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Teen

Book Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Girl of Ink and Stars ReviewTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Genre: Fiction, Teen, Fantasy, Adventure

“All things have a cycle…a habit of returning the way they came. Seasons, water, lives, perhaps even trees. You don’t always need a map to find your path back.”

INFO | Goodreads

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review

When the tyrannical Governor’s young daughter goes missing, Isabella feels it is her responsibility to bring her back.  Disguising herself, she manages to join the Governor’s search party, navigating the group through the Forbidden Territories with her cartography skills passed down to her by her father.  But Lupe’s disappearance isn’t the only concern – a darkness is sweeping across the island, one that can be traced back a thousand years, to a fire demon who is finally stirring from his slumber.

Aesthetically, you couldn’t ask for more from this book.  My edition had colour maps on the inside pages, and every single page of the story itself was illustrated with ink drawings.  It really brought home the cartography element, something that I thought was original and fascinating to read about.

I also enjoyed the mythological elements of the story, and liked that for much of the book it is unclear whether or not the stories Isabella has heard about as a child have any truth to them.  I would have liked to have seen even more of the fantasy elements come to life – the Tibicena were really exciting, but the scenes with Yote seemed quite brief despite such a build up.

There were a few things lacking for me, unfortunately.  Isabella’s narration comes across as very young, and I’m not sure who would read this book and relate to her voice – I know thirteen year olds who would find her too immature.  Also, I wasn’t really convinced by her friendship with Lupe.  Considering they were best friends, I didn’t feel any real connection between them, and spent a lot of time arguing instead and being annoyed with one another.

I also felt for similar reasons like it wasn’t clear whether anything was going on between Pablo and Isabella – I sensed that she viewed him as more than just a friend.  Was there a spark between them, or just a brother-sister thing?  I was quite disappointed in the end that nothing was developed either way.  However, I appreciate that the book is not a romance – it was nice to see qualities such as friendship, family and inner strength taking priority, and in that sense it carries a good message to younger readers.

Overall though, it was a nice little read.  I’d certainly read a sequel if ever there was one, but I disagree with Goodreads defining this as part of the ‘Young Adult’ genre, despite some themes of violence, and the ending which is quite dark.  So, I wouldn’t know who exactly to recommend it to, but if you’re a fan of myths and magic, there might be something for you in this short fantasy novel.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆ (3/5)

Emma

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June 30, 2016
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Book Club Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent

Title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Romance, Adventure

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

Goodreads | The Book Depository


_review

I was so excited about reading Divergent as it had been on my TBR for a couple of years.  My only problem was that it took me the entire month to read it.  It wasn’t an issue with the book itself, I think the difficulty lay in the fact that as I had watched the film recently, it was still so fresh in my mind.  As a result, there was hardly any fun or challenge in reading, as there wasn’t much room for me to use my own imagination to build the characters and settings.  This might come from the fact that I rarely reread books, and if I do, there has to be a substantial number of years between each sitting so that reading the book feels like new again.  In retrospect, choosing it for the book club was probably a bad move!

The plot, however, is fantastic; it is its one redeeming factor.  Tris is a very honest protagonist, and I found her moral conflicts really engaging.  I did disagree with her on a number of her decisions though, and actually found her to be rather mean at times, for example when she turns her nose up at Al’s crying.  I don’t know what this lack of sensitivity was meant to display exactly, and she did go down a bit in my estimations at that point (maybe there is something in her behaviour to reinforce to the reader the fact she is Divergent, and therefore can be both kind and cruel?).  Nevertheless, it was interesting as a reader to disagree with her choices, and overall she was easy to relate to.  We’ve all felt ‘Divergent’ before, confused and alone among our peers – it is the perfect metaphor for the turmoil of teenagehood.

So, really I am in conflict about rating this book.  I didn’t enjoy the reading experience of the book per se – the writing style was a little too straight-forward and simple for my liking – yet I found the story original and unpredictable.  Am I just rating the enjoyment I gained from watching the film?  Who knows!

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)

Of course, no reading is complete without choosing a faction.  I feel I would be well suited to Amity, and actually really like the idea of the Aptitude Test.  Which faction would you choose for yourself?

