“How does the world end? It ends in fire.” // Review of “Burn” by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn
Author:
 Patrick Ness
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/05/20 – 03/06/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

the cover of the Patrick Ness novel Burn. It has a black background and the shape of a dragon emerges from flames at the bottom.

It’s not going to be easy to review this book in a way that does it justice. I do feel that it’s a story that only Patrick Ness could write. It has so many different components and could have been a huge mess but somehow he pulls it off.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much. Suffice to say this book is about a girl called Sarah, whose father has hired a dragon to work their farm in late 1957. The Cold War is going on, Sputnik is about to be launched, and an assassin is headed to their small town…

This isn’t some fast-paced action adventure like the Chaos Walking trilogy. If you want to compare to Ness’ other books, I think it’s much closer to A Monster Call. There’s lots of introspection and it’s very philosophical and it builds slowly to a climax rather than racing there.

It’s beautifully written because of course it is, it’s by Patrick Ness. I didn’t really feel any connection to the characters but I was drawn into this world and I didn’t mind that too much because the prose was engaging.

If you like dragons in your fantasy, I would definitely recommend this one. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s definitely worth giving a chance.

Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

Title: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: YA/sci-fi
Date Read:
07/01/2016 – 09/01/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

morethanthis This is a hugely philosophical book in the guise of YA sci-fi. If you have a picky brain, you will need to actively hand-wave some of the science, but I think it’s worth it for the ideas it brings up and makes you think about.

In the book’s prologue, we get a very graphic description of a boy drowning. I actually read this much of the book on my Kindle last year, but it was immediately after finishing Ness’ Chaos Walking series, and I realised very quickly I needed a break from the emotional trauma he had just put me through and was likely to again. I got the hardcover from the library this year and skipped reading the prologue again; I still had some rather vivid images in my head.

The boy dies, and then he wakes up again, covered in strange bandages, in front of a home he hasn’t lived in in years. And the place is deserted. As he tries to figure out what is going on, he meets Tomasz, a Polish boy who claims he was struck by lightning, and Regine, who supposedly fell down the stairs. We gradually learn about all three characters, and discover that even though it’s only the three of them in a vast, empty world, there are plenty of secrets they are hiding from each other. The secrets come out, though, as they try to figure out their situation.

As you can see, I’m trying to be pretty vague here, because the characters and the plot are all tied up together really well and this book will lose all impact if you are spoiled for it. The plot is definitely interested, though there was one repeat-event that was on par with Aaron showing up at the end of every chapter in The Knife of Never Letting Go. I had a bit of warning about that from some of the reviews I’d read, so I quickly learned not to assume anything was done and dusted.

The three primary characters are all diverse and unique. Tomasz and Regine both have walls that they’ve put up but as they come down, you realise how much they’ve been through. The three main characters all had very different traumas that they had been through, and Ness presents them all realistically.

The strongest part of this book is the philosophical questions it raises. What is reality? How do we know we’re not dreaming all the time? And does it really matter either way? If there was a way to exorcise the horrible parts of your life, would you? These questions aren’t strictly answered, but they are explored very well.

Overall, while this book isn’t as good as the Chaos Walking series or A Monster Calls, I think Patrick Ness fans should definitely still check it out.

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Contemporary YA (with a smattering of urban fantasy)
Date Read: 01/12/2015 – 03/12/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

restofuscoverI imagine this book would be a marketer’s nightmare. It’s definitely got magic and zombies and Immortals running around. But they’re running around in the background. This book is about the kids that don’t have to fight magic and zombies and Immortals, and have much more every day concerns like passing their finals. But! A reader would need to be familiar with the fantasy tropes Patrick Ness is referencing in order to get a lot of the humour. So it’s a tricky one to put in a box. I did think it was quite entertaining, though.

