Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1) – Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Source: Bought at Supernova
Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Published: June 7th 2011
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Paranormal
First Line: “I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.” 

Synopsis: 

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Eh, eh….eh. Have you ever felt that after reading the synopsis of a book and hearing so much great feedback, you develop your own image in your mind of what the book’s going to be like? And then when you read the book, it just…isn’t?
Yeah. I have.

The novel was okay. That’s all I can really say. In my eyes, it certainly didn’t live up to all the hype surrounding it, and there were so many aspects that I wish had taken a different direction. I really enjoyed the beginning – I felt that it was very captivating and kept you interested, as well as maintained a healthy level of mystery. But it was at around the 1/3 mark that I got frustrated.

I went into the read expecting something creepy, a bit of a thriller-mystery, if you will. And while the first quarter was as I was hoping, by the time I reached the 1/4th mark the answer to the mystery was revealed. I was so disappointed! The novel could’ve been so much better if it had focused more on Jacob’s discovery of the peculiar children, him gradually slotting the pieces of the puzzle together until it all became clear. But nope! Just lay it out in front of us just as we were getting interested. And was I the only one that, after hearing of this isolated mansion full of…talented kids, immediately thought of X-Men? Because I swear, almost every time I turned the page I was expecting Professor Xavier to come wheeling in with his bald head and some philosophical quote.

The characters were alright, nothing stand out. I quite like the protagonist, and it was refreshing to read a young-adult novel from a male perspective. HIS WHOLE GRANDFATHER SITUATION BROKE MY HEART THOUGH. I’d definitely say that his grandfather was my favourite character in the whole thing, even though he wasn’t around for much. Just…sadness. So much sadness.
I didn’t so much enjoy the romance though…it felt irrelevant, as though it had just been thrown in there for the sake of having a romance. Plus, the love interest (don’t worry, no spoilers – I got your back) felt wrong. Just wrong. It made me feel like I was drinking sour milk, to be honest – you have a sip and then it doesn’t taste right, so all you want to do is wrinkle your nose and spit it back out.

The writing was pleasant, the stand out of the book I’d say. Ransom Riggs created a very atmospheric, dark mood which I enjoyed immensely and suited the storyline. It wasn’t too verbose, but wasn’t too brief. However, I was disappointed with the inclusion of photography – I’ve never really been exposed to many books that have an emphasis on illustrations/photography, and I was hoping that they’d play a bigger role in the novel. At first it worked, but as the story progressed it just became more irrelevant.

Overall, meh. I’d definitely say that I preferred the start of the book over the rest of it, but it still wasn’t a highlight. It’s good in the way that it’s suitable for both genders I think, but don’t go in with high expectations. It was an okay read – which isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. I am sad to say that I am disappointed. However, it was a good introduction into some darker, eerier books for Halloween so I guess I’ve found that silver lining. Unlikely to continue on with the series.

Rating: 3/5

Embrace (The Violet Eden Chapters, #1) – Jessica Shirvington

Embrace

“I walked right into the tornado to meet my lion and I knew then that my virtue was never letting weakness rule me.”

Source: Bought and Signed Personally By Author
Title: Embrace
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Published: October 1st 2010
Pages: 382
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Angelic Folklore
First Line: “Birthdays aren’t my thing.”

Synopsis: 

It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

I originally bought this book at the start of the year, along with Disruption by the same author at my school’s literature festival. After sitting in at one of the author’s sessions and hearing her speak about writing, it’s safe to say that a healthy level of intrigue had been acquired. Shortly after, I had them signed and they were then shelved among the hundreds of other books piling in my bedroom. However, recently after binging on the classic genre I thought that it would be nice to return to the sweet comfort of the YA realm for a bit and thus, I picked up Embrace. 

Many of my friends absolutely love this book series, and as it was an angel novel how could I not? However, in this case it was one of those times where you turn the last page of the book, put it down and sigh disappointedly.

Now don’t get me wrong – the book wasn’t the worst book that I’ve ever read, nor was it among my blacklist of books. But considering all the praise I had heard of the book I was left feeling very underwhelmed. Nevertheless though, it had its strengths and it had its faults, which I shall discuss now. 

