Review: The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

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Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Release date: May 1, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages; 468
Goodreads || Book Depository

Imagine if you could see inside the minds of everyone around you – your best friend, your boyfriend, your enemies…?
Imagine how valuable you’d be…
Imagine how much danger you’d be in…
Imagine being an Outlier.

Wylie hasn’t heard from her best friend, Cassie, since their fight. That doesn’t matter when she gets a text from her, asking for help. But as Cassie’s messages become increasingly strange, Wylie has a growing sense that something is REALLY wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling her? And could finding her be just the beginning?

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for sending me a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Outliers is a new mystery/thriller series by Kimberly McCreight. In this first book, we follow Wylie, who receives some strange text messages from her missing friend, Cassie, asking for help. For the majority of the book, we follow Wylie and Cassie’s boyfriend, Jasper, as they go on a crazy and thrilling road trip in the middle of the night, in search for Cassie.

I don’t usually read thrillers but I decided to give this one a go because I read a sampler and was really interested in Wylie’s character and her anxiety problems in the aftermath of her mother’s car accident. Agoraphobia is something that I’m super interested in and I wanted to see how it was handled in this kind of a book. Sadly, the agoraphobia lasted for about 3 chapters before Wylie magically decided to leave the house and suddenly everything was okay again. I was pretty disappointed with how it was handled and how it was thrown to the side in favour of moving the plot forward. This is something that I see way too often in YA and I’m often left wondering why it’s even necessary for authors to incorporate mental illness into their books if it’s not going to be explored.

I also had a problem with the whole concept of the Outliers in this novel. They’re supposed to be a group of people who have heightened sensitivity to other people’s emotions – so much so that they’re able to read others’ emotions with blindfolds and headphones on. Despite the whole book centreing on this idea, it was hardly explained at all. I didn’t get the sense that the author had done a lot of research on the topic and it just didn’t seem like she had a good idea of where she wanted to go with this. Being that psychological research is my full-time job, I had lots of issues with the research that was mentioned in the book. There were lots and lots of holes and I couldn’t help but critique every aspect of the research design and cringe at how invalid some of it was. There were terms that have a very specific meaning in psychology that were misused and I had to try to ignore the whole concept of the Outliers to even enjoy the book.

As for the plot, I did find it to be exciting and thrilling but there were things that happened that were a little bit predictable. The blurb on the back of the book gives some things away and it’s definitely better to go into it not knowing anything at all. I also thought that there were some things that were kind of unrealistic and I kept finding myself being jerked out of the book because it was so hard to believe that these things were happening. Overall, even though the plot was exciting and kept me reading (in fact, I read this in two sittings), I didn’t think that it was the most amazing and exciting plot. It was honestly a little sub par. There isn’t a lot that actually happens, and a huge chunk of the book is just about Wylie and Jasper driving on the highway.

There isn’t a lot that I have to say about the characters. I disliked almost every single one of them because I didn’t know if I could trust them. I didn’t feel a connection to any of them because as soon as I felt like I knew them, there would be some sort of twist or change in attitude that would make me feel as though I never knew them in the first place. I did think Wylie was a good protagonist that I could get behind as the series progresses but I’m not sure that I’ll be continuing on with the series after this. I have no idea where the sequel is going to go but I think this book could have easily been a standalone novel if it had been better conceptualised and developed.

Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

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Publisher: Allison & Busby
Release date: July 7, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 407
Goodreads || Book Depository

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar . . . but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn. . . .

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Ink and Bone is an alternate history novel, set in a world where the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed. In this world, knowledge is power and more important than anything else in the world. Because of this, the Library and its staff rule over everything and not everybody uses their power for good… The world is full of people who want knowledge to be free and accessible for everybody and rebellious groups have formed as a result of this, such as the Burners, who burn books and martyr themselves to make a point. There are also black market book smugglers who steal and sell original and unique copies of books to collectors. Jess Brightwell was born and raised in a family of book smugglers but he’s never really fit in with everybody else. One day, he’s given the chance to sit an exam to become a Scholar at the Library in Alexandria, and the story starts from there.

Knowledge is all. The Library’s motto, and this was what it meant in the real world. It meant that nothing, nothing was more valuable. Not even lives.

