Novella Mini Reviews

The Transfer (Divergent 0.1) by Veronica Roth

thetransferThe Transfer is Four’s story from right before the Choosing Ceremony, during, and immediately after, and how his decision to choose Dauntless came about. It was interesting and it was nice to have a little more of his backstory. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Divergent.

The First Star to Fall (For Darkness Shows the Stars 1.5) by Diana Peterfreund

The First Star to Fall is the story of how Persis became The Wild Poppy, and it was also interesting. It was a much more substantial story than the other companion novella Peterfreund wrote for this world, and I felt like there was some good additional insight into some secondary characters. I missed Justen though. I think this one could be read before or after Across A Star-Swept Sea.

Hook, Line and Sinker (Deep Haven 4.5) by Susan May Warren

hooklineandsinkerHook, Line and Sinker is a companion novella set at Deep Haven, a setting used in some of Warren’s other works. This is a standalone, however, in the sense that these are new characters with their own story complete within the novella, and you do not really have to be familiar with the other Deep Haven stories, as I was not. There is a nice note from the author at the beginning that sets the stage for the essentials. I simply read this while looking for quick filler between books.

This is a Christian book, and it references several “Christian-ese” concepts that will most likely not resonate with those who are not Christians. I love really well-written Christian fiction, but the writing in this novella was unfortunately mostly lacking. I did like the main characters, college undergrad student Ross and graduate student Abigail, but I wanted to scream at both of them about how stupid they were sometimes!

Every single time Ross looked at Abigail he was thinking about how gorgeous she was and he loved her and he hated himself for hurting her and on and on. And every single time Abigail looked at Ross she talked about handsome he was and how much everyone loved him and so did she but she wouldn’t tell him because he hurt her and on and on and on. It got a bit tiring, and those precious words could have been used for better story development overall, so I wouldn’t be left confused many times by leaps in time and lack of details.

The characters were also often insecure and self-deprecating, viewing the one they loved as being so much better than them, and kept bemoaning that God could never use a mess like them, and how their future together could never happen, and yet they would never pray about these things! OK, I guess I can be guilty of similar things but sheesh, it got old quick. Had the book been longer, maybe there could have been more development and things happening in between that would have made all these moments more bearable and relatable.

Overall, I liked the general story and the characters, and their backstory was particularly interesting (though the fact that Abigail loved Ross for so many years when he was three years younger than her is mildly creepy at some stages of their lives) and O felt it had a lot of potential that better pacing and better writing could have made into a really great story. It was fun and I did enjoy it, though I kept thinking of ways it could have been improved.

The Island by Jen Minkman

the-island-minkmanThe Island is a self-published, dytopian novella that features a society based on a kid’s journal about Star Wars. That sentence is very important, because if you realize all this before you start reading the story, you’ll enjoy it more than if you go in blind. Also, Jen  Minkman is from Holland and writes her work in Dutch and then translates it to English, and I am genuinely impressed by that since I only recall one egregious grammatical/spelling error.  Though the concept of a society based on some kids’ ramblings about Star Wars may seem really silly, it is relatively believable the way it is portrayed in The Island, and it doesn’t really feel too silly.

The pacing of the story is almost perfect for a novella. Though the interest between Leia and Walt feels slightly rushed and forced, it’s more insta-attraction than insta-love, so it is acceptable. The last few chapters of the book also feel rushed, with everyone blindly believing what they have been told by outsiders and quickly accepting these new truths, ready and willing to change their society because of this. But in fairness, at least there was some slight dissension hinted at before all this unfolded. The narration felt extremely young, which I almost perceived as a negative, but at the same time that made Leia feel all the more like a real 16 year old.

I spent .99 plus tax on this novella and it took about two hours of my time to read, and for that, I say it was worthwhile. It didn’t blow my mind but it was interesting enough to entertain me when I had only one day left before Cress was set to arrive at my doorstep.

Have you read any of these novellas? What are your thoughts on them? Also, I’d love recommendations for other novellas, primarily standalones! 

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My Top 10 Book Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is REWIND! (Pick from previous topics that you want to do again or may have missed) After looking over the list of past TTT topics, I decided on top 10 heroines. This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. Jo, Little Women

jo-readingOK, we’re going to get the obvious ones out of the way. You all know from my blog name I love Jo. I read Little Women in high school and I feel she was really the first character I just really clicked with in a big way. I had liked several other characters before her, but I felt if I lived in Jo’s time and with her family, I would be a lot like her, with her love for writing, reading, and theatre. She is often the rock for her sisters and I think she is a very strong character and a good role model for young ladies.

