Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hunting Lila - Sarah Alderson


17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever.

After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust—her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organization called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them.

In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realizes that she is not alone—there are others out there just like her—people with special powers—and her mother’s killer is one of them…


There’s not a whole lot to say about this book. Hunting Lila is basically a supernatural thriller with a few key characters. I haven’t read anything else by Sarah Alderson, and I must say I really liked her writing style. It was very easy to read and carried the narrative well.  Hunting Lila also has a very fast-paced plot filled with twists and turns. I will say that these kind of novels tend to have massive plot holes, but as far as I could tell this one was airtight.

However, the plot really holds this novel together, as the characters are fairly two dimensional.  Lila, the protagonist, has basically one characteristic, which is her undying, completely ill-timed love for her brother’s best friend Alex. Lila doesn’t seem to have any personality except for her obsession with Alex, and she never seems to understand that there are more important things going on with her life. If Lila didn’t have a side interest in the death of her mother, she would be one of those girls who are defined by who they are in love with. And I hate those girls.

The other characters are fine, nothing special. Rachel is particularly annoying and doesn’t do much to help expel the stereotype that pretty girls are always massive bitches. The most interesting character is probably Demos, with Suki coming a close second, so watch out for them.

Genre-wise, Hunting Lila is supernatural, sci-fi(maybe), thriller, romance, leaning heavily on the romance. It's like The X-Men crossed with The Summer I turned Pretty by Jenny Han. Recommended for teenagers, ie. below the age of 18.

Stars: ***

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe


THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. 

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.


First things first, I absolutely love the title of this book. I just got the feeling as I read the book that the title just encapsulates the whole sense of inevitability that unfolds over the course of the narrative. Basically, no matter what Okonkwo wants or tries to do to hold onto his world, he can’t hold back the tide, and things fall apart.

Being perfectly honest, I read this book because I saw the Crash Course Literature video a couple of months back and I decided I had better read it because it sounded like nothing I had ever read before. And I was right. So much to say about this book, so much. (Btw don't watch the Crash Course video if you don't like spoilers !!!)

This book is super famous and celebrated because it was the first of it’s kind ( I think ?). Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo ( yay for difficult names !!), who is a super manly, angry, violent and scared man who lives in a sort of clan/ village in Igboland, now called Nigeria. The book is in three parts, the first sets the scene, something big happens in the second, something bigger happens in the third. The narrative follows the colonisation of Okonkwo’s homeland by the British. I know a lot about British imperialism because of all the costume dramas/ historical fiction/classics I have consumed over the years, but I have never seen colonisation from the other perspective of the colonised. The inflexibility and lack of empathetic thinking on the part of the British is astounding, but I don’t doubt it is accurate. As horrendous as the white people in this novel are, the natives aren’t great either. They have some pretty nasty practices, and Achebe doesn’t pull any punches. Achebe’s mission in this novel is to give a more accurate representation of the colonisation of Africa, and because of this both sides come out of it looking quite nasty. But people were nasty to each other at the start of the twentieth century, so It’s pretty real.

Circling back to Okonkwo, our protagonist. Okonkwo broke me heart, I think he’s a pretty tragic character. He is a horrendous person. He is unnecessarily violent, undisputed patriarch. Growing up, everyone in the village thought Okonkwo’s father was a massive loser, just because he was pretty chill about everything. Because of this, Okonkwo is terrified of being perceived as weak and scared stiff by the idea he might lose the power, status and wealth he has built for himself. Achebe presents Okonkwo in a way that you can’t help but hate him and feel sorry for him simultaneously. He’s very polarising, I’m not really sure how to feel …..

The Umoufia tribe is horrendously patriarchal, like society was nearly everywhere back then. There is a huge contrast between the masculine and feminine. The tribe is completely run by the men, and Okonkwo identifies with and clings to the idea of everything masculine, strong and powerful, while shunning everything feminine and, in his opinion, weak. Okonkwo’s behaviour based on these ideas becomes ridiculously ironic as the narrative progresses as Achebe contradicts his beliefs. Achebe, thankfully, is not a massive sexist, some of the strongest, smartest characters, eg. Okonkwo’s wife, Ekweifi, and her daughter, Ezinma. ( Okonkwo spends an awful lot of the book wishing that Ezinma was a boy, because he thinks his sons are too girly to carrying on the line and Ezinma, in his opinion, would be a way better heir.)

Religion plays a huge role in this book. So much tragedy, violence and disrespect stems from both Christianity and the native Igboland religion. Achebe does not paint either religion as ‘the one true faith’, and both communities have good and bad characters associated with them. The British used the idea of Christianity to drive a wedge into the community and manages to cause an awful lot of trouble between the two sides. Basically, religion causes more problems in this novel than Okonkwo could even manage.

