Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry: That Time I Was So Let Down by a Favorite Author

ISBN: 9780547995687
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover/eBook (alternating)
Series: The Giver Quartet #2
Released: January, 2000
Length: 241 pp
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.
     REVIEW

I remembered from long ago... back in the day (am I old enough to use "back in the day" now? Do I have a "day"?) picking up this book in the book store back home. I was probably around 12 or 13, and I was excited that there was a (supposed) sequel to my favorite book at the time! I also remember being pretty disappointed. The thing I didn't remember was why.

I went into this one after re-reading The Giver, which is still one of my favorite books of all time, a bit apprehensive because I knew from some vague experience that I didn't love this one. Not to mention the the ratings for this one were quite a bit lower than they were for Giver. The first few chapter dragged, though I think that was all in my head. I had been psyching myself out so I'd totally given myself bad juju where this book was concerned.

Eventually I forced myself to dive in and actually found myself enjoying the novel. I finished the more than half that was left in one sitting. The book gave me a similar feeling to when I read The Giver, in the sense that I was interested in what was happening, I was intrigued by this new world Lowry had created and I cared about Kira, the main character, and her little companion Matt.

Then... (cue dreadful sound drum sound) I got to the ending. And I was like... what? I kinda sorta didn't exactly remember the twist that was coming, but I kinda sorta did, so I wasn't necessarily surprised by it, but I was surprised by the way it was handled. Basically: WTF?

Kira, the main character, was pretty passive and naive on some important things in the novel, but she was strong and resilient, enough that I didn't mind it. I took her passiveness as a trait she'd grown up with and wasn't something that would be easily changed.

So anyway, when we get to a mostly predictable but still pretty great plot twist - Lowry does nothing with it!! It was like the inconclusive ending to top all other inconclusive endings. I know what you're thinking - why am I so mad when Giver had a hell of an inconclusive ending? NO. Giver was totally different and you know it! (This is where I stomp my feet and call you a poopie head. This book put me in full on tantrum mode). In The Giver, Jonas did something, something was happening, we just didn't know what he fate was after he did.

Kira, in Gathering Blue, was given this news, a sort of solution to the problem that had been building for most of the book, and instead of doing what I expected her to do (which still would've been pretty lame and the easy way out, though she would have at least been doing something), she did nothing. I guess she technically does something but it is literally in no way shape or form explained. We can make some sort of assumption, but it's not even like with Jonas in Giver where the conclusions are nearly drawn for you and you just have to pick which one to believe. No. We just seriously don't know what the point of Kira's decisions are because it isn't explained well.

Damnit. I sound like I really hated this book, don't I? I didn't, but I really hated the ending. The only saving grace is that there are two more book in the series. Thank God I'm reading them now when they're already published. These books were released years and years apart. Imagine the immense frustration after reading this one if I had to wait five years for the next book to come out!?

Either way, the writing was simple but wonderful as always and Kira was a character I ended up caring about. I loved Matt, the main character's young friend, especially, and the world-building, while not terribly in-depth, was sufficient - until the ending! Grrrrr. Okay. I'm done now.

RATING: ★★★ 1/2 - Liked it

Despite the crazy rant I just went on, I actually liked this book. Lois Lowry has a beautiful writing style and she builds unique worlds that I feel like I just need to know more about. She just has this special talent for using her fictional worlds to help others understand our real one.

Though the ending was the complete and total opposite of what I deem to be satisfying and acceptable, it was a good addition to the Quartet and definitely made me think about what I value in life and whether I'm placing importance on the right things.

Have you read Gathering Blue? It definitely doesn't hold a candle to The Giver which is one of my favorite books of all time, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and look forward to continuing the series. Did you enjoy it? Who can resist Matt? I mean come on!

Tell me what you thought!

A.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Authors I Own The Most Books From

You guys all know I'm a book hoarded of the worst kind. Actually, you probably are too. Welcome to the support group. :)

Unless it's a book I really didn't like, I always keep my books. I have three full shelves, books stacked on top of my shelves, books in the little cubby hole shelves beneath my computer, books on my coffee table, books strewn about everywhere. I. Hoard. Books.

I also, like many, have my books arranged simply, by author last name. Some shelves on are taken up by one author entirely. Probably because I feel the need to own complete series so they can look pretty on said shelf.

There are a few authors I can't stop buying - must. own. all. books. I have a list of favorite authors, ones that I just love what they've written, but I also have authors that I just own a ton of books from. I just couldn't stop.