I had quite the bittersweet relationship with the characterisation featured within this novel – I loved some characters, I liked aspects to others and the remainder I felt just ‘meh’ about. The protagonist, Violet, was a perfect example of this love/hate relationships – sometimes I was like “Yeah, this girl is cool! She sure has her head screwed on the right way!” and other times I was more like “Okay, please stop speaking because you’re literally hurting my brain.” I really enjoyed how headstrong and determined she was, and she was by no means a weak character at all – but her thoughts and actions sometimes just had me shaking the book in frustration. She obviously had some flair for the dramatics, especially when approaching the topic of the love triangle – boy, did she add more drama to that situation than need be. Oh, he kept something from me to protect me! Oh, the betrayal! Oh, he didn’t tell me something big about himself because it was a touchy issue for himself and perhaps there’s more to the story! Oh, I shall never talk to him again (or bother to hear his side of the story)! I particularly felt annoyance within me grow in terms of her preoccupation with Lincoln, one of the love interests and don’t even get me started on how I felt when she constantly used Phoenix just for her own gain, without regard for his feelings.
This leads me into my next topic – Lincoln and Phoenix, the love interests. Usually I’d look at them separately, however in this case I think together is the way they need to be addressed. The development and building of their characters confused the heck out of me. I personally really loved Phoenix – he was hot, snarky (but not quite an A-grade asshole) and BOY, talk about the sexual tension. But he still had a sweet and protective side (well, the protective side was a bit more bad boy-esque) and I really enjoyed the way he interacted with the other characters, especially Violet. It was entertaining to watch him manipulate their emotions. Some had it coming, anyway. He was pretty much the main reason why I kept reading the book. Lincoln’s cool too, but I just didn’t really care for him – there wasn’t as much depth to his character as there was to Phoenix’s, in my opinion. But the main issue I had with the characterisation was the feeling that I got while reading that the author hadn’t categorised them properly as characters. Which of the two was the dangerous, more bad boy type? Which was the safer option? At first, I felt that Phoenix was definitely the bad boy and I really enjoyed that – it suited him much more – but then towards the middle portion it felt as though Lincoln and Phoenix had swapped characters – Phoenix was saying this that Lincoln would’ve usually and had become the ‘safe option’, and Lincoln acted as though he were some big ‘mystery’ (he wasn’t). Violet’s constant obsessing over Lincoln didn’t help either and when, at the end, they swapped back it just made everything melt even more into a pool of confusion. Sometimes it’s refreshing when authors twist book character stereotypes, but only when it’s executed right – and this didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. It didn’t feel solid and most of the time I found myself uncertain of who or what kind of characters Lincoln and Phoenix were – which really hindered the overall characterisation of the book. 

The plot was intriguing though, and I could tell that the author had certainly taken a lot of time in her research of angelic mythology – which I always appreciate. I found myself very much interested in what was going to happen, and the ending was successful in keeping me enthralled into what would come next. The plot twists lacked strength however, with many not being surprises at all (in fact, from the beginning of the novel I just assumed that that knowledge was part of the storyline already). 

The writing was where the main downfall was unfortunately. Like I always say, the writing style and characterisation are the most important elements of a novel for me, and this was just…well, mediocre at best. The language felt very elementary – “I felt angry. I fell like wind. He looked shocked.” It really was a pitfall to the book, having no ability to take your breath away at the wonder of a phrase or sentence. It was just like…well, like anyone on the street could have written it. Much of the information was served through information dumping, particularly through the dialogue from characters. In general, the dialogue was very clunky and unrealistic. It also felt as though the author was trying to illustrate Violet as being the best protagonist ever – characters were always complimenting her, blatantly pointing out her strengths as though to remind readers if they’d forgotten – “you’d never give in to weakness”, “you’d never hurt anyone unless you had to”. It occurred far too often and made the book feel tedious and repetitive. 

Overall, the book certainly had its faults but still maintained a level of entertainment. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel unless you were desperately at lost for something to read, or if you personally think that you would enjoy it. Nevertheless though, the storyline still captivated me and I am looking to continue on with the series as I am very much interested in finding out what will happen next. 

Rating: 3/5 

Sisters Red – Jackson Pearce

Sisters Red

“I am confident, I am capable, and I will not wait to be rescued by a woodsman or a hunter.”

Source: Given As A Gift
Title: Sisters Red
Author: Jackson Pearce
Published: June 7th 2010
Pages: 328
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Dark, Fairytale Retellings
First Line: Strangers never walk down this road, the sisters thought in unison as the man trudged toward them.”