2. Katniss, The Hunger Games

katniss-archerAnd obvious choice #2, again, another heroine featured in my blog name. I think most of us will agree that Katniss is a strong character, and not just because she manages to get out of The Hunger Games alive twice and stick it to President Snow, but because of how she takes care of the people she loves. Just the fact that she volunteers for Prim shows her character and bravery. She goes through a lot and goes through a lot of emotional turmoil because of it, but I think she comes out even stronger in the end, because she is finally able to allow herself to truly love someone to the point of being completely vulnerable with him.

Now for the slightly less obvious choices…

3. Liesel, The Book Thief

liesel-bookthiefLiesel goes through a lot as a foster child living in Nazi-occupied Germany during WWII. She loses so much but also gains so much, and while her story is largely tragic, it also ends in hope, as she learns how to express herself through the words she has grown to love, and she is able to move forward in her life.

4. Cinder, The Lunar Chronicles

CinderWhen I started reading Cinder, it amazed me how quickly I connected with a cyborg character. She is strong and independent, and though there were times when she was uncertain how she was going to be able to move forward, she never truly gave up. And I love getting to see her throughout the rest of The Lunar Chronicles!

5. Elliot, For Darkness Shows the Stars

fordarknessshowsI love Elliot, and I’m just going to copy and paste what I said about her in my review of For Darkness Shows the Stars: “She was independent but still loved and leaned on others. She was smart and stood her ground. She was fiercely loyal and self-motivated. I related to her a lot, at least personality-wise. But instead of irritating me (except when she wouldn’t give Kai a chance to talk to her, but more on that later), she inspired me. But she was not perfect. She constantly struggled over the beliefs of what she was raised to believe versus the changes she was seeing in her world. Sometimes others had to guide her and remind her that they were there for her and that she didn’t have to fight her demons alone.”

6. Persis, Across a Star-Swept Sea

star-sweptI adore Persis… She is smart, cunning, determined, loyal, and independent. She’s not perfect, but she is so interesting and dynamic and I loved every moment I was reading about her.

7. Lucy, The Chronicles of Narnia

dawntreader-lucyLucy was the one to discover Narnia and to first truly believe in it. Though the youngest of her siblings, she was able to lead them to Narnia and to Aslan. In Prince Caspian, she is the one that sees Aslan before anyone else, and by the time of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though she still has her struggles, she has also grown up so much since her first time there.

8. Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice

elizabeth-p&pPerhaps as the main character of a romance classic Elizabeth does not seem like an obvious heroine, but she was willing to stand her ground against her mother’s wishes for matrimony, as well as against a match with a very wealthy man (though we all know how that ends up changing), in a time where she most certainly was considered foolish for doing so. She is too prejudiced to see beyond Darcy at first, but she at least she does not blindly accept what her society would want her too.

9. & 10. Maddie and Queenie, Code Name Verity

codenameverity2If you’ve read this book, I don’t think I have to explain this one. And if you haven’t, I don’t know how I can. These girls are extremely brave. I feel that’s about all I can say!

BONUS! Two Favorite Heroines from Film & TV!

heroinesBasically, I could fangirl about Olivia Dunham (Fringe) and Peggy Carter (Captain America) all day, especially Peggy. I love them both. They’re strong and independent, yet feminine and kind. We need more ladies like these in our stories.

Who are your favorite heroines?

What the New Adult Genre Could Learn from Mr. Magorium

Several people have talked about what they would like to see in the “New Adult” genre that is gaining in popularity, and I thought I would share my thoughts.

I’m 27 years old. I don’t have a problem with reading about teens who are 10+ years younger than me, clearly, but sometimes I want to read about people closer to my age. But I don’t want to read about people’s sex lives, which is what most New Adult seems to be primarily focused on. I love a lot of things about YA literature, but if a book is about a whiny 14 year old I’m not as interested. I like books I can relate to, and I can relate to a 22 year old trying to figure out her life, because 5 short years ago (seriously, it feels like it was yesterday), that was me. Sometimes that’s still me, just older.

molly-mahoney

This was me.

I love the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and I think it’s grossly underrated and under-appreciated. When I first saw it, it was just pure fun, a fantastical story about a magical toy store and the people affected by it. But at some point when I rewatched it, I came upon a realization: I was Molly Mahoney. Molly Mahoney is the character played by Natalie Portman, who I would argue is the center of the story even if it is called Mr. Magorium‘s Wonder Emporium. She’s 23 and has graduated from college, but is still working at a toy store while she dreams of becoming a great composer. Mr. Magorium, played by Dustin Hoffman, encourages her dream by always asking how her masterpiece is coming along.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium movie image Dustin Hoffman and Natalie PortmanThen he announces that he’s leaving, essentially, that he’s about to die and leave the Earth. Since he’s in perfectly good health this leads Molly to believe that he has gone delusional in some way and is determined to convince him that he is not dying. But the truth of the matter is that, by some magical way that Mr. Magorium is capable of doing, he is choosing to leave the Earth after a good, long life, and he wants to leave his store to Molly. He hires an accountant (who ends up being referred to as “the counting mutant”) to get everything in order before he leaves the store to Molly. She is overwhelmed and quite insistent that she can’t run his store, because she’s not magical like him.

