Saturday, 20 October 2012

suffice to say, this took a while! but hopefully reviews will be a little less infrequent from now on. ha ha.

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children;, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here - one of whom was his own grandfather - were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive. [summary from amazon.co.uk]

Upon inspection of the cover and blurb of Miss Peregrine, I hoped for two things. The first being that the story would be just as eerie and captivating as it was made out to be, and the second being that it would not awaken any latent fear of despondent children or undisclosed figures entombed in seedy black and white images. Luckily for me (but not quite so fortunate for my sleeping patterns, which lay in tatters after the reading), both of said aforementioned factors did in fact come true. But let’s not fixate on the latter, partly for the sake of the quickly mounting pile of bags under my eyes, and mostly because the book was GOOD and merits a discussion.


The concept in itself is fascinating – the entire novel is based around jaded photographs children looking either petulant or very, very threatening. The fact that the author has somehow managed to pull this enchanting, gripping, and also rather sinister world and story from these pictures that are enchanting and tantalizing in their own right is amazing, and if you have any phobias akin to mine (namely children, children, FREAKIN’ CHILDREN), probably just as terrifying. What’s more is the fact that those aforementioned pictures were integrated into the story so skilfully and really helped to build a kind of “big brother is watching you, but it’s not your older brother, no, and nor is it the enthralled eyes of the vaguely sadistic public, nope, IT’S AN ELDRITCH FUCKING MONSTER” atmosphere. It really brought something new to the whole Lovecraftian debacle. A therapist, for example. I know, ground-breaking, isn’t it?

About that atmosphere, it’s a topic that I can only begin to approach with the announcement of “WHAT A GOOD” and without much of a follow up. But I’ll try to remedy that. Even before Jacob was stamped as completely, terrifically bonkers, it still felt like this book was taking place under a storm cloud. Throughout the novel, right up until the climax, it felt like a kettle waiting to boil. The new kind, the type that makes no noise so when you’re water is sufficiently boiled you don’t know and just forget about it so you have to re-enter the vicious, never-ending cycle of boiling water, and subsequently forgetting it and reboiling it over and over. Anyway, I’m sure that I had a point before I went off on that tangent, and that was that the novel was fantastic at upholding a very tense and clinical and grey tone – almost as black and white as the photographs as it had been plucked out off. The novel did a great job at mimicking a shade of Lovecraft - in both its atmosphere and its villains. Tentacle monsters! I am totally earnest in my scream of fantastic. Really.

I might have mentioned the characters, or at least the menacing children in passing. Now, whilst Jacob was a fantastic character, the skies dictate that it is far too early to talk about him yet. So, regarding those children, or the titular peculiar children, or whatever fancy technical name they had been christened that I’ve forgotten - they were bizarre. That’s to be expected when you’re shut away in a stable time loop, and are completely aware, and somehow simultaneously okay with the fact. But they were delightful, and their lives and stories and even their morning routines proved interesting to read about, especially if said aforementioned morning routine takes place on the ceiling. Some even had the fortune to develop, which is fantastic even if it only extended to their wearing clothes on a regular basis.

One such character would be Emma – she was a step up from the putting their clothes on in the morning, coming full clothed, charmingly angry and totally xenophobic of anyone not from her personal time loop.  By the end of the novel, her anger had boiled down to a near Zen state,  and had left only the remnants of bravery and more balls than the Olympic basketball team. And whilst this transformation probably wouldn’t have come about had the power of love (such a phrase was not mentioned because it had far more illustrious things to be doing, like putting uranium into the posterior’s of innocuous woodland creatures to turn them into creatures after Lovecraft’s own heart) this book has not been present, that’s excusable, because if her comrades had to put up with her bitterness for much longer, they might have drowned her.

