Thursday 30 January 2014

Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Title: Born Wicked
Author: Jessica Spotswood
Publisher: Putnam Juvenille
Published: Febuary 7th 2012
Pages: 330

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave. Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Yet again, this is another book I have chosen because of it's popularity in the booksphere. I was particularly excited for this one, not only because I had been wanting to read a witch book for awhile, but also because of the time period it is set in. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and this book is an alternate history story. This story is set in the late 1800s, nearing the start of the early twentieth century. Putting it in context with our real history this book would be set in a time soon after the Salem witch trials as Cate states that in her grandmother's time witches were burned at the stake. As I had wanted to read a book about witches and magic for so long I had high expectations for this one, which were unfortunately not met.

The aspect that disappointed me the most in this story was, in fact, the magic, or should I say the lack of magic. For a story about witches this book has very little actual magic in it, apart from a scene near the end of the book. I would even describe the magic as quite boring - the most interesting thing to happen being a garden blooming to life or Cate moving an object through the air with difficulty. There is also very little explanation behind the magic and it appears that only women have these gifts.

So, the magic wasn't the main attribute focused on in this story, what was?...The romance (I know right, shocking!). When I picked up this book I wanted to read a book full of witchy goodness not a book about a love triangle, which happened to be the most boring "love story" I had ever read. I was not particularly enamoured with either of the love interests, one of them was purposefully made out to be a little bit sketchy and just plain boring, while the other was made out to be the nicest guy you have ever read about but again, boring.

The plot was incredibly predictable which isn't the worst thing when reading YA fiction. However, the lack of originality was the problem for me. It followed the usual plot of YA stories: female protagonist must fight against the oppressive system in order to save those she cares about. Parents are MIA, mother is dead and father is always away. The main character is involved in a love triangle, and ultimately cannot be with the one she loves because of the oppressive society she lives in and so we wait to find out what happens in the next two books to resolve this. OK, I loved Delirium and it followed a similar plot line to this, along with several other books I have enjoyed but there has always been some saving grace, such as the characters or the world-building, that has redeemed the book in my eyes. The characters in this book did not do that for me.

The three sisters are each stereotyped into one role that they play throughout the novel, leaving absolutely no room for character growth which is something I love to read about. Tess, the youngest, is the genius of the family, who is good at, literally, everything. Not only is she the most intelligent, musically gifted and the best at magic, she is also able to read people and understand their true intentions. Then we have the middle sister Maura, and being the middle sister she, of course, is the rebellious one. She is a character who is impossible to like because she causes most of the problems in the story and she is a complete and utter spoiled brat. Finally, we have Cate, the eldest, so naturally she plays the protective older sister role. She is your typical YA female protagonist who does not understand how beautiful/talented she really is. She puts everyone else in front of herself, and is the martyr of the story.

Now, before I bash this story altogether (which was not my intention but I tend to go off on rants), there was one aspect to this book that I did enjoy and that was the issue that was tackled. I love when a book, especially in YA because I feel it is quite rare, tackles serious issues. This book deals with the issues of inequality between men and women. This story is set in a time where (in real history) women lived in a patriarchal society; the women were completely controlled by men and their place was seen to be in the home. At the time the main objective of a woman was to find a husband and to be a good wife and mother. These are all aspects that feature in this story. Cate's impending intention ceremony is one such example. Cate must either have a marriage proposal or chose the Sisterhood (basically similar to the nuns) before her seventeenth birthday or the Brotherhood will chose a husband for her. Women are not allowed to run businesses and are looked upon unfavorably if they do, e.g. Finn's mother. The fear men had of women is excellently portrayed in the book. Not only were the Brotherhood afraid of the real witches they also feared women who didn't rely on men, such as women who had relationships with other women, women who ran their own business' and woman who acted too mush like men "aping" their clothing and what not. Women who "refused to submit to man's authority" were punished (quote from Maura on p.38, line 20-23). Another interesting aspect was how Spotswood refers to the Arab women as the free women of society, allowed to run businesses and wear trousers, a clear role reversal as strict Muslim women do not run business nor wear trousers and must cover up from head to toe.

