A World of Words

Reviewing children's books

Post Mortem, by Kira Snyder

Post Mortem (Parish Mail #2), by Kira Snyder
Published by Coliloquy

Post Mortem

 

Celia Macarty is back in Post Mortem, the second instalment in the Parish Mail saga.

Autum in New Orleans means Homecoming, romance – and murder. When a friend vanishes, Celia believes a desperate letter about an unsolved Civil War-era murder holds the key to unravelling the mystery.

As she searches for answers, Celia enlists the help of quirky witch Tilly, and either all-American boy Donovan or enigmatic Luc – you get to choose.

As the gang follows the missing girl’s trail, danger turns up on all fronts. A vicious stranger threatens Celia’s family. Celia’s nightmares – about a shadowy, ominous villain – get worse. And a new ghost has appeared: beautiful Angelica, who shares a past with Luc.

It will take all of Celia’s will and wit, and the faith of her friends, to solve an unspeakable crime. And no matter which path Celia takes, she will discover that sometimes the past can come back to haunt you.

 

Having reviewed Dead Letter Officethe first of the Parish Mail series, I was contacted by Coliloquy to review Kira Snyder’s second book, Post Mortem. I am so glad – I loved the last book, and if anything, this one was even better.

At the end of Dead Letter Office, the reader is told about a pile of letters that Celia has, in which she is being asked for help. This book is based a couple of weeks after the first, and follows the events of a letter from Celia’s pile. Again, she has the help of best friend Tilly as well as Luc and/or Donovan.

The reason I said this book may have been a little better than the first is that it gets stuck straight into the adventure, without needing an introduction to the characters. The characters are established, and there’s no pussy-footing around, wondering if someone will get weird with the level of magic involved. That was still great in book 1, don’t get me wrong, but there was an instant hook in this story that I loved.

Talking about magic I think the way that magic is so effortlessly intertwined with normal life is really cool. Within a paragraph, Tilly can be whipping up some magical concoction and at the same time dig at Celia for gossip about Luc/Donovan/insert teen issue here. <b>[Mild spoiler in next sentence]</b> I have a thing for realism, so while in a different book I might have an issue with the protagonist leaving a big dance to go adventuring, in this book it seemed perfectly normal.

Snyder has created characters that will develop upon every sequel, and I think the series would actually make a brilliant TV show – I’d definitely watch it! As with last time, I enjoyed the choices I could make, although they seemed to have a further reach in this book, which meant I had to think more about what I chose. There’s one towards the end that took me longer than it should have to decide, as it dramatically affects the climax of the book. There’s only one thing slightly negative I’d say about the whole book, and that is that sometimes things were mentioned that only happened in one of the choices in the last book. For readers that, unlike me, didn’t read all scenarios, that could have been an issue.

In brief (after a long review – oops!), a highly recommended book, and I can’t wait for #3!

Finally, I’m still posting on this blog, but I’ve actually just bought my own domain through Blogger and will be cancelling this account soon. I’d love it if everyone could check out www.a-wordofwords.com, which has all my posts on it. I’ve done this as it’s a lot easier to play around with the design, and I’m waiting for some cool artwork to make my blog look unique to me. Thank you!

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Perverse, by Larry Rodness

Perverse, by Larry Rodness
Published by Itoh Press

Perverse

19 year old Emylene Stipe is a second-generation Goth who, like every teenage girl, is trying to find her place in the world. One night she comes across an old painting in an antique store and is compelled to purchase it. When she brings it home , an image of a young woman appears in the sketch and then magically materialises in her apartment. Emylene nicknames her ‘Poinsettia’ and they soon become fast friends. But Poinsettia has an ulterior motive for her sudden and strange intrusion into her host’s life, which causes Emylene to question her whole belief system.

First off, I’m still posting on this blog, but I’ve actually just bought my own domain through Blogger – I’d love it if everyone could check out www.a-wordofwords.com, which has all my posts on it. I’ve done this as it’s a lot easier to play around with the design, and I’m waiting for some cool artwork to make my blog look unique to me.

Having been approached by Larry Rodness to review Perverse, I was intrigued by the blurb. It’s not often I read about Goths, let alone second-generation Goths!

Being honest though, I wasn’t overly impressed with the beginning of the book. While it wasn’t bad, I was a little disconcerted by the disconnected narrative of Emylene’s life that led up to the start of the plot. There’s setting the scene, and then there’s over-egging it a bit. I didn’t understand why such a big deal was made about Emylene being a ‘princess’ (except maybe to explain why she acted so spoilt), and certain characters (such as Nostra-Dame) have no bearing on the ultimate plot, so I’m sorry to say that if I hadn’t agreed to review it, I probably would have put it down.

