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Sunday, May 4, 2014

4.4 - Trapped
"The terrifying true story of a young girl's secret world of abuse."
The short sentence on the cover of the book caught my eye when I saw it displayed on the shelf of our local bookshop. The prologue and the blurb did their job and surprisingly, I was hooked after the first few sentences. Could it be that I had finally found another perfectly original outlier that will be able to surprise and fascinate me as all the amazingly written creative books I have read before?

Rosie Lewis, the author of "Trapped" (writing under a pseudonym) and a full-time foster carer, lives in northern England with her 11-year-old son Jamie and 14-year-old daughter Emily. In this book, she describes her encounter and the struggle of forming a relationship with Phoebe, a 9-year-old autistic girl. Phoebe Steadman is taken from her parents by the police after her teacher notices something strange and informs authorities that everything might not be as it seems in the Steadmans' household. The small malnourished girl with tangled brown hair is handed into Rosie's care shortly before the Easter Holidays in March 2009. Rosie and her family expect another traumatised frightened child lacking proper care and longing for a loving family and the safety of a proper home. Unfortunately, Phoebe turns out to be the exact opposite of the picture of a meek scared little girl Rosie had in mind. Phoebe is the perfect little devil: from inappropriate comments and throwing objects to threats to kill and self harm. The autistic 9-year-old manages to wreak havoc within the peaceful welcoming environment of Rosie's home and its inhabitants. At first, Rosie blames Phoebe's strange behaviour on her mental illness, but gradually she starts to uncover the disturbing truth hidden behind Phoebe's veil of alleged insanity...

I would be surprised if Ms. Lewis didn't have a secret interest in writing. The story, although having a somewhat predictable ending, is told in such a gripping way that I managed to finish the book within 24 hours. The author manages to build suspense with such ease, and surprise the reader with Phoebe's frightening out-of-the-blue burst outs at the same time, creating an atmosphere similar to that of a first-rate thriller. Even though I already suspected how this book would end, the author gave me many reasons to consider other options and suspect otherwise, later throwing me down and confirming my first suspicions. "Trapped" has evoked in me a range of different emotions: from anger to grief to joy, this book has it all. An amazing story told in an even more amazing way. Seriously, I haven't read something so good in a long time!

Monday, March 3, 2014

3.3 - Divergent

After reading so many dystopian novels that one would think I'd die of boredom if I ever read another, I decided to give this exciting genre another chance and hope that it will manage to surprise me again as it has done so many times before.

To prevent conflict and create a stable and peaceful society, the future government decides to split all population into five factions. Each faction focuses on and values certain positive aspects of a human personality: Abnegation values selflessness, Erudite intelligence, Candor honesty, Amity peace and Dauntless bravery. Following the motto: "Faction before blood", at the age of 16, each individual gets to choose the faction that he or she will belong to for the rest of their lives. Choices are made, families are separated, and children are raised by the ideologies and principles of their chosen faction.
The story is told from the viewpoint of sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior. Being a member of Abnegation, Beatrice often struggles with completely surrendering herself to others. At the day of the test designed to help her choose the appropriate faction, Beatrice is informed that the test didn't work on her. She is rendered "Divergent"- exhibiting traits of multiple factions. Unprepared and confused, Beatrice is forced to make the decision between staying in Abnegation, or leaving her family in pursuit of a completely different lifestyle. All she knows is that Divergence is dangerous, for her and for everyone else. Then, on the day of the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice decides to join the Dauntless. She is introduced to the dauntless headquarters and the tough, dangerous, exciting daily life of the dauntless members. Joining other "transfers"- people that have decided to leave the faction they where they were raised in favour of another, she is lead through the difficult life-threatening initiation process, competing against her fellow transfers as well as dauntless-born initiates in hope of becoming a dauntless member. Throughout this dangerous journey into the great unknown, Beatrice slowly starts to uncover the secrets behind arising conflicts between and within factions while having to cope with the struggles of the daily life of a dauntless initiate and with the threatening reality of being labelled "Divergent", discovering new powers and benefits that arise from this fact, and even experiencing some unexpected romance.
I wish so much to say that this book has surprised me, but I'm afraid that too many futuristic dystopian novels have really gotten on my brain and the excitement from reading an awesome, original, action-packed story has long since gone. However similar to books like "Hunger Games" "Divergent" may be, I must say that I consider this book quite overrated. The writing style didn't surprise me at all: it was bland, simplistic and uninteresting: I'm not saying that this is positively bad, in this case, actually, the author managed to create a quite convincing voice of a shy and frightened sixteen-year-old girl. The fact that the writing style was so unoriginal required an exciting plot to keep the reader interested, which was also, even if only partially (more of the action, less of the originality), provided. Nevertheless, I feel as if this book was just a different version of something I've read so many times before: frightened character in life-threatening situations, fighting to stay alive, slowly finding out the world is corrupted and discovering the love of their life on the way. I just can't seem to find anything that would make "Divergent" unique. Sure, the book is a good example of its genre (ignoring the rushed ending and certain unexplored characters and issues....), but if you have read dystopian novels before ("Hunger Games" in particular) and are on the hunt for something new and exciting, its really unnecessary to bother with reading this book. If you haven't and are totally fine with reading something too similar to what has already been written, "Divergent" surely won't disappoint you.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

25.1 - And We Fell

I saw,
I dreamt,
I drew,
I felt.

