Posts Tagged ‘review’

Requiem Requiem. The conclusion of the Delirium trilogy. The book where everything that has been building, everything that has happened so far in this amazing story, comes together and we get to see how it finally ends.

I haven’t so eagerly awaited the release of a book, or gone into a book with such high expectations, since the final three Harry Potter books, so poor Requiem was under a lot of pressure right from the beginning. I read a few reviews before I even bought the book and that may have been a mistake because all of them criticised the ending and thought it was the worst book of the trilogy, but of course I had to make up my own mind about it.

If you are reading this thinking “what on earth is she talking about?” then I suggest you go and read my reviews of Delirium and Pandemonium then come back. There will most likely be spoilers from those two books in this review, which I can’t really avoid since Requiem is the final book of the trilogy, but I just thought I better give fair warning.

I went a bit crazy taking notes while I was reading this book because I was so invested in the story and there were so many “OMG!” moments that I sort of just wrote down every little thought or feeling I had as I read. As a result of this excessive note-taking, this review may be a little bit all over the place, so I apologise for that. It’s not often that I get so passionate about characters and their stories, so this was a pretty special experience for me.

The biggest way Requiem differs from the previous two books is that it features alternate chapters from Lena, our protagonist, and Hana, Lena’s best friend in Delirium. I haven’t read Hana’s Story (available as an e-book only) so I hadn’t seen or heard from Hana since Delirium. I was excited to be able to fill gaps and see what was going on back in Portland both with Hana personally and the city in general.  I was also very curious to see how she and Lena would inevitably come together again – why would they include the Hana chapters if that wasn’t going to happen?  It was particularly difficult to put down because I so desperately wanted to see how it would all play out.

Using alternate chapters was probably one of Oliver’s best decisions for this story¸ because I can’t even imagine how she could have included so much information from both sides – the Wilds and the controlled cities – without them. They did interfere with the continuity a little bit, because you were forever jumping from Lena to Hana then back to Lena again, but it didn’t negatively impact the overall story. They also enabled so many questions to be answered, particularly about Hana who played such a huge part in Delirium.

[Side note: It kind of blew my mind that Hana had grown and changed so much in such a short amount of time – it’s been less than a year since we last saw her – but then, so had Lena.]

From the fifth Lena chapter I could already feel something building, especially with the evidence of the governments ever-growing presence in the Wilds. This tension continued to build right up until the climax of the story when an all-out war broke out. I did note, though, that even though there was a rising tension through the story from both Hana and Lena’s sides, I felt like it should have been more intense considering the war that it was leading up to had the potential to change everything. I did get emotional around page 268 (yes, I actually cried) and there were many emotional reveals and scenes, so the lack of intense rising tension was easily redeemed by the emotional tension.

I was so torn between Alex and Julian that I did not envy Lena actually having to be in that situation one little bit. I loved Julian by the end of Pandemonium but Alex is Alex, the first boy, the first love, so I felt Lena’s pain as she loved both of them, struggling to figure out who she loved more. I’m glad about who she ended up with; I think that’s how it was always meant to be. Speaking of the end, despite many negative reviews, I loved it. Yes, it left HEAPS of unanswered questions, but it was perfect anyway.

The description and word choices are as beautiful as ever. I know I have said this before, but Oliver is a truly talented writer who has a way with words that I can only aspire to. After reading Before I Fall and now the Delirium Trilogy, I will definitely be checking out her other work.

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I made the mistake of letting myself fall very behind in my book reviews, but I am finally starting to catch back up again. Today I flash back to a book I read in early March called Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007).

Thirteen Reasons Why cover

Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker through an unwitting narrator, our protagonist: Clay Jensen. Clay arrives home from school one afternoon to find a shoe-box containing seven cassette tapes outside his front door. He discovers that these tapes were recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has passed away. The story follows Clay around his small town as he listens through these tapes, learning things about Hannah – and himself – that will change his life forever.

The story had a solid start. I remember being taught in my creative writing classes at university to always start a story with a hook – a question or a statement that would compel the reader to keep on reading – and Asher absolutely nailed it. In only four pages he raised a number of very important questions that I just had to find out the answers to. These include, among others:

–          Who sent the package?

–          Who is Jenny?

–          Who, exactly, is Hannah and what happened to her?

–          What is on the tapes?

–          What is the list? Who else is on it?

From the next chapter these questions start being answered, but at the same time more are being raised. Asher took that initial hook of raising questions that you just have to find out the answers to, and continued it throughout the story. This resulted in an entire novel that is a constant stream of questions and answers that doesn’t conclude until the very last page. I think this played a huge part it what makes the book so addictive.