magorium-molly-hugI want to switch gears for a minute to talk about Henry, “The Mutant,” but I’ll get back to Molly. I’m married to an accountant, and my husband and Henry are pretty much one in the same. They are realistic and like having all their ducks in a row. Henry needs Molly to grow, because he struggles to see past numbers and order. Molly needs Henry to grow because she needs the perspective of someone who is practical but can also see the “spark” in her, that she is capable of more than she realizes. I love it when he tells Molly, “You know, some people… send flowers, or cards, or… give people hugs. I… make sure their paperwork’s all in order. I thought I’d try something different,” as he sees her struggle with Mr. Magorium leaving.

henry-toyshopAt the end of the movie, Molly has grown and changed, closer to fully realizing what all she is capable of. For most of us, it’s not quite as magical and exciting, and we may never feel quite as fulfilled as Molly seems to at the end of the movie, but it’s a fictional story and perhaps somewhat glamorized version of what many of us go through as twenty-somethings. I may not feel like Molly Mahoney at the end of the movie now, but I can certainly see change from the past five years, change towards something more positive and fulfilling as I work towards my goal to became an author. And even if I reach that goal it doesn’t mean everything will fall into place and be perfect, because it won’t. Life is a continuous struggle. But there’s also a lot of beauty in the journey, and we discover it with others around us with different gifts, like Molly and Henry.

I haven’t actually read any books labeled as New Adult yet, so I might be off base in assuming they’re not like Molly’s story, but I have been lead to believe they’re not. It doesn’t have to be so fantastical and “rated G” like Mr. Magorium, but something that focuses on the struggle you face as a young adult of trying out who you are, not who you are in bed, but what your strengths are, which friends in your life are your true friends, etc.

Perhaps the young adult genre could merely expand to include stories of the slightly older young adults, rather than breaking off into this whole other genre. I don’t know what the best way to market all this would be. But I think a lot of people would be able to relate to this sort of story. I know the not-too-much-younger me craved it. I would have written if I had any clue how to at the time. Maybe that’s part of the problem, is not knowing how it’ll end realistically. Because in real life, the process never truly ends.

If you’re interested in someone’s thoughts about what might be wrong with the New Adult genre, check out this article from The Huffington Post, “The Problem with New Adult Books.”

What do you think about stories about struggling twenty-somethings? Is this something you would like to see? Or have you seen it before and I’ve missed it? 

Instalove 101: When Instalove Has the Chance to Grow

instalovebannerThanks to the lovely ladies at A Novel Idea for hosting this month’s Instalove 101, where we bloggers bring you lectures on the hard issues in fiction literature, like love triangles and instalove. Today I will be sharing what happens when instalove has the chance to grow, focusing specifically on the case study of Peeta Mellark.

peeta-stalkerSubject: Peeta Mellark. Evidence of Possible Instalove:

“Handsome lad like you. There must be some special girl. Come on, what’s her name?”says Caesar.
Peeta sighs.

“Well, there is this one girl. I’ve had a crush on her ever since I can remember. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t know I was alive until the reaping.”

… “She have another fellow?” asks Caesar.

“I don’t know, but a lot of boys like her,” says Peeta.

“So here’s what  you do. You win, you go home. She can’t turn you down then, eh?” says Caesar encouragingly.

“I don’t think it’s going to work out. Winning . . . won’t help in my case,” says Peeta.

“Why ever not?” says Caesar, mystified.

Peeta blushes beet red and stammers out. “Because . . . because. . . she came here with me.”peeta-caesar“So that day, in music assembly, the teacher asked who knew the valley song. Your hand shot right up in the air. She stood you up on a stool and had you sing it for us. And I swear, every bird outside the windows fell silent,” Peeta says.

“Oh please,” I say, laughing.

“No, it happened. And right when your song ended, I knew – just like your mother – I was a goner.” peeta-katniss-cave“Well Peeta, we know, from our days in the cave, that it was love at first sight for you from what, age five?” Caesar says.

“From the moment I laid eyes on her,” says Peeta. caesar-katniss-peeta

Diagnosis: Definitely Instalove

I know that I was not alone in swooning over Peeta’s story, even though it’s really quite silly. He says that when he was five years old, he fell in love with Katniss upon seeing her and hearing her sing. For 11 years his fascination has not dwindled, in fact, it has no doubt increased. And the poor guy gets pushed into a plant by Katniss. Of course, she’s highly suspicious that he’s going to kill her in the Games, and now isn’t exactly the time for him to be declaring his love for her, seeing as they both won’t make it out of the Games alive.

