1. What is your favourite book and why?
Oh no. This could be difficult. I'm really loving Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy at the moment, mainly because of its kickass female lead and gorgeous plot loop. I've always adored Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (for no particular reason at all) and I currently have a love/hate relationship with Wuthering Heights (gorgeous imagery, faltering ethics). Overall though, I've fallen for The Firebrand by Marion Zimmerman Bradley. It's a superb re-telling of the Fall of Troy, complete with gods, symbolism, death and fabulous female leads.
2. All of these seem pretty awesome, and it's good to see a couple of classics thrown in there. The next question is, what is a book you cried in?
As a rule, I generally avoid sad books. They're not fun, and melancholy isn't a good look on me. But, like most, I fell into the trap of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. While I can't say I regret my decision to read it (despite how far it was out of my comfort zone genre-wise), I can't lie about how much I bawled, like seriously, if you plan on reading this, don't expect a happy ending. Please. Don't.
3. Already read it. Did not expect happy ending. Was correct. There were tears. So, how about a book you laughed in?
I honestly spent around twenty minutes trying to think of a funny book that I've read recently, to absolutely no success. Perhaps I'm just not a very funny person. Regardless, please don't come to me for funny book recommendations.
4. Maybe I'll have to lend you a few... Now, in honour of the LilyJudgesBooksByTheirCovers blogs, what is your favourite book cover?
Easy. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: it's simple and plenty gorgeous (this book is also one of my many loves). Other favourite book covers (because come on, we all love pretty books) include books by Maria V. Snyder (her works are an acquired taste, the covers definitely making it easier) and Patrick Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicles.
5. All very pretty. What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?
The last book I successfully read: hmmm... It's a toss up between Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, which I read at the same time. Wuthering Heights was lovely to analyse (ecofeminism galore) but the subject matter and certain characters (cough - Heathcliff- cough) made it a bit difficult to stomach. All in all, I enjoyed this book purely for its subtext; if you love longing descriptions of landscape and the equivocation of women and nature, this is for you.
I'll admit, despite loving Cassandra Clare's other series, The Mortal Instruments, I had my doubts about The Infernal Devices--I've never really gotten into historical fiction.Yet the first novel in this trilogy is pretty amazing, in fact, I would go as far as saying I enjoyed it more than her previous novels. Combining features of history (impractical dresses and an abundance of Victorian propriety) with the fictional aspects of her Shadowhunter world, Clare creates a world of intrigue and danger, strong women in ball gowns, steampunk and powerful tattoos. As always, I can't go past any of Clare's novels without mentioning my favourite character: Magnus Bane. Occupying a minor part of this story line, Magnus Bane's narrative plays out in the background of this novel, keeping a constant, glamorous presence. I would definitely recommend this novel, series, and author to anybody with a hankering for the supernatural, Victorian England, and/or witty personalities.
Although this list is in no particular order, The Ruby in the Smoke feels like a good place to start. I first met Philip Pullman’s gun-toting Victorian girl detective when I was about eleven and I am officially saddling her with the blame for my current enamourment with the world of Victorian London—steampunk and otherwise. Five years later I’m not sure what it was about this book that I loved so much (aside from the gorgeous cover art). Perhaps it was just a well-timed series to help me move on from Nancy Drew and Lady Grace Cavendish (different era, still awesome). Perhaps it was the fact that I’d just read Twilight and was itching for a strong female protagonist (if memory serves, I bought this book on a whim after rejecting buying New Moon because I “can’t read any more Bella”). Maybe it was that it’s well written, atmospheric, exciting and the characters are to die for. Whatever the reason, five years on, I am still a Victorian tragic.
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
Also bought on a whim because of a pretty cover, I was not expecting to love The Picture of Dorian Gray as much as I did. It stuck in my head more than most books and went on to influence not only my fiction writing, but also an essay I had to do on Frankenstein (blame the doppelgänger motif). It is currently my favorite classic novel and spawned its own category in my mind (alongside Patrick Suskind’s Perfume and Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire). Due to its psychological denseness, this book took me multiple weeks to read, but towards the end I was ignoring lunchtime conversation in favour of Wilde’s twisted masterpiece. The only drawback? Ryan Gosling is now my mental stock image of a dandy—I’m never going to look at The Notebook the same way again.
3. The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr.
“Here in hell, at least we know how to have a good time.”
