The Scorch Trials

mrstTitle: The Scorch Trials

Author: James Dashner

Summary: Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he would get his life back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to…

Burned and baked, the earth is a wasteland, its people driven mad by an infection known as the Flare.

Instead of freedom, Thomas must face another trial. He must cross the Scorch to once again save himself and his friends.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1/5

Review: I read The Maze Runner about a year ago, and it left with a lot to say. While i loved the story, setting and mystery of the book, the writing was atrocious. The writing in this sequel did not improve, and unfortunately the story, setting and mystery only went down hill. So much so, i couldn’t bring myself to finish the book.

I gave up a little over halfway through, when i realised there was nothing about the plot that was fascinating enough to keep me reading–to keep me reading a book written this badly. I disliked it so much, i don’t even think i can bring myself to write much about it. I’ll take it one aspect at a time:

The plot: This started well, with the safety the kids think they’ve found turning on them. Things changed quickly and so dramatically it was easy to stay interested, to want to keep reading. This lasted through their time in their limited dorm-type space, through the tunnel of molten head-eating machines and up to their exit into “the Scorch”. After that, things started to go downhill. A few days of the boys slogging through the heat, getting nowhere fast, nothing happening… it was dull, to say the least. When they finally made it to the city, to buildings, to other life forms, i thought things might pick up. But after that, it just seemed like action for the sake of action, rather than anything the was driving the plot. IDGAF about underground tunnels and cranks too far gone–i want to know more about WICKED and what the hell they’re doing to these kids. It was at that point i had to give up.

The characters: Minho was still my favourite. I think because he seems the most real. His emotions seem close to the surface, but he’s also pragmatic and wants to get shit done. Despite there being a smaller number of characters, we still don’t get to know many. In fact Thomas, our (still lack-luster) lead, comments a few times that he can’t even name a lot of them. Way to be a dick, Tommy. I guess that way you don’t have to emotionally develop when they die. Talking of Thomas, i hate him. A large part of that is because we’re experiencing this from his POV, and the writing of that POV is absolutely terrible. Some of that is because he lacks any kind of emotional depth. He doesn’t mention Teresa, the girl he shared such a deep and meaningful connection with who went missing, for several chapters, then suddenly claims she’s all he can think about. He’s sobbing and angry when he finds her but has to run and leave her behind, but as soon as a new girl shows up he’s eyeing her up and getting touchy feeling within minutes. There are a dozen male characters, they can’t get hooked up with the new girl? With each other? You can’t have a female character who isn’t a love interest?

Finally, the writing: It is bad. So bad i have to wonder if this was even edited. Did they accidentally print the first draft? Dashner can not write. It’s all tell, no show. Things stated plainly with no feeling or mood. Questions asked blatantly, outright leading the reader rather than enticing them along. Settings described in unnecessary detail, but the emotional states of the characters and evocative atmospheres are consistently absent. His pacing is off, he fails to use language to immerse the reader into the moment, instead dragging them along awkwardly. While i was reading this sequel, my partner attempted to read the first book–operative word: attempted. He didn’t get past the first chapter, and it took him so long because we were sitting together reading out the best examples of the appalling writing. It was fun for 20 minutes or so, but only when you have someone to share the cringe-worthiness with.

I’m throwing in the towel on this series. I officially don’t care how it ends. Call me when someone opens a kickstarter raising funds for a decent author to re-write the entire thing.





Castle in the Air

castle-in-the-airTitle: Castle in the Air

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Summary: Far to the south in the land of Ingary, loves Abdullah. By day he is a humble carpet merchant, but in his dreams he is a prince.

Abdullah’s dreams suddenly start to come true when he meets the lovely Flower-in-the-Night. When a hideous djinn carries her off into the sky, Adullah is determined to rescue her, if he can find her, and if he can avoid all the ferocious villains who seems to be after him. But how can he possibly succeed, with only a bad-tempered genie and an unreliable magic carpet to help him?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: After being left nearly incoherent by my love for the first book, Howl’s Moving Castle, I was excited to get into this book. I soon came down to earth with a bump–this book is sadly not nearly as wonderful as the first.

