Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth, Book Review

 

Goodreads Blurb

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times best-selling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

 

My Review

My rating: 2.5*

Imagine you’re a child. You’re just about old enough to understand what Christmas is because you’ve just had it, and you’re already looking forward to the next one. Unwrapping presents is so much fun! It’s exciting, mysterious. What will be inside?

But it’s January and you have a whole year to wait. You wish the time away, wish it to speed up, go faster, because you can’t wait for Christmas to come, yet no amount of wishing makes it come any sooner. You have to be patient. Wait. 

Days pass.

Weeks.

Months.

Until eventually it’s December again and Christmas is coming! Finally, the day arrives. You get up, a year older with a years worth of excitement contained within you. But still you have to wait, because you can’t open your presents till after dinner and, as much as you enjoy the day, you can’t help thinking about unwrapping your presents.

What will be in them? you wonder.

Until, at last! Its time.

Slowly you peel of the pretty wrapping paper. You open the box, a delighted smile waiting to be worn on your face. You open the box, lift the lid, anticipation making your fingers tremble, and inside are…the rotted bones of your favourite pet.

That’s how I feel about this book.

On a technical note, it’s well written, though it lacks the fun element I so enjoyed in Divergent.

That’s all.

Posting Negative Book Reviews

Why do I always feel so guilty when I write a negative book review? Do all of us writers feel that inner conflict when faced with reviewing a book in a less than favourable light?

Perhaps. Perhaps it’s because we understand the labour of love that is creating and writing a story. Our characters become our friends, family. We feel protective over them. I know I certainly do. But here’s the thing: once we tell a story, put it out there, it’s not just ours any more. It belongs, in a sense, to everyone that’s invested the time to read it. I mean, that’s why we write, after all; to inform, to excite, to move, to provoke. 

So I ask myself: why be afraid of expressing a negative emotion or feeling? They can be as emotive and passionate as their positive counterparts; they’re valid, as long as they are delivered in a respectful fashion.

I have always maintained that I will not be disparaging towards other writers. It’s not necessary. But I’ve given myself a talking too today and told myself to be brave with my true feelings when it comes to writing and posting book reviews, otherwise my glowing reviews of the books I love somehow lose their merit, become less credible. 

So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write reviews about the books that provoke me, excite me, affect me in such a way that I feel compelled to express it out loud. Really, that’s a good thing. It means that, negative or positive, the book I’m reviewing has succeeded. It’s made me feel something that I want to share.

 

Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver, Book Review

 

Goodreads Blurb

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed. The nascent rebellion that was underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight. After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven. Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.

As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor. Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’s points of view. They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

 

My Review

Rating: 3*

I’ve been all around the houses with the Delirium trilogy. This is a series I wanted to love but, sadly, didn’t.

Why not?

It’s a great concept, a scary concept, where love — amor deliria nervosa — is the enemy, a disease that afflicts and infects humanity and, therefore, must be eradicated. Snippets of the movie Equilibrium kept flashing through my head, and I really enjoyed that movie.

So why not this series?

I can only repeat my issue with book 2 (Pandemonium) — there simply isn’t enough suspense, intrigue, to really get the juices flowing and the heart pounding.

That’s why I don’t love it.

The thing I did enjoy, more than the story, is Lauren Oliver’s writing. Perhaps I didn’t notice it in the first two books, or perhaps her writing has developed, but I found parts of this book to be a joy to read. I found her sentence structure and word selection in places to be a pleasure to read. For example:

“They will want to string the symbol up, and make it bleed meaning, so other’s will learn their lesson.”

Simple yet effective. I like when a collection of words paint a mental picture and also have a sub-context at the same time, and I found much of that in this book. But I think I enjoyed Ms Oliver’s often adept use of words more than the story.

And therein lies the main problem for me with this book. It’s like having a plate full of tasty ‘amuse bouche’ and being told that’s dinner. No matter how tasty and well cooked each of those treats are it’s just not satisfying enough to fill you up. I’m a glutton with books, I like to feel my head is full of the intrigue and anticipation that bubbles away inside you when you are reading a really great story told well. This falls a little short on that front.

