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Friday, November 3, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green review

I've come to the conclusion that John Green books just don't affect me the way they do other people.  The writing was good, I think he did an excellent job of capturing the things that go through your mind when you have a mental illness, and I loved all the characters as I usually do with his books....but I always feel like there's not really a plot.  These kids just go about their daily lives and it's a biography of what they experience each day rather than there being an "endgame" and it's been this way with every one of his books for me.  I'd give this one 3.5 stars simply for how beautifully he did capture Aza's thoughts and illness, but the story as a whole only gets about a 2.5 out of 5 because it was kinda boring.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Warcross by Marie Lu summary

     Emika is living in NYC struggling to make ends meet after the death of her father.  She becomes a bounty hunter to try to pay the bills and the book starts with her going after a high value bounty. 
     The bounties she takes on are for the police who are searching for disreputable characters in Warcross, a virtual reality which has taken the world by storm (think the OASIS from Ready Player One). 
     She catches her bounty but another bounty hunter called it in that they had caught them first so even though she is the one that turns the bounty over she doesn't get the reward money. 
     Since she and her roommate are about to be evicted from their apartment for nonpayment she becomes desperate and hacks into the opening ceremony of the Warcross championship, which is like the Olympics where the best of the best at Warcross compete for cash and prizes.
     She hacks in to try to steal some powerups from the players, which are shown as marble looking items that assist with speed and other advantages in the competitions and some are worth a lot of money so that's why she is trying to steal them.
     In the process of the hack, she is glitched into the game and can be seen by all the spectators.  She immediately logs out but her face is on the news within hours and she awakes the next day to a phone call from none other than the creator of Warcross himself, Hideo Tanaka. 
     He tells her that her debts have been taken care of and he wants her to come to Tokyo to meet with him.  She of course agrees since he is her idol and she has looked up to him since she was a little kid.
     Upon arriving in Tokyo he tells her that he has a job for her.  She will be entered as a wildcard in the Warcross championship to help him find another hacker who is messing with the Warcross system. Each of the teams in Warcross selects wildcards from the player base each year so this isn't unusual and she'll be able to go in incognito.
     He chooses her because only one other person has been able to hack into the Warcross games which is this unknown entity named Zero and so that's why he feels that someone of her caliber will be able to catch them.  Her reward will be 10 million dollars if she succeeds, but he tells her that he has also hired other hackers too so it is a competition in itself to try to see who can catch Zero first.
     Emika is picked by the Phoenix Riders to be their wildcard and she is first wildcard pick which starts even more tabloid fodder about her even though we find out later on that Hideo didn't even set that part up.  Asher (the Phoenix Riders captain) chose her on his own since he realized how great her hacking skills must be with glitching into the tournament.
     While hacking into her team and other teams personal files to try to find clues about Zero (Hideo thinks Zero is another Warcross player), Emika discovers that the other wildcard on her team named DJ Ren has many firewalls on his info where the others don't so she begins to tail him, suspecting he is Zero. 
     During this time, she has meetings with Hideo regarding finding the hacker and they begin to fall in love based on their shared life experiences.  His brother was abducted when they were young while they were at a park playing, and she shares with him her father's gambling addiction and death and her mother's abandonment.
     At one of their meetings, Hideo gives Emika a hack which can get past Ren's data encryption if she can get close enough and she uses it on him in the tournament while they are playing and manages to grab a file that is called "proj_ice_HT" which she figures out means "Ice Hideo" aka assassinate Hideo.  She turns the info in to Hideo and even though an assassination attempt is made on his life at one of the events he tells her to continue tracking Ren and they will act like Ren isn't a suspect for now in order to glean more info. 
     Emika follows Ren into the Darkcross (an underground of Warcross with illegal betting and powerup trades along with other illegal things like virtual prostitution) one day to try to find out more about what he's doing. 
     She sees him betting on a Darkcross game and another entity shows up in head to toe black armor and she realizes it is Zero. 
     Ren and Zero begin placing strange betting numbers on the game and she figures out it's a code and begins recording the numbers. 
     Later on in her room she finds that the numbers are coordinates around the world at some of the biggest cities and she sees that Zero has much more influence and is planning something even bigger than she thought for the Warcross finale.
     At one of the last games of the tournament in an underwater level Zero glitches himself and Emika into a cave away from the eyes of the other players and spectators and offers her an alliance, saying that if she'll help him he can pay her more than Hideo but she of course refuses. 
     He once again shows up at the Warcross championship apartment she shares with her team and asks her to reconsider and when she refuses he steals the memories she had of her father that were stored in her files and then he blows up the aparment building. 
     She and her teammates make it out, but Hideo tells her that he's pulling her from the tournament since it's become so dangerous and he can't lose her.  He also has Ren arrested for questioning and pulls him from the tournament as well.
     Emika knows that whatever Zero has planned is huge and she can't let it go so even though she promises Hideo that she'll stay out of the investigation, she tells her teammates everything and they agree to help her catch Zero. 
     One of the other players in the game, Tremaine, reveals to Emika that he is another of the bounty hunters searching for Zero and he gives her the info he had collected which includes another piece of the proj_ice encryption which she then is able to decrypt and sees that it is a plan to install a virus in Warcross through the artifacts in the final game.
     She once again goes into the black market and with the money Hideo has given her buys several illegal powerups to use in the final game. 
     When the game starts she takes over the new wildcard on her team's account and goes into the game as him.  She finds out that Zero has glitched into the game by the same means and is controlling the account of the opposing team's captain.  She manages to steal the artifact from him and deactivates it and the artifact from their team too, preventing Zero from installing the virus.  He tells her that "she triggered it" and she tells him that she has stopped him and he needs to give up at which time he tells her that all he is trying to do is STOP Hideo and then he disappears.
     She confronts Hideo about it and he reveals to her that he has upgraded the neurolinks used for Warcross so that now instead of just receiving data and letting the users control the link to their mind, he can now use that same link to control them instead and he is planning on using it to stop any crimes and she has helped him activate it since she didn't stop Zero. 
     He shows her a current happening where a man is planning on robbing a convenience store.  The neurolink kicks in and his brain is "rewired" so that he puts the gun away and leaves, forgetting what he was planning on doing.  Hideo explains to Emika that this will stop all crime in the world (this has been his plan all along because of what happened to his brother and the guilt he feels about it) and he asks her to understand and help him and even though she sees the good it could do she also sees that it takes away free will and it breaks her heart to do it but she tells him he will have to do this on his own and she can't be a part of it.
     Emika goes back to the Warcross apartment to meet up with her team and explains everything to them.  She realizes that with one of her hacks she has still been gathering info on the Warcross players while in the game which means that she has some of Zero's files now.  She begins going through them and finds that Zero is actually Hideo's brother, Sasuke.
     Emika wonders why Sasuke hasn't come forward in all these years.  Is he being controlled by someone else to act against his brother?  Does he even know who he is anymore?  Is it even Sasuke or is this just another deceit?  Around this time she gets a message from Zero which says "My offer to you still stands" and all her filed memories of her father are returned to her.
     Emika wonders who she should actually be helping; Zero, who tried to stop Hideo but used such violence in the process, or Hideo, who she really loves but doesn't want to endorse because his plan takes away free will.
     The book ends with Tremaine coming outside to tell her that another bounty hunter contacted him and that he thinks this hunter can help them with finding Zero and Emika agrees to go with him to find the bounty hunter while still being unsure on who she should actually be trying to stop.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan review

I had my hopes set way too high.  That's what I get for reading 5 million reviews before deciding to pick this up thinking it would be the best thing since Ready Player One.  I should have known the bar had been set way too high to try to compare it to that book since it is one of my favorites, but I kept seeing comparisons to Ready Player One and so I was vibrating with anticipation to read this and stalked my mailman all day long while I waited for it to arrive from Amazon.

I really liked the writing in this book, but I think I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if I understood more about "tech" stuff.  Some of the references were way over my head, which is why I may not have enjoyed it as much as Ready Player One since it was all video game and 80's references and that was right up my alley.  Still an enjoyable read though.  I wish there had been more to the puzzle solution but the fact that it wasn't anything "heavy" made it feel more realistic. 

Not a life-changing book by any means but still a fast enjoyable read, just don't expect as intricate of a game as RP1 has.  I think the comparisons between these two books revolve more around the easy to read, geeky writing than the plot itself.  If you go in knowing that you will still enjoy this book.