While I did not love the story, and found the plot and characters unoriginal I loved the discussion on the role of women in this story and that is why I give this book a rating of:

Wednesday 29 January 2014

WWW Wednesday (January 29th)

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three questions:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you will read next?

1. What are you currently reading?

Splintered by A.G. Howard

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own. (Goodreads Synopsis)

I am a huge fan of re-tellings and so, of course, when I saw an Alice in Wonderland re-telling, I just had to have it. Alice in Wonderland was on of my favourite VIDEOS (no DVDs back in my day!) even though it scared the bejesus out of me. I am only around ten pages into the book so I can't tell you if I am liking it or not yet but just look at that beautiful cover *drools*...AND the one for the second book, Unhinged, is even prettier *gasp*. Oh.Ya. I will have a review of this on my blog once I have it read so you can check that out to see what I thought.

2. What did you recently finish?

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. (Goodreads Synopsis)

I actually really enjoyed this book and gave it a four stars. I didn't completely love it but it was quite a fun read and I absolutely loved the concept behind so I pushed it from 3.5 to 4 stars. I will have a full review up of this one shortly (work is ruining my review schedule!).

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently.
I'd tell my sister no.
I'd never beg my mother to talk to my dad.
I'd zip my lips and swallow those hateful words.
Or, barring all of that, I'd hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time.
I'd tell them I love them.
I wish... Yeah, I wish. (Goodreads Synopsis)

There seems to be a pattern again this week. I appear to be reading all re-tellings...did I mention that I love them? I want to read this one so I can do a compare and contrast post between this book and Splintered, so I can choose my favourite Alice in Wonderland re-telling. Another upcoming post, which I will hopefully have up in the near future.

If you have taken part in this weeks WWW Wednesday leave a link in the comments below and I will be sure to check it out.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In/Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With

So this week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday by the Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In OR (since some of you might not read stuff with different worlds) Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With. So how I decided to do this weeks TTT is to do my Top Five Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In AND my Top Five Characters I'd Never Want To Trade Places with. Now while some of those would probably overlap I decided to not mention the same book twice. They are in order my least favourite world to live in/character to be being number 1. All the pictures have clickable links which will take you to their Goodreads page in case you have not read them yet. I have tried not to spoil any books just in case they are new to you guys. So here we go:


1. Wither by Lauren Destefano: In this dystopian world women die at the age of 20 while men die at the age of 25. Do I need to say more. If I lived in this world I would have died three years ago...AND just to make things worse young girls are kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides in order to bear children as the population is dwindling fast. Ya, not pleasant.
2. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I don't think I even need to explain this one. Yet another dystopian world, one where you might just be picked to take part in the hunger games with 23 other teenagers, you must, literally, fight to the death. If, you manage to escape the Hunger Games and live in the poorer districts, you will be forced to do back breaking work in the orchards/mines etc and have very little food/possibly no electricity/hot water etc. All in all not a great place to live and so it is a well deserved second worst world to live in.
3. Delirium by Lauren Oliver: Dystopian world number three: Delirium, where everyone over the age of 18 is cured of the disease deliria a.k.a love. The cureds are zombie like people with basically no feelings and go about their life in a regimented uncaring way. The uncureds are completely seperated from the opposite sex, homosexuals are considered unnaturals and touching or any sign of affection is strictly forbidden. Your husband is chosen for you once you become of age and it is your duty to procreate (without love of course). Oh and did I mention that the cure could go wrong and make you crazy?...Not the most ideal world to live in.
4. Legend by Marie Lu: Another dystopian, another big bad government controlling its people. Reasons I wouldn't like to live in this world: ten year olds are murdered if they fail a test of strength and intelligence, the government spreads a plague through its poorest districts and there is a major war going on between the colonies and the Republic of America. Poorer people are treated terribly and food is scarce...but let's go back to the PLAGUE...I would be the one to get it no doubt and that just does not sound appealing to me as it cause death and blindness etc.
5. Slated by Teri Terry: In this (yes, another one) dystopian world, those people under the age of 16, who "commit crimes" are slated, their memories erased and a whole new life created. They do not remember anything including their families and are actually placed with a new family. They wear a levo on their arms which makes them collapse and even die if they get too sad or angry. The main reason I would not like to live in this world is because most of the children who are slated are not in fact criminals. I don't think I would like all my memories to be erased and to be completely removed from my home to live with complete strangers.


