We Were Liars

09/11/2015 at 4:57 AM (Books) (, , , , , , , )

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Source: Goodreads

Although the book fails to explain the origin of the title, E. Lockhart does manage to deliver an interesting twist in the tale with We Were Liars. It’s a shame that I saw it coming from a mile away but for those who have managed to remain oblivious, I will do my best to give the gist of the plot with no spoilers. The main character is this privileged girl called Cadence who appears to have fairly inconsequential problems. She is romantically interested in Gat, an Indian-American boy, who does not fit into the world inhabited by Cadence. Her family is so wealthy that they own a private island where she spends her summers with her cousins and outsider Gat. We Were Liars in spite of seeming like light hearted YA touches on themes of avarice, influence and materialism with a grim warning in its core. You expect a fun beach read but end up with a heavy-hitting fable.

The writing style is fragmented and chaotic all at once reminiscent of poetry. I know there are people who would hate this book because they would not be able to tolerate the artistic liberties taken by E. Lockhart in crafting her imagery and compelling narrative so creatively but surprisingly it didn’t bother me. What stood out most were the enthralling mini fairy tale retellings about the King’s daughters that mimicked the main storyline and paid homage to King Lear. Since the prose is executed so differently, it is something that requires an acquired taste. There are no shades of grey: you’ll either love it or hate it.

It seems that even Cadence is not privy to the secret the author is foreshadowing and unreliable as she has amnesia following a possible breakdown. The family surrounding her are full of deceit and that makes it hard to trust them to tell the truth about the upcoming big reveal. By the time we become aware of the big secret in We Were Liars, we can only be shocked by the plan that tragically backfired. Apparently this book has caught enough attention that there is a possibility of an upcoming film adaptation.

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I Capture the Castle

09/07/2015 at 8:00 AM (Books) (, , , , , )

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Source: Goodreads

I took I Capture the Castle with me to Sri Lanka to while away the hours when it became too dark to spend time outdoors and bloodthirsty mosquitoes roamed around my grandmother’s garden. Dodie Smith was an author I had never heard of until one of the casual staff at work brought her to my attention. I was hooked from the first page but because I didn’t like the thought of it ending, I tried to spend as long as I could savouring it.

The main character of this story is a sixteen-year-old girl called Cassandra Mortmain who writes in her journal about her life in the castle that is her home with her somewhat unconventional and penniless family. Her father is a writer who was once hailed as a genius but he is suffering from writer’s block, her stepmother is a nudist who likes to commune with nature, her beautiful but scheming sister is waiting for a rich and eligible bachelor to sweep her off her feet, her younger brother is someone who we hear little about and the handsome servant boy appears to harbour an affection for Cassandra and works for the family for free. The interesting part begins when the owners of a mansion nearby come to live in it and happen to be two single brothers who end up bumping into Cassandra inadvertently while she is dying her clothes. However the two girls pursue the wrong brother cultivating sisterly rivalry and some misplaced suspicions along the way.

The word I would probably most associate with this book is whimsy. What I really enjoyed about I Capture the Castle were the journal entries reflective of Cassandra’s coming of age experience and was full of interesting pearls of wisdom giving voice to her thoughts on religion, reading and imagination. While the story reads like a Jane Austen tale with the two penniless sisters finding handsome suitors, I find much more charm in Dodie Smith’s writing.

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The Death Cure

08/28/2015 at 8:53 AM (Books) (, , , , , )

The_Death_Cure book cover

Source: Random House

I was reading this final instalment of the The Maze Runner trilogy because I thought I will get answers to my lingering questions but the author in a odd turn of events leaves 75% of the story unexplained. While it is hard not to wonder if the The Kill Order will answer them, somehow given the disappointing trajectory of the three books, I’m unconvinced if James Dashner’s prequel will resolve questions about the survivors of the Scorch and those that remain after the final showdown in The Death Cure.

The behaviour of the characters in here conflict with the characters we have come to know. Brenda and Teresa both feature in this book and this time as allies, not adversaries. I think the only point of those two was just so there was a love triangle of the girl/boy/girl variety rather than the stereotypical boy/girl/boy. While it was obvious Thomas was losing the plot in the Scorch in the previous book, in here he makes extremely strange decisions because of his developed mistrust of WICKED. The choices Thomas makes eventually end being incredibly confusing for the reader. I did though like the sudden resurgence and turncoat behaviour of a character I had thought was unlikely to re-appear. There are two deaths in the story: one was expected and also understandable but the other was bit of a pointless melodrama.

