What happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

Today’s review: The In-Between

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Cover of Barbara Stewart’s The In-Between

Author: Barbara Stewart

Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin

Released: 2013
Number of pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary/ Fantasy/ Paranormal/ Thriller
Series: Standalone

When Elanor’s near-death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by bold, beautiful Madeline, she finds her life quickly spiraling out of control.

Fourteen-year-old Elanor Moss has always been an outcast who fails at everything she tries—she’s even got the fine, white scars to prove it. Moving was supposed to be a chance at a fresh start, a way to leave behind all the pain and ugliness of her old life. But, when a terrible car accident changes her life forever, her near-death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by Madeline Torus . . . Madeline is everything Elanor isn’t: beautiful, bold, brave. She is exactly what Elanor has always wanted in a best friend and more—their connection runs deeper than friendship. But Madeline is not like other girls, and Elanor has to keep her new friend a secret or risk being labeled “crazy.” Soon, though, even Elanor starts to doubt her own sanity. Madeline is her entire life, and that life is drastically spinning out of control. Elanor knows what happens when your best friend becomes your worst enemy. But what happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

With her debut novel, The In-Between, Barbara Stewart presents a bold new voice in teen fiction.

Goodreads.com

Ellie Moss thought that moving house would give her a fresh start at life. Old Ellie was depressed, overweight, and suicidal. Her best friend had dropped her as soon as she found someone better. A razor blade to her wrist was the only way Old Ellie could ever feel anything. But the move was going to change everything. New Ellie would be smart, confident, in-shape. New Ellie would make loads of friends at her new school in her new life. But then came the car crash, and with it, Ellie’s new life crumbled around her. With a severe brain injury and the loss of a parent hanging over her, Ellie soon finds herself withdrawing back into the old shell that she was so desperate to escape.

But then came Madeline Torus. Moving into a new home with one parent in an urn on the study desk is enough to have Ellie’s fingers edging towards a razor blade again. But then, seemingly out of the blue, appears Madeline; the girl of Ellie’s dreams. Madeline is beautiful, intelligent, and best of all, she understand Ellie like no one ever has. She too is running from a dark past that is slowly catching up. Ellie’s life becomes more and more dependent on Madeline; she is her rock, her only source of comfort, and ironically, her only source of sanity. But soon, Ellie finds that the longer she spends with Madeline, the less control she has over her own life. Ellie begins to say and do things without control of her actions, and the deeper she is pushed into her friendship with Madeline, Ellie begins to realise the dangers of love, loneliness and obsession beyond control.

This was officially my first book for 2015, and it really started on a high! It is a little bit hard to review this book, due to the many crucial plot points that I will try to avoid, lest I spoil the book, but I will do my best!
Set in a quiet town where the nearest little big city is half an hour away, The In-Between is immediately effective in setting the quiet, eerie scenes of the book’s events. Isolation is a major theme of this book and whilst protagonist Ellie Moss is isolated within herself, the remoteness of the setting adequately reinforces this. I do have a soft spot for quiet little towns and forest settings, which I suppose made me enjoy it more, but I did think that the reclusive setting was very appropriate for the book’s story and themes.

I felt that the story moved at a good pace, the events and the narration moving just fast enough to keep it engaging, but not so slow as it dragged along. I was always motivated to keep reading, and I did, sometimes late into the night which was a nice feeling- I haven’t done that with a book in a while! As the plot marched along, the tension began to increase significantly. The book has you asking a lot of questions at the start, but don’t let that put you off, everything is explained in good time, and as the pieces of the puzzle began to come together, I found myself racing through the book, reading as fast as I could to find the answers. The book focused primarily on Ellie’s obsession with Madeline and the world of the “in-between”, and although Ellie did gain a love interest at one point, it didn’t distract from the tension and gravity of the main plot, for which I thanked my lucky stars.

I really liked Ellie as the narrator. She was observant, sincere, and honest. The book, written like a journal, has her recounting her days’ events, recording the events happening in the moment, and documenting all her thoughts and feelings about Madeline and her life. The book is rich in emotion, but it’s not so terribly angsty that it becomes boring to read. The reader also maintains a level of curiosity about Ellie throughout the duration of the book. For almost the entirety of the story, it’s unclear to the reader whether Ellie is mentally ill, still suffering from the car crash, or if there truly is something paranormal happening around her. As Ellie delves deeper into her complex relationship with Madeline, it becomes clear that there is a certain other-worldliness about the events that occur around them.

