Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Uglies
Series: Uglies #1
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2012 

"Tally can't wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend, Shay, isn't sure she wants to be Pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world - and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever."

Despite me rating this book 3 stars, I was still pleasantly surprised with it. I had to start it three times before I got going so I was very skeptical at first. But in the end it was not half bad. Definitely good enough for me to add the next books in the series into my list.

Let us poke this beast with a stick, shall we?

First of all the world. My love for dystopian novels is no secret. My favorite part of any new dystopian series is the descriptions as to how that particular world works. So when this was the first aspect in which "Uglies" failed to impress then I was a little sad. For some reason my fangirl-senses just weren't tingling when I was introduced to the world of "Uglies". It was quite obvious that the teenagers who were supposedly ugly were just our version of normal people. And it would have been fine if the whole thing played heavily on the obsession of beauty and plastic surgery, but the backstory as to why the operations started was not about that at all and it fell a little flat in my opinion.

Now on to the saving grace of this book. The story and its development. "Uglies" had a very nice slow pace. It took its time and played the story out properly. So many books hurry through various parts these days so it was nice to see all sides of the story getting attention. It also did not rely on romance too much which was nice. And the romance did not just jump out of nothing. No "I saw him brooding and knew that I want to throw my whole life away for him" here. The story did have a few twists and turns but then again a lot of the big revelations that my friends say were really unexpected felt a little predictable to me.

And to the characters. They felt really life-like in their decisions and emotions.
It took me a little while to start liking Tally. Which, I have a feeling, was Westerfeld's plan. With her being a little whiny and too obsessed with Pretties at first, it made her development all the more dramatic. I liked that she had a very human feel to her. A lot of fiction portrays its heroes and heroines as completely selfless beings who always think of someone else first. But Tally planned to look out for herself firstly and for others secondly. I would like to royally present to you a big, fat, happy FINALLY! Most people have a sense of self-preservation it was about time an author admitted that.
Same goes for Shay. She chickened out the first time she was going to leave her life behind. And considering at that time she was very young then it makes sense. I did think that she deserved a little more attention. Don't get me wrong, she was a well-written character, I just wanted more of her.
David was the one character I could not quite decide if I liked. Through him we got a lot of depth to the story but sadly not much for himself. Will look to the next books to make up my mind about him.

"Uglies" might not be the shiniest book on my shelf, but I do not regret reading it. Its three stars were well earned.
This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: "Thumped" by Megan McCafferty

Title: Thumped
Series: Bumped #2
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Corgi
Year: 2012

"The world has been gripped by a catastrophic virus, and everyone over the age of eighteen is infertile. Society now values teenagers above all others, and 'conception contracts' with the most attractive, intelligent girls are eagerly snapped up by would-be-parents, desperate to pay for a healthy baby. 

Eight-and-a-half months ago, Melody scored an amazing contract with a rich couple, and was matched with the hottest 'bumping' partner in the world: the gorgeous Jondoe. Her future looked set - until her identical twin Harmony opened the door to Jondoe. A case of mistaken identity and a moment of madness followed - and the wrong sister fell pregnant. 

Now Harmony has disappeared, determined to raise her babies herself - and for the last eight-and-a-half months, Melody has been faking the most high-profile pregnancy in the world. And both sisters know time is running out..."

Apparently there were about ten different ways of saying “pregnant” that I was totally unaware of. But now that I am thoroughly educated, I can tell you this. I was unsure about Bumped when I first read it, but really liked it the second time around. With Thumped I only needed the first read to like it. This book was great and the only thing I am sad about is the fact that there won’t be any more installments in the series.

The world was quite well established in the first book, leaving Thumped with the important mission to go through its complicated storylines. Granted, when I look back, it seems as like its predecessor it set out to tackle a lot of problems. In addition to the ones from the first book, we now got homo-sexuality, adoption pro’s and con’s, relationships to parents and more. But strangely I never felt like the book took on more than it could handle while I was reading.

What I ultimately liked was the huge extravaganza that was set up. It was flamboyant to the point of silly, but that is why I liked it. The end of the first book could have gone so many different ways. And in salute to Megan McCafferty I must say that Thumped went the best possible way. McCafferty took caution/smallness by the hand and then proceeded to wipe the floor with it. The pure scale in which the main characters took over the world they were living in was magnificent! We got intrigue, heartfelt emotions and the biggest scams in history of the dystopian world of Bumped.

