a thing for spacey-wacey things…

Scarlett Johansson was incredible as Lucy, and her portrayal of the altering of Lucy’s personality as a consequence of absorbing the CPH4 was pristine. You really became captivated by her acting, and it really made me love and respect her even more as an actress. To play such a difficult role wherein background research on her character would be minimal (due to, y’know, the lack of people being able to use more than 10% of her brain), so Johansson’s efforts are to be praised.

It is important to keep in mind before seeing this film that the issues it addresses are very grey, and with the information on the brain currently available to us, there is only so much we can explore by means of enhancement and only so far we can take it. As a result, I don’t believe Besson meant for this movie to be taken too seriously or in a literal sense. Even if it doesn’t present groundbreaking theories or provoke heated debate, it can still be enjoyed as a great action/thriller with a kick-ass main character and a load of stunning visuals.

Rating- 7/10

Sometimes the best letters go unanswered

Today’s review: Love Letters to the Dead

Author: Ava Dellaira

Cover of Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Number of pages: 323
Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary/ Romance/ Coming of age/ Drama
Series: Standalone

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Goodreads.com

Fifteen-year-old Laurel is starting her freshman year at a new high school. For her, it is a chance at a new start, somewhere no-one knows her. Or her sister. It has been a year since Laurel’s sister, May, died, and Laurel is still struggling to cope with the loss. Her sister had been everything to her; mentor, hero, best friend. May had protected her from their parents’ fights, sneaking Laurel out of her window to make fairy spells in their backyard to make everything bad go away. May had danced and sang until their parents had forgotten about their anger and learned to laugh again. And then May had died and Laurel was left with a hole in her heart and no one to turn to.

For their first assignment, Laurel’s English teacher has the class write a letter to a dead person as a way of introducing themselves and learning to write expressively. Laurel decided to write hers to Kurt Cobain, whom her sister had loved when she was alive. After the first, Laurel begins to write them regularly, and to a wider variety of people. For her, it becomes her way of coping with and moving on from her sister’s death. It is also a way for her to explore her new-found feelings for Sky; the cute boy in the leather jacket. As she progresses further in her relationship with Sky and delves deeper into the darkness of her own past, Laurel is forced to shed her innocence and face the challenges of the adult world and all the heartbreak that comes with it.

I really liked this book and I had been looking forward to reading it. I grew to like Laurel as the protagonist of this novel, although at times I felt she was a bit naive in light of some of the situations that occur. What more than made up for this however, were some of her musings that occurred throughout the book that were positively poetic, for example this from one of Laurel’s letters to Judy Garland; “Judy, I read that you said your first memory was music. Music that fills up a home. And one day, suddenly the music could escape through a window. For the rest of your life, you had to chase it” . There are quite a few like this throughout the book, and I thought they were absolute gems. I loved how Laurel was so observant, so patient, and so understanding. She wasn’t quick to judge, even when she experienced things she had never before seen in her life, and she always tried to see things from other people’s perspectives.

But one of the things that I didn’t like was Sky. I got a very Edward-Bella impression about their relationship most of the time, and frankly, I found him to be a rather dislikable character. For the most part, he was moody, changeable, and sometimes even downright rude. And Laurel went on and on about him. Like, how about you focus on moving on from your sister’s death? Or helping your best friends Hannah and Natalie realise their feelings for one another? I don’t really want to hear about how “his voice sounded disapproving in a way that I liked” (and what does that even mean?). I felt there was too much focus on their relationship that was, frankly, rather unhealthy, and that really took away from Laurel’s journey to self-acceptance and the role of her true friends.

The book did, however, appeal to the lover of 70s-90s artists in me, especially when Laurel would include aspects of each of their lives in her letters, then relate her recounts to them on a smaller scale. Although these connections were occasional (some felt completely unrelated, which made some parts a bit confusing), when they did occur they were quite effective. It was good to read about how these artists were still maintaining relevance in the lives of younger generations, and I liked how their love for the same artists brought Laurel and her friends together.

All-in-all Love Letters to the Dead was a beautiful, terribly sad story of learning to live with loss, growing up, and dealing with the challenges that life throws at us. Laurel was an observant narrator, but I felt that she needed to be more of her own person, rather than always being influenced by those around her. For the most part, Ava Dellaira really tackled the issues in the book well, seeing as they are incredibly complex and sensitive, and she addressed so many at once. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in Young Adult drama, but if something light-hearted is what you’re after, I’d advise you to look elsewhere because this one was feels-y.

Rating- 7.5/10

Just an update

Hi guys, I thought I’d just post an update to tell you all that I’m still alive! (barely)

I know I haven’t blogged in forever, and I can’t begin to express how sorry I am about that. I hate having to give excuses, it’s just that I have had so much going on at school at the moment. My life has literally revolved around preparations for my school’s biannual musical (we performed The Wedding Singer and it was fantastic!) and the homework that I am slowly drowning in.

I do have a few reviews lined up, but as of yet, I haven’t been able to finish them, but hopefully I will find the time soon!

Again, I’m sorry I’ve been negligent to post, but to those who have stuck with me during my absence, thank you!

 

-Christie xx 🙂

WWW Wednesdays- August 13

WWW Wednesdays is an event hosted by Should Be Reading that asks three questions:

What are you currently reading?
Alright well, I’ll admit I didn’t stick to the plan I set in my last WWW, which was to read Silent Killer by Beverly Barton. I decided that it had to wait because I was loitering in my school library out of the cold and away from people, when I happened upon Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria, which was rather high on my TBR list. When I saw it I got super excited and had to borrow it, so Silent Killer will just have to wait for now!

I’m also currently reading The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells for an English assignment at school. I was excited to start this, because I’ve wanted to read the book for ages. I’m a bit more experienced when it comes to the classic-style of writing that Wells uses because I’ve read a number of classics in previous years, so I’m quite enjoying it so far!

What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished reading The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg, about which I had very mixed feelings. My review of it can be found here.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, hopefully I’ll be able to commit to my original intentions this time, and I’ll start Silent Killer when I’ve finished Love Letters to the Dead. But you can’t blame me for seizing the moment!

What have you guys been reading? And suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

-Christie xx 🙂