However, upon hitting the middle of the book, the plot got decidedly better and I found it really enjoyable. It was fairly different to anything I’d read before, and I loved the idea of there being a certain part of town that offers your wildest dreams at night in exchange for a piece of your soul and a slightly hungover feeling. Then, there were different aspects of Goth lifestyle I found interesting and were explained well by Rodness. Once it got going, it was fast-paced, and Emylene became less annoying as she had more of a purpose. There’s also a sense of dystopia the further in I got (revenants taking over parts of town and slowly expanding), and you should know how much I love those by now!

So, while I admit it was a weak start, the book gets a healthy 3 stars from me for pulling it back and creating an unusual and interesting plot.

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Aberrant, by Ruth Silver

Aberrant, by Ruth Silver

Published by LazyDay Publishing

Aberrant

In the future dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question, including the government’s match in marriage and “The Day of the Chosen”, a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means hasn’t existed in generations. 

Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly to an end as she’s arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed: her existence.

Olivia is unlike the rest of the world, born not from The Day of the Chosen. The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system.

With Joshua’s help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run. Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay. Leaving would mean certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands. Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must quickly adapt to survive.

I was contacted by Ruth Silver, the author of this book, to promote Aberrant. In the next post will be an interview, spotlight and giveaway. She gave me a copy of the book to read, but it goes without saying that this review is honest.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was thrown headfirst into the action, first meeting Olivia when she is preparing for her wedding day. This piqued my interest, which was held right the way to the end. It was a brilliant dystopian plot, full of turns that I wasn’t expecting. It reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games and Brave New World, in that the government was very much in control – so much so that it could control the most intimate of features in its inhabitants’ lives. There’s a lot of uncertainty throughout the book as to what will happen to Olivia. She’s often not as safe as she would like to be, and feels the weight of expectation, the latter of which is something I think a lot of young adults can relate to.

I think what enhanced the book for me was Olivia and Joshua. Their relationship is written really well; as best friends with a complicated aspect thrown in, there’s the right touch of familiarity versus the unknown. Throughout, they work as a team, the realism of which I liked – it makes a change to the power games that appear in other YA books where sexual tension is at the forefront. Josh and Olivia have been raised in an environment where conception – and therefore sex – doesn’t happen, which made a really refreshing change. Even though they’re 18, the reader is able to see certain realisations bloom in their minds, and that was great to read!

When I interviewed her, Ruth Silver said about what inspired her to write the book:

Often, we as a society implement the use of vaccines, especially in preventing disease and now even cervical cancer. Of course the vaccines are all safe and approved by the relevant authorities for the country you live in. I decided to think a little further ahead, and a little darker. What if it was an epidemic where everyone was required to get vaccinated and testing had been shortened or barely done at all?

Hearing it put like that made me uneasy, because it brings home how potentially easy it could be for something to strike the world, and for us to find ourselves in a dystopia. I think stories such as this one, where it stems from a simple idea, are the most effective. Mix that in with great characterisation, a little bit of the supernatural, and a plot that twists and turns, and you’re sorted. A great read, thoroughly recommended.

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City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare

Published by Walker Books

City of Bones

 When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder – much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing – not even a smear of blood – to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . .

I’ve seen several blog posts recommending this book – it seemed to me to be one of the ‘staples’ of YA fiction. Enough so that it has been made into a film, which will be released on 23rd August.

I’d say this book was a bit of a slow-burner. I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t whipping through the pages as much as I would usually – until the end, anyway. At the moment, I’m hating how much YA stuff depends on a romance, and I think I was a little wary that this is what City of Bones would be all about. Clary (short for Clarissa – knowing that helped me pronounce her name) has two love interests – her best friend, Simon, who is in love with her; and Jace, the new boy she meets. As this blogger here writes (which I agree with), the love interests are fairly stereotypical and underdeveloped. With this much ‘choice’, I thought it was fairly inevitable that the book would sink into romantic fantasy, which would not have impressed me. It was about two-thirds in, then, when the ‘twist’ starts to unfold (no spoilers!), that I was able to start properly enjoying it and let myself be taken along for the ride.