The whole concept of the book – the story itself, as well as how it has been set out and told – is quite brilliant. Even though it features incredibly heavy content to read and absorb, you feel compelled to keep going. You absolutely have to know what and who comes next, and how that person contributed to what happened. From person to person the suspense builds as you come closer and closer to seeing where Clay fits into Hannah’s story.

Throughout Thirteen Reasons Why I found myself feeling more and more for Clay as the story went along. He gets to be so emotional and he feels so horrible even before he finds out where he fits into Hannah’s story. I can understand that his experience would have been one hell of an emotional roller-coaster ride and the way Asher wrote Clay; the way the character internalises everything and doesn’t hold anything back; really makes you feel what he is feeling. Even though it is truly painful to read at times, I don’t think you would want it any other way.

I won’t say too much about Hannah, because I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read Thirteen Reasons Why, but I was fascinated by her story. What happened was awful and it really should never have come to that, but the way she goes through the stories of everyone who impacted her in some way, right down to the end where she is so at peace with it all and completely rationalises her decision, was a very interesting read. I said it once already, but this novel is truly a brilliant piece of writing.

From a technical standpoint, the story does jump around a little bit in a few places. It’s something that I noticed, but it doesn’t affect the story too much. I also didn’t particularly like the ending, but I do understand why it ended the way it did. I’m sure every reader has their own opinion on that!

 

Hello everyone!

I have spent the last few weeks trying to motivate myself to get back to blogging and I think I finally have my mojo back. Thank goodness for that!

This song of the week is by a pretty awesome up-and-coming Australian band from Sydney called Strangers who recently played at SXSW – if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you check it out here – and did a little tour around America before heading home to start work on their second album. They couldn’t lock themselves away to write and record without a tour of home first, which is how I came to see them at Brisbane’s Crowbar on May 16.

But before I go on about that: the song!

It’s called Bred For Breeding and while it isn’t my favourite song from Strangers’ debut album Persona Non Grata (that you absolutely have to find and listen to) it’s still a damn good song.

Strangers just wrapped up their ‘Closer to Nowhere’ tour (their new single from the album which happens to be one of my favourites) and as I mentioned, I was lucky enough to catch them in Brisbane. It was the third time I have seen the band live and they have consistently put on a fantastic show. They’re a very tight live band who you know will at least reach, if not exceed your expectations every time. They give the same amount of time and effort to their performances whether they have a crowd of 500 or 50 – the latter of which would best describe the attendance on this particular night – which I think is an admirable quality. Many bands reach a point in their career where they believe it is beneath them to perform to a small crowd. but I don’t think Strangers will never be one of those bands. After the show the guys are always happy to have a chat to everyone and show their appreciation for those who have taken the time to come and watch them play.

I took a few photos on the night – iPhone only – and here is my favourite of lead singer Ben Britton:

Ben Britton. Brisbane, May 16, 2013.

Ben Britton. Brisbane, May 16, 2013.

I also got a set list, yay!

strangers set list

 

If you ever get the chance to catch a gig, do it. Even if you don’t leave as a new Strangers fan, I can promise that you will have witnessed one hell of a rock show. Oh and please check them out on Facebook, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Just for something a bit different, I have two songs of the week this week. The first is My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up), the debut single from Fall Out Boy’s fifth studio album Save Rock and Roll which was released in April this year. Check it out:

The second song of the week is also by Fall Out Boy and is the second single from Save Rock and Roll. This one is called The Phoenix. I felt obligated to share both of these videos with you because they follow on from each other – apparently all of the videos from this album will do the same. If you watched the first one, you have to watch this:

Fall Out Boy – consisting of Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley – formed in 2001 and released their first studio album Take This To Your Grave in 2003. (Just for a little side note, this album celebrated its 10th anniversary this week – pretty awesome stuff.) The album won several awards, achieved double platinum status and featured top ten singles Sugar We’re Goin’ Down and Dance, Dance. The band followed this success with the release of From Under the Cork Tree in 2005, Infinity on High in 2007 and Folie a Deux in 2008. In late 2009, they announced an indefinite hiatus, leaving fans worldwide wondering if they would ever hear from Fall Out Boy again.

