Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Choke - Chuck Palahniuk

Title: Choke
Publication date: August 2002
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 293
Rating: four out of five stars

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Victor Mancini has devised a complicated scam to pay for his mother's hospital care: pretend to be choking on a piece of food in a restaurant and the person who 'saves you' will feel responsible for you for the rest of their lives. Multiply that a couple of hundred times and you generate a healthy flow of cheques, week in, week out.

Victor also works at a theme park with a motley group of losers, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his mother, whose Alzheimer's disease now hides what may be the startling truth about his parentage.

Just a warning, this in not YA but it is what I've been reading and I thought I'd give it a review. 

It's always a pleasant experience to open a book that automatically tells you to not read it. It did warn me that I wouldn't "want to be here" if I did. Which both worried and intrigued me, but despite the warning I in fact quite enjoyed the whole experience. It was both similar and a bit lighter to read than Less than Zero, which was action packed with hatred-of-mankind moments.

I mean at times this novel can be almost uplifting, but I won't tell you when and where, lest I give any spoilers.

The novel follows Victor Mancini, a medical school drop-out desperately trying to afford his mother's hospital care by working in the 1730s and, even weirder, pretending to choke on food in fancy restaurants to gain the help, and money, of unsuspecting heroes. (I would argue, however, the one with the true hero-complex, maybe more aptly Jesus-complex, is Victor.)

He also goes to sex-addict meanings to get laid. So it's all a bit morally ambiguous, and generally quite pessimistic about life. But within all the bad language and sex lies the true heart of the issue: identity. Victor doesn't really know who he is or what he wants, he doesn't know where he's going, except following the same old pattern of addiction and serious mother issues.

Mother issues become more apparent as we're offered flashbacks of his childhood between chapters. Generally all the relationships he forms in this novel are dysfunctional, and so are the people (although weirdly appealing). His bestfriend, for example, starts hoarding rocks which somehow ends up providing a relevant and inspiring metaphor for the story.

One thing for sure is that Chuck Palahniuk can write some strange, yet brilliant, things. And some really disgusting things, I didn't really want to hear about the adventures of his "dog" (use your imagination) or go quite into as much detail about snot-filled tissues - but there you go.

I enjoyed it, weirdly enough, and do recommend anyone to give it a go (although maybe not the faint hearted).

Favourite quote:
"Even after all this rushing around, where we've ended up is the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night."

Thursday, 29 January 2015

January updates and clear-up

Haven't had time to breath this month, but here's a little update on what's what.

This month I only managed to read two books, because I've been a busy-bee with exams etc.

But I read Atlantia by Ally Condie and How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman. I don't normally put non-YA books on here to review, but I'm constantly reading them.

Currently reading:

 Taking me a while to get through this one, but I am thoroughly enjoying it!
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

 Scrap that, this is the one that's taking me a while. I'm on The Two Towers at the moment, page 548. I really am enjoying it but it's going to take me an age to read, especially as I read other things as well.
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

I'm reading this for my course, but quite like it as well. I don't normally read war literature, I didn't much like Birdsong but something about this is strangely captivating. It's very blunt, and graphic at times though.
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

To read: 

I got the graphic novel edition of the novel for Christmas, which came as a surprise. But a good one none the less, the pictures look so beautiful! I've never read a graphic novel before, but I'm excited to try this one!

For Abandon, I picked it up on a whim but I'm hoping to enjoy it. Thank god there was a choice of front cover, because I really didn't like the other edition of the book for some reason, but I found this one really pretty.  

And here's to many more books. Luckily for me I've created a little £2 'book fund' so I can pick up some more when I'm done with this lot. Blackwells have a nice little 3 for 2 deal on as well which is tempting me.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Atlantia - Ally Condie

Title: Atlantia 
Author: Ally Condie
Publication Date: October 2014
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: (hardback edition) 298
Rating: five out of five

Synopsis from Goodreads
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths. 

Oh man, this book was good. It quite happily grabs one of the top-spots on my imagined places list. If you can have wanderlust for a fantastical place then I have it.

The Below is a city deep at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded yet untouched by water. With metal trees and animal gods, it's an attractive mixture of some ancient mythical city and a dystopian, hellish future. The Below is a place for the privileged, and the Above the suffering - or so it seems.

