Saturday, January 18, 2014

Beautiful Darkness | Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.

Sometimes life-ending.

Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is a sequel to Beautiful Creatures (which I've already reviewed) and as the Ethan delves deeper into the Caster world, he learns more about his family and how intertwined it really is with the Caste world. After Lena's birthday both Ethan and Lena are trying to return to their normal lives. As the school year winds down, Ethan notices Lena pulling away slowly, hanging out with Ridley and dressing more like her, as if she were Dark. As the seventeenth moon approaches, Ethan must stop  Lena from making the one decision that could destroy herself. 

Spoiler-Filled Review/ My Opinion

Things I Liked

Liv. Need I say anymore? She was the perfect character. She was smart, funny, pretty and british. Throughout most of the book I preferred her to Lena, not to say I didn't like Lena. She was likable and wasn't as indecisive. Her character development throughout the book was really great, and I really really really hope we see more of her in the next books. She definitely needs some compensation for everything she's sacrificed for the sake of the Caster world.  

Link also went through some fantastic character development throughout the book. He went from having an extremely minor role in the first book to playing a somewhat important role in the major bulk of the action throughout the book. I think his most important role was to keep Ridley grounded. He was one of the major reasons Ridley wasn't completely Dark. And the fact that he's turning into a supernatural creature makes me think he's going to have an even bigger role as the series progresses. 

I am really excited to see how Ridley develops throughout the rest of the series as a Mortal. From Ethan's point of view we only see her as the Siren whose trying to ruin Lena's life and in this book, I think she really changes her image of herself. We see that the Darkness hasn't completely taken her over in those brief moments with Link and Lena where we see a small amount of vulnerability come through. I'm really curious how this transformation plays itself out. 

Things I Disliked

The way I felt about Ethan and Lena in this book is a sharp contrast to how I felt about them in the first book. Their relationship was really rocky in this book and there were too many other people in between their relationship. Lena particularly irritated me in the first two-thirds of this book. She was being moody and extremely hypocritical. I get it. She's going through a difficult time but regardless of what's happened, no one has the right to be as hypocritical as she was. She ran away from Ethan with some guy on a motorcycle and then was furious at Ethan for interacting with Liv. It's such a double standard and I found it completely unfound and unnecessary. 

The entire love scene with Lila and Macon somewhat rubbed me the wrong way. I don't know if it was just me, but it seemed like a Harry Potter was pulled on us. Lila Evers Wate and Lily Evans Potter. There's no way that's a coincidence, just putting it out there. I predicted the whole relationship before it was revealed, and I just...don't like it. 

Why has Lena not claimed herself yet?! At this point, I feel like the series is being prolonged unnecessarily. Eighteenth moon? Is that really necessary? At this point Ridley's a mortal, Uncle Macon is no longer dark. What is she waiting for?! If she just Claimed herself for the Light they could be done with this trouble. 

Personally I thought this was really just a filler book, filled with new information. My expectations for this book were somewhat high and I really hope the series picks up from this book.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book-Movie Discussion: Beautiful Creatures

My Rating: 2.5/ 5

Compared to the book, this movie was truly a disappointment. If I hadn't read the book before watching this I would have been so confused. Even while watching the movie, I was confused. 

Thing I Liked (Sort of) 

Even though Ridley's physical appearance didn't match the description of the movie, I think her short hair and clothing adequately conveyed her attitude.

Things I Disliked

First of all, I hated Ethan and Lena's relationship in this movie. It lacked everything I loved in the book. Their fights were way too abrupt, going from screaming to making out in literally seconds. Any and all kissing in the movie was was too aggressive, for lack of better term. It lacked the general awkwardness of the teenage relationship in the book. 

They cut out Marian Ashcroft. This was completely not ok with me. Marian serves as the hidden link between Ethan's "normal" world and the Caster world. By making Amma the Caster librarian we lose the whole emotional link with Lila. 

Speaking of Lila, they completely took out Ethan's parents, which I think were the realistic parts of the book to emotionally hold the audience. Both parents are mentioned but neither make a reappearance in the movie.

In general the plot was very poorly extrapolated from the book. All the important parts of the movie were put in, but none of them ever flowed. If I hadn't read the book, I never would have known that Lena was in threat of being expelled. All they showed was her breaking the windows and then her saying she was on probation. That's it. Nothing else.

They took out the dance scene. This wouldn't have been much of a problem, except that they mention it. There's one shot of Ethan and Lena joking around about the dance which leads the audience to believe they'll get to see the dance, but we don't. They just taunted us. Stupid movie people. 

