Sunday, 13 January 2013

REVIEW: 'Unwind' by Neal Shusterman

Today's review is the first in a series. My interest in it was first piqued when I watched a review of it on youtube but I forgot about it until I entered a copycat event on The idea for a copycat event is that everyone who decides to enter is paired up with someone and you have to read a book from their 'Read' shelf on goodreads. I chose Unwind and I'm so pleased I did!

What's it about?
'The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.' goodreads.

What did I think of it?
I'm not sure how coherent this review will be, but here it goes!

This book has a very interesting concept- the idea that instead of abortion it is better to 'unwind' your child in their teenage years. An odd compromise!  Despite thinking the idea was ridiculous I still loved this book.  Anyone who doesn't want their baby can 'stork' it, by leaving it on a doorstep.  If the mother isn't caught leaving the baby then it legally becomes the responsibility of the people who open the door and find it. Of course this often leads to that child be unwound later anyway as it is likely unwanted by the host family.

I was captivated by this book immediately. I found myself caught up in the story and rooting for the Unwinds who are desperately trying to defeat the State and stay alive until the age of eighteen when they can no longer be unwound. The moral ideas are cleverly embedded into an addicting story which keeps you turning the pages to discover the fates of the wonderful characters. The teenagers in this world effectively have no rights and are dehumanised. This book challenges the reader and pushes you out of your comfort zone. It never preaches or settles on one side or another. Shusterman cleverly writes this fantastic book in a way which lets you make up your own opinions.  The plot is fast flowing and the characters are well rounded.

Once unwound the body parts are used to save other people's lives, but what I found just as upsetting was that the parts are effectively bought. The rich can afford the best parts and the poor have to make do with asthmatic lungs. It's a business pure and simple! The unwinding of children is not to help the parents but lines the pockets of the organisation which runs the Harvest Camps. 

This book is thought provoking and it leaves you wanting to discuss the topics with others. One particularly harrowing chapter of the book describes the unwinding of a character. I found this to be the most disturbing chapter. Shusterman wrote it brilliantly, and it makes you genuinely angry and horrified. I found the use of the phrase 'in a divided state'  instead of 'dead' to describe being unwound very clever. It's use is for placating families who decide to unwind children in order to make them feel better about themselves. The whole propaganda around unwinding was cleverly done.  Lev being a tithe is completely brainwashed into believing his sole purpose in life is to be unwound as an offering to God, which makes his relationship with Risa and Connor very interesting, as they do not believe in unwinding, and fight back as hard as they can.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

REVIEW: 'Catching Jordan' by Miranda Kenneally

What's it about?
"What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?" From goodreads.

What did I think of it?
This book fell flat for me.  I've been really enjoying romance books lately, making a change from dystopian, but this book did not deliver what I'd hoped. I'd read lots of positive reviews so I thought I'd give it ago.

The constant American football content did not help me enjoy this book. Perhaps its because I'm not sporty or that I know very little about American football, but I found the parts on the pitch and discussing tactics very dull.

I found Jordan quite irritating - she just seemed so stupid. The whole 'I have to go to that particular college or else' attitude seemed childish. Even when she knew the college didn't want her for her football skills! Argh.  The behaviour of all the characters felt stereotypical. The way that Jordan was a jock and so therefore couldn't have girly friends? What?  Then discovers that of course its okay to be sporty and be friends with girls. Oh dear lord!

The one thing I did like about this book was Henry- I did root for him and Jordan. He was such a sweetie, though even he had annoying moments. The new quarterback Ty,  I disliked from the start- he was so controlling. It didn't help that you know straight away that Jordan and Henry should be together so Ty just feels like an unwelcome distraction. 

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book to my friends. It was simply 'OK'.  For me, it just didn't live up to the hype and after reading the wonderful 'Anna and the French Kiss' that afternoon it was no where in the same league.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

REVIEW: 'NeverSeconds' by David & Martha Payne

If you haven't heard about the NeverSeconds blog written by a young Scottish girl called Martha, then you've probably been hiding under a rock.  She hit the headlines when she decided to blog about her daily school dinners, and soon the whole world was talking about her. I followed the news stories and her blog with interest, and I have so much admiration for her that I was happy to buy her book (proceeds go to Mary's Meals) and learn the story from her father's point of view.

I recommend checking out the NeverSeconds  blog. It's incredibly inspiring.

What's it about?
Martha Payne was just 9 years old when she started NeverSeconds, a simple and honest blog about her school dinners. Within days the blog had gone viral, becoming one of the biggest news stories of the year. After 8 million blog hits and a notorious council-led banning, Martha has raised over £120,000 for her favourite charity, Mary's Meals.

What did I think of it? 
I found this book very addictive. It's told in her father's voice, with Martha's blog posts appearing between the narrative sections. The book begins with the reason Martha began her blog in the first place, and progresses through the development of the blog, the blog in the press, troubles with the council, Martha's difficulties at school, Mary's Meals, until the book closes with a very honest and moving description of the family's trip to Malawi with Mary's Meals to see how the money Martha raised was being used. 

The section in Malawi was wonderful to read, and it made me support Mary's Meals even more. It's a fantastic charity. I'm so glad I bought the book and also donated on their JustGiving page. If you want to find out more about Mary's Meals click here. If you want to donate to the NeverSeconds JustGiving Page in aid of Mary's Meal please click here. It costs just £10.70 to feed a child for a whole year, 6p a day and it costs just £7000 to add a kitchen to a school to allow Mary's Meals to feed the children. Martha has raised over $128000 which is phenomenal!   I think its a fantastic cause, so please take a look! 

What struck me most about this book is the family values and the relationships the Payne's have with not only their family but their friends. I loved learning about Martha acting just as a 9 year old should, and enjoying her childhood by not paying too much attention to the press and being more excited for Athletics club. It's wonderful to hear how the parents' always put their children first and wouldn't allow greed to become a motive. Everything they did was for their children and for the health of Scottish children, and the well being of children all over the world. This is delightfully shown when the family are invited to Noma, the world's best restaurant during the first weekend of the school summer holidays, David Payne really wants to go but Martha says she'd rather go camping with her grandparents which was the original plan. So that is what they do!

Sorry this is a waffley review, but it's hard to describe how warm inside this book made me feel. I really recommend Martha's blog and this book is a great accompaniment to the blog.