21 July 2011

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver

A lot of people don't like to think about the moment when they die, but this book deals with exactly that: the thing that we may be scared of the most. Death. It may be surprising for you, but this book can be funny and sweet and emotional, the end may well move you to tears of joy.

Sam is a popular teenage girl who dies in a car accident, whose last day keeps replaying. The book was very thought provoking, as it makes you realise how your decisions, however small, affect other people. Simple acts of kindness or angry words could make other peoples lives better or worse. Maybe not to the extent of the book, but you get the idea.

The idea that you should be true to yourself is also a running theme that really hits home for me. It is so important to me that everyone doesn't hide who they really are, as then people don't truly know you and make false assumptions. It is amazing how one small change can make you happier than any number of minutes being popular.

Unfortunately, since the day is replayed and the plot is based around the same (or similar) events, the book can be a bit too repetitive at times. It also takes a while to get into, as well as to get used to the style of writing that the author uses.

The style of writing shows that this book is clearly for teenage girls, as there is a lot of slang use. It is also directly relatable to them as they are experiencing all the things that happen; parties, school, bullying, sex, alcohol, drugs. OK, maybe not those last two, but it is a possibility.

What is a shame is that it may be difficult for many of the audience to properly relate to the main character, let alone like her, as she was quite difficult to get to know. Only a select number of people have been in the most popular groups at their schools, and therefore it may be difficult for the others to understand where the main character is coming from. I also found some of what was said by the characters to be quite immature and a little annoying, but that may be my age talking.

Needless to say, the book was a good enough read, but for me there was a definite lack of something special. Even though the message and the thoughts behind it were brilliant, I am afraid that the book is only a 4 out of 10.

Lets hope Lauren Oliver's next book, Delirium, is more gripping...

20 July 2011

The Prince of Mist - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a master storyteller whose other works (The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game) have enthralled me with their strange and surreal events.

The Prince of Mist is rather a lot smaller than it's predecessors, but it really packs a punch. It is perfect for those of you who want to read this author but haven't got the heart to try to read the somewhat more hefty books. It is a ghostly tale told around a peaceful looking village on the coast and its disturbing past.

This book isn't one for the faint hearted either. While it isn't your utterly terrifying Stephen King novel, it is quite an eerie and suspenseful read. I love the way that all the components of the story come together in a brilliant ending.

The book certainly knew how to wow me, and although it was shorter than my usual read, I felt it was equally as good. Given that this was a book for young adults, I think it did it's job well, without giving me nightmares about clowns and sunken ships. The feel of suspense as well as the haunting character of the Prince of Mist is genius.

The characters were good, and given that there was not too many pages, I feel that their fears and feelings were very well written. They each had very separate personalities, which I think is very important in any book.

I really commend Zafon's other works, and this is no exception to the rule. If you love ghost stories, or just an exciting read in a small package, then this is the book for you. This deserves a 9.5 out of 10. The only criticism I give it is that I wish it had been longer.

The Ambassador's Mission - Trudi Canavan

The first book in Trudi Canavan's Traitor Spy Trilogy was full of new and exciting possibilities. Not only do we start a full 20 years after the original Black Magician Trilogy, but we also have knowledge of past events such as the beginning of the Apprentices as well as the Sachakan war to guide us through and keep us interested, as many of these things are referenced in the book.

One possible failing for this book is that you have to read the previous series and the prequel before it to be able to comprehend what is going on and who the characters are. There are plenty of references to previous events as well as dead characters and other things that will not be understood without the other books, such as the idea of a magicians guild.

However, if you have done this, the book makes for some excellent and rather interesting reading that has a completely separate plot from the other series and the prequel. I find that most sequels tend to hang off the back of the first series like a wet fish, and therefore was quite happy to find that this one did not.
Trudi Canavan truly knows her world and the characters inside it. She always manages to paint it with such acute detail. Concepts such as her idea of how magic works are easy to understand, and in this book, she goes so far as to deal with drug addiction as well as her original ideas of slavery.

I particularly like the way that the author comments on our lives in her books. One of the plot lines in this book is about the underground dealings of an addictive substance called 'rot'. One point is that the addiction cannot be healed away by magic, leaving the magicians vulnerable. This is an obvious take on addictive substances like cigarettes, weed and other drugs and it is clear to see where the author stands. It is interesting to see how the subject is written about as well as seeing the links to reality - this world doesn't seem to be so different from our own.

As always Trudi's characters are well thought through and multifaceted. You don't often get bored as there are plenty of things to find out about the new ones, and the original ones still have a few surprises in store for us.

I thought I might have a problem with the book, as it includes Sonea (the main character from the Black Magician series) in 20 years, and she has a child. However, since the child was grown up, this wasn't so much of a problem for me. In fact, I rather enjoyed getting to know Lorkin and following him on his adventure.

Overall, this book is an 8/10. I'm afraid it just doesn't live up to her other series (The Age of the Five), which I found truly breathtaking and so well thought out.