3 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern review

     Okay, so first let me say that I'm not trying to be different in my opinion of this book just to be "different".  I truly wanted to enjoy it since all my friends did, but I didn't and I couldn't.  Is the circus magical and amazing and just as awesome as every other book reviewer in the world seems to think it is?  Absolutely!  The problem lies in that this is where the magic stopped for me.  
     I cared nothing about the characters, to me they were all just skeevy and conniving (maybe this is why I didn't like them, since I prefer to always try to see the good in people). I felt no connection to the "love story", the ending was very "meh", and we never get a good enough sense of the characters emotions and personalities since so much of the book is spent explaining the different intricacies of the circus itself.  
      After I read a book that I don't like, I try to go back and think about what the author could have done differently (for me, I know that others adore this book and I'm in the minority) that might have made me like it, and with this book it's a problem I don't think could be fixed, because the only way the magic of the circus would still be there and yet the character development become better would be if it was another 150-200 pages long to give a more in-depth look at the characters lives outside the circus.  
     This would present a huge problem as by the end I was already bored and just wanted to be done with it, so if I had to slough through another 150 pages it might have become a DNF rather than just a book I didn't enjoy but did at least complete.  
     So with all that being said, I'm torn.  I love the atmosphere and the descriptions of this amazing place, but it was definitely very forgettable and I feel like in a couple months time someone could try to discuss a plot point in the book and I won't even remember what they're talking about because I've pushed it to the back of my brain in favor of other, better books.  Like I said, I'm definitely in the minority, but just because a book is about magic doesn't mean that it IS magic like a lot of people had led me to believe.

Rating:  2 out of 5 stars

Friday, October 6, 2017

Before She Ignites (Book 1 of The Fallen Isles trilogy) by Jodi Meadows, the summary

Main Characters:
Mira Minkoba- main character, labeled as Hopebearer
Aaru- love interest? cellmate
Ilina- Mira's best friend/dragon sanctuary attendant
Hristo- Mira's protector/bodyguard/friend
Gerel- Mira's cellmate/she was a soldier before she was imprisoned
Tirta- cellmate (not in Mira's block)/Mira's friend before she is found to be a member of the Luminary Council
LaLa- Mira's pet dragon
Crystal- Ilina's pet dragon
Altan- Mira's nemesis, he is a prison guard but is an undercover Drakon Warrior
Chenda-  cellmate, known as The Dawn Lady, she is the representative of the Twilight Council, a mirror image to what Mira does as Hopebearer for the Luminary Council

Need to Know:
There are six (seven if you count Damyan and Darina as two) Fallen Isles, each having their own culture and a god/goddess representing that Isle.  The names of the isles and their culture are as follows:
1.  Harta- very good at growing things and tending the land
2.  Bopha- worship shadows cast by light, it is found that Chenda who is a Bophan can even remove her shadow from her body and get it to do her will, unknown if other Bophan's can do this too
3.  Damina (this is actually two Isles, Damyan and Darina, but most people count them as one)- these people worship kindness and love above all else.  This is where Mira is from.
4.  Idris- value silence above all, have their own silent language made of finger tapping, like a personal Morse code
5.  Khulan- value warrior skills and train all children from a young age to become great fighters
6.  Anahera- to be honest, I don't remember much on this Isle being mentioned in the book, if anyone has info on it please let me know in the comments!

