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review 2018-01-19 14:34
Words fail me
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Alright, there is a lot going on in this little piece of poison dripping, mind-fuck of a story, and I don't know that I'm up to the task.

 

First of all, because it's the immediate, I call bullshit on that end (I'm talking of the 21th chapter that was cut-out of the USA version; if you've not read it, this paragraph will make little sense). I read the author's introduction and explanation, and I more or less agree that our empathy and sympathy tends to grow as we mature (and we are more or less savages as kids and teens), but having read the book, I don't believe this level of inner cruelty and utter disregard for other people, or the length it was self-indulged and brought out onto the world can be called "a folly of youth" and hand-waived like that. I do not believe that level of monstrosity is something that can be redeemed, worked out, grow bored out of, and the person just go on to be some well adjusted adult.

 

I also do not know what is to be done with such a person to be honest, even if my knee-jerk reaction if I was the victim would be to kill them. Brain-washing into effectively loosing their free will does not seem to be the answer though.

 

Next: There is a very strong undercurrent of the battle of the generations going on here. The way money is treated, those articles in the diary, and the mention of day hour and night ours, and whom the street belongs to, and even, who has the power in the first part vs. the second, and what it consist on.

 

Actually, the three parts are distillate poison on abuse of power: young hooligans for first, then the police and other punishing/correctional institutions for second, politicians in the third. Everyone screws everyone over, and in the end I hated the lot, little Alex, and his little followers, and the police, and the jailers, and the priests, and the doctors, and the politicians, and the social fighters, and even his victims.

 

Shit, I wouldn't recommend this one, even if I found it oddly compelling *shudder*. It is interesting, and effective, but a vicious way to provoke thought, maybe unnecessarily.

 

Done. Onto "I am Pusheen the Cat", ice-cream and a helping of crack fics for the soul.

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review 2018-01-02 01:06
A Funeral for an Owl - Jane Davis

Using a novel to highlight invisible social issues, such as runaway teenagers, taking flight as a consequence of factors such as domestic violence, gang culture and parental rejection is a tricky business. For example, who knew “one in ten run away from home before they reach the age of sixteen, a massive 100,000 every year”? It’s a fairly damning statistic, which says much about British society and an apparent incapacity to protect vulnerable young people. Moreover, “two thirds of children who run away are not reported to the police.” Still, against this rather bleak backdrop, Jane Davis has constructed a subtle plot, which does far more than merely generate pathos. Indeed, JD has also sought to establish that this is not a problem solely besetting some poverty-stricken underclass, but rather an issue that crosses mundane social boundaries and ‘runaways’ might therefore be seen as victims of an extreme degree of family separation.


‘A Funeral for an Owl’ centres on history teacher, Jim Stevens, who works at an inner city high school, but originates from the nearby council estate and though the vagaries of social mobility have enabled Jim to move literally to the other side of the railway tracks, he has not strayed far from his roots. When a violent incident at school sees Jim hospitalised, colleague (‘Ayisha’) is drawn into the clandestine support he has been providing to one of his pupils (‘Shamayal’) and Ayisha’s own integrity, in the face of strict policies and procedures, is challenged.


Ayisha has benefitted from a stable family upbringing and though struggling with the expectations of a distant and demanding mother, she has little insight into the profound hardships experienced by some of her disadvantaged pupils, away from school. And so, while Jim languishes in a hospital bed, the story alternates between examining Jim’s past experience, which culminated in his being stabbed and the very pressing present, which finds Ayisha discovering that doing the ‘right thing’ can take courage and a sense of bewildering isolation.


In spite of his inner city upbringing, ten year-old Jim is into birdwatching and this egregious pastime enables the boy to connect with the troubled Aimee White. Two years his senior, Aimee is destined to attend the all-girls school designated by her wealthy parents, but for the intervening six weeks of the summer holidays, the pair fashion a poignant relationship, which bridges their respective worlds. Almost spookily prescient, Aimee observes that “Indian tribes believe owls carry the souls of living people and that, if an owl is killed, the person whose soul they’re carrying will also die.”


Later, the geekiness of Jim’s birdwatching also captures Shamayal’s imagination and there is symmetry too, in Jim’s burgeoning relationship with Ayisha.


