Thursday, 28 November 2013

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

35 girls, one crown, the competition of a lifetime

As I have mentioned a few times in recent blogs I was not keen on this book based mostly on its cover (bad librarian) and slightly on its blurb. Convinced by other readers I gave it a try an was pleasantly surprised.

Meet America Singer (even her name put me off). A feisty character whose personality is as fiery as her hair and jumps off the page into your heart. She's flawed but this makes her likable and her determination to follow her heart is inspiring.  The society she lives in is grouped into a caste system. The higher your number the better and easier your life is. America is a five. Her family have just enough food to live which they earn from their musical performance. Fives are the artists and singers in the society and America is a skilled pianist, violinist and sings beautifully.

In Illea there is an age old tradition in which the Prince must select a bride from within the caste system and America is selected to compete with 35 other girls. America doesn't want to win the princes heart, as she already loves Aspen, a six. However convinced by Aspen to compete she enters the palace and is taken by surprise at how her relationship with the mysterious Prince Maxon develops. Everyone in the palace is more then they seem and America must decide where her heart truly lies.

I know it sounds like a romance, I know it sounds soppy but it isn't. I was hooked by the complexities of America's feelings. Her character was completely believable. The other girls competing have well developed characters and their different castes are reflected in their personalities. The two male characters are equally as strong but I found it very difficult to see what America saw in Aspen.  As the story progresses I hope to find out more about why the caste system was created and from reading The Elite I know that Cass continues to develop the dystopian aspect of the storyline.

A story with surprising grit and gumption despite its front cover!

Don't judge a book by its cover! 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Book Review: Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic

She's not the only one playing for the cameras

This book was in no way what I was expecting. After reading the blurb I was not sure what the story was actually going to be about, was it dystopian, fantasy or romance? If anything it was all three and more. The phrase that best encapsulates this story for me is that it is more than meets the eye. 

The story revolves around Lina.  Lina is a six-inch tall 15 year old girl when we meet her, not to mention she also has wings.  Lina was created by the Lilliput Project to solve problems in the world. It is never really mentioned in the book what the issues in the world are, how they happened or how pint-sized human beings could solve anything, but these are not the issues dealt with in this story. 

The story deals with the fact Lina has fallen in love, the unfortunate thing is that it is with a boy (Jack)  she met online and he knows nothing about the fact she could fit in his pocket. However, these are the least of Lina's problems. Her creator, the cold and calculating Dr. Christiansen has plans for Lina to star in a reality TV show where she will meet 6 'toms' all the same size her and choose one to marry and they threaten Jack's safety if she doesn't co-operate. 

Now if you have made it this far in my summary you might think this sounds like quite a romance driven story. In fact it sounds a lot like the bachelorette for pixies. But like I said a lot more is going on here then meets the eye.  The romance element takes up a good portion of the story but what really builds and drives the story is Lina's awareness that not everything is quite as it seems and her determination to find out what is really  the motivation behind the reality TV show and why there are 6 toms and only one Thumbelina. This part of the story was thrilling and I found it really gripping in these places. I struggled a bit with some of the 'date' scenes but these picked up pace as the story developed. 

I really liked the character of Lina.  The story is written from her perspective and I really enjoyed the fact it remained that way the whole time. Considering she is such a tiny person her personality is really dominating and strong throughout the story and I really liked her.  The toms are interesting but you only really get to know a bit about two of them and the rest remain quite shrouded in mystery, as I think this is a series starter I imagine the next story might develop these characters more. 

This is a super original story and I think its a very impressive concept and should make a strong series. I personally think this is a great read for younger fantasy/dytsopian fans or even to get avid romance readers to try another genre. 

I enjoyed this book and younger fans will love it!

I was provided with a copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Covers I Wish I could Re-design.

I love this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. As an avid reader and as a school librarian I am fascinated by the effect a book cover can have on whether you read a book. Not only that but I am always intrigued when publishers redo covers whilst the series is still being written. I struggled to come up with 10 I would change, so 5 are ones I would alter and 5 are ones I love!

Covers I would change

1. The Selection by Kiera Cass

Having finally got around to reading this the other week I have to say I think the cover design is all wrong. I completely dismissed this book as romance and let it sit on my to read pile for a few months because it looked like it would be inevitably full of romantic slush. How wrong I was, yes it is romance but its well written, un-slushy and has a dystopian element that is very clever. I wish the front cover made the main character America look less like a beauty queen and more like the stubborn, fiery redheaded woman she is.

2. The Singer from the Sea

I loved this story by Sheri .S. Tepper it was one of my first really fantasy reads. I just find the cover a bit wishy washy. I feel it needs to be some darker colours in it just for impact as the lady really fades into the background.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I read my mother's copies of these from when she was a child and the cover is so insipid and dreary. I get why they used the green but the girl portraying on Anne in no way reflects who she is in the story, I wish the front cover was something less idyllic and peaceful and more true to the character. There have been many different covers for this series but I still haven't found one that portrays Anne how I imagine her.