Barbara Stewart’s The In-Between is a dark, twisted story of love and obsession. The writing is smart, poetic and insightful. The story is rich in imagery, the characters diverse, and the plot engaging and suspenseful. I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of YA fiction, and anyone with a taste for the thrills of the paranormal. This was a fun, if rather dark, read, and I’ll count it as a good start to my year in reading!

Rating- 8.5/10

Beautiful people can do terrible things

Today’s review: Black Ice

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Cover of Leah Giarratano’s Black Ice

Author: Leah Giarratano

Publisher: Random House Australia

Released: 2009
Number of pages: 323
Genre: Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller
Series: The Detective Jill Jackson series (#3)

Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson is working undercover in Sydney’s murky drug world. Living in a run-down apartment and making unlikely friends, Jill sees first hand what devastation the illegal drugs scene can wreak. Meanwhile Jill’s sister Cassie has a new boyfriend, Christian Worthington. He is one of the beautiful people, rich and good looking with a great job doing pro bono work. But he is also Cassie’s supplier, keeping her drawers filled with cocaine and crystal meth. When Cassie overdoses and is dumped at the hospital her life begins to spiral out of control. Now Jill must try to save her sister without blowing her cover and months of undercover work.

Goodreads.com

For Sydney Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson, life never has a dull moment. For her latest assignment, Jill is working undercover to investigate the city’s dirty underbelly, hoping to uncover a drug network that is aiming to supply street dealers with enough illegal substance to lead them to an early retirement. Posing as society outcast Krystal Peters, Jill is forced to distance herself from her family and friends, knowing that if even the slightest hint that she was an undercover cop got out, the entire operation would fall into ruins. The pressure begins to mount as Jill and her partner Gabriel, posing as Krystal’s boyfriend, work against the clock to gather evidence against notorious drug baron Kasem Nader and bring down his operation. As of this moment, the reputation of the Sydney police department and the future of the city’s drug world rest on their shoulders.

Cassie Jackson is living the high life. A rich, successful model, she surrounds herself with the company of only the highest in society. Her new boyfriend, Christian Worthington, is one of the beautiful people. He is a rich, successful lawyer with a glowing reputation by day, and Cassie’s cocaine and crystal meth supplier by night. But his handsome, friendly face is only a facade that conceals his ice-cold heart and when Cassie overdoses one night, he dumps her at a hospital, naked and afraid. Cassie finds herself at crossroads. She is torn between wanting to do right by her sister, working undercover in the world she lives in, and being forced deeper into the world of wealth and beauty and bags of sparkling crystals.

Seren is finally out of jail, on parole, and ready to start a new life with her son… but there’s one thing she has to take care of first. Working day after day at a slaughterhouse that she despises with every bone in her body, Seren saves every penny, using her wages to pay for a camera, laptop, and new clothes. Seren has a plan. One that involves blackmail. Tricked into carrying drugs by her ex-boyfriend, Seren was caught and spent the entirety of her jail time devising her plan for revenge against the man that landed her there in the first place- Christian Worthington. With her son needing taken care of and her parole officer breathing down her neck, Seren must use all her cunning in order to see her plan through. The future of herself and her son depend on it.

Damien is one of the smartest guys at the Sydney University. Studying for his degree in chemistry, Damien begins to explore his curiosity about just how smart he is- he wants to see if he can cook crystal meth. And he can. Very well. He and his best mate Whitey begin to deal to small groups of people on the university campus. Nothing big, just supplying enough to cover people’s parties or Saturday night outings. Nothing that would draw any attention. But soon, more people are asking, and Damien finds himself with more cash than he can find and excuse for. And then, he draws attention. Kasem Nader arrives at the door of his house wanting to recruit Damien as his new cook. Damien is stuck. He never wanted things to go this far, but he knows that if he backs out now, it will surely end badly for him. Little does he know, his trouble has only just begun.

