A Scary Vision of the Future: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

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“Special Circumstances”: The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now she’s been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.Image and Synopsis from Goodreads.

Woah Long Synopsis. Some minor spoilers further down, nothing too ruin-making though.

So I read Specials probably about a year after reading the first two books Uglies and Pretties and I couldn’t really remember where it left off. But true to form Westerfeld went straight into this book all guns blazing.

I loved that the book started right in the action with Tally and Shay back together again and now both Specials, the cruellest and most modified of them all, up to their usual tricks as if they were Crims again. As it all started coming back to me I remembered where Pretties left off, how terrifying the Specials were and how much Tally had not wanted to look at them, never mind be one.

I found Specials quite creepy (and riveting) in that way, as we go along with Tally on this journey knowing that her mind and body has been altered once again without her permission. She knows something is not quite right but she can’t grasp what. She’s superhuman and can do almost anything; can kill with her bare hands; she feels great and she thinks she looks great but the whole time we know that if she could just snap out of it she would see what they have done to her.

All three of the books in this series so far have been imaginative, fun reads that have obviously kept me coming back for more, but I definitely have some gripes. Tally for one. I found her pretty annoying in the first two books, always changing her mind, always doing the wrong thing-apologising-doing it again, and in Specials she’s even worse. To be fair, that’s the way she’s supposed to be as Specials, especially this new ‘breed’ called Cutters that Tally and Shay are part of are supposed to see themselves as superior to everyone else. Even the normal pretties, who have already been modified to be perfect beauties look hideous and weak to them.

Shay doesn’t get away without a slagging off either. I mean, one minute her and Tally are BFFs and then she’s telling her how self-centred she is. I mean, she is, but don’t pick and choose when to like her in that case. Maybe their relationship was supposed to demonstrate a true friendship. As in you don’t always have to agree or like each other as long as you’re there for each other. Well even so, if that’s friendship I think I’m doing it wrong.

On the up side, the whole world that Westerfeld has created in these books is totally ballsy. It’s a huge comment on how we, as humans are destroying the world, the shallowness of society and also the cost of beauty and I absolutely salute him for that. Using this sort of sci-fi – bizarro world to get that message across is pretty damn awesome. I don’t think parents would be all that pleased for their kids to read this though, with all the cutting themselves to feel clarity, starving themselves, the general lack of morals…and that’s a thought, where the hell are all the parents? The only ones we hear about are David’s, who is a rebel through and through and has never had the Pretty Surgery. Hmm.

I was rooting for David btw, I mean Zane was OK too and I liked that he loved Tally enough to take the pill at the end of Pretties but David just seemed cooler. His parents had started their own colony and were single-handedly saving the world after all.

Despite a few plot issues towards the end such as Dr Cable and the whole of Special Circumstances being bought down so easily (why had no one tried to stop them before if they were really such small fish in a big pond like they turned out to be?) and there not being enough Andrew Simpson Smith (he was hilarious – loved him), I thought Specials was a good ending to the series. Tally stayed true to form in making herself the important one right to the very end, but at least she left us with an important message: Freedom has a way of destroying things.

I don’t know why Westerfeld felt the need to write another book after this one, but I suppose I’ll have to check out Extras too, pull my arm why don’t you.

One last thing, if you liked this series you should totally watch Antiviral. Some similar themes, MUCH more creepiness AND Caleb Landry Jones is such an anti-babe. Anti-babe…I like that!

I gave Specials 4 unicorns out of 5. It is published by Simon and Schuster.

WWW Wednesday.

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

It’s well and truly Hump Day! Here’s what I’ve been up to this week. Don’t forget to leave a comment with your post or books. It will make my day go faster. 😉

Currently Reading: Poison by Sarah Pinborough
Literally just started this this morning so not much to report. But sexy Snow White, what’s not to like?

Recently Finished:
I spent a lot of time living the dream at the weekend – reading under a tree. I finished two great books…

A new retelling of Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith. I wanted to give it 4/5 but had to settle on 3/5. You can read my review Here.

Click to view on Goodreads
Click to view on Goodreads

And Specials by Scott Westerfeld. The 3rd book in his Uglies series. I’d totally forgotten how crazy these books were. It was a fast-paced, ferocious read. Review to follow.

Click to view on Goodreads
Click to view on Goodreads

Up Next:

Probably another one of the books that arrived last week so either Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper or Throne of Glass. I still have Storm Glass to start too.

