Monthly Archives: March 2012

Review: The Killables by Gemma Malley

Gemma Malley writes dystopia really well. Her previous series, The Declaration, was one of my favourite additions to the genre and I was extremely excited about reading her next series which opens with the Killables. While dystopian YA is somewhat monopolised by American authors, Malley’s dystopian has more of a British feel about it (The Declaration in particularly is quintessentially English). The Killables however, does have an ‘any-place’ vibe in its setting which I think works for the novel and its themes particularly well.

In a time where ‘evil’ is removed from your brain and you are graded on your  subsequent capacity for badness and evil, The Killables is set a utopian society with a sinister side.  Evie, our main protagonist, is a B (solid, acceptable, could be better, just like me in school a lot!) and engaged to Lucas, an A, and epitome of what the city admires. Evie works in label changing, meaning that when the city’s computer either demotes or promotes a person’s letter, she is in charge of sorting out the system. Anything below a D, deviant, means that person is liable to be marked out in the city as evil, while the worst of the labels, K, remains mysterious as no one knows what happens to them.

She is also terrified she is evil. From her many nightmares to her secret passion for Raffy, her fiancé’s brother.  Evie is desperate to be good and live by the  rules, but when Raffy is branded a K though; everything changes as both Evie and Raffy run from the city.

I found that this was a really interesting book, if a little slower than Gemma Malley’s previous series. As the opening to the series, I definitely found that my interest was piqued and that I really want to read what happens next. I particularly liked that while the ending served as an appetiser for the second book, it also felt like a proper ending that didn’t make me want to squeal.

The concept of this novel is particularly striking; while we’ve had novels about love being forbidden (Delerium is one recent example), controlling evil seems more utopian than dystopian. After all, a society without rape, murder, war sounds ideal. However, reality tells us that as flawed creatures, it would be unlikely to remain perfect and Malley depicts this wonderfully. The idealism of the City coupled with how it treats one resident when they are downgraded to a D and the ranking bias proves that this is not a great place to live.

While Evie and Raffy are in the City, I did feel the story was a little slower and less pacy than I might have expected, however when they run away it really picked up for me personally. The romance between the two felt very sweet and honest; they were a couple I could believe in and root for. That said, their relationship is not a smooth ride and I did find myself mentally wanting to curse Malley for some of the obstacles she put in their way. I definitely am looking forward to seeing what comes next for the two of them and how their relationship survives.

I would also add this book can work as both a YA and crossover novel. As all the teenagers have left school and hold jobs in accordance with the City’s conventions, this lends itself well to adult readers as well as the characters have a slightly more experienced world than in some YA novels.

If you are a dystopian fan then I think the Killables will have a lot to offer you. The Killables offers a window into considering more about what evil even is and would we ever be able to destroy it.  I received my copy for free from Hodder & Stoughton and am as always grateful and thankful for the opportunity. My review is not affected by how I obtained the novel.

Hodder&Stoughton
Amazon UK
Book Depository 

Review: Dying To Know You by Aidan Chambers

Dialogue is hard to write, and even harder to write with intense authenticity. Aidan Chambers manages to write a novel heavilly dependent on short scenes of dialogue and he does it well. Obviously this technique may not be for every reader, but I found it a highly effective and compelling introduction to Chambers’ writing.

Karl enlists a famous author, the narrator of the novel, to write letters for him to send to his girlfriend who has requested he write to her. Karl is dyslexic and so conflicted by this and so reaches out to Fiorella’s favourite author who obliges in exchange for getting to know him. In a way, this concept could easily derail and turn into something quite creepy, to say the least, however Chambers skillfully avoids this and the resulting almost paternal relationship between Karl and the author is my personal highlight of the book.

Fiorella somehow comes across as very unlikeable, at times this is intentional but from the start I just didn’t warm to the sound of her. I felt Karl deserved someone more understanding and who he could be honest about his dyslexia with. Art is respectfully treated within the novel and comprises a key role within the novel. In particular Karl’s understanding and development of art is tactfully and beautifully written.

Depression also is a motif in the book and Chambers artfully and sensitively handles it, showing from the author’s view how it feels and looks to have a friend in the midst of such lows.