Oh. My. God. I am so glad I (read: my mum) discovered this masterpiece. Victorian Gothicism, murder, insane asylums, and supernatural creatures—not to mention the seedy back alleys of a steampunk London—combine to create what could be my ideal novel. The main thing I love about Diabolical Miss Hyde is the way it switches between police-doctor Eliza and her red-satin alter ego Lizzie Hyde, providing a controlled reaction to murder and misogyny alongside one drenched in passion and revenge. The writing is phenomenal and my copy is riddled with grey-lead underlines. Everyone has to read this novel. I’m only annoyed I didn’t write it first.
4. The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger.
“Why, oh why, did vampire-style paleness have to rule so thoroughly in the fashion world?”
When forcing this on friends I describe it as humorous-character driven-paranormal-steampunk-crime-romance because I struggle to pin it down as just one genre. While I love just about everything Carriger’s writing, I especially enjoy the characters she invents. Each of them is individual and engaging in their own way and when I finished Parasol Protectorate I was not ready to abandon those characters, which is why I am so glad they make cameos in her other series. Her writing is witty, funny and unabashedly ridiculous. Her novels feature murderous ladybugs and hedgehogs and dirigibles with names such as Dandelion Fluff Upon a Spoon. Not to mention Lord Akeldama’s pet names and Ivy Hisselpenny’s hat collection. The books are light and enjoyable with just enough scientific and supernatural denseness to be intellectually stimulating amidst the absurdist characters and dialogue. Furthermore, the way she casts werewolves and vampires into historical society with vampires as nobility and werewolves as soldiers is remarkably clever. The perfect blend of Steampunk science, supernatural creatures, and Victorian comedy.
5. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.
“Dreams can be dangerous things.”
I am a complete sucker for Cassandra Clare’s writing and, while Sally Lockhart may have introduced me to the Victorians, The Infernal Devices is what introduced me to steampunk, earning it a spot on this list. While the love-triangle trope can get a bit tiring, I like the way Clare handles it in The Infernal Devices. Similarly to The Parasol Protectorate, Clare uses vampiric characters to fill the role of Victorian high-society but goes even further to find roles for the supernatural from the lowest slums to the most sought-after ball. This blending of steampunk with supernatural is a genre I thoroughly enjoy and Clare handles it very well.
In honour of International Women’s Day, here is a blog on the five most badass women and girls in YA fiction, as I see them. From Katniss to Hermione: smart, independent, kick-butt women are sprinkled generously throughout YA fiction and it is rare that I will enjoy a book if it is lacking in this commodity. It’s going to be hard to narrow this list down but I don’t want to bore you to death and be stuck here for ages, so, in no particular order, here they are: the young women who make young adult fiction worth it:
1. Liraz from the Daughter of Smoke And Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor: "It is a blessing to die at the hands of someone beautiful.”
She may only be a secondary character but the soldier Liraz is the perfect blend of sass, confidence, beauty, insecurity, violence and general badassness. Defending her half-brother Akiva throughout a lifetime of bad decisions she joins his rebellious campaign against their father; an emperor who created countless expendable bastards purely for the army. Not only this but she has a fierce love for both Akiva and her other half-brother Hazael, she shares a close bond with them to a point where she would kill and die for them and the few moments the author lets us inside her head reveal a young woman who can only fear her bothers engaging in romantic relationships as she can’t imagine life without them and can’t think of letting anyone that close to her. She can be insecure and intimidating; emotional and cold; a killer and a rebel; a soldier and a sister. She is the sort of beautiful killer who deserves a spot on this list, not for the kill marks on her arms, but for her personality: her sarcasm, her insecurity, her loyalty, her temper.
2. Sally Lockhart, The Sally Lockhart Quartet by Philip Pullman: “Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man”
Sally’s inclusion in this last doesn’t need much explanation: she is a fiercely independent sixteen year-old who can handle a pistol. In Victorian London. She doesn’t faint when confronted with opium halls, murdered fathers, and the seedy underside of the London docks, doesn’t shy away from the gun in her purse. Not that she is comfortable with killing. When having to shoot a man in self-defence she runs home crying, screaming. However she is incredibly intelligent and, for the eleven year-old who read her story, a welcome break from heroines like Twilight’s Bella Swan. She is also a female adventure protagonist, not the Hermione to a Harry Potter, or the Annabeth to the Percy Jackson. She is a badass in her own right, and a fantastic one at that.
