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Selan

Selan

Hi! I'm Selan. I love anime, yuri, sci-fi & fantasy, Kirby and 90s JRPGs. Right now I'm trying to expand my collection of books.

 

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Shadow of the Zeppelin - Bernard Ashley

Trigger warning: Attempted rape scene (once)

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting is World War I. We settle on two brothers caught up in the conflict - one of whom joins the war effort, the other of whom is too young to join the army and has his own problems at home. In addition, we also focus on one of the German soldiers manning the zeppelins during the Blitz! I really enjoyed that.

 

Well, what we have here are two brothers, Will and Freddie. Will is old enough to join the army but refuses to join (it is not yet compulsory), and his girlfriend Amy stands by his decision. It isn't until a bomb lands nearby and scars her face that he is spurred to join the war effort. 

 

We also focus on a German bomber called Ernst who, for the most part, isn't much different from the English soldiers. He follows orders, he has a wife waiting for him back home in Germany, and they've just had their first child. He constantly worries that his zeppelin will easily catch fire and go down in flames, much like they do. He is also responsible for the dropping of many bombs during the Blitz.

 

Freddie doesn't join the war, but he certainly has his fair share of troubles - especially when a bomb lands on his own house and he barely makes it out alive. I can't really go into that without spoiling it however.

 

There is an attempted rape scene in this book, however it was not described in detail thankfully and I thought it was dealt with appropriately.

 

I really enjoyed all these characters. Will, Freddie, their family, the rest of the army, Ernst as well...each of them was well-rounded and I would even say that Will is rather relatable. The Germans were not made out to be "evil" or anything like that.

 

I felt this book did a good job of describing the war, too - in bits and pieces, anyway. You get to see what the Blitz is like back home with Freddie. You get to see what it's like on the front lines with Will. You get to see what it's like for other soldiers to die. 

 

However, I'm not sure all of the content was there. I get that this is a YA book and so the violence and imagery is toned down a bit, but I don't think it shows all the true horrors of war. Will doesn't participate in more than a handful of skirmishes before he's removed from that part altogether (but there's a reason for that). I can't help but think that there could be more to that, but then again I understand that they already had a fair amount of detail going on.

 

I didn't find any serious flaws with this book, it fit the time period really well. The author really researched this properly - in the author's note at the back of the book, he makes several references to historical events during the time of the Blitz. Even the street names are preserved.

 

Overall, I liked this book very much. I wouldn't say it's amazing - it tugged at my heartstrings during one particular scene, but not that much. It could be better, really, but I found it to be very well-rounded and well-written in general. 3.5/5.

SPOILER ALERT!
Missing - Kelley Armstrong

Trigger warnings: Domestic abuse, allusions to rape

 

I thought this was a decent book, but it took a while to get started. We have our female protagonist, Winter Crane...yeah, she's called Winter. Sorry. It's that kind of book. I guess the author thought they had to be really unique or something, even though every other character has a perfectly normal name.

 

Anyway, she lives in a place called Reeve's End which she describes as a shithole that everyone wants to escape from and move out. Really, I wasn't convinced that the place was as bad as she thought it was. It felt like a bit of a dump. It was just filled with really shitty characters.

 

She lives in a trailer, knows how to hunt and forage, can shoot a bow and arrows because she knows her way around the bush...Well, this character seems pretty decent, doesn't she? Let's say how this goes.

 

Winter finds a body in the woods. It belongs to a guy her age, called Lennon. He's still alive and it turns out he was attacked by someone. She rescues him, and at this point I can already feel a romance taking place, but actually that's not all that happens at all.

 

She gives him medical treatment at her cabin and that's when someone starts STALKING her and leaving disemboweled animal corpses on her door (before suddenly removing them the next day) and doing creepy laughter whenever she tries to come out. This becomes a recurring theme, really.

 

It turns out that teenagers have started to go missing in Reeve's End. Lennon disappears soon after, but his brother Jude comes looking for him and bumps into Winter. Now THIS is where it starts turning into a love relationship - because Jude has a very dominant personality, keeps a lot of secrets, very smart, very clever, makes jokes...I mean hell, I would go for this guy myself. I was quite drawn to him. No wonder Winter wants to get with him later.

 

The plot gets a little weird at this point because Jude has this complicated backstory with his family, and then that stalker is apparently murdering teenagers and nobody knows who it is. We meet a few more characters and most of them are shitheads. There's several people where you think, "Oh, I bet HE'S the stalker!" but then it isn't, and then there's someone else, and so on and so forth...

 

You can kinda guess how it goes, really. It gets pretty intense towards the end. However, I have quite a few issues with the book in general.

 

Shortly after Jude turns up, Winter goes home and her dad beats her up. Yep, domestic abuse. No mention of it before. Now bam, it comes out of almost nowhere. Jude saves her from any further violence (because I guess he was following her home?...) and gets her dad to lay off her.

 

Fast forward to a few more chapters later, Winter is going home and almost gets raped by these three drunk guys. Jude turns up (because I guess he was following her home?...again?!) and beats up the three guys with loads of karate moves and military training shit that he's learnt.

 

Y'know, Winter was doing fine on her own before now? Now she's got abuse and rape threats and shit? And she needs Jude to help her twice in a row? I'm just glad this wasn't a recurring theme.