     At the beginning of the story we get to know Mira.  She is a teenage girl who is known as the Hopebearer.  The Hopebearer is a mouthpiece for the people of the Isles and their government, the Luminary Council. Her father is a powerful official who works hand in hand with the council and created a treaty called the Mira treaty which helped to unite all the Fallen Isles (named so because they worship 7 gods who fell to the Isles so the story goes) in trade and development, along with blending of the peoples.  Before this treaty, most Hartans, Bophans, etc would only stay on their one Isle and socialize with their own culture.
     Now, what you need to know about Mira:  her mother is very hard on her, telling her she's never good enough, her sister Zara ignores her because she's jealous of Mira, and Mira has crippling anxiety and some OCD (she uses counting as a means of calming herself although she tries to keep it secret).  She really loves dragons, and her two best friends are her bodyguard Hristo and also Ilina, who is the daughter of the keepers of the dragon sanctuary on their Isle.
     Mira, Ilina, and Hristo explore the dragon sanctuary anytime they have free time, and Mira has a small dragon who is her pet named LaLa, while Ilina's pet dragon is named Crystal.  One day while exploring they find that some of the dragons are gone from the sanctuary and that there are wheel tracks like they had been taken rather than flying away.
     Upon going back to Ilina's parents, her parents tell them to ignore it and let it be but they can't, and they later find shipping manifests in the paperwork at the sanctuary showing that the dragons are being shipped across the sea to their enemies on the mainland, the Algotti Empire.
     Mira goes to the Luminary Council to let them know what's going on and that they have an enemy somewhere in their midst doing this, but the Council promptly throws her in prison.  The prison is known as the Pit and it is where the most dangerous criminals are sent never to be seen or heard from again.
     While there, Mira makes friends with her cellmates, especially a boy in the cell next to hers named Aaru, and he begins teaching her the silent code of his people and it's hinted at that Mira begins to fall in love with him.
     There's also Gerel who is in the cell across from her, a former Khulan warrior who was top in her class until she was imprisoned for trying to destroy the Pit after seeing the awful things done there when she and her squad were forced to train in the Heart of the Great Warrior (the area in the building beyond where the Pit is, filled with statues of the fallen gods and great warriors).
     Altan, the prison guard, tells Mira that she can choose to take a job in the prison in order to gain better privileges.  She agrees to go to work as a cleaner for a woman named Sarannai who is over the kitchens.
     Sarannai is an evil woman, the same who Gerel told Mira about that caused one of her fellow warrior trainees to die.  She had given them 14 buckets and told them to clean and that those who didn't do it would be removed from training (a great dishonor to the Khulani who's only sole purpose is to be a warrior).
     There were 15 trainees, so the one left without the bucket was forced to try to steal another trainees bucket in order to do his cleaning.
     It forced the trainees to turn on one another and the other trainees ended up beating the 15th boy so badly since he was hindering them from finishing their cleaning that he later died.  This is why Gerel hates the Pit and Heart of the Great Warrior so much.
     Mira manages to complete her cleaning with the help of Tirta's guidance who is working in the laundry at the same time Mira is trying to clean.  Tirta tells her what needs to be done in order to not invoke Sarannai's wrath, and although Sarannai is never kind to Mira she tolerates her because Mira does a good job on her cleaning.
     One day, Altan tells Mira to come with him and he interrogates her about what she knows about the dragons.  She refuses to tell him anything but realizes at this point that he is a hidden Drakon warrior and that the Drakon warriors are still around.  I guess we should discuss some backstory on the Drakon warriors since I'm sure it's going to come up in later books....
     Drakon warriors are Khulani who rode dragons at one point in time before the Mira treaty came to be (yeah I know, all I can think of is Toothless and Hiccup too).  When the treaty was written it said that all Drakon warriors were to be disbanded and the dragons placed into protective sanctuaries since the dragons were seen as parts of the fallen gods the Isles worshipped and should be cherished and protected, not used in war or to ride.  Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program....
     When Mira refuses to tell Altan anything he takes her back to her cell block but all the other prisoners have been moved.  He leaves her there with a small bag of food and water by herself and then all the noorestones are turned off and she is in complete darkness.  She is left like this for four days and begins to hallucinate and even almost dies of thirst.
     She awakes to Aaru pouring water into her mouth through the hole in the wall between their cells where they usually talk.  Altan comes just as she almost regains consciousness and takes her to the interrogation room where she breaks down and tells him what she knows about the shipping manifests and the dragons being sent overseas so that he will leave her alone and not put her through that torture again.
     The next day, another prisoner shows up and it is Chenda (see Chenda's description in the character summary at top).  She doesn't recognize Mira but Mira recognizes her as do a lot of the other prisoners since Chenda was even more of a public figure than Mira.
     When everyone begins questioning why Chenda is there, she makes a speech, saying that she stood up for what was right and was imprisoned for it.
     She claims that the Bophans want to deport all the Hartans back to their own Isle because all the crops have begun to die and the Bophans think it's the Hartans fault since they are supposed to be the masters of the land but aren't able to stop it.  Some Bophans had even begun BURNING Hartans alive to try to force them to do better at "trying" to fix the crops.
     When she was expected to give a speech written by her government saying the Hartans should be sent back home she instead stood up for the Hartans and was put in prison for it.
     The government's explanation to her people was that she had given secret information about the Bophans to her Hartan lover and that he had burned 14 Bophans in retaliation for the previous killings (it's true she did have a Hartan lover, but he didn't kill anyone).  When this information was released to the public he was beaten to death when he was arrested and she was thrown in the Pit for being an accomplice.
     Not long after this revelation, Mira is sent for by Altan again along with Aaru.  Altan tortures Aaru with noorestones by combining them with an element that causes them to burn a person from the inside out and then placing the bowls of noorestones under his feet.
     Altan thinks Mira has more information about the dragons that she isn't revealing, and it's true that she hasn't told him about the noorestones being sent to the enemies as well, so she starts to reveal that to him too but has a panic attack and tells Altan she can't think while Aaru is being tortured.
     This info about the noorestones is important because Mira, Hristu, and Ilina discovered that the 10 largest noorestones in the Isles are being shipped to the Algotti empire.  Noorestones of that size are enough to power a huge ship, which means that someone is sending both these and the dragons to the Algotti so that they can invade the Isles and have a quick takeover.
    The Algotti empire has slowly been taking over countries on the mainland for years but had always left the Isles alone until now.  Mira and the others figure out that the shipments must mean the Algotti are soon planning to invade and take over the Isles as well, using the dragons as weapons along with their large ships.
      The noorestones under Aaru suddenly explode drenching everything in darkness and killing the other 3 guards in the room besides Altan who it knocks unconscious.
     Mira realizes Aaru is the one who caused the explosion when she sees that the noorestones on the wall are dimming and brightening as his heart beats when she checks his pulse to make sure he's alive.
     After this while Mira is in recovery from the cuts of the shards of the noorestones, members of the Luminary Council show up to get her.  They now want her to do the same thing that Chenda wouldn't do;  say that the Isles cultures should be separated and all sent to their own lands.
    The reasoning about WHY the Councils want everyone separated so badly now isn't evident in this book but I'm sure it will be revealed in the 2nd or 3rd installment.  Maybe to make them all weaker for the Algotti takeover instead of having any combined forces?
     Mira refuses to recite the speech they've written for her and instead gives her own about everyone loving each other and that the different cultures should all work together.  This infuriates the Council and their representative chosen to be Mira's escort (named Elbena) cuts a huge gash into Mira's face as punishment while in a fit of rage.
     This is a huge thing for Mira as part of being the Hopebearer is that she has always been pampered and kept beautiful to look the part of an elegant representative of the people and that has made her very vain about her looks, especially since her mother always instilled in her that she must always be beautiful.
     In the meantime, Hristo and Ilina have been disguised while all this is happening and they come to Mira's room to help her escape after Elbena leaves but she tells them she can't leave, that she has to go back to the Pit to rescue the prisoners there since she is certain that Aaru, Gerel and the others aren't in the Pit because they've actually done anything wrong and she can't just leave them there.
     Elbena and the other guards storm into Mira's room around this time and throw both her and Hristo and Ilina all in the Pit.
     Altan once again comes to interrogate Mira and she knows he's not going to hold anything back now that the Luminary Council won't be coming for her again.
     He releases a young dragon named Kelsine into the cellblock and tells her that the dragon might not be able to get to her friends in their cells but it will make it really hot in there (breathing fire at them) while he's interrogating her so she'd better make it quick.
     He tells her that she lied about the ports the dragons were supposed to be at because he sent his people there and no dragons were found.  She thinks back to when she and Elbena arrived at Bophan when she was supposed to give her speech after the Council came to get her.
     When they first arrived at Bophan port, a large ship exploded and a dragon flew out of it.
     It was Lex, a dragon from the sanctuary that Mira and Ilina always roamed.  When Mira called for Lex, Lex came to her and immediately calmed down even though she'd been frantic moments before.       Mira had only been thinking of trying to save Lex when she called for her and didn't notice the guards bearing down on them.  They recaptured Lex while Mira fought against them and Elbena portrayed it as that Mira was saving the people from the dragon by calming her.
     At that point the people started calling her not only Hopebearer but Dragonhearted because of her unique ability to calm the dragons and Mira couldn't tell them any different for fear of being killed by Elbena and the Council if she tried to tell the truth.
     After everything had calmed, she realized that Lex shouldn't even have been at the port because the ship shown on the manifests as being in Bophan which was headed for the Algotti Empire was supposed to leave days before then.
     Coming back to the present, she says that the shipping schedules must have been switched when the Council discovered she'd found the manifests in order to prevent her from telling anyone the plans (like she had told him).  He believes her and asks what other routes could have been taken.  She is adamant that she doesn't know and doesn't even know why they would do this.
      At this point, Altan tells her that the she shouldn't be surprised by what the Council does because the Mira treaty is a sham and that the treaty sold the islands to the Algotti Empire.  She tries to deny it but he begins a very convincing theory; in the treaty, it states that the Isles will bow to the one true authority, which Mira always assumed meant the fallen gods, but Altan says it's the Algotti Empire.
     He thinks the Council is sending the dragons as payment so that the Algotti don't attack them for now.  The Algotti Army is endless, growing with each country their empress takes over, and he says that the Isles know this and so send gifts of dragons and noorestones to try to appease the Algotti empress and get her to leave them alone for the time being.
      This has upset the gods of their Isles though as the dragons are their "children", hence all the earthquakes and dying lands as of late.  Altan says he wants to get the dragons back so they can fight the Empire and be Drakon warriors again and save their people.  Mira wants the same, but doesn't want to work with Altan to do it since he's been so cruel to her and his ways are so violent so she tells him that she won't be his puppet anymore and he attacks her.
     She manages to fight him off and grabs a noorestone that's being used for light on the wall to use as a weapon.  In her distress and anger, while holding the noorestone her skin begins to radiate fire and the noorestone starts pulsing.
     Altan comes at her to try to kill her and she stabs him with the noorestone and he goes down because now he is burning from inside, the same as Aaru did with the chemical/noorestone combo.        She realizes that she is able to have the same effect on the noorestones as whatever chemical Altan combined with the stones when he was torturing Aaru but she doesn't understand how or why.
     She goes back for her friends in their cells so they can try to escape and encounters Tirta on the way.  Tirta reveals that she is on the Luminary Council and has been keeping an eye on Mira but that she's on Mira's side and wants to help her and that she needs her to come with her.
     Mira doesn't trust her now and runs.  When she gets back to the prison block, she is able to calm Kelsine just as she did with Lex on the docks and begins releasing her friends but Tirta and the Luminary Guards show up along with Altan and his guards.  A huge earthquake also hits at this time causing even more havok.
      Hristo and Gerel begin fighting the guards and Aaru starts releasing all the other prisoners to help them fight.     
     Chenda, once she is released, tells Mira to take the bag of runestones she has and hold them up to cause as much light as she can (Mira had taken all the stones from the armory where she encountered Tirta even though she didn't know if she'd be able to use them as weapons again).  With all the light, Chendra's shadow behind her has turned to blackest black and she wills it to separate from her.  It turns into a silent assassin and begins murdering all the guards.
     It seems the tides have turned with Chenda's shadow helping but Altan throws his baton at Chenda, knocking her out and causing her shadow to return to her.
     By this time, Hristo and Gerel are worn out since they are the only two "real" fighters of the group and Mira can see that she and her friends are about to lose this battle.
     In her distress her power returns once again and she can feel her body heating as she holds the noorestones, but with this many in her hands she can feel how much more powerful she is.  She yells at all of her friends to run and then she channels the noorestones' power and causes a huge fireball that takes out all the rest of the guards.
     She blacks out for a moment but when she wakes up Aaru is there with her.  Around them the whole cellblock is in ruins. When she went supernova or whatever you want to call it he stayed to help her and was able to protect himself from her fire with his own powers.
     They get out of the cellblock and meet up with Hristo and Ilina who tell them that Altan and a couple of his guards got away but they aren't sure where Tirta is.  They also let her know that Gerel has a spot she says is safe that they can go regroup at and they should head there.
     Around this time, LaLa and Crystal also show back up.  No explanation as to how the dragons found them, I guess LaLa may have sensed Mira when she released the noorestone fire?  Who knows, but that is the end of book one and I'm sure all the questions will be answered in the remaining two books.