3. Frankie Landau-Banks, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: “She wasn’t a person who needed to be liked so much as she was a person who liked to be notorious”
Everything about Frankie screams badass feminist. Sick of being treated like she’s not as smart or as strong as her boyfriend and his friends, sick of being underestimated and treated like a child she stops being her father's ‘Bunny Rabbit’ and instead becomes a dangerously intelligent young woman with the wit and imagination to cause a phenomenon that would sweep across her elite boarding school. Infiltrating one of the famous ‘boys’ clubs’ so popular with American colleges and boarding school she is force to be reckoned with. Using her studies as a basis for causing chaos in a strict institution while keeping her identity a secret Frankie has the world at her feet and, I imagine, a cunning half smile as she sits, arms crossed, across a desk from an incredibly powerful man. Maybe a principal, maybe a secret agent, maybe the president. Well, whoever it is watch out because a girl like Frankie comes along rarely and leaves the world floundering in the wake of her havoc. Also, the feminist undertones of this novel and Frankie’s essential character are perfect. A definite must read.
4. Bianca Piper, The DUFF by Kody Koplinger: “’Your sense of humor needs some work, then,' Wesley suggested. 'Most girls find my jokes charming.'
'Those girls must have IQs low enough to trip over.’”
Sassy, cynical and with a fierce attitude Bianca may not be the ‘it’ girl but she sure is the smartest, wittiest badass in this novel. Her story is sparked by indignition at being referred to as the ‘Duff’ or ‘designated ugly fat friend’ a purely misogynistic word used to make teenage girls feel bad about themselves. This novel manages to be a teen romance at the same time as being wonderfully feminist, with our protagonist not only angry at the idea of the ‘Duff’ but by rumours, and terms like ‘slut and ‘whore’. Sassy, cynical, smart, feminist, outspoken Bianca is the sort of girl I’d want to be friends with. Also, Mae Whitman plays her in the adaptation so extra points for that.
5. Isabelle Lightwood, The Mortal Instruments series, Cassandra Clare: “Honestly, Clary, if you don’t start utilizing a bit of your natural feminine superiority, I just don’t know what I’ll do with you.”
I know Clary is the main character in Mortal Instruments but she is no where near as deserving of a spot on this list as this purely kickass Shadowhunter. In some ways Isabelle is very similar to Liraz: a sassy, sexy, fighter who hides her sensitivity below layers of sarcasm. She’s a heartbreaker with a close relationship to her three ‘brothers’ (for the purposes of this blog I will be referring to Jace as a Lightwood) and a secret love of Star Wars. It’s made clear throughout the series the lengths she will go to for Jace and especially Alec (Two words people: Bane Chronicles) and even though she finds it hard to adjust to Clary’s involvement in the trio she is an incredibly important part of the series and it’s highly likely at least one person would be dead without her. Isabelle is often at her most likeable when she is letting down the walls and revealing softness, but these few times just makes her more likeable the rest of the time: when she’s harsh, confident. Her essential confidence is, in fact, one of the best parts of her from a feminist point of view. She isn’t a damsel in distress and is more likely to be the rescuer than the one being rescued. She is someone to look up to, a woman who can be both deadly and feminine, sassy and emotional, confident and scared. My only complaint? Could’ve been better casting in the movie.
The Walls Around Us is an intriguing thriller that knows how to reveal a plot twist and expertly keep the reader guessing. The story is told from dual points of view. This works incredibly well, especially because both voices are linked to Orianna Speerling: ex-ballerina and convicted murderer of two, and each page adds a new clue, a new question, to the mystery of what went wrong: who killed the girls in the alleyway? What happened that August? Why is the number forty-two so important? The answers are all revealed through a supernatural twist ending that will have readers gasping like a landed fish.
