The Girl with All the Gifts | M.R. Carey

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The Book

In a world where Zombies are called hungries, young child Melanie is different. Her and her classmates are kept in cells and brought out every week day where a rotation of teachers instructs them about maths, and English and such. But when a Doctor takes an interest to Melanie, she is thrust into a world where everything is new, and she is oh so very hungry. Featuring: Our zombies are different, the army.

The Plot

  • I found it a little slow moving, but gripping, like a zombie, I guess. It wasn’t about the zombies so much as the characters.
  • It was interesting and different because of this. It was less about a group of people dealing with zombies as they make their way to safe haven, but about a specific group of people dealing with the world around them and their place in it.

The Characters

  • Because it was character driven, the characters have to be well written, and in this case they definitely were.
  • M.R. Carey used a perspective shift to really give us insight into the different characters and indicate their motivation. So when they ultimately die, we actually feel something for them.

The Conflict

  • There isn’t as much straight up violence as I expected.
  • the main conflict comes through characters which is an interesting way to do a zombie novel.

Points of Dis/Interest.

  • I don’t know about you, but I was happy with the “romance” or lack thereof.

Etc. Futility.

Okay, spoilers, but in the end everyone in the world gets turned into Zombies. It was an interesting take because so often we see the opposite happening. Or something so that readers don’t feel completely let down by the novel. But with this everyone is turning into a zombie, and it’s not painted as this terrible thing. It’s just inevitable.

Just as the sun will expand and destroy the earth and any last trace of humanity on it, so too did the zombie fungus take over the world and kickstart the new species of humanity on earth. And for whatever reason, I really liked it.

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash

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The Lunar Chronicles | Marissa Meyer

Alternatively titled: Sometimes I play tricks on myself by assigning something and forgetting about it until I have to write it.

The Series

Cinder is a cyborg in New Beijing. Unbeknownst to her she is the long thought dead Lunar Queen. If only her Aunt would let her be. Scarlet just wants to find her grandmother and work on their farm. If only Cinders Aunt would let her. Cress just wants to get off her satellite and be in love with Thorne. If only her queen would let her. And Winter just wants Jacin. If only her step-mother would let her.

The Plot.

– Possesses a solid plot. The story progresses at a good pace and I never found moments where I needed to know what was happening elsewhere when our heroes were split up.

– Although the “bio-electricity” felt a little like Marissa Meyer wanted to have this feature and had to think of a science-y way to do it. That was the weakest part for me.

The Characters.

– I love them.

– I felt that their character arcs were strong and they didn’t progress too quickly or anything.

– Also their relationships to each other is just… amazeballs.

The Conflict. 

– Occurred naturally without excess.

– I feel like the conflict was only necessary because otherwise there would be no resolution, but I don’t think you’d miss too much without it. If that makes sense. The book holds it’s own without it.

I know I’ve done these books separately before, but I wanted to do them as a series because it’s an incredibly well written quadrilogy and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a new YA dystopia.

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash

 

 

The Forest of Hands and Teeth |Carrie Ryan

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The Book

Follows Mary in Post-Apocalyptic “Unconsecrated” (read: Zombie) world. She has grown up in a medieval type village surrounded by a large fence. hat on earth could go wrong? When (spoiler) the zombies break through, Mary and her friends are forced to wander The Forest of Hands and Teeth in search of safety. Featuring: “our Zombies are Different,” The Friend Zone,

The Plot

– It had an interesting premise, medieval zombies, but I found that any sort of action for me was clouded. I felt one step (or more) away from it. Like someone was telling a story, not in the action .

– It was just sort of slow and ambling. Despite the danger in the book, it felt like a dream where you could see your goal but no matter how fast you ran the goal was always the same distance away.

The Characters

– I found the characters wooden and life-less.

– I also found them really difficult to care about. I felt nothing for these characters, and that is not commonplace for me!

The Conflict

– It was not memorable. It was as slow and ambling as the rest of the novel.

Points of Dis/Interest

– I found no sense of world building.

– It’s a tired dystopia. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of dystopia novels, give me something interesting.

Etc. How to make new Zombie Stories

  1. Focus on different people. In the Flesh does this really well. Instead of the same Zombie story, we get the aftermath. We get a Previously Deceased Syndrome Sufferer who killed himself back living with his parents who lived through the “rotter” apocalypse.
  2. If you can’t do that, tell an old story in a new way. The Youtube Short Zombie Musical tells the same story in a new format. A Musical! It turns the gore-y story in it’s head and turns into a comedy with better depth because we’re focussing on these two sisters making it in the Zombie Apocalypse, not the zombies themselves. We’re a step removed, but it’s a step in the right direction.

I’m no expert, Zombie movies are always my cup of tea, but there are ways to make Zombies interesting and new. And these are some of them.