Emma

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September 30, 2015
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Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Genre: Young Adult/Teen Fiction, Boarding School, Coming-of-Age

Format: Paperback

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary(Taken from Goodreads)

Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After… Nothing is ever the same.

_review

I couldn’t finish this book.  I hate saying those words, because as a rule I try to finish every book I start, so there are no loose ends and I can write a fair review.

I gave the book my full attention to page 78 and then turned to skim reading – I gave up eventually somewhere in part two.  It’s difficult because I really like and admire John Green – he’s a genuine and intelligent man, and probably because of that I try too hard to like his work sometimes.  The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns were brilliant, but An Abundance of Katherines (which I did actually manage to finish) and now Looking for Alaska have both fallen short for me.

The book follows Miles – nicknamed Pudge – as he moves away to a boarding school to find his ‘Great Perhaps’, certain that he won’t find it at home.  This is the only element of the book that I enjoyed; I liked that he was restless in his hometown, we can all relate to that.

I can’t explain with certainty why I didn’t like the book – perhaps the fact they were earlier works have something to do with it, as he was still developing his style – but in the case of Looking for Alaska, I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters, including Pudge/Miles.  Maybe this has something to do with my English school experience contrasting so much to Miles’ American boarding school experience – the pranks/hazing are something that strongly doesn’t interest me at all, and as a result just contributed to the irritation I felt towards the characters.  If I couldn’t like them or relate to them, the setting or any of the events, I felt there was no point in continuing.  Also, I know Alaska had some issues, but I found her unbearable and I was completely unable to sympathise with her… I cannot for a moment understand Miles’ attraction to her.

Even though I didn’t finish the book myself, I would still recommend reading it.  It has received good reviews (averaging 4.16 on Goodreads as I type this), and from a little post-reading research, the rest of the story sounds quite interesting.  Also, a number of my friends have read it and rate it highly.  On this occasion though, it really wasn’t for me.

Star Rating: ☆½ (1.5/5)

Has anyone else had the same experience I have with this book?  Should I have kept reading to the end?  Share your thoughts.

Emma

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June 6, 2015
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Book Review: Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin

Coram Boy

Title: Coram Boy

Author: Jamila Gavin

Genre: Fiction, Historical, Teen

Format: Paperback

INFOGoodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

A tale of two cities.  Gloucester and London.

A tale of two boys.  Toby, saved from an African slave ship; Aaron, the illegitimate son of the heir to a great estate.

A tale of fathers and sons.  Otis, dealing in the vilest trade of all, and his son Meshak, not quite of this world; Sir William Ashbrook, landowner, and Alexander, the son he disinherits…

_review

The dramatisation of real life really excites me when it comes to literature.  Coram Boy features the real Foundling hospital of the eighteenth century, and the Coram Foundation does in fact still exist today; this is one of the reasons why I picked Jamila Gavin’s novel to read (and study) instead of Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines when it came to deciding between the two for an assignment.  Having chosen it with such hope – it was, after all, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal – I found myself a bit disappointed by the end of the book.

It started off well – controversial (which can be exciting) and set in a time period I enjoy reading about, but only a few chapters in, it lost me.  After that, it took me two to three weeks to build the enthusiasm to finish the two hundred and fifty pages I had left.  I trudged through, reluctantly, unable to quite put my finger on what exactly I was having a problem with.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that the writing style just didn’t agree with me.  I’m unsure what age group the book was aimed at, but unlike The Bunker Diary (a very controversial book which I recently reviewed on The Geek Undergraduate blog), I felt that despite themes of child labour and murder, the third-person narrator described events in a tone that felt better suited to much younger teens.

There is also not a lot of dialogue in the book, despite so many interactions between characters.  Gavin makes use of the passive voice, which did become tedious when done repetitively.

Saying that, I heard the book was adapted into a play, which I think would have been beautiful and I would be eager to see it if ever they performed it nearby, as music is a powerful tool in the story and I think it would translate well to stage.

Personally, I would not recommend the book to a friend, but I can appreciate the difficultly for an author in finding the words to describe such tragic events to a young audience.  Objectively, I think it is successful in what it was trying to achieve, which is most likely why it was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal; it just wasn’t for me.

Star Rating: ☆☆ (2/5)

Emma

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April 22, 2015
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