Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

Title: Arclight
Author: Josin L. McQuein
Publisher: Egmont (Electric Monkey) (April 2013)

A big thank you to Penguin Books SA for the review copy.
No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

I was so thrilled when my copy of Arclight arrived in the mail. I had been drawn to this title for months thanks to that stunning cover and generally favourable reviews on other blogs.

I settled down to read Arclight and was immediately drawn into the writing and the world McQuein created. And the writing! It is polished and does not read like a first novel. The brilliant way things are described created a movie inside my head. I could picture everything from the setting to the mysterious Fades.

I think it is this that really makes Arclight stand out. A lot of YA is thrown into the market with the hopes that something will stick and become The Next Big Thing. Often quality tends to suffer and the books are poorly written or edited. Arclight is polished. It is not too long and there is enough action and story development to keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Marina is a strong character in spite of her flaws and she stands up for what she feels is right and follows through on her intentions. Tobin could have been better developed, but at least he is more real than a lot of YA love interests out there.

There is an interesting plot twist that sets the reader up for the next title in the series, Meridian. It was also unpredictable and completely took me by surprise.

Do read Arclight. It has definitely earned a place in my top 10 books of 2013.

Review: Icons by Margaret Stohl

Title: Icons
Author: Margaret Stohl
Publisher: HarperCollins (May 2013)

Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol's family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn't know it was fighting.

Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside -- safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can't avoid.

She's different. She survived. Why?

I was really excited for this title. That was probably my first mistake. My second was willingly coughing up the full price for a book I probably won't ever finish.

For those of you just joining me, I am a notorious bargain hunter. I love sales. I love finding titles on my reading hitlist on sale. So you can understand why I am loathe to pay full price for a title. It is not that I am a cheapskate. I think this stems from my student days where I could easily read a book a day.


Icons started off really well. But then the lack of world-building, forced love-triangle and meaningless character interactions took over and I was left bored and disinterested. There is also the slight whiff of trying-too-hard that you can never really shake.

I have a feeling that they author and publisher were hoping this one would ride off the success of similiar, superior novels like Divergent and The Hunger Games. add that to the relative sucess of Stohl's previous series, Beautiful Creatures that she co-wrote with Kami Garcia. Sadly I feel this one is going to join the ranks of other mediocre YA that has very orginality to offer.

Is there anything good to say about Icons? It has an ending.

Rather read The 5th Wave. It also deals with aliens but is fun, fast-paced and has great characters.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Title: Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity)
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Electric Monkey (Egmont)

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Firstly, I strongly suggest you read Code Name Verity first before this one. It contains major spoilers.

I absolutely loved Code Name Verity and was very excited when I heard about the release of Rose Under Fire, which is essentially a companion novel to Verity.

The writing is beautiful and it is amazing how well Wein depicts the time in which this novel is set. There are a few slip-ups that I noticed in terms of slang and such, but otherwise it is absolutely perfect.

The novel starts with Rose telling us about her adventures as a transport pilot for the Allies and her relationships with the other pilots. The aviation lingo and details are spot on, as Wein herself is a pilot.

Then Rose's bubble is burst as she is taken captive flying a craft back to England by two Luftwaffe pilots. She is sent to the women's concentration camp, Ravensbruck, where she is exposed to the atrocities that were committed to thousands upon thousands of others under the Nazi regime.

Rose forges friendships and alliances and uses her wits to survive.

The story is told in the form of Rose's notebook interspersed with her poems. Most of it is told in retrospect, with Rose remembering all that happened as she sits in her hotel room in France. This makes for an interesting narrative!

There are a lot of surprises and some parts that made me a little emotional. Feelings of hatred and love. You cannot help but feel for some of the characters and root for them!

This is such a relevant novel. While it is a work of ficition, Ravensbruck and the experiements and torture the prisoners went through is real. It is a part of history that perhaps a novel like this can only best depict to new generations. Other than first-hand accounts from survivors!

This is an outstanding read that rises above a romance-saturated YA market. Please read it. You will not regret it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Update: Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

So, those of you who have been following me on Twitter are well aware of my frequent hospitalisations. As a result of ongoing health problems, I have also been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called Myesthenia Gravis (MG) which basically results in extreme muscle fatigue, especially when performing repetitive actions. It was this that contributed to my numerous health issues over the past few years.

MG is not a bad diagnosis. Unlike its relative, Multiple Sclerosis, it is not degenerative and is treated with a handy little pill called Mestinon. I have even read that changing my diet around will ease symptoms significantly. So this means no more sugars, lactose and gluten. Which we should probably all avoid anyway.

Now that this is out of the way and I am back on track, I am hoping to catch up on reviews I need to write as well as review new books I will be recieving in the next week or so. I love my blogs and all the bookish people I get to interact with doing what I do.

I will also be contributing to Exclusive Books monthly eZine, where I will be writing about current YA reads and my thoughts on the genre.

I will also be giving my other blog, Springboeke, some needed attention. As this fell to the wayside with my poor health. Keep an eye out for a guest post by local author SA Partridge!

Upcoming Reviews:
Rose Under Fire
The Originals
How I Live Now

Have a great October everybody! We are in the homestretch of 2013 and soon it will be Christmas!