Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Forsaken by Lisa Stasse

Date finished: 26 November 2014

Rating: 2/5

My disappointment in this book is making me feel physically ill. Forgive me for the clichéd teacher-like term, but The Forsaken had so much potential. I went in with so much excitement and anticipation, and came out feeling like the book had physically drained me of every ounce of perseverance I possessed.

I feel like I’ve been cheated out of what could have been an incredible read. Even with similar concepts to The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, there were so many unique aspects that could have made The Forsaken an unforgettable story. But something just wouldn’t click. Overall, I fount the plotlines jagged, resulting in random, unsatisfactory climaxes and confusing twists that were generally quite unnecessary, and had no contribution to the core storyline. Everything seemed to happen in random bursts of energy, and the experience of reading it was almost like driving down a dirt road in a Toyota – bumpy, unpleasant, and often invoking feelings of slight nausea.

For me, the main problem area of The Forsaken was character development. Perhaps if there had been a single character in the book that I could have related to, reading it would have been much more enjoyable. David was flat, Liam was weirdly soppy, and Gadya was seriously bipolar and possibly a sociopath. I found it extremely difficult to connect with Alenna. If she had any strong personality traits other than being impulsive and intensely loyal, they were very badly portrayed. Despite the entire book being narrated from her perspective, and her frequent italicized thoughts (which I found very annoying for no apparent reason), by the time the novel ended I felt like I barely knew her at all. She was transparent, fluffy and annoying, and I couldn’t understand her logic in about 99% of the situations she faced.

My last comment is on the insta-love that appeared between Alenna and Liam. I cannot stand love stories that start with the love-at-first-sight “I-spotted-him-leaning-against-the-tree-and-couldn’t-look-away” garbage. The fact that Alenna couldn’t get her priorities straight made me want to rip my hair out. She wants him, swears she won’t touch him and will focus on surviving instead (I actually respected her for about three seconds when she made this decision), and then chases after him like an overexcited puppy. She’s known him for three days and then decides to risk her life for him, claiming it’s love. That’s not love; that’s stupidity and desperation.

I really wanted so much more from this book. Perhaps my high expectations at the beginning ruined it for me – I don’t know. It was a struggle to finish, and looking back I really do wish that I might have enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Another Update From Amy

Hello, darkness my old friend.

As of today (or perhaps yesterday) I am officially off reading and blogging hiatus! Not that I ever officially announced that I was on hiatus, but with exams and school I decided that any and all distractions needed to be eradicated immediately, hence the long month (*cough* almost a year *cough*) where I posted about one blog and one review. (Let it be known that both were done in guilt while I was supposed to be studying for something “important”.)

In any case, I have finally finished my exams (a.k.a. “the month of terror”, “bloody November”, “education knockdown” etc.) and am now in that awkward transition at school where the term is actually supposed to have ended, but we are still expected in class for some bizarre reason. All that to say that (hopefully) today will be the start of a serious reading and reviewing period (with some blogs and rants alongside, undoubtedly). Let us not forget that this year has been my most unsuccessful year of reading ever. I’ve just checked my Goodreads stats, and I’ve finished a total of 26 books this year, meaning I have to read about double that amount just to feel slightly accomplished. So much to read, so little time…

An important piece of news is that I recently did a review for Writers Write, a South African company that does a lot of creative writing workshops and gives awesome tips for new writers, so if you’re getting into writing or are just interested in improving your writing techniques you should check out their website here. I’m hopefully going to be doing a few more reviews for them over the next year or so, and am thinking of signing up to some other reviewing sites just because it was so much fun. But I’ll keep you posted.

One last thing: despite the fact that I am practically promising that I’ll be posting loads more blogs and reviews in the next month or so, I’m just putting it out there that our WiFi at home is being seriously annoying (the service provider people have narrowed our bandwidth because of all the businesses in the area, so between 9a.m. and 5p.m. it’s impossible to load a single web page). So it’s likely that all of my posts will either be uploaded in the dead of night (South African time). Sorry. A good idea would be to subscribe so that you’re emailed whenever I post something, instead of loading the entire webpage and finding I haven’t posted anything new (and I’ve been told that this is extremely painful… sorry again) or otherwise follow my blog on Twitter for updates.

So in short: expect more reviews and blogs (not only on this website, but I’ll post links to my Twitter account), and subscribe because I’m going to be destroying what remains of my sleeping patterns in an extreme effort to keep this blog updated for once. So stay tuned because maybe I’ll be inspired and write something interesting.