I really, really loved the world in this book. It was a regressed society, meaning that it’s set in the future in 2025 but almost felt like it was set in the 19th century instead. It had some really cool sci-fi and steampunk elements, with automatons shaped like lions and teleportation/translation through a ‘portal’. Each character also had a Codex, which came across to me as a cross between a book and a tablet. The characters were able to send messages to each other through the blank pages of the Codex, and it also contained the complete list of titles available in the Library. I thought it was a really unique idea and really enjoyed it. I have to admit that it did take me a while to get a good sense of the world. It was just so futuristic and historical at the same time that I had some difficulty comprehending and imagining it all at times.

The characters in this novel were absolutely magnificent. I really enjoyed Jess as a main character. There was a point in the book when I thought he was going to be the Chosen One and I shuddered a little at the thought of another Chosen One story, but I’m glad that it didn’t turn out that way. The characters were all very complex and they all had some secrets to hide, which made them very multi-dimensional and unpredictable. The diversity in the characters was wonderful. I loved that there was racial diversity as well as sexual diversity. Overall, they were characters that I enjoyed reading about and had no problem rooting for. What I had a bit of a hard time dealing with were some of the Library staff. I couldn’t really keep them straight in my head because they were referred to by their titles rather than by names. It took me almost the whole book to remember what their role was and whether they were good or evil.

For me, the world and the characters definitely the standout aspects of this book. While I really enjoyed the plot, I was missing a little bit of the ebbs and flows that we usually see in story arcs. There wasn’t a climax or resolution and I just wanted the book have more of a build up of intensity. I loved what I read but it all felt a little bit flat, which stopped me from being super excited and invested in the book. It almost felt like the book was cut off before the excitement began. I am in a slight reading slump, so maybe that’s just me not really feeling excited to read in general.

What I also didn’t really like in this book was the romance. I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t see a lot of development so it almost felt like it came out of nowhere. There was definitely some attraction and interest, but they went from just chatting like friends to kissing and it just didn’t feel genuine to me. The romance is a pretty small part of the book though, so it didn’t bother me too much.

Despite the little problems that I had with the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t a book that was on my TBR but I’m glad that it was recommended and pushed to me.

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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Publisher: Indigo
Release date: November 5, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 390
Goodreads || Book Depository

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele’s twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history WWII novel with a sci-fi twist. In this world, the Axis powers won the second world war and Hitler has control of most of the Western world, while Japan and Emperor Hirohito is in control of the East. However, the Resistance is growing and our main character, Yael, is at the centre of a mission to bring down Hitler. Each year, a cross-continent motocross competition is held and Yael enters this race posing as the previous year’s winner, Adele Wolfe. As the winner of the motocross race, Yael would have the opportunity to have a private audience with Hitler, where she plans to kill him.

The only people desperate enough to do business under high moon and heavy shadows were resistance conspirators, black-market scoundrels and Jews in disguise.

Yael happened to be all three.

Yael was taken to a death camp as a child, where she was experimented on and injected with chemicals that would give her an Aryan appearance. But white blonde hair and pale blue eyes weren’t all that these injections gave Yael. She acquired the ability to skinshift, meaning that she can change her appearance at will, including her bone structure, the colour of her skin, the colour and length of her hair and the sound of her voice. This ability has put Yael at the heart of the mission to assassinate Hitler. She enters the motocross race as Adele Wolfe and must try to keep her own identity and her true self hidden. But this proves to be harder than Yael expected. She finds her own emotions getting in the way of what needs to be done. In addition to that, she could have never expected Adele’s twin brother to also enter the race or that there may be a secret relationship between Adele and another competitor that Yael knows nothing about…

I really loved Yael’s character. She was very intriguing and I loved seeing her inner turmoil as she tried to stay in the character of Adele, while her whole being was telling her to act in a completely different way. I enjoyed seeing her develop from a person who was hellbent on revenge and refused to let anything get in the way, to a person who cared about those around her and how her actions would impact them. The emotional growth in her character as she experienced romance and brotherly love was wonderful to see and I liked seeing her rely on others and not taking on everything by herself. The only thing that I was skeptical about were her abilities. I just didn’t quite believe what she could do in terms of her skinshifting. It just seemed so completely impossible that I had to just suspend my disbelief.

My other small criticism is about the world that Ryan Graudin has created. I love the idea of the book and I really enjoyed the alternate history world. Graudin has done as fantastic job at creating a world that is plausible given the actual events of WWII. I really enjoyed how she integrated the East and the West, and how those from Germany had to learn the Japanese language and vice versa. And I also enjoyed the tension between the Germans and the Japanese, and how they continued to want to beat the other. My problem with the world was that it didn’t feel historical enough. Everything seemed very advanced and contemporary, which I could kind of understand given how much experimentation the Germans conducted. But there were times when I’d forget that this novel was taking place in the mid-1950s. It felt like it was happening in the present day, and I just didn’t get a good sense of the time period, which is the only reason why I’m taking off half a star.