1. Ruby Daly from The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken:  Ruby spends six years living in a labour camp, terrified of the abilities she possesses. If her specific power was known to those in the camp she would have been killed. She lives in constant fear, not only of those controlling her but even of herself. I would love to have one of the abilities in this story and that's why it didn't make the above list.
2. Juliette Ferrars from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: Juliette drains power from people when she touches them and as a result can kill people merely by touching them. While this would be a great defense mechanism, it is not exactly ideal for everyday. Everyone thinks she is a freak and she winds up in an insane asylum. No, thanks.
3. Harry Potter from the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Ok, ok...yes, I would love, love, LOVE to live in HP world but, in all fairness, Harry is hunted by the scariest and most powerful wizard of ALL TIME. His parents have been killed by said wizard and several other important people in his life are murdered. Again, not ideal.
4. Jem from The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Jem's parents have been killed by a demon and this same demon has caused Jem to rely on a dangerous drug to keep him alive even though it is actually slowly killing him. I would not like to be dying and so I am afraid I would not like to swap places with Jem.
5. Cinder from Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Cinder has suffered severe injuries which has left her a cyborg, with 36% of her body basically robotic. Now some of her abilities are pretty awesome such as her ability to tell when someone is lying but I don't think I would like to be 36% metal. Not only this but she is reviled by her family and society and is forced to work hard all day and her stepmother gets all the money. Poor Cinder has a tough life.

Who would you least like to swap places with and what world would not like to live in? Do let me know in the comments below and if you yourself have taken part in this weeks TTT please feel free to leave a link below :)

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Review: Poison Dance A Novella by Livia Blackburne


Goodreads Synopsis:

James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. Poison dance is approximately 14,000 words, or 54 printed pages.

Poison Dance is the prequel novella to Livia Blackburne's debut novel Midnight Thief. I added this book to my To Read shelf on Goodreads and was contacted by the author who offered to send me the ebook in exchange for an honest review. I am incredibly grateful as I have been eagerly awaiting the release of MT which unfortunately won't be until July. I am a huge fan of anything and everything medieval, in fact, I was, for a time, a tour guide of a reconstructed medieval street in a museum! So, when I saw the Goodreads synopsis of Midnight Thief, I just had to have it. You can find my Waiting on Wednesday post here, where I have this week featured Midnight Thief.

So, before I actually go into the story and my review I would firstly like to tell you the background to the novella. It features the assassin James, who is actually the leader of the Assassin's Guild in Midnight Thief. Here is quote from Livia herself explaining why she wrote this novella:

"I originally conceived of James as a supporting character in my novel Midnight Thief, and I quickly fell in love with him. As the enigmatic leader of the Assassins Guild, James was cool, competent and intriguing. He was the type of character who invited questions. How had he come to power at such a young age? What was behind his hatred of the nobility? Had he loved before? Was he even capable of love? I wanted to tell his story, and here's the result."

While Livia would class Midnight Thief as mid-YA she explained to me that Poison Dance was closer to Upper YA and New Adult - heavier on the romance and much darker. Now the novella being classed as New Adult got me really excited because I have been looking for a story like this which is New Adult, rather than Young Adult. I love YA stories but being 23 I find that sometimes they are a tad bit too childish, there is not enough violence and definitely not enough of mature relationships. However, when I read that it was heavier on the romance I was a little bit wary as I am not a huge fan of romance in stories. So, with that in mind I went into the story a bit apprehensive, thinking that this would merely be a love story but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found instead.

