book blogger YA

Review: The Next Together

The Next Together
The Next Together by Lauren James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to warn you now: I have a lot of feelings about The Next Together. I’ve spent the entire weekend talking about it (and for half of that I was abroad, alone).

First off, the cover. I’m not a huge, huge fan, but I think it works. It’s a really good advertisement for the book – it’s original, interesting and not-your-typical-romance novel.

The Next Together follows the story of Katherine and Matthew, a couple who are destined to be together but haven’t quite made it there yet. They have been reincarnated through the ages, first as an aristocrat and a servant in 1745 who fall in love whilst preparing for a siege on Carlisle by the Scottish, then as a war correspondent for The Times (Matthew) and his assistant (Katherine, this time in drag). We then follow them in 2019 as research scientists through a series of emails, letters and notes on the fridge, and in 2039, as chemistry students at the University of Nottingham.

I really liked the way this book is set out – it flits between the time-streams every couple of pages, resulting in short chapters and even shorter sub-chapters. This made the book really easy to read, and I zoomed through it in a couple of days.

The Next Together is a really original book for the YA market both in plot and format – the emails and newspaper entries reminded me a lot of Illuminae, but I felt that this way of conveying information was much more successful here (because there was a lot less of it, and the information was a lot more interesting). I also really appreciated that science was featured in the book – because I’m a scientist – and it was really clever to combine both a historical novel and a futuristic sci-fi novel into one.

So why isn’t this book getting 5 stars?

  1. I didn’t really click with the characters. This may just be me. I think an issue with combining four novels into one, is that each character doesn’t get enough screen-time. Some of the romances felt rushed, very sudden and unexpected, and I didn’t quite feel a slow build-up of feelings over time that would have been more believable. Would it really be feasible to devote enough screen-time to each character? No, not really, unless you want a 1600-page book.
  2. The ending. Near the end, the plot gets very confusing (there’s time travel involved) and – this is the crucial bit for me – there’s no real resolution. There’s a hint at a resolution. I was hoping for something really clever, maybe even a bit scientific – I really, really wanted a satisfying ending. The ending feels very rushed, but I will say this – I didn’t see the plot twist coming, and although it feels a little out of place, it does make sense.

I would have rated this book a lot higher if it had been a stand-alone novel – it felt like a stand-alone, and then it was left on a cliff-hanger. I want more stand-alone novels in YA – I don’t want to commit to reading an entire 13-book series every time I pick up a new book.

So would I recommend The Next Together? Yes, because I’m sure other people have clicked with this novel a lot better than I did. It’s original, funny and an easy-read – just expect to have to need to read the next book once you’ve finished.

View all my reviews

Annalise x

2016 (No-Spend) Classics Challenge!

classics

First things first, if you haven’t already, sign up to the 2016 Classics Challenge over at prettybooks – it’ll be loads of fun and definitely worth it!

The aim of the challenge is to read One Classic Per Month and then tweet/instagram/blog/vlog about it, answering these questions:

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
WHY I Chose to Read It
WHAT Makes It A Classic
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
WILL It Stay A Classic
WHO I’d Recommend It To

To make this challenge a little harder, I’m going to be only reading books 1. I already own, or 2. are available for free on Kindle. I’m also going to be prioritising books that have been loitering on my Goodreads TBR list for, oh, a few years or so.

Here are my choices (I think):

1Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (already owned)

daphnedumaurier_rebecca_first

Goodreads rating: 4.19

Publication Date: 1938

Goodreads Synopsis: “The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

2 – The Princess Bride by William Goldman (already owned)

the_princess_bride_28first_edition29

Goodreads rating: 4.24

Publication Date: 1973

Goodreads Synopsis: “What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?
What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

3 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

741px-prideandprejudicetitlepage

Goodreads Rating: 4.23

Publication Date: 1813

Goodreads Synopsis: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

4 – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (already owned)

cien_ac3b1os_de_soledad_28book_cover2c_196729

Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Publication Date: 1967

Goodreads Synopsis: One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement of a Nobel Prize winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

5 – Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

tess

Goodreads Rating: 3.73

Publication Year: 1891

Goodreads Synopsis: When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

6 – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

800px-houghton_ac85_b9345_911s_-_secret_garden2c_1911_-_cover

Goodreads Rating: 4.10

Publication Year: 1911

Goodreads Synopsis: What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty–unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.