What I liked about Ally Condie's writing is that I didn't only have a fantastic visualisation of the area, but of the characters. Rio, our protagonist, is probably one of the best written characters I've read. She goes through such a turmoil of emotions through the novel, but there isn't a moment where I couldn't sympathise. She doesn't always do the sensible thing and she doesn't always trust the people she can trust, and in some protagonists it drives me crazy, but every move she makes doesn't seem like some superfluous effort to sophisticate the plot, but is warranted. People aren't perfect.

This novel was so much about family, but not in a fluffy-bunny sort of way. This book is definitely not soft at all. We start with Rio and Bay's mother's death, and then we move onto Bay's apparent abandonment of Rio to go Above, despite the fact it's Rio who's always wanted to. The plot thickens: Why did Bay go Above? Why did their mum die? Who can Rio trust? To me this book was all about rebuilding trust and reshaping relationships, and dealing with a lot of familial feels.

Under all this is one of the Below's 'miracles': Sirens (people with the ability to convince and sway the judgements of others using the power of their voice). Sirens are controlled by the government to stop them getting too powerful, but Bay and Rio's mother hid a biggie by urging Rio to suppress her own Siren voice to stop her being taken by the government. Forced to speak in a monotone all her life, Rio doesn't quite know her own potential, and must rely on a mentor she doesn't trust to learn how to use it wisely.

The government perhaps isn't as benevolent as it seems on the outside, and there's a lot of corruption going on between the Above and Below. The key to finding the answers to her many questions, however, lies within knowing the extent of the corruption of the council.

A lot of things give great little, life-like features to the story, mechanical fish, scary co-workers, unnatural disasters, and illegal racing being some of them. My favourite was True, or should I say Rio and True together. They have a great relationship built on a sense of mutual understanding and empathy. And it wasn't sickly either.

Overall, I recommend this book to any fantasy and dystopian lovers! Plus, it's also an aesthetic beauty to add to your book-shelf.

Favourite quote: "They didn't care, or if they did, they didn't care enough, and now we're the ones paying the price of their extravagance." 

Monday, 5 January 2015

My year in books - 2014!

Okay, so I'm only 5 days late with this, but happy new year everyone! And what a year, I finally plucked up the courage to open this blog and I've read a lot of interesting books. Bonus.

I read quite the myriad of things last year, so my aim for this year is to read more of the books I've been wanting to read for years. Like the first Harry Potter, which I finally read (especially because of the gorgeous new cover)! I wasn't disappointed, though I'm still admittedly years behind everyone else. I also started The Lord of the Rings and I'm on The Two Towers at the moment - I love the movies so much that I knew I had to read the book. I also watched The Hobbit, which takes the spot of best film of year despite crushing my heart into tiny pieces. 

My favourite book of the year... well it's hard to choose just one, but If You Find Me was a beautiful book which really moved me, so I'm going to go with that. My favourite series has to be The Chaos Walking trilogy, despite Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children coming a close second. 

Out of the not YA books I've been reading I'm going to go with The Monk because despite being a course book, and being super twisted, it kept my attention.  

Right now I'm reading Atlantia and quite enjoying it, I must say! The concept it just beautiful. 

More books to come in 2015 (hopefully a lot more), including Shatter Me and The Graveyard Book amongst others. 

2014 was a great one for all things bookish, but here's to an even better 2015.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder 
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1 
Author: Marissa Meyer 
Publication date: January 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Pages: 390
Rating: four 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

*Synopsis from Goodreads

I've seen this book all over review blogs and Goodreads and I have wanted it sooo bad. The cover is so gorgeous and I just love, love, love fairytale retellings, and I've never read one quite like this before. 

This is basically a dystopian, steam-punk re-imagining of Cinderella, set in a technological and highly urbanised New Beijing: where overpopulation aids the spread of a deadly plague. Cinder though seems to be immune, and that's where it all kicks off. 

The technological spin on this was probably my favourite aspect of the story, Cinder being a cyborg was the best thing ever and the Cyborg draft is really believable.  Don't get me started on the robots, Iko was adorable in all aspects. 

