Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2015 by Oneworld Publications  

Pages: 602

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I’m not sure how to approach this review as this book is so different from other books I’ve read. All I can say for sure is that I absolutely loved it. After I finished it, all I could think was wow. I had to wait a while before writing this review so I could process how I felt about this book.

 Illuminae is told in an epistolary style through a mix of interviews, reports, emails, diary entries and more. This makes it a unique reading experience, which does make it hard to compare to other books. It’s very visual as well. The artwork makes it really feel like you’re reading a file of documents.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this book up as it’s just the kind of unique thing that I would like. I think I did have reservations of whether the style would actually work and whether I would connect to the characters, which is perhaps what stopped me from picking it up in the past. But I really did not need to worry about that. Even though it’s told in this fragmented style, all the various documents flow really well so that skipping between different reports and emails and conversations didn’t feel fragmented, it felt like one long narrative. I also really connected with Kady and Ezra, and even many of the other more minor characters, even though the novel isn’t written in a traditional style. The voices of all the characters really pop off the page.

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Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

23664731Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Corgi (first published 2015)

Pages: 308

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I have very conflicted feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was really interesting to see the world from a different perspective in YA, but on the other I’m not sure about how Yoon handled the subject matter. The novel is told from the perspective of Maddy, who has SCID and has not been able to leave her house since she was a tiny baby. The house is adapted with air filters and she has a nurse stay with her all day.

In the first section of the book I really felt connected to Maddy’s character and got a real sense of her isolation from the rest of the world. Despite this isolation, she wasn’t unhappy. She gets on well with her nurse, Carla, and has a great relationship with her mother. I liked seeing her interactions with these two characters in the first half.

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Film Review: Far From the Madding Crowd

Release date: 6th March 2015

Director: Thomas Vinterburg

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

Runtime: 119 minutes

Genre: Period Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I haven’t yet read Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, so I’ll be reviewing this from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read it. However, I have read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is probably my favourite classic. There is something about Hardy’s work that I just love, and having seen this film it’s made me want to read more of his books, including Far From the Madding Crowd.

Anyway, back to the film. Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdeen (yes, every time someone said ‘Everdeen’ in the film Katniss popped into my head), an independent woman who gains an increase in her social status after inheriting her uncle’s farm. Being very independent, she comes across an inner conflict when three men begin courting her (don’t worry, it isn’t a pathetic love triangle or anything).

I don’t really have anything to criticise about this film because I absolutely loved it! It held my attention from start to finish and there were some surprises along the way. Typically of Hardy’s stories it is very realistic and less flouncy than other period dramas like Jane Austen, so don’t go in expecting Pride and Prejudice, this is a very different style. The filming was excellent and I felt immersed in the atmosphere of the film.

In terms of the acting I thought it was excellent. All of the actors did amazing jobs and none of them were weak. Carey Mulligan did a great job in the strong female lead, presenting the character’s few vulnerable moments as well as the headstrong moments. Each of the ‘love interests’ were well acted and every one of them is fleshed out and have their own character arcs, rather than just serving as the ‘love interest’ as in many romantic films.

It goes without saying that I love the plot. There’s lots going on and unlike many period dramas which are often quite slow there always seemed to be something happening in this film.

There isn’t much else for me to say because I absolutely adored it and will definitely be buying the DVD when it comes out and reading the book too!

Book Review: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

Genre: Adult, General Fiction, Mystery

Publishing Info: 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1970)

Pages: 128

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Lise is thin, neither good-looking nor bad-looking. One day she walks out of her office, acquires a gaudy new outfit, adopts a girlier tone of voice, and heads to the airport to fly south. On the plane she takes a seat between two men. One is delighted with her company, the other is deeply perturbed. So begins an unnerving journey into the darker recesses of human nature.

 

It is important firstly to say that this isn’t a book that everyone will like. Being written in 1970 it is in many ways very different to the books we commonly find on our shelves now. It is short, more of a novella than a novel, and for fast readers you could probably get through it in one sitting (assuming of course that you found it engaging enough to do so). It tells the story of Lise, an eccentric girl who goes on holiday and whom we are told (very near the start of the book so this isn’t a spoiler) that she will be founded murdered by the end of the day. We spend the rest of the novel following her around wondering who the murderer will be.

I felt no attachment to Lise. Really and truly we know hardly anything about her. The narrative is written in a way that we are very detached, almost like reading a police report or looking in from the outside. In a day and age when we like to be ‘connected’ to the protagonist this can feel like a very odd experience.

Being so sort there is little plot, basically just a ‘who murdered her?’. In a way it is intriguing, though also baffling because much of it is confusing and seems illogical. However, the end is a good plot twist which I wasn’t expecting and which made me look at what I had read in an entirely different light to how I had done while reading up to that point.

It is certainly not a book for everyone. At the end you are left with numerous unanswered questions and frankly feeling rather confused about the whole affair. But, being so short at least if you didn’t like it, it wasn’t too much of your time wasted.

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You by Caroline Kepnes

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Thriller

Publishing Info: Kindle Edition, Published September 2014 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Pages: 433

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

A terrifying exploration of how vulnerable we all are to stalking and manipulation, debut author Caroline Kepnes delivers a razor-sharp novel for our hyper-connected digital age. You is a compulsively readable page-turner that’s being compared to Gone Girl, American Psycho, and Stephen King’s Misery.

 

You is at once an incredibly unique, interesting, disturbing and gripping contemporary suspense novel. It isn’t exactly a romance, as the nature of Joe’s obsession over Beck makes it too unnerving to be classified so. It is the only book I have ever read that is written entirely in second person. At first, it felt a little odd to read, but it is written so well that after a while it feels natural, and I felt it wouldn’t have worked so well if it had been written in any other way. In many ways the book reminds me of The Collector by John Fowles, but Kepnes definitely puts those ideas of obsession into a contemporary novel with new verve.

