Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

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Gathering Blue

August 25, 2015

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)I have to admit that I like this one better than The Giver. The writing is better, the pacing is also better. I finished it faster simply because I cannot help to find out what is going to happen on the next page.

Many other reviewers complained that they didn’t like this book simply because it is not continuing Jonas’ story line. I am not on their side. Lois Lowry is indeed continuing the story in greater scale, which means she introduced what is going on in the other community, in Jonas’ world. Of course the world is much bigger then Jonas’ own community. The story of Jonas will have to wait.

The story is told in a more sophisticated way. I like the way the author introduced “new” vocabularies unique within the community. I also like the way she includes puzzle for us to solve: (view spoiler). There is an aura of mystery also, in age proper description. And also the sense of adventure that is a bit missing in the first book.

I cannot help again by comparing this book with The City of Ember series. City of Ember, I would say, is better in the world building, and creating a technotopia (my own word for technology related utopia/dystopia), while The Giver series is a mystitopia (a mystique utopia/dystopia). The mystique is getting denser in the second book and I love it.

This book indeed creates a greater horizon for the series and I am greatly satisfied. This is indeed one of the best series for children that I would recommend for everyone.

four star

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Half a World

August 4, 2015

Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2)The timing of the publication date is just perfect, after I finished reading Half a King, the first novel of the series. So everything is still fresh in my mind.

I started reading this novel with high hope, to continue the misadventure of Yarvi, or now Father Yarvi. Unfortunately he is taken off from the center stage, just being a supporting role. The leading characters now are (typical) two teenagers, Thorn, a female fighter, and Brand, a big and handsome young boy. Somehow I always imagine Brand as Samwise Gamgee in LoTR or Samwell Tarly in GoT. For Thorn, a younger version of Angelina Jolie, perhaps.

And so, the story continues. Gettland is on the brink of war, and it is in desperate need of allies. Father Yarvi is on the mission. And accidentally he met these two outcast youngsters, and took them under his wings (one on each side, perhaps). It is supposed to be an interesting adventure, but somehow it is below par if you compare it with the previous Yarvi’s adventure. It is a typical coming-of-age adventure, without the wit, cynicism, and struggle like Yarvi’s. It does not differ much from any typical YA fantasy. Yes, of course, Abercrombie writes much better than a typical YA author, but still, it is below his standard form. Well, I miss Yarvi on the center stage, and those two teenagers definitely cannot replace him.

The plot is above average, you have many unpredictable twist, which is fun. Some small details are added, to be wrapped up beautifully in the end, with a fine knot. This is typical Abercrombie that I like. Unfortunately the plot still cannot save the weakness in the characters (Thorn and Brand). No matter how interesting is the plot, it feels like it still lacks some ingredients. In conclusion, this novel needs a major overhaul in the next installment, if Abercrombie wants to keep his throne as one of the best fantasy writer.

PS: Most likely, I can measure how much I like a book by listing how many memorable quotes from the book. And from this one, not many.
And I can create a quote which is better than Abercrombie’s too:

“Where can you find allies if half of the world is against you?”
“The other half, where else?”


(Original quote: “Where do we find allies?”
Father Yarvi smiled. “Among our enemies, where else?”)

three star

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Little Brother

April 14, 2015

12664948This is easily the best book that I have read this year. It is clever, engaging, and believe me or not, it is a YA novel! (At least it is marketed as a YA) But being a YA novel, it is not your common YA novel. I can only name one YA novel that is not like other YA novel, Ysabel. This one is another one. It does not fall into the same pitfall which devoured all YA novel: teenage angst, Mary-Sue character, predictable plot, and overly romantic. It is geeky, rebellious and the most important one: subversive! It is more like a manifesto in a form of novel by Cory Doctorow actually. And if you believe it, you are a changed man.

The story is about a young teenager, Marcus Yallow, aka w1n5t0n, and later m1ck3y, a rebellious and geeky teenager, captured in a situation which has change his city, San Fransisco, into a surveillance state. Together with his geeky gang, he fights the Department of Homeland Security to regain their freedom.

