Double Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart/ Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I have had a hell of a time recently with my materials.  First, I watched 13 Reasons Why, and then I read this. We Were Liars. This book was lent to me by my wonderful friends and fellow booklovers, Nicki and Dani who had both read the book. It looked fairly short, and sounded interesting, they both said it was amazing, and they were not kidding.

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We Were Liars is the perfect summer read- it takes place on a private island, with the focal characters being privileged kids (with the exception of one), and the secrets kept and the truth behind a perfect, wealthy American family. The main character has an accident, and spends the majority of the book trying to figure out what happened to her since she has amnesia. I can’t give the plot away, but trust me when I say  this book will leave you breathless.

I can’t deny that the title was hard for me to shake, because I actively watch Pretty Little Liars on Freeform, and the fact the main characters are referred to as liars just makes me think of Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hannah and Alison. Also the characters in We Were Liars have some serious secrets they are holding, which is also one of the things that makes this a perfect suspenseful beach read.

Everything about this book is engaging, and indulgent.  The island and its  houses, the teenage cousins plus their friend, and the budding romance between our main character and her friend. Despite their privileged lives, the cousins +1 have deep connections as well as average teenage instincts.  Each one is written vividly, with multiple layers to  their personality. I found myself heavily indulged, and I’m pretty sure I finished it within 24 hours. The ending left me speechless, and I am not going to sugarcoat this for you- it is tear inducing.

Shifting gears, I was pretty emotionally exhausted from consuming 13 Reasons Why and We Were Liars, and it was time to read something cheerful. Enter Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

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Fangirl was the answer to my prayers.  This book felt so real to me, it was insane. I completely identified with so much of this book and its characters.

The story is about Cather, who is a twin.  Cather and her twin sister Wren are as close as twins can be, and after their mother leaves when they are kids, they are left with their bipolar father.  The girls are fans of a Harry Potter style fictional series, Simon Snow.  The girls are such big fans that they write Simon Snow Fanfiction.

An aside note for those of you who are not as ensconced in geek culture- Fanfiction is huge, and has been around FOREVER.  It is when fans appropriate and borrow characters be it from their favorite TV show, comic, movie or even book series-and create their own stories. I am not afraid to admit that I used to write my own fanfiction back in the day, and I’m sure if I read it now I would want to erase it, but you can never truly erase something once its on the internet, right?

The main plot of the story is that Cath and Wren are trying to establish their own identities by going to college and parting ways for the first time. Wren, is more assertive and itching for freedom, while Cath is shy and suffers from anxiety. This book hits the nail on the head so hard with its depiction of anxiety.  There’s a scene where Cath continually waits for her roommate (who she doesn’t speak to) to leave so she can eat her protein bars in peace,  because she doesn’t know where the dining hall is and is afraid to ask anyone. When her roommate finds out, she says “but you’ve lived here a month! how do you not know where the dining hall is?” and Cath replies that she’s never asked anyone.
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Cath’s social anxiety is something that is explored and challenged throughout the book, by herself and the people and situations around her.  I saw so much of myself, my friends, and even my husband in this book. I could relate to almost ALL of the situations in this book, except the part about having a twin sister, because as you know I’m an only child. The characters in this book were believable and charming. I really enjoyed Rowell’s writing style, and became engulfed in the world of Cath, Simon Snow, and university life in Nebraska.  This book also has romance in it, and we all know how much of a sucker I am for a good romance.

This book had everything for me and I enjoyed it so much I stayed up until all hours of the night, and read this as much as I could whenever I could.  I don’t want to give this plot away, because it is gradual and the pay off is really good. This would also make a spectacular beach read, and I recommend it to EVERYONE.  It doesn’t matter if you are a geek or not, but it will definitely hit you in the feel spot if you are. I really wish there was a sequel to this, and there KIND OF is. Cath writes a fanfic titled Carry On and it is basically her biggest project. We get bits and pieces of her fic in the book, but apparently Rainbow Rowell actually WROTE the fanfic Carry On. a FICTIONAL CHARACTER’S FANFIC. It’s the “sequel”, if there really is one. Rowell also has written another book, titled Landline in which a couple of the characters from Fangirl make an appearance, so I am definitely going to have to  check that out, as well as some of her other books.