If you know the original Cinderella, which let's face it you probably do, you know that her home life isn't great. Adri, Cinder's guardian, is as horrible as she was in the original (though there is more to her in this re-telling), but Peony one of the 'ugly stepsisters' is actually lovely, if not living in a proverbial bubble. I loved that Cinder and her got along. 

The plague is obviously a horrendous part of the story, and Marissa Meyer doesn't shy away from it at all. It has devastating consequences and makes the whole world desperate for a cure. And of course Cyborgs, as 'second class citizens' are the agreed forced guinea pigs of a creepy research team, with the guardians of Cyborgs being able to literally sell them to the cause. Dr Erland, the head researcher, is definitely a bit morally ambiguous: knowingly leading cyborgs to their death but also being a bit of a good guy in the end. 

Queen Levana definitely fits into the scary witch-queen role most fairytales have. She's a fearsome creature, swathed in mystery and magic. She's credited with controlling her own people and killing her own family members, those that rival her right to the crown. And now it seems she wants to do the same with Earth, or else wage a war that Earth is doomed to lose. 

And where does Prince Kai fit into all of this? Well to quote Iko: "Prince Kai! Check my fan, I think I'm overheating." 

I was really interested in how they were going to do the whole 'getting to the ball' thing in the story, and I was pleasantly surprised, though I'm going to give nothing away!

Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was a fantastic retelling of Cinderella and I'm for sure going to read the next books. 

Favourite quote: "I'm sure I'll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on." 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Fall - Bethany Griffin

Title: The Fall
Author: Bethany Griffin
Published: October 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 420
Bought: Waterstones £12.99
Rating: four and a half stars
She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.
Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.
In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? 
*Synopsis from Goodreads*

This book had exactly the kind of vibe I like, I thought it was pretty damn good. Bethany Griffin was brilliant at creating that creepy, I'm-feeling-slightly-uneasy tone that continued right until the end. And it's a decent length, as well, so kudos.

If you're reading this book expecting some sort of happy resolution you'll get neither happy nor resolution. But you will get a very strong image of the terrifying Usher house and all its creepy, sentient glory. A house where nothing is new long and everything dies young. A house that has chosen Madeline Usher as its heir, and also tries to kill her a few times. 

It was pretty haunting, I mean Madeline is very alone and apart from the rest of humanity. Her one saving grace, her brother Roderick, doesn't believe her at all despite some very blatant evidence. And let's face it, the whole dog thing had me in tears. There should be a rule about using animals in books. 

Basically all family relations and otherwise are twisted as hell. I have got to say, Dr. Winston sufficiently weirded me out, he was quite simply vile. Madeline doesn't really ever catch a break, and some of the themes are pretty horrific and disturbing. No wonder I found this in the horror section, not the YA secion

But then again she's not a conventional YA heroine. She's really dark at times, and I thought that she had good character development, because you could tell that the house, her Usher lineage, was warping her over time. Luckily, she had determination on her side, and she was only naive to the extent that someone in her position would be. I also liked the variation created between the chapters in Madeline's age and the background story of Lisbeth. 

The story does leave bits and parts unexplained, and up to the reader (the whole mad-man in the attic thing -though I could have a pretty good guess at that one- and her father's disappearance). I kind of liked it, it didn't feel like it was trying too hard to make everything suddenly fall into place,  I don't think that would've suited the story's atmosphere at all. 

My one niggling thing is that sometimes I felt like the story wasn't really getting anywhere. Sure the description and detail invested in the house kept me running on tension, but it all really only kicked off at the end. We were led on trails and then abruptly swerved off them again, especially with the whole goblet thing (how did Madeline know it had nothing to do with that anyway? - she got the resolution out of thin air, I swear). 

But, overall I really, really enjoyed this book. The writing style was very attractive to me and the concept very creepy. I've never read Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, the book this is based off of, but I think I will now just to see how it ties in with this story. 

Quote: "Sitting here I can feel the majesty of the house. It is so old. Looming over and around me. How can I stand up to it all alone?" 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Beastkeeper - Cat Hellisen!

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 

Publication date: 3rd February 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from. 

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive. 

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever. 

It's definitely the cover that's attracted me to this one, but the story sounds creepy and fairytale-esque (which I love, love, love). Got a feeling this'll be one to wait for. :)