I thoroughly enjoyed the other characters in the book. Wolf by Wolf had a spectacular cast of really complex characters that just kept me guessing the whole time. They were all very multidimensional and I loved how they weren’t who they seemed to be. It was difficult to understand their motives and I’m still unsure about some of the characters, but that’s what I loved most about this book. It was unpredictable and had me really excited to find out more. There is a little bit of romance in this book that was slow burning and had me wanting things to just happen. But it made me super excited for what’s to come.

I also really enjoyed the writing style of this book. It was definitely a unique style that isn’t for everybody but I didn’t find it to be hard to read and I thought some of the stylistic devices she used were very successful. There was a little bit of purple prose at times, but I didn’t mind it too much. The novel also consisted of ‘then’ and ‘now’ chapters and I thought they were perfectly placed. Often, books with then and now chapters seem very repetitive and unnecessary but I thought Ryan Graudin did a fantastic job with this format. The plot flowed extremely well and I enjoyed everything that happened in the book. I did predict the twist at the end though, because I knew that there would be a sequel to the book, so I wasn’t completely surprised by it. But it had me very excited about what’s to come and I’m highly anticipating the next sequel.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable, fast-paced and action-packed book that has an interesting world and amazing characters that you will love. I highly recommend this one!

Review: The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

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Publisher: Razorbill
Release date: January 26, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 400
Goodreads || Book Depository

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

This book was very hard for me to rate. I initially rated it 4 stars, but upon reflection, it’s really more of a 3.5… or even a 3. Overall, if I had to sum up my experience of this book with one word, it would be “confused”. I was confused when I started the book, confused during the middle section of the book, and even more confused by the time I had finished the book. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this book is confusing and no matter how many times I read it, I will still be confused. And I think this might be the case for a lot of readers, so that’s something to keep in mind before picking up the book.

Disclaimer: This review probably makes zero sense because I was so confused but I wanted to get my thoughts out into the world. And maybe, if you’ve read the book, you can help me out?

So… why am I so confused? First of all, I have no idea how to categorise this book. Initially I thought it was contemporary with a bit of magical realism. Then it started feeling very paranormal. And finally, we learn that there is time-travel. So, I’ve basically just categorised it as contemporary, fantasy, magical realism and sci-fi. Of course, this is a super minor point… so let’s move on to what the book is actually about.

Natalie lives in a small town in Kentucky and ever since she was a child, she has been visited during the night by somebody called ‘Grandmother’ who tells her stories about creation and how the world began. However, nobody else can see Grandmother and everybody dismisses these visitations as hallucinations. One night, Natalie receives one final visit from Grandmother who tells her that she only has 3 months to save “him” and that she needs to find “Alice Chan” in order to do so. Natalie has no idea who she’s meant to be saving or who Alice Chan is but the next day, she meets Beau, a boy she has never met before even though they live in the same town.

Probably one of the main reasons why I felt so confused about the time travel elements of this book was because they were linked to psychology. At the beginning of the book, we find out that Natalie has gone through some trauma and has been seeing a therapist and trying a variety of different therapies in order to overcome her hallucinations. There’s a lot of information given about different kinds of hallucinations and there are even consultations with a professor of psychology who specialises in ‘visitations’ and psychic phenomena.

Because of my background in psychology, I could feel myself rejecting most of what was written, and I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief and just be taken into the story and the world. First of all, there were these huge info-dumps on hallucinations and the Myer-Briggs personality types that, while well-researched and accurate, was honestly kind of overwhelming for me even though I have pretty sound knowledge on these topics. But the main reason why my brain rejected these concepts was because everything was based not on psychology but pseudo-psychology. While we all like to have our fun with the Myer-Briggs Test and call ourselves INFJs or INTPs, this is pseudo-psychology. The test has poor validity and reliability, and there is just no way that any research or theory could be or should be based upon these personality types. I found the professor of psychology that Natalie was consulting to be absolutely unprofessional in her approach and her area of study. There is no way, NO WAY, that somebody who specialises in psychic phenomena could be the head of the psychology department at a university. Because, in case this wasn’t clear, the study of visitations and premonitions is not an area of psychology. Sure, there are plenty of researchers who study consciousness and hallucinations, but none that are linked to psychic phenomena.

