Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

I've done a lot of glowing reviews on this blog, but no more Mr. Nice Guy.  

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its title. But in the case of this one, you most definitely should. It's just as dull as its title- and in some ways I wish it was briefer.

I'm going to complain about everything, but we'll start with the format. It's written like a diary. Now, I don't mind diaries so much. It can- and has- been done with minimal casualties. But, as if to make this diary seem more authentic, random remarks are thrown in. It's like the author thought 'oh, I have to remind my reader that is isn't a book they foolishly spent their hard earned birthday money on. Oh no. It's a journal.For example, Sophie (the main character) spends half a page discussing whether or not to get another candle so she can see the words she's writing. Actually, she ends up mentioning the candle many times to start and end her diary entries, making me want to scream, "ENOUGH OF THE FREAKING CANDLE, GET ON WITH THE STORY!".

That leads me to another problem. The plot. Or rather, the lack thereof. I swear, nothing happens until two-thirds of the way in. Then, it gets exciting. But for the first two-thirds of the book, Sophie describes her life on a small island kingdom called Montmaray, where there are almost as many royalty as there are subjects. She talks about her beautiful and smart cousin Veronica, her tomboy sister Henry, and her crazy uncle King John. And then about her crush, Simon. These parts were utterly unbearable. She kept mooning over him, pages and pages of describing him, worse than a typical chicklit. And she does nothing through the course of the entire story to a) tell him how she feels, b) get to know him better, or c) say five straight words to him.This book does wonderful job of enforcing the stereotype that girls are stupid, weak, and self-centered. She also has this strange need to make witty comments here and then, as if she realises periodically that she a bore and that she should liven it up a bit with some weak attempt at injecting humour into her ramblings. I think the main problem was that I just really disliked her as a character, so it was hard relating to her or, to be honest, caring about her. Later in the book, I really wouldn't have minded if she got shot or drowned. Another annoying thing was all the history that came up. I don't mind a little bit, if it's relevant and subtly done, but here Toby was in his letter 'oh guess what monumental historical event just took place where I live!'. The incorporating of these events was just so obvious.

Finally, let me just say that I don't like historical fiction. And I don't like slow paced books. So this book was pretty much hung from the get-go. Redeeming features: it's a unique plot and the end bit is exciting.

Just to wrap this all up, though, I would say that this book is a cross between a socials textbook and a soap opera.

There we go. That's all the ranting you'll get for a while.

If you liked this book...

I've got some paint on my wall that you might enjoy watching as it dries.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Paper Towns by John Green

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together until all living humans read the book.”
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars

 I read this quite a while ago, but I’ve been too shy to blog about it because I wanted my review to reflect the awesomeness of this book. This was my very first John Green book, and it blew my head off. Emily Dickinson once said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Nope. That’s a John Green book. After I finished this book, I sat on the couch with it in my hands, thinking about how amazing it was.

But I digress.

Margo Roth Spiegelman is the admired, popular queen bee of Quentin Jacobsen's school. Everyone tells stories of her daring escapades, and the many times she ran away, leaving clues hinting to her whereabouts. Quentin is absolutely besotted with her, but she barely registers his existence. One night, completely out of the blue, Margo drags him along on an adventure of revenge, and he thinks that things might start to change for him. The next day, Margo disappears. As he searches for her, he realizes that she may not have had the perfect life he imagined she did. Through his journey, he learns about understanding and accepting not only her, but also himself and his friends.

This is a heartwarming story with great messages mixed in with killer humor. The interactions between characters are both hilarious and authentic. The boys are joke-cracking and raunchy, yet caring characters that you will remember. This book has the trademark John Green quirkiness added in by way of an extensive collection of black Santas and a kidney infection, just to name a few (how do those two things manage to exist in the same story? Hilariously.). The three metaphors for understanding others were so cleverly woven in, and I still think about them sometimes now. There are many subtle hints of profoundness (is that a word?) that made me- and I barely ever reread- read the bit again, to soak up the meaning conveyed in so few words. I also have to say that this book wins my award for best last line EVER (The Sweet Far Thing is second). I am totally OCD over last lines, so when I tell you this one is fantastic, you better believe it’s fantastic. This is the kind of book that, when finished, makes you want to cry not out of sadness but because they learned so much. A great read with a lasting impact, and definitely one of my all time favorites.

Loved this book? Then you’ll like:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Looking for Alaska by John Green
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Swim the Fly by Don Calame (and series)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare has done it again: she's produced another book with a title that starts with C.

Just kidding. She's produced another book with dashing male characters, intricate mysteries, and a fierce heroine. (But seriously, after her 'City' series and all her 'Clockwork' books, she's gonna have about ten books all starting with C!)

After reading City of Fallen Angels, I was disappointed. It seemed like it was just tacked on, because the story finishes so nicely at the end of City of Glass. (I mean, bring the bad guy back from the dead? Really?) Anyway, my confidence in Cassandra Clare has been completely restored by this book. I picked it up while I was midway through another book which shall not be named at this time, and I was hooked. It starts off with a bang and never stops moving. The idea of the Shadowhunters and the Clave is the same as in the Mortal Instruments series, but the book is set in London. It is historical fiction, but it doesn't read like it; the only historical thing that stood out for me is that they have maids and they wear dresses. Tessa is rescued by Will (the equivalent of Jace in this series, I'm feeling) from two sisters who have trained her to use her powers and are planning to marry her off to a mysterious man called the Magister. Tessa has the power to Change, which means she can take on the form of other people. At the Institute, she meets girly Jessamine, secretive Jem, strong Charlotte, and head-in-the-clouds Henry (nice alliteration? Why thank you). She's determined to rescue her brother, who is imprisoned by the Magister. She has to learn to use her power to defeat the Magister and his automaton horde.

This book does require a bit of what my drama teacher calls 'suspension of disbelief'. Which means, you have to pretend you haven't read anything by Cassandra Clare before. I know that it bothers a couple people that the characters are pretty similar, but hey, she had a pretty darn good formula before so I don't mind if she more or less follows the same one! So suspend your disbelief, read this book like you don't now what else she's written, and devour the traditional Clare fare: hints of romance, lots of fighting, snarky comments, and an intriguing and terrifying enemy. The twists that the plot take left me wide-eyed and clutching the book for dear life- and the descriptions of the automatons (especially when they shred their fingers) are just chilling. (Yeah, that was a spoiler). What's really great is that even though there are enough loose ends to send me sprinting for the bookstore, the book doesn't seem like its only role is to set up the rest of the series; it's complete in itself. The one thing I'm going to complain about is the names. I mean, Mrs. Black and Mrs. Dark, the Dark sisters, the Dark House- really? Really?

If you like a light, fast paced read with lots of action and a plethora of secrets, Clockwork Angel won't disappoint.

Loved this book? Then you'll like:

Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy (and series)
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (and the rest of the Mortal Instruments series)
Stuff by Tamora Pierce
Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow (and series)
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick