Review | Red Rising – Pierce Brown

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Paperback (Hodder & Stoughton, 382 pages)

First published 2014; this edition published 2014

(Courtesy of Bookbridgr)

Rating on Goodreads: 2 stars

“Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow– and Reds like him– are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’ s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’ s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.”


 

I couldn’t finish this. 100 pages in, and I was bored. I was so hoping that I would enjoy this, given that there are so many 4 or 5 star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. But I could not get into the story. I found that I didn’t care about Darrow, about Eo. I skipped several pages, hoping that as I got past the info-dumping the story would pick up the pace.

It didn’t. Not for me, anyway. I’ve no doubt that Pierce Brown has written a decent dystopian story – but perhaps my tastes are changing. Maybe I’m not as into dystopia as I used to be. But after being bored out of my mind, it just looks like another ‘martyr for the opposing force’ story. And I really didn’t want that.

If you like dystopia, you might like this. Otherwise, steer clear.

Review | Solitaire – Alice Oseman

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Paperback (HarperCollins, 400 pages)

First published 2014; this edition published 2014

Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars

“In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.”


 Oh, Tori, how I relate to you.

I mean, I was never quite as cynical as you are at that age (though I make up for that now!) but Alice Oseman has managed to capture the realism of a modern teenager perfectly. Tori isn’t a manic pixie dream girl, she’s flawed and sarcastic and although she did annoy me at times, I never disliked her as a character.

Michael Holden, though… oh my god, someone get me a damn Magnum so I can *BANG*. I really did not like him one bit. In fact, I disliked several characters, but I know that the reader is meant to do just that. Or maybe I’m just a grumpy nineteen year old who hates people. I don’t know. What I do know is that I liked this book, however I did find the ending a little unsatisfying. Perhaps that was because of all the hype. But I was expecting something with a little more oomph.

Saying that though, the fact that Alice Oseman wrote this as a teenager is fantastic. Her prose is wonderful, and fun to read. I will definitely be picking up her next novel (I hear she’s writing another one, hurrah). I’m quite fond of the cover, too.

So if you’re a disillusioned teenager, a grumpy teenager, or just a teenager/young adult in general, I think you’ll like this. Go read it.

 

Review | Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

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Paperback (Michael Joseph, 480 pages)

First published 2012; this edition published 2012

Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars

“Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.”


 This book ripped out my heart and ran it over a grater.

It’s not often I read books dubbed – somewhat annoyingly – as ‘chick-lit’. But having heard such good things about this book,  and wanting something light and easy to read, I picked Me Before You up.

It was easy to read, but it sure as hell wasn’t light. Oh, my. Lou is an utterly realistic character, and I could empathise with her uncertainty, her desire to help and do right. Will’s negative outlook did annoy me, but is it realistic to expect disabled characters to be upbeat all the time? (I’m disabled myself, and I’m certainly not.) For any character to be upbeat all the time?

The unfolding relationship is tender, surprisingly so. It wasn’t sappy, it wasn’t overblown, and at points I had tears in my eyes because of certain events. Jojo Moyes is an expert at making readers feel all the feelings. It left me emotionally drained – and rarely can I say that about literature; I’m usually very hard to impress like that. But Me Before You totally left me aching.

The prose is simple and easy to read, but Jojo Moyes has used it superbly. It isn’t ornate and it certainly isn’t flowery – and I love it for that.

Please do pick this book up. If you’re looking for an emotional roller coaster – read it. If you’re not – read it anyway. It will give you an insight into disability and its effects, and education on disability is by no means a bad thing. Who likes ignorance, anyway?

Musing | O Captain, My Captain

It’s not often that I write on death. Certainly not on this blog, which usually sits as a platform for bookish things. But having woken up two hours ago to the news that one of my favourite childhood figures has passed… I felt I had to write something.

Mental illness and suicide are horrible things. I won’t sugarcoat it. They are terrible, silent killers, and if any of you reading this need help, please get it. (I’ve included a list of helplines and websites at the bottom.) I know several people – myself included – who suffer and have suffered from mental illness. I know of people who have tried to commit suicide – and of people who have succeeded.

Robin Williams’ death is a reminder that mental illness cannot and should not be disregarded. It should not be swept under the carpet. It should not be ignored in favour of ‘worse’ physical illnesses. Please do not scorn those who suffer, do not label them as ‘attention-seeking’. It might seem that, but how bad would you feel if you discovered days later that that individual had hurt themselves, or at worst ended their lives?

Help them. Let them know you are there for them. Be there for them, don’t just say you are.

As for this wonderful man, I know he will be remembered, and remembered well. He brought light to so many lives. I only hope he’s found the peace he deserves.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.


Helplines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines 

UK

Emergency: 999

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90

US

Emergency: 911

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

 

Review | The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains – Neil Gaiman

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Hardcover (Headline, 74 pages; sent by Bookbridgr – thank you!)

First published 2010; this edition published 2014

Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars

Beautifully illustrated by renowned artist Eddie Campbell, this is a four-colour edition of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novelette “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains”- a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and a search for hidden treasure.

The text of The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains was first published in the collection Stories: All New Tales (Headline, 2010). This gorgeous full-colour illustrated book version was born of a unique collaboration between writer Neil Gaiman and artist Eddie Campbell, who brought to vivid life the characters and landscape of Gaiman’s story.”


I loved the story, really disliked the artwork.

I don’t often read graphic novels, but when I do, the illustrations are so, so important to me. And I so badly wanted to love this one, but I couldn’t. The story was fantastic – it’s Gaiman; how could it not be? – but the artwork struck me as crude, and not in an artistic way. It seemed rushed, almost. And there are two different styles of artwork in this graphic novel, in different types of panel, which again threw me off. The combination of art and text did not mesh well, in my opinion, and it was very jarring at times.

Saying that, though, I am fond of the story. I am fond of Gaiman’s work full stop. This tale did not disappoint in the least. There was plenty of magic and mystery to be found in there, and despite some of the story being told through the crude artwork, it was a story that I am glad to have read. It’s a quick read for an afternoon, especially if you like your stories to have a little folk-esque aspect to them.