4. Magyk by Angie Sage

Oh dear! This introduction to fantasy series has recently undergone a new cover design and both version just don't work. The original idea to have the books look like spell books worked well but they made really squat and fat by the dimensions and it puts of reluctant readers. The new covers are thankfully thinner and more reflected of the length of the stories but the covers are now far to grown up so people assume they will be hard. Its a young fantasy book desperately trying to pretend its for older kids!

5. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

This cover confused me to now end. Maybe it was my overactive imagination but I found the cover made me think it was a horror story. I get way that cover was chosen in relation to the story line but I think they could have done a less creepy front cover. On a side note this is a truly spectacular read!

Covers I would keep 

6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I would do nothing to the first published covers of Harry Potter. I would keep the young Dumbledore on the back that is on my copy and I would not have bothered to changed them at all. I understand why publishers re-jacket books regularly but I think the original covers of Harry Potter are by far the best.

7. Gone Series by Michael Grant

I am completely in love with the front covers for this series. They are so dramatic but with minimal effort. I was not a huge fan when the added the colour to the edges of the pages but they still pack a punch. I only don't like colour on  pages is that the colour runs when it gets wet and working in a school library its just makes the books look tatty really fast even if just a dot of water gets on them.

8. Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

The first edition cover of this book was just breathtaking. The illustrations by Chris made for an intriguing and  unique design that reflects the story inside perfectly. I don't mind the new covers so much but they are not as good.

9. Matilda by Roald Dahl

I personally think if you have Quentin Blake as your illustrator the covers of your books are going to be amazing. So really this should have all Roald Dahl books in it. However, the best for me by far is Matilda. I don't know if its just because I love the image of her surrounded by all those books but I think the cover is understated elegance.

10. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

The Twilight Series has a brilliant cover design. For a story that can be pretty insipid at times and with rather vacuous characters the front cover is really powerful. The read on black images were very unique when the stories were first released. I don't think many of my students would need the title to identify which one is which in this series, just the cover images would do it.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Something for the weekend: Dystopian Disney

This weekend I will be making my way through The Elite by Kiera Cass. I finished The Selection on Thursday and was so intrigued I decided to keep going with the series. On my Top Ten Tuesday post a while back I mentioned I was not sure that The Selection would be my cup of tea but I actually really enjoyed it, so I am hoping to enjoy The Elite.

The Elite starts up back where The Selection left off. I am on tenterhooks hoping that America chooses the better man. I have never ever found a romance I have enjoyed this much but as my colleague said its 'dystopian Disney' and I am loving it so far!

I would advise anyone who has been put off by this very girly looking front cover to give them a go all the same. What I have loved so much so far about this series it its got no 'love at first sight' and for me it just makes the characters for more believable.

What are you reading this weekend?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

She turns to face the future in a world that's falling apart

It has been a long time since I blogged again due to having some time off for my tonsillectomy. Thankfully I have made it through to the other side and am now pretty much recovered. During my recovery I actually struggled to concentrate quite enough to read a lot but the Saturday before my surgery (a very lazy day) I feverishly read Veronica Roth’s dystopian novel Divergent.

I had been waiting to read this story for quite a while having had both students and adults rave about it to me. This story is another one to add to your list if you are a fan of the dystopian worlds. In this society people are born into factions and when they get to 16 they must take a test. This test determines what faction suits them best based on their character traits.  There are five factions you can be part of these are, Candor: honesty, Abnegation: selflessness, Dauntless: bravery, Amity: peacefulness and Erudite: intelligence. Beatrice is the female lead and initially we see her as part of the Abnegation faction where she was born and raised. However Beatrice gets inconclusive test results meaning that she is Divergent. This is something she is warned never to reveal and on the day of her choosing she makes a choice that will change her life for ever. Reinventing herself as Tris she takes to her new life with ferocious energy and a thirst to prove herself.

This story is breathtaking in its construction. I am going to try not to gush about every aspect of this book but I was hooked from the first chapter and I literally couldn't put it down! This book is the start of a trilogy but it doesn't feel like that. Roth wastes no time over explaining the society she has created. Instead the story is much more character driven and we learn about the world from Beatrice’s perspective.  I have read a few reviews that criticise the implausibility of Roth’s society, personally I cannot think of one YA dystopian story I have read so far where the society is actually likely to become a reality so I don’t think this is a valid criticism. Furthermore, the story is so well written that I didn't find myself questioning whether the society was possible.

The character of Tris is written with fierce adrenalin and most of her scenes are full of the action that I often find is missing in the other dystopian novels I have read. Roth does spend a lot of time creating climatic scenes that leave you biting your nails off but these scenes are more character shaping then story shaping. The actual main story doesn't start to over a third of the way in where we discover that a faction is hell-bent on starting a war with the other factions to change the way the society is ruled. However, even though it is late getting to this part of the story the pace of the high octane scenes with Tris and her fellow cohorts is so punchy and enjoyable to read it’s worth the wait. My only personal niggle is Roth kills two quite lovable characters towards the end of the book and for me Tris just doesn't react to it, she’s complete void of emotion in these scenes and I found that a bit too cold for the character. That said I still found myself rooting for her all the same.  

For me personally I would highly recommend this book. I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series now they have all been released. 

Couldn't put it down!