When Beck walks into the bookshop where Joe works he is instantly captivated by her. He stalks her, falls in love with her, and ensures that their paths cross again. The novel tells the story of how Joe’s feelings develop, how their relationship changes, and how he would do anything to get her, and keep her.

Joe is a very interesting protagonist. He is very much an unreliable narrator and it is both interesting and disconcerting to see the world through his eyes. Without giving away any spoilers, partly what makes him that way is how he is so in love with Beck, but shows a complete lack of emotion and compassion in some of the acts he carries out. He shows many characteristics of a psychopath, and although it doesn’t state he is one, I am pretty sure he must be. I like how Beck, the ‘love interest’, isn’t perfect. She has many flaws and is a very realistic character. So it was a nice change to read about imperfect characters, as so many books these days are all about how wonderful love is and happy endings. You, on the other hand, shows the destructive nature of love and moves away from idealised storylines.

For the most part, the novel kept me hooked, although towards the middle I did begin to get a little tired of it, just for a few chapters. There were plenty of unexpected turns, both in the plot and in Joe’s emotional state. Although, there were a lot of pop culture references, of which most people wouldn’t understand all of them.

However, it could have been better. It is by no means a perfect, five star book. The idea has been done before, and although it was written in a fresh and interesting way, I felt Kepnes could have twisted the plot a bit more. I would have liked her to have shaken things up just a bit more.

This is by no means a book that everyone will enjoy. Some will absolutely hate it. But I found myself liking it. There is something interesting in the way it is so creepy, something that really grabbed my attention and intrigued me. If you’re interested in psychology then you would probably like this. If you are after a romance story, this is not the book for you.

 

Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse

Pages: 406

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license – for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever…

 

Uglies deals with an issue I am very interested in/concerned about: expectations of how we should look. We change our appearances – through makeup and even plastic surgery – to try and reach those expectations. And who can blame us, really, when we’re having magazines shoved in our faces that are full of photographs of photoshopped models. Anyway, I will stop ranting and get onto the book.

So, yes, the premise intrigued me so I decided to find out what this was all about. In Tally’s world, everyone gets made pretty when they turn sixteen. But her friend, Shay, doesn’t want to turn pretty and runs away. I thought it was great that Westerfeld chose to narrate from the point of view of someone who believes in the system. In many YA dystopia novels the protagonist hates the system and wants to get out of it, but here we have a protagonist who is desperate to turn pretty and thinks her friend is crazy for running away and wanting to stay ugly. This aspect of the novel was really refreshing.

In terms of characters I really liked Tally as a main character and her character arc is excellent, we really see her change throughout the novel. A lot of reviews I’ve read said they don’t like Tally at all, and I can see where they are coming from, but I really felt intrigued by all her internal conflicts and development. I thought Shay was great too, her characterisation was done very well. One thing that needed more work was David. I felt his characterisation was very weak, there was nothing about his personality that stood out and I found him very flat. And guess what, we find ourselves reading yet another young adult book which includes a love triangle. I shouldn’t have been surprised really, though, should I?

The world building is very good, it’s well developed and very clear. There’s also a lot of cool technology like hoverboards and a lot of it is really inventive. There were lots of twists and turns in the plot that kept me gripped, and there were a couple of heart-in-mouth moments where there were revelations I wasn’t expecting. At no point did I find myself bored, I was always wanting to know what would happen next. By no means is this an edge-of-your-seat-thriller, but it did keep me glued to the pages in an unusual way, I can’t really describe it.

Overall, one of the better young adult dystopia’s I’ve read, and is definitely unique. I’m very excited to read the rest of the series and already have them on my shelf waiting!

Want to know if the rest of the series is worth reading? Check out my reviews of book 2, Pretties, and book 3, Specials.

 

 

Film Review: Mockingjay Part 1

Release date: 20th November 2014

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks

Runtime: 123 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action, Thriller

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Mockingjay Part 1 continues from Catching Fire as Katniss Everdeen finds herself amongst the rebellion in District 13. Distraught at the Capitol’s capture of Peeta, Katniss must battle with herself to bring herself back from the darkest places of her mind. A propaganda war ensues as President Snow attempts to quash the rebellion, and District 13 hope to rally the districts to their cause with Katniss as their symbol – the Mockingjay.

It is firstly important to say that this review is coming from someone who has read the books, and is a massive fan of both the books and the films. Yet again, the film is very close to the book. A few small changes have been made but arguably for the better. One example is that Effie has a much larger role in the film than she had in the books, which I don’t mind because Elizabeth Banks does such a great job at playing her character.

To people who have not read the books Part 1 may seem a little slow. I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on how they found it boring. That may be because it isn’t as explosive as the first two films. All the books are split into two parts, and if The Hunger Games and Catching Fire had been split into two, people would think the ‘Part 1’ films were boring. That’s just the structure of the books, the way they work. Mockingjay Part 1 does a very good job of building up to Part 2. There is still a lot of action and suspense in Part 1 and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested.

You get a much better insight into the characters in this film. They have gone through so much, now we get to see how they deal with it. There is a lot of character development in this part, especially with Katniss and Finnick. One thing that wasn’t so good was Gale. He just sort of floats around, still the same as he was at the start, I feel like they could have done more with his character. There is one scene when they are in District 12 in which he describes how it was destroyed which gives us a glimpse into him. I just feel they could have done more. Overall though the acting continues to be stupendous. Julianne Moore does an excellent job with President Coin.

Overall, yes go see it! If you read the books then definitely see it (I expect that’s a no brainer though). Some people think it’s boring, but if you think that then bear in mind it will be worth it for Part 2!