 

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Book Review: Making Her His by Lucy Leroux

Parts of this review have been posted on GoodReads on Jan. 29. The rest is a retrospective review on the novel, since I have delved further into the romance genre.
Honestly, this was my first  romance only novel. I have always been a fan of romance in my  books, but aside from Fifty Shades of Grey (which I LOVED) I haven’t  really delved in to the world of romance novels.
I mean I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with a title like “Making Her His”. Until reading this book, I didn’t even know Alpha Male Romance was a thing.  I’ve got a soft spot for possessive, obsessive, controlling male love interests ( That’s why I love Stephenie Meyer’s books and the ever popular Fifty Shades of Grey) that goes back as far back as Labyrinth (come on, if you didn’t think Bowie’s Goblin King was sexy as hell  and obsessive about Sarah we clearly didn’t see the same movie) and my original controlling, obsessive and possessive masked man, The Phantom of the Opera.
It’s kind of hard to judge for me personally, since this really is my first forte into the romance genre as a whole, although at the time of writing this review for the blog- I have started actively reading more romance books.  What do I have against romance you ask?
Nothing really; I love romance because I am an incurable romantic- the only issue I have if you want to call it an issue to begin with is that I feel the genre is too broad, and sub-genres are not represented well.
Couple that with terrible titles and covers, and it’s easy to see why I was so hesitant to try a romance novel, despite my own romantic nature. I am not entirely new to the genre,  but the last “romance” books I read where Harlequin books back in middle school, and I thought they were awful then.
I’ve learned since reading this book, that some titles are classified as romance when they should be classified as erotica, new romance,  or dark romance., or other such as paranormal, fantasy, and so forth.  This is what makes it a little difficult for me to dive in.  When I read a book classified as romance, I have NO IDEA what I’m really going to be reading.  This was the case for Making Her His. I knew there was going to be sex, I was prepared for that- but looking back on it now after reading titles like The Bonding by Imogen Keeper, it feels kind of tame and even more contrived and stereotypical in context.
I don’t have a problem with sex in books, but for me at least I feel that the fact I read Fifty Shades of Grey FIRST kind of ruined me for reading this. I know Fifty Shades gets a lot of flack and hate, but at least it was somewhat believable in its storytelling. As in, maybe not the situation but more the dialogue and conversational exchange. Even the psychological context into WHY Christian was the way he was, and Ana’s own personal choice to be with Christian despite his baggage was something I could actually buy into.
I felt like this book was something of a watered down cross between Fifty Shades and Cruel Intentions. I like both of the aforementioned, but somehow I had trouble buying that Elynn ( who I didn’t know how to pronounce her name if it was Ellen or Eelynn) was totally into the idea of having sex with her step-brother, given her past issues with men. Elynn’s male baggage includes almost being raped because she innocently didn’t realize some douchebag’s intentions that he wanted to bang her, and thus she doesn’t really understand she gives off mixed signals and doesn’t really have any desire to date.  I did like Alex’s character, where he was actually really sensitive to her needs because he understood them (you know being her step-brother and all)  and he relented and worked with her.
Another main issue I had was the dialogue. It felt forced and at times really really cheesy. I’m no prude by any means, but the C grade porno dialogue just makes me cynical and I can’t take it seriously. There is even a scene in which Elynn sees Alex’s schlong and being the virginal 25 year old she is she widens her eyes and gasps “is it going to fit?”… I rolled my eyes and laughed out loud because as far as I know no one actually talks like this in reality. It’s stereotypical and dumb.  The scenes felt so rushed once we got to the plot of Elynn and Alex sleeping together, and although you can see the plot move as Alex changes his ways, there is an err of predictability to it all, which I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I like uncertainty, that’s what pulls me in to the story to find out what happens. If I know how it’s going to end, what’s the point in continuing to read?
I did NOT like the ending either, even though I knew where it was going.  They get married, and live happily ever after and Alex changes to a family man. Gag.  I hate traditional tropes like this.
I think in one of the sex scenes he gets turned on at the idea of impregnating her. I wanted to throw up after reading that, and the ending.  I get some women have that fantasy in real life- wanting to change a man into wanting domestic bliss and have a family- but I am not that woman.  I have my own issues with the concept of having kids, and I’m sure that influences my distaste for the generic happily ever after, but more so I  feel left out as an target audience. Don’t assume because one is a woman and reads romance, that every woman that reads romance wants to end up  married, in a relationship with kids.
I also assumed that since this was #1 in the series, that the rest of the books were about them (before I finished the book, that is). I was wrong.  The story wrapped up so quickly, that upon finishing the book, I realized this was the end of their story and I was kind of bummed.
I gave this book  2 stars on GoodReads, because it was ok. I read it in one day, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it, but I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy eating vegetables instead of cake.  It’s not bad, but it doesn’t taste as good as the cake. Still I didn’t want this book to be the only representation I had for the romance genre, so while I didn’t like it as much, I did not let it deter me from trying more books in the genre.
I plan on doing a genre review not in the near future, but once I have read a good bit of romance books.  So far I have read about 5 books, from different authors, and I have downloaded about 7 or 8 books from bestselling  authors in the genre with classifications in the sub genres of dark romance, new adult romance, paranormal romance, and a few others.  I want to do this genre review because I feel personally that my preconceived notions about the genre in general make me a better fit than someone who is inherently interested in the genre. It’s harder to win over someone who doesn’t traditionally read a particular genre, and at the same time I can objectively look at the structure and progression of plots and character development and concepts because I’m not emotionally invested.
Thanks for reading this review, and as always keep checking back for more reviews!