The star of the show here, though, is Jacob. Who is not, by the way, Miss Peregrine, who you might have thought would be the star of the show. Throughout the novel, he had an almost absurd number of bad days, socked exactly one monster in the jaw with a pair of scissors and grew about three metaphorical inches. As someone stuck in such an inopportune situation, I thought he reacted really humanely. Or, at least, as realistically as you can act when your affliction isn’t depression so much as it is REAL TENTACLE MONSTERS. I’m not sure if there’s even a name for that condition. Needless to say, he handled it well. Oh, and he made out with Emma, which I thought was a little creepy at first considering Emma had once stuck her smooched his grandfather in a way that was far from too much sherry at a family Christmas party kind of way. But in the end, it wasn’t too bad. Not painful at all.

The plot also deserves some attention! Twisty and gasp and crazy muttering inspiring, foreshadowing was its middle name. Quite ingenious at times, rather devastating at others, but in the end it proved to have just enough relief for our poor, frazzled brains. I liked how the actual story related stuff balanced out with the whole character development and interaction. We need to introduce a monster? Sure thing, we’re going to do it WHILST ROMANTIC BONDING ALSO OCCURS. It was a joyful moment and it worked pretty well for the rest of the novel, too.

In the way of books, this one was a keeper. That’s what the New York Times thought, at least, as it clutched it on its list for something like twenty weeks. And who am I to disagree with a newspaper with a font smaller than I can detect? It’s certainly a different novel. It’s an enjoyable novel. Clearly it’s a novel that inspires articulation in people. It’s a novel that provokes all kinds of thoughts and makes people write down all sorts of adjectives, but the true question here is: when will there be a sequel?

Friday, 14 September 2012

hey guys! it's been a while! I'd be surprised if you were all still here, ahah.

anyway, this thing, this weird blog thing, isn't updated very often. you want to know why? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO VENTURE THERE?

[it's because I've got a whole bunch of shit to do for school. and tumblr.]

but anyway, I've got some reviews on the way! eventually. it takes me a while because I want them to be good??? like, I'd much rather plough away for months at a decent review than just post a mediocre one every other week.

you've just got to let the thoughts mature. like beer, or cheese, or any other staple of german cuisine.

okay bye for now I promise I'll be back soon*

[*my definition of soon, which is 53 full moons and one additionally roman holiday]

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


Hey! You thought I was dead, didn't you? (You thought wrong.) Sorry, this one for some reason took my donkeys years to write, but I'm quite proud of the result - inclusive of all the inevitable typos that slipped under the radar, and the numerous continuity mistakes I've also likely made. BUT HERE YOU GO.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. 
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.  (Summary from Goodreads.com)


On a stroll through the pages of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one might expect to encounter all kinds of sights, whether they be magic or mundane, savoury or unsavoury – it’s the kind of novel where things that previously lay on opposite ends of the spectrum (magic and naked people, for example – although depending on your sobriety correlation may be found between the two aforementioned aspects) can bask together in relative harmony under the wonderful, cold atmosphere.

You might be wondering how such peculiar things can live together unruffled, and that is because of the fantastic, extravagant world in which it was set – if you weren’t in some way bizarre, beautiful and wholly incompatible with your settings, you had no place between the exquisite concepts and eccentric characters, but they would welcome you anyway. I would have loved to live in that environment, even if I might have risked demon corruption or being harassed by angry angels or experimental dental surgery; it was implausibly crafted, so many fantastic, fabled details (such as the seraphim and the chimera and their eternal and also rather dramatic struggle) so tightly packed together, writhing against each other to catch glimpses of the novels perpetually grey skies. What you need to take from this entire, garbled mess of a paragraph is that the world building in this novel, is like my writing skills – fantastic and elaborate, and if you have a single contrary comment you will be eaten by the dragons that this book was unfortunately lacking.

Of course, the setting and the world would not have had quite such an effect on me had it not been for the atmosphere. If this review ambles along with only vague mentions of the atmosphere, then I will likely resort to some form of blazing rampage, because the atmosphere, rather like the Victorian gothic, supernatural novels I believe from which it was derived, was fantastic. Cold and grey though it was, it matched the world perfectly – it cast a sinister, dreary shadow on the vivacious, exclusive and ornate concepts and creatures. Had it been altered, then the novel might have faded right into the rest of its ilk of stories regarding angels and demons and the goat-y things that lie in between. And that would not have been good for me, you, nor the novel itself.