My expectations had a big influence on my enjoyment. I wanted to see a lot of Sophie and Howl, after all they were the things i loved most about the first book. The blurb may be about Abdullah and his genie, but I’d imagined a lot of help or involvement from Sophie and Howl. Instead, they were only in it right at the end and not nearly enough to sate my want. Their missing presence is the really the biggest qualm i have.

However, despite the lack of my favourite characters, this book wasn’t perfect. The start dragged too much for my liking, with not enough excitement or disruption to keep me completely engrossed. When things did finally get shaken up, it was far too briefly and the narrative soon settled into doldrums for several more chapters. It isn’t until the final handful of chapters that things finally start happening, but then, because everything is happening, it all happens too quickly!

I did like most of the characters in this. Abdullah is a little timid, but endearingly determined, and his expressive and complimentary epithets were some kind of wonderful, often making me grin. Flower-in-the-Night, other than having a ridiculous name, was wonderful. A level-headed, intelligent female who didn’t need rescuing so much as she needed a few items to aid her own escape. In fact all the princesses were pretty awesome with getting on with shit, rather than bemoaning and waiting to be rescued. The solider was intriguing enough to keep me guessing, and i loved his love for the cats. Of course, by the end of the book, Sophie and Howl steal the show.

Despite a strong showing of capable and independent female characters, there was a certain aspect of the book i couldn’t quite stomach: the subtle sexism. The idea of men ‘owning’ women; of marrying several and giving daughters or relatives away to other men. I don’t care what era or culture is being represented, don’t include aspects like that if you’re not going to critiquing them. Also fat-shaming! Just… so many details that, though small and seemingly throwaway, disappointed and upset me.

As i own the third (and final!) book in this series, I do think i’ll read it. However my expectations will be suitably curbed following this reading experience. Is more Sophie and Howl really too much to ask for!?

The Maze Runner

mazerunnerTitle: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Summary: When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas can remember is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there, or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything to find out.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: This book found its way onto my to-read list thanks to the film they made out of it and, of course, my desire to read the book first. A couple of year later and i finally got around to reading the book. Billed as “a must for fans of The Hunger Games”, the dystopian science fiction and the draw of the puzzling maze… all these things had me hopeful and excited.

The entirety of the 3.5 stars i am giving this book are based solely on its plot, genre and ideas. They are fascinating, original and left me eager to keep reading. I had so many thoughts and ideas and questions that i had to keep reading to explore and find out more. Where is the Glade? Why are all these teenagers being sent there? Where (if anywhere) does the maze lead? ETC, ETC. However. The 1.5 stars this book did not get, is mostly what i find myself needing to talk about.

Firstly, Thomas. Our lead character. I didn’t hate him, but neither did i like him. I wasn’t rooting for him, because ultimately i couldn’t get a genuine feel for him. He seemed like a non-character. He was wildly inconsistent; he would decide he liked someone, then in the next chapter they would do something he didn’t appreciate and he’d decide he didn’t like them. I specifically noticed this with Chuck, Minho, Newt and Alby–Thomas was constantly liking then disliking then liking them again. He was also a contradiction in himself; one example that sticks in my mind was one minute he wanted to avoid people, then the next he didn’t want to be alone. And the thing that bothered me most about these swift changes in attitude was how sudden and out of the blue they were. There was no plot-driven reason, or even situational reason, it just seemed like he needed to think and feel something, so it was just bunged in without thought.

Leading on from that was the fact that Thomas asked a lot of questions. And i don’t mean to the other Gladers, when he was trying to get information or figure things out, but i mean, in his head. He posed questions straightforwardly, prompting the reader to consider certain things–pushing them in a certain direction. Essentially, it’s a poor writing device. Instead of leading the way with action and description, Dashner decided to point the way with neon road signs.