Book Review: Solaris Seethes by Janet McNulty

Disclaimer:
*This review contains spoilers!*
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
The spoiler free review is still pending. Hopefully it will be posted over at Online Book Club.Org

Before we get started:
I am a fan of books, and if you are a follower of this blog, you  know this by all the reviews I posted during my book challenge last year. Well, I have signed on for another book challenge this year, of reading 30 books.  I completed my 25 book challenge last year, and upped my count to 30 in July when I completed my 25. I didn’t meet my goal of 30 then, but I got to 28, still not too bad.  This year though in addition to reading 30 books, I am trying to shed my genre specific reading  disposition. I also am on a quest to find sustainable income in the form of a side hustle, something that I can do from the comfort of my own home, and something that I enjoy. I’ve  come up with this quest before, but never really dedicated myself to filing through the legitimate sources out there. I also made it a goal to write more. I enjoy writing, and reviewing things, so naturally when I stumbled upon Work From Home Happiness, and found their article Side Hustles for Booklovers: 30+ Money-Making Ideas for Bibliophiles, I just had to see how I could turn my love of books into a side hustle. I came across a couple great options, and one of them was writing book reviews! Something I already love doing. While I am just starting out in this, and I’d like to make money with this eventually, I have to start somewhere. I also would like to expand my reading material, and who knows?  Maybe I will discover a new author, or a new genre.

My first book to review for Online Book Club, was Solaris Seethes. It was my first sci-fi book, and while I had a lot of problems with it (as you will see when you read it), I didn’t hate it or dislike it enough that I couldn’t read it. I still read it over the course of 4-5 days, and I was not rushing by any means, considering it was quite lengthy.
My spoiler-free version I wrote for Online Book Club is still pending,  but I am allowed to post my full review, complete with spoilers on here.  So, without stalling further- here is my HONEST review of Solaris Seethes.

 

Science Fiction has never really been a genre that has drawn me in.  My best friend is a sci-fi fan, so I am familiar with the genre, and while I do like some aspects of it, my interests in it are pretty generic and basic.  I like sci-fi movies, but until reading Solaris Seethes; I had never read a book classified in this genre.

 

The exposition of this story is stereotypical.  Rynah, our main character is happy with her love after getting engaged to her boyfriend Klanor. It’s a normal day in the life of Rynah, going to work, showing off her engagement ring to everyone. At work, it’s life as usual, except for…… an attack! The geothermic lab in which she works is attacked by thieves who are after the crystal that keeps their planet functioning. The band of evil doers is led by none other than *yawn* Rynah’s new fiancé.  Betrayed and angry, Rynah manages to escape as her world is deteriorating around her, and finds her way to the abandoned tower where her grandfather used to work in search of a decommissioned military ship which he was working on. She finds the ship; Solaris, which is the ship’s artificial intelligence system that can communicate telepathically while the pilot wears their helmet. Amidst some obstacles, Rynah manages to escape and her planet falls to ruins as the thieves leave with the crystal.

 

 

The style of writing was hit or miss with me. One thing I did not like, was the constant side notes, in which the author used parenthesis.  Rynah is described as having “pale lavender skin (a very light shade at that)”. This somewhat informal side note kind of confused me, as I don’t see why the author had to put that in parenthesis when it would have worked just fine in description without it. Rynah is also described as having “emerald green hair with flecks of gold.”  Maybe it’s because I’m a Marvel fan, and have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, but with Rynah’s description I kept picturing Gamora from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  The similarities didn’t stop there for me either, and at times the book felt like something of a watered-down version of the Marvel story.

 

 

The main plot of the story is that there is the great ancient prophecy that talks about there being 6 crystals- much like the infinity stones in Guardians of the Galaxy- that when brought together can create a weapon of great power and destruction-again with the Guardians similarity, and maybe even a little like the Death Star in Star Wars. Part of the prophecy tells of four heroes, who we later find out are 4 humans from the Terra Sector, aka Earth. The catch is that each human is from a different time period.  Solaris, who is more than just a ship, but also a character herself; transports our heroes to her ship. For being transported from their relevant time periods our characters should take to adapting to being on ship in space with a humanoid alien pretty well.  Alfric is a Viking King, Solon is a scribe from ancient Greece, Brie is a stereotypical scared high school girl from the present, and Tom is an inventor from the future of 2099.  While I like this idea of incorporating the different time periods, the characters don’t really have that much depth to them. Brie is depicted as “mousy” and “timid” and all as an around pushover and weak. I’m not saying all the woman have to be tough as nails, but I don’t like it when they make the girls your run of the mill damsel in distress. Brie is constantly homesick, and constantly whining and crying and complaining she’s useless. She comes in handy towards the end, but she still remains a flat character with little actual development. Even Alfric is    somewhat stereotypical, being depicted as an enormous gruff and tough Viking who always ready for battle and very skilled as it.  The only character who didn’t really fit the stereotype is Tom.

