Review: “Evermore” by Alyson Noël

Evermore UK Cover

Title: Evermore

Author: Alyson Noël
Publisher: Macmillan

Alright, I’m not one to judge a book by it’s cover (eh) or even by the reviews I’ve read about it. I always try to make my own opinion of a novel before I declare it a miss. So, I boldly went ahead and picked up Evermore because it looks like the kind of book past-me would have enjoyed about five or six years ago. And hey, why not indulge in a little nostalgia. I should’ve seen the warning inherent in that.

It’s a book for teenage girls.

Before you jump down my throat saying that “YA fiction transcends age-groups”, let me digress. I love YA. I think it’s fantastic that there is now a genre for that strange, particular age-group and even as a (supposed) adult, I enjoy reading about teenage girls/boys off saving the world, falling in love and just living their lives. It works, especially if the writing is good, the characters fleshed-out and there is a strong voice.

When it reads like a teenage girl’s diary, and that teenage girl has a flair for the dramatic and supernatural, then I find it harder to engage. The basics. Okay. (Deep-breath.)

Meet Ever Bloom (yes, that is her real name), psychic, anti-social and recovering from the death of her entire family. Cool. Her friends, Haven (a goth) and Miles (a very stereotyped gay male) make up the typical high-school trio. Think Janis and Damien from Mean Girls, if you saw that movie like ten years ago, because these two are carbon copies. But, fine, I understand this is a tested formula that’s worked in the past.

Then, oh jeez, then Damen Auguste arrives. He’s perfect, talented, charming and mysterious. Oh, and everyone can’t help but think about how “totally smoking hot” he is. We get a front row seat to every quivering female teenage thought about him because, you got it, Ever is giving us a complete narrative of them, and as soon as she pulls her head out of her arse and realises that she does in fact like him, she natters on about his “sexiness” nearly every page where he’s present. At least she can’t read his mind -yeah, that’s a thing in this book- so we don’t have to hear his simpering thoughts about her golden hair.

Oh, and there’s his BIG SECRET.

Yup, he’s got one of those too. Jeez. Sounding familiar? I got massive Twilight Saga vibes through most of the book, especially when Ever went on and on about how perfect and superior Damen is to every other guy, how he’s practically superhuman with all his talents and the fact he can apparently pull flowers out of his asshole. (Not literally or this would be a very different novel.) The cover should be a giveaway, since she’s making goo-goo eyes at a red tulip.

I’m going to try and not give spoilers, but the assumption I made that Damen is a vampire is wrong, despite the fact that Noël seems to be leading us up to just that point. Well, no, he’s not, but he might as well be. He’s lived for-fucking-ever and drinks some red goop all the time instead of eating. For 70% of the novel, that’s the impression you get and I could see similarities with every other vampire book I’ve had the misfortune to read.

And speaking of plot…what plot? I tried really hard to find the beginning, middle and end of this book and I just couldn’t. Instead I found a rambling deluge of teenage thoughts, angst, a brief dramatic dip into alcoholism that lasts little more than twenty pages and a whole load of stuff about how hot Damen is. There were many threads left untied, despite the scrambling at the end to get everything explained in a ten-page splurge. I guess this was always supposed to be a series. Can I make myself read the rest? If I get snowed in with only those books, sure.

My last rant is about the name: EVER? EVER BLOOM? Is that a pun about immortality and flowers? Or was it chosen so the author could make jokes like “Don’t follow me, Ever.” Erk, I don’t even want to mention names like Haven, Honor and the others. Where are these girls living? California or mid-16th Century Europe? Or in someone’s fantasy where everyone has poetic names?

I feel bad writing a poor review for this book, but it just wasn’t…good. It’s full of clichés, the plot wavers and wanders and the plot culminates in an info-dump. I’m not gonna pass judgement on Noël’s other books, but this one didn’t meet even my lowest standards for teenage fiction. I suppose anyone thirsting for another Twilight would enjoy it, but I don’t want another Twilight. I wanted something new and exciting and this just wasn’t it.

I’d say, unless you’re a 14-year-old girl, give this a miss.

Jemma x

Everything I Feel About: “The Name of The Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind UK Cover Source: http://www.patrickrothfuss.com

This is not a book review.