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash

Illusive | Emily Lloyd-Jones

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The Book

The Vaccine to the MK virus epidemic did a lot of things. But no one expected it to do this. For about 3% of the population that vaccine gave them powers. The Americans with the side effects were given a choice: Government work, or traitor. Ceire Gilba chose the unspoken third option: Don’t tell anyone and do whatever the hell she wanted. With mobsters and the Government hot on her tail, Ciere and her friends need to make a choice. And no one likes the options. Featuring: Mystiq, Discount X-men, Maybe Gay people?, Strong Female Character

Plot

Illusive was compelling. I like YA, which helps of course, but Emily Lloyd-Jones took the novel in a way that I wasn’t expecting which of course made me want to read it more. It isn’t complicated by a confusing backstory or confusing character relationships or anything. It has a premise and a history and (so far) it’s pretty much stuck to it. I think now people are expecting bigger and more complicated things, but a story doesn’t have to be that. It can be a simple A+C+B story, and that’s what I love about this one.

Characters
Ciere’s backstory was interesting and different. She wasn’t what I was expecting and that made it really interesting. It made sense with her character and it was just good.

There was way less romance than I was expecting for a YA novel. I mean the love triangle-y bit was obvious, but other than that… Are Kit and Magnus a thing? because it looks like they might be a thing and honestly? I’m okay with that.

Conflict

It’s a more unexpected conflict that ends this novel. Coming up against complex enemies, as well as a bit of character building, this conflict is completely in line with the rest of the novel in terms of theme and tone. It’s (spoilers) friends fighting friends and conflicting stories that make me really excited to see what’s next.

Points of Dis/Interest

Who names their kid Alan? Alan???? Pick a more modern name for goodness sake!

Also the characters had interesting relationship dynamics I found.

Etc.:   Embracing Yourself

In the novel, our heroine is an Illusionist. Which means that she can manipulate perceptions into believing something that isn’t real. What has held her back (until – spoilers – the end) is that she’s been fighting with it for half her life. She hasn’t (wait for it) embraced herself (roll credits).

And I think that’s something that everyone has to deal with. Looking at ourselves and saying “this is me.” This isn’t a “you’re beautiful no matter what you look like” speech, this is a “stop feeling so freaking bad about yourself” speech. This is a “well what are you going to do about it” speech. You’re never going to get anywhere unless you acknowledge yourself and acknowledge your flaws.  because you can’t do anything about it if you don’t.

For instance: I don’t have bad acne, but I do have bad skin and more recently I’ve been thinking that it’s at least partially because of the face wash I’m using. So the first chance I get I’m going to go into a store that sells face wash and buy some. I’m going to seek advice and buy a face wash that works with my complexion to clear my skin up. I’m also going to try exercising more and drinking more water for a start. Because I have acknowledged my bad skin, I am able to think rationally about what I can do to make it better. So what can you embrace? And how can you make it better?

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash

The Circle | Dave Eggers

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The Book

Follows Mae as she adjusts to her new job at “The Circle” a new internet experience. Where everything is filtered through one site. Banking: Circle; Bills: Circle; Social Networking: Social, it’s all there. Even (spoiler) voting is all done through this one company The Circle. So that’s not bad or anything. As The Circle nears completion, Mae is forced to decide: Circle? or not? Featuring: Young Female Protagonist, Dystopia, The perfect Workplace.

Plot: 

The Circle has compelling plot progression. It starts slowly, so might be a little long winded, but escalates so that by the end something is happening every 5 minutes. It draws you in with the promise of more, and oh boy does it deliver.

Characters: 

Mae has elements of Mary Jane-ism. (Mae-ry Jane anyone?) she’s young and she gets a job at The Circle, and she quickly moves through the ranks. It’s not the strongest of Mary Jane arguments and I’ll let it go because the characters are otherwise quite complexly written. They’re interesting and are never a simple outline of a person.

Conflict:

The conflict of the book escalated. I felt like I was walking on a travelator and the end was coming but I hadn’t picked up my bags from the floor. But in a good way. I was prepared for a simple plod along “Social Media is bad” dystopia but it’s so much more than that. It’s not telling you anything it’s asking a question and the ending (which I won’t spoil) was unexpected and brilliant.

 

Points of Dis/Interest: 

I missed Annie. But that was the idea.

Etc.: Social Media is bad and other lies we tell ourselves.

I’m sure you’ve all see one of those “when I was growing up we went outside and used bows and arrows to kill deer, now they stay inside with their Facepage and their instasnaps” memes. Well I have. I’ve seen those “what is the world coming to” captions on a picture of people on a train on their phones. Well I say screw them. If I’m on my phone on a train I’m probably on Facebook. You know who else is on Facebook? My family. My friends. And if I wasn’t on my phone. I was probably reading. I wouldn’t be socialising if I had forgotten my book and my phone was dead and I literally had nothing but my wallet with me. Because talking to randoms on trains is not something I regularly want to do.

So there’s this episode of Black Mirror with Bryce Dallas Howard (S03E01 Nosedive) that is set in a future where social status is everything. It tells you what sort of houses you can buy, how you succeed in your job, and the sort of person you are. It paints a very clear picture about the world, but it’s not that social media is bad. It’s that our reliance on likes and dislikes, shares, and hearts and pokes and right swipes that doesn’t determine anything about us. Unfortunately our reliance on social media is enforcing our reliance on these. Like for a like. Follow for a follow. In the right circles followers and likes are everything.

