Thursday, 16 October 2014

Firelight by Sophie Jordan **Review**


Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Series: Firelight #1
Pages: 288
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release date: January 2010 (original)
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.

Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away;if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.

This book is something I've been looking for for a while now. It's a totally unique, fresh spin on the YA fantasy genre. I put off reading this for so long, and now I'm wondering what on Earth was going through my head! Not only does it involve characters that are descended from dragons, it has an equally smouldering romance and a fast-paced, thrilling plot to add to the excitement!

The beginning of the story does not hang around. Straight away we're in the middle of the action, getting to know our protagonist, Jacinda, right from the off, as her and her friend Az prepare to break the rules and go flying outside the security of their pride's protected home. I felt an instant connection to Jacinda's character and although we'd only just met, I found that I liked her instantly. I was immediately sympathetic towards her, even though I didn't yet know her story, and I wanted to get to know her more. This is a great sign – especially when it happens in the first chapter!
I was less sympathetic towards her family – her sister and mother – who took her out of the only home she's ever known and into a harsh desert town without any real explanation, knowing that it would start to cripple and kill her draki. At first, Jacinda's mother's reasons for doing this are unknown, so I felt all of the injustice that Jacinda felt, and I couldn't help but hate the place they ended up in.
But then things started to get interesting. The hunter that we meet in the first chapter – the unnaturally merciful hunter – turns out to be a student at her new high school, and the connection between them is instant and unwavering. This is the beginning of probably one of my favourite star-crossed romances of all time! I actually can't get enough of it, so I know it won't be long before I dive into the second book in the series!

Not only did I love Jacinda and the breathtaking romance that she finds herself unexpectedly and reluctantly a part of, I also loved the world-building and the concept of the novel as a whole. That Jacinda and the rest of the Draki are descendants of dragons that have evolved in order to protect themselves and are now able to take on human form is seriously awesome. And although we don't get too much in-depth detail about Jacinda's pride, we get enough information to get a feel for the pride and what it's like to live there. Hopefully in the second book, I'll get a bigger glimpse of life inside the pride and how it differs to the human world.
I would also like to learn more about the world that Will is reluctantly a part of; the world of the hunters. I feel like there is so much more to it than we see in this first book, and I feel like their world is so much more dangerous than we already know it to be!

So it's pretty clear that I fell head over heels for this book. I have to admit that I was a little sceptical at the beginning, but those worries were long buried by the end of the first chapter. Firelight is intense, fast-paced, compelling and fiery! I highly recommend it to any fan of YA fantasy or Urban Fantasy.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wishlist Wednesday #157

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wishlist for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves.

So what do you need to do to join in?
  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of this post.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://www.pentopaperblog.com) somewhere in your post, and a note saying that Pen to Paper is the host of the meme.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!


The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

Synopsis:
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what she once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
I'd seen this about when it first came out, but for some reason it didn't really seem to make too much of an impression on me. But more recently I've been seeing it about again, but this time there has been a lot more excitement surrounding it (especially from certain YouTubers), and this has bought it right into my awareness. So much so that I actually (cheated a little bit on Wishlist Wednesday) ordered it into work. So hopefully this will be on my shelves and waiting to be read later on this week!

Have you read The Archived? I'd love to hear what you thought of it! Let me know in the comments below.

What's on your wishlist this week? Let us know in the comments below, or link to your own Wishlist Wednesday post in the Linky :) 








Friday, 3 October 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry **Review**


The Giver
Series: The Giver Quartet #1
Pages: 240
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Release date: 5th May 2008 (this ed)
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
It's a perfect world, where everything looks right. But ugly truths lie beneath the surface! It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in The Community wants for anything. Everyone is provided for. Each Family Unit is entitled to one female and male child. Each member of The Community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders, and they never make a mistake. Jonas, a sensitive twelve-year-old boy, had never thought there was anything wrong with his Community, until one day. From the moment Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory at The Ceremony, his life is never the same. Jonas discovers that The Community is not as perfect as it seems. Although they appear to have everything, they are missing something of great importance. It is up to Jonas, with the help of the Giver, to find what long ago had been lost. And so Jonas embarks on an adventure to save the world as he knows it.

Simply and beautifully written, The Giver is sure to touch the heart of every reader. Lois Lowry deals with issues of everyday life that are so often taken for granted.Through the noble character of Jonas, she presents a glimpse of what could be the future. As the tension in the novel mounts, so does the number of questions that Lowry confronts the reader with. The Giver is a book of courage and adventure, and most importantly, one of deep thought. Once readers make contact with Lowry's treasure, they may never see things exactly quite the same. Lowry presents a forceful novel that demands to be heard and philosophically dealt with.

The Giver, up until recently, has not been a book that I've heard spoken about all that much. It was recommended to me about a year ago by a fellow bookseller-from-across-the-pond, who is also a BookTuber.
I don't quite understand why it doesn't seem to be as well known – it was originally published in 1993 and has even been published as an essential modern classic in the UK – it's also seriously epic. Only since it was released as a movie has it really seemed to come into the common consciousness, and even then it's not mentioned nearly as much as other book adaptations like The Hunger Games or Divergent. It certainly deserves to be.