This novel is a complicated. The narrators are two very different girls with one thing in common: Orianna Speerling. Violet is a privileged and talented ballerina; Amber is a criminal, the eavesdropping outcast of the Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Centre. One is alive, one dead. Convicted for the murder of two girls on the night she was supposed to dance the Firebird, Orianna Speerling (Ori) was Violet’s best friend, Amber’s cellmate and, as Amber constantly reminds us, Number 42 at the detention centre. From the first chapter, the first sentence, of this novel it is impossible to stop reading: it is passionate and confusing, addictive, fast-paced, and dark. It is a thrilling mystery of a novel; a novel of crime, justice, mistakes, lies, memories, forgiveness, hatred. The Walls Around Us keeps you guessing for over two-hundred pages, keeps you in the dark about who the narrators really are, about what happened to Aurora Hills that August, about what happened in the alley behind the theatre, about why it is significant that Ori is Number 42, and about what Amber did to be sent to Aurora Hills. Covering many different stories with a common theme-juvenile crime and the Aurora Hills Detention centre-The Walls Around Us tracks Ori’s life before during and after the month she arrived, without her narrating a single word. It shows how she affects those around her and how people are affected. their surroundings-whether those surroundings are an upper-middle-class family home and a ballet studio or an isolated detention centre. This book is a joy to read and attempt to untangle and both protagonists are complex and secretive, mysterious and real, powerful and heartbreaking, guilty and innocent, confusing and terrifying. It is impossible to put down and yet another book where I could not stop highlighting/underlining things! If you look at my e-copy of this book there are underlines everywhere!
I definitely recommend this to just about anyone but especially to those who find joy in attempting to solve a mystery or working their way through a web of dishonesty. Fans of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, Maureen McCarthy’s Rose by Any Other Name, Kim Kane and Marion Roberts’s Cry Blue Murder and Courtney Summers’s Some Girls Are and Cracked Up To Be will enjoy this book as will anyone who loves to read anything a little bit creepy or confusing.
I recieved a free copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
This novel is hippy-ish, Utopian and fairy-filled. We're talking butterflies, meadows, valleys. It is impossible to feel sad while reading this witches' brew of: best-friends-for-life, meditating, lying in meadows, unusual bonds with animals, nature spirits, and sitting in the moonlight.
Arie has a close relationship with her mother. Their world is perfect: they lie among butterflies in the meadow that is their front yard, meditate until approached by friendly purple-eyed foxes, have bedrooms inspired by fairy tales, own an independent bookshop named after even more butterflies (the book really loves butterflies). Then, on Arie's sixteenth birthday, her mother passes away. On the same day Arie has just shared her first kiss with her best friend under a cloud of butterflies in the meadow. In the aftermath of her mother's death she lives alone in an empty house, too emotionally unstable to open her mother's bedroom door, and is mostly looked after by best friend and sometime-boyfriend River's family. She runs the bookshop but lives in a depressive, grieving, guilty haze. She feels horrible about herself, mainly because of River, who loves her deeply but she feels too far into grieving to return his feelings.
The book picks up on her eighteenth birthday (after a slightly confusing flashback to her seventh) and the two-year anniversary of her mother’s death. On this particular day River is being his usual loyal self and inviting her to a concert for her birthday and she feels guilty because she can't be as happy as she wants to be. The guilt intensifies when she forgets about the concert and shows up late. When she does show up she doesn't look for or contact River. Instead she lets go of her grieving and lets the song take over, dancing ike a crazy person and catching the eye of a tall, dark and handsome stranger. Then things start getting weird. She falls for said stranger, Ashe, who appears only sometimes and seems like her soul-mate even though she feels as though she owes it to River to love him. She has panic attacks, is haunted by a faceless shadow and an achingly familiar voice. She then feels sure that she saw the same shadow the day her mother died and decides her mother was murdered.
About halfway through the book she meets a little girl, Amary, whose mother also died and Ashe transports them both to a world that can only be described as a fairyland. Flowers are bright, butterflies are many, valleys and meadows are in abundance. Nature spirits, souls, light and dark, love triangles, meditation, forbidden love, resurrection. This book is insane. The plot of this novel was enjoyable and original but felt, to me, a bit too unrealistic for an urban fantasy. There was no shadow here. There was good and bad, light and dark. The whole thing felt a touch too perfect. I prefer my urban fantasy with a little bit more reality and Reality lacked that.
Arie is a little bit whiny, a little bit woe-is-me, as anyone would be in a first-person novel narrated by a grieving daughter and other than that there is not much I can say about her. I love that reading is her escape and that she owns a bookstore, but unlike characters in my favorite books, I don't want to meet her, I don't want to be her best friend.
Both her love interests (River and Ashe) are stereotypical. They are textbook examples of the YA love triangle: the tall, dark, magical, stranger with whom there is an undeniable attraction and the always-been-there best friend who the protagonist just can't hurt but also can't deny attraction to paranormal interest. This being said River was really sweet if a bit too sweet.
