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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-12-06 14:28
Thoughts: Allegiant
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Allegiant -- Veronica Roth

Book 3 (final) of Divergent

 

 

As much hype as Divergent has gotten because of its movie adaptation (and the lovely Theo James who is the big screen version of the lovely Four), this series was admittedly never really one I especially loved. Sure, the books have been well-written and fairly intense and exciting in comparison with a lot of other dystopians in recent years. And sure, this trilogy had its appeal. But at the same time, there really wasn’t much to set Divergent apart from every other YA dystopian ever written--save for the fact that there was never a love triangle nor a cynical YA female lead.

Tris can be said to be strong and ideal and kickass. I don’t deny that. And Four is her soul mate OTP counterpart as the strong, broody, hero. They make a great couple and they make a strong pair of teenagers, created to save the world and stuff like that.


I put off reading Allegiant for the longest time ever since word leaked about the ending that had fans breaking into two camps of love or outrage. It was amusing to see all the discussions, the debates, the anger and such stuff. I was indifferent since I was never really invested in these characters enough to care what would happen to them in the end.

Nonetheless, I’ve always been a Happily Ever After™ ending type of person and anything that deviates from that rose-colored ideal tends to give me pause. On the other hand, as I’d already stated, it wasn’t as if I was ever really a huge fan of the Divergent series to begin with.

In the end, I realize why I’d subconsciously pushed the book back time and time again when it was purposefully chosen as a book for my Reading Assignment challenge.


Allegiant (and its preceding two books) is well written, fast-paced, and intense. It’s hard NOT to fall into the story, narration, and progression. I can kind of see why it exploded into something so big--it also probably helped that the book ended up on the big screen.

But that’s probably where my personal likes stop.

I’ve still been quite uncertain about how I’ve felt about the entirety of the Divergent series’ world building. In the first book, the world was slightly confusing and the set-up monotonous--you also end up asking more questions than getting answers and you know you won’t get any of those answers for a while to come. Thus is the life of a trending YA trilogy.

The second book became more fast-paced, focusing more so on story progression and character development, yet we still see very little world building (or at least any that makes sense). Yes, you get to see more of the other factions. But really, who cares when I don’t know why they matter?

Finally, in this concluding installment of Divergent, we get to see the basis of the Divergent world and we get our answers to why things are the way they are. And I’m only slightly content with that. The problem is that it wasn’t all that unique considering all the other dystopian story lines in existence. And also, nothing really made much sense concerning the history of the Divergent world or anything else that we learn anew about factions, the people, and the technology and sciences.

More so, I never got a sense that I understood what time frame this world takes place in or even what what the state of the rest of the world is in, or even what’s actually going on outside of this community of factions. It was explained, but it was still vague.


To be honest, however, what really bugged me the most about this book wasn’t the ending that everyone else seemed to be upset about, though it wasn’t helpful either.

Allegiant was drawn out and dragged on. The beginning of this last installment gave us a meandering journey in which we had no idea what direction the story was going. At least I had no idea what was going on and what was supposed to be going on. And then when the action finally DID pick up, more events occurred that honestly did not make sense to me.

Tobias’ behavior was out of character and a bit hard for me to believe. Tris’ attitude became more annoying as the story progressed. It’s hard to believe that someone who presented as so level-headed and quick on his feet as Tobias would completely lose his composure and end up causing problems. And Tris’ holier-than-thou attitude made me irritated, especially since everything always seemed to work out for her anyway despite how reckless and thoughtless she’d always been and still continues to be.

No. The ending, while eliciting a pang of sadness in me, wasn’t what made me the most frustrated with this book. Although it wasn’t as if I really liked it either. Written well and handled well, yeah. I guess.

But in the long run, Tris’ death just felt a little unnecessary. Yes, it’s sad. And maybe it’s symbolic. But it felt like it was a stupid death because it could have been avoided if Tris would have just been developed beyond her typical reckless, unthinking self. There was no reason why she couldn’t have just stepped back and thought about her options before rushing headlong into danger just because it was her instinct to do so. There was no reason for her and her friends not to think of more options. I might be in the minority here about the ending, but Tris’ death was a needless one. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have happened; I’m saying it shouldn’t have happened the way that it did. There are better ways to stage a symbolic, heroic death, in fiction, and the way that Tris was killed really made no sense when I could see holes where that event might have been avoided if Tris really wanted stay alive.