It’s a rant. A love rant. That’s a thing. Don’t question it.

If you haven’t read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, then shame on you. If you haven’t even heard of it, I feel terribly sorry for the you and rock you’ve been living under. Your name may in fact be Patrick Star. But this is about the other Patrick.

I was young and impressionable (18) when I plucked the book down off that shelf in my local Waterstones, just out of curiosity. I read the back and smiled at the blurb and carried it over to the counter. Seriously, I had no idea it would be my favourite book of all time. Just like you never know you’re gonna fall in love with that dude at the bus stop. The UK cover was pretty enough to pull me in at a glance, but it’s the stuff inside that’s really important.

I want to marry Patrick Rothfuss’s words. All of them. A polygamous word-commune thing.

Meet Kvothe. He’s a singer, traveller, actor, liar, linguist magician, or “arcanist” in the lingo of his world. Take all this, a knack for storytelling, a dash of youthful arrogance and bravado, and you have what is the best bildungsroman I’ve ever read. It’s in first person too, in case there isn’t enough Kvotheyness for your palette.

He’s had enough of the rumours and he’s telling his own story.

That’s the frame Rothfuss has set the tale in – Kvothe is slightly older, depleted of magic and music, and hiding in a backwater inn. The first thing we are told about him is that he is waiting to die. He is dictating his story to the Chronicler, a travelling story-collecter who has tracked him down to the piss-end of nowhere. The concept came out of nowhere and slapped me round the face. When do read a fantasy book where the hero sits down to tell you his tale, without an omnipotent narrator giving you all the information? Never, until now.

Let me get started on the writing. Every single word in that 800 page book has a purpose. There’s no fluff. No long-winded descriptions of every bluff of rock or twig and blade of grass. There’s enough. Just barely enough that you’re left half-starved and still full after the last page is turned. Sights, smells and sounds are so evocative it’s like you’re there, tromping after Kvothe with weary feet and staring eyes, just watching everything.

That’s not to say the setting eclipses the story. The story, gods, the story. Or should I say stories? This meta-fiction at its finest. The world is rich with stories, some from religions which no-one has practised for a thousand years, some from folk-tales, some from legend and rumour, and some, like this, from the hero’s own lips. I’ve read this book several times. Each time, it feels like I’m taking my place at Kvothe’s table, nudging Bast out the way for some room and picking up my mug of ale. Ready to hear the tale told again.

Since we’re on feelings here…I fell in an awed, terrified love with Kvothe. Through his own eyes he is very human, very fallable. To everyone else he is this idol. The man is untouchable, with a mind so quick and eyes so sharp he can see everything about you in thirty seconds flat. That’s intimidating. You can feel his regard right off the page. Even if he has become this humble-faced innkeep, there are flashes of the man that became the legend. And shit, is he scary. I don’t think I’d want to meet him in person.

Other characters make the tapestry just as rich: Bast (<3), Simmon, Wilem, Fela, Auri and Elodin. Each has their own very real personality and place in the story – no-one is left behind in the glory of Kvothe’s growing fame. He doesn’t think himself above all these people, even if impetuous youth and unbridled brilliance get him into many, many scrapes.

And then there’s Denna. Yep. Denna. I do not have the hatred for her that many fans do. I’m a little more cynical than to expect the love interest to be a dewy-eyed, sheltered lady. That shit gets old, fast. Denna is a puzzle. I like puzzles. I’ve spent my many rereads of the book, and its sequel The Wise Man’s Fear trying to figure her out. I’ve got a few leads, nothing concrete. There are much smarter people out there with better theories, but I’m with-holding judgement on Denna until the last book. She is thoughtless, vague and free-spirited, but she’s kind of awesome too. (Also, we’re seeing her through the POV of a sixteen year old boy. Genius or not, hormones.)

Rothfuss has been said to renovate the fantasy genre. I’ll agree, but I wouldn’t dump this in the fantasy genre. Don’t pigeon-hole it, please. It’s…more than that. And less. It’s a story. A really fucking good story. You can tag it with as many labels and genres as you like, but if you boil it down, it’s a damn good yarn.

That is a lot of feelings. 900 words of feelings for a book. I am going to end this blog entry and go pick up my copy of The Name of the Wind. If you hear someone laughing, and crying, it’s probably me.