This story was very short coming in at 54 pages long and so I am incredibly surprised at how much of an insight I got into the world. We are introduced to the Assassin's Guild and some of it's key members in particular the new leader, Gerred and the assassin James.The Assassin's Guild was once an incredibly successful venture, with members who had been both influential and feared, in the time of the story, however, this reputation has been destroyed and the assassin's are merely seen as thugs. The politics of this world is well developed. We are introduced to the noblemen who are known as wallhuggers due to their close proximity to the palace walls. They are clearly corrupt and untrustworthy men, who even have dealings with the assassins. Then there are the guards of the city who rule with an iron fist, The Red Shields, they kill and hurt without thought for others. The city is clearly not a place of freedom. This information has set up a great backdrop for Midnight Thief and I can't wait to find out more about this world.

What I found to be most interesting in this novella was the treatment of women. Thalia, the main female character in the story is a dancer in the Scorned Maiden. She dances for the pleasure of men. She, like all the other women at that time, is meant to be seen and not be heard. The men in the story speak of women as if they are objects to be taken and the women are only too willing to obey - "You bed her yet?" Asked Bacchus. "If you're not interested, I want a try". This makes me excited for Midnight Thief as it tells the story of a young girl Kyra who joins the assassin's guild. I love to read stories where women are empowered in a setting that suppresses them, it makes them much more impressive. I have a feeling I am going to like Kyra.

Another aspect that added to the atmosphere of this world was the dialogue. The author knew she had very little time to give a sense of the time period and setting in this short, 54 page novella, and she cleverly uses dialogue to gives us this sense of medieval times. I have often read books that were set in different time periods that used words and phrasings of the modern world. Livia completely immerses the reader in her medieval setting with dialogue such as this:

“I would retain your services.” Her tone was serious. She believed
herself earnest, at least.
He gave a low chuckle. “Many think they would. But few have the coin,
and even fewer truly have the stomach for it.”
“I have enough coin.”
“And how does a dancing lass come across so much money?” He dropped
his eyes to her shapeless dress. “Unless your trade is not purely
She flushed now, her nervousness replaced with anger. “My business is my own.
Will you take my coin or not?”

Overall, I found this was an enjoyable novella. It did take me awhile to get into the story but once I did I couldn't stop reading it. I loved the ending but it may not be to everyone's taste, however, I feel it added to the darker theme Livia was portraying. There was plenty of action in it and the romance didn't overpower the plot but added to it nicely. My only problem was the length, I wanted more so I could get a better grip of the world, but then again, wanting more of a story is hardly a bad thing.


Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week is Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne


Goodreads Synopsis:

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life.

I recently received the prequel novella Poison Dance to review which you can find here. It gives a great background to the story and world of Midnight Thief, providing the reader with an insight into the Assassin's Guild's leader James. I also had the opportunity to read the first chapter of Midnight Thief along with the novella and let's just say, it has made me even more excited about this book. Publication is set for July.

What is your Waiting on Wednesday pick? Leave a link below in the comments and I will be sure to check it out!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Things On My Reading Wishlist

So this week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday by the Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.) So, basically this post is going to be a run down of aspects I want to see more in the books that I read.

So without further I do, these are the top ten things I want to see in my books:

1. A main character that is not involved in a romantic relationship

I know, I know, most of the people who love YA, love the romantic elements in the plot. However, these days a great deal of the YA books that I have been reading have been treating the romance as the be all and end all. A plot that focuses almost solely on the blossoming romance between the protagonists really irritates me. That is a serious no-no for me.

2. A more realistic romance

So we have to have a romance in the story? Ok then, lets make it a realistic romance then. This means no insta-love...oh wow, my pet peeve of YA Fiction, I hate it sooo much! I want relationships like they really are: going out with different people (not falling in love with the first person they meet), unfulfilled crushes where the main character falls for a guy that either does not feel the same or simply turns out to be a complete douchebag. Or, if falling those options, simply a slow-building romance that happens naturally.

3. More diverse characters

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of the same white, straight, skinny beautiful characters? I want something new and something different. That means including more characters who are LGBTQ, overweight, different ethnicities and characters with mental and physical disabilities. 

