Percy Jackson and the Olympians – Rick Riordan

A lot of people would tell me that I am far too old for these books. And true, I probably should have read them years ago. True, I got some very weird looks as a 21 year old standing in the 9-12 section of Waterstones. But I don’t care because they are AMAZING. Perhaps after two months away from my subject I was getting withdrawal symptoms, but I raced through the entire series in about two weeks. So addictive. I actually had to take an emergency trip to the bookstore because I needed the next ones so badly. Twice. Aah. The Greek mythology is surprisingly accurate,  taking into account that it’s set in the modern day, which was appreciated by this Classics student, and the stories are well and truly entertaining. The plot is fast paced, the characters are lovable; just yes. I feel like a lot of the books I review I either love or hated, probably because those are the ones on which there’s something interesting to actually say – regardless, the pattern seems to be continuing here, because I loved these.

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The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series tells the story of Percy Jackson, a boy living with his mother and stepfather in New York, when he finds out that his father is actually Poseidon, Greek god of the sea – the ancient myths are real, and he is a demigod. Along with his friends from Camp Half-Blood, a motley combination of demigods, satyrs, driads, centaurs and giant hellhounds, he must save the world from the evil Titan Kronos, who is attempting to come back to life and destroy the gods…

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Percy himself is such a goofball. It’s great because he is not a perfect protagonist. Whilst he is brave and loyal, and smart when he needs to be, he often makes idiotic mistakes, says stupid things, or completely misses the point. Mainly with Annabeth. I love Annabeth. She is by far my favourite character. I’m now reading the Heroes of Olympus series which follows on from Percy Jackson (maybe a review on them to come, we’ll see), and I think the struggle I had with the first two was almost entirely down to the lack of Annabeth. Daughter of Athena, the brains of the outfit, feisty with a strong, independent mind, the series really would be nothing without her. She perfectly plays off Percy’s laidback, goofballish attitude. And whilst the relationship between the two is a ship that practically sails itself, it’s not the main focus of the books at all. It’s barely a sidenote until right at the end, because, dude, they’re 12 in the first one, please don’t try and get them to date. So yeah, no dating until 16 is good. And Rick Riordan’s brilliant shooting down to the many, many people who asked if Percy and Annabeth will get married by the end of Heroes of Olympus makes me so happy – they’re 17, STOP BEING RIDICULOUS. Yay Rick. (I’ve spent like 20 minutes scrolling thorough tumblr though and still can’t find it :( )

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So yeah, do it. Get over you’re fear of being horrendously judged for reading books aimed at elementary school and go have one hell of a time. And please, please persevere with it. The first book is a bit underwhelming, and feels like it’s aimed at kids (which is porbably why I never managed to read it in the first place) but get to Sea of Monsters, and seriously, you won’t regret it.

~ Becca x


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Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

This book was really, truly, enjoyable. It’s not something I’d usually go for either. It’s not YA for starters, it’s not a stereotypical dystopian, romance is not the driving factor. Which isn’t to say it is devoid of such factors. The world is post-fuel-crisis with the majority of the population being poor and living in ‘stacks’ of caravans. The protagonist, Parzival/Wade does have his romantic life explored, but it is in a far less idealised manner than in many of the books I read. The fate of the world does not hinge on his epic romance – if anything his romantic interests are more of a hindrance than a help.

 

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Ready Player One is set in a world where the horrendous reality of real life is avoided by many in favour of a virtual world known as the OASIS – a fully immersive virtual reality created by computer genius, Halliday. And this world is particularly inviting: upon his death Halliday revealed that an easter egg was hidden within the game, the finder of which would inherit the fortune he left behind. This then led to a frantic hunt across the virtual universe, by many, and after years of no progress, by the persistent few known as gunters. One such gunter, 18 year old Wade Watts is the first to unlock the quest. Whilst he attempts to complete the quest and find the final easter egg, he  must go head to head not only with his fellow gunters, but with the Sixers, who work for a company wanting to monetize the game.

 

The premise as a whole was inviting. Video games and nerd culture galore. The entire book is rammed full of eighties references – the entire plot is hinged on them. Having a vague concept of early video games and eighties pop culture makes the book so much more enjoyable. To be honest, I’m not sure my knowledge was anywhere near good enough to appreciate all of the nuances, but I could at least follow what was going on! And even if you have absolutely no clue what happened in the eighties, the book is fairly good at guiding you through.