I learnt,
I knew,
I tried…

…and I fell.

The past, the present, the future.

I fell, and I fell deep,
with me,
The memories,
All the things I couldn’t keep.

They fell, they fell with me,
Dragged deep below,

With their eyes closed, I couldn’t see.

We fell, we fell alone,
By the “other” world,

Drowning in all we weren’t shown.

The world shouted, but I couldn’t hear.
The shield,
Of arrogance is hard to pierce

Soon everything will disappear.

The voices.

They always knew,
But were ignored.


Their very intentions,
Were to prevent the fall.

But we fell,
We fell below,
We fell fast,
And we fell slow.

We fell small,
Though we fell big,
We fell with snippets,
Of memories unlived.

We didn’t know,
But we still did fall,
Confused, anticipating,
When we’d finally hit the floor.

Seeing all was lost,
Knowing not much was left.
Minutes, Seconds,
Before they start singing in my head.

Sneering at the chances I had but had denied,
They laugh:
It’s over, you’re finished, you’ve died.

We saw,
We dreamt,
We drew,
We felt.

We learnt,
We knew
I tried…

…And we fell.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

7.7 - The Green Mile

I came across this book by accident when surfing the internet. From the soundtrack to the movie to the book, I finally looked it up on the library page and, having nothing better to read, I put it first on my summer reading list...

The story, which takes place in 1932 in America, is told from the view of Paul Edgecombe a retired prison guard. He speaks of the days when he worked in block E of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary, watching over prisoners who were sentenced to death on the electric chair. The days, when his job was to lead criminals across the Green Mile to their certain death at its end. The story evolves around the case of John Coffey, a prisoner much different from the usual tough-looking psychopaths that end up in one of the cells which line the Green Mile. Sentenced to death for raping and killing two girls, John Coffey has his own secrets to hide. Secrets, that can forever change the lives of his fellow prisoners and his guards on block E.

There is so much I could say about this book, but I am afraid that I would spoil the exciting parts if I revealed too much, as it has so many twists, most of them being quite predictable, some of them extremely unpredictable and surprising.
It took some time for me to get used to the different time this story took place at and after reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels I had to often remind myself that: "no, Coffey isn´t going to turn into a virus-infected vampire" and: "no, Mr. Jingles cannot communicate with people using his mind"... But, although I didn´t expect it, this book had its own type of "magic" and plenty of paranormal aspects. The fact that the story was set in the past made it seem even more real.
And then there is the ending, the most unexpected melancholy ending. I seemed to have forgotten that not every book ends well. Neither can I say that the ending was bad. It was depressing and happy, in that hopeful kind of way, at the same time. With the question: What comes after death? hanging in my mind, I put the book down.
"The Green Mile" is one of those books in which the author pays great attention to characters. Each of them had their own unique way of dealing with problems and it was interesting watching them evolve in the prescence of other characters. Once again, I enjoyed making predictions of what will happen next and how certain characters will react to this. I guess the author managed to develop such realistic characters by just "telling the story as it was (or would be, in this case)": by letting the criminals use the specific language and words criminals would use when speaking, by describing the feelings of Paul as a prison guard would describe them, by adding small details from the daily life of the people that lived in the 20 th century- books, movies,  the clothes they wore, the devices they used: everything seemed so realistic.
I have very mixed feelings for this book, all I can say is that it affected my life in some strange undefinable way. The story was extremely gripping: there was always that kind of "tension", the feeling that something bad is going to happen, that it will all go wrong, that kept me reading. And that ending... I still feel like there is so many questions that were left unanswered. But, afterall, that is what all good books do: they leave you thinking about them even after you´re done reading.
I guess everyone should read this book and decide for themselves whether they like it or not, because I cannot assign it to any specific genre or group of people (except that I probably wouldn´t recommend it to a ten-year-old: it is a story about the death of the death-sentenced!), without ignoring the fact that it has certain unique aspects that just simply wouldn´t fit. Ignoring these aspects, I´d probably say it´s a detective-horror story, but believe me, it is much, much more than that. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