Social Media isn’t bad. But the lies we tell ourselves about it are.

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash

P.S. You may have noticed that I’m changing the theme up for these book posts. It’s hopefully to get me thinking more complexly about the storys that I’m reading. Instead of just Good vs Bad, I’m hoping to look further into the book design and the core of the novel. Please leave your comments and thoughts after the tone.

Rebel of the Sands | Alwyn Hamilton

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I FINALLY HAVE INTERNET!!!

The Book

Have you ever wanted to run away with the first stranger who would take you? Take all the money you can muster and run as far away as you can get? Amani does. So when she actually takes off with him, what happens next is far from Amani’s control. Featuring: The good looking Love interest, Strong Female Character, Quirky Sidekick/Best Friend. Guest starring: magical truth telling outlaws, and Anakin Skywalker’s least favourite thing.

The Good Bits

  • I would say that it challenges traditional YA fantasy structure in that half the book is about escaping the people trying to kill them, not facing the people trying to kill them.
  • We see so much of the media trying to tell us that deserts are just hot and sandy, not so Rebel of the Sands I honestly didn’t know why Hamilton liked it so much, until I read this book.

The Not-So-Good-Bits

  • Of course she’s a “special” because we couldn’t have a YA novel whose main character isn’t super important to the revolution/operation/people/cause etc.
  • In every YA novel with a Strong Female Character, there has to be sexism to go along with it. because they can’t rise out of sheer talent, they have to rise out of sexist idiots. It’s a fantasy novel, you can make a not-sexist world!

Thoughts from the Back Cover | Sexism for Heroines sake.

I read quite often. You might know this because it’s my book blog. Right. So, now that we’ve got that out of the way. I see a lot of female characters. Often. I also see a whole lot of Strong Female Characters. (For a definition of SFC, please see here) The one thing I always see in these cases is a whole lotta sexism. The reason why Hermione is a strong female character, but Amani is a Strong Female Character is simple: Hermione isn’t getting beaten down for being female. Muggle Born yes, but not Female. Amani on the other hand has to pretend to be a boy (oh the troupes) in order to walk around freely (remind you of medias perpetuation of a desert bound country at all?)

So what story writers need to do is pick another ism. We don’t want your sexism here! pick Racism. Pick Homophobism. Pick anything. Because we need more Hermiones.

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash

Scarlet | Marissa Meyer

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Curtesy of Icebooks.com

The Book

Scarlett is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series. It follows Scarlett as she searches for her grandmother and is pulled into a far bigger story. This would be the over all story started in Cinder. Scarlett meets Wolf who she enrols to assist her but ultimately it all turns into a crazy mess and nothing turns out how they want it.

The Good Bits

– Scarlett (the Person)

I probably go on about this way too often, but Scarlett is a wonderfully strong female character. She’s emotionally and physically strong while being motivated by something as sincere as her grandmother. She never gives up, despite what other recommend and she allows herself emotions which, let’s be honest, can sometimes be forgotten in the quest for “strong female Characters”.

– Thorne

Just hilarious

– Iko

I might be just naming characters here, but the idea of Iko being a consciousness I suppose and not being tied to a single body is interesting. And it looks a little into anthropomorphic characters. They don’t have arms, they have handles or this or that. And it’s okay that they don’t have arms. So Iko doesn’t have arms in this new body. She doesn’t need arms. Her stabiliser fins or whatever aren’t her arms. They’re her stabiliser fins.

– Location

I love the idea of seeing all these people come together not just from one place, but from around the world. Cinder in China, and now Scarlett in France. Maybe we can have someone from Australia. (wishful thinking I know)

The Not-So-Good Bits

– World building

With stories set in the not-now it’s important to world build to show the readers the world that the characters interact with. It’s particularly important when you show two different locations that we know to be different now. I understand that in a dystopian future things might get a little muddled, but muddled enough that France and China are that similar?

Thoughts from the Back Cover | Should Kai marry Levana?

Because it’s not just about him. Sure he knows that the moment he says I do she’s going to kill him. but all he is doing is putting off the inevitable. Levana wants to rule humanity, she’s not going to stop because she get’s hitched.

So say he doesn’t marry her. The LSOPs keep attacking until what? they kill everyone on Earth? Congratulations Levana, you don’t have anyone else to rule. And if they stop and enslave everyone the only difference is that Kai is not dead and is there to maybe protect the people a little, before defeating her in a glorious battle where her subjects become disillusioned with her and everyone overthrows her.

If he does marry her then he is killed and Levana is allowed to roam around unchecked until in many years the people are able to rise up and defeat her. Maybe. If they’re lucky.

There are of course many courses of action, none of them result in 0 deaths. none of them are perfect. But in war there is no perfect.

(also disclaimer, I haven’t yet read the succeeding books, so this is all conjecture)

There are no winners in war.

Get Reading. Get Travelling.

Ash