 

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The book wasn’t predictable. I mean it was, but deliberately. The blurb implies that Wade is probably going to be the one to find the easter egg, and from the first few chapters you can be relatively sure of it, but to be honest I just didn’t really care. It was how he got there that was interesting, the role the other characters would play, and what the different parts of the quest would be. In the same way as playing a lot of video games is (or at least the ones I’ve played, which admittedly is relatively few because my skills are entirely lacking). You know that in the end the main character is probably going to win/defeat the bad guy/save the world, because that’s kinda the point, but the storyline of the game is still fun because you get to find out how they do it. It’s also nice that the main character isn’t all that likeable. Nor that dislikable. He’s just kind of average. And not in that annoying, ‘Bella Swan is an average girl and in making her so I’ve decided to take away every inch of personality’ way. He’s kind of a dick. Some of the time. Other times he’s lazy, or distracted by hormones (I mean he is 18) or pretty damn kickass. He’s pretty believable and that makes a nice change.

 

Also I want all the stuff. You’ll see.

 

So yeah, if you’re looking for something different, this is probably the one to go for, especially if you like video games. Or the Eighties.

 

~ Becca x

 


 

 

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BookBub

Following on from my post about The Boss, I realised just how many free ebooks I have stacked up on my Kindle, and thought that now might be a good opportunity to show y’all the joys that the free ebook world has to offer.

Let me introduce you to a wonderful website: BookBub.

This absolute gem of a website collates together all of the cheap/discounted books available from reputable sellers, across a range of devices, including kindle and nook. You can either scroll through the website itself at your own leisure or sign up. Signing up means that you will be sent a daily email based upon your chosen interests, with a selection of books which they’ll think you’ll like. Now I was initially quite wary of doing this, thinking that I’d just end up ignoring their emails and eventually getting annoyed, but that actually hasn’t happened. I actually read their emails daily. It’s great – not only does it open up a whole range of free, less mainstream books without you  having to trawl through pages and pass on Amazon, but it also alerts you when more well known books are going for great deals. The Silkworm was on their a couple of days ago, and I also saw We Were Liars for £0.99, which was almost annoying since I already own the paperback. So all in all, worth a look at least.

Now I know what you’re thinking: aside from those cheap mainstream titles aren’t most of those ‘free’ books pretty awful? And to you I say no! True, they can be rather hit and miss – but if you aren’t enjoying the story three chapters in there is nothing stopping you from putting it down, and since they’re free, you haven’t lost anything, except maybe a bit of storage space on your kindle. On the other hand, you might find something that’s your new thing. I think it’s perhaps one of the most accessible ways to get into a new genre too, especially one you’re not sure you’re going like. I have a few cowboy romances waiting to be picked up that I would no way have bought in a shop, but am rather intrigued by now that I don’t have to pay for them. And if you’re going away on a budget, you’re holiday reading is sorted.

The Boss – Abigail Barnette

I just wanted to mention this book briefly. If you haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey yet (although I think most of the world already has), don’t bother. Just wait a couple of months for the film to come out and go and rant at that instead. It will be quicker. If you are absolutely desperate to read dubious yet smutty writing and have had your fill of fan fiction written by twelve year olds, read this instead.The plot is relatively standard: twenty-something, personality-less girl falls in love with her drool-worthy boss and enters a sexual awakening. Yes, the Sub/Dom stuff is still there. And even though the age difference is a lot weird, if you can get past that it’s a darn sight better than 50 Shades of an Abusive Relationship. Because, y’know, they’ve developed the ability to actually communicate, and to use the word cock instead of some weird euphemism. Thank goodness.

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Also, be warned. There’s four of them, not that I’ve so far gone beyond the first. But the first IS free on kindle, so what do you have to lose.

~ Becca x

 


 

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Cinder – Marissa Meyer

Well this was fun. I had been waiting a while to read this book, and it was way up there on the *congratulations you’ve finished exams do all of the reading* list. I’d heard good things about this book, and just from the premise alone you can tell that fun is the best way to describe it. Cinder is not so much a retelling as a reworking of Cinderella set in a futuristic city, which appears to be some sort of weird-Firefly-remeniscent fusion of American and Chinese culture. And Cinderella is a cyborg. Need I say more?

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I will admit that this book was fairly predictable – I had inklings of the final revelation pretty much from the start, and had solidified my theory by the whole burning dream thing that happens a few chapters in. Like seriously, how did no one else see it? It’s so bleedin’ obvious. Come on people. I have to say though that it really didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. The world is fascinating, and the characters are well thought through. Cinder and Prince Kai may have been a teeny bit irritating at times, but no more so than their versions in the original fairytale, and you have to feel rather sorry for Kai being thrown in at the deep end. The Lunars were a concept that I wasn’t expecting when I picked it up. I know they’re in the blurb but I wasn’t expecting them to be such a central part of the plot and so, I don’t know, annoyingly kniving? JUST GO AWAY ALREADY. Yes I know it’s the title of the series, but that is not the point. It was still cool. Oh, and Iko. Iko is priceless.