Speaking of the frequently aforementioned angels, demons, and goat things – they made for a fantastic cast. But they were incredibly prone to the climate of the novel, which at times, became rather unfortunate. Karou, for example, had all the sass of the elusive sitcom heroine and more balls than the entire Irish Fire Brigade, and the same could be said of Madrigal – that is, when they were not around Akiva, who might as well have been the aforementioned blight causing the novel’s poor climate. Inside me he inspired nothing but frothy rage, through his bland and aimlessly angsty attitude. My urge to punch him in his sulky little frown notwithstanding, I will admit that he does deserve a gold star for best development in the story – he was changed through his love story, an aspect which I will voice my opinions on a little later so as to not disturb the neighbours.

The other characters, such as Brimstone, Issa and that guy who sold teeth and the thing on this back gained my approval solely through their concepts, but their roles in the story and their actions only increased that – two fold, four fold and in some cases (and of course I am referring to the guy who sold teeth and that obscene thing that sat on his back, because how can you not like these people? They could start an accordion band in the street and within weeks it would rise to worldwide fame just because they are such fantastic characters) sixty four fold. They had such unorthodox and promising origins, and I’ll be damned if they did not live to their full potential. Even the thing on the guys back somehow managed to grow legs at some point.

Now, onto that romance dilemma. Of course, you’ll all know that there is nothing I enjoy more than sincerely complaining about the love lives of fictional teenagers, and my main qualm with this one that it was just so lazy – the build- up was so fleeting and mundane that it was almost spontaneous, that you’d never expect to see some sloppy make-outs come out of it. You might even be able to say that the romance was a plot twist itself. And yes, I do realise that Madrigal and Karou are the same person, and that Madrigal and Akiva’s romance was “just fine”, and it’s entirely possible that my hatred of Akiva is blinding my view. However, Karou did not recall her previous romance with Akiva, which draws that one to a moot point, and is therefore not an excuse for not developing the romance properly. But the cherry on top of this miserable, ranty pie, is the fact that both Karou and Madrigal seem to lose any semblance of personality when around Akiva. This might just be a state induced by the hypnotic abs I’m sure he is, or it could just be me being overly nit-picky and practising my misery for later life. Who knows?

The only thing that leaves untouched, I believe, is the plot and the wonderful contours of Liraz and Hazael’s faces. The plot could be rather plodding at times, making sure to build the tension, waiting just the right amount of time for the reader’s face to light up with the grin of a person who is both impressed, but also feels a little bit violated by the development. Seriously, there were so fantastic twists in here. Especially those that occurred towards the end – the bombshell ending, and the intrigue and implications that followed (especially the romantic implications, I will admit to letting out a little shriek of vengeance at those) laid the path for the sequel just a tad over brilliantly.

Although it left me with rather a lot to complain about, this novel also left me with rather a lot to rave and grin about. Daughter of Smoke proved to be a frustrating novel, but it also proved to be immensely satisfying. There was so much going on, so many tiny little corners to explore, so many mysteries and characters. It was a fantastic novel – it convinced you to bury yourself into it, but it provided no means of escape. I highly recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I do advise that you bring a shovel with you.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.  Then, at last, they found the cure. Now, everything is different. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she'll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable. (Summary from Amazon.co.uk.)