I also enjoyed hearing Hana’s story. I just wish there had been more trickery, more surprises, in how the story unfolded. Unfortunately this is a series that will not linger in my mind, but I will be interested to see what Ms Oliver writes next.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Writing & Me

In 2012, after several years of ill health, I was diagnosed with EDS Type 3 (hypermobile type). In simple terms, EDS is a connective tissue disorder that affects the way the body produces collagen (that’s the protein that gives strength to our joints, muscles and skin). My body doesn’t produce collagen the way it should, so I’m too stretchy. In turn, that means that more stress is put on my muscles to try to provide some stability and rigidity to my body.

 It can be a tough thing to deal with. I’ve heard many EDSers describe it as feeling like they are running a marathon every day. That’s a pretty accurate analogy. Other than the pain, fatigue and “brain fog” are our biggest enemies.

You may wonder why I’m sharing  all this with you. After all, this is a blog about books and writing, not health conditions.  I’m telling you because finding out I had EDS was a large factor in why I started writing. 

For seven years I worked as a Library and Information Officer for my local council. As you can imagine, that was the perfect job for a life-long book lover. Sadly, because of my misbehaving health, I lost my job in 2010, and my mother very suddenly passed away at the same time. That was probably the most difficult time I’ve experienced in my life so far.

But this isn’t a sob story. 

One night a few months after I’d lost my job, I had a dream (I know, what a cliché!). It was awesome! It was so good that I woke myself up to write it down so I wouldn’t forget it. The next day I started fleshing out the characters that I’d met in my dream. Even in the dream they had personalities that were very much their own. All I had to do was listen very carefully to what they were whispering to me. Then I started writing out profiles for them, and family trees, and histories and quirks. Very quickly I was hooked. I’d always written, poems and songs mostly. Never stories. I always believed that I had no imagination. And yet here I was, suddenly with a book full of scribbled notes and my head filling with ideas faster than I could get them on paper. 

Even then, I didn’t know I was writing a book. I was simply trying to keep myself occupied while I was unwell, unemployed and grieving. Writing and researching became my lifelines. I would go to bed dreaming — about my characters, or apostrophe’s, or the difference between  em-dashes and en-dashes — and I would get up in the morning with my son and spend all day learning and researching and writing while he was at school. He’d always know if I’d spent the day immersed in my work because he’d come home from school to find me with a slightly glazed, faraway look in my eyes.

It wasn’t until I’d written 30,000 words that I finally admitted and acknowledged that, maybe, just maybe, I was writing a book. It was hard work; I had so much to learn, not just about the story, but about writing. And I loved it! Every bit of it. Two years and 80,000 words later I had a completed story. I’m not published as yet. I haven’t quite worked out what avenue to pursue to get my writing out there. I’m thinking maybe I’ll share it on here.

My writing story may have started out because of circumstances less than ideal, but through it, I have found something I can do, even with EDS, something that stimulates and challenges me. I found my passion. Yes, some days are a struggle, but what writing gives me is so much more that what it costs me. Through it, I’ve met (in the cyber sense) some wonderful people — readers and writers — that inspire and motivate me to keep reading and writing.

Perhaps if I’d never gotten ill and lost my job, I’d never have started writing, never have found my passion for creating. For that I’m eternally grateful. There will never be a time when I stop writing. It’s part of me now. 

So if a few days sometimes go by when I don’t post, please be patient with me. Know that, while I’m impersonating Mr Fantastic, I’m stroking my chin and planning, scheming and machinating. In the writing sense, of course. And, hopefully soon, I’ll have the first excerpt of the new book I’m writing for you to read.

Happy writing, peeps!

 

 

 

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer, Book Review

Goodreads Blurb

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling instalment of the best-selling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.

As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

 

My Review

Rating: 3.5*

Sadly this book didn’t grab me as much as Cinder did. It felt a little bit patchy for me, my interest wasn’t sustained throughout the entirety of the book as it was with the first one. 

I did like the new characters and the fact that we had two threads to follow. This book was more complex than the first and I admire what the author is trying do in adding complexity and depth to the series as a whole. I don’t think it was entirely successful but it was certainly not a failure in that respect, and I am prepared to attribute it to second-book-syndrome.

