taketimetoshine: (Winter Warmth)
Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption

My rating: 3/5
Tagged: 101 things in 1001 days, adventure, childrens, mystery
Date I started this book: 31/05/16
Date I finished this book: 01/06/16

What did I think? While reading this book, it didn't really appeal to me. Although I really loved the characters like Stanley and Zero, I still don't get what the big deal was. This story of a boy named Stanley Yelnats gets into Camp Green Lake because he stole a pair of shoes. He then makes friends that have weird nicknames and eventually he gets a weird nickname too. He was 'Caveman'.

I really liked Zero's and Stanley's friendship because Stanley risked his life to go and look for Zero. And they did things for each other. Stanley teaches Zero how to read, and Zero digs a part of his hole every day. And they didn't even have a problem with that, only the other kids did. I thought it was really awesome when the lawyer and Stanley prove that Zero is clean and he can leave the camp.

I think both Zero and Stanley are underdogs, as well as losers and outcasts. I think both of them are underdogs because I didn't expect them to survive. And if they did, I thought the Warden would do something really bad to them. And they're losers because being a loser is to have bad luck in life, to be unpopular and/or unsuccessful. Well they did have bad luck because they got into Camp Green Lake. They aren't popular either. When Stanley was in school, he didn't have any friends and he was bullied. Zero is a loser because he doesn't have friends and he basically almost died. And they are outcasts because they both don't fit in with other kids. Stanley has no friends and he gets made fun of for being fat. And Zero gets underestimated and everyone thinks he's stupid.
taketimetoshine: (Believe In Love)
Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl
The blurb:On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My rating: 4/5
Tagged: 101 things in 1001 days, contemporary, crime, mystery, thriller
Date I started this book: 26/05/16
Date I finished this book: 30/05/16

What did I think? I am very late to the Gone Girl party. Despite the rave reviews, the movie and the office colleagues' discussions, I have managed to steer clear of any spoilers and came to the book with no idea about the plot twists.

I enjoyed it - I found it an above average thriller. I particularly enjoyed going on the ride when one of the protagonists goes to the cabins and the oh-oh feeling you get when a story takes an unexpected turning. I even found certain phrases quite resonant eg. "My value has decreased" in one of Amy's diary entries. I don't know why it struck me but it encapsulated her thoughts then about that particular subject.

Yes it does not have a conventional ending but even that made it interesting for me - though I would have found it more satisfying if it had.

All in all, a decent page turner which I enjoyed but will probably not be rereading for some time
taketimetoshine: (Sam)
Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett - Good Omens
The blurb:According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
My rating: 4/5
Tagged: humor, urban fantasy, religion, supernatural
Date I started this book: 17/05/16
Date I finished this book: 20/05/16

What did I think? An angel and a devil who are good friends (after all they've been meeting for 6000 years since the world began in 4004 BC) and who like things the way they are, work to avert a plot to bring on Armageddon, with the help of a number of other unusual characters. I suppose I should have indicated a spoiler alert there, but after all, you know already that Armageddon didn't happen.

A fun read, thoroughly recommended. Mentally summing it up as "Just William meets Dennis Wheatley" (does anybody still read Dennis Wheatley?) I was then amused to discover that the book had had the early working title of "William the Antichrist". I docked a star because some of Terry Pratchett's later books are so good, and I must keep something for even better books that in many ways are similar. In a less clunky system I would give it 4.8 stars.

Wonderfully inventive on every page. The only reason that I wasn't completely bowled over was that I came late to this clever work. I've long admired the surreal comedy of Douglas Adams, which had shown the way earlier, and that plus the influence of this book during the quarter-century since the Gaiman/Pratchett co-operation has made its originality a fraction less startling.
taketimetoshine: (Sam)
Richard Adams - Watership Down
The blurb:Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
My rating: 4/5
Tagged: classics, fantasy, animals, childrens
Date I started this book: 12/05/16
Date I finished this book: 16/05/16

What did I think? I want to read more classic books, and older titles that I feel I should've read, and one of these is Watership Down. I had been aware of the book and film and the basic premise, but didn't realised that it was such an adventure story.

