Review: The Gates

May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm (5 stars, review, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

The Gates by John Connolly

Pages: 272, paperback

ISBN: 9780340995808

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Date Released: October 1st, 2009

Genre: Middle Grade / fantasy / horror / humor

Source: library

Premise:

A strange novel for strange young people.

Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Hallowe’en. Which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Avenue. The Abernathys don’t mean any harm by their flirtation with Satanism. But it just happens to coincide with a malfunction in the Large Hadron Collider that creates a gap in the universe. A gap in which there is a pair of enormous gates. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out …

Can Samuel persuade anyone to take this seriously? Can he harness the power of science to save the world as we know it? (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book DepositoryAmazon

After reading The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly, I knew that I needed to get my hands on something else by him, and honestly, this didn’t disappoint. (By the way I totally recommend that you read it).

This book is written in the same vein of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe or Monty Python. Meaning, despite it’s genre, it’s full of that excellent British humour that I so adore. That wit, that sarcasm, oh, it just makes me excited just thinking about it. I just have to show you an example of the wit and hilarity:

“Schwell, the Demon of Uncomfortable Shoes; Ick, the Demon of Unpleasant Things Discovered in Plug Holes During Cleaning; Graham, the Demon of Stale Biscuits and Crackers; Mavis, the Demon of Inappropriate Names for Men; and last, and quite possibly least, Erics’, the Demon of Bad Punctuation. – pg 37

One bother I had with the writing was that there were footnotes, and while they were sometimes funny and often informative, they also distracted me from the text. I often found myself having to reread the previous paragraph, because the footnote sometimes deviated from the text that I forgot what was happening in the story.

What made this story even more awesome was the use of the Large Hadron Collider. I’m not sure if any of you guys remember all that buzz about two years, that it would be the end of the world if they operated it and tried to recreate the Big Bang. I’ve always been fascinated by physics, so the use of this as a main plot hole just rocked my socks.

A major part of this book revolves around the idea that Samuel is trying to get y while his mum is surviving a nasty break-up with his dad. His dad has moved out, and is living with another woman, and his mum is having a hard time dealing with it. It has a fresh and real perceptive on separation and divorce, and the way that it’s described–in the slightly childish voice of the prose–it makes the reader feel just how painful divorce is for the child, not just the parents.

The unlikely friendship between Nord–a demon who isn’t quite so demonic–and Samuel was just lovely. When they first met by an accidental mishap of physics, they really get to know each other, and their friendship grew into something big and believable.

My main concern was at the end of the book, when Samuel is confronted by a demonic personification of his worst fear: spiders. It would only have made sense in his growth as a character if he had killed the demon himself and conquered his inner fear. Instead, his friends kill it, while he’s just standing there, frightened. Apart from that, his character grew well.

The story was filled with action, and the kind of things that children and adults alike would enjoy reading. Each chapter is more interesting than the one preceding it, and you’ll find yourself unable to put this book down.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: Bumped

May 6, 2011 at 10:30 am (2 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , )

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
Pages: 336, hardcover

ISBN: 9780061962745

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Release Date: April 26th, 2011

Genre: YA / romance / dystopian / satire

Source: galley from the publisher

Premise:

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

So, this is supposed to be a satirical piece regarding teen sexuality, where teens are both encouraged (for example, Teen Mom, 16 & Pregnant) or chstised for having sex in the first place. This is the first thing that interests me. I’m a fan of satirical pieces regarding modern society.

I’d heard that the biggest problem that most people had with this book was the slang. And now I see what they meant. This book is almost impossible to understand at the beginning, and it hardly gets any easier from there. There are all these made up words, and abstract definitions of preexisting words.
There is a part where Harmony says “I’m able to understand approximately one in every five or so words that came out of Zach’s mouth.” I laughed so hard, and had to agree with that, but I’m so thankful that there were a few explanations for some of the terms–even if they come several pages after the word is first used.

The differing viewpoints of the sisters was annoying at the beginning. The changed constantly, were so short that sometimes they were even a page long at times. While they had very unique and differing voices, it was still hard to keep up with.
Harmony, I felt, sounded forced. She overused saying the same religious phrases, such as “Oh my grace!”, and the repetition didn’t sound realistic, just fake and overused. Melody, on the other hand, actually felt fairly realistic, even with the overabundance of slang. Her intentions and actions just felt right for someone in her position.

