Saturday, 31 January 2015

Mara Dyer: Series Review

The Mara Dyer series of books by Michelle Hodkin were unlike anything I've ever read before.
I'm really at a loss at what to write about them in a way that will get my point across and won't let me seem like just some crazy fangirl! They might not have been the very best books ever written and they weren't my ultimate favourites, but boy were they good!

The first book in the series is The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.
Mara Dyer wakes up from a coma in an unfamiliar hospital, having no recollection of the incident that killed her best friends and boyfriend and hospitalised her.
After moving away and leaving her old life behind, Mara soon comes to realise that there is no escaping the incident and it will follow her wherever she goes. Not only is she seeing the faces of her dead friends everywhere, but she is seeing the deaths of people before they even occur...
Before I picked up this book, I was a little unsure at what it would be about. I almost expected Mara to have physic powers or something! I had wanted to read this for far too long, though, so I was really happy to be engrossed in it.
I've never read a book that's so creepy and mysterious yet so fantastically gripping. It did take me a couple of hundred pages to get into the story, but when I did there was no putting it down! I don't quite know what it was about it that made me so enhanced, but whatever it was made it incredible. I loved how realistic the characters were; it made it less paranormal and more life-like, as if it really could be real.
What really set these books apart from any other book was that for a lot of it, you couldn't tell how much of the story was 'real', and how much of it was happening in Mara's head. Her PTSD made it so that she relived a great deal of moments related with the incident, but in other parts of the story it was incredibly difficult to distinguish between reality and imagination, despite this being a fictional book. It really played with your mind.
The ending of this book was quite a cliff-hanger. It was full of suspense and left me itching to read the next book.

Spoilers for all of the books ahead.
 Please don't read this if you don't want to be spoiled!!

The second instalment of the series, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, was just as creepy and unnerving as the first. It continued the series really well, leaving a suitable and appropriate gap between the two books. Unlike the first book, where Mara was only just finding out about herself and her abilities, this book went more towards the direction that Mara was actually crazy, and she was being treated for this appropriately. However, Mara now knows that she isn't crazy. She's gifted with a unique power, but she's not the only one. In the same way that her boyfriend Noah can heal with his mind, Mara can kill with hers. Can their powers cancel each other out?
That isn't even the half of it, either. Mara now knows her ex-boyfriend, Jude, who was declared dead, is in fact alive and is hunting Mara down...
This book was just as good, if not better than the first. It really was incredible. It was really interesting to meet all of the new characters who were in the same 'position' as Mara. I hate books with unchanging characters, so the amazing character development really pleased me. While I was at first a little confused from the chapters set 'Before' in India, it soon became clear who was narrating them and it was intriguing to read.
I am so glad that I decided to wait until all of the books in this series were released before reading them because I doubt I would have survived having to wait for the next book! The cliff-hanger at the ending was a huge plot twist. It was quite confusing actually; you were left thinking 'Oh my... What is this? What just happened? Did I misread that? Let me just go back and check...'
When I put down this book, I was almost in shock. While I was certain that Noah wouldn't be dead, there was a part of me sure that he was. And as for the fact that Mara was a living and walking experiment... Well, I didn't know what to make of that!!

The trilogy wrapped up with The Retribution of Mara Dyer. This book had a more dangerous feel to it since we knew the full potential of Mara's abilities.
Unsure whether she's been told the truth, Mara is locked away and drugged up on medicine to keep her unaware of her situation. She must break free from their control and locate the remainder of her friends before completing the one task on her mind; finding Noah.
As I've already mentioned, this book felt a lot more tense and dangerous than the other two. I was really quite scared for the characters and what might happen to them. Of course, they could tell people what was happening to them, but who would believe a group of teenagers claiming that they had superpowers and had been forced to murder their captives in an attempt for freedom? I wouldn't! This left an 'anything could happen' feeling to the book, so you had no idea of where the story would take you.
I also thought this book was quite a bit gorier than the rest. Mara has clearly seen and been through a lot, seeing dead people most of the time, but when I was reading about her having to cut a dead man's eye out in order to escape, I really did feel a bit queasy!
Reading the last half of the book was a bit of a blur for me. I normally take my time reading to devour every last detail, but I was reading this as fast as I could to find out what happened. For a part of the book, I genuinely believed that it would end in a Romeo and Juliet style way. I expected them both to die. I've never been so happy to be wrong! Despite them having a few... difficulties... it turned out well in the end.
I absolutely loved the ending of this book. While it wasn't complete bright sunshine and happiness, it gave hope for the characters and didn't like you with too many questions, unlike other conclusions to series (Yep, I'm talking to you, Mockingjay!!).
The really short chapters at the end of the book (you'll definitely know which ones I'm talking about if you've read the book!) were a little... overwhelming? But I was glad they were included as authors tend to shy away from there kinds of things and I think it was a pretty important moment for the characters. 
So overall, The Retribution really wrapped the series nicely. I was terrifically happy with how it concluded! However, reading this book especially made me feel a bit uneasy. I don't really get scared of things that couldn't possibly be real, so monsters, vampires and zombies never really got to me. But I do get a little bit worried about things that are real or could potentially happen. The circumstances in this book were explained in such vivid detail that I'm pretty sure they could occur. Spooky, huh?