So coming back to the characters that I came to like in the first book of the series.
Melody became my second favorite twin in this book. But not because she was any less awesome. I really enjoyed her journey. How she wanted to find her way in her own terms, not just by discarding the wishes of her parents and taking up Zen’s, no-no, she wanted to make sure that what she does is what she wants. I respect that.
But nothing really beats what Harmony did. At first she went back to Goodside, but that was more for the benefit of Ram. When she finds out that the Church would choose to control her to the point of extremities she flips them off and flies off to the night (I am not even kidding. Flying). She takes drastic measures to claim her life as her own and then proceeds to make some difficult decisions. Also, her decisions are not based on the wants of a man. Bad-assery in the making, you go girl!
I liked that there was not an abundance of new characters, the book focused on the story itself. The only new people that were introduced actually existed in the first book, and those were the Jaydens. The couple who paid Melody to deliver their kid. I really like how things turned out with them. But no spoilers.

Bumped and Thumped are the kind of books that seem extremely breezy and simple. But whilst they might be easy to read, they deal with some complicated problems and when you put the book down you just have spend a few moments thinking through the whole thing and shudder at the realization that the world of Bumped sounds so real that it could probably easily happen in a few years in our world. I half-expected to see teenagers with huge bellies on the streets and anyone who blinked a lot/funnily had to have been checking the latest craze in the social media.

I give Thumped 4 stars, the book was a joy to read and I plan to recommend it to a number of people.

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: "Bumped" by Megan McCafferty

Title: Bumped
Series: Bumped #1
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Corgi
Year: 2011

"A virus has swept the world, making everyone over the age of eighteen infertile. Teenagers are now the most prized members of society, and would-be parents desperately bid for 'conception contracts' with the prettiest, healthiest and cleverest girls - cash, college tuition and liposuction in exchange for a baby.

Sixteen-year-old Melody is gorgeous, athletic and has perfect grades, and has scored an amazing contract with a rich couple. And she's been matched with one of the most desirable 'bumping' partners in the world - the incredibly hot, genetically flawless Jondoe.

But Melody's luck is about to run out. She discovers she has a sister - an identical twin, Harmony, who has grown up in a religious community opposed to the idea of 'pregging'. Harmony believes her calling is to save Melody from her sinful plans. Melody doesn't have time for this - she can't wait to meet Jondoe and seal the deal. But when he arrives and mistakes Harmony for Melody, everyone's carefully-laid plans are swept out of control - and Melody and Harmony are about to realise they have so much more than just DNA in common.

Sharp, original and sassy, this futuristic take on teen pregnancy is totally readable and scarily believable."

This book was a lot better for the second time around. I am not sure why. I liked the idea of it the first time, but the writing did not grip me like some books do. But I read it the second time today. And I say today because I went through the whole thing in a day. Granted I was in a read’y mood, but still. 

The whole issue this book deals with. It sort of mocks, but also makes you think about teenage pregnancy. It mocks it and you can’t help but think that this is ridiculous, but that is the point! It is completely insane but all I could think was that I could completely see how this would be happening. Give a few decades, a virus, and we will have girls selling off babies at the age of 14. I also liked the jabs on iEverything. It was more on the background, but still. And the issues with church/religion. This book deals with a lot of issues that are very present in today’s society.

Which is probably why it seems that it is not completely committed to any of the problems other than teenage pregnancy. It is what bothered me the first time around. That it wants to deal with very complex issues yet put in the regular teeage’y story. Second time around I knew what was going on and took in the extra details. Which made this book likeable to me. Sure it is a little flimsy at times and I sort of realize why a lot of people did not like it, but as a personal opinion, it was not half bad.

Apart from the world, the story itself sounds a little bit like a Latina soap opera. A lot of humping, people liking people they shouldn’t, mix ups between people and so on. All that was missing was someone having amnesia. It was not necessarily bad but it seemed a little much. I’d say that tone down the crazy, I mean the drama, and focus on the issue at hand. 