Monday, September 18, 2017

American War by Omar El Akkad review

I feel like I've been on a 4 star kick lately, but that's because I've had amazing luck of the draw and found fabulous books that I wouldn't even have thought to read based only on their summaries. This is not as I first suspected it would be (a post-apocalyptic type world at war, although the war does play a huge role); it's moreso a story about one family, even moreso one girl who changes this world forever and gives us an insight as to the why through her eyes.

I'm not usually a fan of war books, but Sarat's story touched me. All she wants is to protect her family, sometimes making terrible choices in the process, but then that's just the way of life. Sometimes you want to protect something so much you end up hurting it/them in the process, and this helped me relate to her on a deep personal level and I think a lot of other people will too.

It's not a beach read by any means, there is a lot of depth to this story and you can sometimes get so caught up in this depressing world that you'll need to come back to reality for a while before you dive back in, but that is a great testament to the author's world building. From what I've seen this is a debut novel from him, so if his first is this captivating I can't wait to see where he goes from here. Highly recommend!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon review

Okay, so this would have definitely been 5 stars if some things that happened weren't a little too "romance comedy movie", but it was still a VERY enjoyable book with a super sweet ending.  I haven't read a book that fast in a long time, so if I absolutely DEVOUR one like that I know it has to be pretty captivating.  If you are a fan of books like "The Fault in our Stars", "The Probability of Miracles", and anything teen romance I know you would definitely love this.  Heck, I loved it and I'm a 32 year old woman so maybe it's good for adults too!

4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Brother by Ania Ahlborn review

I waited two weeks after finishing this book to give my final opinion on it because I really needed to think about how I wanted to rate it.  First off I should say that it's very predictable, and that's why I had such a hard time with my star rating on it (hovering between two to four at any given time as I thought about what I'd read) but the storytelling overrides the predictability by a mile.  Hell, even when I knew who you know who turned out to be to Michael I was still rooting for them to get together when I know I shouldn't have been(maybe I've been watching too much Game of Thrones).  I want to give a true and proper review of everything I felt while reading this but I know that spoilers would be flying out of me like geese going south for the winter since everything about the book is what you FEEL for these characters so I'm going to avoid that and just say this:  this family is JACKED up in the best/worst possible way and you will never have rooted for a cannibal before the way you will if you read this book.  I'm off now to go purchase everything that Ania Ahlborn has ever written :)

4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer review

     I'm not sure where to begin with this review.  I think the book was good??  I know that sounds strange, to not understand whether I actually liked it or not, but the last 50 pages still have my head spinning trying to wrap myself around what happened.
*Spoilers ahead and I dunno how to make a spoiler tag so you've been warned!*

     I guess what's confusing me is that I still don't understand WHO the characters were or WHAT they were other than Rachel and Borne.  When it's revealed that Wick isn't human, it's not explained (at least I don't remember an explanation) for what his purpose actually is.  Is he just a piece of biotech built at the Company who's purpose is to be an assistant to the other scientists?  Was he made as a scientist to transcend the capabilities of human thinking in order to complete the "fish project" and therefore Mord?  WHAT ABOUT THE FOXES???? Are they the people who had worked in the Company and then were turned into tech? So many questions!
     Also, what the HECK is up with the Magician?  I thought that who she was would be fully revealed but then she just gets her head bashed in.  Throughout the whole book she didn't really seem that bad; I mean, she was just trying to get allies to kill Mord and bring the city back to life and that's why she wanted Rachel and Wick isn't it?  Why were they so adamant against that?  Why did Rachel kill her?  Because she led the proxies and the weirdo kids to them?  Was it something to do with that portal thing?
    The portal thing is another reason I'm so confused.  I don't know if I was just too tired or what while I was reading last night, but I'm soooo out of the loop when it comes to what that painting/portal thing was supposed to be.  I'm going to go back and re-read that section again tonight once I get home and I'll update if it becomes more clear, but right now I'm just kind of wtf on it.  If anybody can explain that scenario I would be very grateful.
     Maybe I've just been reading Stephen King and YA for too long and this book is too advanced for my little brain or something lol.
     I did love Borne just like he was my own little alien squid pet, but I also understand why Rachel did what she did.
     Say you have a dog who is extremely vicious and bites everyone it sees except for you and even the best trainers can't correct it; you still love that dog with all your heart but you know you have to give it up and get rid of it, that's just how it is.  I think that's what happened to Rachel and Borne.  A terribly sad result but it couldn't be helped and I completely agree with her decision.
     If he had stayed with them he would have eventually "sampled" them or if that didn't happen, then once the rest of the city figured out what he was doing they would have come after him and he would have led them right to Wick and Rachel.
     So anyways, as it sits I give this book about 3.5 stars just because I'm still so confused even after the ending and I feel there could have been less time spent describing Rachel's torn feelings and more time going into detail about the Magician and that portal doohickey.  If I go back and re-read tonight and have a light bulb moment I'll immediately reverse my decision and give it a solid 4 to 4.5.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rabbit in Red by Joe Chianakas review (or lack thereof)

I'm not one to dnf books most of the time unless I just don't have the time to finish them but that wasn't the case with this book. I was really excited to read this book since it was based on a game and the author was a fan of Ready Player One (one of my faves) and took inspiration from it, but instead I got a very cliche "name-dropper" which mentioned other books/movies/shows/popular media every 5 seconds. I made it to page 46 and that was as far as I can convince myself to read. I have many other books on hand waiting to be read and I won't be wasting any more time on a book that feels more like it was written for a tween than an adult. I give it two stars because the concept seems interesting but I can't handle the writing anymore to be able to find out if the actual "game" is good or not.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood review


   Yes, I'm going to be one of those people.  You know, the "the book was way better" type of people, except it's in reverse for me.  It was definitely a first for me; I actually liked the show better than the book.  In the show, I related a lot more to Offred, but in the book she just seems weak.  Would I have done the same things if put in the same situations? Probably, but I'm one of those people who also hates myself for my weaknesses so that's to be expected.
     In the show, I was rooting for Offred to succeed in getting away from this horrible place but after reading the story, I felt kind of bitter that she is the one who escaped rather than Ofglen, who was actually taking the initiative to help the women stuck in Gilead while Offred was trying to avoid it and just have her fun with Nick.
     The story with Moira is also much more intricate in the show so I was really disappointed to see that both she and Luke are hardly mentioned in the novel.
     I will say one thing for the book, the world-building is very good.  You feel like you are there with Offred as she walks past what used to be major landmarks but are now reduced to only abandoned or military outpost buildings, and you feel her suffering as she looks at those hanged or forced into servitude.
     I do also appreciate the fact that in the book the Commanders and their wives are painted as older couples.  I understand why the show picked "beautiful people" to play the parts for better ratings, but it did feel more realistic that Offred was forced to be a surrogate for someone she wouldn't willingly be with if things were different.
    Again, if I had read the book before seeing the show I would probably be right there with the others in rating it as a 4 to 5 star book, but having seen how much the show expanded on the idea of Gilead I have to only give it about a 3 now.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter review


3 stars out of 5

     Okay, so here's the thing: my low star rating may make it seem like I didn't enjoy this book but I really did. I absolutely devoured it in just a few days, which is really saying something considering I've been in one of those "reading ruts" where I look at my books and I want to read but then get distracted with work, cleaning, life....and just don't finish  more than a couple pages at a time before I get bored. Surely it's not just me that does that, right?
     The writing and world building was excellent and I really came to feel for the characters. So why the 3 stars? Well, I found myself skimming a lot. I honestly think this book could have been about 50 pages shorter and nothing have detracted from it. After the 4th time of the "things" in the woods being described down to every minute detail I began skipping over the constant reiterations. I guess the detail was a little bit TOO good in it.
     Also, this has nothing to do with the level of writing or the greatness of the story but that ending pissed me off. I get that characters get killed off in books but he totally could've thrown that shiz from outside the cave and still escaped. I know that's vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, just trying to express my displeasure with said person's death grr. Overall, definitely worth reading for the horror fan, but it's not exactly one for the ages that will haunt me in my sleep

