Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The End of a Book/Series

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Have you ever loved a book until it ended?


What makes a bad ending?

I think it’s amazing how endings impact us. I see a lot of people dislike the final book in series and trilogies, partly because they mark the end of the book, sometimes because the end didn’t live up to their expectations, and other times because the end was bad. I know some endings have impacted my overall opinion about a series in general. An otherwise favorite book can be ruined by a bad sequel and a book I enjoy reading can be ruined by an ending I hate.


Divergent


I used to love Divergent by Veronica Roth, but after a lukewarm sequel and a finale that sort of ruined the plot, world building, and characters for me, I find that I went from recommending Divergent all of the time to never recommending it to other people at all. Even though the final novel wasn’t bad, I disliked the explanations and overall point of the story in general. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner is another example of a book I loved becoming a series I hate. The sequels were so incredibly terrible, they made the first book terrible by default.


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Sometimes, I end up disliking a book or series because it ends too conveniently (or happily). I find that is more likely for me to do than for me to dislike a book because it ended tragically. When I read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and stopped at book 3, I actually enjoyed it, but when I continued to book 6 and supplemented those with the prequel Infernal Devices, I was sick of all of the relationship matches, the happy endings, and the lack of consequences characters had to face. It seems like such a minor thing, since most people love happy endings, but I can’t even take the series seriously anymore.


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I like tragic endings, character deaths, and high stakes in a book. So many series that go on for some time and never have any major deaths, injuries, or consequences end up becoming series I can’t continue to enjoy. I like happy endings, but with a series, too many happy endings and convenient ways out of sticky situations end up bothering me if they continue to happen..


Do endings impact your overall feelings about a book or series?

Do you prefer happy endings? Do tragic endings bother you?


This post expands the 2013 topic: How Book Endings Impact Us

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review–The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

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The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
 
by Brandon Sanderson
 
Summary: In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?
In Brandon Sanderson's intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage - Allomancy, a magic of the metals.


Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:  

The Final Empire was awesome. People have been recommending Brandon Sanderson and the Mistborn trilogy to me for awhile and now I know why. I loved the writing, the unique plot, and I thought the story was amazing.

At first, the size of the book seemed daunting. I’ve purchased the trilogy for kindle and gasped as it told me it would take me over 24 hours to read the trilogy. But I turned the nifty feature off and instead had it show me how long I had left in each chapter, which kept me motivated. And once I started reading, I was immediately captivated by the story and wasn’t looking at how much I had left to read, but instead wondering what would happen next.

I cannot gush enough about the characters. They were very well developed with distinct personalities, motivations, and backstories. Not a single side character felt like they were just placeholders. They felt like real people with real reservations, hopes, and dreams. And, wow, how they grew as the story went on. Vin grew into everything Kelsier thought she could and more. I cared about every single character, even Vin’s brother, who wasn’t present in the book at all.   .

The lore and setting in The Final Empire was so unique. It wasn’t predictable at all. The magic was different than anything I’ve ever encountered and the history behind the way things were was so hidden and mysterious. I loved the unique plot and world building, but I also loved the way that such an “out-there” story could have so many parallels with our own history. There are a handful of different spots in time and civilizations that the author could have been drawing influence from when he created the class system in the novel. That’s one of my favorite things about fantasy novels. I am intrigued by the way such a magical story with elements that don’t exist in our world can mirror our world so well and give us such needed lessons about ourselves, power, society, and love.

The Mistborn trilogy, or at least the first book (so far), is a must read for any fantasy lover and I’m glad I finally understand why so many fellow fantasy lovers rave about Brandon Sanderson.


  5%2520star

Friday, January 23, 2015

Review–Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

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Maybe Someday

by Colleen Hoover
 
Summary: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover, a passionate tale of friendship, betrayal, and romance.
At twenty-two years old, Sydney has a great life: She's in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter's cheating on her--and she is left trying to decide what to do next.
Sydney becomes captivated by Ridge, her mysterious neighbor. She can't take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there's something about Sydney that Ridge can't ignore, either. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one...
Original music created for Maybe Someday by musician Griffin Peterson can be accessed through the website listed in the ebook and paperback.


Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

It’s hard to really summarize how I feel about Maybe Someday. There’s no doubt it was an original, well written, amazingly executed novel about tough choices, connections, the power of touch and music  It was emotional, every single character was amazing, and I found so many things I loved about it. And despite the issues I had with the story, I can’t argue that it wasn’t executed very well and shed light on a situation I might not have otherwise been able to understand. I also highly applaud the author for being able to write about a certain kind of language and lifestyle that felt as natural as breathing and I think it was probably difficult to do that as well as she did.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that Colleen Hoover is a master at her genre and she’s definitely a must read author for me.

However, despite my praise, I was faced with some situations I didn’t quite like. Sydney’s boyfriend was cheating on her. Ridge gave her a place to stay with him and his other roommates when she found out, punched her boyfriend and her best friend in the face, and moved out with nowhere to go. Ridge had a girlfriend, but the two of them had an attraction to each other that just didn’t seem to fade. Essentially, that’s the plot. Which was fine..

While the parts of the book from his point of view clearly pointed out his love for his current girlfriend, I noticed that he never once mentioned her to Sydney in any of their interactions. And while it was easily explained that they were discussing subjects that never would have normally brought her up specifically, I had a problem with it. For instance, one of my friends noticed that when I’m talking to people I don’t know very well (or even people I do), I bring up my husband in some way in the conversation and it is natural to me and to the conversation as anything else I could have said. I subconsciously talk about him and as a result, never end up giving any guy who is attempting to carry on a conversation with me the wrong idea. It’s natural, not something I think about, and not something I even notice until later on. It’s natural because he is an extension of myself. People who are in love frequently do that. I hear it. All of the time. And so, when I noticed how Ridge never brought her up, I came to the conclusion that no matter how much he claimed to love Maggie, there was something obviously missing for him to fail to bring her up when I know he had the best of intentions. That was my first issue.

The story is about how we don’t choose who we fall in love with,how you can love two people at the same time, an how certain people are made for each other. I totally agree with two of those things. I do not think that you can love and be in love with two people at the same time. I feel like there has to be something, even something small that is missing emotionally in order for someone to even be open to feeling that way about a second person.

I also think that, while Sydney and Ridge didn’t cheat on his girlfriend, Maggie, except for a minor kiss that they both acknowledged was wrong, neither of them seemed to understand the concept of emotional cheating, which I think is almost more damaging than physical cheating. To have the book miss this concept kind of irked me, despite the way I was rooting for their relationship. I liked Maggie as a person, as did everyone else. I liked Sydney. I understood the conflict. But it was obvious that Ridge, despite telling Maggie everything technically, wasn’t connecting with her emotionally and was seeking an emotional connection with Sydney because he was missing that with Maggie. I kind of hated that absolutely no one saw that. Every single character was fixating on Ridge and Maggie’s solid love for each other and not once did anyone stop ask themselves how this situation could have happened if that were wholly true. I think the book forgot you can love someone and not be in love, which is what I think was really happening.

My last issue is the amount of crying that took place. It was over the top. And I understand being emotional, but there’s something about crying during physical moments that makes me cringe. I wish that the author could have cut the waterworks for at least most of those moments. I liked Sydney and Ridge and I enjoyed the way their relationship progressed and I did think they belonged together. I loved the way it all unfolded between the two of them, apart from the issue of Maggie. I don’t like how the whole thing was handled or concluded in that regard, either. If the book didn’t have the whole looming girlfriend conflict and handled it the way it did, I would have definitely given the book 5 stars. I loved absolutely everything except the whole girlfriend conflict scenario and conclusion.

Maybe Someday is a great book and it was another gem from Colleen Hoover. I definitely recommend it. I truly loved the story, it’s just that I can’t sweep aside the couple of things that just didn’t sit well with me and they kind of hang over my head and prevent me from giving this the 4 or 5 stars I normally would.