 

I'm also not very impressed with the actual murderer, the villain in the book. He acted like some cliche serial killer right out of Saw or something. Creepy laughter, stalking teenage girls, leaving notes for their boyfriend to find...I mean, come on, do you REALLY expect us to buy that? The author was just trying too hard here.

 

There are themes like suicide, family break-up and of course the domestic abuse. I mean all of those are real issues which sound a LOT more realistic than this farce of a serial killer.

 

And yeah, it's a running joke about the "Hey, Jude" song. I predicted quite a few characters who turned out to be villains, but it wasn't completely cliche. Sometimes I wondered why the characters were acting so stupid, or why Winter hadn't cottoned onto the fact that the creepy guy who talked to her and knew about her missing sister just MIGHT be the stalker. I mean seriously.

 

If you're going to make your protagonist smart and clever, which is great, how about keeping that consistent? They can't be really resourceful one second and then get a case of the dumbs the next. 

 

There were a few twists, I guess. I was convinced that one particular girl was dead, in short because Winter wouldn't shut up about her. Turned out I was wrong, and a different girl was dead instead. So I guess it kept me guessing.

 

Jude also felt a little TOO perfect. He had flaws, yes, but the more he talked about himself, the more Winter gets attracted to him. (And me, too, by implication.)

 

I enjoyed the book, and it gets really good during the end. I just feel it could have used a bit of improvement.

 

 

In Too Deep - Tom Avery

This is the sequel to Too Much Trouble. I barely remember anything of the first book, since it's been a while since I read it. I couldn't even remember the characters names or anything, but after a while it did all start coming back.

 

The book focuses on two brothers, Prince and Emmanuel (nicknamed Em). Whilst the first book detailed about how they were kicked out onto the streets and had to fend themselves, including falling in with a bad crowd and stealing for a living, this book focuses more on their life after they are taken in by a foster family.

 

Now, these two brothers aren't orphans. Their parents are very much alive, but they were separated from them due to the war...I'm not entirely sure which war it is. A pretty violent one. Their father managed to get them out of the country.

 

The thing is, I don't feel that much happened in this book.

 

They are reunited with their mother halfway through the book, and she feels like a complete stranger to them. The overall climax of the story is that they find out that their father is in trouble - in debt with some gangster - and they have to get onto a plane and rescue him. Somehow.

 

That part is pretty tense, actually, because it turns out that their father is also dying from TB. But it really doesn't seem like they thought this through.

 

They end up stealing fake passports, stealing things to make enough money for the plane tickets...and that's just to get out of the country. Never mind the return journey.

 

I'll just say here and now that it's a happy ending, everything's resolved in a really fast way which feels a bit hamfisted, and they even have enough money to get back home again. It's like 3 pages right at the end to serve as a conclusion and IMO feels pretty unsatisfying.

 

We see the boys' thoughts about how their mother seems like a stranger to them, because she hasn't seen them in about 10 years and she's crying every night that their dad's in trouble. The abusive uncle from the first book makes a comeback, too, and now suddenly we're meant to like him. It just feels a bit off.

 

Oh, and they've got a baby sister now, by the way. I don't know why the book bothered to mention her. The story's so short that there's barely anything said about this baby sister. It really should have been expanded upon...

 

I mean, come on. The first book was exciting, full of tension and adventure from start to finish. People died. They got shot. The brothers were on the run from the police, constantly running from one place to another, stealing to survive. Now...it just doesn't feel as exciting.

 

I enjoyed the setting and overall plot, but I feel that this book was lacking nevertheless. Seriously, they could have fleshed out what happened with the family for, um, more than 3 pages? It just ended so fast. I will therefore give it 3/5.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

Okay. I wrote a pretty bad review about this book when I first read it, and I didn't even finish it. It has a lot of flaws, a load of stereotypes about gay people and the LGBT community, and frequently reads like a very bad fanfiction. 

 

However, I recently had another go at this book. And...I'm surprised at what it turned out to be. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit! It wasn't so obvious at first, but there is something of a coherent story going on between all the stereotypes and cliches and bad Tumblr-isms going on within these mellow pages.

 

So, here's the thing. This book is supposedly a gay romance between two guys at school. They communicate by email, but for the most part they keep their identities hidden from each other, and their relationship develops throughout the book.

 

This was probably my favourite part of the book. Simon and Blue, as they're known, have quite an engaging relationship and it even reminded me about some of my early online relationships at school. It was sweet, and it was cute. It wasn't too "girly", as slash romance is often portrayed by yaoi writers who don't know what they're doing. It was just right. I really liked it.

 

So, our story begins when one of the boys in Simon's class, Martin, mentions that he's seen Simon's emails with Blue (showing that he's gay), and blackmails him.

 

What the hell man. We've barely started the book, we've barely established this gay protagonist, and already this straight guy is blackmailing him? To get him in with a girlfriend, of all things?

 

Oh, boy. 

By the way, we've also got a love triangle. A straight love triangle, between Simon's friends. You know, his straight friends. Because that's what we want to read about in a book about gay romance.

 

I enjoyed the characters. A bunch of drama goes on in the book - I couldn't even bother to explain it all, but I will say that the author had a good grasp on what coming out is like for gay people, homophobia in general, all that stuff. She did it right and I can appreciate her for that.

 

I don't really appreciate all the gay stereotypes she put in, however.