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The Verdict: Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith

I have adored the tale of Tristan and Iseult since I stumbled it across it when looking into Arthurian legends. I bloody love Arthurian legends btw. Soon after becoming aware of the story I found an old Puffin version by Rosemary Sutcliff that I’ve loved ever since. Her retelling has always been the only one for me…but recently I discovered this…

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In a land of fog and desperate tribes, Tristan fights to protect western Briton from Saxon invaders. In the wake of battle, he returns to Kernow bearing grave news, and the order of power shifts. As Tristan defends the west, his uncle, King Mark, faces enemies to the east beyond the sea: the Irish Bloodshields. Mark is determined to unite the tribes of Briton and Ireland and forge an alliance that would see an end to war and the beginnings of peace. Iseult, the daughter of Irish kings and a woman of the blood, resigns herself to her inevitable fate: marriage to Lord Morholt. A bloody duel changes her course, and she finds herself stranded on the coast of Kernow bringing with her the possibility of peace. But when she loses her heart to one man and marries another, her future and that of Briton flutters grey. Three people and a hope that will never fade, this is a story of promise; the legend of love. Image and Synopsis from Goodreads.

Due to the aforementioned circumstances I’m sure you can understand why I went into this a bit sceptical. At first I found that the simple, almost brisk sentences came out a bit wooden but after a few paragraphs the style really started to flow and I started to enjoy it, a lot.

It captures the time and essence of the story I know and love really well.

The book is written from both Tristan and Iseult’s point of views – each having alternative chapters – which I thought would annoy me but it actually turned out to be really great. This way Iseult is able to show us in the very beginning how revolting Morholt, her husband-to-be really is, which kind of helps us realise later why she agrees to marry King Mark when she is clearly in love with Tristan- his Nephew and chosen heir to the throne. Going from something so bad to something ‘safe’ can’t be too bad after all can it?

I did wish that the two characters had more distinct voices though, as they both sounded the same in my head and I had to constantly remind myself whose chapter it was. However, Smith builds up the lust and romance between Tristan and Iseult beautifully. I was absolutely hooked and invested in the story which is probably why I got so angry that Tristan encouraged her to marry Mark in the first place…I mean, the King loves him, all he had to do was say! I’m not sure I was totally convinced that he did it due to his guilt of the King’s son Rufus’ death. But hey ho.

Alas, King Mark and Iseult are married and clearly everyone, apart from the King is miserable. The King in fact just seems to swan off a lot on King-like business leaving Tristan and Iseult alone with a million will they-won’t they moments which was INFURIATING to say the least. Not in a bad way. In a I have to keep reading way.

And then. THEN, we skip to 20 years ahead…are you shitting me J.D Smith?

Anyway (deep breaths), without giving too much away, this is a pretty different retelling than the Suttcliff version and I do think it lacked a certain proportion of passion and excitement due to some choices Smith made with the material but I don’t mean that to sound so bad.

It is a quick, enjoyable read that has captured the essence of the medieval, Celtic folklore that the story originated from, whilst also creating more contemporary feel to it.

I’m tempted to give this 4 out 5 because I was hooked all the way through, but the last third of the story let it down for me so I have settled on 3/5 unicorns. If I could bring myself to chop one in half, I would.

Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith is published by @TriskeleBooks

Super Sunday!? HELP!

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This weekend I have enjoyed the sun (which doesn’t happen very often with my vampire skin) and got lots of reading done. It’s been nice and peaceful. Best weekend. If you lot have enjoyed yourselves as much as I have, I reckon we can make Monday not happen by the power of positive thinking…yes? GO! NOW!

Hmm it might take a while to work.

BEST POST DAY! (New Arrivals)

It FINALLY arrived! I’ve been waiting for a delivery all week and I was getting anxious because I bought one book in particular that I’m really eager to read (Poison), and Amazon told me it had arrived on Wednesday…when it didn’t. 😦

Turns out it actually did, but it wouldn’t fit through the letterbox and the STOOPID postman put my flatmate’s name on the ‘Sorry you were out form’ instead of mine! Grrr.

So poor Dora went to pick up what she thought was her package today…to find out it was mine. HURRAH! (Sorry Dora, thanks Dora!)

So yeah, eventually…BEST POST DAY!

Yesss!
Yesss!

I thought all of these would be great summer reads and Poison looks especially amazing! I totally forgot it was hardback too. I’m in love with it already. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Shiny!
Shiny!

Sneak Peak:
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I featured Poison in my WWW Wednesdays post here, but here’s a bit more about the other two.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
I’ve only ever read one other Kate Morton book which was The House at Riverton. It’s not usually the kind of thing I like but I was surprised by how much I loved it. This one looks more of the same.

The new novel from the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours is a spellbinding mix of mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.

During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world. Synopsis from Goodreads.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I’ve seen this around everywhere and couldn’t resist. Sounds pretty epic. I’m hoping it’ll fill the void of there being no more Graceling Realm books.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted? Synopsis from Goodreads.