Synopsis:

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris – the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and a blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an axe and is Scarlett’s only friend – but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?

When I originally added this book to my ‘to-read’ list on Goodreads, it was one of those additions that was more of a spur-of-the-moment decision than a well thought-out one. I had first heard of this book on YouTube from TheArtsyGal12 and had seen it pop up numerous times afterwards, but never took the time to really put any research into the book. However, I heard that it was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and as that is my favourite fairytale, how could I not add it to the list? Nevertheless, when I opened the wrapping of this present on my birthday and the title of the book was revealed I was thrilled all the same.

I did decide to read this book for the Booktubeathon readathon (despite how much of a flop my participation in the event turned out to be) and after reading The Hobbit, it was everything that I had been searching for for my next read. Dark, suspenseful, thrilling and taunt, it was such a fast action-packed read that had me enthralled the entire journey.

Firstly, I’d like to start by advising against reading the blurb on the back of the book (or at least the edition I read, the one of the image pasted above). DON’T DO IT! JUST DON’T! It gave away major clues as to the key plot twist of the story, and for most of this read I was wondering when the-thing-in-the-blurb-which-I-will-not-have-the-audacity-to-name-but-was-present-none-the-less was going to happen and when it did, it was past the 3/4 mark! So while I give a thumbs up to this story, I give a frown and a stubbed toe to whoever wrote the blurb.

I’ll jump straight into my most highly-regarded part of any book – the characterisation! I LOVED Scarlett and Rosie. Their relationship dynamic was one of my favourite aspects to this novel, mostly due to both how realistic their characters individually were and how they closely they interacted with each other. Particularly within the young-adult, paranormal genre, you rarely get the opportunity to really explore the bond of siblings – either the protagonist is an only child, their sibling is a prat or they just aren’t altogether that close with them. It was invigorating to see such a tight-knit relationship between siblings as I think that family should certainly have a higher emphasis on more books within this genre. The way their relationship was described was so heart-breaking and it just touched your heart to see them go to all ends to fight for each other, two halves of one whole.
While it is extremely difficult for me to pick a favourite out of the two girls, I think Scarlett wins out just marginally. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the layers to her character as she had so much hidden depth! She was so strong, fierce and protective of her sister – and you feel such an intense sympathy for her as she compares her scars to her sister’s beauty. It was saddening to have to hear her true thoughts on feeling like an outcast for being marred and ‘ugly’. That dichotomy of ugliness to beauty was interestingly addressed too – even though Scarlett was scarred all over, the beauty of her character was easily on par with Rosie’s. Not only that, but Scarlett is seriously one hell of a badass. I mean, come on. Just look at her wickedly sharp hatchet.
Rosie was a much softer, sweet character which I also appreciated for the contrast to Scarlett. I found her to be extremely relatable, and she represented the perspective that I think many young girls would take if put into her position. She knew of her duty to protect innocent, oblivious young girls from the monsters that lurked in the streets but at the same time, she can’t help but pine for a different life. Truth be told, in any other mishandled circumstance she probably would’ve been the kind of character I would have resented, however her character was written so well that I didn’t end up having a problem with her at all – I loved her!
As for Silas, I wasn’t so fond of him. I didn’t feel that he had anywhere as near as much depth as the sisters and seemed quite flat. He was nice sure enough and the passion between Rosie and he was undeniable, but I would’ve liked to see a few more sides to him than the one side that was shown.
This leads into the next topic – the romance. For a large portion of this book, I actually didn’t know whether I liked Rosie and Silas together or not! It was written in a very intoxicating, addictive style that really intensified the passion between them and I think that part was executed extremely well, as it had a good balance of darkness and realism that any romance in that kind of situation I would expect would have. However, I can’t help but think that their relationship progressed a little too quickly. I know they have been childhood friends for a very long time and that when they first saw each other again it was primarily physical attraction that drove them together, but I still think that it felt a bit too rushed. I didn’t like how the term ‘love’ was introduced so quickly in regard to them and it was said too prematurely in the relationship besides. This is a pet peeve of mine, admittedly – I do not like it when characters claim ‘love’ for each other too early on.
The wolves were one of my favourite aspects. They were absolutely TERRIFYING! They were such a fresh, new take on werewolves that were a perfect mix of eeriness and terror. Readers could easily see the parallels between these wolves and the predators that actually lurk our streets at night – that was the most frightening part of their role, I’d say. They always had such a foreboding and hair-raising presence on the page and watching them hunt just sent chills running down your spine.