 

That’s not the only two-dimensional aspect either- when explaining the situation to the heroes, Solaris tells them that they will be a surprise to Klanor, since he doesn’t know about that aspect of the prophecy or about the Terra Sector. This is then contradicted when to drive the point of how dangerous Klanor is to to the humans, she tells them that if Klanor succeeds, he will come after Earth next to destroy it- but moments earlier Klanor supposedly didn’t know about Earth.  There is also some backstory with Klanor where it states that he believed in the ancient stories and that the crystals were real, but that others did not believe him. This seems kind of strange considering that the planet Lanyr in which Klanor and Rynah live functions of the existence of a crystal which stabilizes their magnetic field.

 

The contradictions continue, when for a world who supposedly shuns Earth at best, has many earth derived things.  On the Junglar planet which is-you guessed it- is jungle themed with large Venus fly trap style plants and Mayan style temples and human-esque indigenous people.  The indigenous people act and are depicted similarly to the Mayan people with references to their culture such as human sacrifice, and godly worship.  Even the atmosphere of the planet is habitable as they can breathe the air, and there are lush green plants and life everywhere, mimicking a rainforest. This is supposed to an alien planet, mind you. The references don’t stop there either- aboard the ship Brie tells Rynah her breakfast smells life waffles. When Rynah has a flashback to her grandfather making her pancakes, with boysenberry syrup, nutmeg and whipped cream, she then allows Brie a sampling of her pancake which Brie says tastes like a lemon torte.  The planet Lanyr which Rynah is from had orange clouds, and double sunsets.  How would they be able to grow plants to get nutmeg or berry? Not to mention whipped cream is a dairy product that comes from cows. Do they have cows in outer space?  When our band of misfits are abandoned on the frozen world of Ikor after pirates steal Solaris- amazingly they can breathe without helmets on this planet too; they are attacked by a large sabretooth tiger style animal. Alfric the almighty slays it, and later our heroes hear wolf howling.  Wolves and saber tooth tigers are still very much earthly animals. In outer space, on an alien planet.  When they run into lone man on the Antarctic style planet, of course Rynah knows him as a friend of her grandfather’s named Obiah. Upon inviting the heroes into his home within the walls of ice, it is discovered he has a full-fledged Italian style kitchen, complete with a stove.  The heroes cook pasta with marinara sauce.  On Obiah’s cherry wood dining table is a vase of marigolds. I wasn’t aware Ethan Allen Furniture existed in a galaxy far far away, but more of a question is how would marigolds survive on the planet of Ikor. Even to get them inside, the flowers would wilt or die in the frozen atmosphere in transport. Where would one even get marigolds? They need soil, water and sunlight, on Earth. Probably one of the biggest contradictions that bothered me, was when Obiah explains Klanor’s appeal to the heroes in such a way as “People like Klanor always attract the darker side of humanity.” This really bugged me.  Rynah, Obiah, Klanor are all supposed to be aliens. Humanoid aliens- they have purple skin for goodness sake.  When Solaris is stolen by pirates, the captain Jifdar who eyes up fair skinned damsel Brie; claims he believes they all descended from the same parent race, and living in a different galaxy on different planets they have evolved differently but share the same traits and make up. This begs me to question whether or not our humanoid aliens are human or not.  They are described many times as humanoid, which leads me to believe they are not human. If this is indeed the case, claiming Klanor attracts the darker side of humanity is completely out of context. Klanor isn’t supposed to know about Earth at all, remember?

The plot is thin at best, and I feel like it’s honestly been done before and better.  Every now and then I would come across phrases or words that were grammatically incorrect as well as just not sounding right. In one of the chapters, the term “tie-dyed” was spelled “tie-died”, and in another chapter the same term was spelled correctly as “tie-dyed”.  In another chapter, one of the characters says “He walked in just I managed to take this thing apart”, when the phrase is clearly missing the word as and should be read as “He walked in just AS I managed to take this thing apart.” Those mistakes are small, but really threw me as a reader as I had to re-read the lines to make sure I read them correctly.

 

Having stated my issues with the story, I can’t say I hated it or disliked it. I know it’s part of a series, and I typically like to finish series, so I’ll probably eventually try to finish this one.  Regardless of some of the major issues I had with this book, there were things I did like, such as Solaris.  I really enjoyed the idea of the ship being a character and having a personality. I felt if anything, Solaris was the strongest character. Rynah felt too much like a copy of Gamora, Alfric and Brie felt too stereotypical, and Solon had next to no personality for me.
 