There’s a lot more going on in this book than I put in the review, sort of because I don’t think I can do it justice, but mostly because I don’t want to spoil it. I don’t know if I would read it again but I am so glad I did. I would thoroughly recommend this book, it will challenge your perceptions of different cultures and traditions, because it kind of blew my mind. I really understand now why this is a must read literary novel, it’s pretty revolutionary. It’s also pretty short, only 183 pages in my copy, so it won’t take up to much of your time. Recommended for anyone who likes serious adult fiction.
Stars: ****

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Lord of the Flies - William Golding


William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At 1st, it seems as though it's all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious & life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic & death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket & homework & adventure stories—& another world is revealed beneath, primitive & terrible. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was 1st published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students ^ literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger'sThe Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought & literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a classic.


It took me so long to finally get around to read this book, and equally long time to write this review. It may be a little vague because it has been so long since I read the book, but I have some notes I’ve taken so hopefully I’ll be okay to use those. This’ll be short though, sorry.

I remember the first third of the book being a little boring and slow, but once I hit that mark things got a lot more interesting. It’s worth mentioning that this book did take a good few tries to read it. I was doing my exams last year and I had a lot of trouble with reading or watching anything that required even a tiny amount of concentration, so maybe that was why. However, once I did get stuck into it I didn’t want to put it down , which is always a good sign.

Addressing the Lord of the Flies directly, I had basically no idea what was going on there. I’m pretty sure that there was some sort of symbolic and deeper use of this giant cloud of flies, but I didn’t get it at all. Maybe because I wasn’t able to focus on the metaphorical side of the book because I was too wound up on formulae and verbs, or maybe I just don’t get it. I would really appreciate if anyone could explain it to me in comments!!!

On the subject of theme, this book really is based on a really interesting and kind of terrifying premise. It really did provide me with food for thought, about how far will we go for power and how close are we to total anarchy.

Overall it’s a pretty good book. I mean it’s a classic for a reason, and while I wouldn’t say it’s amazing and life changing, especially if you like old-style dystopian fiction. I can see how this book would have blown it's readers away when it was first written. Basically Golding points out, in a much more eloquent way than I ever could, that, morally, we are only a few baby steps ahead of the animals. I think it’s a pretty radical twentieth century idea, which challenged readers at the time, but at this point I think we’re all pretty used to it, and that’s why this book didn’t blow my mind.

Stars : ****

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Allegiant - Veronica Roth ( Divergent #3 )


The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 


This is not going to be a very long review because most of the things I would like to say about this book would be considered spoilers, and I wouldn’t do that to you. But there are a few things I think I can manage to say without ruining anything.

First of all, Tris is probably the bravest person in the world. I don’t think a person like Tris could exist to be honest, she’s just too brave and selfless. She is almost unbelievable in her bravery, but her indecision and self doubt brings her down to earth again.Tris will make you despair and realise what a terrible, terrible person you are, but she also made me hopeful that maybe if the situation called for it, I could be as brave as her.

In Allegiant the worlds Roth created is blown wide open. It’s a bit mad to think that she had this other, almost equally crazy world hidden behind her original one. I presume that she had this plotline planned all along but it surprised me so much I wouldn’t be surprised if she made it up afterwards.

The themes really become clear in this novel, much more so than the other ones. Like in The Hunger Games and Harry Potter , Roth deals with the themes of bravery, sacrifice and love and war. If it had been the first novel of this type I had read, it probably would have affected me a bit more. Not that what Roth tells us isn’t true or profound, but I had heard it all before. However , it does make me hopeful that books like these will help raise an anti-war generation of people who understand war to be more than an act of glorious patriotism.

Roth’s world is one heavily based on science, and through this she explores how our newfound scientific knowledge affects our morals and the way that we live our lives. Roth deals with the idea of genetics, how much of our behaviour can be blamed on our genetics and if we as humans can overcome our genetic destiny. These are really interesting questions that we are yet to answer, and it was kind of mind bending to think about it.

I only have a few tiny problems with this book and I’ll deal with them here. Allegiant is written from both Tris and Four’s point of view, which I don’t dislike in theory, but I felt that sometime their voices were indistinct and I had to keep flicking back to the start of the chapter to check who was supposed to be talking. I felt that the story was sometimes served and enhanced by this dual perspective, but I mainly feel Roth had an ulterior motive for using Four. In my opinion there were too many characters in this book, but maybe that’s just my inability to keep up with more than six characters at one time.

I would recommend this to anyone who liked the first two books and wants to find out where Tris and co. end up. The ending, well it really depends on what kind of person you are whether or not you find it satisfactory. I didn’t, but that’s just me. I completely understood why Roth finished it the way she did, but that doesn't mean I liked it.
3 and a half Stars