4. More diverse settings

By diverse setting I simply mean a different setting to America and England. I would love a story to be set in places much more exotic like the Amazon or the Arctic etc. Of course I also love stories set in made up places, the more exotic the better.

5. Platonic relationships

YA Fiction seems so focused on romantic entanglements that they forget to give the characters strong friendships, people they can trust wholeheartedly. Now this may be female/female, male/male or female/male friendships, a story that focuses on one of these more so then on a romance would be a book I want to read.

6. More fairytale re-tellings

Ever since I was introduced to Angela Carter's fairytale re-tellings I have been extremely interested in this genre. I have quite a few on my tbr shelf at the moment: Cinder, Alice in Zombieland and Splintered.

7. More normal parents and familial relationships

In nearly every YA book I read the parents are somehow not around, whether they are dead, simply abandoned their children, etc. either way they are always absent. A story with a strong adult role model, whether it be a guardian, parent, teacher, etc. would be a nice change.

8. Stories set in medieval setting

My favourite setting, if I were to pick a specific book, would be the world of the Lord of the Rings. A medieval style setting with people on horseback, fighting using bows and swords is my ultimate world. While urban medieval towns are interesting I am much more interested in the rural landscape, travelling through forests, etc.

9. Male witches (warlocks) and female werewolves

Confused by that title? Ya, I couldn't think of any other way to word it. Basically I want books to not be so gender specific when it comes to certain supernatural beings. I find that most books about witches have female protagonists while werewolf protagonists are mainly male. A book with a female protagonist who is female sounds great to me.

10. More assassins

I read Throne of Glass not too long ago thinking that it would involve a kick ass, deadly assassin, and at the beginning that appeared to be the case. However, Caelena was in fact, not all that kick ass, incredibly shallow, obsession with clothes and hated killing people, yes an assassin that doesn't like to kill and instead of killing their targets, helps them disappear. No, no no no no! I want a deadly assassin who kills for the thrill of it. Call me twisted but that's what an assassin is meant to do right?

So those were the top ten things I want to see in my books, what were yours? If you know any books that fit into any of those categories let me know in the comments below :)

Sunday 19 January 2014

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: Febuary 28th 2012
Pages: 384

Goodreads Synopsis:

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

If you have not read Delirium, this review will contain spoilers on the outcome of that book, so please bear that in mind.

I will speak a little about Delirium in this review and give a brief overview of the story in Delirium. These books are set in a dystopian world where love is considered a disease. At the age of 18, everyone receives  the "cure" - an operation that makes people immune to love. Prior to the age of 18, boys and girls are kept completely separated; only the cureds are allowed to intermingle. After the cure men and women are matched and expected to marry and pro-create. In Delirium, Lena cannot wait to receive the cure, she too sees love as a disease and at the beginning of the novel is completely brainwashed. In this first book in the series, I found Lena to be a hard character to connect with. She appears, at the beginning, to be a character who cannot think for herself, judgmental and completely closed-minded. However, as the story progresses Lena's character grows, in particular, due to her blossoming relationship with Alex. Although Lena opens her mind to ideas outside of what society has thought her, she still remains a rather weak and whiny character throughout Delirium. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ DELIRIUM AND PLAN TO. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. At the end of Delirium Lena escapes over the fence into the wilds, forced to leave Alex on the other side of the fence to face the authorities, it is not known whether he lives or dies.

Ugh, the end of the story killed me. I loved Alex as a character and now I was facing reading a story with the one thing I loved most about it missing. Did I hate Pandemonium because of this? The answer to that is a definite no, I, in fact, loved this book for several reasons.

What I will speak about first is Lena's incredible growth as a character. During the flashbacks Lena, at the beginning, is her usual pathetic, whiny self. She seems completely incapable of functioning without Alex - often hinting that she wouldn't care if she died. She appears weak at the beginning, weaker even then the character we saw in Delirium. Her time lost, alone in the wilds has mentally and physically drained her. This side to Lens does not last long and finally we have a strong female lead emerge in this series.