I recommend this book if I can for young adult readers into sci-fi.  The writing isn’t the best, but it is full of action, and adventure and makes up in imagination for the things it lacks.  For someone who is into space ships, and time travel this might be a really good read for you.  There isn’t any romance or love triangle, so those looking for that sort of thing-which I fall into that category more often than not- are going to solely disappointed.  There are lots of action sequences with pew pew laser guns and swords, and pirates and hidden treasure. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say it had elements from Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Firefly.  If you’re not familiar with sci-fi like me, there’s probably a high probability you won’t like this book. I did like parts of it, and was able to read it all the way through, and as I have stated I will probably check out the rest to see how the story ends. Sometimes the sequel or the later books in a series put the first to shame.  I read Neal Shusterman’s Skinjacker saga over the summer and compared to the last 2 books, the first was downright boring, and as I read it I enjoyed it enough to want to read the sequel, and boy was I glad I did, because it was an amazing sequel; and the final book in the series was the best by far.

 

Book Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Where do I start?

This book was amazing and perfect. I read the synopsis briefly as I cleaned over the summer and found it among a stack of books. I added it to my “Want to Read” list on GoodReads.com. The story was about a girl who was different and unique, and her struggle to fit in. As an outcast myself, I was drawn to this book from the get go, and reading about Stargirl’s unusual character and quirks sometimes made me feel like I was looking back in a mirror.

Stargirl-She changes her name when she feels it no longer suits her. She drops pennies and change just so someone can find it and smile. She photographs life as it’s happening as an observer on the sidelines. She cheers for the other team, sends cards and gifts to people with no name. She carries a pet rat, a ukulele and wears crazy clothes.  She doesn’t seem to care what people think. She’s funny. She’s kind. She is the kind of person you would be lucky to know.

I was never “normal”. I am still not “normal”. What hit me in the mega feels was that Stargirl didn’t seem to care what others thought about her, she just wanted to be herself and so she was. But deep down, she DID care, and when her boyfriend tells her she should be a little less her and a little more like THEM, she changes herself to try to fit in. This really resonated with me, reminding me of my own struggles to accept my differences. I was the “weird” girl that no one wanted to be friends with (except for a very small few who found a kindred weirdness with me), and that boys were scared to death to be liked by. Granted part of that weirdness was due to my ADHD and constantly being on meds-the other part was purely my quirky personality.  I’d always defined myself as a bright pink crayon in a box of black and grey crayons.  Why fit in when you were born to stand out? That’s something I embraced in my later years, but not so much in middle school or high school. It wasn’t until middle school where the bullying I’d been dealing with for years hit something of a high point, and school became literally miserable.  When a new kid arrived instead of befriending them, I caved into the societal norm of middle school and made fun of them (and felt terrible about it). I rectified this quickly by trying to be a friend instead because I felt so awful. One of the best lessons of my life-trying to be like someone else will NOT make you happy. Be the change you want to see. I lived in a world of them, much like Leo and Stargirl, and tried to be one of them too even though I despised THEM.  My heart clenched as Leo who supposedly loved Stargirl for all her uniqueness- told her to be normal and regretted it THE REST OF HIS LIFE.  She cared deeply for others, wanted to spread joy and make others feel special in an otherwise dull world of black and grey crayons.

Spinelli’s novel addresses the issue of being popular, conforming to societal norms, and needing the validation of others. To this day, I still seek that validation much like Leo, because as my life has changed and I have embraced that I will never be like everyone else-in a strange way I still need validation that that’s ok.  Stargirl changed Leo’s life not in the way that they grew up and lived happily ever after, but because even though they fell apart-he was a better person for knowing her and experiencing kindness and compassion through watching her and helping her bring those things to others.  The school body adores Stargirl in the beginning and then turns on her in a way so fickle as high schoolers can be. They shun her for the very things they liked about her. Negativity wins out, as it usually does and in the future at their reunions they bring her up in passing and humor.

This book shows you why it is important to own who you are, and why it is important to stand out above the rest, that life isn’t about who your friends are in high school (some of us are lucky to keep the friends we had when we were teenagers, me being one of them)- it shows that you don’t have to live in between the painted lines that society has laid for you. You can cheer for the other team. You can show empathy even to total strangers. You can brighten someone’s day without even trying. You can notice the details in life and not just the vast picture.

I cried at the end, because unlike so many happy ending stories, this one ended realistically. I also heard that there is a sequel, “Love, Stargirl”- in which I must read. If it’s anything like this book, I know I’m going to love it.

I would recommend this book to probably any teenager, but most definitely to the pink crayons who don’t know how beautiful they are yet. To the outcasts who feel isolated and alone because they are different- this is your validation. In a world of Hillari Kimble’s, be a Stargirl. Always, be a Stargirl.

