Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

  • Release Date:  September 2009
  • Pages: 479
  • Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction
  • Publisher: Candlewick (US)

In his debut YA series, Patrick Ness, takes us to Prentisstown; an isolated settlement where the thoughts of men, boys and animals( known as the Noise) are constantly broadcast  for everyone to hear. Women don't give off the Noise, but that’s no matter because there are no more women. They were all killed by the virus that created the Noise. Or so 12-year-old Todd Hewitt, the youngest boy in Prentisstown, has been lead to believe. Weeks away from turning thirteen and becoming a man, Todd has to run for his life and discovers nothing is at all what he knew.

I picked up and put down this book a couple of times, I really had a to adjust to the setup. Right from the first page Todd's dog Manchee is talking to him which was just weird, but I kept coming back because I had heard amazing things about this novel. Then it turned out the meat of this book falls into my least favorite category of YA  fiction, the "kids in the woods" variety. I just can’t get into the survivalist fiction, these stories never do it for me. But the world and questions Ness built into the story kept me so captivated that I was racing to the  the end.

 Also, that cliffhanger.

Ness has certainly created a dynamic world, he does some interesting things narratively. Todd's first person narration is written with a strong dialect and because he hasn't been to school words will often appeared misspelled like confushun or desperashun. Ness and the publishers also worked out some interesting ways to display what the Noise sounds like on page.

It was a little annoyed how the plot involved Todd carrying around an Idiot Ball for most of the book. In the novel, he is given a journal and told all the answers  he needs are in there. But he never reads it. Even when he has someone to read it to him. And there were a few other things that didn't make sense, that I’m sure get explained in the next novel. 

While I liked the book and Ness' world building and writing, I’m not ready to read more of The Chaos Walking series. I think I'll check out Ness’ standalone YA book, More Than This.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jess' Impressions : The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I did it ! I'm on  a mission to read the most hyped YA books  and I finally made it to TFiOS. I'm not going to review this  in the traditional sense, but here are my impressions and thoughts on one of the most buzzed books of the last 2 years.

 I’ve been staring at a  copy of TFiOS for two and half years. This copy was pre-ordered way back in 2011. To be honest, I mostly read it so I could watch the movie trailer.

I’ve known about John Green for a few years, most of what I know comes from seeing a few minutes of his popular YouTube videos in 2010 and more recently from what I see about him on Tumblr and in the news. I’m not really invested enough to  find myself wanting to throw up a Nerdfighter sign, but have nothing against Green or his buzzworthiness. 
Also, this quote. I keep seeing this quote on Tumblr
I wasn't surprised to see diagrams in TFiOs.

Going into this book I knew a few specific things about John Green and TFiOS; 

 1. Green had lived in Amsterdam.
 2. Esther Earl, a teenager who died of cancer served as slight  inspiration. 
 3. How the book ended.

Even though I felt like I should put all of  my preconceived notions  aside when I read the book . . . I didn't. I wanted to acknowledge that TFiOS doesn't  exists in a vacuum and I wanted to read the book with some context.

Going in I found exactly what I expected ; A contemporary novel with a girl who meets a manic pixie dream guy who only speaks in deep metaphors. I expected a lot of metaphors and anecdotes.  I did find the book a bit to anecdotal at times and some of the metaphors hit better than the others.

I was a little miffed at how easily Gus and Hazel went from meeting to obsessed with one another, but it's for the sake of the plot so I let it go. As I continued reading I constantly found myself wanting to follow these character to the end I knew was coming.

However I think the biggest part and maybe the most interesting part of this novel is just how. . bookish this book is. Hazel and Gus grow their relationship through books and stories. A relationship that sends them all the way to Amsterdam searching for an ending but finding (here it goes) Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.

I had no concept of Amsterdam or  the  Peter Van Houten plot elements so those were a pleasant surprise for me. For some reason I had this idea that books about kids with cancers would be more focused in hospitals.