She is by far my favourite character in Pandemonium, in fact, the only character that I really enjoyed.  There were several characters Lena came across in the wilds, many of them simply padding characters, while there were other more important characters such as Raven and Tack who were not likable characters. They had tough outer shells, with bare glimpses of their feelings and neither character was wholly trustworthy. The character of Julian was also a character I found impossible to like. Delirium gave me the character of Alex but then unceremoniously took this character from me.  I found it very difficult to like Julian, not only because of the fact that he is not Alex, but also because he is not LIKE Alex. He is, in fact, the complete opposite. While Alex was strong and passionate, Julian is weak and misguided. Similar to Lena in Delirium Julian  is judgmental, closed minded and, worst of all, a really pathetic person. He is ignorant in the ways of the world just as Lena was, and, just as Alex helped Lena learn the truth, so too does Lena help Julian. Julian plays the role of the "damsel-in-distress" while Lena plays the hero role. I loved the role reversal here. Lena was previously the damsel-in-distress but has grown such much as a person that she is strong enough to be the hero or the knight in shining armour. Just like I didn't like Lena in Delirium I really didn't like Julian in Pandemonium.

The romance in the story, thankfully did not overwhelm the plot of the book. It was quite a believable romance, it was not overbearing and overtly emotional. This wasn't a story about insta-love and Lena's love of Alex is not completely forgotten.

Another aspect to the story that I enjoyed, was the flashbacks that I mentioned earlier. This way of telling the story - mixing the then of Lena's first appearance in the wilds and the now of around six months later - made me not want to put the book down. At the end of every chapter  you were left wanting to find out more. The plot was fast paced and action packed throughout. The writing style was also enjoyable, simple to read with some beautiful metaphors woven in here and there to spice up the narrative.

While I loved the characters in Delirium, like Alex and Hana, I loved the setting in Pandemonium, in particular, the wilds. The image that Oliver creates of the wilds was so vivid. While the wilds was a place of complete destruction, a place where towns were bombed and hundreds/thousands of people killed, it is still an area of beauty. The shells and foundations of old buildings remain with nature growing over and through them to create a peaceful, beautiful and quiet setting.

Another aspect I really loved about this book was its thought-provoking moments. Yes, you heard me right, A YA dystopian story which makes you think. I loved how contemporary issues such as the treatment of homosexuals and people with disabilities was incorporated into the story. There was a particular quote in Pandemonium that stood out for me: "For a society to be healthy, not a single one of its members may be sick". This quote reminded me of a Nazi society, an overbearing, government controlled society where there is no love. The sick people in this series are not just those with Deliria but also those with disablities and those who are homosexual. In Pandemonium's society people who are gay are referred to as "Unnaturals" and being gay is actual illegal, while people with disabilities are hidden from society or killed. Oliver clearly abhors this treatment and I enjoyed the fact that she tackled this issue and even featured a gay relationship with Hunter and Bram. Stories incorporating homosexual relationships are incredibly rare and even though the issue is merely touched on in Pandemonium, I am glad that it has a part to play in the story.

The plot twist, while totally predictable, was incredibly enjoyable. While I knew it would happen, I didn't know how. The last page of the book left me screaming at the book with excitement. I really like where the story went, well I would have much preferred if Julian was replaced with Alex,  but it made the plot more exciting and I now can't wait to read the next book and find out how it all turns out.

I really loved Delirium, probably only due to Alex while I loved Pandemonium because of the setting, the flashbacks, the plot and the strong female lead character. I gave Delirium 4 stars for Alex, I give Pandemonium 4 stars for a well-written, exciting story.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Stacking the Shelves - 20+ Books

Stacking The Shelves is a meme created by Tynga's Reviews. It is "all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks". If you would like to find out more about this meme click here. 

