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Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Published: January 1, 2008
Pages: 479
Source: Bought
Rating: 6 STARS

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

In short: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness was an outstanding novel with inspiring, heart-breaking prose and an utterly fascinating premise.
So, I'm giving this book 6 Stars. I know that's kind of cheating my rating system, but I need some way to indicate how much I LOVED this book more than anything else I have reviewed on this blog without resorting to rerating every other book one star lower. I'm going to say this, and I don't say it lightly: The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the best books I've ever read, second only to Harry Potter. Those that know me - and have eyes and know what my blog is all about - know how truly significant that statement is.

Noise, as depicted in the Chaos Walking Trilogy
The Knife of Never Letting Go is so difficult to describe without revealing too much about the plot. But I'll give it a shot: Todd lives on a strange new planet in which men's thoughts can be heard by everyone - an effect known as "Noise". He lives in a town that is populated only by men after the events of a war with the native alien species, called Spackle. One month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd must escape his town when it is made apparent that the men who run everything are after him for a terrible reason. So, what genre is this? Sci fi, dystopian, fantasy? I think it's somehow all three. This aspect is what makes The Knife of Never Letting Go so utterly bizarre - and yet so utterly awesome, as well.

Patrick Ness' writing is just achingly beautiful. Written in a sort of flow of consciousness of Todd's thoughts with limited grammar and phonetic spellings, it is meant to reflect the ever constant Noise that men on the planet have. I was nervous a bit about the style of writing at first, thinking I would find it hard to get into and it would feel awkward. But the reverse of that couldn't be more true: the flow of consciousness of thoughts made the writing flow quickly and smoothly. I also felt that it had the effect of making me feel very deeply for everything Todd goes through. The Knife of Never Letting Go was an extremely emotional read for me because of this. There was one scene in particular in which I had to stop reading and I did not continue, nor read anything else, for a few days until I had calmed down.

This review wouldn't be complete without mentioning one more thing: Manchee, Todd's talking dog. You heard right: animals on this planet also have Noise, so they can, in essence, talk. I can't adequately express the deep love I felt for Manchee. He is a legit dog who says things a dog would actually say - none of that ridiculous sarcastic talking dog stereotype that seems so prevalent in our culture to be had here. Think Dug from Up.

Overall, The Knife of Never Letting Go was the best, most interesting, and most heart-breaking book I read in 2011. I'm not sure I did a good enough job in this review describing how truly incredible this book was - I find it's hardest with the books that you are most affected by. But I hope that doesn't deter you from reading it. Also, don't be afraid of the page count! I found the plot to be very fast paced. I highly recommend adding The Knife of Never Letting Go to your TBR pile.

Other Reviews:
365 Days of Reading
Tahleen's Mixed-Up Files
Tina's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Ashfall (Ashfall #1) by Mike Mullin

Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Published: October 11, 2011
Pages: 466
Source: Won from "That's Swell!" (thank you!)
Rating: 4 Stars

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

In short: Ashfall by Mike Mullin presents a very real and scary post-apocalyptic setting, one which showcases the very best and the very worst of humanity in equal amounts, at every turn.
A supervolcano erupts, plunging North America into darkness and a deluge of ash. There is mass chaos as people struggle to find shelter and food in an atmosphere of so much destruction. This is something author Mike Mullin does very well in Ashfall: both the science behind such a destructive explosion and the actions people take in such an intense post-apocalyptic setting were very realistic and well done. Ashfall showcases the very best and the very worst in people; you are equally as likely to run into a good and honourable person as you are a bad and nefarious one.

I adored Alex, the protagonist of Ashfall. Though inherently nerdy and a bit ungrateful towards his family in the beginning, he soon learns after being separated from them that he shouldn't have taken them for granted and treks 100 miles across the country to be reunited with them. Alex is one of the most moral and noble characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. Even in the face of extreme danger and hunger, he manages to put others before himself and does the honourable thing. I was also pleased that Mike Mullin had written a male character with legitimate male feelings towards sex. Too often the male narrators I read about have only the very most chaste thoughts about girls and sex, which is frankly ridiculous.

My one quibble with Ashfall was the writing style. There were an excessive amount of details, everything from every step taken to prepare a rabbit for a meal to every bathroom break taken, which seemed unnecessary and pointless. At 466 pages, Ashfall was a lengthy read that could have easily been edited and made shorter, I feel. I will say this though: despite the excessive details, I was never bored. Mike Mullin maintains the action and intrigue throughout Ashfall, which I appreciated.

Overall, Ashfall was a very realistic post-apocalyptic read with a lovable and moral narrator. Ashfall is in stores now and the sequel, Ashen Winter, will be published in October 2012.

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*Read as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Monday, January 2, 2012

Busting the Newbie Blues (Version 2.0)

Busting the Newbie Blues is an event hosted by Small Review that aims to help put new bloggers on the map and increase interaction between new and established bloggers. I took part in this event last year when I was a newbie blogger, and it was a complete success! A good chunk of the people who's blogs I follow, read regularly, and comment on, I met through the Busting the Newbie Blues Event last year. Without it, my blogging experience wouldn't have been nearly so enriched and probably a little more lonely. So I'm eager to find even more new blogs this year! As I am an "established" book blogger now, I will be completing the Established Blogger Questionnaire. Any blogger, new or established, can participate in this event by signing up here.

When did you start your blog?
A little over a year ago.

Do you ever still feel like a newbie?
Absolutely. I think I've gained plenty of experience in over a year of blogging, but I often still feel lost and shy about certain aspects of blogging. For example, even after over a year of blogging, I still feel as though I am unworthy of receiving ARCs. So I don't request them.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?
Blogging often and regularly is tough for me. When I was a new blogger, I used to try and fill in the gaps between my reviews with tons of memes. It took me awhile to realize that those memes weren't exactly quality posts, just filler. Don't get me wrong, memes don't have to be filler; I can think of many that are either entertaining or informative or both. But I would recommend keeping your focus on creating quality review posts, and then on memes if you have the extra time. Don't let your blog get completely bogged down by memes.

What did you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this?
I was completely overwhelmed, and still am, by the amount of books some people seem to be able to read in a year. How can I compete with that? I've always been an extremely slow reader; I've even been tested for any reading disabilities, but they found none. Just slow. I still struggle with the pressure I feel as a blogger to read many books in a year and read them fast. I just have to remind myself that it's not a race and I enjoy myself more when I read at my own pace anyway.

What do you find most encouraging?
Other bloggers! I used to be shy and intimidated around other bloggers, afraid to try to interact with them. I soon found out that I had nothing to worry about! Everyone I've "met" have been quite nice and perfectly friendly.

If you could go back in time and speak with your newbie self, what five bits of wisdom would you tell yourself?
1. Don't get too caught up with reading all those hot, new releases and forget about older releases that you've always wanted to read.
2. Don't let your blog get too bogged down by memes; focus on writing reviews (this is a book review blog, after all).
3. Schedule posts to save time (hmmm, still not too good about this one).
4. Take your time and savour the book you are reading, or else you won't enjoy the experience at all.
5. Don't stress and have fun! This is a hobby, not a chore.

What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?
My favourite thing is always the reviews, in all shapes and sizes. I like 'em long and wordy and I like 'em short and concise. I like 'em thoughtful and informative and I like 'em personal and silly. And I especially like 'em honest, but never mean. This is important.
I constantly wish I was a better writer, but yes, I do strive to at least try to write honest, quality reviews to the best of my ability.

What do you dislike about blogs you’ve seen? Do you try to avoid this?
Again, I feel less is more when it comes to memes and other "fluff" posts. But if you have the time to spend drafting out numerous, thoughtful, and interesting meme posts for every day of the week, then go for it. I certainly don't have the time for it though.

How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?
I sought out blogs that I felt were similar to mine or else had a "voice" that I found interesting, followed them, and left meaningful comments on their posts, which people appreciated and usually followed me back. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Hosting a giveaway is also a good way to capture lots of people's attentions all at once, though it does not usually result in the type of follower who will actively read and comment on your blog.

When and how did you get your first ARC (or first few ARCs)?
This is still a mystery to me. I entered a contest to win a book on Simon & Schuster Canada's YA Book Blog one time when my blog was only a few months old, and they've been sending me ARCs ever since without me even having to request them. Talk about lucky.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In My Mailbox (14)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren (and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie) to showcase any books that I have received for review, bought, borrowed, or won to read.

Gifted for Christmas

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Thanks to my mum for giving me these three books for Christmas!

Ebook Deals

Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

These eBooks were all super cheap on Amazon. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side was even free!