But they do, and Katniss has to pretend all the while that she loves Peeta. And though Peeta does care for Katniss, it’s hard for him to pretend they’re happy when he knows how she really feels.

They spend months apart before the Victory Tour, in which they have to play happy couple again. Peeta continues to show his kindness, not just towards Katniss but also to District 11, which is the moment when Katniss realizes that Peeta really is quite a catch.

Then the Quarter Quell is announced, and they’re both are going back to the arena. And even though Peeta lies to the whole country that he and Katniss are already married and that she’s pregnant, she’s not upset with him. She knows they’re on the same team now, and they have to stick together to fight against the Capitol’s system. But she also becomes determined to keep Peeta alive.

She starts to care more about his survival than hers, just as he has cared for her survival more than his. 

“If you die, and I live, there’s no life for me at all back in District Twelve. You’re my whole life,” he says. “I would never be happy again.” catching-fire-beachI realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me.

“I do,” I say. “I need you.”

…before he can talk, I stop his lips with a kiss.

I feel that thing again. The thing I only felt once before. In the cave last year, when I was trying to get Haymitch to send us food. I kissed Peeta about a thousand times during those Games and after. But there was only one kiss that made me want more.

As Katniss’ love grows to something true, Peeta has the chance to see what love with Katniss actually looks like.

Then Peeta is hijacked and it makes him a different person by the time he is rescued. He doesn’t remember loving Katniss, and their relationship has to start completely over.

Katniss has to take the initiative to save Peeta and a possible relationship between them.

“I must have loved you a lot.”

“You did.” My voice catches and I pretend to cough.

“And did you love me?” he asks.

I keep my eyes on the tiled floor. “Everyone says I did. Everyone says that’s why Snow had you tortured. To break me.”

“That’s not an answer,” he tells me. peeta“But I think it’s time you flipped this little scenario around in your head. If you’d been taken by the Capitol, and hijacked, and then tried to kill Peeta, is that the way he would be treating you?” demands Haymitch.

I fall silent. It isn’t. It isn’t how he would be treating me at all. He would be trying to get me back at any cost. Not shutting me out, abandoning me, greeting me with hostility at every turn.

“You and me, we made a deal to try and save him. Remember?”

haymitch-catching-fireThrough time, through persistence, and through patience, Katniss fell in love with Peeta, and he fell back in love with her. And this time, it meant much more than seeing a cute girl at the age of 5. Now it was deeper, more devoted. The two literally went through hell and back again together, then faced their own demons separately. Needless to say, what started out as instalove for Peeta grew to become a well-earned love relationship.

Are you much more open to a story about instalove if it has the chance to grow? Do you know of a good example of this besides Peeta? When do you think Katniss realized she loved Peeta too?

Review: Never Let Me Go

synopsis

As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

…A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance…

-from Goodreads

thoughts2I have so many mixed feelings about Never Let Me Go, so I think it’ll be easiest to break it down with positives and negatives… Also, there are some spoilers, but I think they are ones that most people who know about the book and/or movie are probably already aware of, as I was before I read the book.

The Good Stuff

– This is one of the most honest, vulnerable narratives I’ve ever read. This book takes place in a past that never existed, in a late 20th century England where clones exist, and yet somehow, Kathy and her peers feel so incredibly real.

– For the most part, I was really engaged with the narrative and found it somewhat suspenseful, even though it was slowly paced.

– The moral/ethical implications brought up about human clones being created and raised for the sole purpose of organ donation is certainly fascinating. And it was especially interesting what Miss Emily said at the end, but I won’t say anything further than that.

never-let-me-go

The Not-So-Good Stuff

– Even though the book is fairly short, the story felt a little too drawn out, and so while the narrative was mostly engaging, I did find myself bogged down by it at times. I think the worst offender of this was during Part 2, when Kathy shares about her time in The Cottages.

– I had so many questions about Kathy and the others’ way of life that were not fully explained and I really would have liked for them to be.

– As many of you know I try to get a feel for the content of a book before I read it. I was under the impression this one did not really feature sex, and it was not graphic per say, but Kathy spent a lot of time explaining the sexual relations between students at Hailsham and at The Cottages. I think what bothered me so much was that though they are given what sounds like pretty decent sex education by their guardians at Hailsham who urge them to treat sex with care, all the students treat it like most people treat kissing. It seemed extremely casual and in fact, though Kathy mentions that she knows it messes with her feelings and that the guardians told them this as well, there never seemed to be any emotion attached to it. Students who had a crush on someone would just have sex with them, and Kathy would tell us this matter of factly, making it seem like not a big deal.