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Once again I say this book was fun. A darn sight more fun than Cinderella ever was if you ask me.

~ Becca x

 


 

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It’s Been A While…

And I’m back – it’s been a while. I know, I know, I’m useless. Oxford Finals hit hard, and left me no time to read, let alone write. But I now have a degree, and have had well over a month at home to recuperate, and, more importantly crack on with the huge pile of books I have been accumulating during the time I wasn’t allowed to read them.

 

It’s been wonderful to not have to revise anymore! And whilst I definitely miss uni, I’ll be going back in October for a Masters – hopefully I’ll be a bit more successful at writing this time around. I’ve already read a bunch, enjoyed almost every minute of it. I’ve read books that have been waiting by my bed throughout exams, with me desperate to open them. I’ve reread book I wasn’t thrilled with in my younger years, and fallen in love with some if not others, even if I do look a bit strange digging through the 9-12 section of Waterstones! And with a month and a bit of summer left to go, and my weakness for buying books, I’ve got a lot to get through.

 

                    ~ Becca x

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

 The short review: read it. It’s so good.

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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon takes place in the future of an alternate universe. Whilst the places we hear about are recognisable from our own world, in the world created by Shannon the appearance and then outlawing of clairvoyance, or the ability to access and use the spirit world, sent the universe along a different path. The story follows Paige Mahoney, who is part of the criminal underworld which is the only real safe haven left for clairvoyants in Scion London, until she is kidnapped and taken to the hidden city of Oxford, ruled over by a mysterious race called the Rephaim.

 

With a nineteen year old protagonist, The Bone Season does not feel like YA fiction, and yet it is just as accessible as anything from that part of the bookshop. Shannon’s writing is clear and easily drunk in, yet it is at no point patronisingly dumbed down. it claims to be neither YA nor adult fiction, and to be honest, why should it? Books now are too forcibly categorised, with adults feeling embarassed to admit to reading YA fiction, and teenagers daunted by the endless shelves of adult books claiming to be serious and thought-provoking when half of them are just Mills and Boon. The Bone Season reminds us that the line between the two is not so clear as shelf assignment might lead us to beleive.

 

Yet the thing I enjoyed most about this book was the way Shannon built her settings. Being in Oxford myself, I’m slightly biased here, but the city was actually RIGHT (although she is a St Anne’s graduate so I’d expect nothing less…). It’s hugely frustrating watching or reading about things set in Oxford, Lewis, Morse and the rest, and everything being wrong. NOT ALL ROADS GO PAST THE RADCLIFFE CAMERA. Argh. It angers me. And then here I have this very developed story where the setting was so detailed, and so accurate that I could actually imagine where they were, joining up the paths they were taking and having an idea in my head of what they actually looked like. Take Paige’s first walk in Magdalen for instance. Not only was the layout of the college accurate, but even the crest was the real Magdalen crest. Samantha Shannon, I think I love you. Granted, this mostly just applies to me, or anyone else living in Oxford I suppose, and you all probably think I’m crazy, but it really was refreshing. 

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And this attention to detail reverberated throughout the book. The use of Victorian slang, modified slightly over time, authenticated the setting, and her immaculate understanding of how clairvoyancy worked, and how the classes fit together meant that I actually knew what was going on, and who was what, and I didn’t have to spend every other page flipping back to the chart at the front of the book.

 

The only gripe I do have was during the ending, so kind-of spoilers for anyone who doesn’t want to hear them. We almost got all the way through the book without turning it into a romance. Sigh. True, love was touched upon, and I think that’s important as it’s something unavoidable in human existence, but did we really have to have a major love story? I almost threw the book against the wall. To be honest, I’d seen it coming, but we were almost finished and I was really holding out hope that we could keep Paige as our lead actor without her needing a significant other? Still, it did work I suppose. And I think it could be an interesting theme to explore in later novels (I know there’s definitely going to be a sequel, but I think Shannon has seven books planned?). Just a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so if anyone knows any YA dystopiany-fantasy-adventure books that don’t center around romance send them my way!