In terms of plot, I think that it was very interesting, even if a little basic. The novel itself was like a vanilla cake – delicious, but it’s the frosting and decorations that really finish it off. The dark aspects, the characterisation and the interesting spin on the classic fairytale were these embellishments. The plot twist, though, wasn’t much of a plot twist as I suspected it from the start. Again, the blurb really gave too much away, but I would’ve suspected it anyway – it was definitely the kind of twist you could see coming from page one. I did enjoy the Dragonfly metaphor though (for those who have read the book) as well as their grandmother’s shadows/sunshine story. It was integrated very well into the storyline and the helped with the development of their situation. I also give Kudos for the ending. I loved the way the epilogue was written, it was all sad and happy and sweet and nostalgic all at once, written in an unfamiliar yet refreshing style.

Stylistically, the dual perspective really surprised me. Usually I’m not too fond of double-gender perspectives as they can sound very similar when alternating between characters, but Rosie and Scarlett’s voices were so distinctive that I didn’t get confused at all between the two. The story also had a great pace to it and even though some action sequences felt too common and repetitive, it mostly kept you on your toes. I really appreciated the language within the book – it was concise and straight to the point, but some phrases…man, could they take your breath away.

All in all, Sisters Red was a very dark, mysterious and suspenseful read. It gave me precisely the kind of read I was looking for at that time and it was extremely enjoyable despite its faults. Would recommend to lovers of dark fantasy, paranormal and action.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our Stars
“that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” – augustus waters

Source: Bought
Title: The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green
Published: January 10th 2012
Pages: 318
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
First Line: Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided that I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

Synopsis: 

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

One of John Green’s more recent contemporary stories, The Fault In Our Stars, is an incredibly powerful and thoughtful novel following the conceptual trace of life, loss, the meaning behind being alive and the legacy of death. The protagonist, Hazel, is a sixteen-year-old girl who has, from the start, been written down as a terminal cancer patient and has been bought only a sliver of extra relief due to a miracle drug that would help prolong the years of her already-seemingly-tragic life. She views the world with a blunt honesty and truthfulness, believing nothing more will come to her life – that is, until she meets Augustus Waters, another cancer kid from a mutual support group. The story follows the blossoming of their philosophical, thought-provoking and inspiring relationship while they deal with the inevitability of oblivion, fate and death.

The storyline focuses almost entirely on the relationship between Hazel and Augustus, detailing their intense and deep-rooted theories and ideas on the whole mystery of life. Hazel is a strong and incredibly realistic female protagonist with a rather bleak outlook on life at first – she accepts that she will not live the same life as many others around her yet still yearns for it. She is smart, witty and her voice is both intellectual and stimulating, which is also another reason which draws Augustus’ attention to her.
Augustus is very similar to Hazel in the philosophically-inclined thoughts sense. A living and breathing metaphor in himself, he questions the world around him constantly yet remains optimistic always, even though he accepts the probable death of all his fellow cancer patients. He helps Hazel grow as both a woman and a character and their relationship is both intense and heart-breaking.
Their struggle with coming to terms with cancer leads them to ask all the questions that many adolescents often find themselves asking – Who am I? Why am I here? What is there after death? What will I leave behind, what will become of the human kind once we’re all gone?

Green’s writing was, as usual, concise yet elegantly poetic, with the ability to make you gasp at the beauty of sentence or twist of a word. His imagination never fails us readers with the constant appearance of breathtaking metaphors often accompanied by some deep thought-provoking underlying connection to reality – such as with Augustus and his cigarettes that he puts in his mouth yet never lights;
“It’s a metaphor, see: you put the killing thing right between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”

While I certainly did enjoy this read, it did have its flaws. For quite significant portions of the novel some of the dialogue and description was quite pretentious, especially regarding Augustus’ character. His lines were almost crossing the brink of ridiculousness – however, I understand that pretentiousness was actually acknowledged as one of his personality faults, so to some extent this was expected. And while Hazel was respectfully mature for her age given her situation and her experiences with being forced to confront the hardships of life earlier than regular teenagers, some of her thoughts and lines weren’t always realistic in what a teenager would say. In many of these instances Green’s own personal voice leaked through, his voice of which I’m quite familiar with due to a regular subscription to his mini YouTube empire (shh…!).