I said at the start of this post that these weren't the very best books I've ever read. I gave each one of them 4 stars (If I could, I would have given the last two 4.5 stars), and I did actually have a couple of issues with them.
My main problem was the amount of bad language in them. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bit of swearing in books. A lot of the time it's actually needed and makes the story better. However, when f-words are used every other page, it just kind of loses its effect.
Another issue I had at the start was the fact that Noah smokes, and not in the Augustus Waters metaphorical way, either. In the first book, he just came across as one of those arrogant, badly behaved boys who felt the need to smoke to gain attention. Of course, by the end of the series when I understood his reasoning, it was plausible and fit well with his character, but at the start it just seemed to add to his reputation.
The amount of gore, in the last book particularly, made me feel slightly queasy, but I do think it was needed in the story and was fitting.

I would recommend these books to anyone who likes paranormal fantasy books and has an open mind. Due to the vast amounts of profanity, the series probably requires more of a mature audience, so this is not a children's book! I think it would be suitable for over 13s though.

That's all for now; bye bye!

Charlotte xxx

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Shatter Me Series Review

Juliette has a curse. Her touch is lethal. She has been locked away in a cell for 264 days. No talking, no light, no nothing. Until, that it, she is presented with a cell mate.
Unable to shake the feeling that they've met before, Juliette must embrace her powers and avoid being used as a weapon by those who imprisoned her. Is it possible for her to live this way? 

Oh my goodness!! Words simply cannot express how incredible Shatter Me was. I was blown away by it all!! The story was so gripping I found myself mesmerised in every word.
I absolutely loved the writing style of this book. It was written in present tense first person from Juliette's POV. This is similar to other books, but what was completely different was that it was written like a diary or journal. It didn't have dates or 'Dear Diary...' or anything like that. But what separated it from other books was that it had every single one of Juliette's thoughts in. Some of these were crossed out and scribbled away as if Juliette herself was checking through her writing and got rid of the things she thought made her seem weak. This unique style meant that you had an insight of who Juliette was and who Juliette was trying to be. It was so honest and made her a really relatable character to read about. Normally I would hate it if books weren't grammatically correct or didn't really make sense in places but in Shatter Me it made complete sense to have them written this way. I loved it!

Spoilers from this point on...

In Unravel Me, the second novel, Juliette is forced to come to terms with her powers and what they mean, but must also learn to contain them to avoid accidentally hurting people.  Meanwhile, Adam is having problems of his own...

I loved Unravel Me just as much as the first book. I thought the Omega Point was great and loved how there were other characters with issues similar to Juliette's. It reminded me of X-Men in a way (which is never a bad thing!!). I thought Kenji's sense of humour (or just Kenji in general!) really lit up what would have been an extremely dark book. Without him, I think it would have been a little too dark!
The plot twist in this book upset me quite a bit. I wanted Adam and Juliette to stay together so badly, so when his 'immunity' to her touch was draining his life, I was disappointed. I was quite annoyed that Juliette wouldn't even try to help him and just wanted him to stay away from her. That did annoy me. I was also angry at her fascination with Warner! I hated him from the very beginning so I couldn't understand why she spent so much time with him towards the end of this book.
Despite all of this, I still loved how she was so head-strong and determined. I really love books with a strong female character in. Katniss, Hermione, Tris and Clary are among my favourites so when Juliette was as amazing as some of them, I was impressed!

Ignite Me brought the trilogy to an end. With Omega Point destroyed and Juliette separated from her friends, alliances must be made in order to bring down The Reestablishment once and for all. Can she really trust the man who locked her away?