I didn’t like Harmony at all. For someone who tried to do so good in the eyes of God, she really turned into this massive contradiction. People with beliefs that ingrained into their mind don’t just change in an instant. In fact, even the average person doesn’t change so drastically. Harmony was the cause of all the conflict, and I couldn’t understand her actions, nor could I understand why Melody was so calm about it.

I found it bad that the entire basis of the story centered around the mistrust and secrets between two twin sisters. As a result, I had a hard time feeling the relationship between the two sisters grow, and, I couldn’t see much individual character growth. I suppose most of that came from the lack of sympathy I had for them, I simply couldn’t relate to them in any way.

Overall, this story didn’t stand out much to me. It felt bland and really fell short for me. I was rather disappointed, and think I might not bother with this growing trend of dystopians. The biggest disappointment was the language. How is anyone supposed to enjoy a book if they can’t understand it?

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 2
Characters: 2
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 3

Total Rating: 2/5 stars

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Review: The Eyre Affair

April 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm (2 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Pages: 373, paperback

ISBN: 9780340733561

Publisher: Hodder

Date Released:July 19th, 2001

Genre: literary fiction / satire / mystery / sci-fi

Source:library

Available from The Book Depository

Premise:

There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s Mr Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again… (Taken from Goodreads)

It took me a while to get into this book, and to understand what the hell was going on. What I found out was that unless you’re either British, know about British history, or are a classical literary student, then you’ll have a hard time understanding just how witty the author is being in making the Crimean war (go on, Google it. I did) last 130 years, and other obscure British history references.

It takes a while to understand that this is a sort of parallel universe, set in 1985m where technology is amazing (to the point where dodos have been genetically brought out of extinction) and time travel is possible. When you discover these abstract things, it really feels like being hit in the face. I found myself crying out “why? WHY?” often.

The writing reads almost as if Douglas Adams were a pompous literature student sitting on his Macbook in Starbucks. When I read this, I couldn’t help but compare the weirdness of this to that of Hitchhikers. But of course, this is much different, mainly because Hitchhikers was fun, and this is forced, and almost as if Fforde was so impressed by his knowledge of obscure literature, and wants his readers to be impressed too.

It’s written in first person, but is badly done, as a lot of the time, things that Thursday Next, the main character, shouldn’t know are narrated to us. For example:

“My room was exactly like all the other rooms in the hotel.” -pg 119

Now, I have a few issues with that sentence. First off, how does she know what all the other rooms in the hotel look like, especially when this is her first time at this particular hotel? Secondly, how is it relevant? It isn’t, and it just clutters the story with unnecessary details. Sadly, the novel is littered with things like this, and it gets fairly distracting after a while.
Also, pretty much all of chapter 11, and quite a few parts near the end of the novel are written in 3rd person. Now, this awkward, random just from 1st to 3rd person pov is tacky and needs to be heavily edited. If you’re going to have a book written in 1st person pov, the person telling it needs to actually be present during all of those scenes.

Also, I really wanted to know why this world is so immersed in literature. There’s no reason, no explanation, no background. We’re just led to believe that it’s normal for people to be selling bootleg first editions of books on the black market, and it’s totally normal for there to be vending machines that only exist to quote Shakespeare. While I have no issue with a world such as this, and I wish I lived in it, I still want to know WHY they love literature so much that there’s a police force dedicated to it. It'[s such a big thing and surely needs explanation.

The villain wasn’t much of a villain. His motives were all over the place, and he seems to only be evil for the sake of being evil. Plus, he’s almost a Mary-Sue with his invincibility and vast intelligence and whatnot.

And finally, the romance: I thought it was a bit shoddy. In the beginning, Thursday is pretty much obsessed with the man she dated 10 years ago, and when they end up going out again (y’know, 10 years later, and he’s engaged to someone else. No biggie), it’s fairly unimpressive. That Thursday Next steals someone else’s man infuriates me, and does not at all seem endearing or strong. It makes her look desperate, and bitchy.

I had a lot of issues with this book, as you can see. I dunno, if you’re into witty and satirical stories that try to be sarcastic and play with classical literature,, then you might like it.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 2
Characters: 1
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 2

Total Rating: 2/5 stars

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Review: Insatiable

April 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Pages: 451, hardcover

ISBN: 9780061735066

Publisher: William Morrow

Date Released: June 8th, 2010

Genre: Adult / paranormal / urban fantasy / romance / chick-lit / vampires / satire

Source: library

Premise:

Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it now from: The Book Depository / Amazon

I am such a major Meg Cabot fan. I grew up reading the Princess Diaries series, and almost annually, I return to them. So, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book. And to be honest? It didn’t disappoint.