It seems nowadays, there is a dystopian novel for everything. And in Delirium’s case, it seems to be one of the faceless hoards that represent love in the big, bad world outside our computer screens. However, while some members of this stuttering, drooling hoard would elect to write a typical love story that doesn’t involve cutting out minute sections of the brain, but this was apparently not the case for Delirium. No, if there are sections of the brain to be cut out or fiddled with, then the brains will most assuredly be so. Based on that, I suppose you could say that Delirium doesn’t take a particularly conventional approach on anything, especially the concept  and the romance that somehow grew out of that – although quite how that happened is beyond me, as the entire novel centres around the notion that love is a disease as deadly as a tenure on daytime television. Admittedly, the idea of love being a disease and stigma that surrounded it was handled quite uniquely and in some ways, realistic – the accompanying atmosphere (which I personally believe to take the cake, pie, goat, or cow in the way of this novel’s positive features)was so cold and sterile and isolated, almost as if the propaganda had convinced that to be heartless as well. Additionally, it adapted really well with Lena’s relieving change of perspective (albeit a bit sudden – but as much as I’d like to complain about the somewhat lazy stigma of love changing everything faster than I cannot because if I indulge myself a tiger will eat my family), becoming just as much a haven where the butterflies and small animals and Winnie the Pooh can frolic in peace, as it was a cage.

Of course, I suppose I should talk about the romance now.  A lot depended on the quality of this romance, like the moral, the plot, the life-expectancy of the reader … And thankfully, it did not let down its considerable holdings. The following statement may shock you, if you are familiar with my track record with fictional romances; given the opportunity, I’ll scream and shout and complain all day long about the collective stupidity of the characters and the lack of chemistry and the fact that they didn’t wear matching reindeer jumpers or something. But I will admit that the romance in Delirium was actually fairly decent. Despite its hasty conception, it developed at a decent pace and Alex and Lena had decent chemistry and interacted as though they actually gave cat excrement about each other and was overall, like I mentioned, fairly decent. Granted, it could be incredibly silly and contrived at times, and there was a distinct lack of matching reindeer sweaters, but there are some things you must shrug off in the name of decency.

However, there are certain things that can never be ignored in the name of decency. Such as the character development, for example – Lena began the story as stiff and dull as a pile of bricks, and personality wise she ended the novel in a fairly lack lustre temperament, but she developed incredibly over the course of the story. Even if she did come to terms with things (to use the loosest phrase possible to describe how quickly she changed her morals and fell in love and did all of those things that people as such as myself frown on) far too swiftly, which kind of clashed with her stern, frigid attitude and the sense that made when you considered her upbringing. But ignore my whining on subjects that are far too beyond me to be discussed properly, just believe me when I say that she developed well and that credits a hug or a prize or something. Additionally, her narrative was also fantastic – it lacked any particularly exclusive quirks, but it suited Lena as she developed; it genuinely sounded like it was coming from her, and for that sole reason, it gripped me. Other characters were present, but they were likely not prominent enough to merit development or would be eventually eaten by hallucinatory insect men. Or something.

I suppose it should be noted that those hallucinatory insect men may not have appeared, and if they did, it was only for a couple of paragraphs at the end, with the purpose of destroying all of our assumptions about the ending and turning it into this strange, curdled, but nonetheless triumphant mess. A heart pounding chase scene, in which Lena’s desperation and all of that other emotional scalamooche could be felt so vividly, erupted out of the blue like, directly followed by a rather cryptic twist and then saunters along a cliff hanger, and then there was just this strange, scurrying lack of words and it ended. Emotionally, I wasn’t all that effected, unless you count the raging anger that coursed through my veins as the novel shoved that icy cliff hanger down my top and ran away smirking. Oh, and they can’t take it ­– that one sure tugged at my heart glands and tear glands. But really, it was the perfect way to end a novel that had been equally subdued and distracted as it had been outrageous and roaring. This is a book that might cause some minuscule spasms in some people who are less willing to suspend their disbelief, but for me it proved to be entertaining enough.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

You know, I think this has been the shortest delay between reviews so far. Only two weeks or something. I, at least, am rather proud of myself. Also my J-Scribble was upside down.

First of all, I would kindly ask all of you to take your expectations for this review and dispose of them in a way you see fit; as this elongated piece of text will likely turn out to be less of a conventional review and more of a plea to the governing forces for some form of closure or a token to compensate for the damage inflicted on my poor little emotions during the reading of this novel. If you were to ask me, in a manner that denotes a certain lack of interest, what exactly within this novel violated my feelings so, then I would splutter out a list of mostly incoherent things, and the most coherent of which shall be chronicled here in an effort to convince you to let this book toy with your feelings as well.

