Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The YA Revolution and Why You Should Care

Harry Potter.
Hunger Games.

Just a few of the popular titles in YA that have made it big in cinemas around the world. This in itself is indicative of the success of the YA genre in recent years. And yet I still get asked by random people (who are usually not readers anyway) why I love YA so much.


One of my favorite reads of 2013.

YA is taking the world by storm. Not only are teens around the world reading and engaging more with literature, they are also blogging, reviewing and interacting with other fans online. This is also extending past the teenage market and many adults can be found browsing the YA section in bookstores. There are even special "adult" covers released for the more popular titles.

Massive Marketing campaigns are now going into the release of specific titles. Giveaways, swag (bookmarks, postcards, promo gifts) and blog tours are all the rage in promoting the latest popular YA releases. Bloggers clamor to get their paws on  advanced reader copies (ARCs).

Such is the passion of the readers that authors are actually held accountable for what happens to their characters. It's a whole new ballgame and I am a regular player. Although I wouldn't go so far as insulting an author because I didn't like how the story turned out, I do get a cheap thrill when an author responds to my tweet!

While YA itself has quickly proven to be more than a trend, there certainly are trends within the genre. First we loved vampires thanks to Twilight. Now we are all over Dystopian fiction thanks to Hunger Games and Divergent. With a smattering of zombies thrown in for good measure!

Now in a cinema near you!

YA offers a fun read with great imaginative settings and plots. it has great characters you can really root for and relate to. There is something for everyone and it should not be restricted to a certain age group.

If you are a reader and have not read YA, I feel sorry for you. Do not judge the genre based on the critical grumblings of those who deem themselves too good to read it... but who can sit and judge it without having done so. Don't be one of those people!

Have a browse around my blog for some great YA suggestions to get you started!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

Title: Reboot (Reboot #1)
Author: Amy Tintera
Publisher: Harper Collins (2013)

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

It took me forever to get to reading this book. I loved the concept and expected lots of action and excitement.

Well, the first half of Reboot is decent. My first impression was that it would have been better written in third person, though. Wren was supposed to be essentially emotionless and being inside her head didn't feel like that at all. It was really a case of telling and not showing as Wren was constantly reminding the reader how hardcore she really is and how she feels nothing. But she didn't read that way. It bothered me a lot.

I was drawn into the story and concept and did enjoy the pacing of the story and the overall world-building.

And then Reboot decides to take a long trip up shit creek with no paddle.

Oh. My. Word.

Suddenly Wren morphs into a futuristic version of Bella Swan. The plot becomes secondary to the woo-woo love going on between her and Callum. If there is an opportunity to kiss, even if their lives are in danger then, by God, they will take it. It was just too much.

Tell a story, please, authors! Leave the romance as a sideline thing. And don't compromise a strong female character for the sake of soppiness. We need strong females in YA, not boy-obsessed weaklings. A good example is Tris from Divergent. Sure, Tris loves Four. But she does not fall over herself pleasing him and he is not the dominating thought in her mind.

Meh, ok. Rant over. I wanted more than Reboot offered me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

Title: The Magicians Guild (#1 in The Black Magician Trilogy)
Author: Trudi Canavan
Publisher: Orbit (2001)

"We should expect this young woman to be more powerful than our average novice, possibly even more powerful than the average magician."
This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work-—until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders...and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield.

What the Magicians' Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.

I first discovered this series in 2005 and have reread it several times since then.

If you are unfamiliar with Trudi Canavan's work, this is the perfect starter Fantasy that will appeal to teens and adults. It has an appealing world with an uncomplicated storyline and the characters are well-crafted.

The Magician's Guild is my least favourite of the trilogy, but that is simply because it acts as a stepping stone into this world and sets the scene for the next two books. Canavan's world building is flawless. she does not waste words on long-winded descriptions unlike some more prominent authors of the genre. I appreciate this, as I do not need a full chapter describing the scene. I would rather be told as the story progresses.

The writing is succinct and the point of view moves around from chapter to chapter. It is fun to see the various relationships play out, especially where Dannyl is involved!

If you have not read this wonderful series, do. And then pass along to your kids. However, fans of High Fantasy may find this series slightly fluffy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Macmillan (2013)

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I first read Fangirl in one sitting on my trusty Kobo eReader. I loved it so much that when I found a physical copy in Exclusive Books I HAD to own it. So I could obsessively sniff the pages and skip to all my favourite parts.

Rainbow Rowell has a way of telling a story. Like many authors I love, her characters are almost real to me. I care about them so deeply by the end of the book I am reluctant to let them go and move on with my life.

Fangirl also has a different appeal. I AM Cath in so many ways. I can relate to her character enormously. From the writing of fan fiction to using fantasy worlds as a substitute for reality... yes. And I love how the supporting cast of characters each has their part in bringing Cath out of her reclusive shell.

Simon Snow is brilliant. Basically he is the Fangirl equivalent of Harry Potter and the similarities, while a bit glaringly obvious at times, are also quite clever. It is not a stretch to expand on the snapshots we have of this fictional series and by the end of the book, I had to remind myself that Simon and his vampire cohort, Baz, don't have their very own books I can explore.

I accept that Fangirl is not for everyone and that you might not relate like I did to the characters and story. But there is a very good reason this book has seen the success it has.

Go. go and read it. On with you, now!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: Dark Whispers by Joanne Macgregor

Title: Dark Whispers
Author: Joanne Macgregor
Publisher: Protea (2014)

"She is so still, so relaxed, so ready as she lies on the stainless steel, her breathing slow and steady, her gaze unfocused. There is just time for a small whisper, a soft encouragement of hope, before the darkness slides her entirely into his honing hands. He leans over and breathes into her ear, “I’m going to do something very special for you now. Cut it all away and make it neat. And when you wake up, you’re going to be just perfect.”

Between the anaesthesia and the awakening, are the dark whispers."

When a patient describes an experience of mental torture and sexual mutilation by a gynaecologist at the private hospital where she works, psychologist Megan Wright decides to investigate. Determined to find out the truth and stop the abuse, but bound to silence by the ethics of confidentiality, Megan must enter the dark mind of a dangerously disturbed man.

Dark Whispers is the first adult novel by local author Joanne Macgregor. I received a review copy from the author herself and admittedly didn't quite know what to expect. I found myself drawn into the story and the psychological aspects and Joanne's own background as a Psychologist really does shine through.

This is not your typical horror or whodunit novel. You know from the start who the bad guy is and it creates an tense dance between him and the main character, Megan. Megan is an interesting character as she is hardly perfect herself and these flaws add to the suspense.

The writing is tidy and the story storms along well, with no time wasted on frilly prose.

What was drawn to my attention is just how much we are at the mercy of our doctors and how much trust we place in the hands of a person we have interacted with for an hour or so at most prior to going under the knife. This touches on my own personal experiences, although they were hardly as horrific. It makes me wonder just how many doctors are out there who breach this trust and never get what is due to them.

Without giving much away, I loved the ending. I felt it had a great touch of horror to it and leaves the reader wondering just what exactly the reality of the situation we are left in is. It felt quite open-ended and open to speculation.

This is a great psychological thriller and I hope it gets the attention it is due. You can easily shelve this one next to SL Grey's The Ward and never feel quite so comfortable with your doctors again.