There won’t be any sleepless nights for me while waiting for the next book but I will read it as there is enough good writing and interest in the plot and the characters for me to continue.

Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves (Scarecrow #5) by Matthew Reilly, Book Review

Goodreads Blurb

At an abandoned Soviet base in the Arctic, the battle to save the world has begun…

THE SECRET BASE

It is a top-secret base known only as Dragon Island. A long-forgotten relic of the Cold War, it houses a weapon of terrible destructive force, a weapon that has just been re-activated…

A RENEGADE ARMY

When Dragon Island is seized by a brutal terrorist force calling itself the Army of Thieves, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and there are no crack units close enough to get there in time to stop the Army setting off the weapon.

ONE SMALL TEAM

Except, that is, for a small equipment-testing team up in the Arctic led by a Marine captain named Schofield, call-sign SCARECROW. It’s not a strike force; just a handful of Marines and civilians. It’s not equipped to attack a fortified island held by a vicious army. But Scarecrow will lead the team in anyway, because someone has to.

THE ULTIMATE HERO IS BACK, FACING THE ULTIMATE ARMY OF VILLAINS.

 

My Review

Rating: 5*

I absolutely loved this book. Matthew Reilly is my favourite action writer. He has the ability to grab you by the throat and not let go until the book is finished.

I have to say I’m really glad Scarecrow is back, I’ve missed him. The title is a bit naff but that does not reflect on the contents at all. The Army of Thieves picks up from where the last one left off. 

Scarecrow has been sent to the Arctic to test prototype equipment, almost as a punishment for his escapades. The French are out for his blood and it makes sense to have him as far away as possible. It also means he is there with a mixture of Army guys and civilians.

This sets things up very well for what is to come, though I will not give away any spoilers about the story. Permit me to say, though, how happy I was to see the return of Mother, and the additions of Baba and Bertie were inspired (I love Bertie!!!). I’ll be interested to see what happens with Champion as well.

Please remember, Matthew Reilly writes FICTION. You must temporarily suspend belief when reading one of his books. They are not intended to be educational aids. They are FUN!!! And boy, is this book fun.

I must caution you, though, there are some torture scenes that are extremely graphic and even I found myself skimming those pages. However, they are not purely gratuitous so don’t be put off.

I hope this is not the last we see of Scarecrow, Mother, Baba and Bertie. It was a roller-coaster read that I didn’t put down until it was finished.

Crewel (Crewel World #1) by Gennifer Albin, Book Review

 Goodreads Blurb

Incapable. Awkward. Artless. 
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail. 

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

My Review

This book doesn’t really inspire me to write a review but because it’s such a mixed bag I feel I must.

Rating: 2.5* on merit. (Wish I could give it a higher rating  because I don’t feel a 2* would be fair as there is a lot of good work in this book, but in good faith I can’t give it a 3*.)

I wanted to like this book and there were things about it that I did like. The writing is good and I can’t criticize Albin’s imagination. Where the problem starts for me is with her ability to clearly express what she is seeing inside her head. 

I once had a maths teacher who was extremely gifted when it came to understanding mathematical concepts, but her teaching ability was non-existent. In a matter of months I went from someone who loved maths and was competent at it to someone who struggled to the point of hating maths. If you can’t convey what’s inside you in a way where others can connect with it then it loses it’s magic, it’s power. That’s how this book made me feel. Albin had a wonderful idea with Crewel, full of originality and potential, but somewhere between concept and the page, the clarity was lost in transition.

The main character, Adelice, I found to be bland for want of a better word, and her two cohorts were much the same, resulting in my feelings of indifference towards them. The antagonists where actually much more interesting characters, more believable, more rounded.

My other major issue with this book was the dead air in the middle section of the book. I appreciate that Albin was trying to give a real insight into what Adelice’s life with the Spinsters was like but it needed more grit. There wasn’t much to get my teeth into; it was pleasant enough but uninspiring and that frustrated me because I was actually interested in the possibilities of what might have happened.

The end, however, was what I’d wished for throughout the book, and certainly went some way to appeasing my earlier frustrations. There was some clarity, finally, some action and some interesting, if not totally unexpected, revelations. Sadly, it was too little, too late to change my overall opinion of this book, though I may now be tempted to read the next one…