2000 - 2007 YA

Pretties – Scott Westerfeld

 The second book in the Uglies quartet

I really enjoyed Uglies, the first book in this quartet, so was disappointed to discover that Pretties wasn’t in the same league. It is impossible to give any details of the plot without spoiling Uglies, so I’ll just point you in the direction of my Uglies review if you are interested in starting the series.

Uglies was packed with thought provoking scenes, giving a scary prediction for the future of a society that places beauty as a high priority. Pretties contained nothing that got me thinking.  It was a fast paced, but felt shallow and by the end of the book I felt as though the plot hadn’t made any progression from the end of Uglies.

I also found “pretty talk” to be very irritating. Words like “bogus” and “bubbly” were over used and began to wind me up:

Tally tried to be bubbly, but the thought of the costumed special lurking her was too dizzy-making.

….she knew it would be bogus not to agree. And that with a totally bubbly costume like a real-life Smokey sweater to wear, there was no way anyone would vote against her…..

They thought it was totally bubbly that real-life Specials were at the party….

Aaaaarrrggghhh!!  I can’t remember such annoying writing in Uglies, but perhaps the fantastic plot made me forget about it.

Pretties was so disappointing I’ve almost decided not to read the rest of the series.

Do you think I’d enjoy Specials or Extras?

 Pretties is dividing opinion in the blogging world: 

….this book just felt like filler. Kiss My Book

….ends with a cliffhanger that sends you scurrying for the next book in the series. Rhapsody in Books

This book was un-put-down-able. Books and Movies

2009 YA

Marcelo in the Real World – Francisco Stork

My oldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome and so I am always on the look out for books that talk about the condition. I heard a few people raving about this book and so I bought a copy straight away.

Marcelo in the Real World is about a seventeen-year-old boy called Marcelo who has an Asperger’s-like condition. Marcelo has spent his life in a special school surrounded by people who understand his problems. His Dad decides that it is time for Marcelo to enter the ‘real world’, to break out of his protective shell and deal with every day life; so he gets him a summer job in the mail room of his law firm. We see how Marcelo copes with his difficult new surroundings and learns to make real desicions for the first time in his life.

Marcelo in the Real World is a really sweet book. It is light, easy to read and heart warming. I don’t know much about teenagers with Asperger’s, but it appeared that the book had been very well researched. It gave a detailed insight into his thought processes and it helped me to see the world from the eyes of someone with the condition.

If I stop to take in every word I see, I will never get to the courthouse where I go almost every day to file documents.
It is the same with sounds. It seems that most of my brain needs to be turned off in order to function effectively. Hundreds of people have no problem assimilating different sounds. They walk and talk on cell phones. They dodge cars while having conversations.

Marcelo has a special interest in God and so there were a number of religious discussions, mainly relating to sin, relationships and sex. I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of religious discussions, but they did help to illustrate Marcelo’s innocence and so I could tolerate them in small doses!

The story was quite simple and to be honest I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it if I hadn’t had a special interest in the subject matter. I prefer my books to be a bit darker and not so sentimental.

This book gives a fantastic insight into the problems faced by people who suffer from Asperger’s and so I am encouraging all my friends and family to read it. I would love everyone to read it, just so they understand my son and others like him slightly better, but I suspect that many people will find it too sweet and cheesy for their liking.

I like these books about autistic children and young adults because they take some of our basic assumptions about the world and how it works and shake them upside down. Semi Colon Blog

I loved that this is a complex novel and a beautiful one. Becky’s Book Reviews

I couldn’t put it down. Jenny’s Books

Marcelo was filled to bursting with emotion and feeling and discovery. Regular Rumination

2000 - 2007 Other Prizes YA

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: v. 1 – M.T. Anderson

Winner of the National Book Award 2006

I picked this book up after seeing C.B. James mention it as one of his favourite reads of 2008.

The book is set in Boston during the 18th Century and centres on Octavian, a young boy who lives in a strange house with his mother and an array of unrelated men. He is confused by his life, his vague memories of a past in Africa and the role of all the men in his household. As the book progresses Octavian and the reader slowly learn the shocking truth about his life….

I found this book very hard to get in to. Octavian’s confusion meant that the reader had no idea what was happening for a while. The book was written with a very flowery language, which although not difficult to understand, meant that reading did require a lot of concentration and this also distanced me from the characters.

The men who raised me were lords of matter, and in the dim chambers I watched as they traced the spinning of bodies celestial in vast, iron courses, and bid sparks to dance upon their hands; they read the bodies of fish as if each dying trout or shad was a fresh Biblical Testament, the wet and twitching volume of a new-born Pentateuch. They burned holes in the air, wrote poems of love, sucked the venom from sores, painted landscapes of gloom, and made metal sing; they dissected fire like newts.

A further problem was that all the male characters in the book were referred to by numbers, rather than names. My poor little brain just couldn’t keep track of who was who. By the time I’d read and re-read everything and worked out what was happening I had lost interest in the story. I just didn’t feel that the effort I had put into understanding it was rewarded.