However, what stood out most for me in this book was the crafted writing, in which JD changes gear so smoothly that the journey was simply a pleasure and over all too quickly. The plot was deceptively simple and yet the characterization of the protagonists was insightful and interesting (I especially enjoyed ‘Bins’ the estate eccentric, who is curiously invisible) and made the story eminently plausible and readable. Clearly the book is not targeted solely at young adults and as with a lot of good fiction, the food-for-thought it provides is rightly taxing. As a social worker myself, it would be easy to criticize the rather neat conclusion, which perhaps sanitizes the ‘messiness’ that attends typical family life, but that would be churlish and miss the point. The adage that ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ is at the heart of this book and we all need to do our bit…

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review 2017-11-15 20:29
The Masked Truth - Kelley Armstrong

I was rather impressed by this book. The writing style is pretty good, and the opening prologue is one of the more impactful ones I've seen in a YA novel. Riley is babysitting for these two parents, when suddenly burglars invade the house and kill them. She ends up going to therapy because she's having anxiety over the incident, and the story goes on from there.

 

There's a lot of deaths in this book.

 

The main part of the story involves a hostage situation. Riley is at a therapy sleepover with several other teenagers, and three kidnappers storm the place, armed with guns. At first it seems like it's just a hostage situation and everything will be okay - Riley happens to be the daughter of a (deceased) cop, and feels she knows how all of this works - but not everything goes to plan, and soon we have a lot of dead kids all over the place.

 

In all the confusion, she manages to escape from the kidnappers with one of the other guys in the therapy group - Max, who turns out to suffer from schizophrenia. The doors and windows are all locked, and their kidnappers now seem intent on killing them all. Before long, everyone starts dropping like flies.

 

That's the first part of the book. The SECOND part, strangely enough, is when Riley and Max escape the building and manage to call 911...and the cops suspect Max for being responsible for the deaths of 7 kids and both adult therapists. A bit odd, in my opinion. I would have thought that the author would focus on other aspects, rather than the reasons why Max was framed for mass-murder.

 

Riley is a strong character in her own right. She was alright. Max, too, is a rather interesting person, and the chapters are indispersed with his personal thoughts. He's constantly second-guessing himself, is struggling with his own mental health (he has to cope without his meds for a few hours, which is pretty bad for him), and has this internal voice in his head which seems to be constantly arguing with him. I don't know much about schizophrenia myself, but I thought it was presented rather well. 

 

It did get a bit annoying after a while, though. I just wanted to see how the plot was going to turn out, and instead the author gave me another huge chapter about Max's thoughts on what had already happened.

 

Also, don't ask me why, but he had this really dumb British stereotype surrounding him. He was saying stuff like "Tally ho!" and "Jolly good" as if he was some posh old-fashioned royal out of the middle of the London in the 80s. Yes, he's British, and half the time Max was joking about his mannerisms, but seriously now?

 

I mean, come on. I'm British. No one talks like that anymore. Even the goddamn Queen doesn't talk like that, least of all teenagers! Does the author really not know how to write an English character without resorting to really awkward stereotypes?

 

I wouldn't call it racist or anything - British stereotypes aren't really that insulting (I can't tell you how often someone tries to ask if I drink English tea, and ironically I've never drunk tea). But it looks a bit embarrassing.

 

Here's my other gripe about the book. Loads of teenagers die in the first half of the book, mainly because the gunmen have shot them in some evil or sadistic fashion. It's all very scary and edgy.

 

Or at least it would be, if I actually knew any of these characters for more than a chapter beforehand. Seriously. I was barely introduced to them. The first person dies just a few chapters in, not long after the prologue where a similar thing happened. It was just really jarring and I found it hard to care at times.

 

At one point, one of the other girls gets close to Riley and tells her how brave she is and that she's a hero for keeping everyone together...a character who had said almost nothing up to this point. I was rolling my eyes so hard at her, and, sure enough, she gets shot less than a chapter later.

 

I get what the author is trying to go for here, but could you at least give us a chance to know some of these characters beforehand?? They know each other's names. This is a therapy sleepover, for crying out loud! I wanted to know their backgrounds about their therapy! It was done really well in other books, but here...we just didn't know anything about them! At least, not until the last minute, once it was too late. I had trouble remembering the names of the therapists.

 

Instead, these mentally ill kids are just treated like fodder to be killed off by the gunmen. I guess the author was in a hurry to kill them all off, so she didn't bother to give us much background about them. Oh, and there's a gay kid too. He got sent to therapy by his homophobic dad, and he dies too.