The ending is interesting because the author points out it was an alternative solution to the one that was initially planned for those undertaking the trials but the offhand remark by a character who knew too much felt like a cop-out because so much was left out.

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The Scorch Trials

08/22/2015 at 8:54 AM (Adaptations, Books, Movies) (, , , , , , )

When the boyfriend and I went to watch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation recently, I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie The Scorch Trials. This reminded me I had read the book and a review for the sequel of The Maze Runner was timely given fans of the young adult genre will be picking it up again.

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Source: Wikipedia

The Maze Runner didn’t wow me but it won some affection so I was curious to find out how things panned out for the Gladers. The Scorch Trials made me frustrated because the plot kept haphazardly veering off in different directions and the narrative kept getting vague with each cliffhanger. Was it a plot device to make the reader feel as if they don’t know what is happening? It does not come across as intentional and is irritating.

What we learn through this book is that Wicked is issuing more difficult challenges and are continuing the trials explored in the Maze Runner. Meanwhile the surviving evacuees of the old maze have been tasked with a new set of obstacles to surmount on the open roads of a bleak and barren, desert landscape. Meanwhile Thomas seems to have lost his personality as he no longer shines and becomes a massive whinger. Teresa vanishes and apparently becomes a force for evil and new girl, Brenda, who is love interest no. 2 who fangirls over Thomas arrives on the scene and it feels like he likes this female attention. Aris, a telepathic boy, falls into the thick of things out of nowhere and his telepathic attempts to communicate with Thomas isn’t something he encourages because the new guy is a stranger who has replaced his confidante, Theresa but there is a important message he has to deliver. It would have benefited Thomas in the long run if he paid more attention to Aris than Brenda.

I read The Scorch Trials for the answers but ended up finishing it with more unresolved questions.

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The Maze Runner

09/24/2014 at 10:52 AM (Books) (, , , , )

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In James Dashner’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Maze Runner, the protagonist Thomas finds himself in the Glade without any memories of his past apart from his name together with a community of boys who have made it their home. The Glade is surrounded by a maze out of which an escape has not been found. At night, mechanical creatures called Grievers roam around the maze and attack any boy who has not made it beyond the gates after sunset. A new boy usually appears in an elevator called The Box once a month but after Thomas there is another delivery on the second day, a comatose girl, the first girl to ever appear in the maze. Afterwards they are warned there will be no more deliveries of anyone.

Each of the boys have roles in their community and Thomas finds himself yearning to be a Runner. Runners are required to explore and decode the maze while escaping Grievers who are informed by spies called Beetle Blades belonging to WICKED. They also keep Maps to preserve patterns as the maze changes everyday. There are also Builders, Baggers, Track-hoes, Med-jacks and Sloppers. Try and guess what those careers might entail? Thomas proves himself to the Keeper of the Runners and makes some friends and also enemies after a Gathering is called to discuss his brave but foolhardy, rule-breaking actions.

After purposefully subjecting himself to injury, Thomas finds out a way to recover some lost memories. However he finds the solution to the maze is not the most pleasant of prospects for their future.  I’ve since found out that Thomas’s story continues on in The Scorch Trials and is finally resolved in The Death Cure.  Perhaps the upcoming movie version might amalgamate all 3 books into 2-hours? Although I’ve heard the movie has made some significant differences to major plot points.

As for my thoughts, I initially found The Maze Runner a little slow and irritating because the boys in the Glade speak in their own dialect using words like Greenie, klunk and shuck-face. However it is fairly easy to get into the swing of it in a couple of chapters because you are purposefully fed so little information that you keep turning the pages to find out how the kids ended up in the maze. The writing is quite simple to read but is captivating enough for young adult fiction. This is a very plot based book and not much depth is felt with the characters apart from Thomas and his best mate in the Glade, Chuck.

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Requiem

08/30/2014 at 2:25 PM (Books) (, , , , , )

Requiem brings the long awaited resolution to the Delirium series. All the loose ends lingering from the previous books are neatly resolved. 