(spoiler show)


My frustrations with this book really hinge on how pointless a lot of actions were, how much a lot of things didn’t make sense, how there seems to be no tangible story line outside of that global "this is a dystopian society and we're here to save the world just because", and how the characters just seem less relatable to me than they had even been in the first place.

As far as conclusions go, Allegiant wasn’t the best thing in the world, even if it wasn’t the worst. But it had taken two books just to come up with an explanation for the world surrounding the Divergent series, and it just didn’t feel satisfying, and in a way, kind of poorly thought out. With a draggy progression and a world that made little sense, I would have at least preferred a Happily Ever After™ to make up for it.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

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review 2015-12-04 05:58
Thoughts: Taste Test
Taste Test - Kelly Fiore

Taste Test -- Kelly Fiore

 

 

I happen to love foodie novels a lot. In fact, I love anything to do with food, period. I don't go out and seek Food Network online streaming or anything, but I have a love for food that that is probably only rivaled by my love for books and wine.

So I was fairly excited about reading Taste Test.

It's a cute story and premise, like a reality TV Survivor in the kitchen type of deal with a bunch of young adolescent kids competing to be the best of the best. Contestants are eliminated regularly, there's drama, there are tears, there's tension... and all the while, the fictional world of the producer and judges are doing what they can to both make the show more ratings worthy as well as forcing these kids to think on their feet... or make their life miserable, I suppose.

Included in Taste Test's story line is also schooling for our student-age contestants and a lot of backstage drama--just like real life. XD


And really, this book was cute and fun in it's own way. Nora's narrative voice is certainly snarky enough for me to enjoy. The humor was done really well and the story had direction and a good amount of thought-provoking substance to be both entertaining AND inspiring. Overall, Taste Test is an entertaining read that I can honestly say I liked.

I do have a few complaints that I couldn't quite overlook, even if I just let them slide because the book was a fairly easy read.

First of all, Nora had been a readily likable and relatable character when the book started. I'm not saying she ended up annoying or anything, but she has a glaringly obvious judgmental mentality that I didn't quite care for. The way in which she was so quick to formulate negative ideas of almost everyone she meets does not make her an easy person to continuously root for. In some instances, she came off pretty immature, though I suppose we ARE dealing with teenagers here.

I'm not saying that ALL teenagers are immature, but Nora certainly tended towards a more disappointing angle for character development. She too quickly had something negative to say about almost every female who even associated with Christian just because she didn't like him. And she may of used the word "ho-bag" a few times when referencing her less than friendly roommate, Joy.

The second thing that bugged me just a little bit was how little we focused on the actual cooking. Sure, we get a scene here and there about the cooking process, and maybe a pointer or two. But a lot of the book then turned into a flash forward of "Nora prepared this dish" or "Christian presented that dish". Which, I guess if you're more looking forward to reading about the backstage drama and the romance and more backstage drama, then this book did just fine.

Then there was the mystery portion of the story that was just barely there. It wasn't really all that significant, but it DID remind me of a cheesy Rom-Com that needed more than one genre to appeal to audiences, I guess. And in this case, it also showcased just how readily Nora liked to jump to conclusions without proof of any such--just that, she didn't like so-and-so, ergo, obviously said person is the one behind anything going wrong that even remotely resembled sabotage.

But aside from those few things, the rest wasn't really all that bad. I DID enjoy some of the back-and-forth between Nora and Christian. But then there were instances when they just got exhausting crossed lines threw punches that were uncalled for... and that's when the situation becomes a little more frustratingly childish than witty, friendly rivalry and banter.

 

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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review 2015-11-28 09:43
Thoughts: The Luckiest Lady in London
The Luckiest Lady in London - Sherry Thomas

The Luckiest Lady in London -- Sherry Thomas

Book 1 of London trilogy

 

 

I don't often read Historical Romances. The one and only Historical Romance I read had been a long time ago, back when I was in high school and considerably more pretentious about my reading preferences than I am today. I had an English teacher who regarded Historical Romance novels (and Romance novels, in general), as uninspiring and trashy--she was a beloved teacher and I found myself going with a lot of things she said. However, in an effort to prove to my friends that I wasn't also prejudiced about my reading preferences, I borrowed a book from a friend, something by Jill Barnett, I believe, and gave it a go, with some reserves.