Tegan and Sara? Seriously? Harry Potter? One of the main characters is a fangirl who is into Draco/Harry? (Actually, she was written pretty well. I expected her to be a lot worse.)

 

And what the hell is up with all these Tumblr-isms? They're everywhere! It's like the author found a bunch of stuff that she knew would be popular with Tumblr girls who like gay things, you know, mostly slash fangirls, and she put them all in her book. 

 

Oh, by the way, Tumblr is mentioned multiple times in the book. The author refers to it as "the Tumblr".

Dude. Nobody calls it that. It's just called Tumblr. Nobody says "I saw your post on the Facebook." It sounds so annoying and just tells your reader that you haven't done any research whatsoever.

 

What's amusing is that later on in the book, Simon ends up coming out to his family and friends. And everyone's...fine with it? I mean, there's not much homophobia at all. It's when he comes out to the general public where problems start.

 

Anyway, I don't really want to ramble about this book. It's a good read, but it is just FULL of little irritations which put me off. It's good, not because of the portrayal of gay relationships, but because of the characters and plot and the high school setting. I mean, you can kinda tell that the author is some straight woman who wants to write about her cute little gays. It's just so painfully obvious.

 

For what it's worth, I ended up liking it quite a bit. The protagonist is a complete idiot, by the way. There's a point in the book where he says that he always thought Jews came from Israel. There's another point when he starts thinking that Martin (the straight guy blackmailing him about his sexuality) is really Blue (the gay guy that he's been communicating with about his sexuality), even though the former is a piece of shit throughout the whole book.

 

I don't even know how you can make such a dire mistake like that. Seriously. I'd narrowed down Blue's identity to two people about halfway through the book. It wasn't too hard, really...

 

Anyway. I'm giving this 3.5/5. It was good, but...I don't know, it was just chock-full of flaws. It's not aimed at gay people, either. It's a gay romance aimed at straight girls who go on Tumblr a lot. And in that respect, it could do a LOT better.

 

 

School for Skylarks - Sam Angus

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It started out rather boring, then gradually became a little more interesting...but by the time we reached the last quarter of the book, it really got pretty good. I'm glad I continued reading to the end.

 

To start off, this book is about our 11-year old protagonist Lyla. It's the Second World War and she's been evacuated to the countryside to live with her Aunt Ada - an aunt who is rather loopy and does all sorts of zany things. She's quite eccentric, in fact - talks in a very unique fashion, summons her horse indoors to dinner, gives her niece a ferret to cheer her up (the ferret is called Bucket, btw).

 

Hang on a sec. Lyla? This sounds familiar. Remember Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, with a very similar female protagonist called...Lyra. Her personality is pretty much the same.

 

...except that Lyra is a lot more awesome, and Lyla mopes about her aunt's house and complains that her dad cheated on her mum, and that she wants to go home. Yeah. But she's like 11, so she's probably going to be like that for a while.

 

The first third of the book is bloody boring.

 

Seriously. She's just moping around in this giant mansion by herself and complaining about her parents. I almost fell asleep reading it.

 

A little later, one of Lyla's "Escape Plans" to get out of here and return to London where her mother will presumably help her, involves writing a letter to the Ministry of Defence and trying to persuade them to send their soldiers up to this mansion.

 

What do they get? An army of schoolgirls. An entire school of them moves into the mansion, and strangely enough Aunt Ada is FINE with that, and Lyla has to enroll in this school and take classes with everyone else.

 

Honestly, I'm amazed anyone at the Ministry of Defence actually believed this letter written by an 11-year old girl. But I digress.

 

The next part of the book is a bit interesting...but not that much, because I'm just relieved that our protagonist gets to INTERACT with someone. A few characters are introduced, but seriously only one of them matters. Maybe two. One of them is written to be some kind of bully...except not really, because all she does is say slightly unpleasant things sometimes. That's about it.

 

The last part of the book, however, makes it almost worth the wait. Lyla has been writing to her mother during the war. She's been writing everyday and has received no reply at all, not even on her birthday. Her father, however, has been writing to her pretty frequently.

 

Unfortunately, she's of the opinion that her dad cheated on her mum and left her (due to her mum's words) and refuses to read any of her dad's letters. She continues to wait every day for any reply from her mum.

 

Except for one day when she DOES start getting letters from her mum...but at this point, you can tell that something's wrong, because she should be over the moon about it, and instead she's just fairly happy about it. I've read enough teenage fiction at this point to know that it's not going to end happily.

 

I could go on about this book further, but I will say that all that boring stuff in the beginning makes it worthwhile when you reach the climax at the end.

 

There are, however, some parts of the book which bothered me. Namely...this book takes place over five years.

 

Are you shitting me? FIVE YEARS?

 

She acts exactly the same as when she's 11, as she does when she's 16! For goodness' sake! Put in some character progression or something! I mean, sure, she matures a bit, but people change quite a bit between those two ages. It felt like barely one year had passed! I get that the author was trying to maintain continuity about how long the war lasted...but still.  

 

Another thing was that the chapters were ridiculously short.

 

I found several chapters which were less than two pages long. I blinked and the chapter was over. It was like one scene. I finished 50 pages within 10 minutes, and that barely covers any of the book at all. I mean, come on! i felt like it was for much younger readers because of this (especially with the larger font), but the chapters could be a little bit longer than that.

