Friday, 31 January 2014

Allegiant Review

In the weeks leading up to the publication of Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent series, there was a huge amount of hype. It was trending on Twitter and consumed Tumblr in the days before the publication. When the book was finally released, it was devoured by fans.

Photo source Here

Only for people to find out the book was absolute rubbish.

I have read a lot of terribly written books in my lifetime, and Allegiant is one of them. The first book, Divergent, was fairly good. I enjoyed it enough to continue on to the second book. Insurgent was a bit of a chore to read, but I still did manage to finish it. Allegiant made me lose all faith in the series.

What was with the writing style, first off? Some authors have managed to pull off the idea of switching perspectives between characters, but Veronica Roth has not. While reading the book, it was extremely easy to become confused as to whether you were reading from Tris or Tobias’ view. Their internal voices were very similar – so similar, in fact, that when Tobias was kissing a girl I had thought it was from Tris’ perspective only for Tris to walk into the scene. It was very poorly written. On top of that, the writing itself was very basic. First person present tense is not my favourite, and this book is the reason why. The sentence structure was very simplistic and the diction was incredible basic. The plot may have been creative, but the poor writing drowned all of that out and made it very difficult and almost dry to read. There was no emotion in the writing either.

Characterisation, or rather, lack thereof, was extremely prominent. Tris lost any and all of the personality she’s gained in the previous book and ended up as a blank slate of emotionlessness. If she did have emotion at any point in time, it didn’t affect the reader I the slightest, leaving them indifferent. Same goes for Tobias. He discovers something shocking about himself, and while I expected him to have a more dramatic reaction, he only grew slightly more angsty and followed along with what another character was doing.

The plot itself was unrelated, to put it nicely. This book contradicted and made everything that happened in the previous books irrelevant. The idea behind that isn’t terrible, but it was so poorly executed that any positive that would have come from it was counteracted by the fact that the book just wasn’t written well. Even if there’s a good idea behind a book, if the writing and the characters are poorly done, there is no way the plot could excel. You can’t have one thing without the other.

Death should normally hold some meaning and usually, if it’s a major character, shock and upset the reader. This isn’t always true, but there’s a difference between offering foreshadowing for a symbolic death and just killing off character because there was literally nothing else to add in. Not saying which characters die, but the deaths are pointless in this book. It serves to add nothing to the plot – not even closure at the least. Its only purpose was to shock the reader in the ending and leave the fans of the series completely disappointed.

I give this book a one out of five. It offers a conclusion to the series, yes, but it’s a rubbish one and you would be better off reading fanfiction instead. The ending of the book is not a good ending (again, trying to stay spoiler free here), and while the other books felt like they were leading up to something, this one wasn’t. Overall, the book was just poorly planned out and poorly written. No one should read this book. It really is not worth your precious time.

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Social Code Review

Everyone at some point in time has gone to a bookstore to pick up a specific book only to leave with something completely unexpected. This happened to me the other day, resulting in me grabbing The Social Code as my newest read.
photo source here
The Social Code (originally published as The Start-Up in 2011), by Sadie Hayes, takes place in the sunny Silicon Valley. It’s about two orphaned twins, Adam and Amelia Dory, who both received scholarships to go to Stanford University. Amelia is a computer nerd with incredible coding skills, while Adam has an impressive business sense. It’s told from the perspective of numerous characters – not just the main two characters. It’s the first book in the series The Star-Up, which currently has two books released. The original version of the series has a third book to it, but it’s only available as an ebook and is noticeably shorter (as are all the books in the original publication of the series).

The plot was basically Gossip Girls, but with hacking. From the back of the book, it had sounded mildly interesting. Personally, I’m a pretty big fan of books that involve technologically competent characters. What I hadn’t expected was a book that about the rich or the ones trying to become rich. There were more scandals that happened in this book than there is in an episode of daytime television. If I wanted that, I probably would have gone to watch daytime television.

There was a surprising bit of a plot twist, but it happened within the last 100 pages and by the time I reached it, I was starting to get really bored of the book. The pace of the book was a bit too fast, leaving out a lot of detail even with showing the novel from the perspective of just about every character mentioned.

Most of the characters are fairly generic in the book. You have your ambitious, you have the ones with daddy issues, and you have the ones who spend a good portion of the book trying to sleep with their object of interest. The only character that stood out was Amelia, the main female who happens to be the only reason why I ended up reading the book. Out of the many characters and many perspectives, she’s one of the few that actually showed any development, and even then, that’s pushing it a little. She was also the only one I could feel any connection to as a reader, what with her awkwardness and her addiction to sitting in front of a computer.

Overall, I’d give this book a three out of five. The book is good for an afternoon read if there’s literally nothing else to do. The plus side is that it’s fairly short, so if you want some mindless entertainment, I’d recommend it. Overall, though, the book just wasn’t outstanding and fell back into the category “generic YA about rich people”, along with The Clique, The A-List, and Gossip Girl. But borrow it from the library instead of spending money on it – it isn’t something to reread.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

City of Heavenly Fire Cover Analysis

I promised you all a high quality version of the photo, and here it is. Now that I can see the photo more clearly, there are a lot more details that I missed at first glance.