From inside, outside and above, Leah Giarratano’s Black Ice delves into the dark, dangerous underbelly of the glittering city of Sydney and explores the devastating effects that illegal drugs have on the lives of individuals and those they love.

This book was officially the last one I read in 2014, and I thought it was a pretty good way to end! I haven’t read any of Giarratano’s books before, but when I read in her bio that she is a forensic psychologist with an extensive history of working with the psychologically traumatised and investigating some of Australia’s worst criminals, I knew that I had to give this a read! This book is the third in the Detective Jill Jackson series (which I didn’t know until after I finished the book), but I didn’t really experience much confusion about characters or storylines, as the book recounts a standalone event, and any information about characters in the previous books is touched on briefly.

I myself have been to Sydney a couple of times, and I enjoyed Giarratano’s descriptions of certain parts of Sydney, such as Darling Harbour, the park-lands near the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the shops on Dixon Street, all of which I have been to! I felt that Giarratano was colourful in her imagery and set her scenes very well. Perhaps it was because I had been there already, but I could picture the settings vividly. Giarratano pulls you into the bustling, dazzling life of Sydney, but she is also able to distinguish the lines between the Sydney glamour scene and Sydney’s dirty underbelly very well. As Jill Jackson works her way through some of the seedier parts of town (which, thankfully, I haven’t been to), Giarratano is effective in inducing an air of tension into the scenes. The reader knows that half of the people she talks to are high on drugs, and the unpredictability of their actions has you holding your breath at some points.

As for the story itself, I found it to be quite entertaining most of the way through. There are some books that I just never put down and race my way through them to the end, but unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t boring as such, there were just some moments that I had to will myself a little more to get through. But the action really picked up during Seren and Jill’s action scenes, and it was those chapters I looked forward to the most. Both of them working on either side of the law to bring down the same people could get quite tense. All it would take was one wrong move to bring down the operation.

It was the characters in this book that I loved the most. I absolutely adored all the main characters, Seren in particular. From Giarratano’s writing, it is clear that psychology is incredibly effective when it comes to creating unique and believable characters. And all of those in Black Ice were exactly this. Perhaps because I haven’t read the first two books of the series, but I didn’t hold out much sympathy for Jill’s traumatic past, but in this book when she fought with her sister, I shared in her frustration, and when she was getting too close for comfort undercover, I felt her tense anticipation. I marveled at Cassie’s maturity. Although forced to be by his side, Cassie was still her own woman and wasn’t naive enough to remain constantly dependent on Christian. Although I became frustrated with her at some points, I did develop a level of respect and sympathy for her. Seren was my number 1 gal. I rooted for her the whole time, and I was impressed by her strength of will and her intelligence. She was meticulous in her planning against Christian, but she didn’t become so obsessed with her objective that she neglected her son or her parole terms. Her ability to juggle all of these factors and keep her cool with the risk of being caught by Christian was admirable and thoroughly entertaining to read. Giarratano even took the care to put an exceptional amount of effort into her minor characters such as Damien, with whom I expressed complete sympathy. It’s not every day you come across a book with a repertoire of such unique and realistic characters, and Black Ice is a gold mine.

Leah Giarratano’s Black Ice is a tension-filled, action-packed ride into Sydney’s dark, dirty underworld. It asks how far one would go to ensure the safety of their city, explores the importance of revenge and the price one must pay to achieve it, and highlights how for some, beauty is only skin-deep, and beneath the surface lies something black and cold and sinister.

I would certainly recommend this book to others, especially those who love a good crime thriller. It’s a fun, edgy read that will give you Sydney like you’ve never seen it before.

Rating- 8/10

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

 

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

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

Not forgotten. And never forgiven…

Today’s review: The Stranger

Author: Camilla Lackberg

Cover of The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg

Publisher: Harper
Number of Pages: 381
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Thriller/Scandinavian Literature
Series: The Patrik Hedström Series

A series of tragic road accidents and the murder of a reality TV contestant mark the end to a quiet winter for Detective Patrik Hedström.

