Thursday, 31 October 2013

Book Review: Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

A new heroine, an old evil. An unforgettable adventure.

Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope was hailed as the French answer to Harry Potter when it was translated into English and published here in June. As a Harry Potter enthusiast I wanted to read it but also as a big fan of fantasy fiction for young adults.

The story is about a young thirteen year old girl called Oksa who discovers she has an array of different magical abilities. As she develops her ability to control these new found powers she discovers a secret that changes her whole life. Her family are originally from the magical world Edefia. They fled Edefia in fear of their lives over 50 years before. Now based in London the ‘runaways’ of Edefia gather around Oksa because she is their Queen and their last hope of returning to Edefia which the all long to do.

Initially I raced through the first chapters of this book. I really liked the character of Oksa and her friend Gus who are both well written and have wonderful engaging personalities. The story builds at a really good pace and is well written. We see Oksa learn who she is and explore her abilities exactly how you imagine a thirteen year old girl would be in learning she can shoot fire from her hands or fly. Her family are equally as well developed with a little bit of mystery surrounding key characters such as Leomido. You are intrigued enough that you want to finish the story but the plot does get a tad complicated.

I am a self-confessed fantasy fan and I love all things magical and mysterious. However, if I dare to say it this book had TOO much magic, TOO many different things introduced so fast that it was very complicated to completely grasp the storyline in certain places. I found myself getting quite bogged down in the different magical powers each character could possess especially as some were introduced so briefly. I am however hoping that this sudden deluge of different powers, creatures and what not is just because this is the first book in a series of 6. Fingers crossed that the second in the series does not introduce too much more as otherwise I think a reader will just be completely overrun with different things to keep track of. If it was not for the books website I don’t actually think I would have understood what hair the creatures look like so that was particularly helpful.

Having said this it is worth a read not just for fantasy fans but for those who like a good dose of action in their books. Although it got a bit chaotic in places the actual plot was well thought out and ended with a good cliff-hanger for the next installment.  

Worth a read.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Book Review: The Killables by Gemma Malley

Evil must be identified

Long ago on this blog I promised a review of the new series by Gemma Malley. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this story for the library I was working at through Twitter. I was really excited to read it as it was another dystopian story akin to The Hunger Games. I have already reviewed Malley's other series The Declaration which I thought was fantastic.

The Killables is a very unique story. You can only live in The City once you have had the evil part of your brain removed. Everyone in the City is given labels according to how well behaved and good they are. Nobody knows really what happens to those labelled K's they go to the outside barren world and are constant threat to the safety of those living inside the city. 

The story is told from the perspective of Evie. Evie is a likeable character she is a bit robotic initially but I think that was the author's intention to make you understand how far the City has gone to 'brainwash' people. The other characters have much more complicated and dark back stories and personally they were alot more captivating then Evie herself whose own backstory is not as richly developed. As with The Declaration series the momentum of the story is based on the idea of those with labels realising that they live in an oppressive society and then trying to escape. Although a different idea behind the labels in this story it is slightly similar to the the label  of Surplus in the Declaration. Unlike her previous series however, Malley plays slightly less on the 'love' element initially in this story.Similarly the story follows a lead girl with her love interest although this book throws in a love triangle which differs from The Declaration.

The story builds well but you can tell it is the first in a series as it sets the scene very clearly for the next book. I am planning to read The Disappearances as the story has intrigued me enough that I would like to know where it will go.  I think this is brilliant read for budding Dystopian fans.

A good book worth reading 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite character names:

These have all ended up being girls names but I was racking my brain for ages for the boys names I like I didn't think I could do that list justice. So what follows is a list of my favorite female character names!

1.   Auraya  - Light (Age of Five by Trudi Canavan)

 I am pretty sure I mentioned in my review of this series how much I loved this name. I think it is so beautiful and suits the character so well.

2.   Eowyn – Joy (The Two Tower by J.R.R.Tolkien

 I love the character of Eowyn in Lord of the Rings. I think she is such a strong role model as she is so fiery and determined. A very strong name for a strong woman.

3.   Luna – Moon (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix by J.K Rowling)

I love the character of Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter and I think her name suits her so well. Its got the airy fairy quality she posses right there in her name.

4.   Jubilee – Celebration (X-Men Comics by Stan Lee)

 Jubilee was always my favourite character in the X-men cartoon I watched as a kid and when I got some comics with my dad I loved reading about her. I also love the meaning of the name it’s so good!