The top ten eight authors I own the most books from are:

8. Rainbow Rowell
Low on the list with only 4 books. (I have a bunch of authors that I own exactly four books of, but since Rainbow is a favorite author, I figured she'd get first shot.
Books I own: Attachments; Eleanor & Park; Fangirl; Landline (aka all of them)

7. Lois Lowry
I own 4 of her books also, and I actually own 2 copies each of 2 of her books.
Books I own: The Giver (2); Gathering Blue (2); Messenger; Son

6. Ann Brashares
I have 5 physical books by Brashares plus 1 eBook.
Books I own: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants; The Second Summer of the Sisterhood; Girls in Pants; Forever in Blue; Sisterhood Everlasting

5. Rick Riordan
A nice big jump from the last author, I own 10 books by Rick Riordan
Books I own: Percy Jackson Series (5 books); The Red Pyramid; First four books in the Heroes of Olympus series

4. Richelle Mead
Mead happens to write really long series. I love said long series, but it kind of explains why I own so many books by her, as of today, 11 to be exact.
Books I own: Entire Vampire Academy series (6 books), Books 1-5 of Bloodline series)

3. Jodi Picoult
I do have a goal to physically own every single one of her books. I'm currently at 17 books.
Books I own: My Sister's Keeper; Handle with Care; Perfect Match; The Tenth Circle; Plain Truth; Lone Wolf; Second Glance; Sing You Home; House Rules; Keeping Faith; The Pact; Mercy; Picture Perfect; Vanishing Acts; Salem Falls; Harvesting the Heart; The Storyteller

2. Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts, though I don't read too much by her anymore, is my mother effin hero. I love her writing (predictable, yes. Do I care? No.) and her descriptive passages, and I just want to be her. Or meet her. Or move in with her and beg her to mentor me. Anyway. I love her and I also have a personal goal to own all of her books. I own around 18 or so. I didn't get to count these exactly though. Oops.

1. J.K. Rowling
I do own all but one of her books, coming in at 12 books - but I also own 2 sets of the HP series. That like bring me to 19 books. BAM!
Books I own: Entire HP series (7 books - 2 sets); Quidditch Through the Ages; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Tales of Beedle the Bard; The Casual Vacancy; The Cuckoo's Calling

Monday, July 28, 2014

Under the Never Sky Novellas: Roar and Liv & Brooke by Veronica Rossi: Where Roar and Liv Break My Motherlovin' Heart

ISBN: 9780062239556
Source: Purchased
Format: Kindle eBook
Series: Under the Never Sky #0.5
Released: October, 2012
Length: 68 pp
Goodreads  |  Amazon

     SUMMARY
After a childhood spent wandering the borderlands, Roar finally feels like he has a home with the Tides. His best friend Perry is like a brother to him, and Perry's sister, Liv, is the love of his life. But Perry and Liv's unpredictable older brother, Vale, is the Blood Lord of the Tides, and he has never looked kindly on Roar and Liv's union. Normally, Roar couldn't care less about Vale's opinion. But with food running low and conditions worsening every day, Vale's leadership is more vital—and more brutal—than ever. Desperate to protect his tribe, Vale makes a decision that will shatter the life Roar knew and change the fate of the Tides forever.
ISBN: 9780062305442
Source: Purchased
Format: Kindle eBook
Series: Under the Never Sky #2.5
Released: November, 2013
Length: 82 pp
Goodreads  |  Amazon

     SUMMARY
The only fight she can't win is the one for Perry's heart. Following the stunning climax in Through the Ever Night, the Tides have been forced to seek shelter from the Aether storms in a dismal, secluded cave. But Brooke's memories of the cave go back much further, to when she and Perry used to come here together. That was before Perry fell in love with Aria and before Vale's dealings with the Dwellers altered the course of the Tides forever.
Now, with her sister back from a haunting year in captivity and Aria lying unconscious in the sick bay, Brooke struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. Without Perry, who is she? And what is her role in this frightening new world? As these questions swirl about her, an old threat to the Tides resurfaces, and Brooke is forced to put the lives of her people before her own. But in taking this step outside of herself, Brooke may finally discover what she truly wants.
     MINI REVIEWS
*Please note, these mini-reviews do contain spoilers for the previous books in the series. Click here for a spoiler free review of book 1, Under the Never Sky*

     ROAR AND LIV

Roar and Liv is a novella that takes place right before the happenings in Under the Never sky. In UNS we hear a lot about this mysterious Liv, but we don't know much. Instantly when reading the novella, I loved her. I loved her and Roar together and her and Perry's relationship. The actual story told in this novella basically tore me apart, in case you were wondering.