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor summary

     We start this book with learning a little bit about Lazlo Strange.  His last name isn't his own but rather a name given to all orphans from the war (it's never revealed what the war was about, it just says a war about nothing).  When his family is killed in the war he is sent to a monastery to be raised by the monks and they give him the name Lazlo.
     Lazlo is charged with taking care of an old senile monk named Brother Cyrus who talks nonsense a lot about a place called Weep, a city that used to have a different name but the name was stolen away by magic so now it's only known as Weep.  Lazlo begins taking the stories to heart and begins to believe it is a real place filled with warriors like gods called the Tizerkane and beauty beyond compare.
     He runs away from the monastery since they don't like "dreamers" who keep their heads in the clouds and ends up at the library where the chief librarian Master Hyrrokkin takes him on as an apprentice. Lazlo spends his whole childhood and teenage years here but still dreams of Weep and has even written several books on the place based on theories from different books he's found throughout his years in the library.
     One day Thyon Nero, the godson to the queen and a master alchemist who has figured out how to turn lead into gold by creating azoth (a secret essence sought by alchemists for centuries before this) comes to the library and says that he wants Lazlo's books delivered to his house. Lazlo wants to refuse but knows that he can't since Thyon is a very powerful man in the city due to his reputation, so he delivers them to Thyon.  It's then that we learn that Thyon and Lazlo have a history.
     Lazlo knew that Thyon was trying to create azoth, and when he is out delivering some books one day he hears a noise that sounds like a hurt animal, but when he goes to see what it is he realizes it's the Duke of Vaal beating his son (which is Thyon) and telling him he has to create azoth soon before their whole city falls due to the tremendous debts they owe and he's taking too long.  Thyon tries to tell his father he's doing his best but his father says his best isn't good enough.  Lazlo feels sorry for Thyon and feels a sort of kinship with him because the monks used to try to beat him into obedience and get him to quit dreaming about lost cities and becoming a warrior.
     Lazlo doesn't know much about alchemy but he has read a book called Miracles for Breakfast about fairy tales from the Unseen City (Weep) and there was a theory in there that the alchemist was himself the secret ingredient to distilling azoth and the conjunction of human soul with elemental could create it.
     Lazlo takes the book to Thyon's home and gives it to him.  Thyon isn't grateful though and is instead angry that Lazlo is pitying him due to what he saw so he takes the book and slams the door in Lazlo's face.  It's not long after that it's revealed to the city that Thyon made azoth.  Thyon shows up at Lazlo's door one day and threatens that if he ever tells anyone how it was made that he will kill him.
      A few days after Thyon requests Lazlo's books, Tizerkane warriors show up at the doors to the city.  These are the warriors from the stories of Weep.  They come riding spectral creatures and they request an audience with all of the city.  Everyone is in awe since these people aren't even supposed to actually exist.  Lazlo realizes that this is why Thyon wanted his books; the queen has told him that the Tizerkane were coming and he wanted to try to impress them with his knowledge of Weep.
     The leader of the Tizerkane, Eril-Fane, also known as the Godslayer, speaks to the city and tells them that they are going to different cities and recruiting the best and brightest minds because they have a dilemma that no one has been able to solve, and although they are known as not letting outsiders in this time they have decided to make an exception and whoever solves their mystery will be greatly rewarded, but he can't tell them what it is he needs help with, just that they will have to see it to understand.
     Thyon of course is recruited along with other alchemists and scholars, and when the Tizerkane start to leave, Lazlo gathers his courage and begs Eril-Fane to let him join them.  He speaks to Eril in the tongue of Weep and Eril is impressed so he agrees to allow Lazlo to come with them as his assistant.
     Many months later they arrive in Weep and the mystery is revealed as they go into the city.  A huge temple in the shape of a seraphim is suspended over the city blocking out all daylight on the city with its wings.  Eril-Fane then tells them the story of what happened to the city:

     Hundreds of years ago, the temple came down from the sky and inside were 6 Gods called the Mesarthim, with skin as blue as azure; 3 men and 3 women.  Weep felt these were angels but they turned out to be cruel beings who would steal men and women from the city who were "of age" and reproduce with them and use them as slaves in the Citadel (this is what they called the giant temple in the sky).  After using these people for many years their memories would be wiped clean and then they would be sent back down to the city to live out the rest of their lives but they were never the same after that.
     Eril-Fane was taken by Isagol, the goddess of despair, as her lover and he ends up staging a rebellion against the gods and kills her and everyone else in the Citadel, hence how he has come to be such a hero within the city and known as the Godslayer.
     He tells them the Citadel is made out of a metal they call Mesarthium.  One of the gods named Skathis could control it and bend it at will and turn it into anything he wanted but the scholars of Weep have been unable to do anything with it since Skathis death. No knives, poisons, anything will even put a dent in it.  Hence why he's brought them there; so that hopefully someone can figure out a way to remove the empty Citadel and restore light to the city.

     What they don't realize though is that the Citadel isn't empty.  When Eril-Fane slew all the gods he also went into the nursery and killed all the children so that there wouldn't be anymore "godspawn" either (hence the haunted look in his eyes; no one knows that he killed infants in the war against the Gods; he only killed 30 children though and Lazlo asks him later on what must have happened to the hundreds of others through the union of god and Tizerkane and Eril-Fane tells him he doesn't know where they are). A little girl named Minya managed to save four of the babies and hid until Eril-Fane was gone and now they are all teenagers at this point and living in the Citadel unbeknownst to the citizens of Weep.  The godspawn living in the Citadel are as follows:

 Sarai-a girl who every night sends hundreds of moths out of her mouth to light on the brows of the citizens of Weep.  She can invade their dreams through contact with the moths, and she plants it in their heads that the Citadel mustn't even be looked at, hence how the godspawn have stayed safe from any further invasions all these years. She isn't a bad person though, and through their dreams has come to learn that although she still harbors resentment towards the humans for what they did to the other gods and godspawn, she understands how awful the gods were to them now and has forgiven them.

Sparrow- a girl who can grow plants just by touching them.  She is the reason they've been able to live in the Citadel so long.  When Wraith (their pet hawk) would drop seeds he got from the wilds she would grow them into food.  She is in love with Feral but is too shy to say anything about it.

Minya- the godspawn who saved the other children.  She never grew up though, and although her mind is on the same level as all the others, she still looks like she's only 6 years old.  She is very evil and captures the spirits of the deceased of Weep when they die and keeps them prisoner.  Some she uses as servants, but she tells the other godspawn that when the other ghosts disappear it's because she lets their spirits go, when in reality she's keeping them locked up in the heart of the Citadel to use as an army against the Tizerkane if they ever try to come back to the Citadel.  The others don't know this because the door to the heart is only opened just wide enough for a small child to get through and Minya is the only one who still fits in there. She is the daughter of Skathis but didn't end up with his gift of being able to manipulate Mesarthium so any open/closed doors have been stuck like that since his death.  It's also why they've never been able to just leave the city, since the Citadel is stuck in suspension and can't be moved.

Feral- the only boy of the group.  He can control the weather and uses this ability to water the food that Sparrow grows and provides them all with drinking water. He and Ruby are sleeping together once they find out that they are about to be killed by the Tizerkane (more on that later)

Ruby- she can shoot out fire from her fingers.  She is very outgoing and wild.  Seduces Feral later on in the book.