To the people that are going to try interrupting
my Struggle-To-Finish-50-Books-By-2015
and Salvage-What's-Left-Of-The-Dignity-Of-This-Blog

More exciting things (seeing as you’re procrastinating already):

My latest review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

An important article: Why Even Really Well-Educated Women Can't Get Ahead At Work (hmmm… I'd like to disagree)
An irrelevant (and yet totally relevant) comic:

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Date finished: 25 November 2014

Rating: 4/5

Forget the romanticism of true love that outlasts life, or the promises of underworlds and the afterlife; Lauren Oliver brings back the classic, harrowing ghost story with a phenomenal new novel that is impossible to put down.

Equipped with a running commentary from the ghosts themselves, Rooms slowly unwinds three generations of secrets buried in a single house. Wealthy Richard Walker’s passing forces his bitter, broken family back together into an old country home where they once shared happier memories. Trapped in their own inner conflicts, the Walkers do not realize that they are not alone: two long-dead residents of the house linger within its walls. As the Walkers dig deeper into their father’s past, secrets become unearthed, and the troubled spirits become increasingly restless. 

Oliver’s has a genuine knack for building tension. It ripples through the first few pages even just as the book is opened, slowly and consistently working its way up to a boiling point when everything seems to explode at once, then, just as suddenly, everything evaporates and the last page has been turned. I was left sitting with a finished story in my hands and a hundred misplaced emotions. It took all the effort I had to carefully reread the last few pages, check that I hadn't missed something, and then set the book down carefully instead of - I don't know - eating it because I just didn't know what to do now that it had ended. The story was consuming in every metaphorical sense of the word; it had the funniest way of following me around (like a ghost - how fitting) even when I was nowhere near the book. My mind would keep glancing back to the characters and that horrific house, and I fear they will remain in the back of my mind for quite a while.

Dark, thrilling and simply weird, I dare say that Rooms is Oliver’s best novel yet. She crafts such intricate individual stories for each character, and the way they all work themselves into a huge knot that only seems to be undone right at the conclusion contributed to the breathlessness and excitement of her final few pages. I highly recommend this novel to readers looking for something dark and gripping.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Date finished: 02 November 2014

Rating: 5*

Writing this review without giving away the plot twist has proven to be extremely problematic. Karen Joy Fowler is without a doubt the master of the plot twist – I never even saw it coming, and when it finally arrived it was a punch in the gut, leaving me breathless and confused. I believe I had to reread the passage quite a few times before it finally sunk in.

Once you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but for now let me attempt this review as best I can without giving anything away.

‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ is phenomenal. It’s phenomenal and heartbreaking and bizarre and absolutely hilarious all at once, and that’s what makes it one of the best novels of the year. Not to mention the pure intelligence behind the writing; it always helps to read a book that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve dumbed down your intelligence a bit just to be able to enjoy it.

Although to me these things were just the glitter glue on the macaroni jewellery, because the thing that made me love this book so much was the was Fowler just gets the whole sibling rivalry concept. She understands what it’s like to feel annoyed and jealous and helpless all at the same time. She understands what it’s like to love somebody unconditionally while simultaneously wanting to punch them in the face. She understands the inability to express anger at parents who are doing their best to share their love absolutely equally, but still falling just short in certain circumstances. And what makes the book worth reading is her understanding of what it means to be a sibling coupled with her brilliant ability to put it into words.

There are few books that I’ll willingly recommend to everybody. Of course, I’ll always say that 'The Hunger Games' is a must read for the entire population, but realistically I don’t feel so strongly about it that I’m going to seek out the misfortunate few that refuse to come into contact with the trilogy and force them to listen while I diligently recite a practiced speech on why it is a series crucial to the understanding of the human psyche. ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’, however, might just be that one book I’ll be prepared to read to seemingly illiterate teens and young adults in my spare time. (And that’s a big ask. Have you ever tried to force a social media-frenzied seventeen-year-old to read a novel that doesn’t include a drastic, dramatic love triangle? It’s one of those experiences that belong in the depths of Hell.)

Honestly, though, I’m judging you if you choose not to read this book. Fowler has a deep understanding of human behavior and emotions, but she expresses it in a way that’s easily understandable for the not so biologically inclined, like myself. Once you work your way below her intelligently crafted layer of humor, there’s some deep, intellectual commentary that will make you view people a little differently if you choose to look into it. If you choose not to look into it, the novel still substitutes as a hilariously entertaining read that’s just long enough to satisfy the readers who classify themselves as “avid”, and yet not so long to intimidate those who “don’t read”. So, realistically, you have no excuses. Read past page seventy-seven, and then you are free to tell me why you tried it, you did not like it, and you thought my recommendation was horrible.

The Nerd List - October 2014

Yes, yes, yes… I’m two days late and I am fully aware and apologetic of the fact. Unfortunatley, it seems that Maths, in the form of an AP Maths exam that I wrote yesterday (on a Saturday, as if the education system isn’t filled with enough cruelty), is once again getting in the way of writing. The English department would be thrilled at another example in how Mathematics is getting in the way of literary education.