 

Once I got to the end of the book, however, there were quite a few interesting plot twists. Namely about how this wasn't a hostage situation at all, and a lot of things were planned at the start. I expected that all this would tie back to the couple who were murdered in the prologue, and naturally it did. A few nice surprises were in store, and then a few more people die before we really get to know them, and...

 

...oh yeah, and the forced romance. Riley and Max have known each other a day. One. Day. Even Riley herself acknowledges this. I just skimmed over the kisses.

 

Overall, this turned to be very enjoyable, especially towards the end. I probably wouldn't read it again, though. All those plot twists lose their effect after the first time. It was good to see some coverage of mental illness, but the way that loads of characters simply get killed before we've got the chance to know them was a significant flaw in the reading. If you're going to kill seven teenagers, at least make us care about them first.

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-11-12 12:25
Starcrossed - Josephine Angelini

When I first started reading books by Josephine Angelini, I couldn't help seeing a lot of comments saying, "This sucks. Go and read Starcrossed instead." Or "I loved Starcrossed, but this book is just terrible!"

 

Well, here I am, reading Starcrossed at last, and I don't see what all the fuss is about. It's not that great. It manages not to be completely terrible, thankfully, but the characters are really flat and the plot is full of holes. We're cursed with an overpowered female protagonist surrounded by a plethora of semi-decent characters which manage to keep me reading, but most of the reading is rather painful.

 

The plot itself is an interesting premise that I haven't seen before. If you like Greek mythology, then you'll find a lot of references to the Trojan war, and Aphrodite and Apollo and what-not which will be a pleasant surprise to find in the YA genre.

 

Oh, except for the fact that all of these high-school characters are demigods who are direct descendants of the Greek gods (which apparently are real, the Trojan war REALLY HAPPENED guys, you wouldn't believe), and they all have superpowers.

 

Did you get all that? Okay, that was the simple part.

 

The not-so-simple part is that there are all these families which are forced to hate each other and kill each other by these Furies, due to being descended from different sides of the original Trojan war...or something...and there's a reason why the protag is called Helen, and her love interest's dad is called Pallas, and there's actually another characters called frickin' Hector and there's a dead guy called Ajax...

 

Look, I'm not even going to explain how many plot holes are shredding this story apart here. It really speaks for itself. Let's get into the meat of the book.

 

Our protagonist is Helen. She doesn't know it, but she's a demigod from one of these Houses, but her mother left her dad years and years ago and left them in the shitter. She whines about it, complains about her life, has a bunch of friends at school that I didn't really give a monkey's ass about, and has practically no flaws whatsoever.

 

Oh, and later on she can fly and fire lightning from her fingertips. Go figure. Go fucking figure.

 

The term "Mary Sue" gets brought up a lot in the YA fandom. Personally, I think it's overused. It feels like a lot of female reviewers just holler "SHE'S A MARY SUE, BOOK SUCKS, KTHANXBAI" as soon as they discover that there's a strong female protagonist who annoys them in some insignificant fashion. It's stupid, really. Just making a big deal out of nothing.

 

But Helen? Okay, I'm afraid I have to say that she's ridiculously overpowered and doesn't really seem to struggle with everything. Also - in the first half of this book, she is immune to all bladed weapons. You could stab her with a sword and it would bounce right off her skin. (There's a reason for this, but it just seems so superficial at the time.)

 

I haven't even started on the Delos family yet, the other main characters in this book. Actually, they're all fairly decent. Fairly decent demigods that is, with superhuman powers.

 

The love interest, Lucas, is an interesting character. To begin with, he and Helen hate each other - because they're from different Houses - and the book is pretty hard to read for a good dozen chapters. It's just about them hating each other for no reason. Thankfully, this soon changes and they start falling for each other.

 

But they can't fall for each other, because as soon as they have sex then it will start off the whole Trojan war again or something. It sounds so ridiculous in concept.

 

Oh, and Lucas' special power? He can always tell when someone is lying to him. Early on in his relationship with Helen, he forces her to tell him how he really feels because otherwise it makes him feel uncomfortable that he can tell she told a lie. Even if it's a harmless lie. I don't know, this just didn't sit right with me.

