Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

(Translated by Allison Markin Powell)

This book was fairly short, and while it wasn’t my favorite book in the world, it was a nice read. It was translated beautifully, and I liked the way it was divided—short, easy chapters that could probably suffice as standalone short stories. It’s about Tsukiko, 40 years old, who meets her old high school teacher in a bar one night—she only ever calls him ‘Sensei’—and they become friends over frequent, sporadic meetings, which then develops into an awkward sort of love. It’s very sweet, and very differently styled when you compare it to Western writing—some chapters, short as they are, read like poetry, with a sort of sense of rhythm you don’t get very often in books; they felt like long, flowing haikus, and I liked that about it. Another thing about the styling is that it was very abrupt, especially the ending, but the random jolts of plot development were there throughout. It felt very weird, but at the same time the writing had a smooth, dreamlike quality with phrases like “the moon was once again enveloped in haze” to end chapters.

The thing I didn’t enjoy was the lack of plot – nothing much happened apart from what it stated on the blurb, and it felt a bit like rambling at times, as if certain bits—especially those involving characters apart from Tsukiko and Sensei—were just ‘padding’, filler text to space scenes apart.

Overall, though, it was fairly enjoyable, maybe not my favorite style of prose but nice nevertheless. Age-wise, it was a bit of an anyone-and-everyone book, as there isn’t a specific age I’d recommend reading it at.

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The Death Cure: James Dashner

The Death Cure “WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test. What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say. Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.” ~blurb of “the death cure”

This is the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy. It was good—even heartbreaking at certain points—but for the final book in the series, it just felt a little ambiguous? It was a great read, don’t get me wrong, just as fast paced and thrilling as the first two, but I expected a few more questions to be answered—the first two were action—packed and spent very little time explaining details, and as Thomas has no memory when he arrives in the Glade, right at the beginning, this meant I was hoping for things to get a little less murky. Things continued moving fast, which is good for not dragging the book out, but not so great if you’ve left a lot of things unanswered. On the other hand, I would’ve read it no matter what, especially since the first two books were so fantastic, so if you’ve already read Maze Runner and Scorch Trials just go ahead and read the last one, too—but don’t expect too much. It’s enjoyable, but not as wonderful as it could’ve been.

*spoilers from here on* Both my favourite and my most hated part would have to be Newt’s death. I hated it, of course I hated it, it was the death of a beloved character and it broke my heart, but it was written heart-wrenchingly and it was by far the best-written part of the book. By the end of the series, I really disliked Thomas. I’m not sure why, but the general impression you get from his character is a little bit much. The dream flashbacks felt unnecessary…they served no point but to reinforce that Thomas’ parents loved him, but unless they were going to reveal that Chancellor Paige was Thomas’ mother, or something, there really wasn’t any point to these flashbacks. Also—the whole idea of the “blueprint” seemed a little far-fetched with the desperation WICKED acted with by the end. The Glade was plausible, totally believable, actually, and the Scorch was fine, too, but everything that happened after seemed too weird to be real, even in Thomas’ world. (And maybe this is just me, but I really wanted Thomas to get his memories back, because again, the sheer ambiguity of the book annoyed me a little bit. I suppose that’s the point, to make us feel as blank as the characters, but when it did it just seemed irritating that he refused to get them back.) *end spoilers*

The amount I’ve criticized this book probably makes it feel like you shouldn’t even bother reading it. Not the case—I’m just being picky. If you haven’t started the series yet, you should, simply for the fantastic first two books. If you’ve already read the first two—again, you should read this one. It’s not the conclusion I would’ve gone for, but it’s a pretty decent conclusion nonetheless.

 

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Since you’ve been gone by Morgan Matson

“Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.”

This book is a nice, easy summer read. I got through it in a few hours – though maybe I’m just a little bit obsessive – and it wasn’t particularly challenging. It was a sweet book, not as annoyingly girly as a lot of other ones I read over the summer. One thing I have to say is that it’s a little bit obvious – it was very clear right from the blurb what was going to happen, as nothing aside from what the blurb details actually happens.

We don’t actually encounter Sloane until near the end of the book, so we mainly get to know her through a series of flashbacks. Emily has turned Sloane into some kind of perfect girl in the earlier flashbacks, and I was all prepared for the moment at the end where we realise just how evil and manipulative Sloane really is, but it didn’t come, which was a pleasant surprise. Sloane does become a little more human as the book goes on, though, which was nice. The characters were easy to relate to and the book was generally easy to get lost in.

It was aimed at teens – teen girls in particular, which is pretty clear from the front cover. I didn’t like Frank very much, I’ve got to say – he was ordinary. (But then again, I prefer characters like Jace or Tobias, so I’m biased.) But the sheer fact that he wasn’t extraordinary in any way – no magic powers, no dark past – made him and Emily far easier to relate to. The whole “I’ve got a girlfriend, we’ve been happy together for years and years” thing seemed a bit cliched to me, but then I’m picky like that.