Hmm... I'm not really sure what to say about this book. I loved it all the way up to the end, but the ending... It just let down the whole thing. However, it was great up to that part so I'll talk about that. The anticipation at the start of the book where we didn't know if Adam or Kenji were even still alive was pretty scary. I enjoyed the whole hiding out and planning for the battle part of the book. However, the battle itself? Well, there wasn't really a battle! I was expecting an ending as amazing as the Battle of Hogwarts!! I know this sounds bad, but I wanted some characters to die. I wanted the book to tug at my heartstrings. But I got none of that. Juliette simply killed Anderson and proclaimed herself as the new leader. And everyone was just okay with that.
It really did confuse me. It felt like Tahereh Mafi couldn't think of much of an ending so just left in as a draft form. I wanted a battle! I wanted a huge finale! I got none of it. I'm still a little confused at why Juliette wanted to be everybody's new leader and why everyone accepted her as it. Surely someone else would have been better?
But what annoyed me the most was that Juliette got together with Warner rather than Adam in the end. First impressions mean a lot, and I hated Warner from the beginning. I know now that he did what he did for a reason and he wasn't as bad as Juliette made him out to be, but I just don't like him. Adam was quite stroppy in this book, but you can't really blame him since everything he did was for Juliette.
Despite all of this, I really did enjoy the book and I gave it 4 stars.

All in all, I thought the series was great. It was original and thrilling and I was hooked after the first chapter. However, none of these books got a full 5 stars from me and here are the reasons...

Kissing! I have never minded a bit of kissing in books. Most of the time it's really cute and puts a weird looking smile on your face. But there is a limit on how many pages you can fit one single kiss into. Honestly, some of the kisses in this series took up at least 4 pages!! At the end of the first page, I was still in that 'Awwwhhh!' period, by the second page it was starting to wear off and by the third or fourth page I sat there with my eyebrows raised, tapping my watch! None of it was really very explicit; it just dragged on a bit!

My only other reason for deducting a star from each book was from their endings. I've already ranted about the ending to the series, but I was honestly also a little disappointed by the endings of books 1 and 2. I felt like the author closed her eyes and picked a point at random to end the book.
From what I can remember, Shatter Me ended with Juliette being given her new 'body suit' and Unravel Me finished when Juliette is with Warner and realises that she wants to fight.
Neither of these endings made me urgently want to pick up the next book (but I did it anyway!) and I think the books would have benefited ending on cliff hangers.
For example, it's near to the end of Shatter Me when Juliette goes to Omega Point. I think it would have been great if the book had ended at this point, finishing with the words "Welcome to Omega Point." or something along the lines of that.
As for Unravel Me, I think a great ending would have been for Warner to tell Juliette that Kenji and Adam are dead, as he does in the opening pages of Ignite Me. Even though it's false, it would have made a great cliff-hanger.
The endings feel almost accidental as they are.

I really, really, really enjoyed reading this series though and the duo of novellas in Unite Me made a great accompaniment to the series. All the books made my 'favourites' shelf and I look forward to reading them again.
I would recommend them to fans of dystopian novels such as Divergent and Delirium, as they reminded me of those books a little bit.

Well, that's it for this blog post! Bye!

Charlotte xxx

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Heroes of Olympus Series Review

This is a spoilery post. You have been warned...

"Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire, the world must fall
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death"

The Heroes of Olympus is the follow-on series to the amazing Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. Both follow the lives of young demigods - Half god, half human children - and the adventures they have.
I read the Percy Jackson Series a couple of years ago, but I didn't want to start the Heroes of Olympus Series until all of the books had been released. In the last Percy Jackson book; The Last Olympian, we were left with a bit of a cliff hanger in the form of a new prophecy. The Heroes of Olympus revolves around the seven half-bloods in the prophecy and the quests they must undergo.

I'm a little unsure of what to say about these books! They really were incredible.
In the first book, The Lost Hero, we're introduced to our new main characters. Jason has had his memories stolen by the a Goddess and has no idea who he is or what he's doing on a school bus. Piper, his girlfriend, is the daughter of a famous actor and has the power of persuasion, and Leo is the comedic engineer who has a dark past. Accompanied by their satyr teacher, Coach Hedge, they embark on a journey to Camp Half-Blood where a quest awaits them.
The second book, The Son of Neptune, sees Percy Jackson lost in New Rome with only one word in his head; Annabeth. Along with new-found friends, Frank, whose bulky physique slightly resembles an Ox, and Hazel, who is supposed to be dead, Percy travels on another quest to find Thanatos in Alaska and free him. Otherwise, they will all die...
In The Mark Of Athena, the Seven Half-bloods have joined forces and Percy and Annabeth are finally reunited, though the same cannot be said for the two camps. However, that's the least of these demi-gods' worries now that Athena has gone slightly crazy. This calls for a quest to find the Athena Parthenos!

Before I say anything on the next couple of books, I want to give people who haven't yet read this far in the series a chance to leave before they get spoiled (like I was!).