     Sarai learns through the newcomers dreams (all the scholars and alchemists that Eril-Fane has recruited) that they are planning to come to the Citadel to try to figure out how to move it. It is at this time that Minya reveals her ghost army to the rest of them.  They are appalled that she has kept these people's souls trapped all these years but Minya tells them it's for their own good.  She sets up the ghosts all around the Citadel to protect it when the Tizerkane and newcomers arrive.
     It's also revealed that Sarai is the result of the union between Isagol and Eril-Fane and is Eril-Fane's daughter.  She sends moths to his home now that he's back but it is actually Lazlo that is in Eril-Fane's bed since Eril is still outside the city (he sleeps out there now to prevent the nightmares of the Citadel that Sarai has planted in his head, even though he thinks he just has the nightmares because of the city itself and doesn't realize she's the one that has given them to him).
     Sarai slips into Lazlos dream and is immediately taken aback by the beauty of it.  He dreams of Weep, but not as it looks in real life, but the way he always imagined it, with flying banners, beautiful flowers, all types of wonderful creatures walking around together in harmony, etc.  She is mesmerized by the sight of it and walks right up to Lazlo inside his dream since the dreamers can't see her when she invades with her moths.  She is in shock then when Lazlo looks right at her and asks "who are you?"
     She immediately removes her moth from his brow but can't resist going back in again the following night to see the beautiful city he has imagined.  She realizes he's dreamed her into existence in his version of Weep now and she slips into the place of the "imposter" Sarai and begins to talk to Lazlo.  Lazlo thinks that she's Isagol since he's seen photos of Isagol and Sarai looks just like her and Sarai goes along with it just so that she can learn more about him.  Night after night they meet in his dreams and they end up beginning to fall in love.
     One of the scholars that is brought to the city has created a flying machine buoyed up by balloons (I just picture it as a hot air balloon with some wings), and they take it up to the Citadel the next morning, even though Sarai warned Lazlo in the dream the night before that they shouldn't come up there.  Lazlo thinks it's really just dreams though and so doesn't heed the warning.  The balloon carries Lazlo, Eril-Fane, Azareen (Eril-Fane's wife and another warrior who had been taken by the gods when she was younger), and the pilot of the balloon.
     When they arrive to the Citadel, Minya sends the ghosts out to kill them and Sarai runs out ahead of them and tells Lazlo to run because Minya is going to kill them.  This is the first time that Lazlo and any of the others realize there's godspawn living in the Citadel.  They fight off the ghosts and manage to escape, and Lazlo reveals to Eril-Fane that he thinks he's been dreaming about Sarai and not Isagol all along.  That night when he goes to sleep she comes to him via her moths and reveals who she really is, and over the next few nights she explains about her and the others and she and Lazlo fall even more in love.  Minya meanwhile is using her ghosts to keep Sarai captive in her room after what she did.
    Thyon has been working on trying to create something that might melt the mesarthium anchors suspending the Citadel in place (there's four anchors around the city that are working like magnets to hold the Citadel suspended over the city).  He's been drawing from his spirit to use azoth for it but it has been ineffective up until the time that Lazlo brings him some food and offers up some of his spirit since Thyon looks so weak from constantly drawing his.  Thyon accepts it and sees that Lazlo's spirit in combination with the azoth does melt some of the mesarthium.
     He goes to Lazlo's house in the middle of the night demanding to know what he is since it's only his spirit that works.  Lazlo was in the middle of kissing Sarai in his dream so he's ticked that Thyon showed up but when Thyon keeps explaining about how his spirit worked on the mesarthium he runs out to one of the anchors so he can try to touch it and see if it does anything.  Sarai follows him with her moths so that she can see what's going on.
     On the way there a huge explosion happens.  It is Drave, an explosionist who was brought to the city as a last resort in case no other options worked for moving the Citadel.  He was tired of being made fun of by everyone else for not helping so he decided to try to blow up one of the anchors. It doesn't work of course and instead of detonating the mesarthium it sends the explosion shockwave out toward the city and downward into the ground.
     The explosion kills Drave as he's running away and Lazlo is knocked out.  Sarai sends her moth into his unconsciousness and realizes he's still alive since he's having a dream, but it isn't a dream about Weep this time.  Instead, he's in the middle of the woods that he used to play in as a little boy and he's digging at the ground.  She goes up to him and asks what he's doing and he tells her he's trying to find himself and she sees that he's dug up a feather and realizes it's one of Wraith's feathers.  She's afraid he's brain damaged from the blast and tells him he needs to wake up.  He does and sees that the anchor is now falling into the ground due to the earthquake happening from the blast.
    The Citadel starts to tip since once of the anchors is disappearing. and without thinking Lazlo runs toward the anchor and grabs it.  The power he actually has is finally felt in him and he begins to manipulate the mesarthium so that it fills in the cracks in the earth where the earthquake is happening.  He also uses his manipulation powers to fold the wings of the seraphim so that light comes back into the city and the wings aren't pulling the Citadel off balance anymore.
     After all this happens he looks behind him and sees Eril-Fane and a bunch of others standing there and he realizes that he is now blue when he looks at his hands.  Lazlo is revealed as a godspawn.  He stands there waiting for Eril to say something and swears to Eril that he had no idea what he was until that moment. He waits for his reaction to see if they'll kill him or praise him for saving the city and after a while Eril tells him "thank you for saving us".
     They begin hearing screaming down the street and Lazlo remembers seeing something fall when the Citadel started to tip so he rushes to the screams and sees that Sarai has been impaled on a wrought iron fence when she fell from the Citadel as it tipped and is dead.  Lazlo grabs her body and manipulates the mesarthium to create a beast to fly up to the Citadel and when he gets there he goes straight in to Minya and asks her to capture Sarai's spirit.  She tries to attack him with the ghosts but he uses the mesarthium to block their way.  She is mad that she's no longer in control, and tells him that she will capture Sarai's spirit.  Sarai walks in and she and Lazlo embrace, then Minya takes control of Sarai and has her tell Lazlo that if he doesn't do everything Minya says that she will release Sarai's spirit into the void.  He agrees to do whatever Minya says so that Sarai will still exist.