READ IT.

Jemma x

Review – “Fractured” by Teri Terry

Fractured UK Cover

Before I get into this, I’d like to issue an apology to any readers. I don’t update this anywhere near as often as I’d like.

Title: Fractured
Author: Teri Terry
Publisher: Orchard

Teri Terry of the awesome name is dominating my blog this year, like her books dominate my mind. Let’s go. The second book in her trilogy about Kyla, a recently Slated teenager, is “Fractured”. In this volume we delve deeper into the origins of Kyla, Slating and the Lorders, the regime that has a stranglehold on mid-21st Century Britain. If you didn’t read my review of “Slated”, Slating is the punishment for criminals under the age of sixteen in totalitarian Britain – their memories are entirely wiped. Blank slate. Slating. Geddit. Oh, and bad luck for you if you’re over sixteen years old.

Anyway, I’ve compared this series to V for Vendetta and Children of Men in the past, and I mostly stand by that comparison. It has the dystopian air of both, including a plot to blow up a Prime Minister. Guy Fawkes would be so proud.

I read the second book straight after the first, because I couldn’t wait (and I was stuck on a train with a signal failure). I’m not a patient woman. I need instant gratification, and gods, did Teri Terry give it to me. (That sounds weirdly sexual. For the record, I have no intimate acquaintance with the author.)

Ben is missing after a failed attempt to remove his Levo. Kyla has committed a serious crime and her own Levo has stopped working. The Lorders are sniffing around and making life difficult and there’s an attractive new boy who seems sent just to conflict her already troubled feelings for Ben. In this volume we get to find out a lot more about the AGT (though they prefer to be known as Free UK) and what ties Nico has to them. We find out more about Slating in general and why Kyla is so different. I’ll give you a clue: it’s not because she’s a special snowflake.

I loved Kyla even more in this book. She is getting stronger, more devious, even if she is making the wrong choices. Her curiosity is stronger than the human will to just settle and accept, to not rock the boat. Her identity is in half a dozen pieces, like a broken eggshell, and she’s out there hunting for answers, rather than crying on the floor like I would be. I’m a sucker for a heroine who can kick arse.

The thing about these books is that you never know who to trust. One minute someone is your friend and mentor, the next they have a knife at your neck. Kyla’s mum, Katran, Nico. All questionable variables. Everyone has their own agenda and lies are layered upon lies until you don’t know if you’re coming or going. Even Kyla gets involved. Teri Terry weaves a delicate web of questions, deceit and identity until you have no choice but to keep turning the pages. Every answer isn’t really an answer. It’s just another question.

Essentially, Teri Terry is mastering the art of the mystery-thriller and hiding it in the cover of a dystopian teen novel. I felt clever after I finished reading this, because I guessed a twist or two before they happened. That’s not saying anything. Teri Terry is a clever writer, and for anyone that doesn’t make a sport of trying to predict endings, you’ll be fooled at every turn.

This book is just as strong as the first, if not better. You’ll find some of your questions answered, but just as many to confound you. Which leads us neatly to me next review: “Shattered” by Teri Terry!

Coming soon.

Jemma x

Top 5: Authors Discovered in 2014

It’s a bit early in the year to do a Top 5,  but hey, don’t judge.

Ever since I got into the booktopia that is booktube and various reading blogs at the start of this year, I’ve discovered literally dozens of new authors to read and love. My TBR pile has expanded astronomically and is now taking up half of my cramped living space. That’s not hyperbole – I’ve probably bought 100 books since January…

Here are my top five newly discovered authors for 2014 (in no particular order):

1. Ernest Cline (Ready Player One)

Ernest Cline has only published one full-length novel to date, but goddamn did it make an impression on me. Ready Player One is the story of Wade, an adolescent boy living in the run-down outskirts of Oklahoma City, in the mid-21st Century. Everyone on Earth logs in daily to an extremely developed MMORPG called Oasiscreated by the in-universe computer genius James Halliday. People use it for business, school and every other conceivable necessity, but one day the creator announces through his post-humous will that he has left his massive fortune in an Easter Egg inside the MMO’s worlds. I won’t go into too much detail because I plan to review this soon, but goddamn. Cline’s writing, plot and character were so addictive that I read it in practically a day. I ignored the internet and the outside world in favour of this book. Even if I didn’t catch most of the 80s references I just got caught up by the action and the story and the general air of geeky, internet-culture wonderment. I want to forget it all and read it again. Ernest Cline has a second novel, Armada, coming out in July. I will be pre-ordering that baby, thank you.

2. Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles)

The Lunar Chronicles quartet is a big hit on the booktube. I keep seeing it in every book haul and TBR video I click on. Not to mention the covers are absolutely stunning. I’m a sucker for re-imagined fairytales and Meyer hits that sweet spot of giving nods to the original story in a completely new format. She gives the old stories a hard, futuristic edge with sharp, clean writing and a wonderfully imagined Universe. I’m not sure I’d want to live in the world -there’s a lot of danger- but I sure as hell love to read about it. The first three books are based on Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, with the upcoming fourth, Winter, to be based on Snow White. It’s like Grimm meets i, Robot meets Elysium. That’s a terrible elevator pitch, but I just love this series. Meyer also has another series, apparently based on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. The first novel, Heartless, comes out in 2015.

3. Julie Kagawa (The Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, Call of the Forgotten)

Okay, this is a fib. I found Julie Kagawa’s books last year, but I’ve read five of her books since January. I think it counts. Whether she’s writing about dark faeries, dystopian vampires or shape-shifting dragons, Kagawa keeps her smart and snappy style. I gobble up her books whenever I get my hands on them, eager for more kick-ass heroines and moody love-interests (well, Ash, really). I’m greedy for the them. I personally prefer the Blood of Eden because zombie-infested, vampire dominated dystopia with a vampire heroine – need I say more? And now there is news of an upcoming series called Talon, featuring dragons that can disguise themselves as humans and the slayers that have sworn to eradicate them. Kagawa just takes every fantasy element I love and makes fantastic new combinations of them. Talon is supposed to come out in October, according to Amazon. Again, pre-ordering that shit.

4. Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, Attachments)

Here’s a diversion from all the fantasy and sci-fi I’ve been reading lately. So far, I’ve only read Fangirl, but the amount of worship paid to Rowell by the booktube is astronomical. Her contemporary young-adult novels just…speak to us. Fangirl was, in a word, “holy-crap-this-is-practically-my-life”. There, that counts as a word, right? It’s the story of Cath, a fanfiction obsessed college-age girl who would prefer to live in her head writing romantic fiction about a Harry Potter-esque universe. As the girl who spent most of her adolescent years in her room daydreaming about other writer’s worlds, I could relate, so, so much. The novel isn’t frenetic and fast-paced or heavy with description. It’s just…perfect. Eleanor & Park and Attachments are on my TBR list. Get your hands on some Rainbow Rowell if you haven’t already. Just, do it, okay? You’ll thank me.

5. Peter V. Brett (The Demon Cycle)

Look! Diversity! I read adult fantasy, too! Not adult-adult. Just, grown-up fantasy for grown-ups. Peter V. Brett has been on the periphery of my author line of sight for a couple of years, but I never made the jump to pick up one of his books. I’m so glad I finally pulled one from the shelves with a birthday gift card. That was the same day I bought Ready Player One (a good day for book buying and author-finding) and I picked it up to get over my book-hangover. It sucked me in pretty quickly. Brett’s writing is relentless. He spares you no-one’s pain and suffering, and none of the evils of mankind. There is no single character that is good or evil. Even the character where I wanted to drive my thumbs into their eyes has good points. If you’re looking for a complex, grown-up and often very dark fantasy, Peter V. Brett is your man.

 

Those are my top picks for the first third of the year. I’ll  expand this to a Top 10 when it gets to December. If any of these sound like your thing, then please support the authors by purchasing their books and may the rest of your reading year be as awesome as mine!

Jemma x

Review – “Slated” by Teri Terry

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Slated UK Cover

Title: Slated

Author: Teri Terry (Cool name!)

Publisher: Orchard

There’s a lot of dystopian young-adult fiction around right now and some of it is really worth reading. Gone are the days when teens or people who like YA books were relegated to reading novels that were too young or too old. The market has been flooded with these types of books, and honestly? I love it. I found the Slated trilogy completely by chance in a second-hand bookshop in a little town near me. The first two books, Slated and Fractured were in perfect condition and at a bargain price, so I snapped them up without even really bothering to read the back. The cover image, and a vague memory of reading a review somewhere, were enough for me to part with my hard-won cash.