The House of Hades was, in my opinion, the best book in the series. Percy and Annabeth are trapped in Tartarus, attempting to find and seal the Doors of Death, while the rest of the gang must fight through Gaia's forces before they can rescue their friends.

The final book,The Blood of Olympus, wraps up the series in an epic fight with the Goddess of the Earth and all of her children...

I really enjoyed reading this series. It wasn't the best thing I've ever read, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and was a great addition to the Demi-God world.
While I enjoyed the first three books, I thought they dragged on a little. To say that they're aimed for children between the ages of 8 and 12, they were quite long and I found myself a little bored in a few places. Parts of the story were fairly dull and weren't fully necessary to the story. However, I really liked the new characters we were introduced to and I loved the plot. Thanks to the Internet, I knew about the Mark of Athena's cliff hanger ending, so it wasn't as climatic for me as it should have been, however, I picked up the next book within 30 seconds of finishing!
The House of Hades definitely was my favourite book out of the whole series. I loved hearing from Percy and Annabeth (as I always do!) and it was quite exciting that they had their own adventure, even if it was a bit scary for them! However, I loved hearing about the events above the ground just as much! I thought it was great how we were reintroduced to Calypso and how Leo finally found someone, even if it was only for a short while. One of my favourite characters from this book was Bob, who was a titan, and of course Small Bob, his pet cat!
The Blood of Olympus was a bit disappointing for me, really. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't as good as the other books and quite a lot of it was unnecessary. I was immediately put off reading this book on discovering that none of the story was written in Percy or Annabeth's POV.
While the ending was great, I didn't think it lived up to the rest of the series. It deserved more of a finale. However, I did shed a tear when Leo went missing and it made me so happy when he went back to rescue Calypso. Although I was quite annoyed at the fact that Leo didn't go to see his friends, who all thought he was dead!! Seriously, that would have taken two extra pages! Is that too much to ask for?

The best things about this series...
  • Every time I read one of Rick Riordan's books, it's like having the best history lesson in my head!
  • Nico Di Angelo was gay!!! I predicted this from the first book so when it was confirmed, I was over the moon!
  • Bob!
  • Ella the Harpy- I love that bird. She's so cool! Not only has she read pretty much every book on the Earth, but she has all of them memorised and can read prophecies!
  • Leo's sense of humour!
  • Percabeth. Need I say more?
There weren't that many thing I really despised about the series, but the amount of characters was a little confusing at times and left me wondering "Wait, who are you?" As I've already said, the ending was slightly disappointing and quite a few scenes were a bit pointless, but on the whole, The Heroes of Olympus was a great series and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone!

That's all for now!

Charlotte xxx

Thursday, 1 January 2015

December / 2014 Wrap-Up

2014 has come to an end now and 2015 is here already. This year has been a great year of reading for me; there are loads of new books that I have discovered (despite my unwillingness to search for new things!) and I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the books I read.
In this post, I will be looking through my best and worst reads of 2014.

But first up is my December Wrap Up. I had hoped to finish the Heroes of Olympus series and read a couple of stand-alones before the month drew to an end, and I must say I was quite happy with the amount that I read. I only read 5 books, which hasn't been as much as usual, but the books that I did read were quite big.
I managed to finish the Heroes of Olympus Series (review hopefully coming soon) and I also read Let It Snow, which is a collection of intertwining short stories set on Christmas Eve by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle. I thought Let It Snow was a great read (perfect for snuggling up by the radiator when there's snow outside!), and even though a couple of the characters were quite annoying, I found it to be really cute and it constantly made me smile! I loved all of the books this month, and gave every one of them 4 stars on Goodreads. So, in total for December, I read 5 books, which equates to 2584 at a rate of 83 pages a day. This isn't quite what I was aiming for (I usually try for 100 pages per day), but I had a winter cold so I couldn't read for a week! The horror!!

That brings me on to the best and worst books I have read this year. Not all of these books were specifically released in 2014, but this list has been selected from the books I personally read. As I reread books a lot, I have cut the list down so that the only books included in this list are ones I've read for the first time this year.

I'll start off with my three worst books of the year...

The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart #1) - Philip Pullman
When I was a little younger, I attempted to read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Series after watching the film adaptation of The Golden Compass. Unfortunately, I couldn't get into this book at all. I wasn't keen on the style of writing, which put me off the story. I decided to read the Sally Lockhart series to determine my opinion of Philip Pullman's writing, however I really had to push myself to get through the whole book and ended up giving up on the series after the first book, which is quite a rarity for me. Despite other great reviews for this series, I just didn't enjoy the writing style which made it hard to follow the plot.