By far the best character in this book is Starling, Arie's best female friend. Why is it that best friends in YA novels are always so perfect? They are funny, sassy, and kind. Like Zuzana in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Starling is just one of those character whose scenes you can't wait to read.
Overall this novel is good: magical and utopian but just a touch too perfect. It was too light, too happy. It niggled at me, seeming fake, contrived. Fantasy, even urban fantasy is not supposed to be realistic but it is not supposed to be fake either.
A good book, but a bit too perfect to be great,
I loved Gayle Forman's Just One Day (not so much Just One Year) and If I Stay (video review!) and I Was Here (That title, though!) did not disappoint!
Cody was so close to her best friend Meg that they were more like sisters, but Meg has just killed herself, leaving a suicide note in a timed email sent to Meg's parents and Cody. Cody feels lost in the aftermath of losing someone who felt like her better half, someone who has been around her for the majority of her life, someone who she had planned a future with, someone who she knew as well as she knew herself, someone whose family seems more like her family than her own single mother. Then Meg’s parents ask her to go to Meg's dorm to collect their daughter’s stuff. While there she meets Meg's ex, the moody, womanizing, guitarist commonly known as Ben (more on him later), and finds Meg's laptop. A laptop with an email account. An email account with months of correspondence missing. Months during which Cody knows Meg was active—her own inbox proves this. Combined with an encrypted folder, Meg's younger brother's matter-of-fact intelligence and Cody's own need for closure (on more matters than one), the computer leads her on a Veronica Mars-esque road trip of suspicion, investigation, secrets, love, friendship and discovery. She discovers Meg’s involvement in an online suicide network that encourages suicide instead of preventing it. This book has a truly great plot allowing heaps of room for quotable lines and character development, two of the things that I look for in contemporary YA. It is a book for that area of your shelf reserved for contemporary YA chock full with character, meaning and discovery: John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Stephen Chbosky, David Levithan and Robyn Schneider's Severed Heads, Broken Hearts (also called The Beginning of Everything).
Cody is determined, clever, and thoughtful. She exists in the emotional shadow of a dead best friend who shares qualities with Allison of the Pretty Little Liars series and Lilly in Veronica Mars: qualities such as being the sort of person who, at times, shines so bright that they block out the people around them. While Meg was alive she and Cody were inseparable and in death pictures of the two of them still plaster the living girl’s walls. Cody needs to find out the truth behind Meg’s death before she can let go of the memory and try to start a life on her own. She also seems to feel guilty for not noticing that her friend was suicidal as the girl didn't display any of the 'warning signs' mentioned on the internet. Cody is many-layered and often unsure, doubtful about not only herself but about others. At times she even feels as though the ache of Meg's death is too strong for her, and she begins to contemplate going the same way as Meg, especially during correspondence with the mysterious All_BS (a person on the suicide forum Meg used), who Cody attempts to blame for Meg's 'murder'.
The other major character in this book is the above-mentioned Ben. When Cody first meets Ben she hates him. She finds him sleazy and fake, especially when it is revealed that he slept with Meg before her death. She reads their email conversations, sees a message from Ben—“you have to leave me alone”—and is not happy. At all. She judges Ben for who she thinks he is. Then she gets to know him. In my notes I have drawn a love heart around his name so obviously I think he is a good romantic hero. The best thing in Cody and Ben's relationship is, I have to say, the cats. It's what really builds their relationship and it is just about the cutest thing ever. She uses them as an excuse to see him and the fact that he has pictures of them on his phone shows that the womanizing rocker has a soft side. I really enjoyed reading their relationship, just as I enjoyed reading the other relationships Gayle Forman has penned (Willem and Allyson’s in Just One Day, and Adam and Mia’s in If I Stay)
Another character worth a mention is Scottie, Meg's younger brother who was a joy to read. Can Gayle Forman write lovable little brothers or what? Like Teddy in If I Stay (who I loved, as shown in the video) Scottie is just great. I love that unlike many other authors Gayle Forman ignores the annoying little brother stereotype and the boys she writes are funny and clever and thoughtful as opposed to just being annoying comic relief.
Lastly the people Cody meets along the way (Stoner Richard, Alice, Harry) are unique and funny. Overall this book gets major points on character.