 

Not to mention that HE lies to her occasionally. Doesn't stop him.

 

There's a load of other villains called Tantalus and Creon, many of which are extremely generic. Yeah, that's really their names.

 

Overall, the book was a mixed bag to me. It's ridiculous and tries to take itself too seriously, but there is some cool magic stuff going on. I guess. Most of the non-magical characters get the short end of the stick really.

 

It's a trilogy, too. I'm not really interested in reading the rest. I don't care about Helen and Lucas' relationship, especially since Helen isn't the best-written character in the world. Really, I preferred the other books by this author.

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-27 22:18
Firewalker (The Worldwalker Trilogy) - Josephine Angelini

This is the sequel to Trial of Fire, which was the previous book I reviewed. I expected this to be incoherent and make a mockery of itself, because it looked like this story would be taking place in the real world. You know, instead of the interesting fantasy world that had been built up to now. I prepared myself for disappointment.

 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was actually incredibly good, and a step up from the first book. Our protagonist returns to the real world, and of course real-world things happen, but the author manages to develop several characters nonetheless.

 

We get a throwback to the events that happened previously. We have a meaningful interaction with the only main character I give a shit about. The love triangle is back, only it looks a bit more serious this time. A goth girl joins them. (No, seriously.) One of the villains from the first book is actively trying to kill them this time, and thus is portrayed as MUCH more competent than any of the other villains.

 

But more than any of that? Our antagonist's backstory! We finally find out why she took Lily from her world, and her reasons for becoming the tyrant she is today! And holy shit, did this deliver. Lillian is a really well-written character and she, more than anything, kept me reading.

 

I was unsure about what I thought of this book during the first half. Lily gains a bunch of new friends, all of whom become her mechanics, and she has to rapidly explain to them about magic and willstones and shit. They believe her a bit too quickly, imo. It's a bit rushed. Oh, and two of them are in love with each other, so thanks for that.

 

Spoilers ahoy now.

 

One of the villains from the last book is actually doing something villainous now, and he kills Lily's father. Wow, that's intense. That's tragic.

 

...or at least it WOULD be if the book ever went into any depth about Lily's dad or anything. Which it doesn't. We've never met him. He's never said a fricking word. We are never, ever introduced to him, not even when he's about to die.

 

I mean, come on, you want to care us about that? Well, I don't. If you're going to kill off a character, make us care about them first.

 

Which brings me onto my next point, because - the author does exactly that near the end. Kills off one of my favourite characters, who was initiating a love triangle with Lily. 

 

And you know what? Rowan has been the love interest for the WHOLE of the first book. In the second book, Tristan takes over. And the thing is that Tristan's relationship with Lily feels so much better. They have an understanding. With Rowan, they're almost always fighting. Rowan's a dick and I don't like him. I'd really rather she ended up with Tristan.

 

On the other hand, Tristan is a womanising dudebro. Yeah. But I still empathise with him, and the fact that I PREFER this guy to the main love interest tells you just how much is wrong here. The thing is that Tristan really, really improves by the end of the book...

 

...well, until the author decides to kill him off. Great. Fan-fucking-tastic. I guess we're stick with Rowan the dickhead now. Who has now betrayed Lily and is probably going to try and kill her.

 

I don't want to spoil Lillian's revealed backstory, but I was really moved by it. A lot of things made sense. A lot of pieces fell into place. 

 

Problem is, it also started to feel like the author was trying to shove some no-nukes + hardcore vegan agenda down our throats. The protag is passionate about being against nuclear weapons, and about being vegan. Fine, she was like that in the first book. That's fine.

 

Until we discover that Lillian, the antagonist, has visited other worlds and found that nuclear war has obliterated the planets (oh no, hate the nukes), and that humans are using other humans like animals by keeping them alive and cutting off their limbs to eat. That sounds suspiciously like...the same vegan stuff she's been throwing at us...

 

I don't know why they didn't just kill the humans, freeze the bodies, and THEN eat them? Do they not have refridgeration or something? It seemed unnecessary really, just being edgy here...but whatever.

 

That aside, it was really good and I definitely enjoyed it. I'm a bit annoyed that they killed off the only semi-decent guy in the love triangle, thus dooming us to King Dickhead as the love interest instead, but there's also a lot of twists about the Woven themselves which were really interesting.

 

All in all, loved this book and didn't expect to.

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