 

Review: The Prophet of Yonwood

It’s been a little while since I posted a review, although I have been done with the Prophet of Yonwood for a while now, I have been writing this review in pieces ad my attention span has been spastic to say the least. (Thanks ADHD…)

I have been taking a break from binging, I mean reading.  While I enjoyed reading The Prophet of Yonwood, I enjoyed it for different reasons.  This story didn’t feel like it fit so much for me with the other 2 books. It feels like a separate story, and only really ties everything together in the last few pages.  I liked the approach of the power of faith, which is a big theme in all the Ember books, and the juxtaposition of how damaging people’s beliefs can sometimes be.  I much would have rather had a prequel about the destruction, and the main character Nicki on her journey to the City of Ember, and the story finish with the discarded lockbox.

I enjoyed the book on a spiritual/philosophical level rather than as a part of the series.  There were very strong messages and opinions in this book, much more than the other 2 in some cases, and made me stop and re-read a few lines with awe.  I felt as strongly as it was written, it should have been its own book, separate from the series.  Up until the very end of the book, I kept waiting for it to tie in and the tie in felt very rushed.  The story is about a small North Carolina town, who has become very religious based on the discovery of an older resident having a vision of the future, and being deemed a prophet.  Mrs. Beeson, a righteous woman, and a few select community members are the ones who decipher the prophet’s musings and mumblings, often mistaking what the old woman is saying, and spreading what they THINK she is saying as the word of God, that they must all obey to avoid being destroyed with the rest of the world.  During this time, the nation is on the verge of war with another nation, and people fear the end is near.  It turns out *SPOILER ALERT*, that the vision the old woman has is true, but it’s 50 years off.  Our main character Nicki, who is 11- her father is away on top secret business, and we find out he is one of the Builders who helped construct Ember, and 50 years into the future, Nicki volunteers to go to Ember, out of her love for the world, and desire to preserve it.
There’s other characters in the book, an 11 year old boy named Grover who loves snakes, Mrs. Beeson the righteous and faithful, power driven community pillar, Nicki’s aunt who seems to have trouble staying married and is preoccupied with the notion, Amanda the homeless 17 year old with a very  low self-esteem and easy to manipulate, but the core of the story follows Nicki and her trip to Greenhaven; her family’s historical mansion which is being sold after the death of her Grandfather, and her journey through this strange  God Fearing town.  The residents believe if they follow the word of God spoken by the prophet, they will be spared in the destruction.  When the old woman says “No sinnies” Mrs. Beeson translates it as ” No sinners” while we find out much later that the old ill woman was trying to say “No cities” as in there are no cities left.  People who go against the prophet’s words and tagged with a strange buzzing bracelet to let everyone know they were defiant.  It’s an interesting story that shows the power of suggestion, and how sheep like humans can be, blindly believing things because of our need TO BELIEVE and self-preserve.

I also enjoyed some of the other plot points in the story, but those didn’t seem to resolve.  The mansion of Greenhaven seems to have a life all of its own, being in Nicki’s family for decades; something that intrigues our main character. She discovers many photos from guests in the past, and journals written by her grandfather with musings about multiple dimensions existing at once.  These things could have been resolved for me, I wanted to know more about them. Instead, their vaguely brought up and don’t really go anywhere. It makes the details in them feel misplaced; if you weren’t going to go anywhere with it, why mention it to begin with? The story would have moved along just fine considering they weren’t detrimental to the plot or character development.

All in all, I appreciated the book, but I wished it tied in more with the other 2 books in the series.  I have ordered the final book, The Diamond of Darkhold and expect it to be delivered Sunday (yes UPS delivers on Sundays here) which means as soon as it gets here I will crack it open. I always get antsy when I know I am going to be finishing a series.  There’s an instant gratification factor for me, when I get hooked into a series I just want to live the story until it’s finished and I can come up to breath reality again.   But after I have finished, I suffer from that hole that exists when you have nowhere to go, so knowing that it will be the end is both cathartic and anti-climactic for me. I felt the same way when I finished Twilight and The Hunger Games, and after I finished the first and ONLY season of Firefly. (Including the movie).

Until next time, folks!

Review: The People of Sparks

I really am enjoying The Books of Ember series. The first book was great, you can read my full review on it here on my blog, so I won’t talk about that here.