What is really interesting  is that Green made up the drug that helps Hazel reach the point she is at in her treatment. I can’t imagine that was something he decided easily. So many writers would be obsessed with trying to be as really real as possible and for Green to not do that was an interesting point.

I can see the appeal for Green fans who want to find a bit of his quotable wisdom in his books. I think it’s interesting  a book about characters trying to find meaning in a book . . . is in a book that means so much to readers.

Originally, I thought that the book was going to be overly earnest and it completely averted this. I like how the characters in the book focus on how being too earnest is a cliché among cancer kids. In TFiOS they are allowed to be angry and sad and they feel hopeless. 

I haven't read a lot of books dealing with cancer, I've always been kind of afraid of them. Reading TFiOS has certainly opened me up to wanting to read others and to see how those characters compare to Gus and Hazel.

TFiOS is the ultimate YA novel. It has the teenage “this is all that matters” perspective that makes YA what it is and arguably having a book about teens with cancer makes the living in the present even more urgent.

Overall, I'm glad I read it and I can't wait to see what they can do with  the film.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  • Release Date: December 2, 2010
  • Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
  • Pages: 372
  • Genre: Contemporary

This book has been on my to-read list since I saw this video where John Green practically gushed about it. I finally bought it in 2012 and its one of those books that sat on my shelf for  so long I forgot about. I ended up picking this out of the TBR book jar and I figured it was about time, especially since book three in this series comes out later this year. 

The titular Anna is the daughter of a Nicholas Sparks expy who decides that for Anna's senior year she is going  to The School of America in Paris, an American boarding school right in the city of love. There she joins up with a close knit group of friends and Ã‰tienne St. Clair, the American boy with a French name and English accent. Yes, you read that right.

Now, I've read a lot of contemporary YAs and Anna and The French Kiss hits all the usual marks:

Girl who is pretty, but doesn't see it ? Check
Nice, hot guy, everyone likes ? Check
Mean girl ? Check
References to literature and philosophical concepts that call back to the plot ? Check

But, something about the way Stephanie Perkins uses these concepts feels new. I'd been kind of in a slump of " good but not great" books and this completely broke it for me. I read this during Bout of Books and just  flew through it. Perkins subverts the typical YA romance trope where a girls life changes because she meets a boy and actually does the a girl changes her life and meets a boy.  Anna grows up a lot in the time she spends in Paris away from her family and all that is familiar.

Anna's first person  narration is full of personality and humor. She can be boy crazy, emotional, and self-conscious, but she also has her film studies that provide her a space to be comfortable and confident.  Despite falling for Etienne from their first meeting I liked that there were several times in the novel where Anna concedes that if  Etienne just wants to be friends she will respect that. The fact that she had other things she could concentrate on made her feel like a fully dimensional character.

Anna and Etienne worked really well of each other, I liked how reciprocal their relationship was. Anna is there for him as much as he is there for her. He shows her the hidden gems and beauty of Paris and she gives him the encouragement and support to deal with his family issues.

The setting is also the star in this novel. Perkins places the school Anna attends right in the middle of Paris and I felt like I was getting an inside look into the city. Perkins goes beyond the typical iconic locations (the Eiffel Tower is a only a brief mention) and explores the churches and ruins in the city. And I think it goes without saying that the Paris food scene sounds amazing.

Anna and The French Kiss is an absolutely charming YA romance with an excellent mix of humor, swoons and heart.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

This is How The World Ends: 2013 Book Series Enders

In 2011 we were newbie book bloggers not sure where to start in the new world of  YA fiction.  Soon we got swept up into four debut YA series that have followed us on our blogging journey. As Books and Sensibility grew these series continued to keep us guessing at how it was going to end.

Reviewing third books is hard, so we are going to review these final books as they relate to the series as a whole and give a final verdict on if we think the series is worth getting the whole box set or stopping book 1. And of course, these will be SPOILER FREE REVIEWS.

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

If you spend any amount of time on the bookternet you know this ending got some buzz. In these three thick novels, Roth follows the characters of Tris Prior and Four through three slightly different story arcs. Book one, Divergent does an excellent job of building a world  and creating tension in a society where your entire life is determined by the faction you choose at sixteen years old.

