Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Evernight, Claudia Gray

Title: Evernight
Author: Claudia Gray (author website)
Release Date: Feb. 10th 2009 from HarperTeen
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:1 star2 starhalf star

Firstly, I should say, Evernight is probably a little better than I'm giving it credit for. At the time I read this, I had genre fatigue. It's not a bad book, it's simply that, for me, Evernight failed to stand out amongst a slew of similar books currently available in the ever-popular YA teenage vampire/paranormal genre.

From Goodreads:
Bianca wants to escape.

She's been uprooted from her small hometown and enrolled at Evernight Academy, an eerie Gothic boarding school where the students are somehow too perfect: smart, sleek, and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn't fit in.

Then she meets Lucas. He's not the "Evernight type" either, and he likes it that way. Lucas ignores the rules, stands up to the snobs, and warns Bianca to be careful—even when it comes to caring about him.

"I couldn't stand it if they took it out on you," he tells Bianca, "and eventually they would."

But the connection between Bianca and Lucas can't be denied. Bianca will risk anything to be with Lucas, but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart . . . and to make Bianca question everything she's ever believed.

After Bianca Olivier's parents accept teaching positions, she is forced to attend the creepy and snobbish Evernight Academy--and she wants out. Bianca's a loner. She's debilitatingly shy, and the move to a new town, and a new school where she knows no-one but her parents, is hard for her (and every other 14 year old on the planet). At Evernight she discovers dark secrets, reveals a few of her own, and falls head over heels for fellow student and Evernight outsider, Lucas. This despite the fact that he's a bit of an ass, a text-book wife-beater (as Bianca's new BFF, Raquel, rather astutely points out), and that the charming and 'broad shouldered' Balthazar (a classmate) seems a much more suitable match. But we don't choose who we love, so let's move along, because you'll have to, to get through this book.

About half way through--right as I was getting ready to give up on Bianca's insipid, droning, seemingly endless monologue--Evernight actually has a very sudden, very big, and what I personally thought was a pretty cool (though much maligned, it would seem) plot twist. It's a bit of a point of difference from the many other predictable books out there in a very similar vein (think Hush, Hush, Twilight, Fallen, etc... can I call Twilight a genre of its own?).

I wanted to like Bianca, and I wanted to like Lucas, however, I found myself rooting for Lucas' opposing love interest; a problem I've never had before in what is often a very formulaic genre, and, in Evernight, what is clearly meant to be very straight forward path between our two lovers. I do have to praise the writing of Lucas, here, though. He's not perfect, and he's not made out to be. He's a liar, at times violent, and while our brainless heroine is head-over-heels, regardless of his flaws, I like that we're seeing a genuinely imperfect hero, who's conflicted, who has--while not selfish, or ill-intentioned--misguided, motivations for his actions, and a bit of interest. I don't *like* him, but, hey, at least when he's on the page, Bianca stops talking about how pretty his shiny bronze hair and brilliant green eyes are.

Evernight ends up playing out as a bit of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet... but I didn't feel as connected as I'd like to be. I couldn't make myself care enough to truly be invested. I'm torn--I'm desperately curious to know how the series pans out, and the secret the sinister headmistress, Mrs Bethany, is hiding, but I don't think I could make myself read through another three books worth of Bianca's narration.

While there are better books out there than Evernight, it's truly not a bad outing in the predictable YA/PNR genre, and should provide a satisfying diversion to fans hungering thirsty for another tale of the ubiquitous teenage vampire.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Inside Out (Insider #1), Maria V. Snyder

Title:Inside Out
Author: Maria V. Snyder (author website | blog)
Release Date: April 2012 by HarlequinTEEN Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopian
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

Inside Out is an accessible dystopian novel, aimed at young adults. I personally think this is one of Snyder's strongest outings yet, and very unexpected after her Study and Glass series of books.

From Goodreads:
Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
Or Else.

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.

Set in a whole new futuristic and dystopic world, we meet Trella, a 'scrub'. The scrubs make up the lower, and largely oppressed class of this society, and her days, like her fellows', are filled with the mundane tasks of cleaning and providing necessities (cooking, waste management) job of her society. Trella feels disconnected from her society, and spends her free time isolated in the air and heating ducts of the facility known only as 'Inside' that is her home. Her world takes a very sudden turn for the dangerous when she reluctantly agrees to help a new 'prophet', who brings hope to finding 'Gateway'--the mythical doorway to the equally mythical 'Outside'.

Trella is another strong female character from Snyder (reminding me slightly of Yelena from her Study books), and she's imperfect in a way I believe would appeal to fans of the Hunger Games' Katniss.

Inside Out reads as a sort of mix between the brilliant middle-grade 'City of Ember' (Jeanne DuPrau) and the bleak, yet equally brilliant Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins, yet it never feels bleak. Sure there's mortal peril, and stakes are high as Trella constantly risks being 'recycled' (read: executed, and her corpse recycled to keep 'Inside' running, as are all people, animals, and materials in this futuristic society). She's curious and intelligent, and while disillusioned, seems to lack the cold bitterness that (fairly enough!) characterised Katniss.

It's a brilliant and thoroughly entertaining read--not to be missed by fans of the brilliant Maria V. Snyder, or YA fans who like a pinch of (very sweet and very 'clean') romance with their sci-fi.

I cannot wait for Outside In!

The Series

  1. Inside Out
  2. Outside In

Get It:

Inside Out at Booktopia
Inside Out (Harlequin Teen) at Amazon

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dracula: He Vants to Suck Your Vlood--and Murder Your Girlfriend.

1 star 2 star 3 star 4 star 5 star

I did it. I finally did it: I read my first 'classic'.

First, confession: my literary education has been sorely lacking. While I've always been an avid reader, my interests have always erred towards fantasy and sci-fi. I never really read outside genre. During high-school, we read a good handful of Australian YA novels (Looking For Alibrandi--It could still make me cry!), but in my English class, we didn't study Shakespeare, the Brontes, Austen or Dickens. The past 6 months, it's been bothering me. I keep asking myself how I can rattle on about how much I love reading, love books, love literature, when I've really read so little.
 
So I set out to rectify it. I read Dracula. And it was hard.

Before I get stuck in, let me disclaim: this is isn't really a 'review', so much as my journey into an as yet uncharted realm of my literary education.

Dracula is a great story, but it is not an easy read. It's a rewarding read: the story is complex and clever, dark, frightening, and disturbing. It plays on human fears and weaknesses and paranoias. Mortality, death, loss and spirituality (your mortal soul). The vampire is not a glamourous creature. He is shocking, cruel, vindictive and villainous. He is not a likeable charachter, yet, like Mina, one does develop a degree of pity for this unpleasant creature.

I feel richer for having read it, but it took work (3 months). I've been trying (in earnest) to get through it since the end of last year (my Father-in-Law one-upped me by reading it in a day--I'm jealous!). Also: Stoker's descriptions of the Transylvannian landscape, and the infamous Castle Dracula, are exactly how you ever saw them shown in a movie. It's eerie, atmospheric and the pictures drawn with his words are so evocative. Renfield is a fantastic character--one of the most memorable and intriguing of the story (just had to throw that in!).

I admit it--I love vampire fiction (yeah, yeah, I mean Ed and Bells, Louis and Lestat), but I think given the take we have on vampires in modern fiction, this is the most wonderfully unique and dark tale I've read in the 'genre'. If you like books with pastey-white boys with sharp teeth, you must read this novel.

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