Fast forward four years to February 4, 2013 and Fall Out Boy announced that they were back! I am yet to pick up a copy of Save Rock and Roll but from what I have heard so far, their new sound is fresh and very different to the Fall Out Boy of old – in a good way. I can’t wait to give it a good listen through and, of course, here’s hoping they make the trek down under again soon!

friday-night-lights coverFriday Night Lights – A Town, A Team and A Dream is the first non-fiction novel I have read since one of my creative writing classes at University included In Cold Blood by Truman Capote as part of the required reading. I read the newspaper, magazines and the occasional biography, but non-fiction novels have never been something I’ve really taken an interest in. I thoroughly enjoyed In Cold Blood, with all of its twists and turns, but I can’t say it gave me a desire to delve further into the genre. In fact the only other non-fiction novel I have ever found myself really wanting to read, was Friday Night Lights. Now, finally, I have.

Friday Night Lights, written by H.G Bissinger and published in 1990, follows the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team from Odessa, Texas. Odessa was chosen by Bissinger as a representative of football-crazed, small-town America and he intended for the story to be a chronicle of high school sports holding a small town together. Bissinger moved his family to Odessa and spent the entire 1988 football season with the players, their families, the coaching staff and many of the townspeople in an effort to understand the football culture within the town. What resulted, though, was a very different type of story. The book ended up being critical of life in the town of Odessa – which, no doubt, also reflected many other towns across America – complete with racism and questionable priorities, where academics were ignored for the sake of having the best possible shot at winning championships, and football conquered most aspects of the town. It is a raw and gripping tale of teenagers forced to become men, to make decisions and sacrifices beyond their years, who were treated as royalty and worshipped like gods around town so long as they kept on winning; boys who couldn’t see past high school football, which for some had dire consequences once the season was over and they had to face up to what came next.     

I saw the film adaptation when it came out in 2004 and found the story emotional and fascinating. I knew that it was based on a book but I was 16 and didn’t have a huge interest in reading it. Fast-forward eight years or so when I saw a special on television where they had interviewed some of the key players in the story twenty years later and I knew that it was time to get my hands on the book.
Even though I already knew what the story was about before I read it, it definitely wasn’t an easy read. The film – like all book to film adaptations I suppose – left out a considerable amount of the story, including some of the most emotionally heavy scenes and interviews from that year. I knew there would be more in the book, but I didn’t expect there to be so much more. There were integral parts of what happened during that 1988 season that were left out of the film completely, which actually changed the story a fair amount. But the book to film adaptation argument is for another day.
Back to the book.

Bissinger told the story in a way that really appealed to me: setting it up in the prologue and introducing the central players, then going back to the beginning and outlining the history of Odessa and then telling the story of the 1988 season from start to finish. Chapters and part-chapters were dedicated to different players, focussing on the person or people most relevant to each stage of the story. He wrote in such a way that it reads like fiction and I found it so compelling that it was, at times, hard to believe that it all really happened. I can only imagine how much time and work it took to get into the players (and other prominent people’s) heads and write them as well as characters you would make up in a fictional story.

Not to be too critical, but it did get a little repetitive at times. There were a couple of instances where the same thing was said consecutively in a chapter, just worded differently. It’s something that I noticed, which is why I am mentioning it, but it didn’t take away from the story, or the quality of the writing as a whole, in any way. Considering that it jumped around a bit to include as much relevant and important information as possible, it still flows smoothly from subject to subject and chapter to chapter. For whatever reason there were parts of the story that really resonated with me, particularly chapter seven and every part of the story that brought light to how bad racism still was in Texas at that time and how the people dealt with it. It’s a horrible part of history to be fascinated by, but as someone who has grown up to believe that people are people and that’s that, I am intrigued by how the colour of a person’s skin made society view them differently. Bissinger highlighted the racism only because it was relevant and he wrote it very diplomatically, which can’t have been easy.

As always, I have my favourite quotes, but I’m only going to share two.

“…the solemn ritual that was attached to almost everything, made them seem like boys going off to fight a war for the benefit of someone else, unwitting sacrifices to a strange and powerful god” (prologue, p.11).

“He sat on the bench and felt a coldness swirl through him, as if something sacred inside him was dying, as if every dream in his life was fleeing from him and all he could do was sit there and watch it disappear amid all those roars that had once been for him” (Boobie Miles, p.16).

Just a quick post this week since I somehow managed to forget about my song of the week until Friday! No idea how that happened, but I assure you it won’t happen again.

This song is from another of my absolute favourite American pop-punk bands, Yellowcard. It’s called Ocean Avenue and it is probably their biggest hit to date, from their debut album of the same name (2003).  

I won’t give you all of the background and whatnot on these guys this time around (no doubt they will feature a song of the week again in the future) so I’ll just leave you a link to their website HERE and my insistence that you give them a chance because they are pretty special.