– Goodreads.com

The Stranger is the fourth instalment in the Patrik Hedström series by renowned Queen of Scandi-crime, Camilla Lackberg. After a predominantly quiet winter at Tanumshede police station, Detective Patrik Hedström and his colleagues are called to the scene of a car accident. The female driver reeks of alcohol and the case is destined to be written off as a tragic accident. After Patrik discovers a number of discrepancies around the case however, the team at Tanumshede are led to believe that there is more to this accident than meets the eye. On this same day, the station welcomes the newest member to their task force, Hanna Kruse, an officer with a wealth of experience and ambition who hopes to one day climb to a position of chief of police. Meanwhile, the small town of Tanumshede is alive with excitement; cameras are being set up all over town for the beginning of the filming of a new reality TV programme. When an unpopular cast member of the show is later found murdered, Patrik is forced to stretch his mind and his resources to the limit in order to tackle the two cases at once. In addition, his wedding is less than a month away…

If I could summarise this book in one word, it would probably be… comfortable. That’s a little odd for a crime novel, isn’t it? But that’s what it is, it’s comfortable. Which, admittedly, can be a little disappointing. I didn’t actually understand anything that was going on at the start of the novel, but I suppose that was my fault, because I hadn’t realised at first that this novel was part of a series, and so it probably would’ve made more sense at the beginning if I had read the first three books in the Patrik Hedström series. The story did, however, touch more on the background of each of the characters and previous events as the story progressed, so I was eventually able to understand where these people came from and what had happened previously.

I really liked the main characters in this novel, especially Patrik and his fiancee Erica. They are both warm-hearted, yet flawed people, each laden with their own emotional baggage. I loved Erica as the independent, smart, free-thinking woman who is almost like a best friend to Patrik, as well as a lover. What I find even better is that Patrik respects and admires her, and even though she is not a part of the police force, still values her opinions on the cases. I felt that this was a prime example of women treated as equals by their male counterparts in books, instead of just being add-on characters to complain about how their husband is never home, or to provide the cliche “troubled family life of a cop” scenario. Erica respects her husband’s work and understands that the weight of the cases require him to be at the station more often, and even though this is so, Erica is not just an object to be pushed aside when something big comes along. Erica is always a close thought in Patrik’s mind.

I did however find that this very focussed view on the lives and workings of each character took away the suspense and mysterious air of the plot. I mean, accidents that are more than they appear and reality TV-star murders sounds really intriguing, doesn’t it? Well, it never really came off that way in this book. There was so much focus on characters that at some points it’s almost as though Lackberg went “oh yeah, I forgot. I’m meant to be writing about a murder”. What I’m trying to say is that the main plot line of the story sometimes felt almost like an afterthought. I found it disheartening, because the outline of the plot in the blurb really got me interested. I also felt a bit disappointed because I managed to solve the case four chapters before Patrik did. At first I was pretty pleased with myself, then I was just sad, because for me, whatever mystery had been present had all but disappeared.

I also found the language and writing style of the book to be rather dry and bland. Perhaps this is because it has been translated from its original Swedish language, but at times it sounded like Lackberg was writing an informative essay instead of a novel. I think a bit more colour and variation in each of the characters’ speech would have been much more effective, as they all ended up sounding like the same person.

Overall, this book wasn’t incredibly exciting. It doesn’t venture too far out into the unknown, and the loose ends are tied up nicely, save a few to continue into the next book. Lackberg’s characters are enjoyable, and the story’s concept is interesting enough, but I felt that more appeal to senses would be needed in future novels to heighten the tension in scenes where it is necessary.

As I said previously, this is a comfortable novel, good for a bit of light reading, and perhaps for those new to the crime genre who aren’t quite ready for the heavier stuff yet (for those into that, I’d recommend the Kate Burkholder series by Linda Castillo), but I certainly wouldn’t class it as one of my favourite crime novels.

Rating- 6/10

We become the stories we tell ourselves

Today’s review: A Home at the End of the World

Cover of Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World

Author: Michael Cunningham

Publisher: Penguin
Number of Pages: 343
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Romance
Series: Standalone

From Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, comes this widely praised novel of two boyhood friends: Jonathan, lonely, introspective, and unsure of himself; and Bobby, hip, dark, and inarticulate. In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city’s erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare’s child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise “their” child together and, with an odd friend, Alice, create a new kind of family. A Home at the End of the World masterfully depicts the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.