This novel will be an excellent addition to any YA fan's bookshelf or eReader if they like thought-provoking books about suicide, mental illness and friendship with occasional forays into music and cats.
It also gets extra points because Meg’s nickname for Cody was Buffy and just, Buffy. But anyway, that’s just me so…
Wow, just wow.
To be shelved next to books like Courtney Summers's Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are, and Kim Kane and Marion Roberts's Cry Blue Murder (cover blog here), this book is a unique, breathtaking, terrifying look at small town life in the US. Suicide, bullying, sex, rumours, popularity and teen politics.
This small-town tale follows new girl Carolyn Lessing from her arrival as shiny new toy to her tragic end through a course of bullying, name-calling, one upping, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, eating disorder, homecoming dances and self-harm from the eyes of a nameless student (or group of students) at the school. It is hard-hitting and has the capacity to take away the reader's faith in humanity. After what happens to Carolyn in the car with Shane Duggan, I came to the conclusion that there was not a single good-person in the entire novel. I was right. Even the narrator is cruel to Carolyn (without realising it), the reflect on how what people (Brooke Moore and Gemma Davies) post on Facebook about Carolyn is 'kinda okay' even though they are downright mean: "maybe it was kinda okay to be posting crap on Facebook...but this was different...this was really fucking mean". They post things such as: "CL [Carolyn Lessing] is a skinny Yankee slut”, "If i hear one more person say that they feel sorry for that PATHETIC DRAMA QUEEN, i'm going over to her Pottery Barn house on D'Evereux Drive to cut her myself" (posted shortly after the school found out Carolyn self-harms). Carolyn also receives texts to the same tune: "Leave me alone whore," "Die bitch", "Dirty SKANK". Like Blue Murder, Weightless is a cautionary tale on the dangers of the Internet but, instead of focussing on stalking and murder, it focuses on bullying and teen politics in a similar way to Courtney Summers's novels. This is part of what makes the book so thought-provoking. Like many of my favourite YA novels, this book isn't scared to push boundaries. People say that kids can be cruel. But they are wrong: teenagers can be crueller. The Internet is the realm of the twenty-first century teen and makes bullying in anonymity a whole lot easier. This novel argues that the teens of today have an unrivalled psychological weapon at their fingertips and, when at the mercy of anger or jealousy, can kill with a Facebook post, a text, and email, a YouTube video. Sarah Bannan isn't scared to write about this and that is one of the reasons I enjoyed Weightless: it is an eye opener, a risk, and it's a book that really makes you think.
Okay, this is hard, as we never truly learn the identity of the narrator, or whether it is one person or a group. Also, as I said above: there is not a single good person in this book. They are only three types of people: victim (Carolyn Lessing), bullies (Brooke Moore, Gemma Davies, and Shane Duggan) and bystanders (everyone else, including the narrator/s). The narrator/s is perhaps the worst kind of bystander. They are on the swim team with Carolyn and originally want to be her friend. When she starts getting bullied, they are conscious of it, but take no action. They don't even ask Carolyn if she needs help, don't tell anyone. They see the cuts on her wrists and don't do anything. They see what people say to her, do to her but mainly talk about her and analyse her behind her back. They are low on the social food chain and ruled by teen politics, preferring to text and instant message about events, outfits, people, things said, than take action. They are silent everywhere except on their phones, on their social networks. I'll say it again: not a single good person.
But I did like this book, a lot. I would recommend it to fans of Cry Blue Murder , Courtney Summers's books, or the Pretty Little Liars series. Anyone who isn't scared to read something uncensored and bleak, exposing the cruelty the Internet allows.
This was a good book. Not a great book but a good one.
Plot-wise this is a book you can shelve with The Hunger Games, Divergent, and especially Emma Pass' Acid (also reviewed by me!)
Set in a sexist dystopia where women are raised to be wives and mothers, teenagers resemble the housewife characters in stories such as The Help, and men are groomed for an 'assignment', a job that the nameless big boss known simply as 'The Cardinal' has picked out for them. The novel opens before protagonist Rebecca's acceptance ceremony (a cross between a ball and Panem's reaping ceremonies). Rebecca is out shopping with her overbearing mother and best friend Cheryl for-wait for it-dance cards for the next evening's ball. This is when we first notice that Rebecca is different. Instead of buying a futuristic iPhone-esque dance card like everyone else, she buys something a bit more traditional. Baby blue and requiring actual writing (gasp!), Rebecca's dance card is adorably old-fashioned and noticeably different. The story continues as Rebecca meets rich, blonde, charming Eric. He's perfect, his dad is a doctor, meaning he will probably be selected for the same 'assignment', and he's signing her dance card early. It's obvious, they're meant to be. You see, the pressure's on: if Rebecca isn't married soon she will be forced into an arranged marriage. That's the whole point of the ball-to meet eligible bachelors. Not that many of these marriages lead to love, as Rebecca learns later on.