End of book 1

Friday, March 31, 2017

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman summary

     This book begins with us learning about the world developed in the novel.  What we know as the "Cloud" currently has grown and become self aware and humanity has named it the "Thunderhead".  It has helped us develop a cure for death since it is all knowing, so everyone is now immortal. As people get older, they will go and be "reset" so that they look young again to whatever age they want, most choose their 30's, so although they look to be that age they can actually be hundreds of years old.
    To prevent overpopulation, an organization called the Scythedom has been established to "glean" people, which is just a fancy word for killing them.  There are hundreds if not thousands of Scythes in the Scythedom and all are regular people who have been trained by previous scythes and selected before the scythe council to continue the tradition.
     Scythes are both feared and revered, with many people trying to buy extra time by offering indulgences such as cars, money, and homes.  Most scythes do not accept these items (at least they aren't supposed to according to the scythe commandments) but some are not on the up and up and find loopholes to allow them to live lavish lifestyles (more on that later).
     Citra is a teen girl who hears a knock at the door one day and it turns out to be a scythe.  Although she and her family fears that one of them is about to be gleaned, the scythe is allowed in as a sign of respect.  He proceeds to have dinner and chat with the family and then gets up to leave.  Citra is angry that he didn't tell them he was going to glean their neighbor to begin with (a fact he has now revealed) and confronts him and he tells her that he could see her being a scythe but she tells him she would never want to be one, a fact to which he replies "that is the first requirement".  After he comes back from the neighbors he gives her the knife he used and she trashes it once he leaves.
     Rowan is a teen boy who just wants to get through his high school years and get out of his parents house since he feels he is the "lettuce".  It's a metaphor likened to the fact that his younger and older siblings are the bread and meat of a burger but he is just lettuce, always forgotten.  He and his friend Tyger coined the term in gradeschool.
    One day he sees a scythe come to his school and he shows the scythe to the principal's office, where it turns out that the scythe is there to glean one of his classmates.  When the classmate is called to the office, although Rowan only knows him by name and they're not friends he offers to stay with his classmate while it happens and the boy agrees because everyone else has already left to try to get away from the scythe for fear that they too might get gleaned.
    Months later, both Rowan and Citra are sent an anonymous invite to an opera and when they both arrive the scythe is waiting for them.  He reveals his name to be Scythe Faraday and tells them that they will now be his apprentices (all scythes train apprentices at some point when populations begin growing in the world) and that he is granting immunity to their families while they are within his care.  Immunity is granted by a scythe by a person kissing the scythe's special ring which is then sent out to all other scythes so that they know the person has been granted said immunity.
    Although neither of them want to be a scythe they don't have a choice in the matter and they leave their families to go live with Faraday.  As he teaches them about what it takes to be a scythe (the types of killing they do, morals of scythedom, etc) they grow close to him and each other.  Although a romance is forbidden for scythes, Rowan and Citra do kiss once since they are attracted to each other but both agree it won't ever go farther than that.
     Scythes hold a meeting during each season to discuss political matters and so that apprentices can be tested.  When Faraday takes them to the seasonal meeting their apprentice test is given by the "grande dame of death" named Scythe Curie.
     She had been given this name because when she was first ordained as a scythe she gleaned the president and his whole cabinet and the story was spread far and wide and she never escaped the nickname (although she's not a bad person, which we find out later on).
    Scythe Curie asks Citra what the worst thing she ever did was for her test and Citra lies and says that she tripped a girl down the stairs when she was younger and the girl broke her neck, but she had actually pushed that girl out in front of a bus to kill her.  Citra doesn't want to admit that she did this though so she lies and Curie can tell and tells her she fails this test.  Rowan then lies about his question too so that Citra doesn't have to feel ashamed that she failed.  When they return to their seats Faraday tells him that was a mistake.
     On a side note, when someone is killed in this world, since everyone is immortal that person is just taken to a revival center and brought back from the dead.  Only scythes give out true death.  Anytime someone kills themselves or anyone else they are considered to be "deadish" since they will no doubt be brought back to life soon. BUT, when a scythe decides it's their time to die and they glean themselves, this is irreversible according to the laws of the Thunderhead and the Scythedom.
     After the end of the discussions of other scythe business, a scythe named Goddard addresses the high scythe Xenocrates (the head over all Scythedom) and says that he feels taking on two apprentices is unfair and it hasn't been done before, so he proposes that in order for the apprentices to not show favor to one another that as the first act of the chosen apprentice into Scythedom they be forced to glean the other one.  Faraday protests but it's very clear that Xenocrates favors Goddard for some reason and he agrees.
     That night, a knock comes at Faraday's door.  Citra and Rowan answer it since Faraday is out on one of his late night walks and it is two guards who take them to Xenocrates home.  Xenocrates tells them that Faraday has killed himself by jumping in front of a train.  Citra and Rowan realize he's done this because he loves them both like his own children and by killing himself it meant they would be free of the scythe training obligation and could go back to their families.
    It backfires on him though as Xenocrates says that only applies if no other scythe will agree to mentor them but Curie has agreed to take Citra as an apprentice and Goddard wants to take Rowan, so the death warrant still stands.
     Citra grows very fond of Curie under her apprenticeship but feels that something is amiss about Faraday's death so she starts digging behind Curie's back to find out what happened to him and she learns that on the day of his death 3 witnesses at the train station were given immunity, so she realizes that those witnesses were bribed and that another scythe murdered Faraday.  Judging from his reputation and the fact that they hated each other, she believes it to be Goddard.
     Rowan has been training under Goddard and his 3 junior scythes (junior scythes are newly anointed scythes who live for a while with an older scythe to learn from them) for months at this point and has come to realize just how cruel Goddard is.  He abides by the rules of Scythedom but just barely and he thrives on killing.  When he and his junior scythes go kill, they do so in mass murders.  They will sustain from killing for weeks (most scythes will kill a few people a week to meet their gleaning quota), but then they'll go wipe out whole buildings of people and Rowan can tell how much they enjoy it....except for one of the junior scythes named Volta.  He and Rowan strike up a friendship and begin confiding in each other.
     Volta fell under Goddard's spell as almost any young person would.  Goddard knows just what to say and he always throws lavish parties, lives in a huge mansion that he claimed from a wealthy family (he got around the loophole of a scythe living modestly by having the man "donate" the mansion when in reality he threatened the man with gleaning if he didn't), drives fancy cars....pretty much everything the other scythes don't do.  He calls it the new way of thinking versus being an "old guard" with "old ways".  Since nothing he does falls outside Scythedom rules no one has been able to stop him and many others are joining his way of thinking.
     Rowan finds out that the reason Goddard has such a hold over Xenocrates is that the young little girl staying with them that Goddard has kidnapped (he and his group gleaned a whole food court at a busy mall but "spared" the little girl and told her she was coming to live with them) is actually Xenocrates illegitimate daughter.  Since scythes aren't supposed to have romantic relationships, if Goddard revealed this fact to the rest of the scythes Xenocrates would be gleaned due to breaking a scythe commandment, so Xenocrates does pretty much whatever Goddard wants in order to keep his place of power and avoid being gleaned.
     Citra tells Curie about how she suspects foul play in the death of Faraday and Curie agrees.  Two guards show up and take Citra to Xenocrates again while Curie is away.  This time it's because she is being accused of murdering Faraday.  They provide evidence in the form of her searches on the Thunderhead pertaining to the cameras at the train station.  She had been searching through these to try to find video evidence that someone killed Faraday and had discovered that they were tampered with, but Xenocrates thinks she did it.  With the extra evidence of a journal entry found in Faraday's nightstand when the other scythes searched his home after his death they've charged her with his murder.  Xenocrates shows her the journal entry and it says something along the lines of "I fear for my life, I should have never taken her as an apprentice".
     Citra knocks out the guards and runs and jumps off the top of the building and kills herself so that she will have a few days in the revival ward to try to get this sorted out.  While dead, the Thunderhead talks to her and gives her the name of Faraday's murderer.  The Thunderhead isn't allowed to interfere with Scythedom matters, but it tells her that since she's dead at the moment she's not under Scythedom jurisdiction so it can help her.  It also tells her that she will have an important role to play in the Scythedom later on, whether she's alive or dead based on it's calculations.
     Curie is there when Citra wakes up and tells her that she's taking her to a place in another country to a scythe friend's house so that she can hide until Curie can clear her name.  Curie then tells her that the entry that was found in Faraday's journal was about Curie and not Citra.
     Curie was his apprentice and she fell in love with him but he mistakenly thought that the way she was acting meant she was going to kill him.  He had woken up one night to her inside his bedroom just standing there.  It was because she was going to try to get into bed with him but when he woke up and saw her standing there she panicked and tried to lie and that's why he thought she was about to kill him.
     She told him the truth later on and although he was flattered he didn't reciprocate her love until many years later and then they began a forbidden 7 year affair. When it was discovered by the Scythedom, they were such respected scythes at that point that instead of being gleaned or imprisoned they were sentenced to die 7 deaths, one for each year of their affair.  After that they would only greet each other in passing and just associated as friends, although at this point in the story Citra sees the sadness in Curie's eyes and she knows that they must still love each other.
     When Curie takes Citra to her friend's house the lady tells them that the Scythedom already has several scythes in search of Citra, so after resting a couple days to fully heal, Citra goes on the run with information from Curie about where to find Faraday's killer.
     Citra arrives there and shoots the person in the knee from a distance to maim them so that she can force a confession but is shocked to find out that she actually shoots Faraday.  He had faked his own death so that Citra and Rowan would be set free.  Only Curie knew where he was.  When Citra asks why Curie didn't tell her this, he tells her that the truth of what has happened could only reach him in person and he knows that's why Curie sent her; for protection until Citra's name was cleared and so that she could let him know that things didn't work out like they were supposed to and he was the only one who could help her finish her training while Curie is clearing Citra's name.
      In the meantime, Goddard has said that they are going on one last gleaning before the winter meeting in the next few days, and he leads them to a Tonist church (the tonists are a group of people that believe immortality and the scythes aren't supposed to exist).  Goddard leads them in and begins murdering all the people.  Rowan is ordered to wait outside but Goddard tells him that "today is his day" and that he will be gleaning someone himself today.  Rowan tries to reject this by saying it's not allowed as an apprentice but Goddard waves him off and says it will count as one of his gleanings. Rowan wanders over to the side of the church because although he wants to let people escape no one will run past him thinking that he's on Goddard's side.  He finds Volta sobbing and when he asks what's wrong, Volta tells him that he went into one of the rooms thinking that only a couple people would be in there that he would have to kill but it turned out to be a room full of children.  Rowan tells him that once he is a scythe they will go somewhere else away from Goddard but Volta says it's too late and that's when Rowan realizes Volta slit his wrists.  When a scythe gleans themselves, they aren't revived, so Volta really is dead.
     Rowan goes inside the church furious and finds Goddard tying up the church's high priest.  Goddard tells him that he saved this man for Rowan, but when Goddard gives him a sword Rowan decapitates Goddard and also kills the other two junior scythes (they were evil too and tried to attack him after he killed Goddard).
     Rowan sets the church on fire and goes out in Goddard's robes.  Firemen are there to put the fire out but Rowan tells them that this is scythe business and they aren't allowed to interfere so they don't since they think he is a true scythe and not just an apprentice since he's in Goddard's robes and the church burns down.
     Rowan is sent to Xenocrates and Rowan hints to him that he knows Esme (the little girl from the food court) is his daughter, so Xenocrates hints that if Rowan keeps it a secret, the investigation into Goddard's death will be dropped.
     By this time, Citra's name has been cleared by Curie telling everyone about what had really happened and Citra is allowed to come back under Curie's apprenticeship.
     At the Winter meeting, the apprentices are sent into a private room for their final test.  They are told to kill the person sitting in the chair in front of them with the weapon of their choice that is laid out before them.  Citra has to kill her little brother and Rowan has to kill his mom.  The scythe judges assure them that their family members will be revived at the revival center right after they kill them, but this is their final test because if they can kill someone close to them then they do have what it takes to be a scythe.
     Citra is mortified but does as she's told while comforting her brother.  Rowan picks up a gun and shoots without a 2nd thought since he didn't care for his family very much anyways, and the fact that he did it so easily makes him wonder if he's more like Goddard than he would care to admit.
     Citra is declared as the winner of the contest and is announced in front of everyone as a scythe.  When asked what she wants her new scythe name to be (they always take new names from the Age of Mortality saints when they become junior scythes), she tells Xenocrates that it will be Scythe Anastasia Romanov.
     When Xenocrates says that's not an appropriate choice because Anastasia never accomplished anything of note in her life, Citra tells him that she was the product of a corrupt system, and that if she hadn't been, who knows what might have become of her.  Citra says that she will be another change that might have been (hinting at taking down this corrupt Scythedom) and so she will be known as Anastasia.
     She is told to kill Rowan per the previous arrangement after this, but she's already thought this through and she punches him hard enough to make him bleed and tells him "I will glean you, but that's for breaking my neck before!" (at the Autumn meeting during their previous apprenticeship competition he broke her neck so that he'd be disqualified and she would win, since he wanted her to be a scythe and not him so that he didn't have to kill her).  This transfers blood onto the scythe ring, aka his DNA, so he has been granted immunity.
     When she pulls out her blade to "attack" him, the ring glows red along with the surrounding scythe's rings, so they yell out for her to stop and that she can't kill him.  She feigns ignorance and tells them she didn't mean to give him immunity when she punched him.  While the Scythedom debates what to do with him for the year that he's immune, Citra leans close and tells him there's a car waiting on him outside.  He makes a run for it and it turns out that it's Faraday in the getaway car.
     In the Epilogue, it's revealed as an excerpt in Citra's journal that someone is out there taking down corrupt and evil scythes by fire and has been dubbed "Scythe Lucifer".  She says that if he ever comes her way she hopes he'll see her as one of the good ones, "the way he once did".  END OF BOOK 1