Meena, the main character, is a dialogue writer for the hit soap opera, Insatiable. In a time where the vampire craze is spreading, the big bosses feel that Insatiable needs a change, and that vamps should be introduced in order to lure in the younger viewers. This bothers Meena. She hates vampires and what it’s done to society’s younger generation. Also, a small bit of info: she has this weird ability to tell how people are going to die.

I loved Meena for the most part, up until she met Lucien, the sexy vamp prince. Because of his powers, he makes her feel as if she’s in love with him, which in the beginning is a bit funny (apart from the whole mind-rape and control thing; but as this is a sort of satirical work made to mock most of the books being brought out in the vamp craze, I’ll let it slide), but it gets annoying and hard to tell if she really means it.

One major plot point that I detested was when Vampire-hunter Alaric breaks into Meena’s home to interrogate her about the whereabouts of Lucian. He holds a sword up to her. He insults her. When her brother Jon walks in, Jon ends up siding with Alaric for some stupid reason. None of this part flows or makes sense and makes the characters act out of characters.

Otherwise, I found the characters were well-developed to an extent. There certainly were moments when they didn’t act like they were supposed to, and in certain parts, Meena acts TSTL, but most of the time, they felt real enough.

I didn’t think much of the love triangle. It felt a bit weak and underdeveloped, showing a weakness to the character’s relationships with one another.

What I absolutely loved about this book were the cute one-liners and the dialogue. For example:

Meena: You seem REALLY interested in me at the moment.

Alaric: That? That’s just my scabbard.

Man, it’s stuff like that that gave the book this light feel to it.

I recommend this to everyone who a) likes Meg Cabot or b) dislikes the Twilight craze. It’s full of sexy, funny moments, with  a fairly cool heroine and awesome story.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total: 4/5

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Review: Invisible Monsters

April 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm (5 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , )

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Pages: 304, paperback

ISBN: 9780099285441

Publisher: Vintage

Date Released: November 2nd, 2000 (originally published 1999)

Genre: adult / satire / literary / thriller / dark humor

Source: bought

Premise:

She’s a catwalk model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden motor ‘accident’ leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge she exists.
Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from being a real woman, who will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing your past and making up something better, and that salvation hides in the last  place you’ll ever want to look.
The narrator must exact revenge upon Evie, her best friend and fellow model; kidnap Manus, her two-timing ex-boyfriend; and hit the road with Brandy in search of a brand-new past, present and future. (Taken from blurb.)

Okay, let me start this off by saying that I am a massive fan of Chuck Palahniuk. I first started reading his stuff way back when I was 14 or 15. Clearly, most of the themes and situations went way over my head. But upon re-reading this book,  I’ve ignited my love and understanding for the man.

The story is set out so that it jumps all over the place, jumping through time, breaking in the middle of tense scenarios, and filling the reader with bits of seemingly worthless information, that actually builds the story, the way a jigsaw piece may seem insignificant on its own. For some, the all-over-the-place structure may be annoying, and it does take some getting used to. But I quite enjoyed it.
Most of Palahniuk’s books read this way, in a disjointed manner, so I suppose if one doesn’t like any of his other stuff, then they most likely wouldn’t like this.
The writing style is also something that not everyone will enjoy. He uses repetition, is sometimes over the top with his graphic descriptions, and often throws in a sentence or two that seem life changing and philosophical.
This book left me with a few quotes that I believe I must share, because they just make me say wow:

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known.”
“The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person.”

“All God does is watch us and kill us if we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.”

What I love most about this book is Palahniuk’s way of surprising the reader with these sudden twists that make you go “no way!”, even though it seems completely obvious in hindsight. Even after reading this book twice already in the last few years, I found myself still being surprised and shocked.

I know that this isn’t much of a review, but I can’t really say much about this book that isn’t completely biased and goes along the lines of “This book is fantastic, it’ll change your life, it’ll change the way you write, speak and see life. It’s a literary masterpiece. I am completely in love with Chuck Palahniuk because of this book.”

So, give this book a chance. I can’t promise you’ll love it, but it’s worth a shot.

Cover: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5 (so much, so, I literally couldn’t put this book down, was annoyed when I actually had to due to going on a date. Even managed to finish it in approx 4 hours of on/off reading.)

Total: 5/5 stars.

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