5.   Arya – Truthful (Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini)

This character suits her name so well especially once I found out the meaning. I love that Paolini managed to write sucha  complex woman and didn’t make her weak or unassuming but made her a powerhouse as well as beautiful!

6.   Matilda –Strength (Matlida by Roald Dahl)

What a lovely story with a beautiful name. I love the story of Matilda and her journey throughout the book. I love that she is a bookworm and that the story ends with her getting the love she deserves. I think her name meaning is very apt.

7.   Meggie – Pearl (Inkheart by Cornelia Funke)

I really like these stories and the character of Meggie is so cool and feisty. I like the normalcy of her name in this fantasy series. In can be easy in fantasy fiction to think the weirder the better so it’s nice to have such a normal name.

8.   Marillia – Small Brook (Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)

I am a huge fan of the Anne for Green Gables series that my mum encouraged me to read and I love the character of Marillia Cuthbert. I love the warmth she has under her layers of severity and I love the way she loves Anne. I think the name meaning is sweet considering where they lived and I also think it suits the character to a T.

9.   Ariel – Lioness of God (Disney’s The Little Mermaid)

In Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of The Little Mermaid the character is unnamed (her fate is also much worse that Disney portray) But I love the name Ariel. I love the way it is pronounced in the film by Triton and I think that it’s a pretty powerful name meaning.  

10.  Lydia – Maiden (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

 I couldn’t really make this list and not mention the vivacious Lydia that graces the pages of Pride and Prejudice. Not only do I love the fact my name appears in a Jane Austen book but I also love that is spelt the correct way! I on the other hand must stress I am not so flighty as the Lydia of Austen’s world however, I am most certainly similar to her with my chatty nature.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Something for the weekend

I finished Oksa Pollock this week and so started reading Divergent on Friday. I chose Divergent as I have wanted to read it for a long time as students and fellow librarians have told me it is super gripping. As I am having my tonsils removed on Monday I thought it be good to have a really riveting read to get my through the recovery. However, having started the book on Friday afternoon I am already a good way through it. It is a truly enthralling read. I love Roth's writing style it really is breathtaking in its construction. Needless to say I am devouring it at such top speed that I may have to select another book for post surgery days. Thankfully I have created a rather substantial pile of books to keep me entertained!

 I featured this story on my Top Ten Tuesday of reads this season so its good to be able to tick another one off, especially one I know I am going to enjoy so much!

What are you reading this weekend?


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Book Review: The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory

Three powerful women, three powerful stories.

I have so far read three of this series. After catching a glimpse of the TV series White Queen I decided that I would much rather read the books. I started with the prequel of the series The Lady of the Rivers. Personally this is my favourite of the 3 I have read. The prequel tells the story of Jacquetta Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the lead female in the next book The White Queen. Personally I preferred this book as Jacquetta was actually a likeable character whereas I have struggled to like Elizabeth or Margaret Beaufort from the Red Queen.

The first book follows the timeline whilst Henry VI is ill and how his queen Margaret of Anjou fights for the Lancaster throne as the York rivals seek to take it for their own. Jacquetta is involved along with her family in the fight to keep the Lancaster line on the throne. Though I love reading about strong women it is a shame that you do not get to read about many of the battles except from the point of view of a wife waiting for her husband.

The end of the book leads seamlessly into The White Queen. Here Jacquetta’s eldest daughter marries the new York King Edward and becomes the Queen of England and a Yorkist one at that. The time line follows on from the previous book and we read as Edward continues to fight for his throne against his own kin as well as keeping the persistent threat of the Lancastrian dynasty at bay.

This book moves at a faster pass then the first book I found myself utterly confused at why Elizabeth Woodville acted as she did. I actually had to research her and double check if she did flee into sanctuary as opposed to face her brother in law. It made me dislike her and I felt very much the same as her daughter Elizabeth (lots of Elizabeth’s here) It seemed like Elizabeth the elder had led her family into a place they could not escape from with her suspicions. As we all know her boys (the princes in the tower) were never seen again after Richard had himself declared as King. Here Gregory uses artistic licence and her own historical opinion that Elizabeth did not send both her boys to Richard and that her youngest son escaped and was reunited with her in later life. However, personally this is a tad farfetched for me. Considering that Richard III was removed from his throne by a Lancastrian surely if there had been a York heir more fighting for the throne would have ensued especially if Elizabeth Woodville was as ambitious as Gregory suggests. The White Queen finishes with Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter betrothed to be married to Henry Tudor and a great battle begins to take place at Bosworth.