Monday, March 13, 2017

Heartless by Marissa Meyer review


     I had planned on doing a summary of this book since I thought it would be another series like the Lunar Chronicles, but I don't really see anywhere to go from here after that ending so I'll be doing a review instead. If a 2nd novel does happen to come out I will definitely get the summary out there for everyone.
     I knew that ending was coming, I really did, but I found myself hoping and rooting for Cath to defy the Wonderland story we all know and go her own way instead of becoming who she was meant to be.  I started to put "spoiler" before that but then I realized that it's even in the dust jacket so it's pretty obvious that she's meant to become the evil Queen of Hearts.
     There was definitely insta-love in this book and a lot of back and forth "you already know he likes you, stop acting like you don't" between Cath and Jest, and although it did make me grit my teeth at times I think the teen fans will enjoy their relationship.  A plus to this is that there's also none of the emotionally abusive type of relationship that have become so prominent in novels these days, and instead Jest is a true gentleman to Cath with every encounter and never puts her down or criticizes her and only tries to woo her to get her affection.
     The world building in the book was excellent.  I loved the new ways Mrs. Meyer incorporated the whimsy of the original Wonderland into her book (*"key limes" are limes shaped like keys for example), and when any part of the countryside is described I could envision it perfectly in my mind which attests to her amazing ability in her writing.  I particularly enjoyed the hatter and wish there had been a much more in-depth reveal of his persona.
     I also liked the storyline of Peter's pumpkins and his wife, but I think too much was revealed too early on with the numerous interactions between Cath and the wife for this plot reveal to have come as any kind of surprise to the readers by the time the "ta-da" moment happens near the end.  
     All in all, I really enjoyed the book and Mrs. Meyer's writing doesn't disappoint (as usual), but in my mind Cath is definitely not as strong of a character as Cinder was which was really disappointing, as someone like Cinder with her very strong will would be more of a Queen of Hearts character in my mind than the mousy, timid Cath tends to be most of the time throughout the book.  
     I really don't see how someone with such a quiet disposition could make that complete 180 at the end.  No matter how tragic a circumstance you find yourself in, you're not going to go from wanting to disappear into the floor into turning into a total badass in a matter of 5 seconds. That's just not very realistic, but I guess with it being Wonderland, realistic is the wrong term to use.....
     Definitely pick this one up if you enjoyed the Lunar series since the amazing world-building and storytelling is there with this too, but I don't recommend reading it as a "grown-up" retelling of the child's story you loved as you'll be severely disappointed if that's what you're expecting since this is still very much geared toward a younger female audience with the romance narrative being the main focal point rather than the many incredible characters who didn't have nearly enough time in the spotlight in the book. 

Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Replica by Lauren Oliver summary

     The book is "two-sided" but follows the same plot through both Lyra and Gemma's eyes so I will be summarizing both as one rather than doing separate viewpoints.
       When the book begins we learn that Lyra is a "replica", which is another word for a clone.  She lives at Haven, a research facility on an island which I think is in Florida if I remember correctly. It is a top secret facility which harbors many replicas that are made at Haven, cloned from real children stolen or bought from their parents (more on that later).
      Lyra is mostly content with her life at Haven, and abides by the rules other than hiding the fact that one of the nurses there taught her to read.  The mainlanders have always had stories about the things that go on at Haven though, and one day one of them breaks in to the compound with a bomb strapped to themselves and blows it up.  Lyra is outside when this happens and she and another replica, a boy called 72, barely escape in the ensuing chaos.
     In the marshes surrounding the compound they meet up with Gemma (who we think is human but actually turns out to be a replica) and Jake (whose dad was killed by the government for finding out the truth on Haven) and they help them finish their escape.  Gemma has run away from home to go to Haven to find out what all the mystery is with it since her dad was involved with the funding of it under the guise that she is going to Florida to see her friend Alice.  She hitches a ride there with a boy from school named Pete.
     Once back on the mainland they all begin researching everything about Haven, and they find out that the replicas are being made just to have different diseases and vaccines tested on them.  Lyra thought all the tests and shots given to her throughout her life were because clones are frail and get sick easily but it was really because they were being injected with different diseases and slowly being killed to see the effects.
     Gemma learns that Lyra isn't actually a clone when she and Jake are held hostage by a man that wants to know what they know about Haven because his daughter was taken from him when she was young.  He thinks they know something since Gemma's father used to be one of the main supporters of Haven (until he found out exactly what they were doing).  Gemma realizes when the man mentions a scar over his daughter's eyebrow that Lyra is actually his daughter.
     Lyra and 72 ran away from Gemma and Jake before all this happened because Jake is afraid they are being chased by the government and staff from Haven and he's distrustful of Gemma and Jake.  Lyra trusts 72 so she goes with him.  They end up falling in love (of course).
     Lyra and 72 try to find the nurse who taught Lyra to read since Lyra thinks she's the only one who can really help them but they find out that the nurse had been killed since she planned on leaving the research facility and revealing what she knew to the public via Jake's dad.
     In the meantime, Gemma and her (now boyfriend) Pete find out that Gemma is actually a clone herself, and that her mother and father had taken her from Haven when she was a baby since she was a clone of their own daughter who died.
     Lyra and 72 call Gemma from Jake's phone when they find that Jake has been killed at his home since they know they are in grave danger and they all join back up now that they know the truth and proceed to go back to Gemma's home to decide what to do next.

     On a side note, this summary isn't as detailed as most I do because it hasn't been announced that this will be a series.  From the ending it had I feel it will be, and if so I may go back in and add more detail, but this at least gives the gist of the events in the book for now.  Thanks for reading! :)