Friday, 25 October 2013

Unwind Review

I apologise for not being able to post last week! On the night before I was planning on uploading, I had a giant essay to write that was due for IB English the next day. But I’m back again, and somewhat alive!

Dystopian books are starting to reach the level of being overdone and are a far too popular topic to write about. I, personally, am also not a fan of the genre. So when I went to pick up Unwind by Neal Shusterman at my friend’s request, I put it at the bottom of my “to read” pile. Once I finally got my bum around to reading it, I realised two things: The first being that this was an amazing book, the second being that I should really stop doubting my friend’s choice in books.
Unwind Cover. N.d. Photograph. Neal Shusterman: Unwind. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. <>.
What stood out to me the most about this book is that it actually had a plot that I had never, ever, ever seen before. This is a very rare thing, and because of that, I was extremely shocked. This book is about a society where unwanted children, instead of being sent to jail or grounded or whatnot, were “unwound”. This “unwinding” consisted of taking the limbs and organs of the person (under the age of 18) and using those pieces to replace a limb or an organ of someone who needed it. This way, they got rid of the unwanted child without fully killing them and they saved lives. The book follows the perspective of three children who were sent to be unwound who managed to escape (or in one character’s case – was somewhat kidnapped) and were on the run.

This book has a very chilling effect on the read. The most shocking thing about this book is that it is so well written that it actually seems like it could be happening right now. Everything else in society is fairly normal like it is now, with the exception of unwinding and a few other minor details. Shusterman does an excellent job at portraying this concept without creating an entirely differently world in the process (cough–Gone–cough). It was a very shocking read and, to some extent, did change my perspective on the world once I had finished it.

The main characters, the narrators, also are very dynamic. The trouble with some books in this genre is that sometimes the authors put too much thought into creating this crazy, perfectly imperfect, dystopian society that they forget to write more about how a character changes. This book managed to capture this perfectly. And the fact that it changes perspectives from three different characters gives the reader a much broader understanding of different classes and groups during this time as well so there was nothing lost on the development of the setting and culture either.

On the downside, I did feel like this book did drag on just a bit in times. Yes, yes, it is difficult to find a book that doesn’t do this, but this was one of those books that couldn’t hold my attention enough to finish it in a couple of days given the time. There were some scenes that seemed to stretch on forever, and though that could have been intentional by the author to show how the characters were feeling about a situation, I personally just found myself shoving a bookmark in and moving to another book in the hopes that would keep my attention.

Overall, keeping personal opinions to the side about the genre, I would give this book a 3. Every detail of this society was well executed, and the characters were very well developed, but it did drag on quite a bit at times and there were some parts where I was questioning the sanity of the author. Unwind was a book that changed my perspective on life around me, and I would recommend this book especially if you are looking for a dystopian book that doesn’t exactly follow the formula. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Heroes of Olympus: House of Hades Review

The Heroes of Olympus has been a hot mess full of underdeveloped characters, Mary Sues, and a general disconnect from the original Percy Jackson series up through The Mark of Athena.

And then the House of Hades came.
When I first picked up this book, I was very apprehensive. Of course I wanted to know what happened to Percy and Annabeth after that terrible, and literal, cliff hanger at the end of the Mark of Athena, but I didn't expect Riordan to be so good at writing dark. This book is possibly one of the darkest books he was written. From the description of Tartarus that originates from both classic myth and his own imagination to the descriptions of some of the gods, the book was very well written. Anthony Horowitz still takes the cake for being one of the best dark YA authors, but Riordan holds much potential.

Can we talk about the cover for a moment? It is just so perfect! As mad as it may sound, the US cover perfectly fits the book. It is dark, symbolistic, and actually partially portrays a scene from the book (unlike the UK covers – sorry, but those still scare me). It is a near-perfect portrayal of Percy and Annabeth in this book. John Rocco, this is a shout out to you being an amazing cover artist for the books since The Lightning Thief!