Not all the characters were developed fully (as I mentioned before), so I did find myself not caring when certain people were hurt (namely, Alec). Then there were some elements that weren’t fully explained. A good example is when Jace mysteriously knows it’s Clary’s birthday, although I’m pretty sure she never told him and nobody else, even Simon, refers to it.

However, the plot moved at a good pace and I was blown away by the numerous twists at the end, only one or two of which I was expecting. I was fully immersed into the world the characters moved in, and had great fun reading about their adventures along the way. I’ll definitely be reading the next books in the series, and may even treat myself to see the film, considering it’s out a few days before my birthday!

Speaking of the film, I’ve just watched the trailer for the first time, and I’m not sure. While I can see that she’s supposed to be seeing unusual things, Clary’s mouth seems to be wide open for the whole time! It does look action-packed though – what do you think?

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The second type of dystopia

Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman

ISBN: 0-552-54632-1, £2.32 from Play

noughts and crosses

Callum is a nought – a second-class citizen in a world run by the ruling Crosses…

Sephy is a Cross, daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country…

In their world, noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. And as hostility turns to violence, can Callum and Sephy possibly find a way to be together? They are determined to try.

And then the bomb explodes…

A friend recommended this book to me back when I was at university. The noughts are the white-skinned underclass, only 50 years out of slavery to the Crosses, the dark-skinned people that have the majority of the prospects and jobs. Sephy is the daughter of the Prime Minister, whereas Callum is a nought whose mother once worked for Sephy’s. The book alternates between the first-person perspectives of both characters, and together they tell their story, starting from when Sephy’s 13 and ending when she’s 18.

I realised today that there are two types of dystopia. The first is like The Hunger GamesIt’s an interesting idea, but still removed enough from our everyday lives that the message it sends is fairly subtle. Noughts and Crosses is the second type: the dystopia is near enough to life today to make one feel distinctly uncomfortable. And that’s what it did; the politics of Noughts and Crosses slapped me in the face. There are still enough issues with race and equality today for this book to be extremely relevant, which I can imagine is why Malorie Blackman wrote it.

The character development was brilliantly done, and I was able to empathise with the perspectives of both main characters. Their flaws were exposed as well as their strengths, so they were really believable. Reading it as an adult, I think I figured out pretty early on that the story was only going to go downhill for Sephy and Callum, despite what they might dream and I might hope. In that respect, I did find myself a little depressed in that all I could do is see how badly things went wrong – there was only a tiny glimmer of hope, which I’m not used to. I wonder how I’d have interpreted this story as a teenager?

Despite being saddened by the book, I still really enjoyed it. The message is clear but didn’t stop to preach – everything was put in context. The plot was fast and Callum and Sephy’s relationship was handled deftly, according to their situation. It was a gritty book I’d thoroughly recommend.

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A book I wouldn’t recommend

Bone Dressing, by Michelle I Brooks
ISBN: 0-615-47759-3, £1.53 from the Amazon Kindle store

Bone Dressing

Time is running out & the Dark that’s been chasing Syd for many lifetimes has finally caught up with her.

Sydney Roberdeau lost her parents as a young girl. Waiting for her life to start and the freedom that will come with her eighteenth birthday, Syd spends much of her time haunting the local cemetery. It is there, stretched out among the dead, that she feels most alive, most at home. Until one rainy night when Beau, Sarah and T.J. crash her ghostly sanctuary, appearing out of nowhere, turning her already inside-out world one degree past upside down.

Syd must now revisit past lives, dressing in the bodies of her previous selves & bone dressing. Her only chance to outrun the evil breathing down her neck is to face her own worst nightmares and her strongest desires. But if she can’t stay out of trouble in this life, how can she possibly fix mistakes from past lives? And just how many lives has she lived, loved and lost? What is Syd exactly, and what will she risk for the life of a man she doesn’t remember, the man she spent a lifetime with, the man she loves? Everything including her very own life?

Bone Dressing, the first in a series of seven books, will carry Syd and Beau on an adventure that transcends life itself.

Once again, I got this as a read to review from the Goodreads group ‘Never too old for Y.A. books‘. It goes without saying (especially once you’ve read my review!) that what I am about to write is completely honest. I don’t think I can explain my feelings about this book without letting spoilers slip, so please beware!

Unfortunately, unlike the first book I received to review, I really didn’t like this story, and I won’t be reading the next books in the series. Part of the premise wasn’t bad – a 17-year-old girl, Syd, goes back to a previous life and discovers she has an ability to shapeshift into 5 different animals – but there are many flaws that made it a challenge to read.