One thing I adored was Emily’s family. The whole idea of “Living Room Theatre” made me laugh and every scene including her family was incredibly fun.

Overall – it’s one of those things that you’ll read when bored over the summer, enjoy it more than you anticipated, and then forget about the next month because it’s nothing special. It’s a good book if you’re looking for a light read, though, and the characters are pretty relatable.

 

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

“When the lift cranks open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone – an army of boys welcomes him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a terrible maze. The Gladers have no idea why they’re there, or what’s happening to the world outside. And following the arrival of a girl with a message, they must find a way out – or die.”
First off, this book is fantastic, and as the movie is coming out later this year I recommend reading it as soon as possible. It’s about this boy, Thomas, and he wakes up with no memory – he doesn’t even remember his last name, or how old he is. There are all of these boys trapped in the middle of a maze, and the walls move around every night, repeating themselves every month or so. Every evening, the walls close, and it’s practically suicide to stay out at night – there are terrible creatures called Grievers that roam the Maze after dark.

It began around two years ago, and a new boy would arrive every month – but the day after Thomas arrives, a girl called Teresa turns up, saying she’s triggered the Ending. Supplies stop coming and the sun seems to vanish, and they need to solve the maze or they’ll all die – with no supplies and no sun for crops to grow, there’s no chance of survival anymore.

I read this based off a really enthusiastic recommendation. I wasn’t expecting much – basically, I heard some fans talking to a friend of mine. My friend was saying she was still on the first book after over a month because she found it too slow. I’d seen the book around bookstores, and I didn’t have much to read, so I gave it a try. I found the first half slow, but then the book really picked up and I found myself unable to put it back down. The characters are very human, with flaws and good points, so they were pretty relatable. Chapters were varied in length, all ending on a dramatic point, which was effective – you couldn’t stop reading.

The series is a trilogy. The next two books are The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, as well as a prequel, The Kill Order. You don’t have to have read The Maze Runner before you read Kill Order,and vice versa, although I think reading Kill Order kind of kills the suspense if you read it first – it gives away a lot. Age…well, I’d say you could read it at the age of eleven but you could also read it at the age of fourteen and you’d enjoy it either way, so the age doesn’t really matter – the book’s completely clean, which is a pleasant contrast to most teenage books you’ll find. Definitely recommend this!

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Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

“When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray arrives in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural fold stalk the gaslit streets. Drawn ever deeper into their world, she finds herself fascinated by – and torn between – two best friends and quickly realizes that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.”

This is the first in Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, which are basically prequels to Mortal Instruments. Tessa arrives in London from New York to stay with her brother, Nate, after her aunt – her only guardian – passes away. When she arrives, however, she meets the sinister Dark Sisters who insist they have been sent by her brother; eventually, it turns out that they have some other ideas. They keep her prisoner and she learns that she has the ability to turn into anyone and access their memories as soon as she touches something that belongs to them – and this ability makes her one of the most hunted people in Downworld London, a place where vampires, warlocks and other creatures roam – as well as Shadowhunters, whom she eventually seeks refuge with.

 I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I enjoyed City of Bones, sadly, because it was far too similar to Mortal Instruments – and I know people who dislike Mortal Instruments because of the similarity to Infernal Devices, depending on which series they read first. The Shadowhunters, Will and Jem, seemed irritatingly familiar throughout the book – although I adored Will. Essentially, this is because Will is a Jace who looks like Alec and Jem is an Alec who looks like Jace. (Alec and Jace being characters from Mortal Instruments.) There’s also another love triangle, as in Clare’s previous books – so essentially, the book failed to get me hooked. Clare’s writing is pretty good, but the lack of new ideas meant I didn’t really enjoy the book.

That said, though, I probably would’ve enjoyed the books more if I hadn’t read Mortal Instruments first. Overall, though, I recommend reading Mortal Instruments over these – I enjoyed those more.

The book’s aimed at teens – probably twelve-ish and above, really. It doesn’t matter much with these books. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t fantastic, either.

 

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The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Warning: contains spoilers

“Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him — must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world changed in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series.”

Heavenly Fire is the sixth and final installment in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. I didn’t particularly enjoy the series – I liked them, sure, but they weren’t fantastic. If you’ve seen a copy of Heavenly Fire, you’ll know the book resembles a brick in terms of thickness – it’s really long.

In Heavenly Fire, Clary, Jace and the others are trying to stop Clary’s brother, Sebastian, from taking over the world and destroying Shadowhunters. The Heavenly Fire in Jace’s veins seems to be the only way to stop Sebastian, but Jace doesn’t know how to use it. Things are getting dark – Sebastian is attacking institutes and Turning Shadowhunters. Sebastian and the Seelie Queen are working together. So Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec and Isabelle go to the demon realm to rescue Jocelyn, Luke, Raphael, and Magnus and defeat Sebastian. Do they succeed? Well, pretty much, yes.