This book is marketed as a young adult book, but I’m not sure many teenagers would have the concentration to get through it. I think this book has many similarities with Beloved by Toni Morrison – it is very literary, hard to understand and tackles some difficult subjects. If you enjoyed Beloved then I’m sure you’ll like this, but it was too much like hard work for me.

Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy the rest of the series?

Do you enjoy reading books that require a lot of concentration?

2000 - 2007 Science Fiction YA

Uglies – Scott Westerfeld

I have a love-hate relationship with YA novels, so approached this one with extreme caution. I was prepared for a thought provoking plot, but I was pleased to discover that it was also a gripping, page turner that I’d happily recommend to everyone.

The book is set approximately 300 years in the future, in a world where everyone is ugly until their 16th birthday when they are transformed in adults of uniform beauty. The central character, Tally, is fast approaching her 16th birthday and is preparing to be re-united with her childhood friend, Peris, who has already undergone the operation. Everything changes when Tally meets Shay, a fellow Ugly, who wants to avoid the change, but Shay runs away, leaving Tally to make some difficult decisions….

The book started off quite slowly and after the first few chapters I was beginning to wonder why so many people rave about this book, but then I slowly became immersed in the story and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t put it down. I love dystopian fiction and this world came across very realistically. The book mocked our society in which tall people have an advantage at job interviews, or fights break out over the colour of someone’s skin and their observations of skinny models on our magazine covers were fantastic! I can easily imagine someone deciding to give us all a uniformly pretty appearance in a few hundred years time and it was these thought provoking issues that made the book special for me.

I loved all the characters in the book, the plot was fast-paced without losing any atmosphere and I thought that the twists were great and often unexpected.

This is what YA writing should be like – a fantastic, light read which can be appreciated by all age groups. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.



Have you read Uglies?

Will I enjoy the rest of the series?

2000 - 2007 YA

Twilight – Stephenie Meyer (Book and Film)

I had been wanting to read Twilight for a long time, as I hate not knowing what everyone else is talking about. I suspected that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but tried to approach it with a fairly open mind.

Unfortunately I quickly realised that it wasn’t for me – the writing style grated, the characters lacked depth and there was no atmosphere. After trudging through 50 pages of this drivel I gave up and decided to watch the film.

I immediately liked watching it a lot more – the characters, who had been so dull on paper came to life! The film was beautifully shot and was packed with colour, action and even emotion at times. After 20 minutes I paused the film and picked the book up again, wondering if I’d been wrong about it, but after struggling through another ten pages I realised that my initial reaction was still holding up. The dialogue was so cheesy and as the book consists of almost nothing but talking it was impossible to avoid!

I finished the rest of the film and found that I really enjoyed it. I’m not normally a fan of vampire films, but I found that Twilight was different to many of the others due to the lack of excessive violence. The plot concentrated more on the love story than the vampires chasing each other round and killing one another. I even found the love story almost believable on screen – there were several touching scenes.

Once I had  finished watching the film I skim read the rest of the book, reading only the important scenes. I noticed a few differences between the two, but generally the film seemed to follow the book very closely. I’m afraid that the writing quality remained quite low for the rest of the book and I was never tempted to finish it properly. I’m sure that I would have loved Twilight when I was 14, but as an adult I was thoroughly bored with it.

I won’t be reading any more of the books, but will ensure I watch the DVDs as they are released.

Book: stars1 (DNF)

DVD:  stars41

Did you enjoy Twilight?

Did you prefer the book or the film?

2008 Science Fiction YA

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

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I picked up this book after reading a powerful endorsement at Jenny’s Books. I have since seen many more rave reviews, so was expecting good things. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

< ?php echo amazon('1406320757','The Knife of Never Letting Go’); ?>  has one of the most original premises I’ve seen for a long time. The basic idea is that all the residents of Prentisstown have been affected by a virus which killed all the women and enabled the men to hear each other’s thoughts and those of the animals around them. The problem is that being able to hear every-one’s thoughts leads to a constant background noise which drove me mad – I guess this is the idea, but I found it very frustrating to read. 

The pace of the book is incredibly fast, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which encourages speed reading so much! The problem with this was that there was never any break from the action – you were swept along so quickly that was hard to build a picture of the characters or their surroundings.

I also found it quite confusing at times. It took a while for me to work out exactly what was happening – again I think this was due to the speed of the narrative. Nothing is really explained properly and so you have to grab snatches of information whenever it is dropped in the book.

The dialect in the book is annoying, but on top of that, I don’t understand why words like selecshun, expanshun and recognishun were mis-spelled – it just drove me mad!

Overall, I didn’t find anything good in this book, apart from the premise and I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy.

Most other people seem to love it though, so don’t take my word for it!



Is Patrick Ness one of your favourite authors?

Can you explain why this is so good?