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All in all, the Bone Season was great. I mean, when the only thing I can find to complain about is a minor aspect which isn’t even a real flaw in the plot, the book has to be pretty darn great. At 21 Samantha Shannon has made a spectacular debut, and it makes me think that maybe I should start catching up…

               ~ Becca x 

The Killing Woods – Lucy Christopher

Having read half a dozen dystopian-esque novels recently, The Killing Woods was a bit different. It tells the story of Emily, whose father brought home a dead girl from the woods outside their house, and the struggle her family go through when he is convicted of the murder she refuses to believe he could commit. Simultaneously we follow Damon, the boyfriend of Ashley Parker, the deceased, and how he tries to come to terms with the events of a night he can barely remember. Over the course of the book they come together in a difficult, aggressive and painful way to work out what really happened that night in the Darkwood…

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I found the Killing Woods very difficult to get into I have to admit. The writing is straighfowards, as are the characters, but the beginning was rather slow. Lucy Christopher is also very good at not really telling you what’s going on – you know as much as the characters do and it’s deliberately trying to confuse you. Well it worked, so well done Lucy for the excellent writing there. Unfortunately I really hate being confused – I like being in control of what I’m reading and otherwise I get frustrated and contemplate googling the answer. It happened with the Maze Runner as well. I’m awful I know, it’s just something I really can’t cope with. And the Killing Woods did it for basically the entire book whilst the characters sit around not really doing anything useful and refusing to actually talk to eachother. Possibly made worse by the fact that, as you see the story from both Emily and Damon’s point of view you know that if they just manned up and talked to eachother you might finally get to know what’s going on. I actually got half-way through the book and gave up a bit. It still only took me about a week to pick up again, which granted isn’t that long, but is still longer than I’d usually leave it.

 

I am glad i did pick it up though. The last hird of the book was a heck of a lot more exciting – once they started to actually get somewhere with what happened, and Damon finally goes back into the Darkwood I was desperte to find out the answer. I drank up the last third, staying up for more than one night in a row, which is an issue when you have to get up at 5am to go rowing. I did see the answer coming. But only about a chapter before it was revealed, which all being said is pretty damn good. I’m used to being able to predict a lot of books from the beginning (which probably indicates that I should branch out a bit more…) and so it was refreshing, if aggravating, to have to wait for the author to decide I could have the answers.

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The Killing Woods is pretty good. I can’t actually say that much that’s bad about it – it’s well written, none of the characters aren’t so annoying it ruins the story and the plot is never stagnant, athough perhaps it could be a bit faster at the beginning. It just wasn’t my kind of book. Nonetheless, give it a go if you want something a bit different, that will make you think and probably leave you sitting on the edge of your seat.

 

        ~ Becca x

 

P.S: My sister disagrees somewhat. She says she enjoyed it (she read it in a day) but that she could guess what was going to happen from about half-way through. Obviously she’s either lying or is part-Sherlock Holmes.

 

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(images from goodreads)

Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

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It’s been a while hasn’t it? Sorry about the unplanned hiatus guys; Oxford caught up with me, the thesis had to be written and then Christmas was distracting… But we are now back  in the swing of things with new books, more words, and hopefully a regular schedule for a change.

Starting with one of the books I got from Santa: Shatter Me, by Tahareh Mafi. I know it’s been out for a while and there’s already sequels and such around, but it kept appearing under my recommendeds and I thought I’d finally get around to adding it to the YA dystopian list I’m slowly making my way through.

And I have to say I actually rather enjoyed it. The blurb says:

‘No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but the Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time – and to find a future with the one boy she’d thought she’d lost forever.’

Three guesses what ends up happening there. You probably don’t even need three – Juliette and Adam fall in love. And here is the only real problem I had with the book. They fall in love near instantly, as in, turn the page and suddenly they’re in the middle of this electrifying romance, just like that. Seriously, they’ve never even spoken to each other before the start of this book! Call me cynical, or unromantic or whatever, but who really falls in love that quickly? At least get to know them first, or it’s sure to be a recipe for disaster no matter how many times you save their life. I didn’t really buy that he knew she was the one just by looking at her, because she was the only ‘truly good’ person he’d ever seen and he just knew he had to find her. What. But for those of you who are romantic this is right up your alley. On the other side, I did really enjoy the physical side of their relationship. I find a lot of young adult fiction focuses on the emotional struggle of the star-crossed lovers, how they can’t or shouldn’t or don’t know how to be together because of society or parents or their own deep internal issues. Whereas here a significant part of the relationship is the physical barrier in that Juliette can’t be touched. And so I understand her side slightly more; to have been starved of human contact for seventeen years, the feel of someone else’s skin is something I don’t think we can really even contemplate, and because of this I can see her infatuation, her desperation to stay near him- although I still think the ‘love’ part was a bit sudden. I enjoyed the way Tahareh constantly reminded us of this though, that so much of their relationship was based on physical contact and their desire for each other on more than just an emotional level, and whilst there’s no actual sex, it does get fairly steamy at a couple of points. And I think that’s right because it’s just as much a part of a new relationship as anything else, and I think that a lot of authors forget those moments in the midst of their character’s epic struggles.