-Goodreads.com

Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World follows the story of three friends, three lovers, and three non-conformers to the social boundaries of acceptance in 70s and 80s society. Jonathan is sheltered; doted upon by his possessive mother; isolated from the dangers and wonder of the outside world. He possesses habits that would not otherwise be considered “normal” in such an unforgiving society; he prefers playing with dolls and trying on his mother’s makeup to activities usually taken up by other boys of five. A few years later sees Jonathan starting seventh grade. It is there that he meets Bobby. Bobby is the poster boy for what Jonathan’s mother had been protecting him from; heavy with burden, high on drugs, not…. “all there”. And Jonathan finds himself falling in love. After graduation, Jonathan and Bobby grow distant. Jonathan moves to New York to attend college, and Bobby stays in Jonathan’s former home in Cleveland with Jonathan’s parents, who took him in after his father passed away.

New York city finds Jonathan writing a food column for a newspaper and sharing an apartment with the colourful-yet-haunted Clare. Although openly gay, Jonathan shares a deeply emotional and loving relationship with Clare, and the two plan to have and raise a baby together.
Re-united through fate, Bobby moves into Jonathan and Clare’s apartment, and soon finds himself to be Clare’s lover and later the father of her child. All three friends are in love with one another, but Jonathan, seeing himself as the third wheel in the relationship, decides to move on.
Jonathan, Bobby and Clare meet again, brought together over a series of tragic events and on impulse, decide to buy a house together and raise the child that all three of them claim to own. All in love with one another, Bobby, Clare and Jonathan form a new and unusual kind of family and create for themselves a home in which to live.

A Home at the End of the World was beautifully written. It was deep, intimate, and intensely real. But it was very, very slow.
You know how books are meant to have story arcs? Like, a build up to a climax, or a series of these? Well, in this book, they were more like speed bumps. The story was like travelling on a long, straight road, and every “major event” that happened in the book was really not very big; like small bumps in the road. Not very exciting, and didn’t have any huge impacts on the story.

But it was very real. The characters were exquisite and the most unique people I have ever read about. Michael Cunningham must have incredible insight into human psychology, because he could expertly enter the minds of each of his main characters and pick out their flaws, highlight their best qualities, accentuate their struggles, and avoid any generic stereotypes. Each character was totally individual, and none of them felt like the “same-old” characters that appear far too frequently in contemporary romance novels.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. There were some characters, like Jonathan’s mother Alice, that I initially didn’t particularly like, mostly because of the way each of the other characters viewed her personality and nature. But this was because they were outsiders, and didn’t have an understanding of the workings of her mind and why she does things the way she does. But when Cunningham introduced chapters written from Alice’s perspective, I really grew to like her, now that I had been enlightened to her point of view of the world.

In this novel, there’s no defined “bad guy”. Each character feels as human and as real as the reader, and by giving each character such life, it’s really hard to view any of them as annoying or dislikable or evil. I personally shipped Bobby and Jonathan since their first meeting, and I thought that when Clare appeared, that I would hate her throughout the whole novel for intruding on their relationship. But I didn’t. I actually loved her so much. I loved her quirks, her humour, her patient understanding, and her diversity. I even related to her a little; we use some of the same words when addressing people, like “darling”, “dear”, and “sweetie”. Not in like, a patronising way, but in a “you are a lovely person and I will address you as such” way.

I did find this book very slow, and because it was basically just following the, well, slightly-less-than-ordinary lives of the characters, there wasn’t a lot in the way of gripping rising action or dramatic climaxes. I’ll admit that I mainly liked it for the diversity of the characters. Cunningham was very, very good at delving into the intimate and unusual lives of his characters, but there is definitely room for improvement in the gripping story department.

I’ll recommend it for patient readers, but for those who are a little tired of the run-of-the-mill romance characters, this one might also be for you.

Rating- 5/10

 

What is it like to lose everything?