In any case, on with the Nerding! Let’s pretend it’s still October, shall we?


Books I’ve Read:

Book of the month

So seeing as we’re pretending that it’s October, technically if I finished a book today it still counts as an “October Book”, right? In that case, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves wins, hands down. As I said in my review, it’s an essential read for everybody who breathes air. No excuses.

Character of the month

Rosemary Cooke from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is by far the most incredible character I have encountered in a long time. Actually, I can’t even consider her a character, because she’s so human. Rosemary is fierce, but she finds it difficult to place herself in modern society. She’s independent, and yet she’s still growing up and still making mistakes. She’s complex and unique and I think she’s wonderful. Best of all, she eventually manages to overcome everything she’s struggled with for years and stops listening to the people who tell her she has to “fit in” like everybody else. Rosemary starts to make her own rules about life, and that’s what makes her truly powerful.

Quote of the month

“Whenever you need to win a situation - talk about jazz, Johanna. It confuses people.”


Fangirl moment of the month

Let’s just take a quick moment to remember that this blog is a no judgment zone (unless I’m doing the judging, of course) before I tell you possibly one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever freaked out over.

Okay. Are you ready?

There is this place in town that has over seven floors filled with used books and records. Filled. Not like shelves-that-run-across-all-the-walls full. Like you-walk-through-the-door-and-trip-over-piles-of-books full. It is phenomenal. They have a first edition Mein Kampf in the basement. It is heaven. Absolute heaven. I could’ve stayed there forever, were it not for the fact that there was nowhere to sit except the floor and the smell of dust and books was making me slightly intoxicated after a couple of hours. Blog coming soon, complete with photos.

Facepalm moment of the month

I can’t think of anything embarrassing I’ve done this month, so that must either be a really good thing, or I did something so bad that I had to block it from my memory.

But hey, if you’ve been feeling a little self-conscious this month, at least you didn’t get caught by the police for stealing a chainsaw. Because a guy in Florida did that, except the reason he was unsuccessful was because he tried to smuggle it past the policemen by hiding it under his shirt. And then trying to ride away on a stolen bicycle, still holding the chainsaw under his shirt.

Or, you could count your lucky stars that you were not one cat out of one hundred and fifty that police found in the house of a known hoarder. Animal Protection services were so shocked that they didn’t even know how to react to the situation. I mean, hoarding cats? And one hundred and fifty of them? Seems terrifying. But that’s not all. The hoarder had been stopped before because of her association with incidents involving over four hundred and fifty cats.

This is so great. It’s a miracle that anybody has any faith in the human race’s intelligence any more.


Album of the month

This month I’ve been obsessed with two very different albums, and they’re causing me extreme identity issues because one moment I’ll be feeling pretty and girly and original and fabulous, and then the next I’m fed up with the world and on a rampage about society, feeling like I need to go get a tattoo and stomp around in my Dr. Martens. Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock and Roll was on repeat 24/7, that is until I gave in and bought the new Taylor Swift album, 1989. I’m not even going to deny it; Taylor Swift has been my secret obsession since about 2011, and I still love her music. Listening to her music is that feeling when nobody’s home and you’re dancing around in your underwear. She makes me want to wear red lipstick and go on romantic boat rides. On the other hand, Fall Out Boy is just pure awesome wrapped up in a purple bow and hurled through your bedroom window with a note attached: “Meet me at the train station and we’ll go start a riot.” Do you see the issue?

Song of the month

Yet another dilemma is that whenever I listen to Mayday Parade’s Angels I feel like bursting into tears. So let’s add that to my already paradoxical personality and you get a teenage girl lying on the floor wearing black boots and red lipstick, and sobbing with alternative music playing in the background. This is great. It’s no wonder I don’t have a boyfriend.

In any case, Angels is the most beautiful song I have ever heard. You should listen to it. Now.

Lyric of the month

“If luck is on my side tonight
My clumsy tongue will make it right
And wrists that touch
It isn't much, but it's enough
To form imaginary lines
Forget your scars, we'll forget mine
The hours change so fast
Oh God, please make this last”
- Mayday Parade, I Swear This Time I Mean It

So that’s pretty much the basics of what I’ve been up to this month (last month, cough cough), but I hope this cured your boredom in some way or another. Subscribe to get a notification when I post new blogs and reviews and all that jazz.

Oh, and I’m due to start exams this Wednesday, so either expect a surge in the amount of reading I’m doing as a result of severe procrastination, or otherwise expect me to be M.I.A. because I’m freaking out about having to get good marks to get into university in like a year (*clutches at throat unable to breathe*).  Anyway. Have a good November