We can easily see the resemblance between this novel and 1984. You can call it a 1984 version 2, or even 1984.net. The title “Little Brother” is a tribute to the 1984 “Big Brother”. In this novel, Cory Doctorow shows us how the government can go wrong using the current technology. What makes it so scary is that this kind of situation, given the current development of technology and politics, is POSSIBLE. The war against terror has show that such thing can happened. Many moslems are facing inconvenience situation just because they are on the radar of terrorist hunt. Snowden has already revealed that NSA is actually snooping into our email. It is just a matter of time that it can happened to all of us, unless we do something about the government.

Some people criticize that this novel is not a sci-fi, because it is not using any future technology. I think that they are missing the point. Sci-fi is not always about space ship and laser gun. Sci-fi is about seeing the what-if scenario, whether it is in the past, current or in the future. And this is novel is a perfect example extrapolation of what can happened to us RIGHT NOW! It is always the job of a writer to see what that public cannot see, and reveal them.

Actually I am expecting another scifi writer will comes up with another “current day” dystopia, about how our financial system can go wrong. And the protagonist is some kind of the we are the Occupy Wallstreet movement. It can be quite nightmarish to see the financial system collapse and in one second all the money that we have become valueless.

PS: in the introduction, Cory Doctorow is tackling another sensitive issue: Book Piracy. It is worth a reading. And he makes sure that he is consistent. This book, can be downloaded freely at http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2466/li….

If you are interested in this idea, I suggest you to read Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity.

five star

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The Giver

April 7, 2015

3636This book has been on my reading list for some time, but only because the movie shows up I decided to give it a quick read. And it is indeed quick because it is only about 100 pages.

The story starts in a community, with Jonas, an Eleven, anxiously waiting for his assignment once he becomes a Twelve. And all the story is told from the point of view of Jonas.

The story telling is quite interesting, showing a society that is not quite like ours. There are many unrevealed questions for an outsiders like us when we read it. I believe that the author will reveal it bit by bit in time.

For a preteen novel (I refuse to call this novel a YA, because it does not fit into the stereotype of a common YA), this book deals with many big thoughts: free will, controlled affairs of state, and (view spoiler). Even though the story telling is not too complicated, the story itself might trigger an apprehensive child to ask that kind of question to adult. Beware you folks if your younger children asks you this heavy caliber philosophical questions.

My complain is that it is too short. There is some feeling of un-fulfillment when I read this novel. If the author gives more room for the characters and the story to develop, I think it would make this novel better.

I cannot help to compare this novel with The City of Ember. The story begins with almost the same tone, young children waiting for their assignment. But their worlds are quite different apart. Somehow I like City of Ember better. It gives you more of a bitter sweet taste, a sense of adventure, and a deep lamentation of the lost good-old-days. It does not mean that The Giver is below par, because The Giver is indeed more philosophical. So I think it is just a matter of taste.

I think younger audience would love this book better and give it a FOUR. For me, I give it a 3.5 actually. But not quite a 4. But I am eager to read the next installment, because I cannot wait to see some surprises to be revealed in the next book.

three star

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Maze Runner

March 24, 2015

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)I admit that I read it because of the movie. At least I want to have a guide before I watch the movie, since most of the movie taken from book sucks.

The story, not surprisingly, is set inside a maze. You have several juveniles, living inside a maze, trying to solve the maze to return to their normal world. In addition to that, the whole inhabitants memory was wiped out before they enter the maze, supposedly to add the mystery of the novel. The story started with one character, Thomas, the new arrival in the maze, and this protagonist somehow will lead the entire group out of the maze.

To begin with, the puzzle in this book is below par, considering that it is using the word “maze” as the title of the book. My old school juvenile book: The Three Investigator Series, had much harder puzzle to solve. At least the author should provide us some picture of the maze for us to solve. No, he didn’t. He is too lazy for that.