Apparently the students also cannot reproduce, which may have been another reason why they did not think much of these actions. The whole thing made me feel sad for them, because I felt they did not fully understand the point of sex (and I don’t just mean reproduction, but what it means to become an intimate with a person as well). As I thought about it, I wondered if what we are supposed to gather is that since Kathy and the other students were not brought up in a normal environment where they had nuclear families and could go out on dates and all that, that this was the only way they really knew how to discover anything about the opposite sex. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that was what I decided to take from it, which really made my heart ache all the more for Kathy and the other students. Which in a way is good I suppose, but I wish I didn’t have to feel so bogged down by the whole thing.

Just as an advisory, though this talk was never really graphic, there were a couple of mentions of specific things that might be uncomfortable for some.

– I wanted WAY MORE about the whole clone thing. This book is way more about the human aspect than the science fiction aspect, which I do appreciate and understand, but I still wanted more about the cloning stuff than there was.

– Ruth annoyed me to no end. But in the way that a well-crafted, unlikable character ought to. There were no cardboard cutouts here, which is a positive. But man, Ruth wore me out!

– The ending left me feeling kind of hollow and hopeless. I wasn’t angry or upset, and it felt like a natural ending for the direction the story was heading. It also didn’t feel completely pointless because Kathy’s life story does seem worth telling, but there’s no happy ending, no hope of change, nothing or no one to save the day. And I’m not too found of endings like that.

Final Thoughts

This book is about humanity first and foremost. Kathy’s narrative is unreliable (you know because she admits it many times), vulnerable, and interesting, and yet also detached in some ways. The story is both so complex and so simplistic. It was one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read. Yet I wanted more from it and the ending left me feeling a little blank. It’s so hard to explain. I think I’ve finally settled on giving it 3 stars though. I might have disliked more than I liked, but at the same time, some of these dislikes were actually still good elements of storytelling within the novel, just frustrating to deal with.

3stars2There is a movie adaptation for this book that I have not seen, but I heard about it before the book. As I was reading the book I wondered how the movie could be very good since the story is so slow and quiet. After watching the trailer though, I realized that the period of time for a movie might actually be the perfect amount of time in which to tell the story. I’m also intrigued by the fact that in the trailer Kathy and the others have to scan their wrists, something not mentioned in the book. I feel that would have been an interesting aspect to read about. If I can see an edited for TV version of this movie I might watch it, but I don’t want to otherwise since there the sexual content is more graphic in the movie.

Content Advisory: Two or three instances of swearing. All the sex stuff mentioned in the review. 

Also check out Jamie’s review for additional thoughts.

It’s My One Year Blogversary!

One year ago today, I made my first post on this blog!

fairly-odd-confettiActually, I’m pretty sure I posted it on the 13th but that the time on WordPress was set wrong and made it the 14th… but since today is also Valentine’s Day I just think it’s more fun to go with today anyway!

So first off, I want to thank all the lovely people (that’s you guys) who have read, commented, and subscribed to my blog! My first post got one comment from a person I know in real life, and I’m so thankful for how it has grown since that time. I have met so many wonderful people who have referred me to some fantastic books that I might not have discovered or read otherwise. I also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time this past November, and I’m not sure I would have done it had it not been for the encouragement that came from many of you guys, and that turned out to be a good experience for me. There’s no way I can ever properly thank you all for these things!

katniss-saluteI wanted to reflect just a little on this past  year and how I want to move forward, but I’ll try not to bore you too much. I set out to blog about stories of all kinds that influenced me, whether they were from books, TV, or movies, and I wanted to talk about my own writing journey. I was nervous about covering a wide range, but fortunately I have found people who love YA books AND Star Trek just as much as I do (like Kelley and others!). Overall the response has been positive, and I am truly grateful. When I read my first post again, I was pleased to see how well I have stuck with my original intent with the blog, and I’m so happy I decided to start this journey.

I wanted to share one favorite post (or two or three in a few cases…) from each month since last February leading up to last month. If you haven’t been a long-time reader of the blog, maybe you’ll discover a “new” post from me you missed before.