The Giver is set in an idealistic community of 'sameness' – there is no colour, no class system, no one goes hungry and everyone is assigned a job that best fits them and the needs of the community as a whole. And it works. There is no war, no hunger, no apparent disease. Everyone gets on well and their society is ordered and peaceful.
But it is also sadly lacking. Lacking in proper feeling, real joy, love and appreciation. Yes, they appear to want for nothing, but does that make them truly happy? And then there are the darker secrets that lie buried beneath the shiny facade ...

Jonas, our protagonist, is chosen on his twelfth birthday to be the next Receiver of Memory – the member of the community who is granted the 'honour' of containing within themselves all the memories of the past. It is their sole responsibility to retain these memories and put them to use when advising the other members of the community. I was immediately suspicious of the 'honour' that this would really give, and it soon became clear that not everything was as 'perfect' as it might appear in Jonas's world.

I really enjoyed The Giver. The narrative immediately sucked me in and the story moves forward at such a pace that I never lost interest for a moment. I was constantly wondering what would be around the next corner, what memory Jonas would receive next, and what the consequences would be. I'm even more intrigued now, having finished the book, about what is going to happen next.
I also loved the characters – they breathed life into every page and, despite Jonas's world being so different from the world we know, it made everything feel all the more real. As the story went on, I felt more sympathetic towards the members of the community, gradually realising what they were missing and just how ignorant they were. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Jonas is going to do in order to save them.

If you've not yet read The Giver, I seriously suggest that you pick it up right away. This is a book that certainly deserves the title of 'modern classic' and one that I can see being enjoyed by many more generations to come. A seriously awesome read.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

How to Be Invisible by Tim Lott **Review**


How to Be Invisible
Series: None
Pages: 272
Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: 6th June 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
It was the 13th of September, 13 days after my 13th birthday, when I first learned how to be invisible.

Strato Nyman couldn’t be more of an odd-one-out. He’s the only black kid in Hedgecombe-upon-Dray, he knows more about particle physics than his teacher, and he’s constantly picked on by school bully Lloyd Archibald Turnbull. It’s only at home that he blends in to the background – his parents are too busy arguing to notice he exists. But one day, Strato picks up a dusty old book in a mysterious bookshop and learns how to become invisible. He soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem … and realizes standing out isn’t so bad after all.

The first thing that intrigued me about this book was the title. How could a book entitled How to Be Invisible not be seriously awesome?! My first question: Would I learn the secret to invisibility. I thought this would be highly unlikely, but I liked the idea of it nevertheless. Who wouldn't?
The second thing – and the deciding factor in my choosing to buy the book – was the cover. How spectacular is the cover art? My interest had officially been piqued, and I had yet to even read the synopsis (in fact, I'm not sure I ever did). I knew I wouldn't be able to resist it for long.

The story begins in the same way as the synopsis (above).

'It was the 13th of September, 13 days after my 13th birthday,
when I first learned how to be invisible.'

An excellent start, in my humble opinion, and I was sucked straight into the story. I would like to say that I remained entirely engrossed for the rest of the book, but that would not be true (and I know how much Strato hates lies). Although I didn't dislike the book as such, I did have my problems with it. But, as Strato Nyman would say, more of that later.
First I will tell you what I did like about it. I did like the atmosphere of the book. By that I mean the feeling that the setting and characters gave it, and the overall feeling that the narrative supplied. At times it read a lot like a more 'classic' children's book. I don't mean that I think it is a classic, because I don't, but I feel like it has a more traditional feel to the narrative than a lot of other books being published today have. For me, this made it quite nostalgic and I found that I flew through it with ease.
I also loved the concept. The idea of a boy coming across a strange book, given to him by a strange ... stranger ... and then discovering that the book gives him the ability to become invisible is a great one. How many children don't fantasise at some point about being able to turn invisible? And then there's what Strato decides to do with it – I would have done exactly the same thing (although I would have been more mischievous and made objects float in midair too...).
Some of the characters were also fantastic. Strangely, Strato was not my favourite character. Although he was a good narrator and I did like him, I found myself much more interested in the secondary characters; namely Lloyd Archibald Turnbull and Susan Brown. Lloyd is a subtle bully – he isn't a physical, or even obviously psychological bully – but he does say and do things to hurt our protagonist. However, he has his own story, and as I found out more about him, I found that I liked him more. His character was also the one with the most development. Susan I liked simply because she is a nice person and I found that I could relate to her much more than I could the others.