The story is swamped with tears and heartbreak issued from loss and death, but never fails to baffle readers with beautiful writing and deep meanings. The emotional intimacy of the novel takes your breath away and leaves you questioning everything about being alive – the purpose, the point and the proceeding. John Green has yet again stunned the literacy community with this tragically reflective story and it is truly a worthy achievement by itself.

Rating: 3.5/5

Stolen – Lucy Christopher

Stolen

“and it’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.” – gemma toombs

Lucy Christopher’s young-adult contemporary novel, Stolen, was thought-provoking and intense, dealing with the difficult and equally controversial topic of kidnapping. Set from the perspective of Gemma, a sixteen-year-old girl that gets taken from an airport by an attractive yet not-quite-there-in-the-head young man, the story is the telling of a heartfelt letter from the girl to her captor. Written in the uncommon second-person tense, the novel intensifies as Gemma’s own feelings do as well – with contrasting emotions of love and hate, confinement and freedom and hope and hopelessness.  
The story starts straight off the bat and the pacing in the novel was fairly consistent. Throughout the middle portion of the novel it occasionally felt a little dry and repetitive, but it wasn’t difficult to push through and still kept you very interested. Unravelling the mind of Ty, Gemma’s captor, was certainly a strong-suit and the way that Christopher has realistically built his backstory and his perspective is highly admirable. I often found myself understanding Ty in some areas, almost agreeing in others. And that was part of the fantastic thing about this story – it was so realistically honest that you couldn’t point out who was wrong, only who was more wrong. Was he the martyr or was he the villain? And that’s the point – nobody is either, because everybody is both.
Ty’s perspective on humankind, civilisation, freedom and wilderness was truly intriguing and relatable. You find yourself wanting this creep locked up yet aching for the tortured, lost boy. And the way that Christopher handled that – the way that Gemma handled that – was very well done. She reacted the way any sane teenage girl would and utterly freaked out. 
Sometimes I found myself getting tired and a little frustrated with the repetition of the Australian landscape and the wilderness, yet I suppose this could be considered as both a blessing and a curse. As an Australian myself (born and bred), sometimes I felt like shouting YES! I GET IT! IT WAS HOT AND IT WAS BARREN! MOVE ALONG PEOPLE! But other times, my breath was stolen by how accurate and vivid the descriptions was. And it did make for a fantastic setting, and I can imagine that many other people who have not yet had the privilege to visit Australia would now have a fairly realistic view on it (if you left out the beaches, forest, cities, oceans, reefs, mountains, snow, etc). I also found metaphorical meaning in the smallest details – the presence of the camel and how I viewed that to signify Gemma as she was with Ty, and how when he had to let the camel go it showed how Gemma had to leave behind part of who she had grown to become while with him. The second-person tense was effective and gave a closer sense of understanding between the reader and the characters and also helped establish the relationship between them both. 

In conclusion, Lucy Christopher’s novel was both achingly beautiful yet very thought provoking (and don’t even get me started on this gorgeous cover!). It addressed heavy issues yet did so with grace and respect and for that, it is a great achievement. While it no doubt had its flaws, the overall reading experience was intense and enjoyable which is, after all, what we all look for in a book. 

The Divergent Trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent & Allegiant) – Veronica Roth

Divergent Trilogy

“we believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” – dauntless manifesto

Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy is action-packed, gripping and exhilarating, leaving you breathless as you desperately turn the pages for more. Set in dystopian Chicago, the story is told from the perspective of Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior, a young girl in a society split into ‘factions’ – Dauntless (for the brave), Abnegation (for the selfless) Erudite (for the intelligent), Candor (for the honest) and Amity (for the kind). Born and raised under the stifling rules of Abnegation, Tris’s life takes a sharp twist when she chooses to leave her family and lifestyle and instead join the reckless, fearless life of the Dauntless. Throughout the three books, however, she faces worse obstacles – she must overcome her Dauntless initiation to become a member and then progress to fight in a revolution against the Erudite who try to wrestle power away from the peaceful Abnegation. Soon she finds herself living a life of war and grief and through this grief, she must find a way to be brave.

