Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

81vov3tq3hlSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse (first published 2006)

Pages: 350

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

 

Specials is the third book in the Uglies series, and the final book in the main trilogy. There is a ‘companion’ novel, Extras, and Westerfeld recently released Imposters, which is set in the same universe. While I enjoyed this book to a small degree, it didn’t blow me away. It didn’t leave me with any significant lasting impression.

The book opens with brilliant writing. Some amazing descriptions really make you feel like you’re seeing the world through Tally’s special super sense eyes. However, this isn’t carried through the rest of the book. That level of description all the way through would be too much, but I’d have expected more. If you introduce the idea that a character has these extra senses, you have to carry that through and show how they see the world with their super senses in the rest of the book too, not just at the opening to get the reader’s attention.

They’re supposed to be specials, superior to everyone else. They might be in terms of their super reflexes and senses, but they still go around doing tricks and acting not much different from how they did before in some ways.

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Mid-year Reading Round Up 2018

33154647We’re already halfway through 2018! So today I’m looking back at what my best books have been so far this year and looking ahead at what novels I want to sink my teeth into in the second half of 2018. According to Goodreads I’m on track to reach my 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, having read 12 so far this year.

Two books that I loved were Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray and The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Defy the Stars had me hooked all the way through and I loved the darkness of The Young Elites. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass was also a highlight.

I finished Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy but unfortunately was disappointed by the final book, Ruin and Rising. The series is still a favourite of mine though. Other books that didn’t live up to my hopes were The Girl King by Meg Clothier and S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett – both had great concepts and potential, but could have been much better.

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Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

14061957Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo   

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition, 2014 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2014)

Pages: 369

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as Alina begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction – but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.

The final book in the Grishaverse trilogy was, unfortunately, a little disappointing. While I liked the book, it didn’t pull me in, not in the same way the first two books did.

There were too many inner monologues for Alina that just felt repetitive. Her thoughts and emotions could have been written better in places. Elsewhere, the writing was good though, and I continued to enjoy the world building. I thought it was interesting how Alina was viewed as a Saint. It’s not something I’ve really seen in fantasy before, but totally makes sense for someone with ‘magic’ to be viewed that way by some people.

Bardugo is pretty mean to her characters in this book, things rarely go the ‘heroes’ way, which I liked. It showed how the characters had to keep getting back up and fight mentally to keep persevering. Though Bardugo seemed to be taking this book in a dark direction, it somehow ended up being too soft in the end, which I don’t mind, except the lead up led me to think it was going a different way. Like the author wanted to take it in a darker direction at the end, but dipped their toes in and decided to back out. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe she wanted a touch of darkness, but was always going to end it in a less dark way. The fairy tale framing does suggest there would be a happy ending of sorts.

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Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

20821111The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2014 by Penguin (first published 2014)

Pages: 335

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

The Young Elites is the first novel by Marie Lu I have read. I’d heard a lot of good things about her books so I had high hopes. What I loved about it is that it’s much darker than other YA fantasy I have read, and it isn’t about black and white good versus evil. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure who to root for because there didn’t seem to be ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, there were positives and negatives about both ‘sides’. This made the story so much more interesting. I do like a good vs. evil story, but it was nice to read something that blurred the lines for a change. The actions and ideals of many characters was questionable, so none of them really seemed ‘good’, which was far more realistic than having two opposing ends of the spectrum in conflict.

The main character, Adelina, is by no means a ‘hero’. She has a troubled past and is filled with darkness. She feeds off fear and is driven by power and ambition. The novel follows her perspective closely, so I felt I really understood all her feelings and motivations. She’s a really interesting main character and her internal conflict is written very well.

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Film Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

HO00005086Film Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Release date: 14th December 2017

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson

Runtime: 152 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fans have been divided over this film, but I have to say I loved it. No, it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a little different from other Star Wars films. Yes, that is a good thing from my point of view! I’ve liked (to varying degrees) all of the films. I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens, but it did recycle major plot elements from the original trilogy too much. It didn’t stand on its own two feet. This film did.

It was rather long. It did feel a little episodic, almost like a TV series squished into a film. However, that didn’t really bother me. I just enjoyed the story. There were a lot of twists and turns and although some parts were a little predictable, there were parts that I didn’t see coming and broke from the mould, which I really liked about this film.

Visually and musically it’s stunning yet again. The soundtrack of John Williams is part of what really makes these movies great for me. Some interesting new worlds were explored in this film which made for some new captivating visuals and designs.

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Books I Want to Read in 2018

I don’t usually plan what I’m going to read. I like to see what takes my fancy. But these are some of the books I am desperate to read in 2018.

Series I want to continue

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Ringer by Lauren Oliver: The concept of this series – having the two stories in one – really caught my attention, but it’s also the story and characters that make me want to read the next book.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: After finally getting round to reading the first book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series at the end of 2017, I am excited to read the second in the series!

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: I enjoyed the first and second books in this trilogy, so am eager to read the final instalment. I hope it makes a good ending.

 

Series I want to start

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Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin: As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I wanted to read it. It’s been sat on my kindle for a few months but I just haven’t got round to it yet. I will definitely be reading it in 2018 though!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass: Another one that has been sat on my kindle for a while. I’ve heard so much about this series and there are quite a few books in it now. I really should get around to reading it.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I have wanted to read this book since it first came out, and have finally got a copy. I haven’t read many fairy tale retellings, but this one caught my eye. Combining a fairy tale retelling with sci-fi just sounds like something I would love. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

 

Classics I want to read

After reading so many classics during my degree, I had really had enough of them by the time I’d finished. Now I have reached the point where I feel ready to get back into reading some classics in 2018.

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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: Having enjoyed the TV adaptation of The Moonstone, I am interested in reading one of Wilkie Collins’ works.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: Eventually I will read all of Austen’s novels. So far, I have ticked off Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. I’m planning to read Mansfield Park next.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles a few years ago and loved it. I was totally enchanted by Hardy’s style of writing.

 

What are you looking forward to reading in 2018?