To start with, the premise I mentioned above was bogged down with so many other storylines trying to demand attention. There’s a sexually harassing, paedophile teacher; issues with her dead parents (which never actually goes anywhere); boy issues (which I’ll discuss later); and probably several other things I genuinely don’t care about.

Then, there’s Sydney. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a book with a main character as unlikeable as her. Now, I understand she misses her parents (who died 7 years previously), but from what the story says, she has been with her foster parents ever since, and they treat her as good parents should, so I don’t understand the amount of anger that spews from her for about 80% of the time she’s appearing as Syd (as opposed to Rachel).

If you’ve read my reviews before, you may have realised that I hate books that completely devolve from reality, especially when it comes to love. Syd mentions at the beginning of the book that she’s had dates with ‘hot’ guys, but that she’s put off as soon as they open their mouths. Then, one day, she’s met by Beau  (at the friggin’ cemetery, by her parents’ graves), and despite his stalkerish (and is it just me to think vampiric? It’s never revealed what he is) tendencies, she falls head over heels in love with him. Well, duh. She then has her life threatened by a panther, and decides to take that moment to declare how she feels. I’m not sure about anyone else, but that’s not what I’d do.

When Syd goes back to her previous life, as Rachel, she again is madly in love, this time with a man named Jesse. This section of the book is slightly better written in that Rachel has more vulnerability than Syd, and the events are more exciting and less jumbled. I was intrigued as to how Syd could help Rachel change the events (which was hinted at by Beau), and can’t help feeling that if there had been more of this and a LOT less lead-up, I would have enjoyed the book more. I didn’t like that the end of the book finished on a cliffhanger, with nothing of importance having been ‘tied up’, with only an expectation that the reader would buy the next book in order to carry on.

Then there’s Mr Askew. I won’t waste my breath on this: he is a paedophile that sexually harasses Syd in front of the whole class at one point. Worst student in the world or not, Sydney could get him done – no bargaining. Plus, why have her burning down the school at the start of the book, only to not refer back to what was already mentioned when it happens at the end?!

In general, an annoyance throughout the book was the amount of metaphors and adjectives used for everything. If there’s one word used to describe something, there can be three, appears to be this book’s motto! Metaphors can be amazing, but they were taken too far here. (This blogger here agrees!) Picture this type of language every other page or so:

“I could feel the waves of an overwhelming heartbreak ravaging my body, taking hold as if preparing to replace every part of me with an ache that could never be soothed. Somewhere in the distance I heard agonizing sobbing, sobbing too painful for a mere girl to endure.”

Yeah. So, it’s safe to say I won’t be recommending this one.

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My first ‘read to review’

Dead Letter Office (Parish Mail #1), by Kira Snyder

Dead Letter Office

When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted

by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.

The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.

 

I’m very excited to have received my first ‘read for review’ book, through the ‘Never Too Old for Y.A.‘ group on Goodreads. I should probably point you to my new review policy at this point. This is also the first ‘Active Fiction’ e-book I’ve read. It gives the reader an option of the direction they want the plot to take. The last time I read a book (let alone an e-book!) in any way similar to that was when I was about 10, reading an Enid Blyton Famous Five ‘red herring’ book. I was therefore really intrigued as to what to expect. Would there be red herrings? Would it make the book worse? Well, no and no, as it turns out. I’ll get to that in a bit.

This is a brilliantly written story that centres around Celia, who has just lost her father and moved to New Orleans with her mum so she can get to know her father’s side of the family. Celia soon has 3 friends (2 of which are potential love interests) and bounces well off the other characters. Snyder has included the obligatory ‘popular crowd’, but added unusual details to a few of the group’s members that makes it interesting, and slightly more dangerous than your average ‘death-by-gossip’ group.

Starting from the beginning, this was one of those books I knew would capture my interest as soon as I read the first line:

” The dead man smiles at me.”

The rest of this page draws me in further, and I went from there. An odd thing I liked (and noticed fairly early on) is that Celia doesn’t ruin the first person narrative she’s got going on by telling us what she looks like. It’s good enough for me to know she’s pretty enough to have a surfer dude boyfriend before she moves away, haha!

Coming back to the reader choices, I was a little startled when the first one came up, but that’s just me not being used to it! I liked the sense of power I got from helping Celia make the ‘right’ choice. They were also placed really well within the story, at pivotal plot moments, so there wasn’t too much or too little of them. There was only one (right at the end) that I thought was pointless, although having re-read the description on Goodreads, I now know that it’s a vote the author wanted so as to establish reader preference on Celia’s love interests. Lucky Cee!

