Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Picture Me Gone - Meg Rosoff

"Mila has a gift. She can see into people's souls."

The Backstory - Spoiler Free

Twelve year old girl Mila is said to have a  gift. When i first read this I thought it genuinely meant some sort of super power, but as it turns out, she is just super observant. She can look into a person's soul, and she can tell from their body language, or from the way they stand, if they're having an affair, or pregnant, or happy or sad. 

At the beginning, she is all set up and ready for a trip to America with her dad, where they are due to meet an old friend of his. However, just before they leave they get a call telling them that the old friend has gone missing! Oh no! Despite this, they head over to America all the same, to see them.

Mila uses her skills in observation, (her gift) to track down more and more clues as to where is whereabouts may be. She finds out interesting secrets along the way, about the friend, and about her own dad, and his past with the friend. But as it says in the blurb: Is the answer closer than she could ever imagine?

Despite this kind of backstory, it is not exactly a detective or crime fiction book, so be warned of that. It is more of a look into relationships and how people work than anything else, although the plot is still thrilling to read through, and keeps your interest easily.

How was is written?

If I was asked to compare it to one of Meg Rosoff's other books, it is similar in writing style to 'How I Live Now'. I say this mainly because she doesn't use speech marks or the usual punctuation. Some people in other reviews I have read find this idea disconcerting an a little confusing.

I see it completely differently. Someone said to me, once: "Why is a lack of correct grammar at all clever?". I shook my head at their lack of imagination. It suits both books very well. I'm not going to go into depth on How I Live Now as I'm sure I will get round to reviewing that separately at some point, but with this is fits the story well, because the book is written deeply as Mila would see it, and tell it.

It is first person like many of Meg Rosoff's books, but this time you are reading exactly what Mila is thinking at the time. And the lack of speech marks helps blur the difference between out-loud speaking and Mila's thoughts on things, and other people. So this effect really helps with the overall feel of the book.

I've also heard criticism that Mila sounds too grownup for a twelve year old. It is true that she does sound very mature, but I don't think she sounds unrealistically so. We must remember how observant she has grown up being, and also that she has grown up with older parents, so is going to see things in a slightly more adult manner, as that's what she's developed with.

The voice of the character is repetitive in many ways: Mila speaks in lots of similar sentences. She also talks about events in the past that don't link to the plot, but help us understand her more. I think it works really well, as it's told so believably.

Was there anything you didn't like?

If I had any criticism's with this one, (which is hard, the author is one of my favorite's!), it would be that in some cases Mila's voice does tend to drone ever so slightly. She goes on in a sort of monotone voice, and there are not very many question or exclamation marks in her speech, or in fact the speech of others.

At times this made it a little hard to concentrate fully, as it was a little ongoing, and dead. However I do not see this fully as a bad thing as it was her character. That's just my thoughts!

Would you recommend it?

Hell yeah! I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend the author as a whole anyway, never mind just this one. Mila's story brought back an observance I think a lot of us can lose if we don't think about it very often. Also, despite the fact it is an intelligent book, it is not hard to read, and it's enjoyable. It has several darker meanings and twists, but is far from sick-lit, and I didn't feel at all depressed about reading it, when it reached the end, like you can with other novels!

Thank you for reading my review of Picture Me Gone, written by Meg Rosoff :-) I hope you enjoyed it!

~Yellow Jane~

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Thirteen Days To Midnight - Patrick Carmen

"Because the Grim Reaper doesn't disappear... He catches up."

The Backstory - No Spoilers, as always!

 Jacob Fielding is a teenage boy, living a hard life. He has been in foster care for as long as he can remember, and the book begins with his first day back at school, after the last foster carer he had was killed in a car accident. Jacob, in fact, was with the man when the car crashed, and it is said to be a miracle he is even still alive.

But the reason soon becomes clear as to why. Somehow, it seems Jacob is invincible. When he says 'I am indestructible' - voila - he is! He also can say 'You are indestructible' to pass the power (temporarily) on to them.

At first he is hesitant to use them. But there's something kind of attractive about saving friends from a school fight, skate-boarding off rooftops, and walking through fire, and it soon becomes something him, along with his group of friends, are doing quite often!

One of these friends is Ophelia James. She's new in town: daring and said to a great beauty. After testing the power herself, Ophelia (referred to as Oh throughout the book) wants to pass the power to others to save them, doing heroic acts and saving lives.

But as things progress, Jacob realises his 'power' is actually becoming more of a curse to him and the ones he gives it to. The classic 'don't be greedy for superpowers' moral tale comes through, and things go a little wrong.

I like the idea; it's clever. You ask yourself the question Jacob asks you at the beginning: What superpower would you want? To fly? To read minds? To be invisible? But it also helps you think a little more logically about it. Reading minds could dig up oddly disturbing information. Being invisible brings up the classic problem of needing invisible clothing. And the list goes on.

What would you want!?

How was it written?

This book was first person, from Jacob's point of view throughout the book. If he wasn't seeing it, it wasn't included. I can't say the writing style was that distinctive or unusual, but it wasn't badly written at all. It really dived into the characters thoughts.