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Juliette herself is an interesting narrator as well, not necessarily in her thoughts or her actions, but in the way she actually writes. There’s a heavy reliance on numbers, and broken sentences and words which have been crossed out as if she doesn’t quite know what she wants to believe. It reminds you that Juliette, maybe like all of us, is a little insane. She sits on that border between herself and not knowing, and even though these devices become less prominent throughout the book, not even Adam can fix them completely. Nobody in ever perfect.

And then there’s Kenji. In my opinion he is the jewel of this book. He’s hilarious, possibly for no reason other than that everyone else is so dang serious. He’s my fave.

So yeah, it was fun. Plot-wise Shatter Me is fairly standard, you can pretty much guess where it’s going after a few chapters and nothing is particularly surprising. Just like any other dystopian-romance story. But it does have some interesting moments and I’m intrigued to know where the rest of the series will go. If you want something fun over the end of the holidays, definitely give it a go; switch off and read.

~ Becca x

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Allegiant – Veronica Roth

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Since finishing Divergent and Insurgent I have been waiting on the edge of my seat for the release of Allegiant. I felt a strange draw to Tris, Four, Caleb, Christina and the rest of their crew from the moment I picked up the first book and whilst, true, I wouldn’t go as far as some people in saying it’s the best dystopian-range-thing I’ve read, I was still struggling to walk past a bookshop window from the day it was released without wanting to go in and buy it. Good job most of the time it was 6am and the bookshop was closed…

I only lasted about three days. Then I completely caved, spent half the book tokens college had given me for good results on non-academic books in Waterstones and procrastinated the rest of that afternoon curled up on my bed at uni getting well and truly stuck in to the adventures of Tris Prior and co. Except in the end, I have to admit I was kinda disappointed. I ENJOYED it, sure. I just felt it wasn’t as good as the first two. And the ending. Oh. My. God. Just what. But I’ll get to that later. 

From the beginning I found it much harder to get into the book than I expected. At first I thought it was because I hadn’t read the first two for a while and so it was taking me a while to reeducate myself on the ins and outs of plot line and world. But then it didn’t really get all that much better. I did want to know what happens, but I felt I was reading it purely to finish the set – kinda in the way you read the last hunger games to round off the story but by the end your not really sure you want to read it again. 

 

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The plot was fairly jumpy- they just make a decision and it happens like, Bam, without any real explanation of what a character is really thinking or why it was even necessary in the first place. It is very pacy, but too pacy, so nothing is ever fully padded out yet by the time you realise something completely new is happening and you can barely even keep up. I didn’t really feel like I got to know the characters any better in this book, and frankly throughout a lot of it, I liked them less than I did before. Four is kinda douche-y and spends too much time obsessing over an internal issue that no one else important even sees as a problem, and Tris is so busy with her holier-than-thou-I-have-to-save-the-world trip that she makes stupid decisions and ignores what were, to me, really obvious options. The only character I really liked by the end was Christina, who is still bad ass and forgiving and sarcastic. She’s great, trust me. 

If I’m honest, Christina was basically the only thing I liked about the ending at all. I’ll tell you now that it’s sad. I’ve warned you. But Roth just kinda throws it it in your face, boom, have some feels, and then gives you about 5 pages of wishy washy epilogue to try and deal with it. NICE TRY BUT IT DIDN’T MAKE IT OKAY. I didn’t cry this time – these feels are no How I Live Now. More of an ‘are you fucking kidding me’ moment.

That being said, it wasn’t really that bad a book. I still managed to finish it pretty darn quick on top of a heck of a lot of rowing and a weekly essay. I did find myself ignoring my books on Roman Masculinity to find out what happens. I reckon that maybe my view has been slightly clouded by my hatred of the ending. It’s nowhere near as good as the other books certainly, but if you liked them, then you definitely have to read this one. It was fun, it rounded off the series (sort-of), but I probably won’t be reading it again.

 

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~ Becca x

 

P.S: Sorry for the massive gap since my last post. Work finally caught up to me…

 

P.P.S: I just found this article in which Veronica explains her reasons behind the ending if anyone is interested. Still doesn’t make it okay… Oh, and be warned, it’s massively full of spoilers (Duh).

 

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