I’m not sure that paragraph will make sense to everyone, so allow me to explain a bit more. Mikey, his sister Mel, and their friends Henna and Jared (and possibly some others whose names I have forgotten by the time I got around to this review) are the background kids in a town where weird things occasionally happen. They’re not the Chosen Ones, who have to fight the monsters, though every now and then they are attacked by zombie deer or witness a tall tower of blue light coming from the woods. They’re the other students at Sunnydale High School, just getting on with their lives while Buffy fights the vampires. Each chapter opens with a summary of what the “Indie Kids” are doing, and it slowly starts to all line up with what the regular kids are doing, too.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this book. I’d only just started reading Patrick Ness’ work, and knew that a number of his fans had been disappointed by this one. At first, it did seem to be a fairly standard YA contemporary, closer to Fangirl than Cinnamon Girl in terms of how much I would enjoy it. However, Patrick Ness soon proves that even his “regular” kids are engaging and just because they’re not fighting literal monsters, doesn’t mean they don’t have their own battles to fight. The book deals with themes of growing up, family and friends, and mental illness, all woven into the plot without being heavy-handed about it. I will admit that I think the reason this book got four stars from me was because of how well represented Mikey’s anxiety was, and how much it hit close to home for me. Patrick Ness also once again created character relationships that I had never (or rarely) seen before in YA. The friendship between Jared and Mikey is basically platonic (they’ve fooled around a little bit, but Mikey essentially identifies as straight), but they have a very tactile relationship. Most YA authors would shy away from two boys touching each other and being very sensitive around each other, unless they were specifically depicting a gay relationship. It was nice to see someone explore the fact that people can have bonds like that without being romantically linked.

Overall I can see why fans of Patrick Ness’ other works would be disappointed by this one, but for me the characters were well-drawn enough to get a higher rating. Now onto more Patrick Ness’s books! (I promise soon I’ll be finished all his books and then I’ll shut up about him 😀 )

Book Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Title: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3)
Author: Patrick Ness
Audio Read By: Humphrey Bower
Genre: YA/dystopian
Date Read: 01/12/2015 – 07/12/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

monsterscoverTo quote Todd Hewitt, one of this series’ protagonists, stupid effing book. I was honestly a bit of an emotional wreck when I got to the end of it, though I had to put on a brave face and go and spend three hours on the reference desk at the library where I work immediately after.

Monsters of Men is the third and final installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy, and it continues to raise questions about freedom, war, love, race, colonisation and a whole host of other issues. Once again, we have Todd and Viola’s alternating viewpoints, along with a third, The Return, one of the indigenous Spackle, who we met as 1017 in Book 2. War between the Spackle and the settlers has once again begun, and Todd and Viola are not just caught between humans and Spackle, but between the two human factions as well. Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle continue to clash, meanwhile Todd never knows exactly where he and the Mayor stand, and Viola struggles with some bad decisions she that she makes. There are no cut-and-dry right and wrong answers in this book (the whole series, really), something Patrick Ness portrays beautifully. Even the Mayor, as the most obvious antagonist, makes good points about the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made in war.

I did sometimes find this book getting even more repetitive than The Ask and the Answer. The characters don’t move around much, so the plot is quite dialogue-driven, and often they have the same conversations over and over again. Todd and Viola’s character development once again was the highlight, though they do spend a lot of time pining after each other. The Mayor and Mistress Coyle are both fascinating characters, both pulling stunts I never expected, even from them, in their determination to be the ones who make peace with the Spackle. I wasn’t as invested in The Return’s POV, because I hadn’t just spent two books getting attached to him, but I understood Ness’ reasons for including him in the narrative. And once again, every side character feels completely fully formed.

Patrick Ness does not wrap the series up in a nice package with a bow, but it does end on a hopeful enough note to be satisfying. Well. I say “satisfying”. I won’t lie, being at work was the only thing that stopped me from becoming a sobbing wreck. Even hours later, I was still a bit teary, and I was still thinking about the book days later. But this is not the sort of series that would work with an entirely happy, everything-is-fixed-and-everything-is-fine-now ending. While Ness provides a bit more closure for those who want it in his short story, Snowscape (one of three short stories that take place at various points in the series’ continuity), the ending will certainly ensure that this book sticks in your head well after you read the final page.

Once again, Humphrey Bower’s narration excelled at bringing these various factions to life. Each character had their own voice, and some clever sound engineering gave the Noise (and the visual “speech” of the Spackle) an echo-y, distant floating feeling. The entire final section from Todd’s POV is delivered in this style, except for the very final line, which is clear and strong against a completely silent background. I’ve no doubt that his delivery is partially to blame for it getting to me so much.

Book Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness
Audio Read By: Humphrey Bower
Genre: YA dystopian
Date Read: 26/11/2015 – 02/12/2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

askanswercover After the enormous cliffhanger that The Knife of Never Letting Go ended on, I was relieved that I was able to dive straight into the second book. Not that Patrick Ness grants his readers any reprieve; he throws us straight back in the deep end. There is a slew of new characters for us to get to know and new conflicts for them to deal with. While it’s quite different to The Knife of Never Letting Go, it was still an intense ride.