The story begins as young rabbit Fiver has a vision that something terrible to going to happen to the warren, he convinces his brother Hazel to go to the Chief Rabbit and tell him that they need to leave the warren. Hazel is dismissed, but Fiver is so insistent and has had visions before, so he decides that they should leave the warren, taking certain of their trusted friends with them. the Owsla, or council, of the warren find out about this and try to arrest them, but the small band of rabbits is able to escape.

The rest of the first part of the book then describes their journey to finally find a new warren on Watership Down, evading dogs, snares and other suspicious rabbits, but this is by no means the end of the story. Once the band have begun to dig their own warren, Hazel realises that they are going to run into a problem - they are all male rabbits and there are no Does to breed with.

With the help of a seagull, Kehaar, that the rabbits take care of when he is injured, they locate Efrafra and hope to negotiate a peaceful coexistence with them, if some does would like to leave with them, but this is not to the liking of the despotic leader, General Woundwort.

As classics go, Watership Down was not hard to read at all, maybe it's because it's a relatively `modern classic'. It does have some `rabbit language' which can be a bit difficult to decipher, but it's worthwhile to stick with it. What really comes through in the text if Adams' love for the countryside and creatures he is writing about, it's almost a love letter to the English landscape and while seen through the eyes of the rabbits it can be a scary and uncertain place, there is still time in their trek to enjoy their surroundings.
taketimetoshine: (Fall)
Veronica Roth - Allegiant
The blurb:The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered - fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningliess. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend to complexities of human nature - and of herself - while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, romance, science-fiction
Date I started this book: 06/05/16
Date I finished this book: 11/05/16

What did I think? I have huge respect for Veronica Roth and how she decided to conclude the series. While the story didn't take the route I was expecting, I'm finally at the place where I can understand why the events transpire in such a way. I will admit I wasn't so rational about the dramatic conclusion the first time I read it! I do now feel as though the events are in keeping with the tone of the book and Tris's story. Sometimes ugly crying is cathartic, and to be honest, I'm happy with the ending.

I remember being frustrated with Four the first time I read Allegiant. His POV was so different to the strong warrior I'd been more than I little obsessed with. What I'll take away with me after sitting down and reading the book properly without rushing to get to the end to see what transpires, is that he's not a superhero, but just a guy in a bad situation. He may be strong, but is prone to mistakes and misjudgement. This is okay, he's allowed to rely on others without being weak.

Divergent will always be the series that made me think it's okay to not have a neatly tied up Happily Ever After
taketimetoshine: (Make Love Not War)
Veronica Roth - Insurgent
The blurb:I HAVE DONE BAD THINGS.
I CAN'T TAKE THEM BACK,
AND THEY ARE PART OF WHO I AM.

Tris has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family. But she has paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes ever more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future.

Yet if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be stronger than ever... because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie ahead.
My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, romance, science-fiction
Date I started this book: 02/05/16
Date I finished this book: 05/05/16

What did I think? Insurgent is the second book in Veronica Roth's amazing Divergent series and I admit, I started it the moment I finished Divergent, desperate to know what happened next. Insurgent paints a bigger picture of the world, giving us a chance to learn more about the other factions and their members. Equally intriguing for me was the development of Tris and Tobias' relationship. I loved how Divergent ends with Tobias' confession of love, but just as Divergent wasn't a love story, neither is Insurgent; Roth is not to be distracted by their relationship and doesn't lose focus from the main point of the story.

However, by far the best part of Insurgent is the secret. We learn quite early on that Marcus is keeping a rather large secret that will affect the entirety of the world in which they live and may even be behind the war. The secret generally remains in the background of the story, but Roth brings it to the foreground on occasion, tantalising and tempting, reminding the reader that there is still a lot we don't know. Yet the biggest thing this secret does is differentiate it from similar dystopian books. It makes the Divergent series stand out because there is now more to this series than overthrowing a corrupt leader and therefore also establishes the point of the trilogy.