First off, the cover is pretty normal for The Mortal Instruments. Russell Gordon has a very distinctive style with the editing of these covers: the light illuminating from the runes, the city scape, the model(s) on the cover where you can't see their entire face (Though City of Fallen Angels was an exception to this with Clary's face on full view). This cover incorporates all of the classic details.

The first thing I noticed was that Clary was wearing white. In Shadowhunter culture, white is the colour of mourning - the sort of thing that would be worn to a funeral. Cassie has already told us that there will be a number of deaths in the book (6 characters that we already know, I believe is the number she gave us). Does this mean that someone close to her dies? Simon, Luke, Jocelyn... Possibly even Jace. Again. In today's society, white also represents purity and "good", so it could be saying something about, as Simon put it, "team good" and "team evil". She is also holding the hilt of a weapon. The way that she is holding it implies that instead of using it to slash at something, it was used to stab. Who did she stab? It could have been Sebastian, considering he's right in front of her. It could also be representing the Angel blade which Clary had used to stab Jace with (and causing his body to be filled with heavenly fire - which is what the book is named).

Next there is Clary's posture to consider. See how she's standing with her back towards the viewer? This could be representing her turning her back upon something or someone. The clave? Jace? But she also isn't facing Sebastian full on. She's turned slightly away, as though she's trying to avoid him but he's in the way. Or she's trying to avoid the disaster that would surely follow him. Though it's difficult to see, it looks like she's looking downwards. Possibly, she could be looking at the disaster that's around her on the cover.

Clary's hair is something in itself. Besides it slightly mimicking an old Windows screen saver, it also looks like fire (*cough* City of Heavenly Fire *cough*). This could be because she was the one who put the heavenly fire into Jace. Also, in City of Lost Souls, Sebastian says that "this world will be consumed by hellfire." Could some of the bad things that happen in the book be because of Clary herself - making her almost a personification of this "hellfire" that Sebastian speaks of?

Enough about Clary. Sebastian is standing in a shadow, looking at Clary. The juxtaposition between the light Clary and the darkened Sebastian could be representing the fact that Clary is more angel while Sebastian is more demon. It could also represent (along with the fact that Clary is facing the darkness) that the ginger may be joining Sebastian on the "dark side." It's a bit of a stretch, but hey. Anything could happen in this book. Sebastian's gaze in Clary's direction could be showing that he wants something that he cannot have. As shown in the book prior, there are some seemingly sexual feelings on his end towards his sister (going into incest there, click here to see Clare on the topic). It could also been seen as slightly hateful or resentful, considering Clary had put a damper on his plans by taking Jace away from him..

And then there are Sebastian's wings. The wings are a reoccurring thing throughout the books - mostly in Clary's dreams. I assume that it's safe to say that they are supposed to represent his demonic angelicness. If my memory proves correct, in one of Clary's dreams she had seen him with dark wings (though please do correct me if I'm wrong). I doubt that he will actually grow wings in the book. On the other side of this, the wings could be there to represent that fact that some angels may be appearing in this book. As Raphael put it in CoLS, "even the Angels will be destroyed." So will there be a mildly more friendly appearance of angels in this book? Or will they appear to scorch some Shadowhunters (or Sebastian's crowd). It could also be referencing to the ending of the previous book where Sebastian had placed a pair of bloodied angel wings in the New York Institute.

Then there is the background. This cover is the first one in the series in which the city scape is behind the character(s) on the cover. So why the sudden change? This could be because the world is coming to an end and that life as they [the characters] know it. This idea is also supported by the parched and cracked land in front of it. But back to the city for a moment, what city is it? It would be a bit of a stretch to say that some of the buildings look similar to the ones of the cover of City of Glass, considering most taller structures do look pretty similar when you can't see any small details on them. But there are a few pointed buildings which, in fact, imply that this may be Alicante. It's a possibility that this landscape is indeed the home to the Nephilim.

As for the fire in the foreground, part of that comes into the obvious bit that it comes from the title of the book. It's implied through the dry land right behind it that the fire consumed part of it. This could be literal and have fire sweeping across lands. Raphael in CoLS seems to have a pretty good prediction of things as well, proved when he said "there is a great darkness coming it will sweep the Earth with fire and shadow." There is certainly earth being shown, along with fire at the foreground and Sebastian as the shadow.

So what does the cover say about City of Heavenly Fire as a whole? Well, we can be sure that this book is going to be dark - most likely the darkest out of all of them - with a whole lot of feels to go around. The book will be released on on 27 May, so it's not too far now! It's a whole lot closer than series four of Sherlock. What are you all expecting to see from this book? Any other interpretations of the cover you can think of? Feel free to comment them below!