I have a really big problem with the end of this movie. Since when does Lena have the power to take people's memories away? What? And if she really is that powerful, can't she restore his memories? She took Ethan's memories so he could be "dead" to her and the curse is paid, but Macon still died, and Ethan didn't remember her. To me, this doesn't sounds like "true sacrifice", it sounds like pure stupidity. 

Since I'm talking about the ending, why is the Claiming in broad daylight? The whole point of the Claiming is having a moon present. Why is there a clear full moon during broad daylight? What? 

This is a much more trivial part of the storyline but was it just me, or was Savannah Snow never actually in the movie? They identified Emily Asher but never showed Savannah Snow  or the whole posse which really diminished the idea of everyone being exactly the same. In addition to this, they never actually showed Ethan having conflict with his school friends, making it seem like Ethan dating Lena was ok with the town. 

I'm going to be completely honest here and admit something. I thought that both Lena and Ethan were more attractive in the book. Maybe it's just me but in the book I pictured them a lot more attractive, not to say that the actors weren't. I just had a different picture in my head.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Beautiful Creatures | Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. 
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Nonspoiler Review

This book takes place in the Southern county of Gatlin, a small county in which everyone knows everyone and everything. For a majority of the people, Gatlin is a self-sufficient town and people tend to stay there throughout their life. Not Ethan Wate. Ethan is counting down the days until he can escape the town and all of its people. That is, until Lena Duchannes moves in. She is the niece of the feared Macon Ravenwood, a reserved man who has never been seen outside of his home. Ethan feels a connection with Lena and is drawn to her, regardless of the number of times she's attempted to push him away. With Lena, Ethan realizes that the town he's known his whole life isn't exactly what it seems to be. He learns of a hidden world filled with creatures of different powers. A world that his family is already inexplicably tied into. Generally as a Caster (parallel to a witch), on the sixteenth birthday a choice must be made: either to go Dark or Light, be good or evil. For most, this is a choice. However, for Lena it is decided for her, and everything happening leads up to the moment she will be claimed. 

I thought this book was really good and recommend it for anyone who enjoys fantasy. 

Spoiler-Filled Review/ My Opinion

Cover: Most times the cover usually doesn't have an affect on me, but I just want to point out how well-made this cover is. The simplicity of it really appeals to me. The colors go well together and give a sense of mystery and fantasy. 

 I honestly really loved this book. I felt like it was really cohesive, there were little things I had problems with, but overall I thought this was both a fun and interesting read. 

Things I Liked. 

One thing I really enjoyed in this book was Ethan and Lena's relationship and how it progressed and developed throughout the book. It was completely awkward and just as how a teenage relationship should be. But their chemistry is impeccable. Unlike most couples, they have the ability to work together without getting too caught up in each other. One thing about it that really hit me hard was how it was so hard for Ethan to say that he was in love with her. For me, this makes the emotion all the more real. The word 'love' isn't thrown around in the book and I really appreciate that. 

Another thing I really liked was Link's character. He was witty and funny and served as a great foil to his mother. His loyalty to Ethan was astounding and I just loved his character and personality. 

Generally I thought that the entire plot was so well written. I loved how scenes with Genevieve's locket were interspersed at such appropriate times and how it traced back to both Ethan and Lena. In addition I loved how everyone who was considered 'normal' in Ethan's eyes was a part of this secret world: Marion, Amma, his own mother. Speaking of his mother, I think she had such an important role for someone whose never actually in the book. She's the reason Ethan was able to separate himself from the superficial world of Gatlin. She gave both Ethan and Lena hope for continuing to look for an answer. 

Things I Disliked 

The one thing that really bothered me in this book was the ending. Maybe it's because I haven't read the rest of the series and it'll probably be explained, but what I didn't understand is why Lena didn't claim herself. At first I understood, if she goes Light, all the Dark casters die, which also meant Uncle Macon. But at the end, Macon had died in the place of Ethan, so rather than putting it off, she could have just gone Light and ended it all then. I understood the whole principle of it: that no one is singularly Light or Dark, but a mixture of both, but in terms of the book, it just seemed easier that she make a decision rather than put it off until next year. That's what I call procrastination.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10 Books of 2013

Alright guys as the year ends, it's time to go over the best reads of this year.