There were a few things that felt forced, contrived and unnecessary. The first and most obvious thing was the slang language of the Gladers. Words like ‘klunk’, ‘shank’ and ‘shunk’ which to me had no specific definition and all seemed interchangeable with ‘shit’ and/or ‘fuck’. The other thing that felt unnecessary was, i’m sorry to say, Teresa. The token female, she brings nothing to the book for being a female other than a vague attempt at a romance and a few poor-taste rape jokes. Why not just make the entire group a mix of males and females? From what we learn towards the end of the book, am i to assume penises make a person more intelligent? Because if so, fuck you, James Dashner.

For all its mystery and world building and hooks and set up, at times this book was rather predictable. The large-scale plot and back story is almost impossible to figure out precisely, but the small plot points and the details were simple enough that i saw them coming immediately. And for a group of oh-so-intelligent teenagers, it leaves me highly unimpressed that they missed these things. Who set the fire was obvious before the fire was even mentioned, and WICKED was literally staring them in the face, to give but two examples.

Although i devoured the second half of this book in a couple of hours, it still had its issues. The action-packed climax was not smoothly written; i was never so caught up in what was happening that i forgot i was reading. There were even times when things were unclear and i was confused, which caused me to go back and re-read parts. I want to be immersed in the action, not stopping to figure things out or rearrange things in my head. Action scenes, particularly, need to be edited to hell in order to make them run smoothly and effortlessly for the readers. These ones weren’t.

The last few chapters and the last few reveals were… a little rushed. So much changes, but at the same time, so little is actually revealed, that i felt very unsatisfied by the non-answers to the entire book’s set up. Instead of a satisfying end to this book, i felt like i had read the first few chapters of the next. And that’s bad form, as far as i’m concerned. Screw the sequel, you need to give closure to this book–to this story, before you start writing a big ellipsis and thinking about all the money you’ll make from a sequel.

Saying that, i think i will read the sequel. I’m not overly optimistic about it, but there was enough interesting plot and world in this book that i’m still thinking about it; still, in some ways, want to be reading it. So, i will give Dashner one more chance. I’m pinning my hopes on him having taken a writing class and hired a better editor between writing The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials…

The biggest downfall of this book, 100%, is the writing. At best, it’s mediocre. It’s all tell no show, it’s so basic and straightforward. It lacks passion and atmosphere, it lacks interest and development. Although a few characters were interesting, i got the impression this was an accident, and they were never explored deeply enough. It’s one of those books i can so easily see being so much better, and that disappoints me more than anything–so much wasted potential. As i have read in other reviews, if this book and its premise and ideas had been in the hands of another author, it could have been incredible. Instead, it’s only halfway decent.

This knocks one square off my Bookish Bingo: An Asian main character.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl'sMovingCastle_B_PBTitle: Howl’s Moving Castle

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Summary: “How about making a bargain with me?” said the demon. “I’ll break your spell if you agree to break this contact I’m under.”

In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, Sophie Hatter attracts the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help – the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills.

But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls…

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: I’m not sure I know where to start with this review. I guess I start by saying I bloody absolutely loved this book. I did not expect to fall this hard for this book, but here I am. I had seen the film, many years ago now, and very much enjoyed it. But the book. Well, no surprises that it’s better, but. It’s left me barely able to write full sentences, apparently. I’m not even sure how to put words to why I love it. When I first started reading and I was so engrossed and I couldn’t put it down I thought, “What is it I love so much about this books?” And damn it if I could answer.

On reflection, I think the biggest thing I loved was that when I was reading it, I was fully immersed in the world of the book, in the story. I wasn’t sitting in my chair reading words on the page, I was in Ingary with Sophie, I was in Howl’s castle, I was racing across fields in seven league boots. I was all in with these characters and their world. And really, that’s the best feeling any book can give me.