Books I have added to my shelves:

If you read my Top Ten 2014 Bookish Resolutions you will know that I am currently on a book buying ban. are probably wondering why I am posting a January Book Haul. All of these books, apart from one, were bought around Christmas before I had to put myself on a ban to try and curb my spending. I failed miserably with the ban as I bought a book recently while on a trip to Cork. But, hey, don't judge me too harshly as I was feeling under-the-weather and wanted to cheer myself up. Apart from that book, I bought all of the books off The Book Depository, which has discounted books and free shipping worldwide. 

So, before I keep rambling here are the books I have bought recently:

(All of these images have clickable links which will take you to their Goodreads page.)

Phew. That was a huge amount of books I have hauled. If you have read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them or if you yourself have taken part in this meme please feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Harper
Published: January 1st 2011
Pages: 338

Goodreads Synopsis:
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

Shatter me by Tahereh Mafi has been all over the blogsphere. It is a favourite of so many of my favourite booktubers and bloggers, so of course I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was so excited for this series that I bought the second book, Unravel Me,  before I had ever read Shatter Me.

The minute this book came through the letterbox I was all over it. I firstly have to comment on the cover of the book, and there is only word that springs to mind: WOW. The covers, of both Shatter Me and Unravel Me, are easily my favourite book covers of all time. I love the colours, the image of the eye with trees as eyelashes and the waterfall as tears; too beautiful for words.

So, after staring at the amazing cover for an age, I flipped open the book, incredibly excited for what was to come. This book tells the story of Juliette, a girl with the power to drain a person's lifeforce when she touches them. She has never been loved by anyone, not even her parents and she has been treated like a freak by all her peers. When the book opens Juliette tells us she has been in the insane asylum for 264 days where she has not seen or spoke to anyone. That's all about to change when Juliette gets a new cellmate, Adam.

After reading the first couple of pages I realised how different Mafi's style of writing is. Mafi uses a great deal of strikethrough text. At first I didn't mind this, but as the story progressed there was just far too much of this style of text and it significantly slowed down my reading. There is, also, a great deal of metaphorical writing throughout the story, in fact, far too much. Some of the metaphors were beautiful and would have been a great addition to the book if there just hadn't been so many - in fact the entire book was a string of metaphors. Another aspect to the writing style that slowed my reading progress was the abundance of short sentences and repetitions -
 "I thought my hands were helping
I thought my heart was helping
I thought so many things
I never
never thought".
Although this did slow down my reading, I didn't find it all that annoying. This form of writing made me feel as though I was really listening to Juliette's jumbled thoughts.

I really enjoyed the first couple of chapters with Juliette and Adam in the asylum. However, as the story progressed I felt that it was lacking some well-needed action; I was halfway through the book and felt that very little had actually happened. I felt that the sole focus of the story was on the romance and as a result the other aspects to the book suffered. One such aspect is the world-building. There was little to no world-building in the story apart from being told that birds don't fly, people were dying at an enormous rate and that the Reestablishment held society on a tight rein; a typical dystopian setting. The characters and setting all seemed to be a carbon copy of x-men, lacking any originality. Juliette's power is identical to Rogue's and the institution at the end of the story very similar to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

The one setting, however, that I did thoroughly enjoy was the asylum. This setting was by far my favourite part of the world Mafi created. It was an incredibly dark and disturbing place. I found it interesting how completely isolated Juliette was from the other inmates (until Adam's arrival). For 164 days Juliette was holed up in a cell with no one to talk to. She never met a single sole in their until Adam. I loved the scene where Juliette and Adam make their way to the shower room. The door to their room suddenly open into a pitch black corridor where they must blindly find the shower room, strip and wash themselves in two minutes. They are completely alone. 

Before I go on to speak about the romance in the story I must put in a disclaimer. I am biased when it comes to romance in stories. Please remember when reading this that I am not a huge fan of romantic stories. I don't mind a side story romance. What I don't like is insta-love and a romance that overpowers the plot, and unfortunately this is one such story. I won't talk about this too much but Adam and Juliette almost instantly fall in love with each other and the story basically closely follows their blossoming romance, and as a result the plot of the story suffers.