If you've read Divergent, read Insurgent. It is just as good as the first. Many sequels don't live up to the first book (the Hunger Games trilogy is a good example of this), but Insurgent is different. It isn't repetitive as some sequels are; it has a point all of its own that leads nicely on from Divergent, using Divergent as a solid foundation on which to build. It does take a while to get into it so if it doesn't grip you immediately, don't worry. The second half absolutely makes up for this. It is infectious and impossible to put down.
taketimetoshine: (Believe In Love)
Veronica Roth - Divergent
The blurb:In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.


My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, romance, science-fiction
Date I started this book: 29/03/16
Date I finished this book: 02/05/16

What did I think? I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite being a little put off by its supposed similarity to The Hunger Games. Whilst the setting is similar as they're both dystopian young adult books, this book has a completely different plot.

I like the setting - that people are placed in one of four factions depending on their personality type - and the fact that main character Tris does not nearly fit into one particular faction, so is therefore considered to be 'divergent'. Tris is a likeable character and is very human, complete with flaws. There are several supporting characters, and the character interaction (particularly between Tris and Tobias) is great. The characters and the story are well written, but the ending of this book feels rather rushed, like the author ran out of words and had to squeeze the ending in. While the ending is exciting, I'd have liked a slower build up.

Summary - This is an interesting book with an exciting storyline, supported by lots of likeable characters. I found it hard to put down and I'm looking forward to starting book 2 tonight
taketimetoshine: (Default)
Suzanne Collins - Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)
The blurb:Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, science fiction, fantasy
Date I started this book: 19/02/16
Date I finished this book: 24/02/16

What did I think? The goriest and darkest of the trilogy, we find that Katniss Everdeen, still the 17-year old who survived two Hunger Games, is now the Mockingjay, or the face of the rebellion against the Capitol, and President Snow. This book picks up from where Book 2 "Catching Fire", left off, after Katniss breaks apart the facade of the Arena, effectively bringing the Games to an end, and on a larger level, the whole idea of being a spectacle for the Capitol's sick entertainment and subject to its power and oppression.

In an ironic twist, the rebels who set up base in District 13 (which had been thought to be totally destroyed), uses the very weapon that had been the crux of the Capitol's powers - the media. As an emblem of the rebellion, Katniss finds herself airbrushed and beautified to win support from the other oppressed districts, and through trial and error, finds what works best is to get to "Beauty Base Zero", which is "what a person would look like if they stepped out of bed looking flawless but natural. It means my nails are perfectly shaped but not polished. My hair is soft and shiny but not styled.... As a rebel I thought I'd get to look more like myself. But it seems a televised rebel has her own standards to live up to." With sardonic wit, Collins nonetheless convinces the reader with the sobering consistency of her dystopian world.

In the previous installments, the various prep teams and stylist teams assigned to the tributes had stood out for their frivolous antics in the heavily perfumed and sanitised environment outside the arena, but here, they become part of the blood and gore, manicures and fake lashes notwithstanding. While Katniss continues to struggle with her own feelings for Peeta and Gale, she is faced with less and less assurance that she is fighting for the right team, and that her alliances can be trusted, and even if she should trust herself, scarred as she is by her brutal experiences. She questions the offensive tactics that Gale and Beetee, another fellow survivor the Quarter Quell, devise: "That seems to be crossing some kind of line... So anything goes?... I guess there isn't a rule book for what might be acceptable to do to another human being".

Collins gets under the skin of her female protagonist, and follows through with her growing urgency to overthrow the Capitol and Snow, and we see Katniss go beyond issues of survival and revenge, because, as more and more of people around her fall on the wayside, and not just in mortal terms, she questions if humanity is even worth saving: "I think Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences.... The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen."