This book is more of a slow-burn than a high-octane novel, it is sort of the equivalent of ‘literary’ fiction for young adults and so I understand it isn’t for everyone, but it was definitely for me and I do happily recommend this novel to my readers.

I received this book for free through NetGalley and ABRAMS publishers and am highly grateful for the opportunity. Dying to Know You will be published on April 1st.

Waiting On Wednesday No. 1

Waiting On Wednesday is a blogger meme hosted by Breaking the Spine to highlight upcoming books we just can’t wait for the release of!

This week my WoW is: The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

 

 

Goodreads summary: Everything is in ruins. 

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them. 

So what does Araby Worth have to live for? 

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all. 

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does. 

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her

 

I love apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels and this just sounds awesome. From the Edgar Allen Poe reference in the title to the pandemic theme, I just need this book like crazy!

This novel is going to be released in the UK on August 1st by Orion Children’s Books and April 24th in the US through Harper Collins.

In My Mailbox # 8

In My Mailbox

So here is my eighth In My Mailbox which was started at thestorysiren.com as a way to show the books we’ve received or bought this week and swoon over everyone’s books.  I did try and do a video, but it ended up 15 minutes long! Suffice to say, I’ve had an amazing week this week!

 

Bought:

The Summoning-Kelley Armstrong (not pictured above)

Received for review:

 

Heart-Shaped Bruise- Tanya Bryne*
Witchstruck- Victoria Lamb **
White Cat-Holly Black ****
Soul Beach-Kate Harrison ****
The Killables-Gemma Malley ***
Pandemonium-Lauren Oliver ***
Struck-Jennifer Bosworth **

* Received from Headline UK.
** Received from Random House Children’s Books UK
*** Received from Indigo/Orion Children’s Books
**** Received from Hodder & Stoughton

Many thanks to the wonderful publishers I got this amazing haul of books from, I can’t wait to read them all. Also thanks to Harper Collins’ Children’s Dept who sent me a copy of Partials by Dan Wells; as I already have one I will be saving for this for my upcoming giveaway so don’t forget to follow via email or wordpress to be in with a shot of winning this excellent book!

So what have you got in your mailbox this week then?

Review: Another Jekyll, Another Hyde by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

 

I should confess before starting this review that when I started this book I had no idea it was part of a series, however it is a book that can stand on its own. There were several points and details that alluded to previous books, however I grasped the plot and characters overall.

At first I did find it difficult to get into this novel, however this may have been due to it being part of a series and once I persisted I found myself becoming more engaged with the novel and enjoying it.

I absolutely love the retelling of classic fairytales and stories so I knew that this reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde would be right up my street. The Hyde aspect of the novel is more unusual but worked overall. Obviously as this is such a well-known story, the element of surprise is lost to an extent as we, the readers, already know the story and can guess some of the twists and turns.

Daniel and Dina Nayeri incorporate the tale into modern tales really well and I loved the inclusion of modern day issues facing teens: homophobia, divorced families and stepfamilies, etc. The complexity of a society with tweeting, therapists, high school and absent parents.

I think that the last fifty pages were strongly written and the action and pacing in them were very well executed. Thomas’ battle with Hyde in particular was a really interesting and well-done scene.

As a villain I felt Nicole was a little one-dimensional; the authors try and add complexity to her character via her history with Hyde, however it just didn’t ring true with me. As she is the villain, I gather, from the earlier books it may be more to do with this and her character already being set up and my not knowing the series.

This is an engaging, interesting novel with a brilliant concept. The authors have a great grasp on voice with Thomas. I received this egalley for free through NetGalley and Candlewick Press and am grateful for the opportunity to read this book.

 

Review: You Can Run by Norah McClintock

You Can Run is the second YA mystery novel in Norah McClintock’s series following teenager Robyn Hunter. I must confess I haven’t read the first but I found that this book was still easy to read and understand despite this, and has definitely piqued my interested in the series.

When Robyn’s classmate, Trisha, runs away and her stepfather asks Robyn’s dad, a retired police-officer and private investigator, to look into her disappearance, Robyn wants to help. Trisha and Robyn had fallen out close to her vanishing and Robyn feels a degree of guilt so with her boyfriend, Nick, wants to investigate.