The novel is plot driven, not character driven. I cannot attach at all with all the characters. What I see is just one character withholding information from each other, mad against each other, typical YA books, boring… Even the plot is not that intense. Yes, one or two characters get killed, but since I don’t care about any of them, well, I just don’t care. The author failed to make the readers care about the characters, either to love them, or to hate them.

I am also annoyed by the usage of new words like: klunk, shank, in this novel. It doesn’t play well, unlike let say in The Giver. In the Giver, the setting is hundreds of years from our common era, it makes sense if some vocabs are lost, and some new grammar is created. In this novel, barely 2 years or more. Not enough the create any new lingo. It succeed only to irritate me.

The style writing is just at best acceptable. I cannot find any beauty in it. So basically it is just a fast food reading, not a fine cuisine. You read it, and then you dump it.

And the spoiler:
If the goal of the whole maze is to find out strong, intelligent, not-giving-up individuals to help us to escape the cataclysm cause by the solar flare, we are close to doom. The solution is too easy, and the tension is not that much. The fight-to-the-death Battle Royale or The Hunger Games style is much more intense. Make an arena, make them fight to death, and take the last 10 survivors, for the example. The Creator didn’t care about any casualties to begin with, right?

The last several chapter is just pure info dumps. All that is hidden in the beginning is poured in front of us in one serving. Not a nice way to tell a story, by the way.

Final verdict, TWO STARS. I do not give it a one star only because I keep that place of honor only for the book which succeed to be so repulsive that I want to throw it away. This book does not belong to the category. It is not that good, but at least it is not repulsive to me. Do I care to read the next book? Probably not.

two star

 

 

Final Note:
Another proof of the laziness of the author. It is told that the author is using the name of famous scientist to name the character.
Alby : Albert Einstein
Newt : Isaac Newton
Gally: Galileo Galilei

So far so good.
Now what about this.
Thomas: supposedly from Thomas Alva Edison.
He is not a scientist. He is a tinker, an innovator. He is not in the same league with the name mentioned above.

Now it gets weirder.
Teresa: from Mother Theresa.
Since when Mother Theresa is a scientist. If the author wants to be consistent, why not using Marie, from Marie Curie.

And the weirdest of all.
Minho : what? Any Asian scientist named Minho?
What I can recall is a Korean actor named Lee Minho.
The author tried to escape by saying that it is named after a non-existent scientist, since the setting is the future. If that is the case, why not make up all of the name from the non-existent scientist. Case closed.

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Graceling

April 1, 2013

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)Another reminder for me to cautiously pick another YA books next time.

The story begins with a prisoner extraction mission. This prisoner supposed to be an important plot device in the later story. The main character who lead the mission is Katsa, a royal assassin, a super killing human machine. Later, because of her involvement in investigating the prisoner’s case, she will play a major part in the destiny of the realm.

OK, now the critics.

Firstly, the blend of teenage romance and fantasy theme in this novel is disastrous. I would have been better for the author to simply write a teenage romance with contemporary setting. It just does not fit. The fantasy does not add any spice to the romance, and the romance is ruining the fantasy. I have read some Harlequin type historical romance novel which are much better than this.

I cannot seriously think that this is a fantasy novel. The magic design, which is the Grace, in this novel is laughable. The author makes it more like a mutant ability rather than magic. (Does not mean that being mutant is wrong, but it just does not fit well into the story line.) There are no explanation and exploration of the Grace, except that you are born with one. And the ability of the Grace can range from utterly useless to almost demigod capability. This kind of magic without restriction is really bad in literary sense, because the author can wield ANYTHING to solve any plot in the novel. This kind of literary device can be devastating, because it can made the character unstoppable. The only good thing I can think of the Grace is the struggle of characters with their ability. Even this is not fully explored by the author.