Because I resisted all these concepts, I had a hard time accepting what was happening. But none of this mattered because soon after, the concept of time-travel and multiple dimensions was introduced. Which left me feeling even more confused because I had no idea what I was supposed to think or believe. Is this all happening because she has a personality type that makes her prone to having hallucinations of people and things she shouldn’t be seeing? Or does she just have the ability to move through time and space? Or is it a combination of the two? Some of these questions were answered at the end, but I had a hard time fully understanding the explanation. Everything is explained to us at the end of the book, without us or Natalie truly having to figure it all out. I wasn’t a fan of this approach because I feel like I could have understood what was happening a little bit more if we had followed Natalie on her journey to unravelling the mystery. Instead, we were just told what happened and if you don’t understand the explanation… you’re never going to because the way that it was explained is never going to change.

Because I couldn’t completely latch on to the world and everything that was happening, I had to rely on the romance to keep me invested in the story. Thankfully, this book is first and foremost a romance story. The novel is filled with scenes of Beau and Natalie, and if you enjoy the two of them together, you’ll have no problems getting through this book. Sadly, I didn’t really fall into this camp. I enjoyed both of their characters and I didn’t mind their love story, but overall it felt a little bit unoriginal and lacklustre. There is a severe case of insta-love and the romance progresses rather quickly. It’s definitely a love at first sight kind of story about two people who are soul mates. It has little development because they pretty much go from being strangers to being in love within a few days.

What redeemed the book for me was the writing. The way Emily Henry writes is magical. Her words are lyrical and beautiful, and they kept me reading the book even when I was confused and wanted to quit. I also enjoyed the stories that Grandmother told Natalie. They were intriguing and the way they were told was just so captivating. They were, by far, my favourite aspect of the book.

Even though the book was confusing to me and I had no idea what happened at the end of the book, this wasn’t a bad reading experience. I loved the writing and it took me on a journey. I also liked the characters and the diversity that was in the book. But I was just left a bit unsatisfied… and confused.

Cover Reveal: The Bureau of Time by Brett Michael Orr

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Oh my gosh. I’ve been waiting for this moment for what feels like forever but the time has come!! I’ve been following writer and fellow blogger, Brett Michael Orr on Twitter for a while now and I’ve always seen updates about his writing and his debut novel, The Bureau of Time. Ever since I heard about it for the first time, I’ve wanted to get my hands on it and I guess I’ve been super good this year because Santa decided to bring this to me early (or maybe it’s Brett who’s been super good and I’m just reaping all the benefits)!!

THE BUREAU OF TIME is the debut YA SF/thriller novel from Brett Michael Orr, available now on Amazon around the world, and coming soon to other major digital reading platforms, including Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore, and more. Stay up-to-date with The Bureau of Time by following @BrettMichaelOrr on Twitter! Join the conversation using the hashtag #TheBureauOfTime

Amazon US || Amazon AU || Amazon UK || Amazon CA

The Bureau of Time Blurb

You can not change fate.

Cassandra Wright is a Timewalker – a teenager with a genetic mutation that allows her to manipulate the flow of time. But her inexplicable powers have made her a target for Adjusters – monstrous assassins from a parallel universe.

Saved from almost certain death, Cassie is pulled into a secret agency sworn to defend our timeline against these threats: the Bureau of Temporal Integrity, Monitoring, and Execution. Cassie’s life soon becomes entwined with Shaun Briars – a reckless Timewalker with an alluring smile and dark suspicions about the Bureau itself.

When Cassie and Shaun cross into the parallel universe, they discover a world in the grips of nuclear winter, with a new war threatening to spill over into our universe. With time running out, they must learn the true history of Timewalkers, confront the unforgivable crimes of their future selves, and defy their own fate to save two worlds.

 

…And without further ado, let’s reveal the absolutely beautiful cover!!!

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cannot wait to read The Bureau of Time and I’m so happy that Brett’s debut novel is now available for everybody to pick up! I’ll be waiting just a little bit longer since I read on iBooks 😦 but I know I’m going to devour this when I finally get my hands on it! Please go support the absolutely wonderful, awesome and insanely talented Brett Michael Orr by getting a copy of The Bureau of Time because it sounds seriously cool!

Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

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Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 643 (includes bonus short story)
Goodreads || Book Depository

Monsters of Men is the last book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, so this review will contain spoilers for the first two books. I have reviews of The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer. If you haven’t started the trilogy, you really should! It’s amazing!

 

MONSTERS OF MEN SYNOPSIS

Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. The New World is at war. Todd and viola are caught in the middle with no chance of escape.

As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await?