It was all the little things really. It was all the things, really. I loved the way you get thrown into this world and are expected to keep up. There is no explanation for anything, it’s just presented as fact—accept it and keep reading or GTFO. I hate to be bogged down in too much talk around and about things, and this book has none of that. There is magic and curses and a floating castle and fire demons, oh and also Wales and electricity and computer games and cars. No reason as to how or why all these things exist, no in depth details about the world.

The characters. Oh, yes, I loved them all. Sophie’s determination and strong-will, yet also her insecurities. Howl’s aloof allure and harsh words, yet also his kind actions. Calcifer’s tricky ways and grumbles, yet also his need for company. Everyone was so real and fleshed out, but it was all done so well and so subtly, so as never to be too obvious about it.

This might be a book for a younger audience (I don’t like to say ‘young adult’, as that comes with connotations of genre and subject matter, for me), but it is definitely a book that can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to get lost in a magical adventure.

This knocks three squares off my Bookish Bingo: About a curse, kiss-ass female hero and purple on the cover.


The Ocean at the End of the Lane

oateotlTitle: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Summary: This is what he remembers, as he sits by the ocean at the end of the lane:

A dead man on the back seat of the car, and warm milk at the farmhouse; An ancient little girl, and an old woman who saw the moon being made; A beautiful housekeeper with a monstrous smile; And dark forces woken that were best left undisturbed.

These are memories hard to believe, waiting at the edges of things. The recollections of a man who thought he was lost but is now, perhaps, remembering a time when he was saved…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I have only read one Neil Gaiman book before, American Gods, and i really enjoyed it. I didn’t know much about Gaiman’s other books, or his general writing style, so i still didn’t know what to expect from this book. Now i’ve read it, i can say i still don’t know what to expect for the next one.

I loved the fantasy aspect. The Hempstock family, their other-worldliness and mystery as well as the monsters, Ursula Monkton and the Varmints. I wanted to know more about them, even if the things i found out only left me with more questions. I loved all three Hempstocks, and maybe especially Lettie. The end then, though quite a shock, was simultaneously the best and worst part of the book.

The narrator is not named, and most of the book is told from the point of view of him as an adult remembering the events of when he was seven. I liked how this allowed for the seven year old perspective, but with adult reflections of what was happening and what it meant. I loved how he just accepted the Hempstocks and their strange abilities, as any self-respecting seven year old should. I loved hearing about his life and, most especially, about his love of reading (do people who love reading ever get tired of reading about characters who love reading? I don’t think so).

Now, the things i didn’t like. First of all, the narrator’s family’s “financial troubles”. They claim to be struggling so much that the mother has to get a part time job. They’re struggling so much that they offer rent and board to women to watch the kids for a few days a week. They’re struggling so much they have a couple come in to do the gardening and cleaning. This is not struggling, this is middle class. And the privilege that was not being checked throughout the entire book goaded my annoyance every time it was mentioned.

The only other thing that really bothered me, didn’t really bother me. It was just… potential. I think the book has more. I never felt the narrative was pulling me anywhere. There was nothing i was really wondering, no place i was waiting to get to. There were several small, and quickly remedied plot points, but no over-arcing plot stringing them together. Then i read the questions to the author at the end of the book, and this fact only made more sense. Gaiman said he wrote this without knowing what was going to happen. He said he was writing with a limited view as to what was to happen. He said that the twist at the end caught him by as much surprise as it does the reader. And really, that style of writing really shows in this book. It meanders, it plods along, it takes a few twists, but it doesn’t wrap up nicely or have running themes or motifs, and it lacks a lot because of that, for me.

For a long way through the book i was hoping it would be left open at the end, as to whether the story that was being told actually happened or was all the imagination of a seven-year-old boy. And the idea is touched upon, with Old Mrs Hempstock pointing out that no two people will ever remember events the same. But in the end it was definitely left more on the ‘it did happen’ side, with only the idea that maybe it didn’t happen exactly as we’d been told.

