Wednesday, 30 May 2012

'Uglies' by Scott Westerfeld

The second book I read for the Goodreads challenge was 'Uglies' by Scott Westerfeld. It is the first book in  a trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, Specials), though there is a fourth book set in the same world but it is a different city and protagonist (Extras). I've read all four this year, so I shall be reviewing them all over time.

I had heard a lot about this book before I read it. It was one that I saw repeatedly mentioned across the interwebs, especially in recommendations for dystopian books. I've been really enjoying dystopian lately, so I thought it was time to read 'Uglies'.

What's it about?
It is set in a world which has been destroyed by the human race, and has had to rebuild society. It is place where every one is 'ugly' until they reach the age of sixteen.  The Uglies are ordinary human faces, but when they turn sixteeen everyone undergoes a transformation into a 'Pretty'. The operation is to make everyone equal in terms of looks, and it makes everyone 'bubbly'. Once 'Pretty' the teenagers are allowed to cross the bridge and move into New Pretty Town, where they're only purpose it have a good time.

The protagonist in 'Uglies' is a fifteen year old girl called Tally. Tally can't wait to be Pretty and join her friends in New Pretty Town. However Tally meets a new friend, Shay, who doesn't want to be Pretty, and would rather risk the world outside their town. Shay longs to join the mysterious Smokies in The Smoke, which are a group of Uglies who refused to turn pretty. The authorities fear the Smokies, so when Shay runs away, Tally learns that not all is as it seems, and there is a not very pretty side to being Pretty. She is given an ultimatum by the authorities who are desperate to find Shay and the Smokies - find Shay and hand her to the authorities, or never turn Pretty.

What did I think of it?
I found this book to be a very addictive read. I was hooked from page one and I read the book in one sitting, which at 425 pages of large font, doesn't take too long.  The writing style is not high brow literature- unusual words and detailed descriptions aren't commonplace in this novel- but it is written in a fluent and easy to read style. The plot is well thought out, and believable, which is I think is important in a dystopian novel, as often the main dystopian plot device can be a little too science fiction, and difficult to fully believe. The technology in this book wasn't too hard to swallow and the explanation of how the world fell into it's current state was interesting and logical.  The characters are fairly well developed and Westerfeld weaves the plot together very well.

I really enjoyed the concept of this book, and the idea of brainwashing people into a certain view of what is pretty was interesting. At one point in the book Tally meets a character who hasn't had the operation and she is disgusted by his ugliness - he's only 40! She is also revolted when she sees a magazine from our current time, and the the models in it do not meet her idea of pretty. A funny thought when in today's society, they are what is considered 'pretty'. She is also very surprised when she realises that looks are hereditary- she notices a son looks like his father. It seems so crazy to not know that, but in this world, the characters are are completely brainwashed from birth into believing being Pretty is everything. Westerfeld gives a great insight into a world which allows Pretty to be valued over personality and skills. It acts almost like a warning to society, to remember that Pretty is not everything, in a world where the idea that Pretty is best is constantly reinforced by glossy magazines, television and film. This book also raises the questions- how much control should those in power have? How much should you question the world around you? Should so few be allowed to make decisions for so many?

I found with this book that although I did like Tally as a main character in this book (not so much in the later books- more on those in a separate post), and I did care about her fate, and the fate of the other major characters,  it wasn't so much the characters that kept me reading. It was more learning about the world they live in, and unravelling the conspiracies that hooked me.


Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 2 out of 50

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The 7 Deadly Sins of Reading

This is a bit off topic from book reviews but I plan to also post silly things like this, and book hauls as well as reviews. The next review is on its way ('Uglies' by Scott Westerfeld) but exams have taken over a bit, so I haven't had the time to devote to writing a thoughtful review. This tag was created by  Bookishly Malyza  on youtube. 

What is your most expensive book? What is your least expensive book?

Not sure what my most expensive book is, but I think perhaps 'Inheritance' by Christopher Paolini.  Can't remember how much I paid, possibly about £12? but it retails for £18.99.  I don't tend to buy stupidly expensive books. 

The least expensive? Mansford Park I got for £1 in a charity shop, but if you want a new book,'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them' and 'Quidditch Through The Ages' by J. K. Rowling were the cheapest as I got them free with the World Book Day token (but they retailed at £1, so they weren't pricey anyway!)


Which author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
Good question. This is really hard. Perhaps Jodi Picoult - I've enjoyed all the books I've read by her, but some a lot less than others. Some of the chapters in a few of her books are a bit slow and tedious. There are a lot of her books that I really loved though.

What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?
Easy peasy- the Harry Potter series! Hard to just pick one, as I still read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books regularly, and 'The Lord of the Rings'.

What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
'Catch 22' by Joseph Heller. I own it, and I started it, but after a few pages I wasn't hooked and it was effort to read. I shall try again at some point as it supposed to be very good, though so is 'The Catcher In The Rye' by J.D. Salinger and I hated that. 