Spoiler about the Grace:
The Grace, which is the magic in this novel, is a bit unbelievable. The main character’s Grace, Katsa, in the beginning of the story line is a fighter. Which mean she has perfect body coordination, fast reaction, and power, which are an excellent design. But half way through the novel, the author somehow decided that her TRUE Grace is not fighting, but SURVIVING, which means she can endure any hardship, have a GPS in her head, and can make fire quickly, just to serve the plot because she has to endure the hardship of winter of a mountain pass. Why not make her immortal, and can grow severed limb! It is simply bad character design. Please, decide what you want to tell. The Grace of the side kick, Po, is also unbelievable. Initially, his Grace is some kind of mind reader, which makes him an excellent fighter, because he can predict his opponent’s movement. But suddenly he later become a RADAR man, that can read his surrounding without opening his eyes, just to serve the plot because he becomes blind! Please, mind is not the same as object. We call it an object because it is mindless! And we suppose to sympathize with him? No way…

The world design is also raw, without any clear distinction of region specialty, except that one is the north, the other in the south, and mountain and sea, and so on. It does not serve as a focal point of the story. In a good fantasy story, the world itself IS a character.

Secondly, the character design. The character does not really develop in the story. The job of the main character as a royal assassin is not reflected in the main character. The main character is just another teenager with self-identity issue, another common term in YA. It is also simply black and white, without gray area. It does not mean that black and white distinction is always bad, it is just it does not fit well in this novel.

The usage of single POV from the main character give us the reader a single spotlight, and the author makes her always being the good-guy (to be exact good-girl) part. It is boring, knowing that she is always right, and will always survive no matter what. If she seems cannot make it, somehow MAGICALLY she manage it, because she is a survivor! Deus ex machina. Well, maybe not always survive in whole sense, because the author makes her HEART vulnerable (surprise… surprise…, something that you always find in YA novel).

Thirdly, the worst part is the plot of the story. The plot unwraps too fast. It does not give you a sense of wonder and surprise. The plot twist is not really interesting. Almost everything is told in haste. Even the romantic part is not surprising.

The solution of the story is also thoroughly simplistic. It strains my logic too much to believe to much. The author makes the villain very strong, but defeated easily. I feel cheated. If the villain can be defeated that way, it is a bit non sense to write a 300 page story. Too simple.

I do not give this novel a ONE star, simply because it is not repulsive to me. I still manage to finish it, despite I will think twice to touch another novel from this author.

My advice, if you want a fantasy novel, read a REAL fantasy novel. Maybe this novel is just for YA fans. Maybe I am too old already.

Verdict: 2/5

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Unwind

November 13, 2012

This is the best YA dystopian novel that I read so far. The idea is compelling, even though the premises are not solid. I love this novel much better than Delirium. See my review for Delirium.

The world in this story is a post-war world, a war between pro-life and pro-choice (which I think is almost improbable). It ends with a compromise, the solution of Unwind (killing a teenage human being to harvest the organ), hence the title.

First, the idea that the compromise between pro-life and pro-choice is an unwinding process sounds ridiculous. The pro-life doesn’t even agree to abort the younger-than-3-months fetus, not to mention 18 year old juvenile. The pro-choice also will not agree because the whole idea of pro-choice is to give the mother (which is a grown adult) more right than the fetus.

Second, the writer redeemed himself by making me interested enough to continue to read because of the idea of the locus of soul. When your body is divided to several part, is your soul divided also? When your body cell are kept alive, even though through separate body, can you say that you are still alive? This is quite a philosophical question to make you ponder. There are many twists in this novel referring to this idea.

Third, the characters are well designed and lovable. You can connect with the inner struggle of characters and sympathize with them. Yes, the character are not that complex, but it suffices for YA novel.

Fourth, the plot and pacing are good enough to make it interesting without being overly romantic like other YA novels.

Five, as a political statement, this book is not so strong. It is this fact that separate this novel for being in the same league as the political dystopian classic such as 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. I think the writer can do much better if he explored not the pro-choice and pro-life debate, but instead the rampant case of body part sales (in China for example) for economic needs. The news of a teenager in China who sold one of his kidney just to buy an iPad make me feel sick. I don’t know how many people sold their body part just to get money. Imagine that China become a rogue state that legalize the sales of human parts; THAT is a good premise for a dystopian novel.

Overall, well done, and I am willing to read the next installment:
UnWholly.