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Coming in at number 10: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I promise, this book isn't as girly as it seems. It's more than a book about romance. It's a book about the struggles of fitting in, friendships, getting over stupid jerks who kiss you then date your best friend. Even though she is going through all these struggles, I'd love to have her life. A boarding school in Paris with a British boy. Sign me up! Watching her and Étienne's relationship grow and develop is fun and completely infuriating. Overall, a very enjoyable book to read.

9. Wait for You by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Full Synopsis

 Number 9: Wait For You by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This book is really nice light reading featuring some great main characters. The mysterious Avery Morgansten who refuses to open herself up to anyone and the swoon-worthy Cam Hamilton, the seemingly typical jock who is the known "player". When their worlds collide we have a front row seat through all the ups and downs of their relationship (and there are a lot). 

8. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

Full Synopsis

Number 8 is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This book is the epitome of love stories. It doesn't feature any exaggerated over-the-top characters, but real people. People who seem to have more flaws than strengths. As these two misfits fall in love, they find strength in each other. A classic reminder of the reality of love, not just hearts and happiness but immense amounts of awkwardness and self-consciousness. 

7. The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle 

At number 7: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. People may think that this shouldn't be rated as high because it's "just another romance novel", but I was really able to relate personally to Wren. The way her life is going at the beginning is extremely parallel to mine, which really made me question certain parts of my life that I never had before. The character development of Wren and her family was done really well and really allowed me to join the book on a more personal level. 

6. Looking for Alaska by John Green 

Number 6 is Looking for Alaska by John Green. One of the most well-written books of all time. Not only does it incorporate regular teenage themes like fitting in and finding oneself, but it also does a great job of incorporating extremely controversial topics like suicide. It can't be passed off as frivolous fiction and I recommend it for anyone who can attempt to comprehend the abundant messages this book sends. 

5. The Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

                                   Shadows      Obsidian        Onyx            Opal           Origin

Now for the top 5! At number 5 comes the Lux Series. I was contemplating just putting my favorite one, but a single one doesn't do the series justice. This was really really fun to read. It is extremely parallel to Twilight, but so much better. As someone who doesn't enjoy Twilight, I really liked this book. The female character, Katy, is an avid book blogger who is completely bad-ass and independent. And Daemon is the hot alien boy next door. But it's not love at first sight, more like hate at first sight, which, in my opinion, is much more fun to read about. It has everything that completes a good series: romance, action, cliffhangers, etc. 

4. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

                                        Full Synopsis

Number 4, the thrilling conclusion to the Divergent trilogy: Allegiant by Veronica Roth. This book is the roller coaster of all roller coasters. Readers who have read it will agree with me, while people who haven't should go and pick up this book. It is a dystopian novel like no other, even though it does parallel slightly with The Hunger Games. This book features very strong characters like Tris Prior and Tobias Eaton along with an array of admirable minor characters. Really really worth reading. 

3. House of Hades by Rick Riordan

                                         Full Synopsis

Number 3 is the second to last book of the beloved Percy Jackson world. I've been emotionally invested in this series since I was in sixth grade (which is a lot of years) so everytime a book comes out with Percy Jackson in it, I pounce. Out of the entire Heroes of Olympus series, this one was by far the best. It contained the loving relationship between Percy and Annabeth, along with a terrain we have never seen before: Tartarus. This book really sets the bar high for Blood of Olympus, the final installment in the Heroes of Olympus Series *sniff* 

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

                                            Full Synopsis

Fangirl is a story all of us book lovers can relate to on some level. We all have that one book/series that we love so much we practically refuse to leave that world, that one book/series that drives us just a little insane. Cath gives us all hope. She starts out as a shy, awkward college freshman who refuses to leave her room and interact with anyone, but throughout the book she develops into someone who's more willing to take risks, more willing to put herself out there. It makes for brilliant character development and an entertaining book. 

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

                                             Full Synopsis

Number 1 is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Literally one of the best books I have ever read. The characters were human and relatable, personality-wise, and the writing was so beautiful. Literally there was no sentence in that book worth skipping; everything had some meaning to it. Yes, the relationship was cliché but it was written so beautifully that it didn't matter. Even though I don't have cancer, I was able to become Hazel Grace. I was able to understand how she thinks and why. And I cried. I cried for her, for Augustus, for her parents, for Isaac, and pretty much everyone else in the book. This book is really so wonderful, I recommend everyone to pick it up and read it. 

Now that we wrap up 2013, I'm excited to find out what 2014 has in store for us.

Did you guys agree with me? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!