One such thing is the unfortunate fact that this book tells no lies – it’s incredibly honest, but in a subtle way. If you tell it a secret, it won’t clumsily splutter it out, it will carefully emblazon it into the clouds for everyone to see. It’s this subtlety that makes the book so harrowing. Anyhow, you might be wondering where one can find some of this subtlety stuff that I’m always talking about. Since my aforementioned spluttering has robbed me of both bodily fluids and my ability to withhold crucial information from you, I will just glumly point you in the direction of the narrative. Like I was saying, the narrative plays a pivotal role in encouraging tears to come out of readers. Some people might already began to sob at the quality of it; it’s hilarious through its witty dialogue and witty thoughts and just general wittiness, in addition to being fabulously well written but what I foresee provoking the most tear inducing feels within the readers is the candid emotional content included in the narrative – Hazel, narrator, is such a genuine character, therefore making her actions and emotions realistic and heart breaking and surprisingly relatable.

Speaking of the characters, they were absolutely precious. As previously mentioned, Hazel was brilliant in terms of realism and wit, and she deserves all of the cuddles the world is willing to give her, but it was Augustus and Isaac that really stole my heart. Both had such depth – Augustus just affected me in a way that can only be described through the most whiny of keyboard smashes, but as I do not feel it appropriate, I will have to use actual words to describe my feelings on him. He was just so peculiar and clever and adorable and oh I do believe I’m half in love or something. Anyhow, on the subject of character, it was a trait of his that rivalled his brain and his handsome looks in levels of glory. He had such depth, and his final scenes did well very well to illustrate that in a way that was both quirky and entirely heart breaking. The collective parents acted more as an omnipresent force than a set of characters, but their actions and emotions when they did present them, made enough of an impact to leave a small country in Africa sobbing for a couple of days. I refuse to talk about Van Houten, as he was a person that could have easily existed in real life, a fact that spooked me out as much as his bald, egg like head did. Which, for those lucky ones not in the know, was quite a lot.

The plot, which, somewhat akin to Van Houten’s startlingly bald head, also sent shivers down my spine. The plot itself is fairly simple, typical John Green fare. (You know, a rather lot of positive developments, a huge horrible happening towards the end, and then it chronicles both the reader’s and the character’s shaky, meandering recovery until it ends rather ambiguously.) It could be a bit predictable, at times, but that’s hardly anyone’s concern – people are far too worried about how much they’ve contributed to the rising sea levels with their tears to worry about the silly little niggles they feel about forthcoming events. However, what sent shivers down my spine was the departure in atmosphere it took from John Green’s over novels. It’s hard to place what exactly marks it as an outcast among it’s kin, but after an extended period of rather clueless guessing, I have determined that what makes it so chilling is how early the tragedy sets in. It’s constant, looming presence in the novel gave it a very chilling, tense atmosphere – when I was reading the novel, it honestly felt like I was waiting for something to defrost, to see whether it would writhe with the screams of “I have not been edible since 1999” or it would offer itself up with a smile. That was a metaphor for a happy ending, if some of you are confused.

Speaking of which, the ending inspired in me such anger, anxiety, and various negative emotions within me – after finishing the book, I sat there for a whole twenty minutes, blabbing on about a lack of closure and how my copy must have been damaged because that seriously could not have been the ending. But, unfortunately, it was – and I’m fairly sure that it was intended to be as lacking in closure and lacking in mercy as it was. To some extent, it was happy and sufficient, but to another extent, it felt incomplete, like the author had taken the easy way out. It was just … disheartening, I suppose, that the ending was so vague whereas everything had been so lovingly detailed.