  3%2520star

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review–The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

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The Last Song
 
by Nicholas Sparks
 
Summary: Seventeen year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller’s life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father… until her mother decides it would be in everyone’s best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him.
Ronnie’s father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story about love in its myriad forms – first love, the love between parents and children – that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that deeply felt relationships can break our hearts… and heal them.


Source: I purchased a paperback
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Review:

A friend of mine who doesn’t really like sappy romances recommended The Last Song to me when we were discussing the few Nicholas Sparks book we enjoyed, so I figured I’d check it out. I’ve never seen the movie, nor did I know what the book would be about.

There were aspects about The Last Song that I enjoyed. I think, as a whole, the story was great. I liked the characters, the plot, and the romance, and the way Ronnie grew throughout the whole book. I liked the lessons learned and the way it ended. There were certainly moments I felt I could relate to very strongly having met my husband at 17 and falling for him pretty quickly, as well as mending my relationship with my dad a lot more after realizing how little I really knew about the situation between my parents. My husband was the one to show me mudding and fishing and generally all things redneck because I didn’t come from the south, much like Will did with Ronnie. Like Ronnie, I also have a funny little brother, and I didn’t have the best group of friends at certain points in my teenage life. So there were definitely a ton of things I connected with and related to when it come to Ronnie’s story.

However, the book fell flat for me overall. I’m usually fine with third person narration, but this book felt distant and not written very well. I felt like there was way more telling instead of showing and the only character who really broke through that writing was Jonah because he had such a strong personality and maybe Ronnie’s dad because he was an adult. Mostly, I felt like the author was writing about teenagers without really getting into character, which made all of Ronnie and Will’s perspectives feel weird. The author did well with Ronnie’s dad point of view, which is why I feel like it was merely a problem of getting into the minds of the teen characters.

I felt like I was reading a story about two teenagers from the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand them at all and feels as if they are one dimensional. It was frustrating because I liked Ronnie and Will and even Blaze and I felt like the author could have explored their characters a bit more and treated them like normal. He even failed to do justice to Scott and Marcus, creating characters who were selfish for the sake of being selfish and bad for the sake of being bad. Marcus was probably a really complicated person and he was way too generalized. Maybe I read way too much YA, but if you can’t write from a teen characters perspective without simplifying them as people, then perhaps you shouldn’t be writing about teens at all.

Overall, The Last Song was a great story that was limited by the writing. It could have been amazing, but instead it fell just short of the mark. I do recommend the book to fans of Nicholas Sparks. It’s definitely a great story and perhaps my issues are due to not caring for his contemporary romances in the first place aside from a select few and also reading a lot of YA and expecting more from authors writing about young adults.

I had a tiny problem with the issue of God in the book. It was certainly subtle, but I think that’s what caused me to notice it at all. It felt misplaced in the story because the characters never really explored anything. Besides Pastor Harris praying and Steve trying to understand how he talks to God and reading the Bible a couple of times, no other mention of God was really there until Ronnie started randomly placing emphasis on it. You never really see her come into Christianity or praying expect for once with Pastor Harris and then suddenly she’s interjecting Holy Spirit into paragraphs. It was weird. I would have preferred the author taken a similar route to A Walk to Remember by having it front and center a bit more, had a few more scenes with Ronnie generally attempting to connect with God and seeing her believe, or just omitted the whole thing altogether. I don’t think most people will take issue with this because I feel like a lot of churchgoing people randomly sprinkle in Holy Spirit references anyway, but I was thrown off.

Honestly thought, The Last Song isn’t bad if Nicholas Sparks is an author you typically read and my biggest issue is that he isn’t a go to author for me. I know I was underwhelmed when I kept thinking that perhaps the movie would convey a scene better than the book.

3%2520star

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review–Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown

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Golden Son (Red Rising #2)
 
by Pierce Brown
 
Summary: With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation. Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within. A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

Golden Son was absolutely amazing.

I thought things might be easy for Darrow after the Institute, but that was far from the case. Essentially, after Red Rising, he rose and was a Peerless Scarred, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t faced with tons of tough choices. I wondered what would come next. Would there be new orders from the Sons of Ares? Would Darrow have to prove himself more? What would happen if the orders from the Sons of Ares conflicted with his feelings?