However, as I said, I do have problems with this book, and some of them did pull me out of the story on occasion. My biggest problem was that I couldn't believe the reactions that some of the characters had in certain situations. I just didn't think that it was realistic – especially when the adult characters were concerned. This was especially evident at the end.
I also found that the plot was a little wishy-washy in parts. Although Strato writes a to-do list when he first discovers his new ability, he doesn't stick to it. He wanders off and investigates other things, and the plot meanders around a bit. It just didn't feel as focussed as I'd have liked. There was strange twists in the plot that were a little out of place. There were also elements of the plot that I would have liked to learn more about – like more about the man who gave Strato the book and more about the magical world that lies beyond it. Having had snippets of information about this, I felt cheated not having any more. But maybe that's just me.
There was also the ethnicity of Strato. We know that he is the only 'black kid' (as the synopsis puts it) in the town, and that is exactly the point – we're told time and time again, even when this does not seem appropriate. Strato even wonders if a teacher singles him out because of it. This would not be a problem if there was cause for such suspicion, but as far as I could see, there wasn't. And it's mentioned more than once when it really isn't required – when it wouldn't even enter the minds of real people. I think it's great that the book shows ethnic and cultural diversity, but I felt a little as though a point was being made of it a little too forcefully at times.

Despite all of this though, How to Be Invisible is an enjoyable story. It has a sense of fun and mystery, is full of quirky and interesting characters (even if sometimes they do not act like real people...) and had a very pleasant, magical atmosphere, like being wrapped in a cuddly blanket, and makes a nice, easy read. All in all, I think, a good autumn read.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Wishlist Wednesday #156

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wishlist for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves.

So what do you need to do to join in?
  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of this post.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://www.pentopaperblog.com) somewhere in your post, and a note saying that Pen to Paper is the host of the meme.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!


The Ghosts of Heaven
by Marcus Sedgwick

Synopsis:
The spiral has existed as long as time has existed. It's there when a girl walks through the forest, the moist green air clinging to her skin. There centuries later in a pleasant greendale, hiding the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who they call a witch. There on the other side of the world as a mad poet watches the waves and knows the horrors the hide, and far into the future as Keir Bowman realises his destiny. Each takes their next step in life. None will ever go back to the same place. And so, their journeys begin...
I'm actually appalled at myself for not having known about this book until earlier this week, especially considering how much I loved Marcus's last book, She is Not Invisible.
I'm really excited about it, now that I've read the synopsis. I love books where there are different stories woven together – and I think that Marcus is definitely an author who is clever and brilliant enough to pull this off really well. I'm looking forward to being able to pick up a copy when it comes out on Friday!

What's on your wishlist this week? Let us know in the comments below, or link to your own Wishlist Wednesday post in the Linky :) 








Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton **Review**


The Outsiders
Series: None
Pages: 136
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release date: 5th April 2007 (this ed)
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
In Ponyboy's world there are two types of people. There are the Socs, the rich society kids who get away with anything. Then there are the greasers, like Ponyboy, who aren't so lucky. Ponyboy has a few things he can count on: his older brothers, his friends, and trouble with the Socs, whose idea of a good time is beating up greasers like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect - until the night things go too far...

This is one of the few books that is considered a real classic in the YA literary world. I have heard so many people – bloggers, university tutors, fellow booksellers and authors – talk about it over the past few years, and for some reason unknown to myself, it has still taken me until now to finally pick it up and read it.

First off, I want to say that I'm really glad I picked up the edition of the book that I did. There are two editions that are easily available from bookshops in the UK – this one, which is the Penguin Modern Classics version and is shelved in adult fiction, and another that is published by Puffin (children's imprint of Penguin) and is shelved in teenage. I was initially planning on getting the teenage edition of the book, but then I saw the cover to this and knew it had to be this one that I read.
I'm really glad I made that decision. I try not to let the cover of a book matter too much – because, afterall, it's the words that count – but this cover, for me at least, is perfect. As soon as I started reading I was thinking how perfect the cover image was. And this set the tone for the rest of the book.

Another reason that the cover is so perfect on this edition is because of the character on the front. The book is full of characters, and all of them have plenty of character to go around. Each of the boys in the main character, Ponyboy's, gang is distinct not just because he describes each of them in turn at the beginning of the book, but because of the way they act and speak, and because of their individual personalities.
Slowly but surely, I fell for every single one of these characters – even those who are not nice people. They all meant something, and I guess that is kind of the point. And it wasn't even just Ponyboy's gang of friends, but those that they interacted with – good and bad. The Socs, the other greaser gangs and the people they met along the way were all so real that I couldn't help but be sucked into their world.

And the story itself was so absorbing. It was probably because I was so deeply involved with the characters by the time things really started to kick off, but I felt everything that happened to them so keenly. It was a real emotional ride. Gritty, nerve-wracking, emotional, intense and wild are all words that perfectly describe The Outsiders.

As a fan of YA fiction, I am disappointed that I hadn't read this before today, but I guess it's better to be late than never to arrive.
If, like me, you are yet to introduce yourself to the world of The Outsiders, you should definitely follow suit and get yourself a copy. It might be a short book, but what it lacks in length, it surely makes up for in power.


 
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