But honestly, other than a sprinkling of predictability in some places, that was the novel’s only flaw. Had this book been born a person, rather than a lot of paper and ink, then it would likely be worshipped for its unblemished quality from suspicious corners of the internet to the wildest crowds of people minding their own business. Overall, The Fault in our Stars is a wonderful novel. Any defects that can be found in this novel will be momentously overshadowed by its accomplishments. The narrative and humour is as dry and witty, the characters jumped off the pages and into our metaphorical hearts (and then continued to punch our tear glands until we discharged enough tears to maintain a collective biblical flood), and the concepts and handling of the novel were so subtle. I can’t imagine a single worthy soul that would not enjoy this novel, and I should hope that they do, as I will be recommending and raving about this novel to everyone, their grandma, their dog, said dog’s flees, those flees bacteria, and basically everyone who will listen, because as I have previously said, and will continue to say until my vocabulary deteriorates into bird calls, that this book is absolutely wonderful.

★★★★.5

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Gosh, the new blogger thing is weird. Anyhow, I have returned from the large, looming land of tumblr to deliver this to you. As per normal, any in-coherency will be thoroughly apologized for, but probably not dealt with any time soon.

Hopefully, I'm going to start posting here more frequently, but you know, if that doesn't happen, I have an irrelevant tumblr that you can find here ^^. Granted, I don't post about books very much, but I'm looking to change that and it's always good if someone needs to contact me.

Anyhow, onto the review.

The cover, much like the Her Majesty's
Secret Service, is very much under the
policy of not giving anything away. Shh,
sometimes I'm allowed to make bad
classy jokes.
Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way.

For the uninitiated, angst can be defined as the somewhat self-absorbed love child of anger and anguish, in addition to hopelessness and despair directed towards the world and other things. Commonly found in teenagers, angst can cause symptoms such as the spontaneous yelling at the sky, or sitting in darkened rooms glowering at the wall. With such a dramatic title as This is Not Forgiveness, one would think that this book would like to indulge in a fair amount of angsting. If one were to make this assumption, then one would be entirely correct. This book bathes in angst, it paints its walls, washes its windows and cleans its floors with angst. Despite the copious amount of angst (a quantity that will sometimes fill you with the desire to sustain a terminal head injury), it works very well with the tone of the novel and the characters. You see, this book is emotionally raw; had there been less angst, then the book would have likely had a much less hard-hitting effect on the reader. And besides, hand in hand with angst, comes honesty, and this book has that in spades – which makes whatever horrific revelation the author deems to include particularly more affecting.

 Of course, the rather suspicious voices in my head inform me that there is more than the substantial amount of angst to this book. And on this rare occasion, they are correct. This is not Forgiveness is a very ambitious, political novel. It’s gritty and messy – dysfunction makes itself quite comfortable in the midst of the character’s struggle and misery. I don’t generally enjoy books with either copious amounts of angst or overly realistic and gritty settings, but this book managed to grip me. Before you mention my pre-existing bias (what with Celia Rees being one of my all-time favourite authors and all), I can proudly state that that particular fact is totally irrelevant, as this is quite unlike anything she has written before. Like I said, it’s fairly ambitious (in the same way that trying to kick a rocket into space wearing sandals), but for the most part, it works. This novel brings up rather a lot of issues, and genuine though they are, whether the book decides to develop or expand on them is a different matter entirely. For example, this book floats on top of an ocean of political undertones – terrorism and making a political difference are themes that loom over this novel with a presence like a well-meaning but rather hungry whale. Yet, while they loom their ominously, they aren’t really dwelled on or analysed to a complex degree. That’s quite worrying, as it seems that the book boasts said themes high in the air, near to where its plot is.