Todd and Viola have been separated and neither knows if the other is alive. They both have to trust the word of Mayor Prentiss, who has now declared himself President of New World. While he seems sincere in his intentions to create a new and better society, there are plenty of people who do not want to see him in charge when the new settlers arrive. While Todd is put to work taking care of the remnant Spackle population in Haven/New Prentisstown, Viola begins training as a healer under the formidable Mistress Coyle, who we later learn was a member of a powerful faction of women called The Answer during the first Spackle War. In retaliation to a new iteration of the Answer, Mayor Prentiss sets up the Office of the Ask to interrogate those suspected of terrorist attacks. People continue to get hurt on both sides, and neither Todd nor Viola know who to trust, but this is just the beginning; a bigger war is yet to come to New Prentisstown.

As with the first book, this one is quite long, and seems to repeat itself a lot. Todd and Viola are not running for their lives this time, instead developing daily routines that go on for the several weeks the book spans. Todd and Viola spend the majority of the book separated from one another, and Mayor Prentiss successfully plants seeds of doubt in both their minds about how trustworthy the other is. We get Viola’s point-of-view as well, and get to see both sides of the war for New World as it unfolds. To use a term so beloved by Tumblr users, a lot of the “feels” in this book came from knowing as a reader that their love for and loyalty to each other is still as strong as ever, but watching them struggle with not knowing for certain. Even when they were separated, their relationship is still one of the best I’ve read for a long time.

Because there was less of a chase going on in this book, and more time spent with other human beings, the side characters all felt like real characters, too. Once again, Patrick Ness managed to create characters that I found really annoying at first, and then made me love them (… and then kill them off, in one particular case, damn him). Mayor Prentiss is a much more impressive villain than Preacher Aaron was in the previous book (though I did have the issue of him looking like Governor Ratfcliffe from Disney’s Pocahontas in my head), and Mistress Coyle provides a good foil for him, though you can never be sure whether you trust her anymore than you trust him.

This book also ended on a huge cliffhanger, just when it looked like everything was sort of maybe going okay (even though you knew it wouldn’t, because there was still another 500-page book to read). I’d recommend having all three lined up and ready to go, even if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy them. Better to have them handy and end up not wanting to read them, then devouring the first ones and then flailing while you struggle to get hold of the sequels.

 

 

#WWW Wednesday – 16 December 2015

Happy hump day! I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is my last week of work before the holidays! And tomorrow, we have our branch Christmas party, which will take up half the day. And on Friday, I’ll be home in the morning waiting for the repairman to come and look at my dishwasher and hopefully fix it, so I’ll only be working half a day Friday as well. So I’ve really only got the equivalent of one day left. Wheeee! I’m really looking forward to the time off. I was so busy for the last week or so that I actually ended up running myself down and getting sick, so I had yesterday at home to recover. I spent it mostly asleep. It was good.

First off today, we have WWW Wednesday, a weekly blog hop hosted by Sam over at A World of Words, in which we answer three questions about the books we’ve been reading this week. Click the link to share your own post.

wwwwednesday

  • What are you currently reading?

The Crash of Hennington by Patrick Ness. After all the raving I’ve been doing about him the last few weeks, you’d not be surprised that I don’t want to say anything bad about his work, but this is his first novel… and it kind of shows. I can see all the things that will eventually become his trademarks, but he just hasn’t hit the right mark with it all yet. One of the POV characters is a rhinoceros. And I have no clue about the setting? Having said all that, I’m only about 15% of the way in, so maybe it’ll get better.

Also, The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis. I’m listening to the audio book read by Kenneth Branagh, whom I love to make fun of, but secretly kind of really love? I figured I’d maybe finally get around to the Narnia books if I listened to them. This one is only 4 hours long and I really should have finished it by now, by I haven’t put it on my phone yet, so I’ve only been listening to it in the car so far. And I kind of misplaced the discs after listening to it on Friday.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I didn’t actually finish anything this week, though I did eventually go ahead and DNF The Invisible Library. It just wasn’t doing it for me. I’m going to have to track down some of the other magical library books I have on my TBR.

Two reviews also went up this week, for A Monster Calls and The Knife of Never Letting Go, both by Patrick Ness.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m fairly sure More Than This will be available for me tomorrow, so I’ll probably get straight onto listening to that (maybe try to finish Magician’s Nephew first), then The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror will probably be my driving home audio next week.

I was going to do a WIPpet Wednesday this week, too, except I’ve got to this point in the post and I’m completely exhausted (and it’s only 8:30pm; I’m such an old person). I have a feeling it’s going to be an early night tonight. I can’t wait for the holidays.