These are difficult questions, and through Collins's artistic vision that she keeps with tight consistency in this better-than-average YA trilogy, they linger on beyond its closing pages.
taketimetoshine: (Pink Flowers)
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
The blurb:Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister's place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, science fiction, fantasy
Date I started this book: 11/02/16
Date I finished this book: 14/02/16

What did I think? This book is written in first perspective, from the heroine's aspect. Her name is Katniss Everdeen. She starts off in her home, a simple, poor area of the land. She is the provider for her mother and sister with her hunting skills. To protect her younger sister, she is sent to the capitol, along with local boy Peeta, to 'participate' in the annual Hunger Games.

These 'games' are fights to the death, aired and shown to the capitol and all 12 districts under its control, in a survival arena of sorts. The book shows, throughout the story, a somewhat futuristic dystopia society. The tributes (Katniss, Peeta and others in the game) are given basic weapons (bows, spears, clubs) and the district where Katniss is from uses herbs and eats basic foods (squirrel, wild turkey, etc) but the capitol has voice command room service, automatic hair dryers, and a camera/screen set that tracks and shows the tributes (no matter where they go) to the viewers. It is an interesting combination.

There is a 'romantic' setting as well. Katniss and Peeta are to appear as a united team to the people. Peeta even admits to liking her during his interview. So a setting for 'star-crossed lovers' is created. However, Katniss has various feelings toward Peeta throughout the book and its very realistic and understandable, especially when there is possibly another guy back home.

Yet while there are time I can relate to her, at the same time several of her thoughts want to make my roll my eyes or drop my head onto a desk. While she is survival smart, she is not people smart. She can't socialize and cannot read people worth a darn. While it is annoying at times, it is also endearing and has created a unique character.
taketimetoshine: (Make Love Not War)
Jane Austen - Pride & Prejudice
The blurb: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

My rating: 4.5/5
Tagged: classics, romance, literature, british literature
Date I started this book: 07/02/16
Date I finished this book: 10/02/16

What did I think? Classic novel Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Elizabeth Bennett, and her struggle for matrimony in the 19th century north of England. This being the first classic I completed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Firstly, I have to admit, Austen's writing style and narrative of events has a really nice tone, and offers a broad perspective. Because said narrator is impartial to the transpiring events, one can experience the book broadly, and develop personal opinions of each character, which I really enjoy doing. Furthermore, having a narrator like this makes it so that one can feel as though they are watching the story through a present - but quiet and impartial - character's mind's eye, which really helps to bring the story to life.

Next, I wasn't expecting I would say this, yet I am: Jane Austen is really funny. Frankly, I didn't expect to get the jokes interjected into this book, for they are from a differing era to my own, yet I found myself laughing along with some of the witty comments inserted into the story.

However, I would say there are too many sub-plots. Granted, they all tie together at the end, yet I would have preferred it if the book focused plainly on Elizabeth rather than Elizabeth and every one she's ever known. I found myself wishing the book would circle back around to Elizabeth and Darcy, but sometimes there were some rather big gaps away from the main plot line, which bored me quite a bit.

In comparison, I did really like the characters. Elizabeth is really nice to read about, for she is unlike all of her friends and sisters, and decides it is not a man she needs to live. Also, she likes reading, so what really is there to dislike?

Likewise, Darcy is really fun to read about. I love it when a character is so universally hated, only for the truth to dub them all wrong for prejudicing said character in such a way. This is exactly how it worked for Darcy, and I really loved it. Also, the switch between good/bad Darcy is really sudden, yet really natural, further accentuating the poor lighting the characters and the reader have seen Darcy's personality in, perceiving him not as the man he is, but instead the man he appears to be. In turn, this also offers a good message - do not prejudice! You could be prematurely judging the love of your life!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but did - unfortunately - feel as though the pacing was rather slow. There were moments when I found myself feeling rather bored, for the pace had hardly furthered, yet, granted, there were moments in which I was fully enticed by the novel.

June 2016

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