I must admit, I did read all the alternative versions, so I can say that there are no ‘red herrings’. Some choices lead you to the answer faster than others, and sometimes there’ll be a quirky scene that comes with one choice, but is barely mentioned in the other. Without wanting to spoil anything, something key to the background knowledge of Donovan and Peyton’s relationship is only mentioned in one of the choices. I haven’t quite decided if this is a good thing yet – that little piece of knowledge was good to know, I thought!

Overall, Kira Snyder has built a great sense of anticipation between the main characters, and has set the foundation for future crime/mystery-solving. It was a brilliant book and I’ll definitely be reading the next in the series.

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Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – methadone?!

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

ISBN: 0-141-32999-8, £4.99 from the Kindle store

The Lightning Thief

The first bestselling book in Rick Riordan’s phenomenally successful Percy Jackson series.

Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek god. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporised my maths teacher. That’s when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive.

This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I’ve stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.

Can Percy find the lightning bolt before a fully fledged war of the gods erupts?

This one  has been on my ‘to-read’ list for a couple of years now, since the film came out and I saw how much enthusiasm my teenage American cousins showed for the books. I must say, I enjoyed it and I’ll be reading further in the series.

It’s probably for the best that Percy finds out about everything at the same time as the reader – I only know the basics of Greek mythology, and it kept me reading to find out why Percy (or Perseus, to use his full name) was coming so much under attack. I should probably mention that when I’m reading books on my Kindle, I have usually downloaded a lot of books at once, and then don’t bother re-reading the blurb before I start the book. It’s well paced, with a lot of action making it a book I got through quickly, although I also think it would have worked well slowed down a little.

I must say, I was struggling a little to talk about this book. While it is good, I think the characterisation could be worked on just a weeny bit more. Throughout, Percy refers to people as either friends or bullies, and, whilst he is immersed in camp and the reader is ‘just’ reading, I don’t think I was told quite enough about characters like Clarisse and Luke for them to have much of an impact in terms of how I should feel about them for Percy’s sake. Then, though I really liked that nothing romantic was introduced between 12 year-olds Percy and Annabeth, and I also liked her feistiness, I wasn’t all the way there in rooting for Annabeth either. I could even have hated Smelly Gabe (Percy’s detested stepfather) more.  This may just be me, or possibly because I’ve just read The Hunger Games, which I find has so far beaten off competitors fairly well! Saying that though, I reckon this will get a lot better in the following Percy Jackson books.

I thought it was a great idea to use Greek mythology, and it was a great part of the plot to see gods using the trio as pawns to get their own way and/or create havoc. I loved the sub-plot about Medusa, and often wondered how Percy was going to get out of certain situations. I’ve just read a great review on goodreads that links the similarities of The Lightning Thief to Harry Potter, particularly the first book. They are definitely big similarities, and as the review author puts it, The Lightning Thief is like methadone when trying to come off Harry Potter. I thought that was an awesome way to put it, and probably accurate – Percy Jackson is a watered down version of Harry Potter! What do you think?

 

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I love a good dystopia!

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

ISBN: 1-407-10908-4, currently £3.47 at the Kindle store, although I forget how much I paid.

Hunger Games

A fight to the death – on live TV. The game show where you kill or die, and where the winner’s prize is survival. In District 12, where Katniss Everdeen lives, life is harsh and brutal, ruled from afar by the all-powerful leaders of the Capitol. The climax of each year is the savage Hunger Games – where twelve boys and twelve girls from each District face each other in a murderous showdown. When sixteen-year-old Katniss is chosen to represent her district in the Games, everyone thinks it’s a death sentence. Only one person can survive the horrors of the arena. But plucky Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature…

I finished this book for the second time around 15 minutes ago, and I’m still missing being part of its world. Yes, it’s that good. Actually, I read the whole book just today, which is why I have two posts so close together. The first time I read it, just before the film came out, I’d followed a friend’s recommendation to read the books first, and devoured all three in as many days. I then had to give up my Kindle for a few days so that my friend could read it, and she was just as enamoured. I know my American cousins loved it too. Safe to say, it was very popular in my circle of friends! I have heard a couple of dismissive comments saying it’s a rip-off of Battle Royale, but I haven’t read that yet, so I’ll reserve judgement.