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Lena has now become a fully-fledged member of the resistance and is trusted to take on roles that require leadership skills. The rebellion in Pandemonium was only a stirring of unrest. Now a full-scale revolution is underway and the government can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the protests of the resistance fighters. This means the government starts to look at the Wilds as a threat to their order and structure and it ceases to be a safe haven. Regulators come past the border to combat the resistance head on. While the former have strength in numbers, the latter know how to put up a fight that does not require assistance from bombing planes. 

While Lena makes a stand with the resistance, we also learn of the fate of Hana – Lena’s best friend from Delirium. From Hana’s perspective, we learn she is the fiancee of the mayor’s son, Fred Hargrove, her assigned partner.  Hana quickly learns Fred is not what he appears to be on the surface and takes refuge in helping Grace, Lena’s cousin. What Lena and Hana don’t know is that their stories are going to collide.

What I haven’t pinpointed in the above plot is the love triangle of Julian-Lena-Alex. I think the entry of Coral as a nemesis for Alex gave the story a bit more bite but it was obvious Alex was still having feelings for Lena even if she was not able to see that. I felt sad for Julian because he quickly adapted to the Wilds after being torn from the life he had known but was only a source of secondary comfort for Lena. The decision she made to hook up with Julian in Pandemonium after Alex sacrificed himself for her was truly baffling but it did allow room for intense, seriously emotional cliffhangers.

The end felt somewhat curtailed but ultimately the series seems to have achieved its purpose with its depicted culmination of events. 

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Pandemonium

08/29/2014 at 2:25 PM (Books) (, , , , , )

Pandemonium is the second instalment of the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. It continues Lena’s story after she escapes through the border fence separating the city from the Wilds.

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Emotionally distraught at losing Alex and trying to put her nightmares behind her, Lena puts her heart and soul into helping the resistance group that rescued her by infiltrating the protest group DFA – Deliria Free America. The mascot of the group is Julian Fineman, the protest group leader’s son, who is willing to martyr himself for the cause. Lena’s assigned job is to keep an eye on Julian but the resulting adventures after they are captured by Scavengers creates a shift in the dynamic of the relationship between them. So when a place of shelter is raided before they make it to safety, Lena makes the decision to rescue Julian rather than subject him to the cure which could potentially kill him. In this story, Lena does for Julian what Alex did for her.

Later on Lena learns there were things that played out which were planned for her but realises she wasn’t taken into confidence about them. While she feels betrayed and used, she ultimately receives support she needs when she makes a strategic plan of her own. She is also rescued by a freedom fighter in the  top ranks with whom she has a connection. But before she can even come to terms with that discovery, the final chapter brings with it a massive twist in the tale. So all I can say is Requiem will be heart-wrenching.

I think the transformation of Lena from insecure, disgruntled, whiny Cinderella to assertive and capable character makes Pandemonium quite an interesting book to read. It is easy to fail to see that chapters shift in perspective between past and present. I did this so I was a confused for a while with the first few chapters. Because her characters have been established, Pandemonium is directed more by action rather than governed by emotions of characters but I felt that made the built world more concrete.

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Delirium

08/28/2014 at 10:03 AM (Books, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

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I heard about this series in the books sections of an anime forum I tend to visit occasionally. The plot reminded me of Hunger Games and Divergent which I had liked so I decided to give Delirium a chance as well. Delirium was written by Lauren Oliver, who wrote Before I Fall, which is about death. She has claimed she wrote the Delirium series because she wanted to write about the concept of love as a disease and the idea came to her while watching a report on a pandemic. 

We learn civilisation is segmented to areas which had survived bombings of the past and travel between cities is restricted. Electric fences enclose the population to protect them from people who have escaped without undergoing the procedure for the cure – the cure which prevents all over the age of eighteen contracting amor deliria nervosa which used to be called love. Beyond the perimeters of the fencing is the unregulated territory known as the Wilds.

The established government teaches, through the Book of Shhh, love is a disease often referred to as “the deliria”. For citizens over 18, the surgical cure for the deliria is compulsory. The fate for those that fail it or even families with a connection to someone uncured are not pleasant. The main character in the story, Lena Haloway, is eagerly awaiting the cure so she can forget the pain of her past and move on. Then she meets Alex, an Invalid (a name given to people who have not taken the cure  and who live in the Wilds) who is part of the resistance and succumbs to the symptoms of the deliria herself. Alex starts to shows her that love is beautiful and erases her initial reluctance and doubts.