February: Start (the post that started it all)

March: My Gateway Into Dystopia

April: The Top 5 Movies JGL Should Star In

May: 5 Types of Love Relationships in Stories

June: Character Consistency in Stories

July: Your Star Trek Introduction and Choosing the Losing Love Triangle Team and What I Want to See More of in YA Fiction

August: 1984, Star Trek, and the Psychology of Torture

September: Review-ish: Persuasion and Star Trek Convention Parts 1 and 2

October: The Standards of Book Content vs. Movie Content

November: Review: Catching Fire (movie) and Elements from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I’d Like to See in a Book

December: November Reflections and The Growing Sci-Fi Trend in YA

January: Fringe Series Overview

So what’s ahead for Ode to Jo and Katniss? For now, I am going to continue blogging in this same space, in the same way. Sometime in the next year the time may come where I go with a self-hosted website using my name to focus more on myself as an author, but this would mostly likely be when I am close to querying agents. And I’m hoping that will mean later this year, but we’ll see. I would still blog some fun discussion posts and other things, but I would probably back off on reviews. But if and when that time comes, you’ll hear about it then. Until then, here I am!

grumpy-cat-escape

I hope you don’t feel like Grumpy Cat when you visit the blog!

Seriously, I wish there was a way I could thank everyone by name who has been a part of this blog, but that would just be a crazy long list. So please accept this virtual hug…

olivia-hugNow everyone go celebrate with Valentine’s Day chocolates! 😀

The Top 10 Book Relationships That Make Me Swoon

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten Books That Will Make You Swoon. I felt a little funny about focusing on just the books, since romance isn’t the main purpose of several of these books, and yet the romance really made my heart soar! So this focus is more so on the relationships in these books. This week’s list is in no particular order.

swoon-addie-trevorWhen Addie is performing her search, Trevor is part of her future if she decides to go live with her dad outside the compound. And considering how sweet their relationship is, you can’t help but root that she will choose this path!

swoon-america-maxonWhen I read a negative review for The Selection, I completely get it. This book was frustrating at times (and I still haven’t made myself read The Elite… I’m waiting until after The One releases and see how people react) and America especially was, but Maxon was just so sweet towards her. I want to hate him when he pays attention to the other girls, but he has to. This is so weird coming from someone who hates the concept of The Bachelor, but I just like Maxon!

swoon-cassia-xanderSigh. This only lasted a few chapters. But I loved it while it lasted. Xander was wonderful to Cassia.

swoon-cinder-kaiWhen Prince Kai and Cinder meet, she doesn’t see there being a snowball’s chance in heck that they could ever be together and tries to keep her distance, but he keeps pursuing her. And then craziness ensues. I can’t wait to see how it’ll all play out at the series’ end!

swoon-elizabeth-darcyEven though I enjoy seeing their romance more onscreen than actually reading about it in the book, I still couldn’t include Elizabeth and Darcy because come on, it’s Elizabeth and Darcy!

swoon-elliot-kaiI have to admit, Kai frustrated me a lot in this one so it wasn’t as swoony as it could have been, but those letters, and Elliot’s longing, and then when he finally came around… I couldn’t not root for them!

swoon-eva-ryanThis relationship is complicated to say the least (and there’s more of it in the sequel Once We Were), but they’re still cute together. I hope there’s a way it can work out.

swoon-jamie-landonIt’s been a long time since I read this book, but I do remember really enjoying the romance as a high school student who didn’t normally read books like this. I loved Jamie and Landon were able to help each other in different ways. I’ll definitely have to re-read it one day.

swoon-katniss-peetaIf you’ve read this blog for a while, you know how much I love Peeta and especially how he cares for Katniss. This applies to the whole series, but they have so many great moments in Catching Fire especially. And as a bonus, I wanted to add Finnick and Annie because even if we don’t get to see a lot of their relationship, you know how much they love each other by their actions.

swoon-persis-justenAs I was reading this book late last year/early this year, I gobbled every word of it, and I loved the complicated relationship Persis and Justen had as they had to pretend to be in love, while they kept secrets about their lives from each other, but they slowly came to see the amiable qualities the other had.  I gave this book five stars for a good reason; the pacing of everything, from the action-packed parts of the story to the slow-burn romance were just about perfect.

Which book relationships make you swoon?

Review: Code Name Verity

The best word I can think of it to describe Code Name Verity is: layered.

code-name-verityI know several people who loved this book from the beginning, so imagine how I felt when it took me a while to get into it. I felt alarmed, actually. I had just felt let-down by These Broken Stars (which I didn’t hate, but didn’t love either) and thought a well-loved WWII book was exactly what I needed. I was confused by the narration, as “Verity” wrote about her friend Maddie and her perspective, about things Maddie did when she wasn’t with her, and even giving names of people she doesn’t know and recording conversation. Was she really writing all this down? Why? How does she know all this? I was so distracted by it all. And then we read an exchange between two people working at the prison she’s at, one who explains to the other – and to me as well – how and why Verity is writing her account as she was.

So finally, something seemed to click for me. I still wasn’t falling in love with the narrative right away, or even Verity, but over time, I started to care a little more and more. Then I remember getting to the end of Part One, where we see a note about Verity’s fate –

WAIT?! That’s all you’re giving me! I wanted to scream. I could not believe it was the end of her story. Or so it seemed. So I started Part Two, where we get Maddie’s account.

