May Book Haul

Friday 30 May 2014

In May, not only did I read a few books, but I bought some as well. It's undone all the progress I'd made on cutting my to be read pile down, but I just can't seem to stop myself from buying books when I have money.

I have actually read two of them though, and you'll see them in my May wrap up, so I don't consider this to be bad or anything. Plus, both Asda, WHSmith, and The Works had offers on when I bought these, so it's totally okay and justified for me to have bought these! Let me know, have you read any of these books?

Book Review: Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Friday 23 May 2014

Scott Westerfeld
Genre(s): Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published: September 1st 2012
Pages: 417
Rating: 2 stars

These days it's all about the fame.

As if life isn't hard enough when you're fifteen, Aya Fuse's face rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An Extra. But when she meets a clique of girls who pull crazy, dangerous tricks in secret, Aya sees a way to get her popularity rating to soar...

Aya is sure she's destined for a life in the spotlight, and if she can just kick the story to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are, then the spotlight will be on her. 

But is Aya really prepared to be propelled out of Extra-land and into a world of instant fame, celebrity... and extreme danger?

Before I picked this up, I thought it was a companion book to the Uglies trilogy. With that in mind, I was interested to read it and see what happened because the other books were okay - nothing amazing yet nothing to really regret reading.

When I learnt that this is actually the fourth book in the series that interest disappeared. From reading the blurb I knew that this was about a different set of characters in the 'new world' Tally and her friends were responsible for, and that the issues about to be faced weren't to do with the uglies/pretties/specials programme.

Knowing that, I ask: why? Why is this part of the series and not a companion novel?

From the very first chapter, Aya annoyed me. More so than Tally did in the first three books. The way she talks using words like 'scary-making' and 'wrist-hurting' made her sound juvenile and immature, not fun and quirky like I assume Westerfeld intended. She also came across as quite shallow and whiny, and the way she obsessed over her face rank got old very quickly.

I also felt that Westerfeld had undone all the work the original trilogy had done about showing that looks aren't everything, as people were still having 'surge' and caring about looking 'good'. (However, I felt this at the end of Specials, as well, when it took that weird environmentalist kick or whatever it was at the end. It felt very out of place and left me very dissatisfied.) Yes, the focus is now on fame and reputation, but looks certainly play a large part in that (notice how many of the higher ranking, 'non-extra' people are described as looking nice or having surge) and I thought that - after Specials - people weren't supposed to care any more?

The way technology is explained is well... it's not, really. I had a lot of trouble getting my head around the things like smart matter and the mag-lev trains. Perhaps this was partly due to the amount of time I left between reading Specials and Extras which meant I was out of touch with the world, but I feel it was down to Westerfeld failing to make things clear and understandable, like things in a dystopian/science fiction world should be.

That being said, I did enjoy the pacing of this. While I was left wondering what on Earth this story had to do with the original trilogy, I didn't find it especially boring or dread picking it up to read the next chapter. In fact, I found Westerfeld's writing to be entertaining, if not especially complex or mind-blowing.

Overall, I feel that this book was very extra and should have remained as a companion novel or just never have been written. I wouldn't recommend it unless you absolutely fell in love with the first three books.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Friday 16 May 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman
Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror, Adult
Published: April 10th 2014
Pages: 235
Rating: 3 stars

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

It wasn't that I didn't enjoy The Ocean at the End of the Lane, because I did, it's that I feel that the majority of it went straight over my head.

While I have no problem admitting that I love both fantasy and horror, and that I'm trying to branch out and read more adult fiction, I did have a problem getting my head round a lot of the events in this book. I feel that I am quite scientifically minded, in that I need things to have a definite answer and an explanation as to why things are why they are and what they are, and there was a distinct lack of these things in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I do like my fantasy to make sense, even if it would never be probable in the real world. This came off as very eccentric and even jumbled in places, which I found quite hard to follow.

That being said, I did enjoy the writing style. It was simple yet it read almost beautifully. It really lengthened the book and made it feel like a 300 or 400 page novel rather than a 200 and something page book. This was my first encounter with Neil Gaiman and I can say that, while this wasn't my favourite book - or perhaps the place to start when discovering a new author - I will pick up some more of his work. You have to hand it to him, he's created a masterpiece. A confusing, almost nonsensical one, but isn't that what the best and most thought provoking art is?

Overall, a nice read that definitely did get me thinking. Maybe a re-read in the future will help me get my head round it.

Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Friday 9 May 2014

Marissa Meyer
Genre(s): Science-fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: February 7th 2013
Pages: 452
Rating: 4 stars

Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.

Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana.

As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner...

I really enjoyed the second instalment in The Lunar Chronicles, a lot more than I enjoyed the first one. I felt that the world and the characters were a lot more developed and the dual story line was very interesting, and they tied in together almost seamlessly. I'm generally not much of a science-fiction fan, but I can honestly say that this did not read like sci-fi and I think it - along with Cinder - may have introduced me to reading more science-fiction in the future. Well, young adult science-fiction anyway. The twists and turns Meyer placed throughout the story were all very believable, and there were some that I also didn't guess (most of the ones concerning Wolf - who, by the way, I thought was a great character).

The thing that I probably liked the most about this book is that the world from Cinder was a lot more developed and I found things much easier to understand as they were explained better. While Scarlet does pick right up from where it's prequel last let off, there was instantly the feel of things being more well rounded. And jumping straight into the plot was nice, as this book was extremely action packed and I found there were hardly any parts at all that dragged.

Scarlet as a character was a very nice addition to the series and I'm interested to see how she will continue to interact with Cinder, although Cinder is still my favourite. She still came across the same as in the first book, which I liked, but she also seemed more thought out, which I also liked. I'm very interested - and almost a little apprehensive - to see how things will play out in Cress, but it looks like I'll be waiting a bit before reading that as I've yet to get my hands on a copy.

April Wrap Up

Friday 2 May 2014

In the month of April I manage to read 8 books. I'm quite proud of that, considering I've been ill and had a lot of work to do that ended up taking up a lot of my time. Some of these were fairly large books as well (400+ pages isn't huge, I know, but I tend to get put off by anything over 300 pages long, so I'm pleased with myself), and I have manage to cut down my TBR shelf a little bit. Not a lot, mind you, but it's a start.

What I read

I didn't really read much of any one genre - I read a mix of fantasy, paranormal, dystopian and horror - although I did stick mainly to young adult. No surprises there, seeing as how the majority of my TBR shelf is young adult fiction. Ideally, I'd like to read the same amount in May, but seeing as I have my exams then I am expecting it to be a bit less. That's not an issue though, as I'll have plenty of time to read in summer.

Have you read any of these books? What did you read in April? I'm interested to know, so please leave a comment!
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