Tuesday 17 January 2017

YA Summer Reading Round-Up

I feel like the past year went by without me carving time out to read, apart from my awesome review books, but I miss going to the library for ME and grabbing a few books that I TOTALLY judge by their covers (let's be honest) and get lost in them. I tend towards Young Adult Fiction because it is usually a quick read that I can get through in a day or two. I hesitate to call them easy reads because a lot of the time the content is dark, scary or all-too-possible. There seems to be a big influx of dystopian/future-set novels appearing lately and I really like them!

I managed to fit in quite a few books over the past few weeks, which I hope has set me back on the regular reading bandwagon. I thought I would do a quick summary of each in case you get stuck.
All these are books I have borrowed from the library.

The Special Ones
By Em Bailey

This book is about four young people who are kept on a farm, brainwashed, to live out the lives of four characters that appear in a photograph from 100 years ago. They are controlled by Him and are also made to interact with their fans via controlled internet chat sessions. When one character has to 'leave', another is found and taught the ways of the Special Ones. 
This book was fantastic. Very tense, quite heart-wrenching at times and gives a view inside the head of a psychopath. Written from the perspective of Esther, one of the Special Ones, you are drawn into the life on the farm and almost forget about the outside world. There are plenty of twists and lots of suspense as Esther tries to maintain her previous memories from before. 
An edge-of-your-seat read, a little disturbing but well written and entertaining.

The Sound
By Sarah Alderson

Ren takes a summer nannying job in Nantucket, a long way from her home in England. Fresh from a break-up she wants to relax and blog about music but instead gets involved with a group of rich kids who love to party. Torn between one boy in particular and the local bad-boy who fixes bikes, Ren gets swept up in a not-so-quiet summer. Add to this some dark secrets and a potential serial-killer on the loose and you get one crazy story.
Now I must admit-this is pretty far past my teen-angst/lust threshold but for some reason it made it onto my nightstand. There were things I liked and disliked about this book. I disliked the flippant take on nannying/child minding. Maybe it's from a mothers perspective but her summer 'job' seemed to be way too easy and gave her way too much free time. The rich kids seemed very Mean Girls-y, even the guys bar one. The murder/mystery plot seemed secondary to the love triangle which was a bit tedious.
I liked the character development of the bad boy, Jesse. I also liked that although it was very predictable, the plot twist still managed to fool me until the last second.
Overall, not a bad book. Not a great book, but I didn't struggle through it and (mostly) enjoyed the read.

By Jessica Khoury

17 year old Sophie is living with her father in New York when she receives an urgent message from her mother telling her to go to Skin Island, where she is working on genetic research. Sophie makes her way there, having trouble flying to the island which has a reputation that preceeds it. She convinces a childhood friend to take her there but when they become stuck on the island, things begin to go astray. It turns out the research that Sophie's mother is doing is not the curing cancer kind, but the creating test-tube humans with no free will kind. The company behind it all has cruel intentions and Sophie and her friend Jim end up fighting for their lives, and the life of Sophie's newly discovered twin Lux, who is one of the Vitro's - the genetically modified humans who are designed to imprint (or serve, putting it crudely) the person they see first when they are woken up.
It is quite tricky to summarize this book, a lot happens but I don't want to ruin the plot. This book was quite slow to start but then once the pace quickened, it didn't stop until the end. Sophie is a believable character, the product of a divorced family who desperately wants to be like her mother, or the ideal of her mother. The scientists on the island are (mostly) portrayed as cold and heartless. The narrative is told by Lux some of the time which is very insightful and interesting. Jim, the childhood friend/love interest is also a strong character who proves to be fiercely loyal. There is a lot of action and multiple sinister characters which lead the book into some dark places. The genetic engineering side of the book is almost at the nearly-plausible stage so it doesn't take much imagination to turn this into a potential reality.
Overall a really good read. Well-rounded, definitely not chick-lit.

By Ally Condie

In the Society, officials decide. Who you love, where you work, when you die.
When Cassia turns 17 she attends a matching banquet where it is revealed who she will be matched with for the rest of her life. When a screen reveals that she is matched with Xander, her best friend since childhood, she is happy. But when an image mistakenly flashes up of another boy, Ky, Cassia is drawn to the thought of a different reality. One that challenges the very rules of the so-called perfect Society.
This book is a dystopian novel in a world where the best parts of the past have been preserved but everything else has been erased. Meals, matches, jobs are all decided for you so that you have the longest possible life and contribute to Society. It draws threads from Hunger Games with it's different districts, especially the outer ones serving the more affluent, and Divergent with the rising rebellion against a manufactured society. This is the first in a trilogy, I haven't read the last two books but I plan to.
This book was another quick read, easier than the rest. There was a lot of weight on the love triangle side of the plot which tended to overwhelm a bit but the underlying rebellion was enough to keep me interested. I wouldn't put it quite in the ranks of the aforementioned series, but I still enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next two.

I hope you enjoyed my little reviews that became a lot more involved than I was intending. I plan to document the majority of my recreational reading so expect more of the same as I am a literary creature of habit. I would love some recommendations of books along similar lines or any others that you have loved. Rest assured that there will also be more crafty exploits to come too, especially as our house renovations have kicked up a gear in the last month!


Monday 2 January 2017

Book Review: Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris

Runemarks has just been re-released with a new (amazing) cover, a new introduction and has been re-edited. Previously released in 2007, this book is by the author of 'Chocolat' and 'The Gospel of Loki'.

Runemarks is drenched in Norse mythology and follows the story of 14 year old Maddy who has a runemark on her hand, giving her access to magic and untold power. She is thought of as strange in her small village and befriends a traveler called One-Eye who helps her develop her magic. He sends her on a mission into the Underworld to retrieve an old relic called The Whisperer where it is under guard by the trickster Loki. This causes a shift in the worlds and things begin to unravel. Dark forces, sleeping gods, and Hel herself join the battle to restore the balance between Order and Chaos.

This book was a mixed bag for me. I enjoy reading fantasy and mythology but this book was a big learning curve for me. The language is as complicated as the worlds within and I thought it could have been explained a bit more. Or perhaps I need to turn my brain on and figure it out myself. It is assumed you already have knowledge of this genre of fantasy. However, I got past that and kept reading. It is a big book at 513 pages which doesn't lend to reading it in one go. Having to put it down made it harder to get back into but once again, perhaps it just isn't my sort of book.
I did enjoy the characters however. Loki especially. Called the 'Trickster' for a reason, he was given a great depth of character and I even found myself on his side a couple of times. Thor and Odin make an appearance although I had to do a bit of research as in this book (which is true to the myths) Odin and Loki are blood brothers. My more recent dealings with Norse mythology have been via the Marvel films where Loki and Thor are (adopted) siblings so this got me turned around a bit.

Once that issue was sorted this book did definitely get interesting. Maddy's journey into the lower worlds was compelling and full of imagery. The ending was left semi-open which is what you want in this type of book. There was also a decent twist that may or may not be obvious but it got me!

Overall, this book is well researched and written and highly recommended for those who are well practiced in the fantasy genre. For those wanting to branch out, perhaps work your way up to it. The new cover art is stunning and the included illustrations in the preface set the scene for the book.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.