Wednesday, 29 August 2012

WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by MizB- I thought I'd play along this week.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading? Crossed by Ally Condie. - This is the sequel to  Matched which I really enjoyed. I found the concept of the world in Matched very interesting, and got attached to the characters, so I eagerly awaited the arrival of Crossed  in the post.
• What did you recently finish reading? Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I really enjoyed this book!! I thoroughly recommend it if you want a poignant summer read. 
• What do you think you’ll read next? Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I've heard a lot about this book, and it looks like one I'll really enjoy. Can't wait to read it.

Join in and tell me your WWW for this week either on your blog or in the comments.

REVIEW 'The Hobbit' by J. R. R. Tolkien

Today's review is The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien which I actually read as a child, but since I couldn't remember the plot very well I decided it was time for a re-read before the first film is released.  I will be comparing it with The Lord of the Rings which is one of my favourite books, and by the same author, as I'm sure everyone knows (unless they've been hiding under a rock!)

What's it about?
A hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is roped into an adventure with thirteen Dwarves by the wizard Gandalf. Their aim is to  reach the Lonely Mountain in order to rescue the treasure and old home of Thorin the dwarf from Smaug the dragon. It is set in the spectacular world of Middle Earth, and the reluctant hero has many adventures and meets a whole host of colourful characters on his quest to defeat Smaug.

What did I think of it? 
The Hobbit an incredibly charming children's adventure story. Bilbo Baggins is a fantastic character, and far more likeable than Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. He is full of charm and very amusing! The host of Dwarves each have their own personality, though you don't learn too much about them. Every character in The Hobbit was a joy to read about and I'm looking forward to seeing them portrayed on screen in a few months. I think Bilbo would have to be my favourite character but there are a whole host of characters in this book who are almost as wonderful.

The book is told by a narrator in episodic fashion, which is something I really enjoyed. Each chapter, especially in the first half of the book recounts a little adventure or meeting of a new character. This leads to Bilbo having an action packed trip to the Lonely Mountain, and perfect for bedtime reading, as each chapter reads almost like a mini story. The writing is less complicated than The Lord of the Rings, as The Hobbit is clearly written for children. The writing style gives such charm to the book. I found it a little slow going at first, and I know a lot of people are put off but as it continued I found myself getting more absorbed and reading for pleasure rather than duty.

The plot of The Hobbit is very basic in principle but nonetheless enjoyable. Many unfortunate events take place during the quest which keep the plot fresh and exciting. The sense of danger that is portrayed in Mirkwood is fantastic, and the spiders were terrifying!

I really recommend this book, especially for children. For me, it wasn't as good as The Lord of the Rings plotwise (I'm a plot driven reader!) but the charm and style of The Hobbit is makes it something special. I would have given it three stars but I feel that I'm a little old to enjoy it fully, and there is something magical and special about this book so I gave it four.


Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 10 out of 50

Thursday, 16 August 2012

REVIEW: 'Pushing the Limits' by Kate McGarry

I know I said that the next post would be reviewing the 'Song of Ice and Fire' series but that is taking longer to put together than I expected. Instead I thought I'd review some less epic books for you.

Today's review is Pushing the Limits by Kate McGarry which I was inspired to read after hearing so much praise from the blogging community.

What's it about?
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with all the right friends and the jock boyfriend, to being the outsider with scars on her arms. Echo doesn't remember the truth of what happened that night and is desperate to remember. She hates her stepmother and her father is controlling- Echo just wants to be normal again. When Noah Hutchins, the foster kid with issues, is thrust into her life by her guidance counsellor, things begin to change for them both. Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk to be normal again.

What did I think of it? 
I loved it!!! It's the first contemporary young adult book I've read in awhile, and it reminded me just how much I like them. I also bawled like a baby during this book- so be prepared that it's does tug on the heartstrings a lot. The book is written in alternate point of views of Echo and Noah, which I thought worked very well. Both characters were well rounded and  very well written.  It was probably the two lead characters that made this book for me. I fell instantly in love with them both, and their relationship.

Noah! I loved Noah. I thought he was realistically written, and believable. I thought he had an interesting back story, and I felt the desperate desire he had to be with his brothers again. 

Echo. Echo is desperately wanting to be normal, she is changed from the incident which leaves her unable to work out where she belongs and what she truly wants.  She was an interesting character to follow as she had quite a few issues to sort out.