7 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

jane_eyre_title_page

Goodreads Rating: 4.08

Publication Year: 1847

Goodreads Synopsis: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

8 – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

annakareninatitle

Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Publication Year: 1878

Goodreads Synopsis: Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.

9 – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

800px-north_and_south

Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Publication Year: 1854

Goodreads Synopsis: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

10 – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

440px-jekyll_and_hyde_title

Goodreads Rating: 3.78

Publication Date: 1886

Goodreads Synopsis: In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.

11 – The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

440px-lippincott_doriangray

Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Publication Date: 1890

Goodreads Synopsis: Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”

12 – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

litwomvols

Goodreads Rating: 4.o1

Publication Date: 1868

Goodreads Synopsis: Classic novel of 19th-century family life during and after the Civil War, in a household with four sisters. Alcott based the March family largely on her own real-life family.

So there are my choices for this 2016 Classics Challenge!

What books have you chosen? What do you think of my choices? Tweet me @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

Happy New Year!

Annalise x

 

Review: The Winner’s Curse

The Winner's Curse
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, the Winner’s Curse is another book I bought way back in July at YALC. It was a complete impulse buy, driven by the fact I’d just watched a panel with the book’s author, Marie Rutkoski, and I’d heard amazing things (but then again, YALC is just a huge festival of book recommendations). So I rushed on down from Olympia to Foyle’s Charing Cross and picked myself up a copy (along with Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours and some books about writing fiction) but I haven’t got round to reading it until now.

First off, the cover for this book is beautiful. The vast majority of current editions use the same photo (the girl in a big pink dress), with slightly different formatting. This is a cover I want, no, need, on my shelf, and the formatting inside of the book is also gorgeous – I’m a huge fan of the black pages at the beginning and ends of the book in my copy, and the whole book is sleek and stylish. Strangely enough though, this delayed me reading the book. Beautiful books on the outside do not always equal beautiful books on the inside (on this occasion, I am delighted to be wrong).

The Winner’s Curse is the story of Kestrel and Arin. Kestrel is the general’s daughter, a 17 year old faced with the decision to either join the military or get married. On a whim, she purchases Arin, a young slave of the race her father conquered 10 years before. As Kestrel warms to Arin, she starts to realise that her impulse buy may have serious consequences…

Marie’s prose is beautiful, and the world is built up beautifully. This book is both fantastical and historical, which I love – I love how Marie takes a historical world (here one with a strong military and the presence of slavery and rebellion – based on the Greeks and the Romans I believe) and really expands it, with strong women and lavish balls and societal gossip. Personally, I love how there is no clear ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – every character has motives, beliefs and a fleshed-out back story, and this really helps the reader empathise with all the characters in the novel – it’s rare for a novel (especially a YA novel) to engage me with so many characters at once – and not to spoil anything, but there isn’t a particular side that I’m rooting for (as both sides are fighting for what they believe in, which conflict).

The characters aren’t only believable and fleshed-out, they’re also different. Kestrel is intelligent and cunning (not traits that are always apparent in female YA characters), and the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is developed slowly and subtly throughout the novel. However, I do have one gripe – the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is a little strange – he’s a slave with a secret and he just doesn’t act like it. He talks back, he’s sassy, and he walks all over Kestrel when he really shouldn’t be in the position to do so.

If you’re going to read any YA, make it good YA. This is good YA – mainly because the writing itself is beautiful (don’t underestimate the power of good writing). It’s not another YA rehash – it’s original and interesting, with intelligent characters who are really tested through power shifts and political turmoil. The world-building is done well – it’s subtle and understandable – and something YA does really well is light fantasy – just enough that you’re aware this is a different world but with human, relevant and relatable situations, and it never feels like you’ve just been thrown in at the deep end of this completely different world.

If you’re looking for something a little different, with interesting, political themes, forbidden romance, intelligent characters and which is, most of all, written fantastically, look no further.

I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy this coming year (The Winner’s Crime is out now, and The Winner’s Kiss will be released this March).

How did you find the novel? Is there anything you want to see more of in the coming novels? Tweet me @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

Annalise x

View all my reviews