Book Review: Lies by Michael Grant

61c1539c28b0c6b76a92c02b9c88c34eLies by Michael Grant  

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2011 by Egmont Books (first published 2010)

Pages: 472

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

66 Hours, 52 Minutes

Suddenly, it’s a world without adults and normal has crashed and burned. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

Tensions are growing in the FAYZ. The mutants are under attack. Food is scarce. Sam’s gone AWOL.

At night, a solitary figure roams the streets– the ghost of a boy with a whip hand, haunting the dreams of those he has tormented.

Then the town is deliberately set on fire… And through the flames, Sam sees the figure he dreads most–Drake. But that’s impossible: Drake is dead.

 

Lies is the third book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. I really wouldn’t recommend leaving big gaps between reading the books in this series. I read the first book in 2014 and the second book, Hunger, in 2015, so it’s been three years since I read it. There are so many characters and their individual storylines and arcs to keep track of, that it was hard to dip back in after so long away from the series. I read a summary of the first two books online which was helpful, but not quite the same as when you can remember more of the detail. So if you read this series, don’t leave it too long between reading each book like I have!

This is one of the grimmest YA series I have read. It really proves YA isn’t just about clichés and love triangles. It can be gritty, dark and meaningful. It’s so interesting watching how things play out in the FAYZ over the course of the series (it really is like a modern Lord of the Flies, with superpowers). It digs deep into how people would react in that kind of situation, how desperate they could become, and how ‘normal’ just collapses and becomes something totally different, something that’s more about survival than living. In this book, Astrid is still trying to get rules and laws into place to give the FAYZ more order, so life isn’t just about survival.

The book is a little chaotic. There are lots of characters and no real main story arc/plot line. That would be bad for most books, but it somehow works in this series. Maybe because the situation the characters have landed in is one of chaos. Things came together more at the end, and it became clearer where things had been heading.

I looked back at my review of the first book to remind myself of my reaction to the series initially. I was doubtful about how Grant would stretch the plot out for six books, but having read the first three now, I don’t have those same doubts. Maybe it will drag to the end, maybe not. There are a lot of characters and plot threads, it’s quite complicated in many ways, so I can see it sustaining my interest until the end.

Looking at my review of book two, I also had some problems with that one, namely plot holes and characters. Perhaps Grant got more stuck into this series as he went along, because I didn’t have those same problems with this book. There was more character development than in the second book. Sam is haunted by memories of Drake, Astrid is struggling to bring peace to the FAYZ and the problems that come with being head of the council, while Caine and Diana struggle with lack of food and what that does to them psychologically. Mary also developed in an interesting way in this book.

As with the first two books in the series, I was glued to Lies. It’s so unpredictable and I just wanted to keep reading. I will be reading the next book soon…

Film Review: Tomb Raider

tomb-raider-poster-alicia-vikanderFilm Review: Tomb Raider

Release date: 15th March 2018

Director: Roar Uthaug

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the film franchise, loosely based on the reboot of the video game. This vision of Tomb Raider is a little different from the Angelina Jolie films you may be familiar with. Alicia Vikander portrays a young Lara Croft, unable to accept her father’s death, and living away from Croft Manor. In search of her father, she journeys to a remote island off the coast of Japan where he had been looking for the tomb of Himiko. Alicia Vikander does a great job playing Lara, but there are few other substantial performances to make the film come alive.

Those who have played the 2013 game will recognise some similarities here, but the film is quite loosely inspired by the game rather than being an adaptation of it. Some things are familiar like Lara’s bow and arrow, the climbing axe and some of the action sequences, for example when she is washed down the river. Otherwise, the film takes quite a different story to the game.

The action is exciting and kept me fairly gripped, but the plot line is nothing new. Lara having to stop a bad guy from getting the tomb is the usual plot and isn’t bad. This could be done well in a way that has twists and turns, but this film fell into the trap of doing nothing different with the well-trodden plot. Without giving anything away, what they find in the tomb felt quite clichéd and made me roll my eyes. Surely they could have come up with something that actually made a good twist.

More could also have been done with visuals. The island was very bland. There was no vibrancy or dynamics in the setting, which could have brought more life to the film. The tomb itself was also lacking. It was dark and mysterious but more could have done to heighten this effect and so increase the tension.

While I enjoyed the film, it was fairly predictable with few surprises or diversions from the expected formula to make it really stand out. The end sets it up for a sequel, but I wonder if this one will be successful enough for them to make another one.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Science Fiction & Fantasy in Other Media

It’s hard to only name five because SFF is my favourite genre! There are so many films I could name. If I was listing all my favourites, this would be a really long list. Such tough decisions, but here are the ones I have picked (in no particular order, because please don’t ask me to rank them too!). T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Book Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

33154647Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: April 2017 by Hot Key Books (first published 2017)

Pages: 425

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up – they know that Earth’s settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth’s robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis’ salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her – even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He’s a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth’s various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer – both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world’s fate, and Abel’s.

 

When I received this book as a gift, I was really excited to read it. I love science fiction, but somehow have managed to only really read dystopian or apocalyptic sub-genre sci-fi. This is coincidental rather than deliberate, as I love space operas such as Star Wars and The Expanse on film and TV. So this book, although in one of my favourite genres, looked quite different to other sci-fi I’d read before.