I did enjoy this book, and very much look forward to reading more Gaiman in future; having read American Gods, i know he can do better.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

mockingjayTitle: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Summary: Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But she’s still not safe. A revolution is unfolding, and everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans – everyone except Katniss. And yet she must play the most vital part in the final battle. Katniss must become their Mockingjay – the symbol of rebellion – no matter what the personal cost.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: The conclusion to The Hunger Games series. I don’t think i can review this without spoilers. I was hoping by the end of the last book, i would want to go back and give all the books five stars, but no. They stand firm at four stars, though had this last book been a little better, the series could have made it to five stars.

I got what i wanted, after finishing the second book: this book has no Hunger Games and is purely about the revolution. It’s the revolution through Katniss’ eyes, though, so there are limits to what we see. Convinced into becoming the Mockingjay, the rebellious figurehead of the revolution, Katniss is less fighting in the revolution that she is a pawn in it. She makes promotional videos that are, basically, used to advertise the rebellion and encourage other districts and citizens to join the resistance. It was tacky and made me cringe, but i loved it because, that was the point. War, with governments and rebels seeking support and soldiers is not pretty, and is ultimately played out like a game for those orchestrating the thing behind closed doors.

Katniss, in this book, is already broken. It seems she’s only put back together and broken again several more times throughout the story. At times i found her as headstrong as her original self, but a lot of the time i found her too passive, too unsure of herself and veering between different ideas, motivation and plans. The only thing she was sure of throughout the book–that she wanted to kill Snow–she managed to fail at, but, i also view that scene as her greatest accomplishment in the book. I just wish there could have been more discourse on it, i wish she’d been allowed to air her reasons. Of course that would have landed her in prison, or worse, but that was me still hoping for an unrealistic politically unachievable ending. I can settle for the fact that Katniss did it, without the world realising why it was such an important act.

This book introduced a lot of new characters. Both the previous books, of course, had a lot of characters because of the participants for the Hunger Games, but realistically, we only got to know a handful of them. Here more characters are of more importance, and honestly, i couldn’t follow them all. And with a few similar names (Flavius/Fulvia Cressida/Messalla) i was often getting confused as to who was who. I will say: I loved Boggs, Pollux, Paylor, and most of the returning characters. The rest i either disliked, or didn’t care enough about. So, really, only two deaths upset me. One that didn’t, was actually the one that affected Katniss the most. I just think that death wasn’t made the most of; it ultimately made everything Katniss has been through pointless, but nothing was made of it.

Gale versus Peeta. Well, i will say i like both of them. Peeta is so positive, so genuine and so kind, and what he was put through in this book was horrible. Gale is strong, a fighter, independent and Katniss’ equal. I liked them both, but realistically, i didn’t want Katniss to end up with either of them. It would have seemed forced, whoever it was. And it was; i felt the wedge being forced between Katniss and Gale, leaving Peeta as her only option, which was rubbish.

As the end approached, and Katniss and Haymitch headed back to District 12, the emotions got me. Both of them wallowing in their misery, alone, not leaving the house. As upsetting as that picture was, it was real. After everything they’d been through, how could they be okay? That’s where i wanted it to end, not happily, but full of emotion, and realistically. Then Peeta showed up and ruined it all.

Don’t even get me started on the epilogue. Katniss was ruined by the end; not by the Games, or the war, or her emotional and physiological problems, but by being turned from a strong, free-thinking female character, into a woman who has to settle down with a nice man and have kids. Honestly, it made me sick.

My favourite relationship throughout all three books has been Katniss and Haymitch. How they understand each other, rile each other, but ultimately trust each other. I think that’s why i found the pair of them living out their lives in parallel misery seemed so fitting to me.