There were times where both characters frustrated me, but their actions weren't out of character, just designed to frustrate the reader as part of the plot. I loved the relationship that McGarry creates between the two lead characters. I thought it was great that she was realistic about teenage boys sexual desires and that she made Echo decide to wait, unlike many other YA books. Their relationship was the highlight of the book and it was what kept me reading, more so that the mystery of Echo's forgotten night.

The mystery of Echo's traumatic night gradually unfolds throughout the book, though its possible to have a good guess fairly early on from the information you receive but Echo takes awhile to put the pieces together. This was in no way a bad thing. I did want to know the truth as there are so parts that still need clarifying, that I was intrigued to continue reading. I thought Echo's reaction to the truth was realistic and well done. 

Bad points?  Well the overuse of cutesy nicknames annoyed me (nymph etc) and but other than that I can't think of anything I disliked. I thoroughly recommend this book!!!


Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 9 out of 50

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

'The Windup Girl' by Paolo Bacigalupi

I've been a little MIA of late due to getting to grips with a new job and watching the Olympics here in the UK non stop. I've just finished The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, and that is what I'm reviewing today. Next up for review will be the Song of Ice and Fire books. I want advice- should I review as a whole series, book by book in one post? Or do a separate post on each book? Let me know in the comments please. Thanks!

The Windup Girl has won numerous awards so I had high hopes for it, despite being a genre that I haven't tried before. The genre is described as bio steam punk. Bacigalupi is well known for Ship Breaker which I have on my lengthy books to buy list. 

What's it about?
 I'm going to include more background than usual, describing the world and the plot.  I think Wikipedia does a good job at setting the scene:
'The Windup Girl is set in 23rd century Thailand. Global warming has raised the levels of world's oceans, carbon fuel sources have become depleted, and manually wound springs are used as energy storage devices. Biotechnology is dominant and mega corporations like AgriGen, PurCal and RedStar (called calorie companies) control food production through 'genehacked' seeds, and use bioterrorism, private armies and economic hitmen to create markets for their products. Frequent catastrophes, such as deadly and widespread plagues and illness, caused by genetically modified crops and mutant pests, ravage entire populations. The natural genetic seed stock of the world's plants has been almost completely supplanted by those that are genetically engineered to be sterile. The current monarch of Thailand is a child queen. The capital city is below sea level and is protected from flooding by levees and pumps.'

That's the background, now what about the plot? This is from Amazon:

'Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?'

What did I think of it? 
I found that it took me a long time to get into this book. It throws you in at the deep end, in the middle of a world you know nothing about. Frequent use of foreign, non translated languages in the inital chapters made it tough to understand what was happening. So many new concepts are thrown your way in the first few chapters, it all becomes rather bewildering and not overly enjoyable.  The Windup Girl is set in the same world as Bacigalupi's short story The Calorie Man and The Yellowcard Man, which I didn't realise when I began this book. I'm not sure if reading those short stories would have helped me to get into the story faster or not. I did find that by around chapter 10, I was starting to get into the plot, but it is a slow plot builder. For a long while you just have lots of questions and not many answers in terms of where the plot may be going. This was a disappointment for me, as I struggled at the beginning not to give up on this book. I'm glad I didn't, but it wasn't immediate enjoyment, which I think is important for books. 

The book is told by five narrators- Anderson Lake (the calorie man), Emiko (the Windup girl), Jaidee (a captain of the whiteshirts), Kanya (whiteshirt) and Hock Seng (a yellowcard). I enjoyed all the narrators once I managed to get my head into the world that Bacigalupi created. I personally found Anderson and Emiko the most compelling, and I cared the most for their stories and well being. Emiko was fascinating to me; it was highly enjoyable learning about the attitudes to windups, the mindset of the windups themselves. Hock Seng wasn't overly likeable at the beginning, but I found I did start to root for him in as the plot continued and I came to understand him a little better.

Once the plot got going I found myself quite absorbed by the story, intrigued as to what was going to happen, as it was very slowly unveiled. I also thought the world that Bacigalupi described was incredibly interesting. It raised lots of questions about the ethics of the world and the dangers of the future. It paints a very depressing picture of the future!  The whole gene hack and genetic engineering was interesting, especially the windups who have a large  design faults and are sterile to stop them taking over from humans. The whole future that Bacigalupi envisioned was very clever, and I plan to read Ship Breaker and quite possibly Bacigalupi's short stories too.


Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 8 out of 50