[REVIEW] Red Rising – Pierce Brown

SummaryPierceBrownsRedRising
Characters – 5/5
Plot – 5/5
Style – 5/5
World-building – 5/5
Science – 4/5
Overall -5/5

Quote

I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.

Review
Darrow is a Red. All he and his people have known is hard work, danger and oppression, risking life and limb in the mines of Mars so that one day the surface may become habitable for the Higher Colours; the Browns, Greens, Obsidians and the ruling Golds. Except Mars has been habitable and inhabited for years, in fact, so have Venus, Earth’s Moon and many of Jupiter’s moons.

They were told they were pioneers, but the Reds are nothing more than slaves.

When a series of tragic events leads Darrow into the arms of rebel group The Sons of Ares, he agrees to join their efforts to free the Reds and take down the Golds from within. He was a Helldiver of Lykos and now he about to become a whole lot more.

At its core, RED RISING is a classic tale. The oppressed become strong and rebel against their oppressors in order to take charge of their own lives and create a better, more equal society. I’ve read this plot countless times, but never seen it so skillfully executed as in RED RISING; everything about this novel was practically perfection. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the story exciting and the pace was excellent. I was hooked from the first page and the action didn’t let up until the very end. I wanted more the moment I’d finished reading; the wait for GOLDEN SON is going to be absolute agony!

Firstly, the style of RED RISING is exactly what I’ve been craving recently. I’ve noticed that a lot of Fantasy/Scifi aimed at young adults has taken a turn towards simpler language and grammar, and while I don’t have a problem with this after reading book after book in this tone it becomes a little same-y. I needed something refreshing I could really get stuck into and RED RISING certainly gave me that. The writing is very strong and so rich in detail that becoming part of the story was easy, Darrow’s emotions became mine and his world was vivid and bright.

The world-building was a thing of beauty. From the rough mines of Mars to the extravagance of Mount Olympus every setting was clear in my mind and I could visualise it all in detail. I loved the contrast of Darrow’s humble beginnings against the backdrop of the Golds. It’s obvious RED RISING draws a lot of inspiration from the stories of Greek and Roman mythology, which I’m a huge fan of. I appreciated the references to various Gods and their personality traits and liked to see how they compared to the original characters in the myths.

While the science and technology isn’t particularly explored in-depth, I didn’t feel like it made a huge impact on the storyline. There weren’t any outrageous gaps between the unexplained technology of Mars and what is actually possible (considering we’re already living and breathing on another planet here) so I was quite comfortable with the kind of weapons, armour and tricks at play.

To me, the whole story encompasses the theme of evolution, growth and change alongside lovely philosophical nuggets about leadership. Darrow undergoes not only an extreme physical transformation but also a gradual, creeping emotional growth as his experiences of the world jump from the lowest point of society to the privilege of the Golds. I love this deeper, more meaningful aspect to the novel which is something a lot of current novels are potentially lacking; it really rounds out the book and makes it feel worth reading.

The trauma and change Darrow goes through really makes you root for him despite the extraordinarily difficult choices he has to make in order to succeed. He’s ultimately likeable but does have a full personality complete with both endearing features and foibles; he’s as complex as his motives and struggles to learn about himself as the story moves forward. The other characters also seem well-rounded as a whole, Darrow meets an enormous cast throughout the book but there has been time and care taken with each one to ensure they make a valuable contribution to Darrow’s journey; positive and negative.

RED RISING feels like THE HUNGER GAMES went to Big Boy School and grew up; a story of betrayal, rebellion and revenge that definitely doesn’t pull its punches. If you only give this genre one chance to impress you then let it RED RISING be the book to do it.

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[UPDATE] Changes!

Booklahoma has officially become fireflyreads! I thought the blog needed a fancier name with more of a fantasy/sci fi vibe to go hand in hand with the genres of books I usually review. Plus it’s a lot easier to say!

If you want to get in touch with suggestions, ask me about reviewing your book or even just for a chat, contact me at fireflyreads@hotmail.com.

I’ve also introduced a Twitter timeline to the blog sidebar, so come say hi and give me a follow @fireflyreads 

I’m really excited about the changes I’ve made and I hope you like them too! I can’t wait to share all my new reviews with you; look out for my thoughts on PANIC by Lauren Oliver soon!