I loved the mystery aspect of this book; little details all tied into the main plot by the end and as a crime novel and mystery fan, this really appealed to me. I also loved that Robyn didn’t have absent parents and was so close to her father; it is a refreshing change for YA novels.

I don’t want to spoil the overall mystery or plot by going into that into too much details so instead I’ve decided to focus on characters and other aspects of the book I want to discuss.

I think the relationship between Robyn and Nick was also great. Nick is very complicated, troubled and clearly has a difficult childhood, unlike Robyn, and this difference between the two of them can strain the couple deeply. In some books, this would be played as ‘she can save him’ and for romance, but I felt that the author took a more mature approach here in highlighting the difficulties faced in a relationship like that.

My only real criticism of this book is that the plot twist didn’t quite match the momentum or expectations I had, however it was still interesting and entertaining.

I would recommend this to mystery YA fans and contemporary YA fans alike. I received this book for free as an ecopy from NetGalley and the Lerner Publisher Group. This book will be published on April 1st 2012.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

Review: Starters by Lissa Price

There is a lot of hype surrounding Lissa Price’s debut novel, Starters, and when I start a book like this I always wonder if it is justified. I have to say on reading Starters that I can see why some of the hype has been generated.

Starters is an engaging, sci-fi debut which I really enjoyed reading. It is set in a world where after a war where only the young and elderly lived through vaccinations, and there is a real divide between claimed and unclaimed youths. Orphaned Callie is one of these unclaimed ‘starters’ and applies for a job at Prime Destinations where she can get enough money to buy a home and provide stability for her family and friends. The only catch? Well, the job is to rent out her body three times.

Without wanting to spoil the novel for you, obviously one of these goes wrong and offers a startling insight into how her body can be misused as she regains consciousness of her body while it is still being rented out. What ensues is part thriller, part sci-fi, part dystopia, part the Prince and the Pauper, and a lot of drama. I think at times here the pacing was a little slow though and for the plot itself could have been more action-filled and dramatic, that said this was a minor concern.

I found the concept of renting out your body and being totally unaware really well handled and compelling. It is perhaps the reason I feel that this book deserves recommending. The concept of waking up and not knowing how you got the scratches on your body, or the fact it is other renters are abusing your bodies despite it being against the rules is a interesting allusion to teenagers and the rights they have. Not only this, but it alludes to the number of teenagers in poverty who can be so easily exploited when there is no-one to defend them in an effective and poignant way. This may just be me being an English student and reading into things, but I think this showed how out of control of our lives and power we can be as teenagers and so to have a character rising from this and being strong is fitting for YA.

The romance aspect of the novel and the twist with this was really well done. While it started feel a little familiar, the twist Price throws in changes everything at the end.

I think for its discussions on power, and easy allusions to rights as a teenager, this novel could definitely be a stand-out release of 2012. I only wish I liked the cover more as I really am not fond of its current incarnation, but that’s just me! I received this as a free egalley from NetGalley.com and Random House Children’s Books.

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium is the sequel to the hugely popular Delerium set in a dystopian world where love is a disease. I have to admit that when I read Delerium last year I wasn’t overstruck by it; I enjoyed reading it and definitely wanted to read the sequel after that ending, but as there were a few ‘love is bad’ books around, I don’t think I gave it enough a chance in hindsight – when I scanned through it before starting Pandemonium, I realised it was actually really good. Pandemonium however, blew me away from the moment I started reading it.

After the dramatic ending and separation of Alex and Lena in Delerium, Pandemonium takes place in two separate strands of time titled then and now. This really effectively conveyed Lena’s grieving process for Alex and how she came to be involved in rebel efforts. I did enjoy the then section purely for Lena’s character development and how she came to be who she was at the start of the book, however the sections ‘now’ were my personal favourite in terms of plot. There is a lot I could discuss in terms of plot and specific moments, but I feel that I would be openly spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it yet.

The new characters were interesting and I particularly loved the significance of one minor character that I hope will be explored further in the final installment. My favourite of the new cast was Julian as he developed so well throughout the course of the book and I thought his internal conflicts were really well done and mirrored Lena’s in Delerium.