Have a good weekend everybody!

Soundwave. One of the days I look forward to most every year. It’s a day of live music, crowds, moshing, dancing, craziness and fun. This year marked my fourth Soundwave festival and I arrived with high expectations – the past three years I had such an amazing time, so this year had to be the same, right? Wrong.

I’m not saying that I wish I didn’t go, or that I didn’t enjoy myself, because of course I am glad that I went and overall it was a good day. It just wasn’t the amazing day I have come to expect from Soundwave after my previous experiences.

I started the day at Dragonforce, who I had never heard of, but I was with a friend who wanted to see them. They were far from something I would usually listen to, but they were entertaining so it was a good start. Even that early I noticed that the crowd seemed thicker than usual but couldn’t figure out why when there are only a certain amount of tickets that can be sold. I realised on the walk across the grounds to see Periphery – who were absolutely fantastic, so I’m glad I made it to their set! – that it was because unlike previous years, the bars were not fenced off so that 18+ patrons who wanted to drink were secluded from the rest of the crowd. They could walk into a bar, buy drinks, then wander around from stage to stage drinking them. While I’m sure these people appreciated not being caged like animals, it took away from my experience because I was almost constantly surrounded by drunk people behaving like idiots.

From Periphery I ventured over to the main stages for Bullet For My Valentine – one of my must-see bands of the day. It was the third time I had seen them live and they definitely didn’t disappoint. They played more songs off their new album ‘Temper Temper’ than I expected, considering it only came out in Australia a week or two before the festival, but the crowd responded well. The big hits were there and the performance made me wish I had been able to afford to attend their sideshow the night before to see them play a headline set. I eagerly await their next tour down under.

I had a bit of time to kill before my next band so it was nice to wander around a little bit and see what was around. There were more little stores set up than I recall previously, so I looked around a bit, but it wasn’t really practical to buy anything – even if I had the money to – because you’d have to carry it around all day. I’m sure other people didn’t mind though. Eventually I made my way over to stage 2 for Billy Talent.

Billy Talent did a headline tour of Australia just last year, so I knew what to expect from their set. It was high-energy and a little wild, and they played all of the favourites. I hung back out of the mosh so I could just enjoy them and I think that was a good idea. They had played Soundwave back in 2009 and referenced this fact a couple of times. Hopefully they’ll be back sooner rather than later.

I left my festival buddy at stage 2 after Billy Talent and made a mad-dash across to the complete opposite side of the grounds for one of my other must-see bands: All Time Low. These guys get a lot of hate for being a ‘kiddy band’ but they’re fantastic pop-punkers and I adore them. At some point I had started feeling quite disheartened. Even though the bands I had seen were fantastic, I wasn’t enjoying the atmosphere and the whole day felt off from what I had expected. All Time Low basically saved my day. I decided that I had to cheer myself up, so I made my way right into the middle of the mosh, determined to have my mood improved and within a couple of songs I was feeling much better. I regretted the fact that I still haven’t bought their new album, but it didn’t matter too much. They played a few of my favourites and I had a great time.

From there I went back to stage 2 where I remained for the rest of the festival, apart from a brief visit to the main stage to see a bit of Metallica before heading home. I saw Paramore, who I have never been a huge fan of, but they played such a tight live set that I think I’ll have to give them another chance. Lead-singer Hayley hit every, single note and I was very impressed. After Paramore was Garbage, who I couldn’t recall actually having heard of before, but after a few songs I recognised I realised I did know them after all. They were surprisingly good – and when I mean incredibly good – so I’m glad I saw them, even if it wasn’t intentional. Next was my number one must-see band of the day: Blink 182.

The last time Blink 182 toured Australia I was 16-years-old and lucky enough to attend their Brisbane show. I have never forgotten that night and watching them perform again at Soundwave made me feel like I was 16 all over again. They played a few songs from their most recent album ‘Neighbourhoods’ which was awesome, and then they played all of their biggest hits. My favourites were there, my friends favourites were there; I’m pretty sure everyone in the crowd had an amazing time. There was a fair amount of online hate directed their way over the whole Travis not being able to come saga (you can read what I wrote about it here) but in the end I don’t think it really made any difference who their drummer was for the night. Obviously having Travis there would’ve been great, but they managed just fine without him.

The only band I regret missing was Linkin Park because I have heard nothing but good reviews. Overall it did end up being a good day, but it wasn’t a great day. I left on my Blink 182 high and I think I’m still coming down from that. Not sure when/if they’ll ever be back again, so I’ll be holding onto these feelings as long as possible!