 

The writing style, too...You know how the first Harry Potter book has this kind of quirky humour about it? Something about it which just makes you smile? Sassy, even. I felt like the author was TRYING to do that here. He wasn't doing a very good job, though. I didn't really smile at how hard he was trying to do humour. It just fell flat, in my opinion.

 

There's also a scene right near the end of the book where one of the characters starts dying and it comes out of nowhere.

 

Lyla leaves for three days. When she comes back, the character has suffered multiple strokes and is on her deathbed. The next several chapters (did I mention they're so goddamn short?) go on about how she dies and stuff. Which is a bit sad, since I care a little about the character, but I'm still recovering from reading about Lyla's parents.

 

in short, the emotional and evocative part of the book was about the protagonist's relationships with her parents. The war setting felt like it was just in the background. Sure, Lyla's dad is off fighting in the war, and he writes letters to her every day which she just turns into paper aeroplanes and chucks in the rose bush, but...I don't know, it's more about relationships here. There's a few nods to the war effort, I guess.

 

And then there's a point where her auntie starts smuggling Monopoly boards to the prisoners captured by the Germans.

 

I don't even know how that could possibly work out.

 

Anyway, I've rambled on too long about this book now. It starts off rather slow, but it picks up towards the middle and ultimately has a satisfactory conclusion. A character gets killed off, but it made virtually no difference to me, except that the author seemed to fill several chapters with everyone mourning for her.

 

Also, Lyla's mum is a piece of shit, and her dad is cool, and her aunt is loopy, and I still don't believe 5 years passed through the entire book. Initially I would have given it 2.5/5, but I'll raise that to a 3.5/5.

Back!

I'm back again! It's been a year now, I think, and I want to get myself back into writing - by which I mean I need to get myself back into reading.

 

I went into my nearest library yesterday, excited to get a book out...and discovered that the library was temporarily closed for the next month. In fact, it had been closed since May. Bummer.

 

I then went to the next available library. It was closed.

 

I gave up and got on my bus home, which passed close to my nearest library. I decided, oh well, what the hell, and checked it out even though the last time I tried to browse the Teenage Section in there, they told me to leave on account that I was no longer a teenager.

 

It was open. They'd moved the teenage section outside to another part so I could browse freely again.

 

I'll be doing book reviews again, starting with School of Skylarks. 

 

I don't think anyone on this site remembers me, though. Oh well. Well, I'm Selan and I do book reviews.

 

I'm also the guy who set out to read every single book in the Teenage Section of his local library. I did it chronologically, and got as far as C.

 

Now I'm going to have to start again from A, because now time has passed and there are NEW books. I wish myself all the luck that I will need. Oh yes.

 

Anyway, this book - I started it this morning, the chapters are about 2 pages long average...and now I've almost finished it. I'll write a review on it shortly.

The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

I loved this book. It was a great read and I think I've actually read something in the same series when I was younger. It's set in a "diary" format and is about an ordinary schoolgirl called Mia who becomes a princess.

 

Yes, she becomes a princess. Turns out her dad is secretly a prince and she has to deal with that. She isn't leaping for joy at first, oh no, her best friend stops speaking to her around the same time, and the boy she dates seems to not care about anything but her title.

 

But it's really quirky and funny and full of personality. I enjoyed her as a character and liked the other characters too. It's more slice of life and friendship really, not huge amounts of drama. It was pretty satisfying overall.

Othergirl: Not Everyone Can Be a Hero - Nicole Burstein

This book was a bit bland and predictable really. It felt like it was written by an amateur author, even though there's like 3 pages in the back by her gushing about how she loved writing her first book or something, and there's even this little note in the front (at least in my copy!) which says...

 

"Hello, I'm Nicole, and I wrote this book! I've lived in Edgware all my life, and this library has a huge place in my heart. I hope you enjoy my story, and please keep on reading! Lots of love, Nicole xxx"

 

I got this book directly out of Edgware Library - so although it does sound sweet of her to put a nice little note in here (it's all on nice pink paper and doesn't look like a photocopy) - it also doesn't sound very professional. It's a nice touch but it's not exactly how you get your book published.

 

But anyway. The book's setting made me think of The Incredibles. Or any superhero movie, really! Basically, there are people with superpowers and they're all famous and they're called Vigils.

 

In this book, one girl discovers she has superpowers and can fly and shoot flames and shit. But the main character is actually her best friend, who designs her costumes and helps keep it a secret and has no powers whatsoever.

 

Sounds so Cardcaptor Sakura, except not so good.

 

And then halfway through the book, her friend's superpowers are picked up by the Vigils, who recruit her and they don't see each other anymore...but then it turned out that one of the Vigils is more of a villain who wants to blow up London or something and she has to stop them, and there's some other supervillains who are in his gang, and one of them is literally Mrs Freeze or something.

 

And there's some guy she kisses at the end who turns out to be some super nerd. The villain's superpower is literally that he's a human photocopier. Yup.

 

That's about it really. It's more about friendship, I guess?...I mean the writing wasn't terrible or anything, but it wasn't that great either.

 

I guess if you read this if you were 11 and liked superheroes a bit, then you'd think it was rather cool. Even so it's still a very average superhero book and there's not much I can say about it at all.