Charlotte x

[REVIEW] Freak of Nature – Julia Crane

ImageSummary
Characters – 2/5
Plot – 3/5
Style – 4/5
Science – 2/5
Overall – 3/5

In a Tweet
“Teen robot/human hybrid keeps her emotions secret, until her feelings for a handsome doctor spill out as she finds out she must leave him.”

Review
Kaitlyn is no longer human. After donating her body to science, she’s been upgraded with the most advanced technology available and her memories have been wiped in order to hone her into the perfect killing machine, ready to be sold to the highest bidder.  Except Kaitlyn isn’t all robot; she can still feel, and her confusing emotions are never more apparent than when Dr Lucas is near.

I was initially quite excited to get my hands on FREAK OF NATURE, with a gorgeous cover and an intriguing plot it looked like a book I could really enjoy, although it wasn’t long until I discovered it wasn’t really my ‘thing’.

The developing relationship between Kaitlyn and Lucas is really what drives FREAK OF NATURE forward. Admittedly while I expected some romance I was definitely hoping for more science, however nothing was explained in any depth or seemed to have any boundaries. If Kaitlyn needed to be updated all it took was a few taps on the keyboard and an upload to the device in her back. I feel like FREAK OF NATURE is a gentle introduction to the scifi genre than a true member; with romance as the main plotline.

The romance itself was interesting enough to make me want to keep reading and the pace and flow of the novel was handled quite nicely. I found FREAK OF NATURE really easy to digest thanks to a light and simple style of expression; although I’m not a huge fan of romance novels I still found it a reasonably enjoyable read.

Kaitlyn and Lucas weren’t extraordinarily complex characters. While they both had a few internal struggles related to conflicts with their relationship ultimately their behaviour felt predictable and the secondary characters were quite one dimensional. This usually bothers me as I place a lot of value on a strong cast, however, as they were all easy enough to like and the plot was unashamedly romance driven, I let it go.

However, there was something about FREAK OF NATURE that I just couldn’t let go. References to popular culture and modern society really irk me as a reader as I feel it immediately dates the novel. The repeated mentioning of ‘Facebook’, ‘Siri’ and ‘iPhone 5’ really bothered me; I guess it’s just a pet hate!

I found myself disagreeing with the way some of the more mature content was confronted at points in the book. Sexual experiences, both consensual and non-consensual, were handled sensitively for the most part but not consistently, sometimes being thrown in for seemingly no reason. I think discussing content of this nature for a young teen audience is a difficult line to tread and while I don’t believe there was anything disrespectful or upsetting about the way it’s handled in FREAK OF NATURE, I do feel it could, and maybe should, have been limited.

I’m no romance expert but everything was played out very sweetly between Kaitlyn and Lucas, rounding things up satisfyingly at the end FREAK OF NATURE caught me off guard and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Overall, I did enjoy the novel despite it subverting my original expectations. I wouldn’t recommend FREAK OF NATURE to hardcore scifi fans; I feel it’s more of an intermediary novel bridging the gap between contemporary teen literature and science fiction.

I received FREAK OF NATURE for free from the lovely people at Indie Inked. My reviews always represent my own honest opinion. 

[TOP TEN TUESDAY] Worlds I wouldn’t want to live in

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This week’s TTT, hosted by the wonderful The Broke and The Bookish, is one that definitely appealed to me! I read a lot of dystopian and apocalypse fiction so the answers came to mind pretty easily for me, so I decided to mix it up and make my post a little different. I’ve included the top six worlds I definitely would not like to live in, and the top four that I would!

Worlds I Would Hate to Live in:

1. The Hunger Games Trilogy (Panem)
Does this one really need an explanation? Not only are the citizens working to death and still starving, but they’re also being forced by an oppressive government to send their children into an arena to murder each other. Umm… I’ll pass, thanks.

2. Slated Trilogy
Kyla lives in a world where children can be taken away and have their memories ‘slated’ overnight. Accused of terrorism, they’re given a second chance under close observation with a new family, a new personality and a new mind. Sounds scary enough without even factoring in all the shady business, suspicion and lies the people responsible for slating are involved with. Nope, no thank you!