I can't say I gave it a fair trial though since, at the time, I read mostly textbook classics, human drama, a lot of Michael Crichton and books in the science or crime thriller genre. I ended up being very uninterested in that book, though, and couldn't quite get into it. I don't remember which book it was I had read, but I just recall that I never touched another Historical Romance since and adopted my English teacher's view on Romance novels.

Of course, times have changed and my biggest outlook on reading is simply this: Read what you like. Read what you enjoy. And over the years I've come to like reading a variety of books, including Romance novels and especially Romantic Suspense. Contemporary Romances are also books I may pick up randomly as well.

But Historical genres were still never a preference for me.

The main reason I even chose to put The Luckiest Lady in London on my reading list was because several trusted reviewers/bloggers I follow hyped about it. I then went on to read at least two or three other books that had a historical setting and quite liked them. Other more interesting sounding Historical Romances and Historical Mysteries also made their way onto my list.

And then The Elemental Trilogy happened and decided for me that Sherry Thomas would become an author to look out for.


Rambling aside...

The Luckiest Lady in London has been a highly anticipated book for myself due to positive reviews and the fact that there were elements listed within these reviews that piqued my interest. And then the book ended up on sale via Kindle and somehow made it into my library. As a means to expand my reading experience, I consciously chose to put the book on a pre-chosen Reading Challenge list.

So here we are.

And I'm glad that I made time for The Luckiest Lady in London. So very glad.


The Story:
The story of The Luckiest Lady in London is actually a fairly standard Cinderella-esque story. Lord Felix Rivendale is our wealthy and highly respected Marquess of Wrenworth. Louisa Cantwell, while coming from a respectable family of well-to-do station, is in fact on the poorer end of things with several sisters to take care of, including one with epileptic episodes, youngest sister Matilda. If her mother were to pass away any time in the future, all of the Cantwell sisters would be left without a penny or any assets to their names--in other words, they will either end up homeless and begging or they will have to figure out how to sustain their lifestyles by finding work.

Or another option would be to marry into a wealthy union.

While Louisa admits that she and her sisters would likely be able to get by if they all found jobs, she realizes that the best way to support her sisters is to marry well. So off she goes to London to present herself in the finest way possible in order to draw the attention of any eligible, well-to-do man who would also be willing to take care of Matilda as well. But, of course, she comes across Lord Wrenworth who's attention she manages to catch almost immediately, but who would most likely be the worst candidate for a husband since he is more inclined to NOT settle down and get married for a long time to come.


My Thoughts:
While the story itself was pretty clichéd and started off quite slow, I was ecstatic to find that the book's best quality happened to be the characters. Sure, we get a standard rich man-poor girl romance. Sure, we get a rocky start with the "Lust at First Sight" plot device and an almost instalove development. We even have an arrogant hero who always gets what he wants, shows people a sunny, gentlemanly side of himself (being known as "The Ideal Gentleman"), who has childhood issues to propel his present-day behavior. Which also happens to become a cause for romantic angst in the long run.

But the characters gradually grow on you, and eventually, I stopped caring that some of the events and plot twists where predictable. I even didn't even really concern myself with the mundane, banality of the day-to-day progress of the book's story line. I fell in love with our main couple.

It's not every day that you get a romance wherein the female main character openly expresses her carnal desires, or who has an ambitious, scheming mind in order to achieve her goals. And while Felix tends toward the carbon-copy standard Romance novel main male character, he does have an extremely charming air about him that makes it hard not to like him.

The entirety of the first 30% of this book was a hot and heavy courting ritual riddled with innuendo that felt like sexual foreplay--and the main character barely touch each other during this time--but things were hot, nonetheless. The duration of the couple's relationship, the development, and even the obligatory misunderstanding and ensuing angst wasn't really anything to write home about, honestly.

But the interactions between Louisa and Felix, the witty bantering, the few quips and one-liner conversations had between the two of them were absolutely amazing. In the end, it had been our characters, and even some of the side characters that really drew my attention.

Sherry Thomas has a knack for writing readily lovable characters (as I found with her Young Adult series, The Elemental Trilogy). Even with a standard fairy-tale-like love story such as The Luckiest Lady in London, her characters are still layered in complexity and unpredictable behavior and actions.