Then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge…

Profound and gripping, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival and the devastating realities of war.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Monsters of Men was an explosive conclusion to the trilogy (literally). It was extremely fast-paced and full of action and conflict. I knew from the very first chapter that this was going to be my favourite instalment of the trilogy, and my enthusiasm and love for the book never wavered. Monsters of Men has everything I could possibly want in a book. It has action, fighting, romance, suspense, politics, power struggles, feels, feels, more feels, with an extra serving of FEELS.

Is this what war is?
Is this what men want so much?
Is this sposed to make them men?

This book picks up where The Ask and the Answer left off. The Ask and The Answer are about to go to war, but find themselves facing a Spackle army who have come to take back the New World from the oppressive settlers. This novel follows what happens as each army fights for control and domination, and the impact war has on individuals and societies. As with the previous two books in the trilogy, I appreciated how well Patrick Ness handled the important social themes explored in this book. It was a thought-provoking story that never felt too much or too heavy for a young adult audience. This book also continues exploring the themes of self-identity and individualism that were explored in the previous two books, but Ness takes it even further by also examining this in the Spackle population, as well as through our protagonists, Todd and Viola.

I thought the pace of this book was great. The Ask and the Answer, for me, was a little bit slow at the start, but Monsters of Men starts off with a bang. The beginning was incredibly fast-paced and I whizzed through the first 100 pages in no time. I was completely immersed in the book because the action and strategy in the book was so captivating. I had absolutely no idea where the story was going to go and there were surprises at every turn. It was a complete page-turner for me. I also loved that the plot was completely resolved. I was satisfied with how everything played out, even though there were tears due to certain events, and I’m so happy with the way that the trilogy ended.

The writing in this book is perfection. We get to read not only from Todd and Viola’s perspectives, but also from the perspective of a Spackle, which I thought added a lot to the story. I enjoyed learning more about the Spackle and their collectivist society. The Spackle’s voice took me a little bit of time to get used to. Initially, it was very hard to understand because of its abstractness but I quickly got used to it and really enjoyed the writing style. I appreciated the differences in style between the three perspectives and it was always obvious to me which perspective I was reading from, even though it switches back and forth very often. The different perspectives blended together seamlessly and it never felt repetitive or unnecessary. I continued to enjoy Todd’s distinctive voice and I found it to be even more endearing in this book and I also highly enjoyed Viola’s perspective too.

I continued to love Todd and Viola’s characters in this book. They were amazing together and this ship will never sink!! We’re also introduced to some new characters in this book, Viola’s settler friends who arrived on the scout ship at the end of The Ask and the Answer. I thought they were necessary additions but I didn’t always love them. Who I did love were our ‘villains’. Mayor President Prentiss and Mistress Coyle are such complex and morally ambiguous characters. I had a hard time understanding them because they weren’t black and white characters. I definitely don’t think that I can classify them as villains because, even though they do some evil and atrocious things, their motivation aren’t entirely evil. I also liked how their stories ended.

I have so much more that I could say about this but I’ll just encourage you all to read it! It was a wonderful last book to the trilogy and now I’m going to go and read all the short stories!

Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

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Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 553 (Includes bonus short story)
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Ask and the Answer is the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Therefore, there will be spoilers in this review. Check out my thoughts on Book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go, if you haven’t started the trilogy.

 

THE ASK AND THE ANSWER SYNOPSIS

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

Tense, shocking and deeply moving, The Ask and the Answer is a heart-wrenching exploration of free will and resistance under the most extreme pressure.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

After the heart-stopping cliffhanger at the end of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd and Viola find themselves separated, with no knowledge of where the other is or if they’re even still alive. They find themselves working for opposite sides of a war that is brewing in New Prentisstown, and they must try to stay true to themselves and do what is right even when faced with enormous pressures to conform.

What I loved most about this book was the social commentary that it provided. While The Knife of Never Letting Go examined self-discovery and identity, The Ask and the Answer looks at the bigger picture and explores free-will in an oppressive environment, terrorism and war, power and resistance, among other themes. I enjoyed the focus on the grey areas, on the fact that life isn’t black and white and that there is no right or wrong. What the book makes us realise is that things that are seemingly wrong are not always wrong and things that we do ostensibly for the greater good are not always right. Throughout the book we see our characters vacillate between this blurred spectrum of right and wrong, and their internal struggle to determine what’s best for the world and what’s best for themselves.