Granted, the lack of development prevents the book from sitting on the reader in all of its mopey, depressing glory, but it does sacrifice some of the novel’s power. Speaking of the plot, it’s mostly driven by the characters whims and perpetual mood swings, but that’s not a bad thing, don’t you dare suggest it. Yes, good, now close your mouth and let dearest Auntie Reviewer tell her story. Because said plot propelled forward by three angsty, less than mentally stable teenagers whose minds are ravaged daily by hormones and anger and quite possibly the stray duck, the book has quite a few twists – good twists, albeit they did feel a bit rushed. On a related matter, I suppose some people might make an enemy of the pacing – plodding along without a care in the world, only remembering its appointments with the plot late in the day, somewhat clumsily dumps them and runs off to deal with any other business that it might have forgotten. However, while most of the more mind-blowing events are deposited towards the end of the book, it does help to build tension and make the climax more climax-y.

 Which then, leads us down the rural, muddy path towards the ending. Oh, the ending. How you confound me. You had this elaborate, exciting twist, and you seemed to be aware of what you were doing – like the most sensible of parents. But then, something happened – perhaps you panicked, perhaps the dearest baby twist became too much to handle. Something inspired you to chuck your dearest baby twist off a cliff, into a blender, leave it to its preferred tragic ending. This resulted in a rather abrupt ending – which in turn makes my stomach curdle when I think of all of the potential wasted when the author decided to end the book like that. Had she chosen to continue on from that lovely twist she had, the book would have likely had much more of an impact – think of all the glory you could have earned yourself, book! If you hadn’t decided to be so darned lazy, you could have afforded a golden bathtub with all the money you had grossed with your heart warming development!

 Anyhow, while I’m still miffed that the book forfeited the chance to bathe in a tub made of gold, it does possess a thing that perhaps rivals the value of said bathtub. And those would be the characters. The story relied on a triple narrative to convey depth and stuff within the character, and it did its job well. The characters were terribly vibrant – realistic, if not particularly eccentric or cheery. I suppose I should talk about Jamie, first – although admitting it makes the liquid in my brain curdle, Jamie was unfathomably average. In theory, being exposed to a form of Manic Pixie Dream Girl for so long, his character ought to have developed into something mighty. But no, no such effects occurred – the Pixie Dust merely scorched his eyes and caused him to sulk in an irrational manner. Had the aforementioned twist been developed to a satisfactory standard, then perhaps his character would develop accordingly. But alas, no such thing happened.

 That’s not to say that the rest of the protagonists had less defining characteristics than the cabbages in the cheap section at the supermarket – rather the contrary. Rob, for example – although I have yet to experience such a thing, I can imagine that his ordeal (you know, trauma screwing with your brain, descent into madness, subsequent static temper – the kind of things donkeys go from when they discover they’re going to give birth) was portrayed realistically, but if not, then we can at least vouch for the fact that it was done well. Even his actions in later chapters, which at first glance seem to have jumped out of nowhere and begun to mob the plot before we could blink, can be justified by his ‘ordeal’. While I didn’t particularly like him (which might have something to do with the fact that for the majority of the time, he’s quite a major arsehole), I will admit that he was very well developed, or perhaps more appropriately … devolved.

 Caro, on the other hand, seemed to have improved as a person over the course of the novel, which is lovely for her but, did not affect how much I would have liked her to have been hit over the head with a shovel and forced to follow a heard of goats for the majority of the novel. Anyhow, despite my rather flagrant dislike for her, I will admit that the handling of her characterisation was careful and precise, and before any of you question me, that is a good thing. She was a very realistic Manic Pixie Dream Girl – she had a very gritty “let us talk about politics while we consummate our relationship in this darkened field” approach to life. Her failings and relationships made her seem very lifelike, especially in how they affected her. Speaking of relationships, they were a mess. A bunch of people tangled together in the most awkward and hurtful way possible. Caro’s relationship with the boys is one such example – her separate relationships with both Rob and Jamie were carefully crafted, filled with deep and meaningful things, such as meandering conversations about the future and faithfulness and vague outdoor sex scenes. When one takes all of the aforementioned into consideration, it doesn’t come as a surprise when you conclude that the author will do everything in her power to make the implications of the relationships (you know, horrible family feuding, moral issues, etc) soul-crushingly depressing.

