Book Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

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Young Adult > Fantasy

Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Easy.

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I cannot stop reading Half Bad. Brutal, hateful, but (that ending was) hopeful. Really good stuff.

The POV in Part I was very interesting. Using “you” instead of “I”, it made my reading experience unpleasantly real. It’s as if I was the one losing a hand because of some nasty acid, instead of Nathan. =) I easily adopted to Sally Green‘s cruel, magical world. A little subdued on the “magic” element, but it still worked for me.

Amidst persecution from the White Witches, Nathan persevered to live day by day. With the help of his brother Arran (I want a devoted sibling like him!), his sister Deborah, and his Gran, the Council’s oppression for a wild card like him was a bit bearable. When Nathan’s birthday draws near, and he awaits the Three Gifts that his bloodline will bestow upon him, the noose held by the Council grows tighter. Should he bear the unreasonable suffering, or should he run for his life?

I love, love Half Bad. It’s so simple – you’re different, so they fear you. But they will bully you into submission to disguise their fear into strength. But we all know that even good witches need to lose some damn steam.. like Nathan. 😀 Sally Green knows how to rile me up. I hated Kieran. I loathed Nathan’s sister, Jessica. I did not think of Mercury as a threat, though. Celia was a surprise, but a good one. And high five to Rose!

The value of a family and the strength that comes from its members are encouraged in this book. Nathan never gave up hoping that his father wants him as a child, and for an orphan like him, it’s all he has. 

The ending was good enough, the meeting between two characters in the midst of the battle was so cool, and so heartwarming!

*whispers* I haven’t read an absorbing magic-themed book like Half Bad in a while. The thrill of it!

P.S. Team Gabriel, anyone? 😀

(Attention to Jessica, Kieran, Hunters, Members of the Council… here’s me making a gesture of slashing your throats.)

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HALF BAD by Sally Green

Ebook, 416 pages

Published March 4th 2014 by Viking Children’s

4/5 stars

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Book Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

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General Fiction > Literature | Historical Fiction

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize (2009)Orange Prize Nominee for Fiction Shortlist (2010)James Tait Black Memorial Prize Nominee for Fiction (2009),Costa Book Award Nominee for Novel (2009)Magnesia Litera Nominee for Translation (Litera za překladovou knihu) (2011), National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (2009), The Rooster – The Morning News Tournament of Books (2010), Walter Scott Prize (2010)

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No comment. Hmph. Where do I start?

Chapter one opened with violence (and yes, it immediately appealed to my bloodthirsty side), but that’s pretty much it. I didn’t mind, for I was not expecting action scenes in Wolf Hall. But as the parts dragged on, it stayed flat for me for the rest of the novel. How laborious it was to finish this! Such an accomplishment-slash-disappointment rolled into one.

Frustration surfaced when Hilary Mantel‘s writing confused the hell out of me. It’s always started with a he, and given that there are many Thomases in this book, it was all so confusing. Man, the rereading I had to do (in order to secure my understanding where I’m at with the story) was not fun.

Thomas Cromwell is no hero, I get that. To each his own, knowing how Henry VIII can quickly change his mind to those who surrounds him, so Cromwell made sure he did everything to secure his household, and everyone in it. But when he started to lose his connection with his family (he went into arranging marriages for his sons as a political strategy, with no thought of how they would feel about it), I resented him until the end.

Let credit make its due to Hilary Mantel, as she did make my emotions rise – hatred for Anne Boleyn (and her family), disgust over Henry (and how he treats women), and disappointment for Cromwell. But that’s all I am giving Wolf Hall.

The idea that Thomas More as the key piece of how things will go down – I simply did not buy it. (Before you react, yes, I read this part of Tudor History, and I’m still not buying it as the height of conflict for Wolf Hall.)

Bring Up the Bodies? No, thank you. I’d rather read about Anne Boleyn’s downfall in Wikipedia.

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WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel

Kindle Edition, 559 pages

Published April 1st 2010 by Henry Holt and Co.

2/5 stars

Book Review: The Stranger by Albert Camus

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General Fiction > Literature | Classics

Set in Camus’ native Algeria, this story centers around Meursault. The young French-Algerian leads an apparently unremarkable bachelor life until his involvement in a violent incident calls into question the fundamental values of society.

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Hmph. This classic is an epic fail for me.

I don’t like how Meursault thinks, much less act. It’s like everything for him is happening to someone else, and he is but a mere spectator. There were bits and pieces of philosophy that caught my attention, but Meursault is such a loser in his pathetic life.

The Stranger is less than 200 pages, and yet it got annoying after each turn of the page. I cannot find myself sympathizing with the miserable situation Meursault found himself in, because he has no regard with whatever happens to him.. until he faced his mortality as it draws near.

That one thing I remotely liked? The story about the Czech (?) and his mother/sister. Other than that, good riddance.

Stranger started out good, but ended up sucking IMO.

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THE STRANGER by Albert Camus

Paperback, 123 pages

Published March 13th 1989 by Vintage International

2/5 stars