This was a wonderful and fun book to read, simple as that.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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review 2015-11-21 02:15
Thoughts: Shadowlark
Shadowlark - Meagan Spooner

Shadowlark -- Meagan Spooner

Book 2 of Skylark

 

 

@50% into book
I fell asleep twice reading this book already. Whether it’s because I’ve been overly tired from lack of sleep or because the book is kind of boring, I’m not sure. Up to this point, there’s a fairly flimsy plot line wherein I have an idea where the book is headed, but I’m not entirely sure I know what is actually going on in this book. Even since the first book I’m not sure I know what the main conflict really is--

1. Lark is looking for her brother, Basil.
2. Lark is trying to find a place where she can live normally.
3. Lark doesn’t want to settle where the society will use her for their own needs.
4. Lark creates her own romantic angst by not knowing what she wants when it comes to Oren.

I honestly have no idea what’s really going on here and I’m having an even harder time relating with any of the characters. I’m not even sure Lark knows what she’s doing, honestly, but I suppose it helps that no matter where she goes, everyone likes her.


@ Book's Completion
I still have issues trying to figure out what all happened in this book. It still feels overly haphazard and confusing. And boring.

But at least it was fast-paced and still had some points where I could get into it and forget that I'm not exactly enjoying it. At least the characters are different and at least Lark is a strong character even if she makes a lot of misguided decisions (misguided by her own dramatic, wandering monologues).

And it's not like Shadowlark was a terrible book, or anything. It's got serviceable writing and a narrator who isn't entirely boring. And the situations DO present with a slight "Wait and see what happens next" vibe. And so I keep reading to figure out what happens next.

And also, Nix is kind of a new take on the R2-D2 of a YA world, with attitude and all. But, of course, Nix is no android Iko from The Lunar Chronicles (Yes. I'm still riding some residual Book Hangover from finishing Winter).


To Paraphrase:
Basically, Shadowlark picks up where we left off from Skylark wherein Lark is continuing her journey to finding her brother, Basil, if he’s still alive. After the events at Iron Wood, Lark is more determined to find Basil and figure out where she belongs in this world.

And she is joined by her human-like pixie, Nix, as well as Tansey, one of the scouts from Iron Wood. Of course, along the way, more conflicts happen, Oren rejoins Lark, but there’s the obligatory romantic angst for reasons… and so on.

And also, more evil stuff surfaces and more saving the world ensues.


My Thoughts:
My thoughts are pretty much what I’ve already stated above: this book was fairly boring. But on top of that, we’ve got some awkward emotional flip-flops all over the place. Scenes that were meant to be gut-wrenching or heart-breaking felt overdone to me. Scenes that required a more emotional reaction ended up narrating rather flat.

Once again, much like Skylark, I really DO feel like this series, this world, had a lot of potential. It’s creative and different. The history of Skylark’s world, however, is still rather vague. But at least back story is what these books have going for it.

The characters seem intriguing on paper, and even the situations and relationships have potential for development, for a more exciting storyline. But in the story itself, the characters are hard to relate with and kind of dull and kind of typical YA standard, even if their situations are a little more unique, especially the romance between Lark and Oren--a darkness to their realities that intrigued me to an extent.

Another fortunate aspect to this book is that it’s pacing is fast. I flew through it before I even knew what was going on. In fact, as I already stated above, I still had no idea what was actually happening in the book, but I breezed right through the entire thing pretty quickly. I mean, I get the events and I see the happenings… but I’m still not entirely certain I know what the point of the book had been. Nor did I understand where the book’s direction was headed.

At least not until the end.

And now, despite knowing what’s in store for the concluding book in this series, I’m not quite sure I’m all that excited about it. The only thing keeping me connected to this series is the curiosity--wanting to know how it all ends.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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review 2015-10-25 13:21
Thoughts and Notes: Hostage
Hostage - Kay Hooper

Hostage -- Kay Hooper

Book 14 of Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series

Book 2 of the Haven sub-trilogy

 

 

Kay Hooper's books have always had a slew of multiple POVs between characters within the book, which I never minded--although if not done properly, it could become a big, distracting, channel surfing mess. In this book, we see more than just multiple POVs, we actually see two sets of main characters and what's going on between them... Luther Brinkman and Callie Davis on one side with their own goings-on; Hollis Templeton (!!!) and Reese DeMarco on another hand with their happenings.