3. Penryn and the End of Days
I have no burning desire to witness the end of days, with angels of the apocalypse being sent down from Heaven to destroy everyone and everything in their path. Not my idea of a good day.

4. Blood of Eden (The Fringe)
If I were a vampire, this would definitely make it onto my list of worlds I would like to live in. Life seems pretty grand as a vampire. Sadly, being the feeble human I am, I can’t say a life of extreme poverty quaking under the constant shadow of a hoarde of predators really does it for me.

5. Mindjack Trilogy 
Living in a world filled with the constant noise of other peoples’ thoughts would drive me insane. I wouldn’t be able to deal with knowing everything someone was thinking, and knowing that they could hear exactly what I was thinking too! The privacy of your own mind is a blessing I don’t think many people would like to sacrifice.

6. Mistborn Series (Scadrial) 
This has a lot to do with the extreme poverty and dictatorship again, as found in more than a few fantasy novels. While having the powers of Allomancy would definitely be a plus, I don’t think I’d be happy to trade off for a life of scavenging and oppression.

Worlds I Would Love to Live in:

1. Harry Potter Series
I don’t believe that anyone in my generation who grew up with Harry Potter hasn’t felt the bitter pinch of disappointment when birthday after birthday their letter didn’t arrive from Hogwarts. The Harry Potter universe is a wonderful, magical place hidden within the everyday, urban, boring world of Muggles. Yeah, Voldemort might be trying to destroy everything and kill everyone in his path, but you get to be a wizard! With magic!

2. Draykon (Seven Realms)
Draykon’s world is absolutely gorgeous, filled with mysterious plants and creatures and its own unique pattern of night and day. The whole world is magical and I would just love to dive in and experience it first hand.

3. Wheel of Time 
This world is so expansive with a history so rich that it already feels like it could really exist in some kind of alternate reality. I love High Fantasy and the old-fashioned historical feel to it, so I could definitely imagine myself jumping straight into Two Rivers and joining Rand’s adventure. I think I’d like this place even if I wasn’t an Aes Sedai (but I do want to be, please oh please!).

4. Black Jewels Trilogy
A matriarchal society where nearly everyone is gifted with varying strengths of magic? Yes please! I’d take even a White jewel to live in that world! I see a pattern emerging, I clearly have a thing for the promise of magical powers. Oh dear.

I really enjoyed this weeks Top Ten Tuesday! Let me know in the comments which fictional worlds you would love or hate to live in!

[FUN STUFF] 2013 End of year review

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Hosted by the wonderful Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner, the End of Year Book Survey is a fun way to look back on 2013 through your bookshelf! Since I’ve not been blogging for the whole year I only have detailed information about a small group of books so I’ve cut some of the questions out that I can’t answer. I’ve had an amazing first few months as a bookish blogger and I can’t wait for the year ahead! I’d like to say a HUGE thank you and Happy New Year to everyone who follows, reads and comments on booklahoma and I hope to get to know you all better through 2014 🙂

Best Book You Read In 2013? 

I read so many amazing books this year, this is such a difficult question! I think my favourite scifi novel of 2013 has to be Note To Self by Peter Ward and the best YA I read is a toss up between Divergent and Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 

Draykon by Charlotte E. English was fantastic. I got it for free on Amazon and wasn’t expecting much for that reason but I was so, so wrong. I also really enjoyed Slated by Teri Terry, I’d been debating buying it for a long time but wasn’t convinced by the blurb. I gave it a chance and was glad I did!

Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I feel that I’m going to be mentioning Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone a LOT in this review! I bought my sister the books for Christmas and I’m constantly telling other people to read them as well.

Best series you discovered in 2013?

Definitely Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy! I read both Divergent and Insurgent within two days and had to live in torture all year waiting for Allegiant! Thanks to university work I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I’m looking forward to finally picking it up.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Laini Taylor, without a doubt. Her style is so fluid and enchanting. (I warned you!)

Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I’ve not read a whole lot outside of my YA/fantasy/scifi bubble this year, I guess that’s a bookish resolution for 2014!

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

Note to Self by Peter Ward. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy through Net Galley and was completely blown away!

Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

It’s been a while since I first read Angelfall so I might give that another read before picking up World After! I know I’ll end up re-reading a lot of complete series like Divergent and Harry Potter as well, I do that so often!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

angelfall

Most memorable character in 2013? 

There is only one acceptable answer to this question; Tiny! (Will Grayson, Will Grayson) 

Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor. I can’t wait to review this in 2014!

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick. I adored this book, I really felt for Pat. His voice is so honest and real, it’s a very powerful novel.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

Slaughterhouse Five! And I’m so glad I did, I don’t think I could have appreciated it properly if I’d read it any earlier.

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

Ahhhhh so many choices! This is the first one that popped into my mind but I’m sure there are tonnes that I jotted down somewhere.

“i think the idea of a ‘mental health day’ is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it’s like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying ‘i don’t want to deal with things today’ and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.”
Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 

The final chapter of The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa absolutely killed me. I thought I was going to burst. Never before in my life have I had a true, physical NEED for a sequel; just thinking about it is driving me up the wall again! The Forever Song isn’t due on my bookshelf until 29th April. Breeeeathe.

Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)?

I really loved the friendship between Will and Tiny in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It was honest and felt very real. Romantically, I’m not sure I can think of a relationship that really springs out at me; I’m not usually a huge fangirl about stuff like that! Although thinking about it, Nikki and Jack were just so strong and perfect together in the Everneath series.

Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

I read a LOT of new authors this year, which I guess can only be a good thing! So I’ll have to go for an obvious answer and say Looking for Alaska – John Green.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Young Adult and Fantasy/Sci-fi. As always!

Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

I think Draykon by Charlotte E. English just pips Daughter of Smoke and Bone to the post here for the totally original concepts behind not only the main world in which the story takes place, but the two off-worlds. English created all the plants, animals and history for three completely beautiful worlds that were a pleasure to read about!

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

It has to be Will Grayson, Will Grayson!

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

All the John Greens, because well, John Green.

What were your favourite books of 2013? Which ones are you looking forward to in 2014? I’d love to read your recommendations!

[REVIEW] Note to Self – Peter Ward

note-to-selfSummary
Characters – 5/5
Plot – 5/5
Style – 5/5
Science – 4/5
Overall – 5/5

Quote

“I asked Cassandra if it was a pain not being contactable wherever she went, but she seemed to like it […] ‘Isn’t it a pain to always be contactable?’ she’d replied. ‘I mean, if someone can always get hold of you, how can you ever be free?’”

Review
Richard Henley leads a very average and unremarkable life, three years divorced and living each day between his couch and his office desk. So when he starts finding strangely accurate notes in his own handwriting informing him of his impending death, life suddenly becomes very interesting. As Richard races through places he never knew existed, he discovers unpredictable allies, voraciously persistent enemies and the extremely fine line between right and wrong.

NOTE TO SELF gives a very clever social commentary, calling into question human technology and morals, casting a shadow on the perception of free will and the definition of ‘good’. Ward’s style is very fast paced, energetic and visual, conjuring the scenery and action vividly as I read.

There is a lot of science in this novel and while I felt a little lost at times, it drew me closer to Richard as we stumbled blindly through it all together. I learnt with him and after the half-way point I’d managed to absorb and organise all the new information just as well as Richard.

As an English student, I can’t say whether all the science and technicalities add up but it definitely sounded realistic to me. Most importantly, the sci fi element had rules, structures and limitations which made sense. Ward has put a lot of time into making Note to Self work and it shows.

The characters are all completely human, each one fully fleshed out with their own background and moral compass. It was great to see the detail that went into every character; no one was stereotyped or banished to one end of the good/bad spectrum which I particularly appreciated.

I think to talk about the plot in detail would be to give too much away. I really enjoyed discovering the surprises alongside Richard and want to afford the same pleasure to everyone else who wants to read this novel. However, I will say that the ideas are completely original (to me at least) and completely fascinating.

I genuinely enjoyed NOTE TO SELF. It raises a lot of questions and prods you into really thinking about the issues presented. In a way, it felt like a modern sci fi version of 1984. Released on 17th September 2013, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of NOTE TO SELF!

I received NOTE TO SELF for free from the lovely people at Diversion Books. My reviews always represent my own honest opinion. Thank you to Chrissi Reads who reviewed this first and got me interested!