Lauren Oliver’s writing is tight, full of wonderful metaphors and language and pulled me into Lena’s world.  The emotions are raw, visceral and the opening section of then when she is running in the wilds was utterly heartbreaking. I dare you not to be moved by it. Oliver has a gift for simple, beautiful images and her words are clearly carefully chosen. This is the sort of book that can be shelved in the young adult or the adult section and has a mature, but not pompous, narrative style. I recommend a book like this for people who say YA is poor writing so they can see how wrong they are.

It is rare for a second book to exceed its predecessor in a series, but in this case, Pandemonium for me was the exception to this rule. I absolutely adored this book and could not put it down! I highly recommend it to all YA fans and readers.

The ending, as in Delerium, is one that leaves you desperate for the next book. I think I actually may have squeaked out a little mini-scream when I read it because I need to know what happens next. I think as a reader, you will either love or hate these endings. I feel a little bit of resentment, I have to admit, for having to wait, but when I consider other popular YA series, such as the Hunger Games, the second book generally has ended on a significant cliffhanger of sorts so this seems to be standard for trilogy. I received this book for free from Hodder & Stoughton to review. As ever my review has not been affected by this.

Review: The Look by Sophia Bennett

The Look is one of those books that will either work well, or not work at all. Combining something many teenage girls dream about  like modelling with a nightmare of cancer is a risk. So full credit to Sophia Bennett for pulling it off.

When Ted (Edwina) Trout is spotted by a modelling agency, she is certain it is a joke. Her sister, Ava, is the beautiful one after all. However, after her sister’s shock diagnosis of cancer and with Ava’s encouragement (and at time’s orders) she decides to try modelling to bring in a little extra money and also relate more to her sister, who has always been the fashion aficionado of the two. When,

This book was not what I expected at all. I loved the relationship between Ava and Ted the most; they really had this wonderful closeness and rivalry and felt like real siblings. Both of them are created so naturally and well-written that the scenario of becoming a model felt more grounded than mere wish-fulfilment. In both instances, Bennett steers her novel clear of saccharine and unrealistic feelings, but doesn’t avoid the more unsettling aspects either. It is not an ‘edgy’ or ‘gritty’ read though, but neither it is 100% froth.

The Look, for me, was not so much about dealing with a sibling’s cancer, or becoming a model, but about sisters and their unconditional love for one another. That said, obviously both of the above are significant themes and focuses of the novel.

The modelling world was well-written and really interested me- both in terms of its extravagant aspects and the the pressure and problems Ted was presented with. I adored that even with these difficulties, Ted was able to assert herself as a character and became more and more confident throughout the novel.

I loved the subtle romances in the Look too; they never took away from the main focus of the book and they also felt very real and teenage. Ava’s boyfriend in particular was a character I really warmed to, as was Ted’s quasi-romantic interest.

Overall, I would recommend this book to fans of British YA, contemporary YA and novels about sisterly bonds, as well as those interested in modelling. Also although you should never judge a book by it’s cover, I have to mention how lovely the cover is. The edges of the pages are pink and it’s just a really cute looking novel.

I received this book for free from Chicken House UK and am very grateful for the opportunity to read and review it. As always my review has not been affected by how I received the book!

 

In My Mailbox # 7

In My Mailbox

So here is my fifth In My Mailbox which was started by the lovely Kristi at thestorysiren.com as a way to show the books we’ve received or bought this week.

Bought:

 

Hunting Lila- Sarah Alderson

Gifted:

This Is Not Forgiveness-Celia Rees

My dad bought this for me and I’m really excited about reading it as it seems really good and an intense read. 

Received for review:

          

Partials-Dan Wells*
New Girl-Paige Harbison **
The Summer My Life Began-Shannon Greenland  ***

 

* Hardcopy  from HarperCollinsUK, thank you! 
** E-copy received from HarlequinUK via Netgalley. Thanks, I’ve been waiting for this one for a while and  I loved Here Lies Bridget
*** E-copy received from Penguin Publishing Group via NetGalley. I’m reviewing this as part of the book’s blog tour soon so don’t forget to look out for my review then!  

So what have you lovely people got in your mailbox this week then?