books i liked more than i expected
The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness
I read The Knife of Never Letting Go after hearing nothing but excellent things about it and I liked it a lot - it's a really interesting premise with good characters and it treats children and their experiences and relationships with respect. The Ask and the Answer BLEW ME AWAY. At it's most basic, TKoNLG is a 'journey' story - the characters start in location A and are trying to get to B - the plot is structured around the obstacles that they face on their way. In TAatA that structure is put aside, the tone shifts and the stakes become much higher. It's a book about children trying to reconcile their beliefs those of adults in a new order, it's about gender politics, it's about revolutions and war. It's FANTASTIC!
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
This isn't a book that I would normally pick up - I'm completely uneducated about Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and their traditions and experiences, I often struggle with literary fiction and despite being (or maybe because I am) a historian I tend to shy away from historical fiction set pre-1850 - but I was completely won over by the tone, themes and JSF's beautiful prose.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt
The beautiful American cover had a large part to play in me picking this up in the first place but I can very happily report that the cover is far from the greatest thing about this beautiful coming of age story. Read my full review here.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson
I sometimes find that contemp YA all blends in to one another (which makes it great for summer reading but is often forgettable) but this stood out and is one of my favourite YA titles of the last few years.
books i found underwhelming
This Is Not A Test - Courtney Summers
This was one of my first reads of the year and it left me cold. I bought this after Elena @ Novel Sounds gave it a really glowing review but I never really got attached to the characters and found the book lacking in earned emotional weight.
FitzOsbornes At War - Michelle Cooper
I think this may have been a problem of expectation - I love the characters in this series and I have a thing for WW2 fiction so I was hoping for absolute wonderfulness. I think the biggest problem was the pacing which was all over the place and meant that certain sections dragged while other threads were tied together too quickly. It's by no means a terrible end to the trilogy, just underwhelming.
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
It turns out that I'm less in to urban fantasy than I thought!
Sisterhood Everlasting - Ann Brashares
If you're reading the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books I recommend that you stop after 4! You can read my initial review at Goodreads.
the split vote = mockingjay by suzanne collins
SPOILER WARNING! THIS COMMENTARY CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FINAL BOOK OF 'THE HUNGER GAMES' SERIES
So disclaimer: I ship Katniss/Gale. I also ship Katniss/Peeta. I fully approve of where those three end up at the end of MJ (and by end I mean pre-Epilogue because I refuse to acknowledge the epilogue's existence!) That being said, this books is a HOT FREAKIN' MESS! The stuff that is so great it hurts while the stuff it does badly is so fundamentally flawed it hurts too!
The good = Katniss/Gale and that's why if you stumbled into my THG tag on tumblr you'd see that at least 90% of the post feature me crying over K/G! It's the book in which they are the most physically together (AND THEY SPEND MOST OF THEIR TIME TOUCHING EACH OTHER!) but the whole time their relationship is being pulled to its limit by their respective attitudes towards the revolution: Katniss wants to win the revolution so that she can go home and get on with her life while Gale wants to win the revolution because they should never have had to live like this in the first place. Their arc in this book is based around their slow (and very reluctant) acceptance of the fact that their love for each other isn't enough anymore. That they don't end up together is tragic and devastating but it's the only ending that works. Basically, I LOVE THEM and MJ developed their relationship in a way I am still kind of amazed by.
By contrast, pretty much everything else is TERRIBLE! Totally demonising the revolution to provide a plot twist at the end is a cheap cop-out. The pseudo-'Games' through the Capitol are ridiculous and frustrating and a lazy way to kill off characters. Worst of all however is the way that Peeta is written which almost certainly wins the award for the most serious case of squandered potential in the YA genre. Given that he's supposed to be a main character having his character in this book go from being captured (and therefore absent and without agency) to mentally incapacitated (still without agency) to let loose in the Capitol at the height of the action (so absent again) is a MIND-BOGGLING authorial decision. His being hijacked is just THE WORST! Given everything that had happened to him in the previous books and what we discovered at the beginning of MJ there was already plenty of scope for him to have a well-developed trauma arc which would have problematised his relationship with Katniss - no more Capitol intervention required! In MJ Peeta is barely a character and the perfectly constructed politician-symbol-soldier triangle that P/K/G had formed ended up getting totally warped. I love the idea of 'Peeta and I grow back together' but we don't get to see that development and so the 'happy' ending is forced and unearned. Underwhelmed doesn't even begin to cover it!