And then things really started to click.

I could also relate to Maddie more. I’m not sure if it was because of her personality, because we already knew so much about her from Verity, or a combination of the two (that’s what I’m leaning towards), but Part Two was really when the story came alive for me. Maddie put together pieces from Verity’s initial story that you didn’t even know were missing. Everything suddenly had a double meaning. I was finally realized there was so much more to the story than met the eye.

I thought the novel ended perfectly, but I really wanted more about Maddie, and Jamie! Even though we don’t see a lot of him, I really liked him a lot and would love to read a book from his perspective! And even though it was so subtle, I loved the blooming relationship between them.

At the end, I was almost emotional. I actually had a hard time emotionally connecting with Verity, but Maddie connected enough dots for me to feel more engaged with both of them. Even still, I still felt a little more emotionally distant than I would have liked in a story about love, war, and loss. Because of this and the slow beginning, I didn’t feel the book earned a 5, but for being so beautifully crafted in complexity (which means it will definitely need to be re-read one day), I decided to go with 4.5.

4-5stars-editWhat are your thoughts on Code Name Verity? 

Content Advisory: Moderate language, including a couple of f-bombs. Torture is described somewhat but not in great detail. There is mention of rape and other sexual activities but nothing gratuitous. 

This Week in TV: The Super Bowl, Almost Human, and Agents of SHIELD

With all three of my TV shows coming back this week with their first episode of 2014, plus with The Super Bowl this past Sunday, I thought it would be worth talking about what caught my attention on TV this week. Even if you don’t watch these shows, feel free to read on because who knows, maybe it’ll spark your interest!

I’m not talking about Castle, because it’s an established show and there was nothing particularly special about this week’s episode, but Almost Human and Agents of SHIELD are both in their first season and are revealing new things every week that are piquing my interest. But first…

The Super Bowl

Russell WilsonI saw/heard a lot of people say they thought this year’s Super Bowl was boring. I don’t understand how one could feel this way unless (1) they were rooting for the Broncos (obviously) or (2) they don’t actually care about football anyway. Sure it was a blowout, but it was fun to watch.

Just to be clear, I’m only moderately interested in football. I have teams I like and I enjoy watching them when they play well, and especially if they run the ball because it’s way more exciting than passing it. Also, I was rooting for the Seahawks because of my disliking for Peyton Manning. It’s a lousy reason to root for a team, but it’s the truth.

So maybe I took too much pleasure in watching Peyton throwing interceptions.

And in his disgruntled facial expressions.

And of guys on the Seahawks running with no danger of being tackled as they made their way to the end zone.

And I also could have been on a sugar high because my husband and I had the bright idea of eating a Skittle for every point Seattle scored. (Why Skittles? Because of this guy.) Personally, I thought they might score 21 points. I wasn’t even dreaming of 43. Holy cow, guys. It was a LOT of Skittles.

But what I wanted to talk about mostly was the commercials. Overall, not  a bad batch, but not many really stood out either. Most were just better than mediocre.

In case you’re unaware, USA Today does this thing where people rank the Super Bowl commercials and  they announce on Monday how everything ranked. Their top 5 were as follows:

1. Budweiser, “Puppy Love”

2. Doritos, “Cowboy Kid”

3. Budweiser, “Hero’s Welcome”

4. Doritos, “Time Machine”

5. Radio Shack, “Phone Call”

(Sorry this don’t mean much if you didn’t see them; I’ll include videos of some of them later.)

Puppy Love being number one was not a surprise to me. Who can resist an adorable story about furry best friends?

The second one, The Dortios Cowboy Kid, really fell flat for me and I didn’t find it funny, so I was surprised to see it so highly ranked. The other Doritos commercial, however, made me chuckle.

I thought the Radio Shack commercial was also funny and clever. I’m glad they’re choosing this way to brand and market themselves now instead of calling themselves “The Shack” like they were for a while…

One of my favorites was, without a doubt, the Tim Tebow T-Mobile commercial (there were actually two, but we’ll go with the first one here), as he explains what you can do without a contract (plus I’m a Tebow fan):

Another commercial I found quite funny and clever was done by Turbo Tax…

And lastly, I feel I have to mention Jaguar’s commercial of British villains…

How fun is that?