However, by Allegiant, book three, the series gets a disjointed feel. It abandons most of it's previously established concepts and there is sudden narration switch  to a dual POV. This series can also get especially daunting (get it ?) with it's overwhelming number of  side characters.

VERDICT: Just stick with Book 1, Divergent. It's a slight cliffhanger, but still a good open ended place to stop the story.

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

This prequel  to The Mortal Instruments series tells the story of an 19th Century American girl who gets caught up in the dangerous world of London Shadowhunters and a steampunk-inspired mystery. The series has a single story arc that stretches  across three books. There is healthy helping of perilous endings, fake me outs and drama to keep readers tuning page. In the end, the mystery doesn't end with a big reveal  , but  because each book leaves you with a cliffhangers and an addicting love triangle, you'll find it hard to stop at just book one. I highly suggest this book for fans of The Mortal Instruments, as the last book connects all the characters genealogies.

VERDICT: Get the box set ! If you like paranormal romance or urban fantasy you should pick this one and be prepared to finish the whole series with all the cliffhangers.

 The Legend Series by Marie Lu

The Legend series follows the adventures of June and Day, teens from opposite ends of the social scale living in a militaristic society with a strong caste system.   Don't let the Hunger Game's comparisons fool you this book stands on it's own. The series progressively move forward and each book tells a different arc of our main character's adventures.The world building and action driven plots really work in this series. There is enough character development, world expansion and adventure going on to fill all the pages. With each book clocking in at less than 400 pages, they are decent sized reads. This has one of the most satisfying finales I've ever read in a YA series.

VERDICT: Get the box set and read all three ! The ending of Prodigy will  pretty much force you to.

The Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver

The Delirium series is interesting because each book  changes things up a bit. Each one has the narrative structured differently, but they all follow Lena Hathway, a girl who lives in a utopian society where love is considered a disease and at eighteen everyone is cured. Each book follows three vastly different story arcs, but they all connect to the world in a realistic manner. The second book, Pandemonium feels like  filler and seems to  just bide time for the action of book three.I found this series ending especially interesting as it  lacks the epilogues of most YA series.

VERDICT: You can go both ways. The first one is great, and you can stay with just that one. The next few books are much grittier and darker, so if that's something you're into definitely check them out.

So, those are the series we've finished. Have you recently finished any series ? If so, what is your final verdict ?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

  • Release Date: October 2, 2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Genre: Supernatural Realism
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)

Through to You is one of those books that is an insta-pick up for me; a contemporary realistic story with a slight unexplainable element tossed in. The main story focuses on Cameron Pike as he mourns the sudden death of his girlfriend, Viv; and what happens  when a mysterious girl and  mysterious green light show him to an alternate version of his life.

This is one of those books that is hard to talk too much about without ruining too much of the plot. Nothing in the book is every really what it seems and there are some interesting twists and turns. However, I think this book would have made a great short story or novella, because as a novel it dragged on its feet in the middle and was grasping for plots.

Cameron as a protagonist didn't pop off the page, while there are some great moments when we see him work through some of his depression and relationships his voice didn't come through the page. The supporting character inhabiting both the real world and the alternate world were also kind of one note as well.

I think this book's strongest element and what kept me reading is its concept. I like that it creates a world that portrays the different possible consequences based on just a few different decisions. This book has a strong message about the power and importance of choice.

A little aside, Through to You  happens to be the very first book I read on my Nook Color. While I've read on my phone and e-ink Kindle, I've never done the LED e-reader. I thought I wouldn't like reading something exclusively on the Nook, but I can definitely see the appeal of getting a tablet e-reader. It was perfect for reading at night and in the dark car.

While this wasn't an absolute favorite, it's still a book I would suggest for it's unique plotting and portrayal of moving on in grief and relationships.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Sense List January Faves

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour
Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga
Glory O'Briens History of the Future by A.S King
Breathe, Anna Breathe by Miranda Kenneally


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