My favorite thing about this series is how complex it is. So many.. too many.. dystopian novels take a simplistic route and only focus on one major aspect of the societal structure, conflict, or relationship. As a lover of dystopian fiction, I crave the stories that explore more than one aspect. It’s not just about creating a rebellion, pointing out what’s wrong with the society, or having a badass main character. You have to look at how people think, how they react, where the weak spots are, what the true problems are, and how to achieve a successful revolution without failing. Most books that contain rebellion in the fact of an unfair government don’t explore the what if situations. Everything works out seamlessly for them. But the Red Rising series really does a great job of touching on just about every aspect of the general conflict and all of the tiny conflicts within.

The other thing I love about Golden Son is how Darrow is amazing and intelligent and super badass, but he also has a ton of flaws. Some of those flaws became huge problems that he had to deal with, learn from, and work around. Much like in Red Rising, when he lost his place at the top in the Institute, he had to think about how to win back power and trust at the same time, which is very difficult. And once you have the power and trust, how do  you keep it? How do you refrain from alienating people who put all of their trust in you when you are bombarded by your own secrets?

I absolutely love this series and Golden Son was a great sequel that didn’t disappoint, even when I was scared it wouldn’t live up for the first book. I’m anxious to read the next book and I’m even a little sad I read it so quickly and have such a long wait for the next book. I am almost heartbroken after reading Golden Son and I have so many questions. I just want to scream because I need more! The ending was just.. wow. I can’t discuss without insane spoilers, but wow.

Golden Son and the Red Rising series is complex, genius, full of adventure, strategic, enjoyable, well written, and emotional in many places. I felt like I got a lot more of Darrow’s internal struggle and grief in this sequel and it really tugged at my heartstrings whenever he was faced with a tough choice, a surprising revelation, or when he was knocked down by his enemies.

I highly recommend the series. It’s only January, but I’m betting Golden Son and Red Rising will be some of the best books I’ll read all year. I am forced to read light and completely unrelated fiction in order to not have a book hangover because anything in a similar genre will probably not live up to these books!

If you are a fan of dystopian fiction, science fiction, war/military fiction, strategy, and/or Greco-Roman mythology, Red Rising and Golden Son are MUST READS. The Red Rising series is perfect for people who have read The Hunger Games and similar stories and can’t help but feel like everything is too easy, predictable, or light because they don’t explore enough or aren’t realistic or violent or hard enough. I still enjoy those types of books, but there’s no question that Red Rising and Golden Son sated my curiosity and feels like a dystopian story that FINALLY does what they all should do.

5%2520star

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review–Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

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Red Rising (Red Rising #1)
 
by Pierce Brown
 
Summary: The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.


Source: I received a digital copy from NetGalley

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Review:

Red Rising was fantastic! It was imaginative, unique, violent, and well written. It had elements of science fiction, military strategy, survival, and dealt with classism in a way I’ve never seen. It explored the damage trauma can cause a person and wasn’t violent without consequences.
The main character was a Red helldiver under the planet of Mars. He and his entire tribe was told that they were terraforming Mars and making it a suitable place for people. The beginning of the book explored his life there, the way he thought compared to his peers, and the unfairness of their living situation. After losing everything he cared about, he was taken from his place as a Red and the rebels groomed him for an elaborate plan involving the ruling class of Golds.

I was unsure about the book at first because I couldn’t see how Darrow’s situation would allow much room for any kind of revolution, but fortunately, Darrow didn’t spend much time as a Red and the novel didn’t take the direction I expected. His adventures were cut short by tragedy and the book took off once the group of rebels took him up to the surface and basically turned him into a Gold. He had a lot to learn about the world, which was helpful to me since the book just kind of threw me into Darrow’s world and then tilted the world he thought he knew upside down. The bulk of the story took place in the Gold command school where Darrow attended. The students were the best of the best of the Golds and were being tested to find out how high in the social structure they could be.

