Here are some of my thoughts on books I’ve read and loved….
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything – even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.
I started this book already knowing I loved the premise, so really my focus was on the writing and how the plot and characterisation compared to the film.
The opening of the book starts straight away with action; immediately the box is coming up and Thomas is trapped inside. I think the opening is really strong. The writer could have spent ages over-describing the location, but instead he gave us enough detail without slowing down the action. The unique dialogue the Glade boys share serves two purposes. Firstly from Thomas’ reaction to it, we know he’s somewhere completely out of his comfortable zone, and secondly it really establishes the fact that these boys have created a community together. My particular favourite Glade saying is ‘that good’. I also really liked the amount of work the writer had done to create different layers of the society, like the Keepers being on the council and certain jobs being more or less desirable.
I think the world building of the Glade and the Maze is really well done, but one issue I had was the description of the Grievers. Even though I’d seen the film I just couldn’t imagine what the Grievers looked like from the description and so this really jarred the action for me. Other than this issue I found the timeline of the action helped keep the pace going and built tension.
Characterisation with Thomas was difficult to judge because as he didn’t remember who he used to be, it was hard to know if he’d changed or was simply remembering who he used to be. The writer dealt with Thomas’ memory loss really well. Sometimes when amnesia of any kind is involved, the person seems to have a sudden jolt of memory retrieval which is so clichéd and annoying. In this case Thomas would have familiar feelings and slow recognitions which were subtle and effective. The other characters were had established identities, although there were some filler characters like Ben, the boy who had been strung by a Griever when Thomas arrived. My favourite character is probably Newt. I liked that at the beginning he was very much Alby’s side kick, but as the story progressed he became braver and more prepared to stand up and fight.
I felt it was a major error having Teresa introduced so early. It felt as though she was brought in and then the writer had second thoughts so put her in a coma until she was needed; even Thomas forgot about her. I didn’t understand the need for Thomas and Teresa’s mind reading ability. It seemed really out of place with the the rest of the book, so I’m glad they didn’t include this in the film. Another thing that didn’t make sense to me was when Thomas first hears Teresa’s voice in his head; he gets so freaked out that he runs off into the maze. Newt knows Thomas is gone, but it seems he nor any of the other boys go looking for Thomas. He’s in the Maze for two hours and then falls asleep on the outskirts of the Glade, yet no one questions where he went or punishes him.
Spoiler alert. One thing that really confused me was how many times Gally came back from the dead. He vanishes and we think he’s in the Maze dead, then he reappears to give a dire warning before being taken by a Griever so again we assume he’s dead, and finally he reappears at the end again. There was no explanation as to how he’d survived in the Maze. Did he fight back? Was he spared? Did someone save him? Also we don’t get a proper understanding of why Gally hated Thomas. We know what Thomas did, but then if he hated the creators so much why was he with the WICKED woman at the end?
The ending was very rushed. There was too much information in a short space of time. Suddenly in the last few pages we’re told about two organisations, lots of people appear and the truth of the situation is revealed. It’s a lot to take in and even the end scene contains lots of characters, the focus is only on Thomas and so seems that the writer forgot the other characters were there.
Overall I enjoyed the story and though it wasn’t something I couldn’t put down, I really believed the world and liked the characters, and so will be reading the other books in the series.
From Here to Nashville – Julie Stock
From Here to Nashville is a contemporary romance novel with a country music theme.
Can Music Really Bring People Together?
Rachel Hardy dreams of being a successful country music singer in Nashville’s Music City, four thousand miles away from her lonely life in Dorset.
When Jackson Phillips, an independent record label owner, encourages her band to audition for a nationwide ‘Open Mic’ competition, she decides they have nothing to lose.
But when she starts to fall in love with Jackson, the stakes suddenly get higher and she finds herself with a great big dilemma on her hands. Should she abandon her dream and take the easy way out or should she leave the life she has always known behind and take a gamble on a man who has personal demons of his own?
Follow Rachel and Jackson as they learn to trust in love again and to see whether music really can bring them together.
I really enjoyed this novel and think it’s an excellent debut. You can totally understand why Rachel falls in love with Jackson, who wouldn’t? He’s handsome, kind, supportive, believes in Rachel and has a sexy accent. I really liked how much of a presence music has in the books, as this is something that interests me, and as someone who is very much into celebrity culture, I enjoyed seeing how the other half lived.
I loved the description of the locations, especially Dorset. It felt as though the writer had been there and really studied the area. I was in no doubt that the character’s were experts on their home towns. The writing flowed well, not overly describing or relying too much on an internal monologue, but some of the dialogue seemed a bit over explanatory at times; though once I got into the story this didn’t bother me too much.
One issue I did have was the switching of the voices. Though I enjoyed hearing Jackson’s voice I wished it hadn’t switched to him at the point it did. When Rachel has been invited to go to Nashville we don’t really know how geniune Jackson is, having only seen him from Rachel’s point of view. Going into Jackson’s voice at this stage meant that this possible obstacle is overcome instantly and so there’s a lul in the action whilst we’re waiting for Rachel to get there.
I really believed the romance between Jackson and Rachel, and liked that they didn’t just get together and everything was perfect. They were both very human and made mistakes, neither was more guilty than the other.
Rachel didn’t like Jackson spending money on her and because of this I felt there should have been a moment when she mentioned when she received the advance, especially as this is probably the most money she’s ever had. When she was booking private planes and hotels, I was confused as to whether she was spending Jackson’s money without asking him or using this advance.
One thing the writer does really well is characterisation. She managed to create distinct characters who were well rounded and very different from one another. The characters were brilliantly flawed, which was frustrating at times, particularly when they acted in ways you didn’t want them to, but you could understand why they reacted that way and it was consistant. I felt one of the best relationships in the novel was beween Jenna and Rachel. So often female relationships in fiction, especially in romance, are more like rivalries, but Jenna and Rachel just worked. They respected each other, helped each other out and loved each other. There was also a lot of humour in the scenes they had to together, and I would have loved to have seen more of their relationship.
I enjoyed the love triangle aspect of the story, but I think the ending would have been less predictable if Sam had been more of an equal love interest, as it was fairly obvious that Rachel was in love with Jackson and not him, even if she didn’t know yet. Though the ending was predictable, it was perfect for the story and very fulfilling.
In conclusion, I loved the characters and think this is a really strong debut novel. I would definitely read other works from Julie Stock and if there was a sequel, I’d want to read it.