I’ll catch up with you guys soon. 🙂

~ Emily

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Audio Read By: Humphrey Bower
Genre: YA/dystopian
Date Read: 20/11/2015 – 25/11/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

knifecoverI had this book on my GoodReads TBR for ages, then took it off during a clean-up (every now and then I go through it and weed out the books I’m no longer interested in). However, after listening to A Monster Calls (see yesterday’s review), I decided to give the audio version of this a ago as well.

Wow. It was intense. And difficult to describe, but I’ll give it a go.

Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, one of the settlements on New World, a place where everyone can hear the thoughts of men, thanks to the Noise Germ. As far as Todd knows, the Noise Germ also killed all the female settlers, and Prentisstown is home to just 147 men (my number may be wrong, but it was around there somewhere). But just a month before his 13th birthday, Todd hears a gap in the Noise, which turns out to be a girl named Viola Eade, and this kickstarts a chain of events that lead to him having to run away from Prentisstown, an army hot on his heels.

Todd and Viola are probably up there with my favourite characters ever. They’re both stubborn, and somewhat fixed in their ways, but damn are they loyal to one another. Todd is basically illiterate (he can recognise letters, but putting them together to read words on a page is incredibly difficult), and a simple farm boy; for various reasons that I won’t spoil here, Viola has a much better education, and is also rather tech-savvy (there wasn’t much in the way of technology in Prentisstown), but is in a very unfamiliar place and dealing with a lot of awful things in a short space of time. Due to these circumstances, she and Todd sometimes clash, particularly early on, but they’ve only got each other. They save each other’s lives more than once, developing an incredible bond, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a YA series before.

The pace is very fast, and there is a lot of action. Patrick Ness does not hold back – there is a lot of violence and it is vividly described. Also, if violence towards animals will bother you – you should probably skip this one. I won’t say any more, but you should bear that in mind. The book is quite long, and sometimes repetitive, but for the most part, it held my interest entirely. I did find the villain, Aaron, a little bit comical. He tracks Todd and Viola doggedly, and always seems to be screaming “Toodddd Hewwwwitttt!” and bearing more injuries than any normal person could actually withstand without dying. Many chapters end with “Oh, no, Aaron has appeared again!” to the point where I was calling it beforehand and rolling my eyes when he made another appearance.

While the cover image I’ve got up there is for the Candlewick audio, I actually listened to the Bolinda version read by Australian actor/voice artist Humphrey Bower. He used a working class English accent that was perfect for Todd and the other inhabitants of Prentisstown. I have learned since finishing the book that in the printed version, many of the words are spelled phonetically (which makes sense with Todd’s illiteracy), the Noise is depicted in different fonts, and there are often pages with only a few words per line, or only a few sentences per page (which I guess is probably a good visual representation of the Noise). When I first heard about this, I thought it might have put me off, but I have since decided I’m going to check out the print versions as well. It sounds just as unique as the rest of the book.

Come back next Friday/Saturday for my reviews of The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, the second and third books in the trilogy.

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (from an idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Audio Read by: Jason Isaacs
Genre: YA/fantasy
Date Read: 13/11/2015 – 15/11/2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

monstercallscoverThis is a really gorgeous book. Its story is simple, and it is simply told, but that’s what makes it so good. I listened to the audio book, so I missed out on the by-all-accounts beautiful illustrations, but I got Jason Isaacs as a narrator, so I feel that’s a pretty decent trade off.

Conor is thirteen years old, and life is not that great. His mother has terminal cancer, his father has gone to live in America with a new wife and baby, he is bullied at school and he has to live with interminable grandmother. Oh, and he’s plagued every single night by the same terrible nightmare. And then, the Monster shows up. It tells Conor three tales and in exchange expects one from him – the Truth.

Because I’m masochistic and sometimes read negative reviews of books I really liked, I saw some reviews that say they didn’t think Conor was a realistic character, or that he sent a bad message to kids dealing with a family member with cancer. I disagree. People deal with awful situations in different ways, and Conor has a lot of anger bottled up inside him. He doesn’t necessarily deal with it in healthy ways, but I don’t think that makes him unrealistic. I also don’t think Patrick Ness set out to show us a perfect role model.

Though it was pretty easy to guess most of the book’s trajectory, I was still crying when I reached the end.

Jason Isaac’s narration of the audio version was fantastic. He somehow managed to cover all the extremes – 13-year-old Conor, who is angry and afraid, his gradually weaker mother, his brusque grandmother. He even managed a weird hybrid British-American accent for Conor’s father. But regardless of what format you choose, you should definitely read this book!

#WWW Wednesday – 09 December, 2015

Welcome to WWW Wednesday, a weekly blog hop hosted by Sam over at A World of Words, in which we answer three questions about the books we’ve been reading this week. Click the link to share your own post.
wwwwednesday

  • What are you currently reading?