Verdict: 3/5

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Delirium

November 10, 2012

Definitely not my type. Remind me next time to be cautious to read YA genre. Beware you out-there sci-fi fans. This is not a sci-fi book. It is a teenage love story with a hint of sci-fi.

This novel is telling the story of the main character Lena, who lived in a supposedly a utopian society, which is peaceful because “love” no longer exist.

First, the premise is bad. Love (or according to this novel: amor delirium nervosa) is a disease. If it is a disease, what is the pathogen? Virus, bacteria, amoeba, or what? Then, what is the vector carrying the disease? Insect, airborne, water borne? None! It is bad science. The cause is simply raging hormone in adolescence, which is neither a disease or a threat to human society. It is a process of growing up.

Second, assuming it is a disease, the cure is definitely ineffective. The ancient has already found the perfect cure for this disease (at least for the male part). It is call castration. You don’t need hi-tech, just a sharp knife. In order to procreate, you can simply store the sperm before doing the castration.

Third, assuming it is a disease, it is not called love based on the symptoms. It is called teenage angst, teenage rebellion, puppy love. When you fall in love you think that that is the most important thing in this world, not global warming, financial crisis or world justice. And the cure is also simple, it is called growing up.

The sci-fi movie “Equilibrium”, starred by Christian Bale and Sean, explored this theme much better. The disease is the human emotion, which sometime hinder us from using rational thought. So the entire population is vaccinated to suppress the emotion. But when emotion is taken, we are half the human we are.

This book (and the following series) definitely aims for teenagers with their daily routine problems: not allowed by parent to go to wild parties, listening to trash music, going out with boyfriends. And the parents supposedly create this dystopia. In the eyes of teenagers, every parents are fascist, then. The entire book is built on this premise: an analogy of teenage rebellion against parental authority. Maybe this is the cause of the booming of this book, because it touch the reality faced by teenagers.

But again, this is not a sci-fi novel. I give it a two star instead of one only because it is well written, especially the note before every chapter. The nursery rhyme is the best part. Otherwise it is simply worthless.

Verdict 2/5

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Insurgent

October 30, 2012

The first book is not perfect, but at least it is readable. This one is a big flop, which ensure me not to continue reading the next installment. This book, which is a sequel from Divergent, adds almost nothing to the first.

First, the opening is lame. It jumps right into the story just like it is the next chapter of the last book. It does not give you some reminiscence from the previous book.

And then the story. The plot is just about Tris making one stupid mistake continued with another stupid mistake, but turns out to be OK later. She is not a divergent to me, she is just the luckiest person, which never pay for the consequences (yes, her parent died, but she turns out to be OK anyway. She is not torn apart).

And the character development, I can simply say: None. Tris stays being Tris, Tobias being Tobias. The writer also does not seem to be interested in giving her audience the raison d’être of the act.

One ingredient of any fantasy/sci-fi novel is the world development. She has done well in development in the first book, but somehow it stopped there.

So no story, no character development, no world development, equals to nothing.

Sorry Veronica, you fail this one.

Verdict: 1/5 star

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Divergent

October 26, 2012

Fast pace. A good “fast food” book. Easy to enjoy, but easy to forget also. Some might compare it with Hunger Games, but I think it has its own uniqueness (just like when many people try to compare any book with magic to Harry Potter).

It is set in a utopian world, which divides the society into factions: Candor, Erudite, Amity, Dauntless, and Abnegation, which capitalized on the virtue given on their name. Until something went wrong.

The different factions selected for different people might ring a bell with Harry Potter fans. This kind of selection I would say is not unique in Harry Potter; you can find it also in City of Ember. I still would argue that it is original. Especially when the factions are indeed run by the unique virtue, not to say excluding the other virtue.

The good: design of dystopian society. It is genuine, and believable, even though it is not foreseeable in the near future.

The bad: the love story. It is an unnecessary addition. It doesn’t make the story better, it even makes it worst. But it is understandable, since it is marketed as Young Adult Fiction.

Verdict: 3/5 star