Up to this point in the series, there was a certain disconnect from the original books. This book completely patched that over; references to the Second Titan War, old characters appearing, and our good ol' Annabeth actually acting like herself again. For once, I felt as though I was reading a continuation of PJO instead of a [poorly] written fanfiction. Old characters also popped up in this book. Remember Rachel? Grover? And if you've read The Demigod Files and The Demigod Diaries, be prepared to see some references to some of the stories in there.

And the characterisation. Of my gods, this book did an amazing job at it. Ever wonder about some of Nico's past? This book connects the dots and even sneaks in a little detail in about him where, unless you've come across a spoiler before reading the book, you will have not seen coming. Flat characters are turned into round, dynamic characters and, overall, this book fixes most of the mistakes from the prior books.

Now let's discuss the plot. It moved along quickly - almost too quickly than what I would have liked. 600 pages went by way too quickly, and although I like a fast book, this one went a little too fast. Individual scenes weren't generally very descriptive, and were done in a choppy manner through the switching of perspectives between scenes. The chapters were also almost to Maximum Rider length, the shortest being only two or three pages long. The story itself was entertaining, but it could have gone into a bit more detail.

Uncle Rick has also surprised us in a way other than a troll-worthy cliffhanger. As some of you may or may not be aware, Riordan had a reputation for being a bit of a homophobe. It seemed, in prior books, that he purposely avoided any and all myths that involved any sort of gay characters. This book changed this. I won’t say who, but besides there being a blatant mention through a myth, there is also a gay character. And it is seamlessly written into the story – not at all forced like I would have assumed.

Overall, I would give this book a 4 out of 5. It is the best book in the Heroes of Olympus by far, and though there are a few mistakes (and misquotations), it was overall well done and well thought out. I was definitely not expecting this high quality of work and I will be expecting something even better for the last book, The Blood of Olympus, planned to be released Autumn of 2014.

Friday, 4 October 2013

An Abundance of Katherines Review

I was really excited to read this book when it was lent to me by one of my friends. I have been hearing a lot about John Green over Tumblr and I really wanted to read one of his books, and to finally have a copy of one of his books in my temporary possession made me really happy. Though, if I’m completely honest, I had no idea what the book was going to be about when I started it.

An Abundance of Katherines is a story about a boy named Colin who only dates girls named Katherine (and despite the fact that he acts like he has no life, he has much more of one than I do). He was a child prodigy and he spent a good portion of the book trying to come up with a mathematical theorem that could explain and predict relationships. He does this while he's on a road trip with his best friend, who is trying to get him over Katherine #19.

This books was an interesting read, I'll say that much. From what people were saying, I was personally expecting a book with a lot of symbolism and deeper meanings as well as an interesting plot. I was disappointed.

The book is written in third person narrative, from the perspective of Colin. Since the book is from the perspective of a child prodigy, the reader gets a relatable perspective while also seeing some thoughts that most normal people wouldn't think about. All of the main characters are very well developed. The books paints a fairly clear description of them and it doesn't take long for their personalities to be revealed. Also, many of these characters are dynamic, meaning that they change over the course of the book. I'd give examples, but as River Song always says, spoilers.

The plot started and ended interestingly enough, but the centre of the story was where it got boring. I caught myself starting to skim over the pages and I still understood what was going on. Despite how well written it was, the plot still managed to slow down and crawl along the ground for a while before picking up once again.

I probably should mention that this book, as well as what I’ve heard about Green’s other books, is very humourous. This is probably what kept me reading the book to the end. I love books that can make me grin or laugh, and this book does exactly that.

Overall, I'd give An Abundance of Katherines a 3.5 out of 5. I enjoyed it, yes, but I won't be coming back to reread it. For what it's worth, it is very well written. I just happened to have a lapse of interest halfway through the book. I still have high hopes for John Green's other books, such as the Fault in Our Stars, which I plan on reading before the film comes out. I'll let you know what I think of it once I get my hands on a copy. I would recommend this book to people who want a break from fantasy books and want to read something that makes at least some sense. And I’d recommend this to the maths nerds who may actually understand some of the equations mentioned in the book.