 I suppose, in many aspects, this book can be likened to a rough diamond. The ending is far too abrupt, details were severely lacking while angst ran riot around the plot’s neatly trimmed garden, but the characters do their job in a manner that is both effective and resembles real life, the concepts are unique enough and the emotional content will have people sobbing enough to cause another one of those floods that Noah will have to deal with. Overall, This Is Not Forgiveness is a novel made easy to enjoy by its simple prose, but not quite so easy to read content. I recommend you pick it up if you’re in liking of tragedies or the like. I enjoyed it enough, certainly.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy to review.

★★★★.5

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman



This one's a bit shorter than the rest ... I suppose the length of the paragraphs make up for that, ahahah. Sorry for walls of text - they are giants amongst their kin, reducing those puny fences to nothing but ants under their feet! ... I probably ought to get more sleep. :P


By the way, does anyone know if the TV Series thingy for this is any good? I hear it has Matt Smith (?) in it. /is immediatly intrigued.

Sally Lockhart is living quietly in London with her obnoxious cousin, after her father's tragic death at sea. But the peaceful, if hateful, existence is about to end. Sally's father left her a message, and deciphering it will lead her into a world of danger and excitement such as she's never known... (From Amazon.co.uk)

I hear that some thing’s are powered by diamonds. This book doesn’t explicitly feature diamonds, but it does feature other sparkly objects – for example, the plot ruby is quite prominent. However, since the plot ruby spends most of its time eluding capture, this book needs some other driving force to propel it towards the end. And those would be the characters! The characters in this were absolutely fantastic; the majority managed to be engaging and entertaining. Sally, despite being in possession of a personality that could be dropped off into one a soup pot without much afterwards notice, spent her time filling her head full of realistic ways to react, and her back full of spine. Mrs Holland was a villain that proved to be genuinely scary in her best moments and slightly offensive in her worst. Yet, she was driven and the logical reason behind her motives made her a convincing villain. Perhaps her role might have changed had she acquired a toothbrush and some glitter. Jim was by far my favourite character; he was ever so amusing and adorable and given the opportunity I would likely burst when talking about him, but I have other things that require my expertise at the moment, unfortunately. But something that impressed me was that he and Adelaide (who might have been important, but I can’t say that I cared much for her) actually acted like children. They didn’t drop overly clever lines about the social state, nor did they partake in heavy monologues about the state of our eternal souls or whatever. It was quite refreshing. A bit like Sushi after five years of eating nothing but Chinese food.

One such thing is the plot – a problem that those who primarily read action novels may find that the pace of which the action starts kicking the sky mimics that of a dying elephant, from an infected gunshot wound in its ear. It’s plodding, and when everything is revealed (conveniently, right at the end – the book works on the same basis as the secret service of rather lazy people; nothing is revealed until it is completely necessary), it naturally feels a little bit rushed, but it really is quite impressive when it finally throws down its deck. The action, when it finally realises that its purpose is not to sit and make profound comments about the weather, but to be exciting and engaging, does its job very well. That’s not to say that the rest of the book isn’t engaging – it reads a little bit like an old Sherlock Holmes novel. The atmosphere is spot on – when there are no chase scenes to be had, fear not, as there is plenty of opium and plenty of deductions and mystery to go around. The narrative flowed like the conversation between a group of friends who secretly harbour intense hatred for each other – very polite but just witty enough to keep blandness at bay.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that I have no large bones to pick with this book – the largest of which resides in your ear, and it regards the pacing. But otherwise, it was an enjoyable novel in vein of the sensational novels of the period in which it was set. The mystery was interesting, the plot despite having all the pace of a menopausal alpaca, did deliver some wonderful twists when it stopped pondering the state of its pension, and Jim just seems so huggable and cute! Ahem. Phillip Pullman is one of my favourite authors, so I was pretty much obliged to like this. (If I didn’t, then my heart would likely go to war with my brain and leave me a vegetable to be eaten by my organs or whatever.) I’m quite glad I did. I would recommend it for people who want some mindless, traditional mystery to get lost in for a while.

★★★★.5