The second book in the series, The People of Sparks takes place right where the first book leaves off. At the end of the first book, Lina and Doon make it out of Ember and discover the land above the caverns that had been living under.  Upon throwing a note down to their people who discover it, the rest of the Emberites leave their underground city and follow Lina and Doon. All the Emberites come across a post-apocalyptic village of survivors, whose settlement they call Sparks.  In Ember, we are told that the City of Ember was built for the Emberites by The Builders.  The Builders not only constructed Ember to be a functional society, but told those who founded the city underground that they were to forget all about the world they left behind. Therefore, the Emberites knew nothing about blue skies, or the world above. As far as they were told, they were the only survivors left in a dark, dead world.  The Emberites lived with electricity, and running water, and their city was stocked with supplies to keep them going for a multitude of years. Canned food, light bulbs, clothing, etc. The first book tells us that the people of Ember are far beyond their city’s capacity, repairing failing items, scrounging for bits and pieces of things to re-use. Their biggest fear is that the lights will go out forever and they would be living in total darkness and starve.  400 and some Emberites arrive in the City of Sparks, hoping to receive food, water, shelter and assistance.  They are refugees of their former city, looking to create new roots and a life elsewhere in the world they know very little about. The City of Sparks is in direct contrast to Ember.  They live more primitively with their lack of technology. They use wood burning stoves to cook instead of electric stoves, and they have no electricity at all. They use water pumps to get water out of the ground. They are aware of the world they came from, the Disaster, and the Plagues that destroyed the world. They know the things that have been lost, and the err of mankind. These people have suffered great hardships in creating their settlements, and are finally on the verge of prosperity when the Emberites- all 400 of them arrive at their doorstep.
This book in my opinion is a lot better than the first.  Where the first book had themes of faith and belief, hope, and what it means to live and be human; this book expanded those themes and introduced us to a few more facets of what it means to be human; and not the good parts. War is something the Emberites know nothing of. Sun, heat, changing seasons, extensive manual labor and starvation are things that are foreign to them.  Their city had been built for them. Stocked with supplies for them.  What starts out as kindness, and not wanting to repeat the errors of the past; the People of Sparks take in the Emberite refugees and devise a solution. How will they feed an extra 400 people without going hungry themselves? Where will they put them? So many questions arise, and in a vote, the 3 leaders of Sparks opt to keep the Emberites and teach them about building a settlement of their own, for 6 months. At the start of winter, the Emberites must leave and make their own way.
Naturally, people from different worlds, with different lifestyles collide, and turmoil ensues. The People of Sparks who were kind at first, slowly start to resent the Emberites and their ignorance.  Their food portions become smaller, yet the Emberites are expected to work beyond exhaustion, in a slave like manor.  Despite all the expectations and resentment, when the Emberites ask for more food, the People of Sparks are outraged.  One bad apple on both sides turns the tables, and the sparks of hate ignite.
Lina and Doon learn about the Disaster, which is described as 4 wars and 3 plagues. The wars over oil and land, the weapons of war such as bombs, and nukes destroyed them.  There was sickness after, eradicating most of the human race. Unbeknownst to the People of Sparks, the Emberites were shuttled underground, to preserve the human race.  We hear about how these evils destroyed the world, and contrasted with the arrival of the Emberite refugees- oblivious to these things; grow just as hateful as the People of Sparks.  Seeds of anger, and fear grow into hate and destruction.  The mistreated Emberites want to push back after their mistreatment, concerned about the unfairness of how they are treated, and expected after just a few short months to go it alone in the throes of winter. Even Lina and Doon are swept up into the conflict, both bothered by all of the negativity.
This book simply stated the dangers of humanity, and contrasted it with the simplicity of it as well.  Torren, who lied about throwing the tomatoes and was the catalyst for the seeds of hate being sewn; does it out of anger (Doon’s father tells him in the first book about controlling his anger, because it can have unforeseen consequences. Nice continuation on that message.), and the way Lina and Doon look at the bright world above with wonderment and appreciation is a beautiful juxtaposition.
The message in this book is clear: Fear and Anger breed hate, and kindness, generosity and selfless acts breed love.  The People of Sparks were afraid being burdened by the Emberites, and wanted to be selfish, even though they didn’t see their actions as being selfish because they were concerned for their own people rather than realizing that they were ALL people. They looked down on the Emberites because of their lack of knowledge of their world, and saw them as less than they and treated them as such; maybe not at first, but definitely toward the end.  When they realize that unfortunate consequences of their actions, only then do they relent.
I can’t help but compare this to our present society, and I think that is the point.  This story felt more like a cautionary tale of warning, showing the path of destruction that could lie ahead if we don’t get our action together.  I also couldn’t help but think about the recent issue that affected my state as well as many others, with the influx of Syrian refugees.  States publicly announced whether they would be accepting these refugees, and my state publicly stated they would accept them. Still I saw on Facebook, and overheard people in my town arguing about whether it would be safe, and why we should or shouldn’t.  I remember having a discussion with my friends over dinner about it, and one of my friends stated it was like history repeating itself, with the people’s reactions and opinions on accepting German refugees after WWII.
I should mention that I knew this was a YA book, but I didn’t realize how young.  I assumed that when I went to Barnes & Noble last night to look for The Diamond of Darkhold, that I would find it in the YA Teen section, but after combing all the shelves I didn’t see it. I decided to look in the Children’s section, thinking maybe it might be there next to Harry Potter (since our main characters are 12/13 year olds) and I was surprised to see it under the “Young Readers ages 7-12/Grades 3-6”.  I think that makes me appreciate it a little more. I’ve always said that a good story is good no matter who reads it.  A true, good story transcends beyond the audience it is written for, and I feel that this series is just that good. Especially when I read these books and pick up on the themes and messages that run deeper, but are simple in nature. What does it mean to be human?  Why are we so afraid of what we don’t know or understand? Why can we not meet difference with kindness instead of fear? What does it mean to live? To believe, to hope for a better, brighter future.
The next book in the series is actually a prequel, The Prophet of Yonwood, which is set 50 years before the creation of Ember.  Amazon said it could come anywhere between the 7th (tomorrow) and the 22nd, so it could come literally any day. I got The People of Sparks 3 days after ordering, so hopefully it comes tomorrow and I can get started on it ASAP, otherwise I am going to have to start another book while I wait, and the remaining books on my list (other than the classic, The Phantom of the Opera) are very long books.  The Ember books are not that long, as far as pages go, and they go by pretty fast.
I am sorry this review was so long! I was so taken with this book, I think I could have gone on a lot more, I promise I did try to condense as best I could.