What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?
This question makes me laugh as I don't read intellectual books usually. The books I talk about are the ones I've read and loved. I don't bother talking about intellectual ones. I can't think of an answer for this one. Perhaps 'Bad Science' by Ben Goldacre but I don't really talk about it often.

What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?
In male characters I like them to be sensitive and interesting but daring. In girls, I like the protagonist to be slightly feisty and have some sort of brain, though I do enjoy the mindless beach reads where the character is rather ditzy.


What books would you most like to receive as a gift?
I have a list as long as my arm of books I want but can't afford. If I had to pick just one... argh too hard. I just eenie meanie minie mo-ed my list, and landed on 'Leviathan' by Scott Westerfeld.

So that was the seven deadly sins of books tag! Please leave your answers in the comments. I'd love to read them. :)

Saturday, 12 May 2012

'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green

The first book I read this year was 'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green. I had this pre-ordered about a year in advance, so when it turned up on my door step I eagerly devoured it. 

For those who don't know, John Green writes young adult (YA) novels, and they are all excellent. His previous novels include - 'Looking For Alaska', 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson', 'An Abundance of Katherines' and 'Paper Towns'. John Green has a youtube channel which he shares with his brother called the vlogbrothers. It is incredibly popular and has spawned a group of people called 'Nerdfighters'. John is a lovely guy, he signed all 150,000 pre-orders of 'The Fault In Our Stars'! Mine has a lovely blue Jsquiggle in it.

Ok, enough about John, what about the book?? 

Photocredit- Gemsmaquillage
What is it about? 
A 16 year old girl called Hazel, has terminal cancer, but the tumours have shrunk, thanks to a new miracle drug. She has to carry an oxygen tank with her at all times. She is forced to attend a cancer support club which is where she meets Augustus. The two of them very quickly form a bond, and Hazel forces Gus to read her favourite book and it quickly becomes his favourite and it becomes a large part of the story line. Being with Augustus pushes Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death will define her

What did I think of it?
Oh my days, I found it absolutely breathtaking!  

It's not the cheeriest topic- it's about teenagers with cancer- but there is something special about this book. This book is about cancer, but it is not the cancer that is important in the novel. It never suffers from cancer book clich├ęs, it shows the truth, and doesn't gloss over it. More than cancer, this book is about the meaning of life, living with death, the effect you have on the world and love. It will make you sob, and feel like your heart has been torn out, but somehow it also manages to make you laugh, even in the saddest parts. Not just a little smile to yourself, but a proper, out loud laugh! It just shows how brilliant John Green's writing is- the whole novel is beautifully written.  The characters are incredibly likeable and well portrayed. I know John has suffered some criticisms for the fact his teenage characters speak so cleverly and with great intelligence, but I don't think that should be an issue at all. It's a joy to read the dialogue in the book, it's like a breath of fresh air.

Once I'd finished the book, I physically felt different inside. It was so strange. It was a very emotional few hours (I read it in one sitting) and I actually felt worn out afterwards but in a good way. My mind was just blown away by it. I sat there in the early hours of the morning, quietly just taking it all in, and coming to terms with what I had experienced.


If you have read it,  please let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear your opinions on it.

What other people have to say

Green’s best and most ambitious novel to date. In its every aspect, The Fault in Our Stars is a triumph.” -Booklist, starred review

“A smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance.” -Kirkus, starred review

A blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical, and funny. Green shows us true love…and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.” -New York Times Book Review

“One doesn’t like to throw around phrases like “instant classic” lightly, but I can see The Fault in Our Stars taking its place alongside Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in the young-adult canon. Green’s book is also a good example of why so many adult readers are turning to young-adult literature for the pleasures and consolations they used to get from conventional literary fiction.” -Time

“Green writes books for young adults, but his voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. The Fault in Our Stars proves that the hype surrounding Green is not overblown.” -NPR

#1 New York Times bestseller
#1 Wall Street Journal bestseller
#9 The Bookseller (UK) bestseller
#1 Indiebound bestseller
New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 1 out of 50

Let's get this blogging show on the road!

Hello and welcome to my brand new blog!

The purpose of this blog will to be to talk about books, predominantly those I've read as part of the Goodreads 2012 reading challenge.

The first book I read this year was 'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green, so that will be my first review, in my next post, but before we get to the next post, here is a bit of a background about me.

 As a child and most of my teenage years I read a lot! I have shelves overflowing with books to prove it, but as I got older I found I was reading much less. This was due to several things- school/universtiy work got in the way,  I spent more times with housemates in the evenings, often watching TV and lastly, the internet sucked me in, and somehow took away spare time.

2012 is the year I swore to change that, and read more! I missed reading and now it's May, and five months into the challenge I have really found my passion for books again.