Set in post-apocalyptic America, now known as Panem, the book very quickly sets Katniss, the protagonist, up as a fiercely protective older sister. So protective, she learnt to hunt, barter on the black market and generally help her family survive when their father dies and their mother is overcome by depression. So protective, she volunteers in her sister’s place for the practically suicidal Hunger Games. It’s not long into the book that the reaping takes place, but by the time it does, the reader knows all they need to about who Katniss is, where she’s coming from, and also sets the scene for her dilemma over the coming books. You’re rooting for her all the way, and the way Suzanne Collins writes from Katniss’s perspective is extremely effective. I was constantly sympathising with her, while at the same time simply admiring how the cogs in her mind worked in helping her to survive. None of it seemed contrived.

I’m a really big fan of dystopias anyway, but I loved what this plot was based on. Collins has said that her idea for The Hunger Games came from reality TV, and what might happen if it got warped. In a society where it’s almost impossible to avoid reality television, the plot becomes really contemporary, whilst also having a definite mix of Orwell’s Big Brother in there. Having also read the next two stories before, I know it gets a lot darker, but I’ll review those another time. (BRIEF SPOILER!) In the TV context, it’s also really easy to see how anything that boosted ratings (the “star-crossed lovers”) would be extremely powerful. It took me a while to get this, but actually, being torn between Gale and Peeta is quite understandable, given the different extremes she knows both under. I suppose comparisons could be made, but it’s definitely no Twilight.

The pacing of the book is done brilliantly (hence why I’ve read it twice, both taking less than a day!). Collins controls the twists and turns of the plot as adeptly as the gamemakers. The main characters are really multi-faceted, and the important themes – action, politics, and yes, even love – all come out in sometimes unexpected places.

Having also seen the film, I’m really impressed with how well it translated across. Obviously, no film can ever compete with the level of detail and the reader’s own imagination in a book, but it was good. I can’t remember what I thought of casting at the time, but I must admit, I did see Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in my mind when reading the book this time. This may come across as a backhanded compliment, but Jennifer Lawrence seems to have the right level of awkwardness/social unease in front of the cameras that I associated with Katniss, and also fits the book’s description.

It’s time for me to stop rambling and say goodnight now, but please leave your thoughts in the comments. The Hunger Games is a brilliant book and I would thoroughly recommend it to everyone!

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Changeling, by Philippa Gregory

Changeling, by Philippa Gregory

ISBN: 978-0-85707-733-2, £4.99 from the Kindle store

Changeling

The first book in the thrilling YA sequence, Order of Darkness.

The year is 1453, and all signs point to it being the end of the world. Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old, Luca Vero, is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom, and travel to the very frontier of good and evil. Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and all the evidence points to Isolde’s criminal guilt. Outside in the yard they are building a pyre to burn her for witchcraft. Forced to face the greatest fears of the dark ages – black magic, werewolves, madness – Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

I knew I had to read this book after this review alerted me to Philippa Gregory’s foray into YA literature. I’m definitely a fan of her writing, having read a couple of her books, the most impressive, in my opinion, being The Other Boleyn Girl. I am a complete history geek, and had really high hopes, as I’m usually kept transfixed.

For the most part, I enjoyed it. I liked the mysteries that seemed difficult to explain, and the sense of injustice felt at Isolde’s plight (a very plausible situation, back then) kept me interested throughout the book at what would become of her. It was also good when various characters (and not just Luca) were able to shed some light on the piece of the puzzle – it made it seem a little more realistic. I really liked the character of Freize, and how he reacts around pretty much everyone!

However, there was some sort of sparkle missing, especially given my expectations of the author. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was this morning, when I finished the book, but I think I’ve got the gist now. This may be my natural cynicism, but it seemed as though Luca and Isolde were both a little too perfect – they’re both great looking and have sexual chemistry, which, given that it’s supposed to be staying relatively historically accurate, doesn’t seem entirely appropriate, unless in later books they manage to resist each other.

Then, there are some moments that are only half-arsedly explained. (SPOILERS!) Firstly, it is suggested that Freize did not, as he said, release them from the dungeon, but no reason is given for this. Then, the werewolf is given as a little boy lost years before. All well and good, but can a wild child really be mistaken for an animal? I must admit, it stretched my imagination a little far!

Despite my criticism though, it wasn’t a bad book, and I probably would read the other books in the series. The Changeling aspect was barely touched upon, which is odd considering it’s the title of the book! The plot was good, and if the character development gets a little better, I will probably be rating them higher than this one!

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