I said there wasn’t a Hunger Games in this book, but the war was being played out like one. Collins is drawing parallels between the two, showing wide-ranging and mis-matching opinions of both. For anyone looking beyond the superficial love stories and traumatic personal plights, this book takes a very interesting look at government, politics, power, the media and rebellion.

I Capture the Castle

!!d71vRgEWM~$(KGrHqYOKm8Ew9Bs7C7-BMR82FFvZQ~~_35Title: I Capture the Castle

Author: Dodie Smith

Summary: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ is the first line of a novel about love, sibling rivalry and a bohemian existence in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Cassandra Mortmain’s journal records her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her beautiful, wistful older sister, Rose and the man to whom all three of them owe their isolation and poverty: Father.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: I didn’t know too much about this book before i read it. I can’t even remember how it ended up on my to-read list. I just knew it was about a family that lived in a run down old castle, and that sounded fun.

I love the writing. As the book is the journal of Cassandra, it was impossible to love the writing without loving her too. She’s smart and observant, and i just loved her voice. She is so kind and sees the good in everyone, i admire that because i certainly can’t do it myself!

Cassandra also makes some stunningly beautiful and meaningful comments, almost too casually. She says she wishes she could write poetry, but to me she already does.

What the book lacks is an interesting plot. I loved this family, i loved how close they were despite their troubles and poor financial situation. I love how they all pulled together to do what they could. I loved the mystery surrounding the father and the will he/won’t he, can he/can’t he regarding his writing career.

What i did not like was the love stories. He loves her, but she loves him, but he loves her sister, but she loves her brother… bah. Early on in the book Cassandra and Rose briefly discuss books, Rose favouring Jane Austen and Cassandra liking Charlotte Brontë. I wondered then what i’d let myself in for. Books whose focus is on the main female characters falling in love and being swept of her feet and… not my thing. Not my thing at all.

The writing, narrative voice and lots of the characters were truly wonderful. I just didn’t like what they were used for.

This is the second book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching FireTitle: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are still alive. Katniss should be relieved, but now there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

As the nation watches Katniss and Peeta, the stakes are higher than ever. One false move and the consequences will be unimaginable.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: As much as i wanted to pick up this book immediately after finishing the first one, i tried to pace myself. Three books is pacing, right? I’m going to see the Catching Fire film in the near future, so i decided i had better read it before then.

This book is just as unputdownable as the first. When i had just over 100 pages left, i spent a whole work shift thinking about the book and just wanted to get back to reading it. I went home and stayed up much later than normal finishing it. How tired i was the next day was totally worth it.

I’m not even sure what it is. The setting, the situation and the plot are all just… bloody good.

There is one thing that’s not good, though. I noticed it in the first book, but for whatever reason it didn’t bother me as much. The writing. The book is written in first person, and is immensely tell rather than show. The reader is not left to wonder about things, or come to their own conclusions about anything. Katniss, almost methodically, analyses everything and everyone around her, drawing conclusions (which are not always right and are prone to change, as more information is gathered and analysed) and telling the reader what to think about things. It irked me more often in this book than the first (but never enough for me to even pause in my reading).

As much as i appreciate Katniss for being a strong female character, not defined by the men around her and not a slave to her emotions, it would be good if, now and again, she actually had emotions. I guess that’s a little harsh. She does have them; she loves her sister and hates President Snow. I guess what bothers me is how two dimensional they are. Even her feelings seem to be thought about, analysed and conclusions drawn, rather than just felt.

Basically, Katniss thinks too much.

I liked what the new characters brought to the book, though this time around i didn’t like all of the characters. I think because we didn’t get a chance to know them well enough. We saw only one side to them, in a situation where they were playing a game (two games?). But i was interested enough to want to know more about them (though perhaps not through Katniss’ eyes).

Also, the revolting and rioting and defiance of the Capitol. YES. This is what i really loved, and is also what i can’t wait for more of in the last book. At this point, i’m thinking, ‘Screw the Hunger Games, just give me a whole book about a revolution!”