His relationships were also interesting to read about. He was obviously a bit isolated, with the foster care and all, and he only had two real friends, with several minor characters mentioned from his year group. And it was quite realistic in that aspect, describing how some people are popular and others aren't.

All the different characters: Jacob himself, his friends Milo and Ophelia, and his 'enemy', Ethan, all had distinctive personalities that were quite believable, Ethan in particular. It was a little stereo typical as in he was indeed the classic lonely person, but it was good.

The plot however is a different story. It started off very nicely, with the nice idea of being invincible, and them playing out all these ridiculous tests to see just how indestructible they really are. But as it went on I found myself becoming increasingly confused as to why they were doing what they were doing. By the end, I was totally mystified as to what they were doing, and I don't think it helped me get into the book at all!

It ended happily thank God, but still, there was that thought lingering of 'How exactly did it turn out like that?'.

Was there anything you didn't like?

Duh! I've already mentioned the failure in the plot for me. Another thing I found irritating was the way he called her 'Oh' rather than 'Ophelia'. I understand not everyone appreciates these more unusual names but it confused some paragraphs and sentences for me, by saying things like 'Oh, then I did... *etc.*'. This left me wondering if he meant 'Oh!' or Oh-short-for-Ophelia.

Then there was the classic problem which practically all books have, if they're written by older people: believable text-speak. I have had this before in books like 'A Fault In Our Stars'. Adults need to remember these are teens speaking. So perfectly spelt, grammatically perfect sentences with no emoticons ( :-) ) or x's (kisses) aren't really very solid, I find.

I also struggled to grasp exactly why Jacob cared about Ophelia as much as he did. There didn't seem to be any massive connection between them conveyed, although it was well written as a friendship. I actually found the girl a little annoying and couldn't see why he stuck with her as problems arose later in the book.

And one other thing: the title. It built up through the book, starting with THIRTEEN DAYS TO MIDNIGHT dramatically taking up a page, right down to 1 DAY and so on. But when it got there I didn't get what midnight was actually meant to be, other than it was the conclusion of the story.

Would you recommend it?

Yes, although it wouldn't be the top of my list for a birthday present. It's not cheery holiday reading: put it that way. And it's certainly not 100 % easy to follow.

But it was fun, and it was an interesting concept, and I thought the author mainly explored that well, without being silly. It made me think logically about these superpowers we say we want in throw away remarks, and it was fun!

Thank you for reading my review of 'Thirteen Days to Midnight' by Patrick Carmen :)

~Yellow Jane~

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Adorkable - Sarra Manning

"Jeane Smith's a blogger, a dreamer, a dare-to-dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand and has half a million followers on twitter."

The Backstory - No Spoilers given!
Adorkable is a duel narrative. Despite this, I'd still say the main character is Jeane Smith, rather than Michael Lee, the counterpart to the book. Jeane is a rather stroppy, yet not unsympathetic character, who likes to be her own person. She's very unpopular in her narrow-minded school and area, but loved as an online personality, with a well known blog and large Twitter account.

The other narrator is Michael Lee. He is very much shown as the opposite of Jeane, being popular and with a lot of friends, athletic, and generally friendly. In the beginning of the book he is dating a rather dumb girl, just like Jeane is dating a rather unintelligent boy.

As indicated on the blurb by "the only thing they have in common is two cheating exes" the inevitable happens, and Michael's girlfriend starts a relationship with Jeane's boyfriend. This leads to both of them breaking up, and as the story progresses, they begin their own odd affair, hidden from the outside world to protect their individual reputations.

Like many main characters in this genre of writing, Jeane is actually quite lonely, despite her sarcastic, 'don't-need-anyone' attitude to life and people around her. The book does a great job of showing how online life can help people like her. I loved the line which stated something like: "So I turned on my computer, loaded up Twitter, and I wasn't alone anymore.' I thought it was really powerful, and very true! I could relate to her easily, and I think this is a similar thing with lots of people.

Bare in mind, I am not giving spoilers, so am not telling the full depth of the storyline. But don't go into it thinking it to be a classic piece of chick-lit, because it really is a lot deeper than that, and isn't just for a female audience.

How was it written?

Very well, I think. It was first person, and as I said before: a duel narrative. I say it was written particularly well, because each character was portrayed differently, from the others point of view. If you had just read Jeane's half, you would have thought Michael was showing off all the time, and that she was always right in what she did and said. And if you had just read Michael's parts, you'd have been made to think Jeane was complete b!tch!

In the early parts of the story, before they 'got to know each other' better, Jeane quite mean to him, as she wasn't prepared to let anyone be nice to her. She was almost a loner by nature, and uncertain around normal, real people. She was dramatic and a bit OTT. During the novel she does some talks abroad about fashion, blogging, etc.: advertising her Adorkable Brand.

Michael and Jeane were different, and each of them managed to have a good voice and character, despote them changing from chapter to chapter. It became quickly obvious who was who.