I opened the Red Queen expecting the book to follow on. Sadly however it does not. The timeline is restarted back to Margaret of Anjou being Queen of England. This isn’t a huge problem but it made the start difficult to get into as I wanted to read on from the story. In addition it makes the book incredibly repetitive. In fact you will notice bits you read from the others in the series frequently and personally that repetition makes for dull reading. When the story actually focuses on parts we did not know about from the other books it does become a more riveting read. There are a few printing errors in my edition of the book which were annoying.

As with many of Gregory’s novels the books are all quick to read. They are not greatly challenging and the style of her writing flows freely off the page. For fans of historical fiction these books are worth a read. However , if you like slightly less artistic licence being taken these books might cause you to buy historical fact books just to make sure you have your history correct! Although not marketed as a young adult book we have found this series popular with our older readers.  I will probably read the rest of the series soon as I did enjoy them.

A good series for historical fiction fans

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I was forced (persuaded) to read

I don’t feel I have ever really been forced to read anything bare one play at school. Thankfully the people at Broke and the Bookish have suggested that this can be interpreted slightly differently. Therefore my list shall be more books very enthusiastic family have made me read. As these were recommendations they are not all Young Adult reads.

1.   Earthsea Quartet

My dad convinced me at the young age of 13 to embark on reading this fantasy series by Ursula Le Guin he had read as a child. I was very reluctant on visiting my local library and I can honestly say I judged them instantly on their old looking green covers and really wasn't keen to read them. However, once I got into these books I couldn't happier to have read them. I loved the whole series and have read it many times since along with other stories by Le Guin. I must read for fantasy fans!

2.   Lord of the Rings

I think I was the driving force behind reading this popular series. My dad has read these stories many times and the ‘daddy’s girl’ I am wanted to impress him by reading them as well. When the first film arrived I started the first book and never made it further than chapter 3! By the second film I managed to start again and get as far as chapter 7! Sadly it was not third time lucky and by Return of the King I had managed to perceive to chapter 11 of the first book. Then I finally admitted defeat and put the books down for another time. Nearly 10 years late I finally picked them back up and managed to finish the whole series. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how gripping I found the series.

3.   Life of Pi

At least 3 members of my family and ‘goodreads’ told me I must read Life of Pi. As you many know from my review that I did not enjoy this book. I just found it a bit blurgh! I like lots of things to happen and I have to be honest by about ½ way through the book I just want the boy to be eaten by the Tiger!

4.   Frankenstein

My eldest sister studied English Literature at University and often sent me books to read that she felt I would like. Frankenstein was one of the first she gave me and I was gripped. I read from her study copy and very much enjoyed all the handwritten notes around words and my favorite moment was finding a post it saying ‘the monster is created’ right before I got to that part. It was a highly amusing spoiler. I really love this book. I think it such rich, dark, edgy and clever and is worth a read for those who like grit to their books.

5.   The Lovely Bones

Pass the tissues please. My darling mother has a tendency to read incredibly sad books and this recommendation was no different. I found this book a challenging read due to its content but I also found it supremely clever and a well written story dealing with quite a difficult plot.

6.   Atonement

The movie of atonement was due out when I was persuaded to open the book and give it a read. After finishes this masterpiece of a book I watched the film and was quite let down as it just didn’t keep the pace I wanted it too. The book however, was a brilliant read and I sobbed quite pathetically through most of the end. Must read!!

7.   The Kite Runner

I can’t even put into words how moved I was by this story. My dad, mum and sister all wanted me to read this and unlike Life of Pi they were spot on. This story was so brutally honest and exposed and raw that I was not only crying my eyes out but completely speechless. A devastatingly brilliant read that I am so glad I read.

8.   The Midwife’s Confession

Amazon occasionally get there recommendations for me spot on and this was one of those cases. I bought this on offer for my little Kindle and was hooked. A complex twisty plot that draws you in and you just cannot stop reading. A climatic unexpected ending that makes this a fantastic read.

9.   The Help

Thanks mum for this book! What a beauty. What an utter spell- binding story that had me reeled in. A very poignant story. Wonderfully bittersweet expect to cry.

10.  Dracula 

Another book from my sisters English literature course (she must have been doing some gothic fiction). This is still one of my favourite books. It took me a while to get into but I persevered and was enthralled by the story of Jonathan and Wilhelmina Harker that I had never heard before. A must read for true fans of gothic fiction. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Something for the Weekend

I always like to make sure I have a good book for my weekend. Whether that’s one I have been reading throughout the week or the ultimate treat of a brand new read.