Then the hour arrives. Rebecca and Cheryl are dressed in silk and tulle and satin, their hair is perfectly curled, their gloves pulled up to their elbows. The acceptance ceremony has begun. All sixteen-year olds in this American dystopia must be presented to the 'Machine' so they can filter out the 'criminals', those detrimental to society. If the 'Machine' flashes red then, the person touching it is a criminal and will be sent to the PIT. At least that's what people think. The 'Machine' only filters out criminals, but when it decides Rebecca deserves the PIT everything she thought to be true is thrown into conflict. She isn't a criminal, at least she doesn't think she is, but if that's what the 'Machine' says then....
But at the PIT she meets friends, meets a group of people who prove that criminals aren't the only people sent to the PIT. Homosexuals, intellectuals, people with a mind for revolution, people who can't have children, people with mental or physical disabilities. Her experiences in the PIT prove that the Cardinal isn't who she thinks he is. He is small-minded, prejudiced, sexist. And like Katniss, Tris and Jenna before her, Becca is now primed for revolution.
The main letdown of this well-worn plot (and what sets it apart) is the romance arc. This book isn't supposed to be original, but the romance line is too predictable, too unrealistic and Rebecca's fixation with men becomes slightly annoying. Unlike other dystopian heroines love isn't something on the side for Rebecca, it is everything. It is the driving force behind her actions-she can't stand to be separated from her significant other. This book advocates the power of true love it in a way that other dystopians I've read haven't.
Rebecca isn't as compelling or interesting as the other YA dystopian heroines I've read. Not that I particularly like those heroines: Katniss, Tris, Jenna and now Becca were all hard for me to read, like, and identify with. They are overly brave, overly moral, overly devoted to their partners. The heroines I love are multi-layered, strong and interesting. Of all the dystopian heroines, I like Katniss the most but I feel as though she has never had a bad thought; she is too pure. Strong-yes, brave-yes, rebellious-yes, realistic-no. But we don't read dystopians to find realistic heroines. We read dystopians for rebels, fighters. Proud, strong, moral, protective girls who are so much better than us. But Rebecca doesn't fit this bill. She is a romance heroine. Devoted and daydreaming with a sprinkle of revolution, of bravery, of persuasion.
Other characters aren't as three dimensional but, compared to other YA love interests, the male lead is disappointing (in my opinion). When you can develop a crush on a book character in a YA romance, it's a good thing. Compared to The Mortal Instruments' Jace, The infernal Devices' Will (and Jem), and the Tiger's Curse series' Ren and Kishan, Rite of Rejection's hero isn't swoon-worthy.
This being said, I did enjoy the book. Like I said, It was not a great book, but a good book. And I strongly recommend it to readers who like a bit of romance in their dystopians, fans of Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth and especially Emma Pass.
1. So, Odette, what is your favourite book cover?
My favourite book cover at the moment is Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. There a quite a few editions, some with a mechanical drawing of the castle, another with the title spread across the majority and the colour purple that fades into a green.
2. Cool. Next question: what was a book you cried in?
I cannot think of a single book I have cried in. Although there may have been a part of Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare where I wanted to cry a little.
So not Clockwork Princess? That book turned me into a complete mess!
I read the Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince straight after each other a while before the Clockwork Princess came out and I didn't like it as much, so I didn't find it that sad.
3. Ah, okay. i read them all in a row. Anyway, what about a book you laughed in?
John Dies at the End by David Wong, a “comedic horror” book I laughed through many points in it. The main character is sarcastic and his best friend is an absolute idiot.
4. Well with a title like that... Now, what was the last book you read?
The last book I read was The Magicians' Guild, the first book in Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician series. It's about a girl who finds her magical capabilities by throwing a stone at a magician. Growing up to hate and fear magicians, she has to hide, fearing she will be captured or killed for her actions. I found myself finishing it quickly, eager to read the next book.