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

So I finally got round to reading this. I think it's been around for a while (1985?) and some of the concepts aren't really the kind of thing you'd get for Young Adult. I found this incredible. Training a child from a very young age to fight against these aliens who wiped out billions of people from nearly a decade ago.

 

The bulk of the book focuses on the main character, Ender, who joins the Battle School and has to fight through "games" which, in one sense are just play-fighting for the other children in the Battle School - but in another, very real sense, are linked to the strategy of fighting the aliens in reality. Plus, everyone takes it very seriously.

 

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. As Ender improves, he goes up from team to the next until eventually...it's for real.

 

But here's one thing I don't get. He's six years old?

 

And by the end of the book he's 11? And killed billions of enemies? He's become a battle-hardened commander? He's probably become really traumatised and messed up inside. Does this count as child abuse? I'm not sure. Child soldiers, certainly...

 

His brother and sister are a few years older than him and are talking about mature topics and politics and all these other very "adult" concepts and...it just doesn't feel right.

 

I...just don't get it. None of the children act like their age. They act like they're 20 years older than that! (Maybe ten, if they're ultra mature.) They demonstrate all these ridiculous understandings of technology, fighting skills, strategies, as if it's nothing at all. I can't even begin to wrap my head around this.

 

Also, the n-word is used. Once, I believe. Just in case anyone's sensitive about it, but this was written over 30 years ago.

 

I did enjoy the characters - some of them, anyway. They just didn't feel like they really were children at all? It's like they'd been brainwashed and engineered from a really early age and it just felt weird.

 

But with all that aside it was an impressive book. Just bear in mind that it wasn't written in this generation, it's probably not for everyone with all the concepts it brings to light, and I still can't get over the fact of six-year olds killing each other with their bare hands.

The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician Trilogy, #1) - Trudi Canavan

I enjoyed this book. Very much epic fantasy, with the feared magicians on one side and the impoverished slum-dwellers on the other. Our protagonist is a girl from the slums who happens to have untapped magical powers. One day, she accidentally lets her powers be shown, and the magicians want to chase her down and recruit her before her powers grow out of control.

 

I enjoyed the pacing of this book and the characters were quite well-written. The magicians themselves are not the "villain", I should mention - there are many of them, good and bad, and I really thought some of them are quite quirky and made me smile just reading about them.

 

Of course, there are bad magicians among them who feel that a girl from the slums should not be allowed to join them, and one of them tries to blackmail her into leaving the Guild and so on. Lots of intrigue and suspense, I found.

 

I don't know how I felt that in this book's world, child/teen prostitution was almost normal and that most girls in the slums would have to resort to this. That's...kinda heavy content for this age group, don't you think?...Considering it doesn't really play a part in the plot and there isn't actually anything graphic.

 

I thought the book would end on a cliffhanger, to be honest. There was an unresolved villainous plot going on near the end and it got pretty tense. Thankfully, they managed to resolve in the nick of time only to bring forth ANOTHER villain to light. But that's what the sequel's for, I guess.

 

All in all it was a good book to read, though you can pretty much tell that the protagonist IS going to join the magicians. I mean they spend the entire book going on about whether she's going to leave them or join them. There's 2 more books as sequels. Obviously she joins them or nothing will happen, lol.

 

 

 

 

The Child's Elephant - Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Trigger warnings: Child abuse, Child soldiers

 

More trigger warnings. I don't deliberately read books like this (I stay away from them if anything) but they just seem to crop up for some reason. And one look at this book, you wouldn't expect to see it. So yeah.

 

This book reminded me of the kind of book that your teacher has you discuss in class, and thoroughly analyze it, and everyone is in agreement that "This is a really thought-provoking book and really awesome! If you want to be a writer, then you should aspire to this kind of writing!"

 

The writing is very good, very descriptive and paints a good image of what it's trying to convey. The main character is Bat (evidently not his real name) and the story starts with him discovering a baby elephant and learning to raise it. The elephant's mother was shot by poachers (in an evocative scene in the very first chapter) and overall I thought it was very beautiful. (The raising of the elephant, that is, not the murder of its mother.)

 

I saw no real flaws with it at that point, aside that I ended up skimming most of the descriptions (there were a lot of them). And...it was really very predictable. I've read books like this before. 

 

Now, I should mention that this book is split into 3 parts. I like that. Let's go over them.

 

Part 1: Bat finds a baby elephant and has to learn to raise it, before eventually he must say goodbye to it tearfully and let it rejoin its herd. Very emotional.

 

Part 2: Bat and his friend Muka are kidnapped by the army and forced to become child soldiers, subject to abuse, outright torture, beatings, half-starved, living in fear all the time, worked to exhaustion and - 

 

wait stop what the fuck?!

 

Where the hell did that come from?? I thought I was reading a nice story about raising a baby elephant! What?! Child soldiers?

 

This is where the book takes a sudden twist and gets rather disturbing with the descriptions. It leaves out the explicit parts, but they are forced to join a child army - which is led by an elephant poacher from the beginning of the book! How coincidental.

 

It's quite grisly at this part. Many of the children are forced to kill, food is very scarce, and inevitably Bat is targeted by the leader as someone who knows where to find the elephant herd.

 

Shortly after that part finishes - spoiler here - the elephants rescue them! Woohoo!