I did like the characters though. Even though they were in such silly situations at times, they made a lot of progress through quite a short book.
Melody was my favourite twin. She was so pro-pregging. So up for what she was doing. It was great to see her evolve, doubt her way of life. And at one point, turn not only her world but the whole world around her, upside down. You go girl.
Same for Harmony. She started out completely different. The journey was similar, away with the old in with the new (bad side effect, after reading this book you read the phrase “in with something” and you already think kinky). I liked that she and Melody did not have identical reversed stories, Harmony actually kept a lot of her former beliefs.
Side guys, Jondoe was a little overdone with being the perfect match for his twin. I would have liked to see the more human side of him. Zen was adorable. He was a lot more on the sidelines at first, but I think that might change. He also gave insight to how the people who are not genetically built for this world might feel.

To wrap it up let me just say this, give this book a chance. You might not like it right away after you put it down. Put it just might grow on you. It gets 3.5 stars from me. It is not quite 4 worthy, but before I figured it around 2.5. So 12 months and a second read got it a whole star. Maybe I should pick it up again after next Christmas.  
 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: "Vain" by Fisher Amelie

Title: Vain
Series: The Seven Deadly #1
Author: Fisher Amelie
Publisher: Fisher Amelie
Year: 2013

"If you’re looking for a story about a good, humble girl, who’s been hurt by someone she thought she could trust, only to find out she’s not as vulnerable as she thought she was and discovers an empowering side of herself that falls in love with the guy who helps her find that self, blah, blah, blah...then you’re gonna’ hate my story.

Because mine is not the story you read every time you bend back the cover of the latest trend novel. It’s not the “I can do anything, now that I’ve found you/I’m misunderstood but one day you’ll find me irresistible because of it” tale. Why? Because, if I was being honest with you, I’m a complete witch. There’s nothing redeeming about me. I’m a friend using, drug abusing, sex addict from Los Angeles. I’m every girlfriend’s worst nightmare and every boy’s fantasy.

I’m Sophie Price...And this is the story about how I went from the world’s most envied girl to the girl no one wanted around and why I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world."

I feel sort of cheated. I expected a story about a total all-consuming debauchery. I did not get it. But I also liked this book. Feeling quite conflicted. Let us weigh the options, shall we?

What I expected, I did not get. I expected to get a girl who is bad to the bone and happy about it. It is fun to read about a character that is unlikeable on purpose! For the first 100 pages or so I almost got that. Sure, Sophie had her moments of self-loathing, but they made her more complex as a character and therefore I did not mind, If this story had gone differently and we would have gotten more story as to why she is like that but why she keeps being like that then… Ugh.. She was not supposed to be the “able to do anything since she found him girl”. False advertising!  That *spoiler alert* is exactly what happened. It made for a sweet story but I liked the blurb a lot and feel cheated. 

I also did not like that Sophie seemed transformed the moment she got to Uganda. Sure, her emotional change took time and was paced quite well, but it did not make sense to me that she did not rebel against being in Uganda at all. She was good at chores and teaching from day one. A little too perfect for my taste.

On to the good parts. Fisher Amelie’s writing is extremely easy to read. The pages just flew by and I am most definitely adding her books to my to-read list at this very moment. 

The part that definitely moved me was the orphanage in Uganda. It was written extremely well and you could not help but cheer for the community there. It is great when young-adult literature draws eyes to actual world problems. It might be a disorder or poverty or war but I definitely respect a book that makes you deeply consider the topic it is handling. 

The characters were well developed and enjoyable to read.
With perhaps a little exception being Sophie. I think she had the incentive to change, to break the cycle, so I did not mind THAT badly that she turned into a nice girl. Except for one occasion. When she first saw Dingane. For a claimed sex goddess of her former group, she lost her resolve around a cute boy too quickly. I expected more badassery. Damn it Sophie, you had one job.
Dingane I liked. I imagine getting glimpses of his side would have been great. All that suppressed desire. Yummy. He turned out to have a past that made it make sense why he would fall for a girl like Sophie.
The people in LA were a great contrast to the ones in Uganda. Okay maybe they were made out to be a little too evil. People like to think of rich corporate demons with red eyes, making decisions in a board room and not caring for anyone or anything else. That, I believe, is not quite true. But for the sake of the story it worked. It amplified the kindness and joy in life of the people in Masego. 

So you see my predicament. I wanted to like this book for the sake of one reason but did not get it. I ended up liking it for another reason. Still, for the sake of enjoying this book immensely I will give it 4 stars. But I will deduct a ½ of it for not getting me “the every girlfriend’s worst nightmare and every boy’s fantasy”. 3.5 it is.
 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.