The plot was fast-paced, action packed and gripping, with plot twists and climaxes coming around every bend and turn. The world that Roth has built is incredibly realistic, which may be one of the most frightening aspects about this story as it reflects a sour direction that our society may well be leading to. The characters are thrown up against hardship after hardship and the way that their choices and actions affect the storyline is truly phenomenal. Roth has been able to weave the plot out of threads of characterisation, which lead to only a more gripping experience as we find ourselves fearing for the lives of our most loved characters. The whole political struggle and revolution is dealt with in a way that is extraordinary yet suitable for young adult readers. While some parts may slow down a fraction, it mostly keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wonder what side of the battle is the right one – and if any side is truly right after all.

The characterisation was a job really well done. Both the decisions of major and minor characters had the ability to completely shift the storyline into something else – can you trust this person? Which side are they on?
The protagonist, Tris, was an absolutely outstanding character. Her character developmental arc was one of the best I have seen yet, with her being a bit meek and innocent at the start of the series and then growing to become this incredibly strong, independent woman that is brave in the face of danger and will fight for what is right. She has had to face so many hardships and trauma but she continues to persevere on, despite betrayals and devastating losses that she must face along the way.
“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.
The male main character (who co-narrates the final book, Allegiant) Tobias ‘Four’ Eaton, is yet another strong character with a passion for doing right. Having faced a tough and emotionally-crippling childhood, he meets Tris as her Dauntless instructor and from there their relationship blossoms. One of the best aspects of their relationship, though, is how realistic it is – there is no ‘instant romance’ and their feelings towards each other is the result of being through so much together yet charging on. They both teach each other new meanings to life and help each other grow to an outstanding level. While he is not quite one of my personal favourite characters, he is a very realistic character and his strength and genuineness is something that I greatly respect.  
The minor characters, unlike many YA novels I have read, was very strongly done. Characters such as Christina, Uriah, Caleb, Peter and many more impacted upon the story so well, with loss and betrayal impacting them all differently and shaping them all into different people. Many times it is easy to forget minor character’s developmental arc but Roth certainly didn’t leave this out. It was lovely and intriguing to read about their relationships with one another and how their choices influenced their perceptions of the world and each other.
The villains were also a strong suit that was addressed very well, as there wasn’t really one that stood out (aside from perhaps Jeanine Matthews). All the characters mostly thought they were doing what was right and what was good for the society – and this made it all the more harder to decide if they were reliable or not, and to see the truth between the threads of web.

Roth’s writing was short, simple and powerful, which was much needed in a fast action story such as this one. It cut straight to the chase and the dialogue and quotes were definitely a strong suit. The way she has represented virtues of value – bravery, honesty, intelligence, kindness and selflessness whilst also taking in their downfalls was magnificent and a skill that many others would have overlooked. She has taught readers to be brave and to always see the truth and right in a situation, one powerful message of many sent through a powerful story. It was so full of mortal pain – loss, betrayal, tragedy, grief – yet promoted such strength that I truly could not wish for a better message. Veronica Roth, you have earned my highest respects.

The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer & The Evolution Of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, The Evolution of Mara Dyer

 

Michelle Hodkin’s trilogy, The Mara Dyer Trilogy, is off to an absolutely fantastic, compelling start. Dark, intoxicating and haunting, these first two books will have you glued to each page, hanging on the curve of each word. The story follows the life of Mara Dyer, a young 17-year-old girl who has relatively recently survived through a freak accident that killed off two of her best friends and her boyfriend. Her family relocated to Florida to give her a fresh, new start – but that isn’t the only new thing in Mara’s life. While attending her new school, Croyden Academy, she meets and befriends Jamie Roth, a hilariously pessimistic ‘delinquent’, as viewed by the rest of the school, and starts at trying to build a life for herself. That is, until she meets Noah Shaw. Incredibly handsome, arrogant, and with a killer British accent, she finds herself both attracted and infuriated by him. But she soon discovers that she has bigger problems in her hands, after she fleetingly wishes the deaths of two undesirable characters – and it happens.