The first book in the trilogy, Slated, introduces us to Kyla, a recently Slated sixteen-year-old who is beginning her new life. This is her second chance. According to the government, she was a criminal in her past life, offered the chance to start again in return for having her previous memories completely wiped. She is a clean slate, hence the title of the novel. Kyla is not like other Slated, who are happy to exist, happy with everything. She likes to ask too many questions.

Asking questions is a dangerous game in mid-21st Century Britain. The government is ruled by the Lorders, the harsh totalitarian regime that took over in the aftermath of riots in the ’20s. Asking questions or saying the wrong thing can make you disappear. Remembering things you shouldn’t can get you hauled off in a black van, never to be seen again. And Kyla’s memories are breaking through, bit by bit…

I read this book in one sitting. It’s not a skinny book either. A good 400+ pages if I remember correctly. It got until stupidly late in the early morning and I had an early train to catch. The writing sucks you in and pulls you along for the ride whether you are prepared for it or not. Kyla is a likeable character, especially later on, when you learn a little more about her past and she becomes more than a slightly-vacant Slated newbie. The idea of Britain becoming this in the future creeped the hell out of me, as I can almost foresee the events that would lead to it. The 20′s riots reminded me sharply of the London riots of 2012.

I’m supposed to say something I dislike about this book. I swallowed it up so quickly that I really had to rack my brains for something and I’ve come up with the weakest criticism ever: the book didn’t answer enough of my questions. Why the hell does Kyla draw with her left hand when she is right-handed? What happens to a Slated if they do not fulfill their contract? What the hell is up with Kyla’s dad? And you know what? These questions will (hopefully) be answered in the next two books. That’s my criticism. The author made me desperate to read the rest. Boo, Teri Terry. For shame. (Sarcasm).

Finally, do I recommend this book? Hell, yes I do! Get it, read it, review it and thank me (or better yet the author) later. It has fascinating insights into the possible future of Britain, which gives me the chills because that is where I live. I can easily see parallels between the fictional riots and the riots in London from two years ago. Maybe “dystopian” is the wrong genre for Slated. “Speculative” might be the better word. I can definitely draw some parallels between this and Children of Men and V for Vendetta, so fans of those would likely enjoy this book. This world Teri Terry has created is frighteningly possible. I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy in the next week or two and I can’t bloody wait.

Jemma x

Links:

Teri Terry’s Site: http://teriterry.jimdo.com/

Teri’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeriTerryWrites/ 

Purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Slated-Trilogy-Teri-Terry/dp/1408319462

Birth of a Bookworm

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Don’t worry. I’m not going to talk about my actual birth. That would be a little too much information for my first post. Or any post.

Start again.

Hello! Welcome to my new blog. 

I’m just going to tell you that I’ve been reading since I was four, like most people in the western world. I took to it straight away, addicted to these weird little symbols that made sense the more I said them out loud. They gave me the keys to hundreds of thousands of worlds, all so much better than my own. Isn’t it fascinating? Those weird, lonely kids that you see in every playground with books in their hands. I was one of them. I’m still one of them, but I’m old enough to appreciate it now.

When I was a kid I fancied myself a regular Matilda, from Roald Dahl’s famous novel. Even more so when the film came out, though I never quite resorted to tying my hair in a ribbon, and I never got those damn telekinetic powers. (I’m still bitter about that.)

These days it’s cool to be a bookworm. People find it interesting, appealing, sexy even. Though I won’t be putting my book down for a roll in the hay. Just one more page, I promise! Just until the end of this chapter- oh shit, there’s a cliffhanger. 

Well, here you’ll be able to follow my reading adventures. I’m on a Young Adult Fantasy kick at the moment, so there’ll be a lot of that present until the phase wears off. I don’t limit myself to one genre. I read everything from contemporary to classic to sci-fi to fantasy. The only thing I don’t read is those weird family sagas you see in every discount bookshop, with sepia-tinted pictures of women in bonnets. If you’re a fan of those, I’m sure you can find a relevant blog.

Farewell and good reading!

Jemma x