Today’s review: The Book of Jonas

Author: Stephen Dau

Cover of The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

Publisher: Plume (The Penguin Group)
Number of pages: 258
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Coming of age/War
Series: Standalone


Jonas is fifteen when his family is killed during an errant U.S. military operation in an unnamed Muslim country. With the help of an international relief organization, he is sent to America, where he struggles to assimilate-foster family, school, a first love. Eventually, he tells a court-mandated counselor and therapist about a U.S. soldier, Christopher Henderson, responsible for saving his life on the tragic night in question. Christopher’s mother, Rose, has dedicated her life to finding out what really happened to her son, who disappeared after the raid in which Jonas’ village was destroyed. When Jonas meets Rose, a shocking and painful secret gradually surfaces from the past, and builds to a shattering conclusion that haunts long after the final page. Told in spare, evocative prose, The Book of Jonas is about memory, about the terrible choices made during war, and about what happens when foreign disaster appears at our own doorstep. It is a rare and virtuosic novel from an exciting new writer to watch.

-Goodreads.com

 

The Book of Jonas is the story of Middle-Eastern youth Jonas as he struggles to adjust to American life after being rescued from his ruined village that was destroyed after a U.S military operation went wrong. After it is discovered that Jonas suffers from lapses in his memory about what ensued at the time of the incident, he is sent to a therapist in an attempt to recover the memories he has lost. Aside from this, Jonas is sent to live with a host family, and attends high school with their children. Jonas, as it turns out, is a brilliant student, achieving the highest results in all of his classes with ease and minimal effort. He becomes fascinated with the workings of Christian religion, spending hours at a time researching everything he can about God and his Will. As is to be expected, Jonas is singled out by other students, and is targeted for the colour of his skin, his funny accent, and his quiet nature. When pushed over the edge however, Jonas is unafraid to fight back, and soon earns a reputation as someone to be admired and slightly intimidated by.

As his sessions with his therapist, Paul, ensue, Jonas is unsure as to whether he simply cannot recall anything that happened before he was sent to America, or whether something deep inside him is refusing to release his knowledge of what happened. Due to his continuing brilliance, Jonas receives a scholarship and attends the University of Pittsburgh, where he meets his first love, Shakri. Shakri urges him to delve into his past and make more of an effort to find out what happened to him, and Jonas discovers the existence of Christopher Henderson who, according to therapist Paul, was the soldier who saved Jonas’ life when his village was destroyed, but has now gone missing. In an attempt to find out more about his past and heal his emotional wounds, Jonas meets with Rose, Christopher’s mother, and it is this event that releases his memory. He starts to open up about what happened after his village was destroyed.
His new knowledge however, takes it’s toll, and Jonas soon finds himself resorting to comfort in alcohol, and ends up on the wrong side of the law. With the help of his therapist Paul and the information that Rose Henderson has shared with him, Jonas is able to piece together his life, his identity, and what really happened to him and Christopher Henderson the night his village was destroyed.

I enjoyed this book and I’m glad that this was the book that I randomly pulled of the shelf of my local library. I found it very interesting to read about not only war, but its after-effects, particularly from the point of view of a teenager. It was sad to witness how someone as brilliant and gifted as Jonas could be pulled down into the depths of his trauma, and to resort to drinking away his problems, but I suppose it’s understandable why someone would do that if they had lived through what Jonas had.

I did find Dau’s storytelling a little disconcerting at first. It would alternate between present-day Jonas, Jonas when he lived in the Middle East (this was before he changed his name and was known as Younis), the events of Jonas’ therapy sessions, Rose Henderson’s point of view, and Christopher Henderson’s journal entries. The amount of jumping around made the story hard to follow at some points and I became surprised by the amount of time that had passed, but it got easier the further I read.
I also felt that some of the supporting characters were a little underdeveloped, and could have contributed to the story a little better, like Jonas’ friend Hakma, and even Shakri, who we really don’t find out all that much about. The story did tend to drag at some points as well for example, there is a whole chapter (granted, it’s only two and a half pages) dedicated to Jonas filling out forms. It was things like this that I felt were rather unnecessary.

Aside from these little things, I ultimately found the story very enjoyable. Jonas’ very thoughtful, detailed observations were fascinating to read, and the contrast between his life in the Middle East and America made for interesting reading. The beginning of the story brings with it a lot of confusion about where it is going and what it is about, but by the mid-way through to end of the book, everything makes sense, and the reader finally discovers what happened to Jonas on that fateful night, although what you find out is not exactly pleasant.

I would definitely recommend this book for others. It sheds new light on the horrors of war and how it pushes humans outside of their boundaries to do extraordinary and unthinkable things.