The Hunger Games

hunger gamesTitle: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins.

Summary: Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: Kill or be killed.
When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I feel like i should have read this book a long time ago. I was finally driven to reading it after i recently watched the film (yes, before reading the book, shame on me!) and although i enjoyed it, i knew the book would be so much better. Spoiler: It is.

I basically read this book in two sittings. It was completely one of those books i didn’t want to put down. I’m still thinking about it as if i’m still reading it, and all i want to do is pick up Catching Fire and carry on reading. I am pacing myself, though.

The first person narrative was a little jarring at first, but i quickly got used to it and really, it’s necessary. The reader needs to get inside Katniss’ head and understand her motivations and conflicting, confused emotions. She’s an interesting character and it’s refreshing to read a lead female character who is truly independent and not defined by the men around her.

The basic idea of The Hunger Games has been done before in films like Battle Royale and Series 7, but that don’t make this book unoriginal. There is a lot of focus on why The Hunger Games happen, which is the real interesting topic for me. The Capitol, the 12 districts and the use of the games to keep people in their place… I love a good dystopia.

It’s almost a miracle, but i actually liked all the characters. Well, all the characters that weren’t Careers. I didn’t necessarily love them all, but i liked them all enough to empathise with them. What most surprised me was when i felt bad for Peeta at the end, because despite Katniss’ conflicted feelings about and towards him, it’s so obvious he’s a genuinely nice guy (something i did not get from the film at all, incidentally).

I debated whether to give this book four or five stars. In the end i gave four, because there was this huge ellipsis at the end of the book. Maybe that’s because i know there is a sequel, and that this isn’t the end for these characters, but equally, everything wasn’t concluded enough. I can’t possibly give this five stars until i know what happens in the two succeeding books–until i’m satisfied.

Looking for Alaska

lookingforakTitle: Looking for Alaska.

Author: John Green.

Summary: Alaska Young. Gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, screwed up – and utterly fascinating. Miles Halter could not be more in love with her. But when tragedy strikes, Miles discovers the value and the pain of living and loving unconditionally.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: I decided to pick up a John Green book after watching several of his youtube videos and finding him to be a very intelligent and articulate person. So, despite the fact his books are quoted on tumblr like scripture by teenagers, i chose to read one. And, as is my wont, i began chronologically.

As far as i am aware, i had come across no spoilers for this book, but i somehow knew what was going to happen, knew that Alaska was a person and knew what the ‘looking’ was eluding to.

The front cover, blurb and back cover quote, in my opinion, do nothing for the book. If i had not already decided i wanted to read this book, nothing about the book itself would have compelled me to. It looks and sounds immature and awfully clichéd. (Thankfully) a perfect example of ‘never judge a book by its cover’ (or blurb or quotes).

I liked the chapter and book divisions; X Days Before/X Days After. The ‘before’ half of the book was, for me, the weaker half. It was the “normal” half. Boy makes friends, meets girls, enjoys life… It was very well written, made me laugh often and was enjoyable to read, but wasn’t overly thrilling or the kind of genre i usually like to read.

The ‘after’ half is what makes the book. The first half was just a very long prelude, in comparison. The first half sets the scene and the characters, the second half truly explores them. The second half is when i really began to care, about the characters and the situation they find themselves in.

There are, as tumblr can attest, plenty of quote-worthy one liners in this book, but the real meaning behind them is lost without the context of the story. Similarly with Pudge’s last words obsession; he often recounts the situation of the person’s death in order to give their last words their true meaning.

Although teetering oh so close to the “normal” fiction which i avoid vehemently, John Green’s writing is very compelling. Regardless of the subject matter, he makes reading it interesting. I plan on reading at least one more of his books, at some point, before deciding if the tumblr masses are crazily over-obsessed teenagers, or averagely-obsessed teenagers with good taste.