For me, the pace of this book was much slower than The Knife of Never Letting Go. Even though it was still a quick read for me, I felt like there were times when nothing was happening. The first 150 pages had almost not action and I wasn’t really excited by it until we got past the 25% mark. However, the rest of the book was exciting and I enjoyed seeing the conflict and the struggle for power. The book ends with a powerful climax and another unbearable cliffhanger. You should probably have Monsters of Men on hand so that you can continue straight away. I took a lot of willpower for me to stop and write this review 😀

We still get the same almost stream of consciousness writing style in this book but it was less noticeable for me than it was in The Knife of Never Letting Go. In this second instalment, we also get to read from Viola’s perspective and it was interesting to see the differences in writing style and voice between the two perspectives. I probably still enjoyed reading from Todd’s perspective a little bit more because I love his voice and how well the writing flows. But I still really enjoyed being able to see from Viola’s point of view. The shifts in perspective were smooth and didn’t feel jarring. I am in love with Patrick Ness’s writing!

The characters in The Ask and the Answer were fantastic. I enjoyed being able to see Todd and Viola develop further in this book, and develop separately. I probably enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go a little bit more than The Ask and the Answer purely because we don’t get to see as much of Todd and Viola together (I SHIP) but I also thoroughly appreciated being able to see them grow separately, with different influences. Needless to say, the scenes where they were together were my favourite in this second book. Another thing that I admire about Patrick Ness is his ability to make me loathe a character in one book and love them in the next. There were characters that I was expecting to hate forever and ever but they ended up being big surprises and I went all teary-eyed at some parts. All of the characters are extremely complex and make me continue to question their motives. Also, for those of you who were upset about Manchee in the first book, there’s another animal friend in this novel that might help cure your heartache. But Manchee will never be replaced! NEVER!

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful sequel! Even though it was a bit slower and didn’t have as much action as the first book, it never felt like a filler book. I enjoyed it as much as The Knife of Never Letting Go and I’m excited (and a little bit scared) to jump into Monsters of Men right now.

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

the-knife-of-never-letting-go

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 512
Goodreads || Book Depository

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Then, just one month away from the birthday that will make Todd Hewitt a man, he unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible.

Breathtakingly exciting and emotionally charged, The Knife of Never Letting Go is a compelling original story of fear, flight and the terrifying path of self-discovery.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Holy moly. I’m going to keep this review short so that I can jump straight into Book 2: The Ask and the Answer, because this book ends on the most unbearable cliffhanger. The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy and I need to preface this review by saying that if you plan on reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, you should have the other two books on hand! Warning: I just finished reading this novel so this review probably won’t make too much sense.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a sci-fi, dystopian novel, set in New World, where everybody can hear everybody else’s thoughts, or their Noise. In this world, animals and living things also have Noise. 12 year old Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown with his two guardians and his dog, Manchee. There are no women in Prentisstown and Todd is the only boy left in his small town. One day, Todd stumbles finds a spot of complete silence and discovers that things in Prentisstown, and on New World, aren’t as he’s been told. His new discovery leads him to have to pack up his belongings and run away from Prentisstown.

It’s probably best to go into the book not knowing anything because it’s a thrilling and suspenseful story about survival and self-discovery. We follow Todd as he escapes from Prentisstown and makes his way around the New World. Along the way, he is hunted by an army from Prentisstown and a crazy preacher who seems to be out to get him. I enjoyed the suspense in this novel quite a bit. We were left in the dark from the very beginning and things are only revealed to us as they are revealed to Todd. I didn’t find myself speculating very much, simply because everything was complex and unpredictable and I was happy to just go along for the ride. There were some scenes that were quite violent and gruesome, and the suspenseful tone of the book made these even more bloodcurdling and horrific. This plot was definitely a rollercoaster ride for me. It gave me multiple heart attacks and ripped my heart out. There were lots of feels and a bit of crying.

The uniqueness of the writing style hits you straight away. The book is written in first person narration, in an almost stream of consciousness manner. It’s something that might take a while to get used to but the style of it definitely enhanced the story for me. I felt completely immersed in the world and Todd’s story, and the writing flowed beautifully because of its stream of consciousness nature.  I found myself just flying through the book because of how well the writing flowed and how everything had its place. I thoroughly enjoyed Todd’s voice and thought it suited his character very well. There are intentional grammatical and spelling issues to showcase Todd’s background and his lack of education that might irk some readers but I didn’t have any issues with it, even though I’m a big grammar Nazi.