When Alex suggests a means of escaping the cure by going to the Wilds, Lena undergoes some inner turmoil at the thought of leaving some close friendships but ultimately finds the idea not unpalatable. Unfortunately for the couple, someone has informed the regulators about plans  they have made for the impending flight and Lena is trapped against her will so she can be cured early. At the last moment, her best friend, her little cousin and Alex all contribute to her rescue .

Alex and Lena come to the borders of the electric fencing but alerts have been put out regarding their attempted escape. As a result, only one of them can make it into the Wilds. But Lena’s tale isn’t over yet because it continues on in book two of the trilogy Pandemonium.

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Saving Francesca

07/31/2014 at 2:04 PM (Books) (, , , , )

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At work, my colleagues made a big fuss about this book. My interest piqued, I went in search of it and acquired a copy to read. Saving Francesca is about a girl who is searching for her identity after moving into a new school which used to only be open to boys but had later decided to convert to a coeducational system. She is in the first test batch of female pupils who attend the school which has yet to change its way of thinking to welcome the new populace. There aren’t enough sports for the girls, the school play features a minimal number of female characters and the only concession seems to be a female bathroom. In addition, Francesca finds herself initially clashing with Will Trombal after a misunderstanding about Trotsky and Tolstoy. But after she gets to know him, she realises that there is more to him than her first impression.

Francesca also makes new friends with people she might have considered oddballs had she remained at her previous school: Tara, the ultra-feminist who tries to conscript people to causes, Justine, the awkward accordion player who wants to be ‘a rock’ to people and Siobhan, labeled the school slut. True to form, Melina Marchetta shows her understanding of human relationships. Meanwhile Francesca who used to be voiceless in a conformist clique is finding out how to stand on her two feet while dealing with her usually headstrong mother’s battle with depression which culminates in constant sparring sessions between Francesca and her wallflower but reliable father. Marchetta ensures the reader experiences the ups and downs that Francesca faces which is a hallmark of quality writing.

Saving Francesca is a book about love, friendship and the willpower to continue when life throws a curveball. In the end, you’ll be satisfied with an uplifting conclusion. As a character, Francesca can be quite amusing as she tends to end up in detention through no fault of her own and does her best to adapt to the gender wars at St. Sebastian’s. This young adult fiction book covers topics familiar to readers of Melina Marchetta and ultimately is about discovering the self and coming of age. Full of humour, heart break and a roller coaster of emotions, this novel is a worthwhile YA read. All that remains is for Saving Francesca to become a movie as the author’s work is currently trending in film.

 

 

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On the Jellicoe Road

07/15/2014 at 12:11 PM (Books) (, , , , , )

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is a young adult novel about Taylor Markham, who is elected as the leader of the boarders at Jellicoe School. Although not a popular choice, the fact  she lived at the school for most of her life gives her an edge over the competition. While the departing leaders were concerned with protecting their established boundaries in the annual territory wars from the Cadets and Townies, Taylor is preoccupied with a hermit who whispered in her ear, a prayer tree which means a lot to her sincere friend Raffaela and the Brigadier who brought her back when as a junior she ran away with Jonah Griggs, new leader of the Cadets. For Taylor, the answers to the mystery of her past lies in the disappearance of Helen, the person who found her. The only clue is an unfinished manuscript about five people who had their lives collide on the Jellicoe road twenty years ago.

On the Jellicoe Road Book Cover

Soon as I turn the initial pages, I am introduced to something called territory wars between the Boarders, Townies and Cadets. This becomes confusing. Student wars in boarding school over land use? I am an adult and I am confused. Luckily I kept on persevering and was rewarded for my tenacity. The disjointed threads of narrative become interconnected to resolve why Taylor’s mother abandoned her on the Jellicoe road when she was 11 years old, the point of the territory wars, the significance of the hermit, the relevance of the prayer tree, the story of the Brigadier and Taylor’s history with Jonah Griggs in evocative prose. To be honest, I can’t say more about what happens without giving major plot details away but suffice it to say Taylor finds answers. To get through the first part, I recommend a dose of patience but I can promise it gets better rather than worse.

So the author on her blog has revealed On the Jellicoe Road is going to be adapted into a film. Not too surprising for a novel that won the Michael L Printz award. It is being directed by Kate Woods, who did the same for Melina Marchetta’s novel Looking for Alibrandi.

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