Review: The Night Circus

3 letters. Wow.

I had a really good weekend, and read like a machine.
Right after finishing The City of Ember, I went on Amazon and ordered both, the sequel The People of Sparks, and the prequel The Prophet of Yonwood. I intend to buy the 4th book as well, The Diamond of Darkhold, but I don’t want to pay upwards of $20 for the hardcover. (All City of Ember books I have are hardcovers). So while I waited for the next 2 books in the series, I thought I would start and hopefully finish another book by the time they arrived. That book, was The Night Circus.

This past Christmas I received 4 books from my friends; Twilight: Life and Death, The Night Circus, The Phantom of the Opera, and Four Friends. The woman who got me The Night Circus, had read it herself, and prior to Christmas had told me how much she enjoyed it. She told me, that she thought I would enjoy it, and that there was a romance (yay!) that would keep me interested. I wanted to read it first, but after completely getting wrapped up again with the new Twilight: Life and Death, I didn’t want to read 2 romances in a row. So, I read Life of Pi instead, then was delayed again by The City of Ember, which like Life of Pi had sat on my dresser the past 2 years without being opened. Finally, I had my moment.

The Night Circus has all my favorite things. Supernatural or magical elements, romance, interesting characters, sharp, descriptive imagery, and lots of contrast and interesting plots and movement.
So a recap if you are not familiar:
The story follows 2 characters, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair.  The story starts when they are children, both of unfortunate circumstances, who are chosen by 2 magicians to take part in a challenge of sorts. The characters are chosen separately with no knowledge of who the other is, and are both taught by their instructors in completely different ways.  The venue for the challenge is a circus, and the 2 “battle” it out in front of circus patrons. Real magic, under the disguise of illusion to the patrons. This is the basis of the story, which takes place during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. Everyone who is part of the circus is affected by the challenge in some way, extra pieces on the chessboard.

There is a lot of build up for the story. The first half of the book, moved slowly, and it wasn’t until a little after halfway, the students meet each other as opponents.  They know each other, but don’t realize the other is their opponent until (in my opinion) late in the book.  The romance doesn’t spark up immediately either, but once it is ignited, it’s pretty good. I’m a romanticist, and I love stories about star crossed lovers, obsession, desire. But I also don’t like having those things simply written or served on a silver platter. I like turmoil, conflict, opposing sides. Wanting to be loved by the other person to the point it consumes you and drives you crazy, wanting to be together because it feels so right when it reality it’s wrong.  I was pleasantly surprised at how the author delivered me these things in a way that did not seem traditional.

Away from the romance, I loved the world this painted for me. The way they describe the circus, is like something out of a dream. It’s magical, it’s mysterious, it’s beautiful and charming at the same time it intrigues you and engages all your senses. Spoiler, the circus is entirely magical, and tied to our characters. Before they know who their opponent is, they only know them through magical chess moves, and these magical chess moves are tents with other worldly atmospheres, in response to their opponents.  The way these things are described in great detail is brilliant. It can be a bit fairy tale and make believe, but aren’t most books and movies?  The author, Erin Morgernstern writes in a way that makes you truly present in the world she has created. There is so much more in the book that I appreciated, that the things I didn’t like are really very few in between.

I simply could not put this book down, which as I have said before is a sure sign I really like a book. Every moment I had to read, be it 2 hours or 10 minutes, I was reading it. I finished it Friday night, but have been collecting my thoughts for this review, as well as starting and finishing The People of Sparks.
I gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads.com, because I truly was amazed with this book.  I would recommend it to others to read, especially if you are into fantasy novels.