The plotline was unbelievably original, unlike any story that I personally have ever read before. Written in dream-like haze, the story is dark, nightmarish and almost psychotic – yet utterly compelling and intoxicating. The storyline evolves gradually yet at a clean, consistent pace – at the beginning of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, it’s focused on Mara’s past struggles and moving past them to start a new life, however by the end of The Evolution of Mara Dyer, it warps into something completely new – something unknown, something dark, something terrifying. It leaves the reader unsure of what is real and what is not, questioning the borders of dreams and reality. Climaxes in the story comes at strange, unexpected intervals, which cause you to jump out of your seat in both terror and exhilaration, making the overall read climatic, ambiguous and thrilling. 
In The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the good first portion of the story evolves around her relocation and fitting in to the new town – however, do not feel discouraged by this. During this portion all the characters, especially the main, are established as well as the setting and style of writing. It also focuses heavily on the relationship between Mara and Noah – and you will constantly find yourself amused by their light-hearted yet competitive banter. In between this seemingly mundane situation, however, dark flashbacks, nightmares, strange thoughts and happenings are splashed between the lines. Mara begins to question if she really is going insane, but as the first book begins to draw to a close, she discovers things about both herself and Noah – powers – that aren’t normal, yet seem to link them in a way that not even fate could determine. 
In The Evolution of Mara Dyer, things definitely take a turn down the dark end. After the extreme climatic cliff-hanger left by the first book, events start to evolve into one big heap of shadows, secrecy and insanity. Mara and Noah desperately search for the answers to what has been happening to them, seeking out medical help, spiritual advice and even help including drinking chicken blood. This journey to discovery is mostly unsuccessful – however, do unlock a new series of events and memories for Mara that shouldn’t even be hers – memories from a different person, from a different time. Mara and Noah now are completely unsure of what is happening, and it doesn’t help when she is locked up into a mental institution 87% of the time. Events flurry in a whirlwind of mystery as they are thrown into a pool of history that seem to have a link to the present day, and Mara is thrown into a life of terror as she finds herself being watched, stalked and taunted by someone, someone that she thought was dead but now knows certainly isn’t.   

The characterisation was certainly one of the strongest points of these novels – especially in terms of the protagonist, Mara. Written in a first-person tense, readers could clearly see an established sense of character. Mara, being strong-willed, bluntly honest and not afraid to admit that sometimes she gets terrified made for the perfect protagonist and love interest. She was able to, no matter how afraid she was, bite her tongue and pull through all the terrible ordeals, proving her incredible strength of will and mind. She had a profound sense of street-smarts, and knew when and what to say, which made her smart and an incredibly realistic character. As readers looked at things from her perspective you could really understand her, her emotions and her reasoning behind her actions. When you read, you weren’t reading from Mara – you were Mara. 
“You’re the girl who called me an asshole the first time we spoke. The girl who tried to pay for lunch even after you learned I have more money than God. You’re the girl who risked her ass to save a dying dog, who makes my chest ache whether you’re wearing green silk or ripped jeans.”
And then there was Noah. Beautiful, arrogant, indescribably loyal Noah, with his lilting British accent and always messily attractive dark hair. His humour, recklessness and cockiness mixed in with his infinite devotion, loyalty, and his hidden compassionate heart made him for the perfect love interest for Mara, and a swoon-worthy character for readers. Never doubting Mara, he gives her all his trust when they discover their mysterious, paranormal connection, and provides her with the much-needed firm foundation for her to lean against. 
“Noah – sarcastic, distant, untouchable Noah – cared. And that made him real.”

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer are both absolutely superb reads, leaving you in a dream-like trance and clinging to each word. The unique, dark, almost psychotic storyline leaves you gripping each page tightly and utterly intoxicated with the story and the characters, shadowy nightmares, flashbacks and taunts written in blood will keep you up all night with no regard for the time, drunk on each word and pining for more. Michelle Hodkin has truly written the work of a genius, and I, for one, am holding on to the edge of my seat in wait for the next release.
The Retribution of Mara Dyer is scheduled to be released on June 10th, 2014. 

The Infernal Devices (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince & Clockwork Princess) – Cassandra Clare

 

The Infernal Devices

“we live and breathe words. it was books that kept me from taking my own life after I thought I could never love anyone, be loved again. it was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone.” – will herondale

Source: Bought
Title: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince & Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices Trilogy)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published: August 31st 2010, December 6th 2011, September 5th 2013
Pages: 479, 502, 565
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Historical (Steampunk), Urban Fantasy
First Line (of the first novel): “The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.”

Synopsis (of the first novel):

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series. 