This week my weekend read is Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf. I have wanted to read this book ever since I read the Guardian article about it being the French answer to Harry Potter.

So far this book is shaping up well. The world and magic used is very imaginative and quite different. It is sometimes a little much and I don’t think they needed quite so many different creations but then again they were obviously trying to establish a new ‘world’ and therefore I understand that a lot of work had to go into this. I found the website quite handy in understanding what some of the unusual creations actually looked like.

I am enjoying the storyline and find Oksa a really intriguing character that is a strong female lead. I can see why comparisons to Harry Potter have been drawn but on the whole I think they are quite different stories. So far there are enough fantasy elements for me as well as an unusual and gripping storyline that makes you want to keep reading. Hopefully this book keeps my interest for my weekend reading!

What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Book Review: GONE by Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE

This book has been on my list for over a year. I have simply not got around to reading it as I felt it was a big commitment if I enjoyed it as the start of a series of 6 books. I couldn’t put it down. The pace literally zooms and pulls you along. To call this a page turner doesn’t do it justice. It is so gripping and interesting that you physically need to keep reading.

The Lord of the Flies-esque story sees the creation of the FAYZ. In this world all the adults and children over the age of fifteen have disappeared. Those that are left behind begin to see strange mutations break out amongst both the people and the animals. Something was going on in Peridido beach before the FAYZ and as a result this thrilling tale takes many twists and turns and now on the second book I am still not sure what I am going to find out.

It’s hard to pin point who the main characters in this story are. There are quite a lot of characters to keep track of but they all play an important role so they were definitely worth writing. Grant 
doesn't waste time with characters that make little impact, the rule of thumb from my point of view is if he mentions someone new with quite a bit of detail then keep your eyes on that character as they will play an important role. The story follows the journey as the kids left behind in the FAYZ adapt in order to survive. Violence ensues as young children fight for power over each other. Sam is the hero of the story, the one everyone wants to be in charge but he is reluctant to take power. Caine is against Sam and seeks to claim all the power as his own. All the while they head ever closer to their fifteenth birthday when they will simply disappear.

The use of a countdown as the chapter titles means the story moves at a very intense and fast pace and keeps you wanting to figure out what the countdown is for and what will happen when you get to 0. This countdown theme is the same for each of the books and helps to keep the pace snappy from book one to two.

I would recommend this book for any keen science fantasy readers and particularly those who like to get hooked into a book. I am sincerely hoping the rest of the series 
doesn't disappoint!

Run and get yourself a copy!

Currently Reading: Oksa Pollock by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best/Worst Series Endings

The Top Ten Tuesday this week looks at the top ten best/worst series endings. This wonderful meme is hosted every Tuesday by the Broke and the Bookish. I found creating a top ten of all best actually quite difficult so created one that includes a few of each. Considering I read a lot of series it was surprisingly difficult to choose for this list.

First some of my best series endings. These books were not only enjoyable but from a fans point of view the way the author concluded the series was satisfying rather than leaving that bad taste in the mouth thinking why did I read this?

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I still adore the way J.K Rowling concluded the Harry Potter series. This final story takes you on a massive concluding adventure that has you crying and laughing throughout. You start to see all the clever little things Rowling mentioned throughout the series that are now playing a key role. There is a fantastic monologue from Harry towards the end, they miss this out in the movie which is just a travesty as it’s a jaw-droopingly good speech that just makes you want to punch the air!

2. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Again another book then seems to be recurring on many of my top ten lists so far. I have to mention the final book in The Inheritance Cycle. I needed to read this book so unbelievably desperately that I risked missing a train to buy it immediately after I had finished Brisngr. It did not disappoint. I raced through it at lightning speed. As a reader I was extremely pleased with the way this series concluded although I actually wished he had written a fifth.

3. The Legacy by Gemma Malley

Although slightly predictable in places this series finishes strong. We finally get to understand a bit more about the resistance and about Pip and the mysteries get solved in a way you would not expect. A brilliant dystopian series for younger readers.

4. Voice of the Gods by Trudi Canavan

Yes I am mentioning this series AGAIN but I am a major fan. I loved the way it ended as well. Lots of the loose ends tied up but just enough questions left that the author could return if desired. I personally would love to see Auraya feature in another series as she is such a power house of a female lead.

5. The End by Lemony Snicket

Aptly titled The End this series conclusion was in true Snicket fashion and I loved it. It didn’t completely clear up all the unusual mysteries that Snicket had introduced throughout the story but it did answer some series question and the final twist was unexpected.