What also made it an attractive read was that it was also funny! To many books for teenagers and young people are miserable, depicting a bleak future, or talking about 'THE ONLY KEY, IS SURVIVAL etc.' P-lease, it's soo overrated. This one avoided this completely. It dealt with real, teenage life and feelings, and made it amusing and witty to read.

Was there anything you didn't like about it?

Although I loved this book to no end, there were several 'problems' my talons managed to seek out in this one. The main one was believability. Most of it was realistic, but some elements made me frown and wonder if this was possible.

For example, Jeane is a reasonably well known blogger and tweeter. As I said before, she does conventions and speeches in public about fashion, and her Adorkable Brand. So how can she be almost a minor celeb in the fashion and blogging world, yet be unpopular and disliked at school? This didn't hang together so well, for me.

Also, wouldn't some of her school friends follow her on Twitter as well as knowing her in school? Oddly, she never seems to meet anyone online she knows in real life, which for someone with an online social life of her extent seems odd.

Would you recommend it?

Certainly. Yes, yes, I know I managed to churn out a good couple of paragraph of faults, but these were really very minor in the book as a whole. It was a great read, a fun book, and a clever idea from the author. Even if some elements aren't realistic, this doesn't always matter so much if you want something light to read.

Thank you for reading my review of Adorkable, by Sarra Manning.

~Yellow Jane~ :)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Struck By Lightning - Chris Colfer

Date finished: August 5th 2013

"Life comes at you fast. It hits you and tries to escape and be expressed in any way possible. In a way, it's a lot like... Lightning."

The Clever Backstory - No Spoilers Given!

This story is set in America, about a boy in High School named Carson Phillips. He's obsessed with his ambition of becoming a successful journalist, but for now, is stuck in High School, in a small town called Clover which he hates.

Carson Phillips is a great character with lots of personality. He has a great drive to reach his goals, despite coming from a troubled home. A broken home, in fact. His dad left home when he was young, and his mother never recovered from it. She spends her days on the couch while Carson is at school.

So his life in pretty awful, and he makes this quite clear, with very 'impressive' language to demonstrate his point. But he has an escape plan. He wants to get to Northwestern University, to become a journalist and write for the New Yorker.

Carson is the classic unpopular student. However I'd say he is portrayed as being independent by his choice, although there are hints throughout he is actually quite a lonely person. As I have said, his only ambition is to get into University.
But when he is denied to the University, being told his application is good but has nothing to stand out on it, Carson opens a literary magazine for other students to write in. The idea is that he wants to prove he can inspire others, and that will get him in.
But due to being unpopular this is not going to be easy, so he resorts to the only thing he can possibly do, in a town where everyone knows everyone, and there's no escape: blackmail.

How was it written?

I enjoyed it all. It was witty and clever, and as it was in first person, you got a real idea of what went on in Carson's head. He was an interesting character to follow through the story. The book we are reading is meant to be his journal, so he keeps it very personal, as well.

With his ability to be rude to people, and his constant negative attitude to the area he lives in, you'd think Carson would be the last person you'd want to read about. However, despite all this, he is actually still a likeable character. It is easy to be impressed by him: his intelligence, and the things he thinks up throughout.

This whole likable or not likeable thing is actually enhanced by what he discovers as he begins to blackmail the students into writing for his magazine. At first he is very unsympathetic. He wants them because it benefits him, and that's it. But as he builds his magazine up, more is revealed about the people he's blackmailing, and Carson himself admits to feeling more sorry for them, as he realises their lives are harder than he first thought.

So the ideas are all there, in this book. So is the characters, and other characters featured in his story. In fact it's very believable too. It's got comedy in it, but it isn't forced. It's not all perfect and pretty throughout. Things often go wrong when you want them to go right. But in my opinion that's more that it is realistic, than negative and pessimistic.

Was there anything you didn't like?

Definitely. The ending. Oh God, it was awful. In fact it's one of the worst 'plot twists' I've ever read; one of those ones where you're screaming 'Why!?' at the pages for ages.

It was one of those things where it ends fine. It wasn't ideal, and not everything had been perfect for him. There were loose ends, but they lead for possibilities for the future. So when I read that ending I was pretty happy. It was oddly uplifting, because despite the fact it wasn't all resolved, it was realistic, and you could believe in it more firmly.

What I despised was the way the writer added this one mini chapter onto the end. I'm not going to say what it was, because of my write-of-nothing-that's-not-on-the-blurb policy. The story ended, and concluded, and then it had just a page and a half tagged onto the end, and it ruined the entire story for me. I just cannot understand why the writer chose to do this!

So this is my suggestion: if you read it, enjoy it. But when you get to the 'last' page, page 256, after the line of "I seem to have misplaced my umbrella", read no further. Stop there, and everything will be fine. Let the uplifting last chapter be uplifting.

Would you recommend it?

Despite the ending, yes I would. It is a well written, quite funny book, which made me laugh throughout it's chapters. It's easy reading, not a struggle, and is in some ways very inspiring, and meaningful, without laying it on too heavily.

Thank you for reading my review if 'Struck By Lightning' written by Chris Colfer, published by Atom.

~Yellow Jane~