Suth's Story (The Kin #1) - Peter Dickinson
I had never heard of this book or series before somebody lent it to me, and the blurb didn't really give much away about the story, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I must say, I was really disappointed. Again, it was the style of writing that put me off; I just didn't engage me as a reader. Set about 200,000 years ago, the book was about orphan's trying to survive in the desert. I must say, the idea of the story didn't initially interest me, but I had hoped it would be better than it was made out to be. However, I didn't think it was very good.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle #1) - Christopher Paolini
My brother absolutely loves this book and had been pestering me to read it for an eternity, so eventually, I gave it a go. Again, it was the style of writing that put me off this book. It felt like the author was trying too hard to make the reader like the book or that it was just supposed to be fanfiction for The Lord of The Rings that got turned into a novel. But it wasn't just the writing I disliked in Eragon. I didn't like any of the characters, and the one I disliked the least was killed off! I really disliked Eragon, who is the main character of the story. Sometimes he was just an idiot and other times he was just really mean! I was pretty disturbed when Eragon was fighting one of the guards (who was only following orders!) and said " 'Do you know how much pain a grain of sand can cause when it’s embedded red hot in your stomach? Especially when it doesn’t cool off for the next twenty years and slowly burns its way down to your toes! By the time it gets out of you, you’ll be an old man.'" Eragon is supposed to be the hero!! He's pure evil!!

Right, that's the gritty stuff out of the way! Bring on the Top 5!

5. Divergent (Divergent #1) - Veronica Roth
This book was INCREDIBLE!! It was full of action and fight scenes and mind games and romance and everything I love in a book! And it smells amazing! If you haven't heard of Divergent, you must have been living under a rock for the past year! The heart-breaking conclusion to the trilogy was released just over a year ago at the end of 2013 and the film was released in March this year, which is also spectacular. I gave Divergent 4 stars and would recommend it to fans of other dystopian novels (such as The Hunger Games), but despite speculation, Divergent is NOT a rip off of The Hunger Games! Why do people insist on comparing it?! Anyway, rant aside, I thought Divergent was a great novel and I'm looking forward to rereading it this year!

4. Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
I am actually quite surprised that Eleanor & Park has made this list. Before I read it, while I expected it to be good, I had no idea that I would love it as much as I do. Even half-way into the book, I thought it would just be a cute romance. And don't get me wrong, it was a cute romance, but it was so much more too. I was so surprised at the turn the story took. While it didn't really make me cry, the story has stayed with me ever since I read it and I think about it loads. If you haven't read this book yet, I would recommend you to do so because it is great. I absolutely loved it, more in fact, than I loved Rainbow Rowell's other book; Fangirl.

3. City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) - Cassandra Clare
Despite it only being a matter of months, it felt like I had been waiting an eternity for this book. I read the rest of the series in October 2013, but had to wait 7 months to read the conclusion. I was so excited about this book's release and read the whole 752 pages in just a few days! It really was an epic conclusion to a great series. It wrapped things up really nicely and didn't leave me too upset at the fate of the characters. It has also set the scene well for the third Shadowhunter series The Dark Artifices, which I am really looking forward to reading, and even though we've had to say goodbye to Clary, Jace and the other great characters, I'm sure some of them will be making an appearance in the next book!

2. Where She Went (If I Stay #2) - Gayle Forman
I absolutely loved If I Stay, so I was desperate to see what became of the characters later on in their life. Without giving too much away, Where She Went is set three years after the the events in If I Stay and sees how the characters have dealt with the incident that occurred. This book wrapped things up so well and left me thoroughly satisfied with the end (which really is a rare event!!). What I love the most about Gayle Forman's writing is that with only 50 pages of the story left, you still have absolutely no idea of what will happen, and she leads you into believing something different will happen. I personally think that's a great thing in a book because it makes it all the more gripping.

1. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
This one probably isn't very surprising. I don't know of anyone who has read this book and dislikes it. TFiOS is such a meaningful book with a touching storyline. I love how clever John Green's writing is and how metaphors and significant symbols are intertwined within the pages, and how everthing has a deeper meaning. I love the characters and how realistic and down to earth they seem. I love his humour and how it's used within the book. But most of all, I love the story itself. I am an avid Nerdfighter and watch all of the Vlogbrother's (John and Hank Green's YouTube channel) videos, so I know how much of John's life TFiOS has taken up and how important it is to him. I'm not really sure what else to say about this stunning novel, other than if you havent already read it then you're crazy! My only regret regarding this book is that I shouldn't have put off reading it for so long!

So that's it! 2014 wrapped up. I hope everyone else has had a great year of reading, and here's to all the books in 2015!

Charlotte xxx