Now on to a few books that were sadly just let downs for me personally.

6. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson

Obviously this is not a young adult book and I would strongly advise that those of a squeamish nature avoid this series as its graphic and brutal. Having said that I enjoyed the suspense of the first two books however, the third one did not keep the same pace. I personally feel that Larsson was actually planning to write more stories featuring Lisbeth and this could be why the story didn’t seem to finish.

7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I am sorry if you love this one but I was bitterly disappointed by the ending of The Hunger Games series. I felt Mockingjay was just a lot of rambling and didn’t pack the punch that the other two books had. It was a bit of a namby pamby finish to such a strong and fiery first two books. Plus like many others I feel she picked the wrong man!

8. Fyre by Angie Sage

I wanted to love this series so much. I wanted it to captivate me and be an amazing undiscovered fantasy series. The first one was good and age appropriate for younger fantasy fans. Sadly the rest of the series wasn’t. It was good but it wasn’t great and considering this seventh book was the conclusion to such a long series it was very dull and packed none of the punch you would expect from a fantasy series.

Finally these two books are on my list to read, one when it is released. I really hope they live up to my expectations and are as brilliant as I think they will be.

9. Light by Michael Grant.

When I finally get round to reading the next few in the series I really hope Light is just as fantastic as the first two have been and finishes by answering all the questions I am bound to have!

10. The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss

The Doors of Stone (or so I am led to believe) is the title of the final instalment of this epic fantasy series. I have some seriously high hopes for this book and I really hope it lives up to my expectations. I expect not to be able to put it down.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Turn-Offs

Another Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish each week. This the top ten is a bit different for me as I have previously only done ones which look at listing books not aspects of books so it is good to do something different this week.
Ever been reading a book and you get that sinking feeling when a pet peeve happens and it really does you head in or even worse makes you hate the book you are reading so much you either have to stop or you are thrilled when it is finally over. I have a few things that really put me of a story and can ruin a book for me.

1. I think I love you even though I don’t know you at all!

This has to be the worst thing for me. I find it very implausible when characters have known another one for all of 2 seconds and they are already in ‘love’. It is very common I find in young adult stories and for me is a big no no!

2. I know where you are going with this so why should I keep reading

It really annoys me when I writer reveals to much too soon that you know the ending before you have read much of the beginning but they continue to write the story as if you do not know what is happening.

3. Help... I’ve have written myself into a corner!

I have come across this quite a bit. Possibly because I read such a lot of fantasy and the plots can be very complex so much so that the writer doesn’t know how to get themselves out of the corner they have written themselves into and then WHAM they make up some entirely new, you have not come across it for more than half the story it’s never mentioned again but at that moment its gets them out of the sticky situation they wrote themselves into. It frustrates me so much!

4. Fifty shades of green and I still haven’t finished describing the grass yet.

Man oh man if I have to wade through reams and reams of descriptive writing about the scenery I complete shut off. I don’t mind the occasional paragraph but if I have to read from more than 2 whole pages about the jagged rocks and rolling hills I will not finish that book fast all!

5. Have I made myself clear?

That awful moment when you are more than half way through a book and you still do not know what is happening. That even worse moment when you finish a book and you are still not sure what has happened. I have had a few experiences with this that just left me utterly confused.

6. Hi my name is....

Minor characters that are just not worth mentioning because they have no bearing or relevance to the story they just waste paper. I don’t need a story to have loads and loads of surplus characters that appear and then disappear almost immediately.

7. The war that was never then.

I haven’t read masses of historical fiction as I find it means I have to go research into the era to double check the facts but one of my pet peeves is one an author as completely disregarded the time a factual event took place and moves it a few years either way to suit their own purposes. I understand artistic licence but if you are writing historical fiction I think the basic things such as dates and locations should be consistent with the historical fact.

8. Are you feeling sick yet?

Slush! I hate the stuff. We get it your characters are in love, lust and infatuated with each other but I don’t need to read about it in such sickening detail. Lay of the slushy stuff!

9. Beautifully boring

I don’t get why female leads in book can be so badly written some times. I do not want to read about a shockingly beautiful girl who has as much depth as a thimble. I want a heroine I can empathise and respect not an insipid, vacuous, wet wipe of a girl that I just want to punch!

10. Cry me a river

I love a good tear-jerker as much as the next person but I am not a fan where the plot has been written on purpose to make you sob your heart out. I am not a fan of these new stories falling into the miserable I will make you wish you hadn’t read me category. I read to enjoy myself not to depress myself.

What things put you off books?