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters – including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organisation of vampires, demons, warlocks and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule to British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy, is beautifully written, heart-wrenching and promises to have you up all night gripping the pages and sobbing madly. The prequel series to Clare’s bestselling debut series, The Mortal Instruments, the story takes place in Victorian England, from the perspective of a young orphaned 16-year-old girl named Tessa Gray who travels to London, England in search for her older brother. Shortly after disembarking, she finds herself captured, tortured, and after a desperate attempt to flee, is saved by a handsome young man who goes by the name of Will Herondale. She quickly learns the hidden truth about London, and is sucked into a world of demons and Shadowhunters; half-angel, half-human warriors who fight a never-ending battle against evil. Still desperate to find her brother, she bands with these Shadowhunters to fight their common enemy. Meanwhile, she also finds herself caught between Will and Jem – two Shadowhunter best friends with a sacred bond closer than blood.

The plotline was very original and elaborate, with the interesting concepts of non-living creatures (automatons) entering a battle between angels and demons, avenging family deaths, dark underground societies and spiteful blood feuds. The setting of the story was breathtaking, putting you right into the era and created a magical atmosphere and aura. The story incorporated intense elements of revenge, betrayal and hatred that thickened the storyline, especially in terms of relationships characters had with one another. The story, while having a gripping action-narrative, mainly focused on these relationships between characters. The incorporation of literature and poetry in the storyline was simply beautiful, particularly with the quotes both spoken by characters and featured at the beginning of each chapter. The mutual love and passion for novels shared between Tessa and Will very strongly shaped their relationship with each other, especially in terms of comparing the characters from their favourite novels (A Tale of Two Cities) to themselves and also beautifully built upon their trust in each other. The love triangle was cleverly mastered, with two young men falling for the same down to earth, stubborn and straight-forward girl. The twist was, though, that one of the men was broken, hesitant to love (the heart-breaking cause revealed in the second book), and the other man was dying.

The characterisation, as with the case for most of Clare’s literacy wonders, was most certainly the strong point. The protagonist, Tessa, was strong-willed and straight to the point, yet had an optimistic and loving heart. Her ability to see things in an always truthful light led her to become both a realistic love interest and an admirable character.
“‘One must always be careful of books,’ said Tessa, ‘and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.'”
However, the two main male characters, Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs, and their hugely contrasting personalities were the real highlights of the series. Will, with his sharp wit, beautiful exterior and renowned prowess in combat, was unwilling and hesitant to love, resulting in his reckless behaviour, quick temper and self-destructive actions. Although unbearably guarded, his broken and hidden heart of gold was flooded with despair and tragedy and the cause for his unwillingness to love or be loved is truly heartbreaking.
He was Will, in all his perfect imperfection; Will, whose heart was as easy to break as it was carefully guarded; Will, who loved not wisely but entirely and with everything he had.
Jem, on the other hand, with his love for classical music and always-forgiving nature balanced the pair out like fire and water. His soft words of comfort and ever-present understanding only added to the agonizing fact that he was dying, and forced to take a drug that was killing him slowly, but would kill him immediately if he stopped use.
“His beauty did not blaze like Will’s did in fierce colours and repressed fire, but it had its own muted perfection, the loveliness of snow falling against a silver gray sky.” 
The real heart-breaking aspect of the storyline, though, is not the relationship they had with Tessa (although that was a tear-jerker), but their relationship with one another. Bound by a sacred Shadowhunter oath, the two had a bond closer than blood, better than brothers. The very fact that Jem was dying was tragic, and really put into perspective their connection, how close they were with each other and how far they’d both be willing to go for the other person. Tying it in with their mutual love for the same girl, and you have yourself a story which pages are founded in tears.
“Our souls are knit. We are one person, Jem.” 

The Infernal Devices truly is a phenomenal read, with the rare ability to make you both cry and laugh simultaneously. The intricate and compelling action-packed storyline keeps you on the edge of your seat and the characters and their delicately woven relationships with one another will keep you up until the dawning hours of the morning, huddled under bedsheets and praying to make the pain in your heart go away. Clare has yet again moved, twisted and broken our hearts with her enchanting crafting of words and, to put it in the words of Tessa Gray, changed us.

Ratings: 
Clockwork Angel: 4.5/5
Clockwork Prince: 5/5
Clockwork Princess: 5/5