26.6 - The Passage

 After having come upon this book when browsing in the bookshop, I spent a long time trying to decide whether to buy it or not. I considered the cover, the title, read the blurb and a few pages of the story and this book "spoke" to me. From the moment I picked it up, I felt a strong desire to read this book. Unfortunately, I chose a different book in the bookshop, dismissing "The Passage" as "too hard and too long", making one of the worst mistakes in my bookshelfer´s life. Of course, I couldn´t stop myself- the book seemed too good to be left behind never to be read or reviewed- and I had to take the "hard way", which meant waiting for the book to be in the library and then travelling to some far-away place to check it out...
"The Passage" is a novel (part of a planned trilogy) by Justin Cronin. The story is told from many points of view and is set mostly in the future. It speaks of a dangerous virus created by the USA army which is meant to prolong the lives of humans it infects, strenghten their immune systems and cure all illness. Unfortunately, this virus has a few side effects: the humans that get infected turn into evil blood-sucking, meat-eating, vampire-like beings.
In the begging, the book follows the story of agent Wolgast, who works for the FBI as a special agent for a secret project under the code name "Noah". His job is to collect death-sentenced prisoners persuading them to undergo the testing of this dangerous virus without telling them what they are up against. These prisoners, most of them choosing a "secret new job" over death, are then transported to the headquarters in Colorado where they are injected with the virus, strictly guarded and observed 24 hours a day. So far, all 12 test subjects were adults. Amy Harper Bellafonte is a 6 year old orphan girl who was the first child chosen to be injected with a new version of the virus. That is when things start going wrong.
For ages the guards of each of the tweleve  subjects have been having strange dreams which were, in some strange sinister way, connected to the monsters they were watching over. They all try to avoid talking about the whispers they hear in the presence of the subjects and the terrible nightmares they get every time they fall asleep, but they all know they are real- a huge unpleasant part of taking this job.
One night, after Amy gets injected with the virus, the subjects escape and twelve blood-sucking, meat-eating, vampire-like beasts are unleashed onto the world. What´s worse? Anyone they bite gets infected too. Wolgast manages to escape with Amy. Ever since they first met he couldn´t help but asocciate her with his dead daughter, feeling quite guilty for taking a six-year-old orphan girl to undergo the testing of an unknown virus, a pocedure only death-sentenced criminals were asked to undergo, and face almost certain death in the process. Surprisingly, Amy survived, and she is different from the other subjects: her skin doesn´t glow, she doesn´t feel hunger for raw meat and she doesn´t run around destroying cities and killing people. Amy has the modified version of the virus.
The story then skips a few years into the future, describing the aftermath of the virus epidemic. The virus spread quickly across America, forcing people to flee towns and send their children to special "camps" where they were guarded and kept safe from the infected. The inhabitants of these camps later estabilished colonies living behind tall walls guarded by lights, nets and barbed wires. These were often the only people that survived, living cut off from the outside world but safe from the virus. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. The batteries that power the lights which have for so long protected the people from the infected, are running out and when the lights go out, there will be nothing left to protect them from the outside world and the evil that lives behing the walls of the colony.

I was excited when I finally found this book sitting on the shelf in the library and I couldn´t wait to start reading. The beggining was amazing- the way the author described the feelings of the characters, weaving their personal stories in with the whole- it was unbelievably extraordinary! I loved the parts where the infected subjects spoke to their guards through whispers and nightmares and I quickly got dragged into the story. I was a bit disappointed when the book skipped into the future at a particularly exciting part though, and even more disappointed when I got introduced to the many inhabitants of the colony- there were too many of them and it was way too confusing and hard to keep track of who was who. However, I really appreciate the author´s creativity; the way he included maps and documents in the story instead of telling the reader straight away what was goin on. This is one of the books that made me think while reading, letting me use my imagination and forcing me to put pieces of the "puzzle" together to help me understand what was going on. Towards the end I was about to put the book down and give up, as I thought that the ending was too predictable and that there was no point in reading on- I suspected it would end with the classic "happy ending"- they all get married, have children and live happy lives after defeating the infected- it turns out that I was wrong: my "happy ending" suspicion was turned down by two simple words in the last sentence of the entire book- once again the author left the reader with something to think about, a piece of the puzzle which is different for everybody, leaving him to feel worried for the characters, and that is something I think happens quite a lot in this book. I recommend "The Passage" to anyone and everyone- YOU HAVE TO READ THIS! Really, if you like exciting books that make you think and help you use your imagination, read "The Passage"- and don´t stop reading, it´s definitely worth it!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

16.5 - LIFE


We all begin the same,
A heartbeat,
A twitch,
A single breath:



Questions, answers
Answers that we search for,
Answers that we want,
Answers that we need,
Answers that we cannot get.

From the moment of our births,
From the very first breath,
The questions stay.
From their first visit,
From the first simple touch,
They follow us every day. 
From the first hint of their whispers,
From the start of potential "adulthood"
They will never go away.




Do not ponder,
Do not seek,
Do not weep,
Do not wonder.

This is what I wish to leave behind,
My leagacy,
Your inheritance,
To whoever may happen to find,
A lifetime´s knowledge,
The truth,
To replace the unanswered questions,
The longing,
The emptiness,
In your mind. 


Do not search for the impossible,
Do not grow hungry for explanations,
For the questions who´s answers you so long for,
Were meant to be left unanswered.




Living beings, us
Infinite time, always
Felicity, a better feeling
Earth, our home

The Unknown.