Nothing, really, because everything is Todd and Viola and everything hurts. (See next question)

Well, I have started The Invisible Library, but it’s not grabbing me, and I’m finding things to do other than read it. It has an awesome concept, but the writing is just dull and not engaging. While I technically started this before I finished Chaos Walking, it does basically have the job of being the book I read after reading Chaos Walking, so… it already had a difficult job. And it’s not doing it very well.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I finished Monsters of Men, the third in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy yesterday. As Todd would say, stupid effing book. I won’t say much, because then I’ll probably start crying again. God. Talk about emotional trauma. As you know because I’ve talked about it in the last several WWW Wednesday posts, I was listening to the audio books of this series, but I’ve decided I’m going to read the print versions as well. In a while. Need to recover first.

I also read the three Chaos Walking short stories: The New World, which is a prequel and follows Viola through classes on the convoy through to when her spaceship crashes and her parents die; The Wide, Wide Sea, which focused on the first settlers in the ocean settlement of Horizon, where Mistress Coyle was originally the Mayor; and Snowscape, which was set after Monsters of Men and made me well up all over again due to a revelation in the final paragraph.

This is the kind of series that sort of makes me want to start writing fan fiction again, but where would I even start?

I did start More Than This, also by Patrick Ness, and realised by the end of the prologue that I need to read something lighter before I go back to his work. I’ve got the audio book reserved and it will apparently be available on December 17. I am driving up to my parents’ place for Christmas on the 22nd, so that might be when I get to it.

Two book reviews went up this week, too. The Golem and the Djinni (which I loved) and The Haunting of Hill House (which was okay). This Friday my slew of Patrick Ness reviews begins with A Monster Calls, followed by the three Chaos Walking books. I’m going to go on a review hiatus, since Christmas and New Years both fall on Fridays and my review days are Fridays and Saturdays, but I’ll be back with more in the new year.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I don’t knoooooooow. I was thinking about working my way through my GoodReads TBR list from earliest-added book to most recent, so maybe I’ll still do that. Puppet Parade has been on my list since July 15, 2012. I should also actually read some of the Christmas stories I’ve got on my holiday reading list. I don’t know.

Anyhoodle, I’ll stop taking up your time with my angst about fictional characters, and leave you to your regularly scheduled Wednesday. Toodles!

~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – 02 December, 2015

No, but really, how is it December already? I feel like this is all I keep saying lately, but I seriously don’t know where the time is going.

I have decided that I’m going to take another break from WIPpet Wednesday, since a) I’m planning at the moment and b) I’m being so completely dismal at visiting other people’s blogs, and I’m just going to stick with WWW Wednesday until the new year probably. WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam over at A World of Words. You can join in over there by leaving a link to your own WWW Wednesday on today’s post. All you need to do is answer the three questions.

  • What are you currently reading?

I’m listening to Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, which is the third in the Chaos Walking trilogy. I’m going to be at a serious loss when I finish this series.

I’ve actually ordered the books for my nephew for Christmas, mainly because I know he liked the Hunger Games, so I’m hoping that means he likes dystopian YA in general? (I’m so out of touch with 17-year-old male video gamers). And also, I’m tired of always just giving him gift vouchers to the local games store. And also, it sounds like that’s what my mum is giving him this year, so I’m glad I thought of something else.

wwwwednesday

I’m also reading the print copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, also by Patrick Ness. I actually started the audio of it before The Knife of Never Letter Go, but I wasn’t getting into it as much. I’m liking it much better in print. It’s also a very quick read, and a clever idea. Because of the audio for Chaos Walking, though, I am hearing this narrator in Todd’s voice.

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I finished listening to The Ask and the Answer, the second Chaos Walking book, just this afternoon. It was very long and sometimes (often) repetitive, but there was amazing character development. Todd and Viola are two of my favourite characters in any of the books I’ve read this year. As I said in my GoodReads review, I want to take them both and wrap them in warm blankets and put them somewhere safe. And probably get them a therapist each.

I also finished The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth last week. It was all right. I enjoyed it but I was never especially invested. I wish I had known before reading the author’s note at the end that a lot of the characters were real historical figures because I think that would have really added something.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

MOAR PATRICK NESS! Most likely. Though it seems all that’s left is the Chaos Walking short stories, The Crane Wife and More Than This. And the Doctor Who short story he wrote for the 5oth Anniversary. I only read about half of them at the time so I may or may not have already read it. My LiveJournal friends did give me some recommendations for Christmas reading, so I’ll probably track a few of those down as well.