I hate to give too much of the story away, but it’s hard because the story explored so many things. Each direction or topic that was thrown in was actually explored. The beginning was reminiscent of Ray Bradbury to me because of his obsession with Mars and the way he explored what life on the planet might be like. I enjoyed that part. The part where the rebels turn Darrow into a Gold was definitely the most sci fi aspect of the book and showed me just what kind of technology was available and gave me insight into how the world was divided by class and “color” of the people.

And the bulk of the story was incredible. The first challenge was brutal, but nothing compared to the brutality of the second and longest challenge. Their situation was similar to The Hunger Games, but when I say that, hear me out. It’s not just a bunch of people killing each other to win that barely skims the surface of what that might actually be like. It was much much more complicated than that. It was what THG could have been if it had actually gone deeper into the psychology of being stuck in the games and forced to kill people, make alliances, keep those shaky alliances, and win. It was violent, gory, psychologically damaging to the players, and was an elaborate game of survival and chess. If this book is like THG, it would only be if THG was written for adults who aren’t buying the situation just because the author says it’s like that.

Red Rising is what a truly epic scifi dystopian novel should strive to be. I’m full of questions and there were many points where I thought the class system was actually kind of smart, despite the unfairness to people who aren’t Golds. I love the way it explored each aspect. The only flaw of the novel is Darrow’s perfectness, but the author wasn’t afraid to make him truly suffer, so it wasn’t as if he was untouchable.

I highly recommend Red Rising and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I have had this on my Kindle for months and I’m glad I finally picked it up. However, Red Rising isn’t for everyone. It’s brutal and violent and I can’t stress that enough. If you’re used to the pretty dystopian worlds of YA where suffering is minimal, Red Rising might be too much. There’s no easy way out, lovely side romance, or choices that are easy to live with.

5%2520star

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review–The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner

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The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3)
 
by James Dashner
 
Summary: It’s the end of the line.
WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.
Will anyone survive?
What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.
The truth will be terrifying.
Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.
The time for lies is over.


Source: I purchased a paperback.

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Review:

While The Death Cure was mildly better than The Scorch Trials, I’m disappointed as a whole by the series in general. The Death Cure was almost as pointless as The Scorch Trials and that fact makes the idea of The Maze Runner pointless in the end, too. The Death Cure was so utterly far fetched, improbable, and ridiculous, it wasn’t even funny. In order for me to have bought the idea of the maze in the first place, the following novels had to be pretty good. And they failed to bring about a logical reason for the entire conflict in the first place, which makes the series a complete failure.

Thomas never got his memories back, which I thought had less to do with him not really wanting them back and more to do with the fact that the author would have had no clue what to do if he had to actually create a backstory. Thomas was able to escape, which is insane to begin with. He became part of some crazy agenda involving people who had broken away from Wicked in the first place and somehow was able to infiltrate all of that.

Most of the characters were exactly the same or pointless in the end. Somehow, in The Maze Runner, I felt distinct personalities from each character. But the rest of the series failed to give me anything but bland personalities. Brenda was basically Teresa and they were both pointless. Newt was just Thomas with a bloody thrown in here and there, which was exactly who Jorge was with a hermano thrown in for good measure. They all stated the obvious ALL OF THE TIME and told terrible jokes that weren’t funny at all and were equally bland.

Honestly, I am so embarrassed that liked the first book, that I bought the movie, that I recommended the books at all, and got an entire group of friends to read it. I thought it was going to be this amazing and intelligent story when it started out with some Lord of the Flies elements in the maze, but I guess that was a fluke. And what is crazy is that the author could have easily just had the maze open up into nothingness and they all find out the world is over or something and it would have been more satisfying than to have the rest of the books exist in the first place. He should have just given us a crazy terrible ending and called it a day because I don’t believe he really had any of the rest of the story well thought out. Either that, or it really is one of those middle grade novels that can’t transcend its age group and appeal to anyone over the age of 12. And if I’m being really honest, that would be an insult to 12 year olds everywhere.

I hate to be so scathing, but it was terrible and I hated it and it was just badly executed altogether. Do not read this book. Pretend The Maze Runner is a standalone or just avoid reading it at all. I do not recommend this series at all and I will not read The Kill Order.


1star