And if you can't tell yet, or missed it when I mentioned it the first time, Hollis is my favorite Bishop/SCU character--something about her snarkiness speaks to me.

And while at first I didn't care for it (the switching of narrative between Team Callie/Luther and Team Hollis/DeMarco), after I thought about it, I decided that it actually made sense for this story and how everything connected in the end. In the long run, I decided to bump the rating up to an average 3.0 Stars because some time to think on the book made me realize that what I had found frustrating really wasn’t all that bad.

 

 

Story Blurb via Goodreads:

Haven operative Luther Brinkman has been sent into the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee to locate escaped felon Cole Jacoby, a mentally unstable bank robber. Supposedly, Jacoby hid more than ten million dollars from his last heist before he was captured—and rather mysteriously escaped federal custody. And once Brinkman finds Jacoby, the agent is left severely wounded, with no way to convey his location to Haven.

Callie Davis, an agent with the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit, has been in the area for some time, due to the foresight of her boss and unit chief, Noah Bishop. But when she finds the wounded Brinkman, her rescue mission turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

What neither Luther nor Callie know is that their quarry is far more than an escaped bank robber. And that in hunting him, they will find themselves being hunted by him, and will discover him to be the worst monster either of them has ever known.

 

 

My Notes:

I guess here are some scattered thoughts I’d written down as I read the book as well as some more current thoughts that come to mind as I write this review:

 

  • The first chapter felt like there might be a sort of “Game of Cat and Mouse”. But then that doesn’t actually happen and I move on.

 

  • Again, there is a lot of “enigmatic” talking in circles going around and that gets more frustrating every time it happens and is really tugging at my last nerve. Bishop does it and it pisses off his operatives; Callie does it and it frustrates Luther… and me. Why can’t these people just stop keeping secrets in the name of “The Universe doesn’t think it’s time to reveal these facts yet”? It’s annoying!

 

  • A creepiness factor DOES come into play, even if it isn’t entirely spine-chillingly creepy. But we’ve got an evil killer being possessed by evil as one set of our good guys are trapped in an isolated cabin in the woods--MAJOR POTENTIAL for story! And then we’ve got our other set of good guys investigating something in an extremely haunted mansion--DOUBLE MAJOR POTENTIAL for story!

 

  • And then there’s Hollis and her strong mediumistic abilities and her ever evolving psychic abilities, trapped in a haunted mansion that is very, very haunted with lots of negative energy. I got excited about that one.

 

  • It took a long time for the book to actually start being a story rather than spending time discussing backstory and speculating current story. Because it wasn’t until the book itself started hinting that the two separate storylines in Hostage might be related that things started getting a bit more exciting.

 

And even though I’ve come to like the back and forth narration between the Callie/Luther pair and the Hollis/Reese pair, at the time, I found it hard to follow. Because until you reach the end of the book, the two tangent storylines just feel as if they should have been two different stories in two different books; there wasn’t even really a feeling that both tangents might intersect except that we know this is how a Kay Hooper book operates.

 

And I have to admit: I liked the new characters, Callie Davis and Luther Brinkman. And I feel like they kind of got cheated on their story because of Hollis and Reese taking up the other fifty percent of the book. Because the entire time that the story was progressing, I kept looking forward to seeing more of the Team Hollis/Reese side of the book and barely paid attention to the Team Callie/Luther side of things. It wasn’t fair to them--I like following Hollis more than any other of the SCU or Haven operatives.

 

But the Callie/Luther storyline and romantic developments had a lot of potential to be a singular, individual story all on its own. But unfortunately, they had to share.

 

  • And in the end, I’m not even entirely sure I know what actually took place in Hostage except for some haphazard telling of an evil entity full of negative energy that needed to be destroyed or contained or something…

 

A lot of the story got told through our exposition fairies: the SCU leader Noah Bishop and the Haven leader Maggie Garrett nee Barnes. Every few chapters we would jump back to those two to explain the happenings in the Callie/Luther world or the Hollis/Reese world… you know, in case, as the reader, you couldn’t quite figure out what was going on because “The Universe” was being overly vague again whenever we were actually reading about the two main conflicts with the two main couples.

 


***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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