City of Heavenly Fire cover

If you haven't seen it yet, here it is! The cover of the final book in The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire. Expect a better quality photo at a later time. Not much of an analysis I can give quite yet, but we do know for a fact that it's Sebastian (Jonathan) and Clary on the cover, and that Clary is in white (which, if you remember, if the colour that Shadowhunters wear for mourning). When I get a better quality picture, I'll have a full analysis for you guys!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Legend Review

The fandom for Marie Lu’s Legend is ever growing, especially with the (not so recent anymore) release of the third book. I decided to give it a try and, finally, I reached the part of my personal stack of books where that book was waiting to be read.

            Legend takes place on the west coast of the states in a future (dare I say a dystopian one) where the country is split into two – the Republic and the Colonies – and they are at war with each other. The story is told from two perspectives: June, a talented girl who grew up in an elite family and is trained to be a solider for the Republic, and Day, who is an infamous criminal who was born in the slums. They end up meeting through certain events involving the death of June's brother and become unlikely allies. 

            The book is written in first person present tense, but unlike some books (is totally not looking at Allegiant), Lu does a good job at writing this way. Usually this type of writing bothers me, but she managed to keep it interesting. There were varying sentence lengths and sometimes slightly more complex vocabulary.

            Also, the characters have a very distinct voice when the story is being told from their perspective. And if that voice wasn’t enough for you to tell the difference (as well as the character’s name at the start of the chapter), the font actually changes colour in my edition depending on whether you were reading from Day’s or June’s  perspective.

            Something strange that stood out was the fact that almost all of the characters mentioned seemed to be left handed. I’m not sure the reason for this, but it was mentioned enough that it caught my attention. A bit strange, really, considering most of the human population today seems to be right handed.

            The setting of the book is very well written. The description is phenomenal, making a clear picture of what was going on and what everything looked like – something that is very important in a book where the setting is different than it would normally be if it was set today.

            Overall, I’d give this book a four out of five. It wasn’t an outstanding book, and I’ve similar plots before, but it’s very well written and it is very interesting. The fact that I managed to finish it without forcing myself to continue reading is a pleasant change from the books I’ve had to read more recently for school. I will continue to read this series. I would recommend this book to any teenager who enjoys a mix of action with a hint of romance and wouldn't mind reading yet another book set in a dystopian society. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy 2014! Overview of 2013

Happy 2014 everyone! Last year was a huge one for literature, with countless series both starting and ending (autumn was extremely busy with so many books coming out – some of which I still have yet to read). You had the Divergent series coming to a close with Allegiant, James Dashner’s new book The Eye of Minds - the first in the Mortality Doctrine series, Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Princess, The Alex Rider prequel Russian Roulette, the US release of Oblivion - the final book in Anthony Horowitz's Gatekeepers... So many books in such a short time! Not to mention all the books that got turned into movies.

Of course, with so many books coming out, you did have the good and the bad and the controversial. The much anticipated Allegiant was one of the greatest flops of the year. Poorly written, it left more than just a few fans unhappy with it. On the other hand, there was Light, the final Gone novel written by Michael Grant and Clockwork Princess, both of which have received overall high reviews.

            One of the biggest biggies of the year was definitely The House of Hades, written by Rick Riordan. He took a huge risk with *mini spoiler* making Nico gay (if you didn’t know that already, you probably haven’t used Tumblr since before October). There was a lot of controversy over that, with many parents upset with the fact that he chose to make that decision. Then again, the book series was about Greek mythology and if someone can’t stand non-heterosexual relationships, they should probably avoid that area in general.

And then there were the movies! I lost count of how many adaptations I had seen. There was The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones directed by Harald Zwart... Let’s not forget The Sea of Monsters, which Thor Freudenthal (hehe... Thor...) directed and ended up with very mixed reviews (hey, I give him credit for working with the mess of a film the first one was and managing to do a fairly decent job). There was also Catching Fire, directed by Francis Lawrence, which was possibly the most successful book-to-film adaption that I ever seen in my entire life. And that was just a few of them.

2014 is going to be a huge year. We have the film Divergent coming out, directed by Neil Burger, first of all. The casting may be a bit iffy, but I have a feeling that it’ll be a pretty decent film. There’s also going to be The Fault in out Stars, directed by Josh Boone, so prepare your tissue stash when you go to the cinema.

And as for actual books, by the gods there will be a lot. We’ll be having the second book in The Mortality Doctrine; The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner, which is supposed to be released in the autumn. The Mortal Instruments will have its conclusion with City of Heavenly Fire, which is planned to be released on 27 May – but don’t worry. Cassandra Clare is planning on writing yet another series in the Shadowhunter Chronicles; The Dark Artifices (The first book is planned to be titled Lady Midnight). Let’s not forget about The Blood of Olympus, the final book in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.

            Finally, there is no way we can forget about the film based around Newt Scamander who had written Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to the Harry Potter universe – with a screenplay written by the brilliant J.K. Rowling. There are also rumours that she may be writing more books based around the HP universe, so keep your eyes peeled for more news about that.

            2013 has been a giant year full of new releases, and I expect nothing less from 2014. Have a happy new year, and don’t forget to keep reading!