Thank goodness I received it as a gift, because if I’d picked it up in a bookshop, it might have ended up back on the shelf. It’s important to note here that I absolutely loved this book. However, the opening chapters are definitely the weakest point for me. Therefore, if I’d picked it up in the bookshop and read the first few pages, or however much time I had to read, I might not have bought it. And that would have been a travesty because then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this amazing novel.

The problems I had with the opening chapters could partly be down to getting used to the writing style – the novel is told in chapters that alternate between the point of view of Noemi and Abel. However, I don’t think that’s totally the case with this one. Once the problematic first few chapters were out of the way, I instantly got into the way it was written, so I don’t think that’s what the issue was. There were two main issues.

Firstly, the novel opened with an action-packed space battle. Sounds exciting, right? Except when the author starts giving you random bits of back story in the middle of it. I’m glad she didn’t do a total info dump, it was sprinkled in nicely, and some of the information was important to understand what was happening. But most of it the reader didn’t need to know right at that moment, in the middle of what should have been an exciting few chapters. Stepping out of the intensity and tension of the fight to give the reader little bits of information just totally sucked the suspense out of the opening chapters. It really is a shame because I loved the rest of the book.

Issue two with the opening chapters – repetition. I liked that there was some overlap in the chapters because it was interesting to see how the two characters reacted to those moments differently. However for some reason in the opening chapters (and this seemed to be a particular issue with Abel’s point of view chapters) it would, for example, be Abel’s point of view, switch to Noemi, and then when it switched back to Abel, repeat some of the information or thoughts from Abel’s previous point of view chapter. I found this incredible irritating and it prevented me from getting into parts of those exciting few chapters because I was being told something I’d only just been told a few pages before, which really wasn’t necessary. This isn’t even something that carries on in the rest of the book. It’s only a problem in these first few chapters. And that is what is so frustrating. These problems I have discussed are literally only a problem in the first few chapters. The rest of the book is brilliant. If not for the weak opening chapters it may even have got five stars from me, which is pretty rare.

Now we’ve got those frustrating issues out of the way, onto what I loved about this novel. The central characters – Noemi and Abel – are really great. What was so good was how Gray showed the differences in their perspectives – one a human, one a mech, and from warring planets – and how their views of each other and the society they live in changes as the book progresses. The question of what it is to be human and what it is to have a soul is central to this novel and Gray portrays it excellently. The conflict Abel has between his programming and his new thoughts is written very well.

On the subject of conflict, there is so much inner conflict and external tension in this novel that really drives it and keeps the momentum going. Abel is from Earth and therefore Noemi’s enemy, but she is forced to work with him. Noemi is from Genesis and therefore Abel’s enemy essentially, and he wants to get back to his creator, but his programming means she becomes his new commander and has to obey her. There is just so much tension right from the beginning between the characters, but this also then means that there is lots of room for them to grow. Both main characters have really strong arcs. We see them change, develop, alter their world views as they go to different planets and both for the first time actually see what the world outside their front door is actually like.

This isn’t just an exciting sci-fi action story. It has complexity and explores its characters thoughts and changing perspectives so well, as well as exploring the issue of the way we treat our planet, and other sociological issues.

I could ramble on for ages about how much I liked this book. After those first few chapters, it really kept me gripped all the way through. I wanted to know what would happen. I cared about the characters. Importantly I want to know what will happen next, so I can’t wait for the next book to come out!

Author Interview: Sam Waterhouse

Today, Sam Waterhouse joins me as part of the Of Legend and Lore blog tour. This collection of fairy tale retellings by members of the Just-Us League takes a fresh look at both well-known and lesser known tales.

JLA4BlogTour

Sam Waterhouse is a part-time writer with a full-time imagination from Hobart, Tasmania. ‘Wishes Between Worlds’ is his second published story, a futuristic retelling of ‘The Enchanted Quill’ fairy tale. He enjoys writing unusual characters, so a trickster, genie-esque crow was an opportunity too good to pass on.

Sam also contributed to the previous Just-Us League anthology Between Heroes and Villains with ‘Like You’, an original story where superpowers are treated as a disease to be eradicated.

You can follow Sam on Twitter (@SW_Wordologist).

What inspired your retelling?

I chose to retell ‘The Enchanted Quill’ partly because I like a good anthropomorphic character and partly because of how it portrays the power of the written word. I took a few liberties in the retelling – such as changing the setting to a spaceship during a multi-generational interstellar voyage and having Corvo play the part of trickster – but those were the two qualities I liked most about this particular fairy tale.

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February Book Haul!

I had a good haul of books last month!

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The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Having read The Wrath and the Dawn, I wasn’t desperate to read the sequel, but invested enough to want to. So when I saw the Kindle edition discounted, I went for it. I’m curious to see where the story goes.

collageyoungelites

The Young Elites, The Rose Society, The Midnight Star (Young Elites trilogy) by Mary Lu

I saw these books as a pack of three for less than the price of one – I’ve never been one to resist a book bargain. The series I was originally interested in by Lu was Legend, but having read the back cover of The Young Elites I thought I would give this series a go.

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

I have seen this book so many times in book shops and just fell in love with the beauty of it. It’s a lush hardcover with thick pages that are beautifully illustrated in colour. I loved Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm (I have yet to read the final book in the trilogy!). This book is a collection of short stories that are fairy tales from the Grishaverse.