Monday, March 26, 2012

The Maze Runner by James Dashner


"When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas can remember is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there, or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything to find out – even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horrors that hunt the Maze’s walled corridors."

This young adult dystopian novel follows a young teenage boy, Thomas, as he finds himself in a strange place surrounded by a mysterious and extensive maze. He, like the other boys there, has no recollection of his past, his family, his home. 

The boys have created their own 'society', designating jobs for each person to ensure they survive and everything runs smoothly. They've been trapped here for two years, exploring the Maze during the day in a desperate attempt to figure it out and escape, and seeking refuge inside the Glade at night when the large stone walls leading out to the Maze shut to keep out the Grievers - terrifying creatures that appear to be a mix of animal and machine with sharp pins and weapons jutting out all over their bodies, prepared to attack and kill.

But everything they know changes. And they are forced to risk their lives to find the solution to the Maze if they want to survive.

I'm not particularly fond of Thomas, the protagonist, as he didn't seem to be a very defined character or have a strong voice, but this was understandable as he was new to the Glade and didn't have much knowledge of what was happening. But I still admired his bravery, his selflessness and his loyalty to his friend, Chuck. 

While the book begins with a very slow pace, where the reader is just as incredibly confused as Thomas about the Glade, the Maze, and the language used by the boys, it soon becomes fascinating, as you discover more and more about their world. Dashner uses an interesting technique of withholding information and releasing it gradually as the story progresses. Some people didn't enjoy this, believing it to be an ineffective way of moving the plot, but I absolutely loved it. It was different. I really felt like I was with Thomas the whole way, driven by our paralleled curiousity about the world that Dashner crafts.

All in all, I became terrified of the Grievers, curious about the Maze, attached to certain characters (Minho!) and captivated by the complexity and mystery of their world. If you love dystopia, adventure, mystery and don't mind intensely creepy creatures, you'll love this novel. I couldn't put it down, and finished it in two days.

Verdict:  4/5

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Harry Potter Series

What better way to start off my book blog than with a review of my favourite series of all time - The Harry Potter Series. (This will be very brief, but I'll probably end up doing more detailed, specific posts about these books in the future.)

I bought the first four books when I was about 9, and although they sat on my shelf unread for a few years, I was completely obsessed by the time the 5th book was released. This series is amazing. The characters have so much depth, the stories are fascinating and J.K. Rowling's writing just pulls you into the book.

1. The Philosopher's Stone
I have to say that this is my least favourite book, perhaps because I wasn't really that interested in this series when I was reading this first novel. It's still a great story, where we get introduced to the magical world, taken to Hogwarts, we watch the trio become friends and we realise how boring the Muggle world is in comparison.


2. The Chamber of Secrets
I found this one more entertaining than the first book, the plot seemed to move faster and it was more mysterious, which only enhanced my curiosity. While I didn't like blood, snakes and spiders at that age (not that I'm a huge fan of spiders now either), I still really enjoyed this book and learning more about the characters we were introduced to in the first and the magic spells and potions they could use. How I wish I could cast spells and brew potions in Snape's class.

Verdict: 3/5

3. The Prizoner of Azkaban
I really liked this book! I love being surprised by characters, so I loved the story with Sirius.  It made me feel scared, then shocked, then relieved, then worried and then so very glad at the end. I loved Buckbeak too, made me want a hippogriff for a pet.

Verdict: 4/5
4. The Goblet of Fire
No doubt one of my favourites of the whole series! I loved the whole Triwizard Tournament and going through all the challenges, it was so much fun to read about, wondering what they'd have to face next. (My favourite challenge was probably the second one). And then the shocking end of the Tournament! So much happened in those last chapters, I was probably sitting there reading with my mouth wide open. Such a great book.

Verdict: 5/5!

5. The Order of the Phoenix
This book was pretty great too, but not among my favourites. Here, the story begins moving away from the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione at school, and starts leaning towards the war. I absolutely hated Umbridge, which goes to credit Rowling for being able to create such an apparently tame person who was an absolute monster inside.

Verdict: 4/5
6. The Half-Blood Prince
Does it sound ridiculous to say that I really liked this book because of who the title is about? But no, this book was really interesting, all the mystery behind who the Half-Blood Prince was. There was a lot of action; the duel between Harry and Draco, the death of a great character and finding out who the HBP is. It was here that I hated Snape the most, but it was really effective in setting up for his story in the last book.

Verdict: 4/5

7. The Deathly Hallows
My absolute favourite book for a number of reasons. Firstly, being the last book, it ties everything together and we really get to understand a lot of things that used to be so confusing. Secondly, I loved the story of the Three Brothers. (I actually want to buy a copy of The Beetle and the Bard just so I have a separate copy of this story). But mostly, because of Chapter 33. I found that this was the most captivating chapter in all the books. Reading all about the past and learning about Snape shocked me, in a good way of course. This book was just amazing.

Verdict: 5/5

I actually didn't mind the epilogue. So many people say they hated it, but I liked knowing where the characters were and knowing that they were okay. It was also really nice to see them back on that Platform, like coming full circle.

Basically, this was and is the best book series I have ever read. If you haven't read it yet, read it right now. Just watching the movies is not enough. If you have read it, read it again. I know I will! And leave a comment telling me your favourite and least favourite book!

I'm still waiting for another book series that I will love as much as I loved this one. But it won't be easy for one to come along. The thing with this series is that I think it's much more than a 'trend' or a 'fad'. It's a magical, adventurous story that many generations to come will love too.

Welcome to my book blog!

I've been bitten by the book bug. I love all things books so I thought I'd start a blog to share about books I love, books I hate, books I'd like to read and books I wish I hadn't. I hope to share my thoughts while learning from yours.

I'll be posting reviews, rants, thoughts, impressions, hauls and everything in between! 

So join me if you've also been bitten by the book bug! (I promise, it's a very cute bug and it doesn't hurt at all.)

(Except maybe your wallet...)