The book starts off introducing the characters of Clare’s next series, The Dark Artifices, and quite a lot of the book was spent setting the stage for those books. I found those parts particularly boring, as I doubt I’ll read TDA when they come out, and I found myself skimming those parts to get to the good bits. There was also quite a lot of reference to the prequel series, The Infernal Devices, and as I hadn’t read those yet I found myself wondering who on earth Tessa Gray was and how Brother Zachariah was connected to her – and why this whole idea was being introduced so late. I’ve now read the first of The Infernal Devices, which is called Clockwork Angel, and I think I’ve got an idea of what was going on, but I think for people who haven’t read TID it will be quite confusing. It was for me, anyway.

As for the bits about the TMI characters we all know pretty well – they were enjoyable. Mostly. There were slow bits, as in every book, and there were the nice bits. Starting the book, I think everyone knew everything was going to turn out okay – evil would be defeated, some people would die, but everything would be fine.

I have to say I loved the way Sebastian died. It was lovely how the Heavenly Fire wiped out the demon in him and for a little while, he was the brother Clary could’ve had if Valentine hadn’t done what he did. His death was wonderfully sad. The other part I really liked was when Simon had his memory wiped. (I adore sad endings.) I do think, though, that it felt too neat to bring Simon back – I feel like Clary was coping and that it was a little bit too forced, like Clare sat down and thought, “right, how can I bring Simon back?” rather than just leaving it how it was. I felt like it was a war, so realistically at least one of the group of main characters should’ve died: one from Clary, Jace, Alec, Isabelle, Magnus, Luke, Jocelyn. I know Jordan did die, but it felt too rushed for me.

Overall, it had it’s moments, but I felt too much time was spent on Infernal Devices and Dark Artifices – it relied heavily on them instead of spending time on the Mortal Instruments characters, which meant the book moved sluggishly. A good book overall, though. It’s aimed at teenagers, probably around twelve or thirteen.

 

 

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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

“Clary Fray is seeing things: vampires in Brooklyn and werewolves in Manhattan. Irresistibly drawn to the Shadowhunters, a secret group of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons, Clary encounters the dark side of New York City – and the dangers of forbidden love.”

I first saw the blurb and immediately wrote this off as another Twilight-type thing – werewolves, vampires, forbidden love, blah, blah. It sounded ridiculously boring and since I didn’t particularly like Twilight, I put reading this off for a very long time. But I read it anyway, and it was better than I expected.

The main character is called Clary Fray, and to be honest, she was what I liked the least about this book – well, the entire series, actually. She’s pretty dull and doesn’t have much of a personality, but if you overlook that, it’s a pretty good book. The book starts when Clary and her best friend, Simon, are at a club where Clary witnesses the murder of a demon – and that’s where you meet the Shadowhunters: Jace, Alec, and Isabelle. The body vanishes seconds later, and it’s pretty difficult to call the police when there’s no body to show and it turns out that Clary is the only one who can see the murderers at all. This is Clary’s first introduction to the world of Shadowhunters: warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Covered in bizarre tattoos and holding strange weapons, it becomes clear pretty fast that they aren’t entirely normal. Within 24 hours, it’s evident that Clary is part of this world – otherwise, what would demons want with Clary’s mother, Jocelyn? Turns out Jocelyn was also a Shadowhunter and has passed the ability down to Clary.

It’s gripping, not particularly fantastic but one of those books you can’t seem to stop reading.

Jace keeps popping up in the subsequent chapters and it becomes pretty obvious that he’s going to be Clary’s love interest in the series. In this book, I quite liked him: he was snarky and sarcastic and generally an awesome character, looking like an angel and acting like a jerk. We don’t learn much about Alec until later books, except that he seems to despise Clary with a passion. And then there’s Isabelle: she’s pretty, wears dresses and heels at ridiculously inappropriate times, is an amazing fighter, and is horribly shallow, which is what put me off. In general, though, the book is pretty good, with some interesting characters to balance out the bland ones – I’d say it was for roughly 13/14 year olds, but I think you could read it at an older age and still enjoy it, even though it’s quite an easy read.

As you probably know, there’s a movie for City of Bones – it’s not particularly good. I found it quite dull – I mean, it had its moments, but I spent most of the film readingCity of Ashes (the next one) and looking up every ten minutes or so to see what was going on. The casting wasn’t particularly fantastic and it wasn’t exactly what you would call captivating, though I know a lot of people who loved it – but even more who were put off reading the rest of the books due to the film’s general dullness. The book was better by far and I’d definitely recommend it.

 

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