I really liked the characters in this book a lot. Todd was a protagonist that I didn’t always love, but his actions and his thoughts were realistic, and it was easy for me to forgive his bad decisions and shortcomings. He’s definitely an isolated boy who wants to belong but doesn’t conform to society’s expectations. I was amazed by the strength in his character. It’s hard to remember that he’s just a child because he’s doing all these incredible things to survive. I appreciated that we got to witness his inner turmoil and his efforts to maintain his innocence when the rest of the world is trying so hard to break him. I loved the development and growth in his character and thought it was the most noteworthy aspect of the book. His mental strength and willpower amazed me. However, my favourite aspect of this book was the beautiful relationship between Todd and his talking dog, Manchee. Manchee was by far my favourite character and I had a lot of Manchee feels. Cue tears.

I thought the villains in this book were also exceptional. They were so evil and terrifying that I was actually scared by how insane and crazy they were. It was also incredibly horrifying how persistent these villains were in their pursuit. One guy literally has half his face bitten off (there’s a hole in his cheek and he’s missing a nose) and he’s still alive and chasing after Todd. It was scary and horrific, but also perfectly executed and I need to start The Ask and the Answer now.

Goodbye!

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

winter

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release date: November 10, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 827
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Winter is the fourth and final book in The Lunar Chronicles series, which means that this review will contain minor spoilers for the first three books: Cinder, Scarlet and Cress. I don’t have reviews of these up on the blog, but I have written super short individual reviews on Goodreads (linked). Now that I’ve completed the series, I’m very tempted to reread the whole thing from the start! It’s my favourite series of all time so I definitely want to post full reviews for the first three books someday!

WINTER SYNOPSIS

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I can’t believe it’s over… I don’t want it to be over! I don’t want to let go of my babies! If you couldn’t already tell, I absolutely loved this book. It was by far the best one of the series and even though it’s over 800 pages long, I couldn’t read 1000 pages more.

Winter picks up a couple of weeks after the events of Cress. The book starts off a little bit slow, with nothing much happening for the first 100 pages. We get to see characters be reunited with their loved ones, and there are some really great interactions between them. But as much as I enjoyed this section and thought it was adorable and sweet, the book really started picking up for me when more concrete plans started forming. The rest of the book was so action-packed and intense, it had be completely hooked and I couldn’t let go of this book at all! The whole plot was extremely well-thought out and there were so many surprises and heart-stopping moments that I was just holding on for dear life and hoping Marissa Meyer wouldn’t break my heart. The final showdown was incredible and was the most intense and epic climax I’ve read this year. Everything was properly resolved, in a realistic manner, and I’m still heartbroken at the thought of having to finally let these characters go. There is nothing about that plot that I’m disappointed with or underwhelmed by – I am so incredibly happy and in love with this book right now.

The fairytale retelling aspect of Winter was also superb for me. Like with the previous three books, even though I had an idea of what was going to happen, I still ended up being surprised a lot of the time. The book is also so long that the Snow White retelling only makes up a small portion of the novel. Everything felt so original and it never felt cliched or expected. (Winter’s “dwarves” were the most unexpected thing ever!).

What I loved most about Winter was that it was set almost completely in Luna. We’ve heard so much about Luna in the previous books but this is the only one to be set on the moon! I thought it was an extremely interesting world and I loved learning more about the politics and the different sectors that the people lived and worked in. All of the things that intrigued me about Luna in the previous books were addressed in this book and it was amazing to be able to see things that were only referenced previously. There is a lot more mental manipulation in this book and it was so epic to be able to see different groups battle each other with their Lunar gifts. It was exciting to see what Cinder could do with her gift and how that interacted with the computerised nature of her brain. I also really loved seeing and learning more about the Lunar Sickness. I found it to be fascinating!

Winter was a well-loved princess who was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken.

Which brings me to the characters… I absolutely loved Winter! She has a severe case of the Lunar Sickness from not using her glamour and she’s coo coo crazy. She has intense hallucinations and talks gibberish half the time, but I loved her quirkiness and her kind nature. She refuses to manipulate people with her Lunar powers, preferring instead to allow her Lunar Sickness to get worse instead. I adored almost every scene she was in and thought she was so endearing. I just wanted to hug her to my chest and protect her. I thought it was so sweet that Jacin was always there to protect her, and even though their romance was a little bit ordinary, I loved it anyway. Marissa Meyer just writes the most swoon-worthy romances!

I loved seeing Cinder and Kai, and all the other couples reunited! As much as I love the plot and all the epic action, the characters and their bonds really are the stand out for me. I love the banter between the characters and how they look out for each other. I never want our crew to split apart!! I honestly cannot pick a favourite character because I love them all equally. I was a little bit sad that Wolf was gone for a large part of this last novel because I absolutely love him! I know that he’s the least favourite character for a lot of readers but I really enjoy seeing him together with Scarlet.