Rating- 8/10

 

First friend, first girl, last words.

Today’s review: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Cover of John Green’s Looking for Alaska

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Number of pages: 268
Genre: Fiction/ Young Adult/ Romance/ Contemporary
Series: Standalone

Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.com

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

I’ve finally done it, lads. I’ve finally read a John Green novel!
It’s not that I was putting it off or anything, I’ve just never gotten around to it until now.
So without further ado, here’s my review! (ehehe that rhymed)

Looking for Alaska follows the socially awkward, utterly adorkable Miles Halter as he begins life at Culver Creek Boarding School. Miles, nicknamed “Pudge” by his new roommate Chip “The Colonel” Martin, has been searching all his life for a “Great Perhaps”; the chance to experience something wonderful in his life that he was clearly never going to achieve whilst stuck in public school with “the ragtag bunch of drama people and English geeks I sat with by social necessity”. Little did Pudge realise that his decision to move schools would change his life in drastic ways.

I really loved this book. For me, it was a breath of fresh air, because I have been tackling George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series for a number of weeks now (I’m up to A Feast for Crows but unfortunately, no reviews as too much has happened and there are too many spoilers). It was good to go back to a smaller, more manageable book to break up the constant stream of events being dumped on me by the ASoIaF series.

Now, to characters.
I really liked Pudge as the narrator of this story. He had a sort of witty, sarcastic humour that allowed me to be pulled into his character and allowed me to connect with him (I have a similar sense of humour, ask anyone). He was a very observant narrator, if a little subjective with some of his points of view, such as with the sort-of-antagonists, the Weekday Warriors (essentially the stuck-up rich kids of the school). Whilst kudos to his thoughtful, whimsical narration, there was something about his narration that I wasn’t very impressed with: the numerous observations of the extensive circumference of Alaska’s breasts. I mean, once or twice would have suited, but I read the same thing too many times for my liking. I suppose I have to keep in mind that this book is written from the perspective of a teenage boy, but I thought Pudge would have had a bit more discretion than that.

The Colonel I think was hands-down my favourite character. Some of his lines were the funniest I’ve ever read and on some occasions, he actually made me laugh out loud; something that only two other books have ever made me do before (those being Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant, and Nick Griffiths’ memoir, Dalek, I Loved You). On Pudge’s first meeting with him, I thought that his relationship with the Colonel would be a difficult one; the way Pudge described him made him sound like one of your stereotypical fluffhead jocks, but he turned out to be significantly different to that. He brought a great comedy relief, and Green also managed to give him a loveable, real character.

I loved the complexity of Alaska Young. I loved how she was so changeable, and how she was as unpredictable as the weather. Alaska was a deeply flawed character with a shocking backstory, her delivery of which really drew me to loving her. Her feisty feminist attitude coupled with her morbid humour made for interesting reading as she played off of the other main characters. There were some moments however, when I felt completely detached from her. I felt some animosity to her two-faced nature and, although it’s resolved as to why she is like this later in the book, I didn’t feel that it was necessary to distance herself from the only people who understood her in the way that she did. I did also find her a bit over-the-top in the drama department, but perhaps that was her way of masking her true emotions.

I did have high expectations for this novel due to the constant John Green hype that seems to have dominated the internet, and I have to say I was not disappointed. Looking for Alaska was beautifully told through Pudge’s narration, with a great deal of superbly poetic lines, one of my particular favourites being a quote read by Pudge from W.H. Auden’s poem As I Walked Out One Evening, “You shall love your crooked neighbor/ With all your crooked heart“. I liked the novel’s concept of finding one’s place in a bigger, scarier world where nothing is as it seems, and Alaska’s focussed perception of life as the Labyrinth in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The General in his Labyrinth.

Overall, I was quite impressed by Looking for Alaska, and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried on four separate occasions throughout, then spent a good ten minutes sobbing quietly after I finished reading it. I won’t say why though, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. Reading this has really given me a taste for John Green’s writing, and I’m definitely going to be reading more. In fact, I just bought The Fault in Our Stars today (on sale because the movie came out the other day), and I’m going to start it after I finish the current book I’m reading.

Rating: 8/10