 

Oh, I sure wasn't expecting that part! I mean, the section which dealt with the baby elephant wasn't even halfway. Of course the elephant was going to come back.

 

The third part is them trying to get back home, with the elephant's help. I thought the ending was rather rushed actually. Shouldn't his grandmother be like "Oh my god you were kidnapped for weeks on end I'm so glad you're still alive" or something? You know, something that last more than half a page? Oh well.

 

And then the author's afterword starts talking about Kony. I guess I should have expected that.

 

I enjoyed the book overall, but it was pretttttty predictable...up to the child soldiers part where you're like what the literal fuck. And then that ends, and it becomes predictable-ish again.

 

I was actually expecting the main villain to suddenly come back at the end and say "I've come back for revenge!" or something stupid but he didn't.

The Bunker Diary - Kevin Brooks

Trigger warnings: Child abuse, drug use, psychological torture, more torture, even more unpleasant torture, and did I mention torture

 

I think this book has scarred me for life. I'm not sure if i can recommend it, actually. Up to about three quarters of the way, through, yes, I would heartily recommend it. But after that ending?...

 

This book, in my mind, is like one of those psychological horror movies like Saw written down for a YA audience. In fact, I don't even think it should be for Young Adult. It should be just for Adult. Not for kids, certainly...

 

Okay, here it is. Six people from different walks of life are kidnapped and when they wake up, they're in this underground bunker, a long way under the surface. There's no food. There's six rooms, one for each of them. There's a kitchen and bathroom.

 

There's no other rooms for them to walk about. There's a hard bed for each of them to sleep in. There's cameras and microphones embedded into every room - including the bathroom, watching them, hearing what they say.

 

How to say this?...The whole book is literally all of them being tortured by the kidnapper(s), not only physically, but also psychologically, in one long torturous experience.

 

Yeah. It's never explained who the kidnapper is. He's watching them constantly. If they try to break the cameras/microphone, the cameras emit this deadly acidic spray which causes them to scream in agony. He also controls the heating. The lights switch on and off at a certain time every day, and when they go off they're plunged into ultimate darkness. Our main character is also scared of the dark.

 

If they try to escape, the kidnapper gasses them - yes, he can release knockout gas from the vents in the ceiling. Early on, they start making shopping lists and holding it up to the camera, and the kidnapper will send down food.

 

There's this lift which comes down the shaft every day - it's the only way out, and it only comes down once every day. If you anger the kidnapper, he stops sending food down at all.

 

At one point, the kidnapper seeks to "punish" the victims for trying to escape. He turns the heating off so that it's freezing cold for hours. Then he turns the heating on at full blast so that it's now boiling hot for hours. The characters try to light a fire at one point - and he makes water come out of the vents so that the fire goes out.

 

Many times during the book, the kidnappers also plays horrendous music at a deafening volume through the walls of the bunker. For hours on end. 

 

Okay. So that's the torture you're in for if you read this.

 

Want to hear the characters?

 

1) Our main character - sleeps on the streets, has a pretty good backstory actually

2) A little girl - Yes, that's right, she's like 6 or something. She's subjected to the same torture as everyone else. It's just...sick. I mean seriously?

3) A guy who's a heroin addict (although I came to like him eventually)

4) A woman who's pretty unpleasant and only cares about herself (she starts hiding food at one point)

5) A businessman who is pretty much there for the readers to hate, he's just not very nice

6) An old man who is very distinguished and intelligent - I found him to be one of the best characters. (He's also suffering from a degenerative disease and it really started to take its toll on him)

 

And...yeah. The characters are awesome. They're realistic and make this book really great. I really did enjoy this book.

 

Unfortunately, stuff starts happening towards the end...let's just say that the kidnapper gets angry with them. No more food. More torture. Yet more torture. The heroin addict is of course starved of his drugs. It becomes an endless slog to survival.

 

And...I didn't enjoy that ending. it was really, really powerful...but this book scarred me for life and I don't think I want to pick it up again.

 

It definitely kept me reading though. No lie about that. And apparently this book won awards too, so I'll give it a moderately high rating.

 

It's just...the content in this book isn't really for younger readers. It's very powerful, very very disturbing...and let's just say it doesn't go where you'd expect.

 

 

Ink and Bone: The Great Library - Rachel Caine

This book was incredible. I'm beginning to take a liking to Rachel Caine's books, as she has a very good writing style and I haven't found much not to like about her books so far.

 

In this book, the Great Library of Alexandria was never burned to the ground. And that's not all. In this world, knowledge is what controls everything. The Library itself controls people's lives: owning books is illegal, as is selling originals to others, and what can be read by people is strictly controlled.

 

In that way it's a kind of dystopian future (for example, some countries have been completely destroyed by the Library to protect its knowledge, and there's a war going on between England and Wales which feels surprisingly realistic). I can't really try and explain it all, but you'll have to read it for yourself. It paints quite a vivid picture.

 

Our protagonist is Jess who is actually from a family or black market book smugglers. His family sends him to work at the Library as a scholar and it goes from there really.

 

Parts of this book actually made me think of Harry Potter. Hell, he meets a bunch of other students on the train, there's one character who is very Malfoy-ish, there's a girl who's really really smart and knows the answer to every question...Yeeep.

 

At first, it seems quite normal as Jess and his students are taught the ropes as they compete for the six slots available for a Library scholarship. He also has to hide his own identity, of course, and bond with the other students.