I have quite mixed feelings about the characters in this story. I didn't by any means hate the characters in Shatter Me - with the exception of Warner who is the antagonist of the story and so that is the whole point of his character. As Shatter Me isn't a new book, I know so many people are team Warner and I am just here like: OMG what happens in Unravel Me to make people like him? In this book Warner is a despicable person. He also appears to be a total creep with a weird obsession with Juliette that I don't understand (I am assuming Unravel Me will explain this).

Juliette was more of a contradictory character in my opinion. At first I found her to be strong-willed  and a really positive role model. She didn't care about the fancy clothes hanging in the wardrobe unlike other female protagonists (Caelena from Throne of Glass and Alina from Shadow and Bone). While she appeared strong-willed she was not wholly so, and her weaknesses showed through, something which was to be expected from a person in her position. However, as the story progressed I came to like her a lot less. I found her to be far too melodramatic for my tastes: "I whisper, broken, dying in his arms". She becomes persistently more whiny as the story continues. Also, while at the beginning I believed her to not be shallow, this soon changes with her constant descriptions of how beautiful both Warner and Adam are. It makes me question whether Juliette actually loves Adam or simply lusts after him.

I liked the character of Adam well enough, however, I found his character to be lacking in substance. All I really know about Adam after finishing the book is that he is incredibly beautiful with a great body. The purpose of Adam seems more to be seen rather than be heard.

As I went into this book with incredibly high expectations this book was a big disappointment for me. I couldn't get passed the complicated writing style with the strike through text and abundance of metaphors. The romance was far too overpowering and the characters lacked a great deal of substance. While this book wasn't for me, people who are interested in romance stories might enjoy this.


If you have read this book let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

WWW Wednesdays (January 15th)

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three questions:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you will read next?

1. What are you currently reading?

Fractured by Teri Terry

How do you know where to go when you don't remember where you came from?

Kyla's memory has been erased, her personality wiped blank, her memories lost for ever. 

Or so she thought. 

Kyla shouldn't be able to remember anything. But she can - and she's beginning to realise that there are a lot of dark secrets locked away in her memories. When a mysterious man from her past comes back into her life, she thinks she's on her way to finding the truth. But the more she learns about her history, the more confusing her future becomes... (Goodreads Synopsis)

This is the second book in the Slated series. If you have read my review for Slated, you will know that it was a 5 star read for me, so I am extremely excited to continue the series. I have only just started the book and I am already flying through it. The story is so full of suspense and I can't wait to find out about a certain mysterious and dangerous man. So far, so good.

2. What did you recently finish?

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare, pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school, push, 
like Raven taught me to do. 
The old life is dead. 
But the old Lena is dead too. 
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame. (Goodreads Synopsis)

Oh gosh, the feels. I really enjoyed the first book of this series, Delirium. It was a quick read but I really enjoyed the characters in the story. I gave both Delirium and Pandemonium 4 stars but I loved both books in different ways. In the first book it was the characters, Hana and Alex mainly, Lena was alright but a bit annoying; in Pandemonium, however, it was the world-building that I loved. I will have a full review of this on my blog shortly if you want to know more about my thoughts on both these books.

3. What do you think you will read next?

Unravel Me

it's almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life
(Goodreads Synopsis)

So, in case you haven't noticed by now, I have recently been on a mission to finish the series I have started (well read as far as my TBR shelf will allow...stupid book buying ban). I recently finished Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (full review to come shortly). I was so excited for this book that I actually bought the second one as well, thinking I would just love the series due to all the hype. I should have known not to trust the hype. I really did not enjoy Shatter Me; for me, it was everything I dislike about YA in one book. Now, why am I planning on reading the second one? The simple answer is curiosity. I really want to find out why everyone is team Warner when I think he is a despicable person who abuses Juliette and purposefully causes a toddler to be hurt for his sick mind games...what in the name of God happens in the second book to make that ok? That is what I need to find out. I have already picked this book up and put it down because the writing style is just not for me, so here's hoping I can finish it next time. 

If you have also taken part in this weeks meme, leave a link in the comments below and I would be happy to check yours out :)
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