Overall, there’s nothing that I can fault. I absolutely loved this final book and the whole series in general. Winter definitely tops all of the sci-fi books that I’ve read this year, and I’m probably going to go and reread the whole series over again right now. I cannot wait for the short story collection to come out early next year!

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

illuminae

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: October 20, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1760113808
Pages: 608
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship is the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results. The fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the hell is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth and the courage of everyday heroes.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Illuminae is an imaginative, epic and intense first instalment to a new sci-fi trilogy by Aussie authors, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. #LoveOzYA. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the book launch in Sydney and have my copy signed and personalised by Amie and Jay! I’m so happy to have this beautiful book in my possession.

The formatting and graphics of the book were definitely the standout aspect of Illuminae. It’s very creative and is a feast for the eyes. This book is written completely as a series of classified materials, including email exchanges, dossiers, radio transcripts, ASCII art, and the inner thoughts of an artificial intelligence system. It’s an extremely unique book with lots to look at! I really appreciated how much thought and work went into creating graphics that made sense with what was happening in the story. I wish I could show you some of my favourite pages but copyright issues… You’ll just have to pick up your own copy 🙂

Despite being very impressed with the visual aspect of the book from the very beginning, I was less impressed with the plot. I had a very hard time getting into the book. The first couple of scenes were a bit confusing because names were just being dropped everywhere and I had no idea what was going on. Luckily there were a few pages that summarised everything that happened in the opening scene and I was able to immerse myself into the action. The following 150 pages were quite slow with nothing much happening, and I just found it to be a bit boring and underwhelming. During these first 200 pages, the most interesting aspect, for me, was the romance. The book picked up for me at about the 200 page mark, and that was when I started seeing what the hype was about.

The last half of the book was definitely more impressive. There’s a lot more action and intensity, and it had my heart racing because I never knew what was going to happen next. It was so thrilling and action-packed, and the last 150 pages of the book had some of my favourite pages to look at. Having said that, I felt like the book was just a bit too long. The plot felt very drawn out and I think the book could have been 100 pages shorter. We were getting a play by play of everything that happened and I think some of it could have been cut out. As I was reading, I kept wondering how this was going to be a trilogy because there’s so much that happens in just this first book. But the ending was tied up really neatly and there’s definitely potential for more books – I just have no idea what will happen next.

Despite being written in such a impersonal format, I had a really good sense of who the characters were. I felt a little bit disconnected from them at the beginning, but as we got to see more of them, I started to really like our two main characters, Kady and Ezra. Kady was a fighter and I loved her strength and determination. It was also apparent what a good person she is, and I felt the same way about Ezra. But while I liked them separately, I loved them together. The romance between the two of them was what got me through the first third of the book. I thought they were adorable together and the banter between the two characters was really fun to read.

I wonder if she is the kind to dream of happy endings and never risk tragedy. The kind to close her eyes and hope, rather than force them open and see the truth, wonderful and terrible as it is.

There are some pretty gruesome things that happen on the spaceships – the authors definitely don’t hold back. There’s lots of blood and guts, and headless dead bodies lying on the ground. There’s a lot of death, and a lot of the characters that we get to know, end up dying in pretty sad and grotesque ways. It was interesting and scary to see how people act in life or death situations. There’s also an artificial intelligence system (AIDAN) that may or may not be psycho and it was actually kind of terrifying to be able to hear the inner thoughts of a machine – especially one who won’t stop introspecting about everything. At first I thought AIDAN was really weird, but he/it really grew on me and I ended up loving his sections the most. They were the most interesting to read and I liked that the last third of the book was dominated by AIDAN passages.

The one aspect that I found lacking was the world building. Because Illuminae is set almost entirely on spaceships, there’s not much information given about the planet they came from, or any of their potential destinations. We get to see blueprints of these spaceships (which was really cool!), but we don’t know very much about the workings of these spaceships, or what’s out there in space. I guess this really allows the authors to do whatever they want with the next two books, and introduce things that weren’t mentioned in Illuminae, but I would have liked to have known more about the world and what the authors think space is like in 2575.

So just to recap, I loved the formatting and the design of Illuminae, and thought it was the most noteworthy aspect of the book. I enjoyed the characters and the relationships between them, but I thought the plot was a bit too slow and draggy in parts. The beginning of the book left me quite underwhelmed but the last 150 pages were really epic and fun to read.