 

Oh, and about halfway through the book people start dying. It starts heading that way. I'll even go so far as to say that there are too many character deaths for my liking. It makes sense, of course, but...there's a death near the book which I really didn't like.

 

I really enjoyed this book. There's a great sense of mystery, intrigue, politics, fighting, schoolteaching and practically everyone has developed by the end of this book. There is romance, too, but I think the book could have done without it. I'm not complaining too much about that though.

 

Plus, it's the first in a series. I wouldn't mind reading the sequel if I see it. All in all, I greatly enjoyed this book and looking forward to more of this author's work.

 

Oh, and there's a canon gay relationship. Just in case you like that sort of thing.

 

It's strange, actually, how there are so many books with gay relationships in them now. Sometimes they're just thrown in there for no reason whatsoever (compared to books I read 10 years ago from school!). But at least in this book, it did make sense, which I liked.

The Hit - Melvin Burgess

This book is trash.

(TW: Rape mention.)

 

I was really disappointed by this. It had a great setting, a great storyline to start off with. The synopsis was pretty thrilling to start off with. Basically, there's a drug called "Death". It costs thousands to buy, and once you take it, you will experience the greatest high of your life. For an entire week, you'll be over the moon, you feel as if you can do everything you want, you'll be living life for the fullest...

 

Why is it just a week, may you ask? Oh, because after a week you're dead. The drug kills you. Taking Death means you get a week of absolute euphoria and then die.

 

And this book is set in a kind of...well, a kind of society where there are riots and people are getting fed up and angry at the corporations taking their money, and so young people are taking Death and experiencing life like that.

 

I didn't really follow that part, to be honest. The society didn't seem much different than now and you don't see teenagers taking this drug which will inevitably kill them. But whatever.

 

It started out great, it really did. Our protagonist - wait, let me just look up his name again - oh I remember now. Adam. 

 

Adam is a bit of a fuckboy to be honest. He's an ass. He's our main protagonist. He goes with his girlfriend to a party, pressurises her for sex at the end of the night. Of course, she's not impressed and throws it back in his face. He also gets beaten up by a gangster at the party, takes too much of a certain alcoholic substance and has a panic attack (or at least as close to it as our author can muster).

 

Basically, he's had a shit night and hates himself. So when he gets hold of a load of free Death pills...he takes one.

 

Pretty bad decision. Pretty stupid. Because for the next week he's on top of the world! He also knows he's going to die after the end of the week.

 

So he makes a bucket list. Which includes....ah, having sex with multiple women, getting his girlfriend pregnant (because, according to him, he "wants to leave something of himself behind"), killing someone who deserves to die, all these other items...

 

His girlfriend Lizzie isn't that pleased when she finds him climbing up to her bedroom in Romeo and Juliet style, all suddenly full of energy and confessing that he wants to do all these things. Especially not that he wants to fuck all these other random women. Or get her pregnant.

 

And she goes along with it anyway.

 

Christ. I don't know why she does. The whole time, Adam is constantly saying "I love you, Lizzie, I love you" like some kind of mantra. No, really. He never shuts up about it. He says it about 12 times per chapter. (Okay I'm exaggerating here but he says it a hell of a lot.)

 

Various events unfold throughout the story, including how Adam and Lizzie rob a shop for booze, get drunk (apparently if you're on Death, you need TRIPLE THE NORMAL AMOUNT to get drunk) do some other stupid shit, get arrested, sneak out again, go to another party...

 

Right, here's the main flaw with the book here. There's a lot of damn sexism going on here.

 

I'm not talking about the "if a guy's on Death he's automatically going to want to have sex with a load of women". I'm talking more about all the violence directed solely at women throughout the book. One chapter starts with a woman being beaten up. Another chapter has a woman being stabbed on the news live on camera, for the sole purpose of shocking Lizzie. The only female character who doesn't get beaten up, tortured or killed, is his own mother.

 

Later on, Lizzie is resolved to find the antidote for Death, to cure Adam (even though no sure cure exists). The gangster she met at the party tells on the phone he'll give her an antidote - on the condition that she has sex with him.

 

She agrees to this without much thought about it at all.

 

What. 

 

It should be worth mentioning that Adam doesn't even want an antidote at this point - nor is he even WORTH saving, he's such a terrible character - and she's going to allow this gangster to rape her to get an antidote? Which doesn't exist? Seriously?

 

I'm going to quote from the book here:

 

"What sort of a bitch would she be to let Adam die, just because of sex? It was the old story. Boys went to the rescue with a gun in their hands, girls with their knickers in their pockets. So which was worse? This way, she thought, at least no one was going to get hurt."

 

Oh sure, the gangster is just going to rape you and possibly kill you too, no one's going to get hurt. Fucking hell.

 

Actually, it turns out that he keeps her prisoner and beats her to a pulp - he tries to rape her but can't manage it because he can't get himself up. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be funny or something?

 

The thing is...the villains in this book are actually pretty comical. They have these running gags and I was sympathetic towards them at first. One of them is insane and has to make medication. Oh, and they kill a guy in a wheelchair too. And beat up women. And may be serial rapists. So I guess they're no longer funny now.

 

Seriously, don't try to make your villains comic relief - and THEN show that they're mass-murderers, women-beaters and potential rapists. Do one or the other. It doesn't mix!