5. And, what book are you currently reading?
The book I am currently reading is The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers. It is about a Crat (something that is like a cat except it has an extra liver and is multi-lingual) called Echo who lives in the fantasy town of Malaisea. His owner, an old lady, died, leaving Echo to fend for himself. Ghoolion the Alchemaster finds the Crat and offers to feed him until the next full moon in exchange for his body fat. I am not very far into it, however so far I find it engaging.
Okay, so that is all. Thanks a bunch!
I received a pre-release copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This paranormal romance starts off well. The premise is interesting: the hero is one of the grim reapers and the heroine has some weird unexplained power that means she can raise corpses from the dead. The setting could have worked really well: horror, the occult and small-town America are like chocolate, chilli and ice-cream: perfectly good on their own but heavenly combined (okay, maybe "heavenly" is the wrong word there…) The hero is classically dark, brooding and electric guitar playing. The heroine has a funny best friend and is bullied endlessly. It was shaping up to be a good, if clichéd, book. I was willing to give it a chance. At points I even had to force myself not to open it. But I soon noticed its shortcomings.
I’m all for a bit of zombie/werewolf/vampire/witch/demon action. I loved Warm Bodies and, I admit, was pretty sucked in by Twilight. But the reanimated corpses in The Undead, while not craving blood or flesh but stalking the heroine, were a bit too gruesome for my liking. A little bit of blood, when delivered the right way can be interesting but the bodily fluids and sagging flesh of the undead in this book are off-putting. The scene in which the corpse of Julie breaks her fingernail trying to get into the car and leaks a nameless brown fluid onto the window made me slightly nauseous and this wasn’t the only time I recoiled during this book. A little bit of gore is okay, when it has a meaning, but in The Undead it was just gross. Also, the actual scary scenes are few and far between, acting as no more than a sexual tension machine for the hero and heroine.
I’m not going to lie: the characters annoyed me. The heroine, Lyla, most of all. I like my heroines with a bit of fire, a bit of attitude (See 10 Fiery-Haired Heroines) and Lyla lacks both of these. Girl needs to speak up, stand up for herself. Cowering, complaining, and whining are not going to get her anywhere. When your brother and best friend start freezing you out ask them why, don’t just cry and complain that you need them and you don’t know what you did wrong. When people bully you in the hallways don’t just duck your head and continue to nurse a crush on their ringleader: tell someone, take them on. Don’t spend your life lingering in shadows and crying. It’s not gong to get you anywhere and it’s actually really annoying. Having half the book told from the point of view of a girl with an obsession with playing the victim got tiring after a while. To be fair she is being hunted down by corpses and deserted by her friends, but she doesn’t do anything about it. She just keeps trying to please those around her and complaining about how hard her life is. In other paranormal romances I’ve read (that I’ve enjoyed), the heroine has guts. Heroines like Julie in Warm Bodies and Alexia in Soulless. Lyla does learn to speak up for herself, but it takes seventy-three percent of the book and a boyfriend for her to reach that stage. She is an unengaging and annoying narrator and left me rolling my eyes. Don’t get me wrong: it’s okay to be scared and sad, narrators in lots of my favourite books are, but playing the victim constantly, with language lacking beauty or meaning gets a bit old after one hundred or so pages. Reading Lyla's chapters was actually painful: she lets herself be treated badly and it made me want to shout at her. (see 'Romance' below)
Eric, the hero isn’t much better. He treats Lyla horribly, using magic on those she loves so she is totally alone. He refuses to help and wipes her off like a flea. Yet he waxes lyrical about having to protect her. The protection act is overdone. Girl doesn’t need to be stalked and lonely because she can’t take care of herself. Eric treats Lyla horribly but still expects her to love him. The worst part is - she does.
Eric treats Lyla badly: he isolates her, bullies her, leaves her, but, apparently he loves her; he needs to protect her, save her, she would die without him. But, alas, she can’t touch him, he has to kill her, their relationship was doomed from the outset! I found the whole romance in this book too implausible. He is the reason for her sadness, her loneliness, but she doesn’t care. She loves him anyway (contributing to her character downfalls - see above). Eric is just too cruel and sexist for me to buy or support this relationship. Also, the bit at the end, the bit that solves all their problems is completely unexplained. Leaving the reader in a complete ‘Wait: what?” state of mind.
All in all: this book has a promising premise, but an ordinary execution.