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I also got good post in the week when my Gollancz goodies arrived for getting my review posted. Fun! You can never have too many geeky t-shirts and badges right?

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Favourites Friday #6: Tuck Everlasting and why Immortals are so hot!

Click to view on Goodreads
Click to view on Goodreads

When Winnie stumbles across a spring which can bestow the gift of everlasting life, she also stumbles across the unforgettable Tuck family. The Tucks, having drunk from this spring, will never age, and will never die. With a calm clearsightedness they have kept the spring’s whereabouts secret, realising the harm and chaos full knowledge of it would bring. But the Tucks need to take grave measures when the spring’s secret is in danger of being revealed…

Disclosure: I think this is the first book I’ve chosen for Favourites Friday that I didn’t give a full 5 stars to on Goodreads and that I have read less than 3 times. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not great! I think one of the main reasons for deducting a star was that it was too short. I wanted MORE.

I discovered this book late. Like really late. It was first published in 1975 (and you can tell…it has that great old whimsical style to it where every word counts) and I probably first read it when I was about 20. If I’d read it when I was younger I know for a fact that I would have fallen in love with it even more than I did then. That weird thing happened on my first discovery of it too, I went to look it up thinking ‘I feel like this should be a film’ only to find out that Disney had released it a few years earlier (2002). And then literally about a week later, it was shown on TV on a Saturday afternoon. I went from being completely oblivious to it being everywhere. Weird how that happens, huh? I LOVE the film too btw…but more on that later.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of immortality. Vampires are my favourites, obviously, but there’s a lot to be said for just your average boy that can’t grow up. Peter Pan was probably my first ever fictional crush, (does he really count as being immortal? Anyway…) but after reading this Jesse Tuck was a big contender too. He’s quite clearly the cutest thing ever even if he’s a bit aloof initially. He’s funny too.

You mustn’t drink from it. Comes right up out of the ground. Probably pretty dirty” he began to pile pebbles over it again. “But you drank some,” Winnie reminded him. “Oh. Did you see that? Well, I’ll drink anything”

Man after my own heart!

There’s something really sweet in the way tries to discourage Winnie from drinking the water from the spring that has turned them immortal, you instantly realise that maybe living forever isn’t quite the gift that it sounds.

The rest of the book is basically the Tuck family keeping Winnie ‘hostage’ until they figure out what to do, or until they believe that she won’t tell anyone about the spring, and to convince her of that they have to tell her the truth.

Do you understand, child? That water – it stops you right where you are. If you’d had a drink of it today, you’d stay a little girl forever. You’d never grow up, not ever.

It’s heart-breaking really, the whole story is just mega sad, but beautiful too. This is the line that always particularly sticks in my head whenever I’m thinking about immortality (happens a lot):

You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.

It’s that old chesnut isn’t it? You can’t have good without bad, or how do you know what good is? There’s no good without evil after all.

So, you should definitely read the book. It really reminds me of Alice Hoffman too, it has that magical, sleepy summertime prose to it that makes it perfect for a quick sunny Sunday afternoon read.

But, can we talk about the film for a second? I think I love the book even more after seeing the film, which never happens to me.

Here are some reasons why the film is awesome:

1. They made Winnie older (she’s only 10 in the book, and Jesse is 17) so they could play a bit more on the romantic element between the two characters. In the book they have a beautiful childish and harmless love for one another but in the film they can get down to sexy time (they don’t really, I think they just kiss…but SWOON).

2. Winnie is played by none other than RORY GILMORE…and I’m not being funny but who ISN’T in love with Rory Gilmore, right?
RORY

3. Jonathan Jackson. Nuff said. I knew Jesse was going to be hot, and Disney did good. I nearly spat out my coffee a few months ago when I saw him being all hot in Nashville and was like ‘IT’S JESSE TUCK GONE SEXY’ I’m sure he’s been in loads of stuff but that’s just not important.

4. I mean SRSLY, look how hot they are!

They are too perfect. I hate them.
They are too perfect. I hate them.

5. Sissy Spacek as Mae too, the casting was OWNED.

I’m going to hunt down the film now. Or maybe just watch Gilmore Girls.

HAPPY WEEKEND!!!

WWW Wednesday!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:
Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith
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Recently Finished:
Take Your Last Breath by Lauren Child. Review to follow!

Image from Amazon
Images from Amazon

Up Next
Hmm either Storm Glass which I mentioned last week or, Poison if it arrives in time…I’m waiting for a delivery…EXCITING.

Click to view on Goodreads.
Click to view on Goodreads.

A beautiful, sexy, contemporary retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, illustrated by Les Edwards.

Poison is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairy tale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Snow White and the Huntsman and more. Synopsis & image from Goodreads