 

...Boy, I really started hating the book after that. I skimmed the rest.

 

If you're wondering about the end, it turns out that the Death pill that Adam took was a fake, and so he's not going to die after all. And some shitty message about how life is precious to you. (Another female character blows herself up, too btw. Because they can't get through one chapter of this damn book without torturing another woman.)

 

The violence wasn't even very realistic, to be honest. Another gangster comes round to Lizzie's cousin's house and beats her up. Like, breaks all her ribs along one side. Breaks her nose. She should be screaming in agony by this point.

 

Except she isn't screaming, she's still talking normally as if he only slapped her or something. It's just...badly done. It's like the author wants to see these characters tortured, but can't quite handle the definition of what happens AFTERWARDS.

 

There's a scene where the gangsters have forced Lizzie to urinate in a potty in front of them, whilst chaining one hand to the bed after they've smashed her face in.

 

I'll be honest with you here - that just sounds like the author's kink or fetish or something. I mean come on.

 

Oh, and by the way, Adam still never stops saying "I love you" to her - even AFTER he's had sex with another woman (which he does, the same woman who blows herself up a few chapters later). He also makes it clear to the reader that he fully intends to screw around with more girls behind her back.

 

This book just makes me angry. It doesn't make sense, the main character is the one who should be tortured for all his shitty actions (not his girlfriend, who almost gets raped), the villains are either highly comical or highly violent against women when the plot needs them to be, the remaining characters aren't great...

 

And really, what disappoints me is that the premise of this book sounded good at first. It was just executed so poorly. Avoid this please.

Martyn Pig - Kevin Brooks

A short but moderately interesting read. Martyn Pig is the main character (what a name) and being a Kevin Brooks book, it's a bit like his other titles. Dysfunctional family once again, his father's a drunk, life's not great, no friends, just accidentally killed his dad - 

 

Wait what he accidentally killed his dad?

And in a similar way to a character death from the last book I just read, too.

 

Yes, his father is drunk and he loses his temper and tries to hit his son and Martyn has had enough of this and pushes his dad and his dad falls drunkenly against the fireplace...and bam he's dead.

 

And he doesn't tell the police immediately. He's scared, and the only other relatives are his auntie (who tried to gain custody of him years ago, and who is apparently worse than his dad was).

 

Oh, and the cheque for £30,000 that he finds in his dad's post, delivered the next day. More incentive not to tell the police what happened.

 

Overall it did keep me reading, it had a great twist at the end (no, the twist is not that the dad is suddenly alive the whole time, he really is dead lol) what with trying to hide the dad's body and all sorts of thing. It wasn't amazing or anything but it was rather good.

Prince of Shadows - Rachel Caine

Imagine Romeo and Juliet being written using language that is understandable (as in, not Shakespearean, so that it's easier to read) without losing the classic edge that makes it Shakespeare.

Imagine that it's being written slightly different, expanding Rosalind's character and giving us a greater insight into the lives of the Capulets and the Montagues.

Imagine that Mercutio's character is explored in much greater detail, including themes of homosexuality.

 

And finally, imagine that the main character is now Benvolio. 

And that he's the Robin Hood of Shakespeare.

 

This book is what you get if you put all those things together. I was quite impressed with how this author managed it. It incorporates all of the crucial themes from the original play, but also develops all of the otherwise overlooked parts of Romeo and Juliet.

 

For example, remember Rosalind? Romeo's first "love" before he meets Juliet? In the original play, she's given virtually no character at all - she's just there as a stepping stone to Juliet.

 

In this book...she's one of the main characters and has a distinct chemistry with Benvolio. She has conflicting responsibilities, an abusive brother, and is a strong female character in her own right. I really enjoyed how she was written.

 

Here's the extra bits you now get in this book:

- Main character is Benvolio and he's Robin Hood. Literally. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He's the "Prince of Shadows" that the book is named after! That wasn't in the play...

- Romeo is a side character for about half the freaking book. Juliet has barely any lines, but then again Benvolio never really interacts with her.

- Benvolio has the hots for Rosalind. Bet you didn't see that coming.

- Mercutio is now gay and this has real consequences.

- Tybalt is abusive, a woman-beater and a rapist. Actually, many of the men in this book are also rapists - to servant girls mostly. The sexual assault is not explicit, mind you. But it is mentioned.

- Remember how many people die in the original play? Triple that number. This book just ups the ante.

 

There's a twist near the end, quite cleverly done. Even though it does stick to the play - there's quite a nice surprise which wraps everything together.

 

Several times in the book, the author actually quotes directly from the play. Such as certain lines spoken by Romeo and Mercutio...and this here I felt was done a bit awkwardly. The author quotes the Shakespearean lines word for word and it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the book. I can see why she would put it in though.

 

The amount of characters who die is also ridiculous (way more than the original play). As is the ending. I mean, sure, I guess it makes sense in a way?...But everyone just decides "Oh, it's fine, let's go home now" is a bit much.

 

It's very enjoyable for anyone who's read Romeo and Juliet.

 

As an added bonus, if you're one of those who was like "Romeo and Juliet wasn't real love! They just had an infatuation!" (which I'm not critciising, btw, it's quite a valid opinion) - then you're in for a treat near the end of the book. It's quite interesting like that.