Almost Human

I’ve been enjoying Almost Human, but it’s been painfully obvious that they’re showing the episodes out of order, and the mythology I was kind of hoping for from a show developed by the same people who did Fringe hasn’t really been present. However, I enjoy the characters, it’s been an interesting look into a possible future, and they have made some references that can certainly lead to more in the story later. One of these references that has particularly piqued my interest is to “the wall.”

almost-human-the-wallIn this episode they finally addressed it further, but we still don’t know much about it. I don’t think the wall is around the entire city, but runs through it. And it sounds like it is definitely separating them from an unsavory place. But what goes on there? How did it come to be this way? So many questions! But we did see someone going over the wall at the end of this week’s episode, so it will certainly come back up. I also think we’re at the point where the episodes might finally be shown in order. And though I’m dying for an episode that explains more about the wall, I’m also intrigued by the next episode because it’s about Valerie, one of the detectives, and about others who are genetically engineered. I’m definitely interested in seeing how genetic engineering is portrayed in this universe. 

almost-human-valerieIf you’re interested in science fiction, check this show out. I think it’s going to get even better.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

After the first three episodes of SHIELD aired, I shared my thoughts about the show. I was slightly disappointed, as I expected more from a Whedon show, but I saw a lot of potential in it. I know a lot of people gave up on the show, and if you’re one of those people, you should really come back to it. You have until March 4 (ugh, such a long break after an earlier long break and only one new episode!) to catch up. The characters are finally starting to feel like real people you care about, with relationships and personality traits and past lives. Every week more clues about a larger storyline are being given, more elements are coming to light, and just when one thing is answered, something else arouses our curiosity. Skye’s past is of interest now, as well as more on Coulson’s death, and who the heck is the clairvoyant, and what does she/he want?! And I adore the interactions between Fitz and Simmons, as I have mentioned before. The plot is thickening week by week, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

agents-of-shield-ep-11Also, Emma Approved is back from its month hiatus! Hooray!

Which Superbowl commercial was your favorite? Are you a fan of Almost Human or Agents of SHIELD?

Review: The Desolation of Smaug

I finally saw the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug. And while I mostly enjoyed my viewing experience, I have been uncertain as to how to review this film because of two really big bones I have to pick at this movie. So finally I’ve decided to just go ahead and rant…

Rant #1: The Barrel Escape Scene

hobbit-barrelescapeThis is literally the worst scene I have seen in a movie in I don’t know how long, and I don’t mean the content of it, I mean the production of it. First off, there was some pretty lousy CGI in the movie (alongside some pretty decent CGI, like Smaug, for instance, looked good), and the crappiest of it was in this scene. Whether it was the orcs or the way the dwarves were flying down the river in the barrels, it was painfully obvious at times that these things were computer generated. And considering that I have watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit movie without ever feeling this way, I was stunned by this.

Secondly, apparently they decided to incorporate what were probably GoPro cameras on the actors or barrels or stunt doubles or fill-in props or whatever, to get these water shots that were designed to make you feel as if you were in the water. But these weren’t the high-quality shots you see in the rest of the movie; they looked more like a home movie or a documentary. That’s fine for certain movies, but for for this movie, that particular style was so inconsistent with what is in the rest of the movie it completely took me out of it. Pick  a style and stick with it, Peter Jackson.

Rant #2: There is no Act 3

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the three act structure, but in case you aren’t, here’s a reference:

ThreeActStructureFlat

The Desolation of Smaug ends at the crisis point, right before the climax. THERE IS NO CLIMAX IN THIS 2 HOUR AND 41 MINUTE MOVIE. That’s a serious problem. It’s also called the DESOLATION of Smaug. Desolation means “complete destruction.” At the end of the movie Smuag is FLYING AWAY. HE IS NOT DESOLATED IN THE SLIGHTEST. At the end of the movie I felt completely duped. What was the point of everything I just saw? To wait another 11 months for the third movie for Smaug to actually be desolated before they start the next part of the story (because there’s more to be told after Smaug, so it’s not like that had to be dragged out)? Seriously?!

Now that I’ve ranted, what did I like about the movie? It took itself more seriously than the first one I thought, my two rants aside. I appreciated that, and I think it will hold my attention better for a second viewing than the first Hobbit movie did when I watched it a second time. I liked the addition of Tauriel, though her main purpose seemed to be to insert estrogen in the movie and create an unnecessary love triangle (between a dwarf and Legolas, the latter who was a bit shoehorned into the story). She’s like an elf version of Katniss.

Hobbit-TaurielI continued to like Kili, though again, there was some added story line there for drama, and I liked Bard quite a bit. I’ll be interested in seeing what he does in the third movie (since I’ve forgotten from the book, not that following the book is exactly Peter Jackson’s forte). And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch as a sinister dragon was great. Overall, the movie was entertaining but my two rants really drag the overall score of the movie down for me. I give it 3.5 stars, though I feel like I’m being a little nice to be giving it that.

3.5starsWhat are your thoughts on The Desolation of Smaug? Did you feel duped too?