I'm not a big fan of novellas. Often times I don't feel as though they actually add anything to the story (except in the case of the novellas for Throne of Glass. That is the absolute exception to the rule), but I had been enjoying this series well enough and felt like I needed to know more about Roar's love. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer, but I suppose that defeats the purpose of a novella. Roar and Liv, in its short 60-something pages, wrecked me, and it was definitely one of the best novellas I've ever read. It actually added something to the story that was definitely necessary.

     BROOKE

I don't think I'm the only person who couldn't have cared less about Brooke in UNS. Actually, I kind of despised her, just on principle. She hated on Aria for no rational reasons other than jealousy and "heartbreak" that Aria herself did not cause. I didn't fly through this novella like I did with the last. It was actually really slow going and annoying and I had to force myself to get through it.

By the end, I didn't necessarily hate Brooke anymore, and the conclusion to the novella was pretty adorbs, but I in no way suddenly decided Brooke was great or felt like I understood her. I felt bad for her - what girl hasn't had their heart broken? I empathized a bit, yes - if I was in a similar situation, I don't think I would necessarily like my ex's new girlfriend, but Brooke was downright nasty to Aria and by the end of this novella I had not forgiven her for that.

I also didn't think Brooke added anything to the series as a whole like the Roar and Liv one did. Like I said - I'm not big on novellas to begin with and this one kind of reminded me why. It was good, but I definitely didn't need to read it, and realize that it was a bit of a waste of time. She totally could've written about someone way better - specifically, Cinder. Because all I want is to know more about Cinder!!!

RATINGS

Roar and Liv: ★★★★★ - Absolutely Loved It!
Brooke: ★★★ 1/2 - Liked it


A.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi: I'm the Only Person on Earth Who Wasn't Obsessed With It

ISBN: 9780062072092
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Series: Under the Never Sky #3
Length: 392 pp
Released: January, 2014
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.
Within the confines of a cave they're using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.
Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival--he's also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.
     REVIEW

This is going to be one of those reviews where all of you are wondering what book I read because it obviously wasn't the same one you did. You all probably adored this book, gave it eleventy-three stars as compared to my four. And my four was a grudging four. I was leaning toward three and a half but I knew there was no real reason for me not to love it. It just felt like something unnameable was missing from the story for me.

After reading Through the Ever Night, I felt a little disenchanted with the whole thing - the sparkle of the first book had worn off for me. I mentioned in my last two reviews of this series that I wished the story had explored the Realms more. I enjoyed the world building of the outside, the "Deathshop" as it's called in the first book, I really did. But it just didn't expand enough on the things I really wanted to know.

The story itself was just fine. Enjoyable. There's no logical reason not to have loved it. So really, I'm just going to cut it short by saying everything was great. Just great. Why didn't I absolutely love it? I'm not quite sure. I guess I lost interest and it didn't make me need to read it or know what happened. The ending at least was satisfying, I will admit that. Nothing went quite the way I expected but I was happy with it nonetheless and all in all, it was a great series.

RATING: ★★★★ - Enjoyed it
I liked Into the Still Blue. I enjoyed the writing, the characters, especially Roar, who was the source of about 80% of my emotions with this book. Aria and Perry another 10% and Cinder the rest. (Cinder <3) Something was definitely missing for me in this book and the last one. I enjoyed the first one so much and then the rest of the series went off in a direction I just wasn't interested in.

Like I said, it wasn't a bad book. It was great actually and I liked reading it. But I didn't love it. That doesn't mean you won't! Actually, most of you probably have a heart, so that means you probably will love it. I definitely would recommend this series to YA and dystopian lovers. It was incredibly unique considering how much dystopian has flooded the market and I think it's something a lot of people would enjoy (because tons of people already do!)

Have you read Into the still Blue? What did you think of it as a series ender? It was good but fell a little flat for me. Did you love it or was it a little meh for you as well? And what did you think about the series as a whole? Loved? Liked? Hated? I'm really interested in hearing from someone who didn't like this series since most of the world absolutely adores it.

Can't wait to hear from you!
A.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

ISBN: 9780547995663
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Series: The Giver Quartet #1
Released: 1993
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger,and Son.
     REVIEW

I first read The Giver in my 7th grade English class. I can't remember the teacher's name - only that I didn't like her much and I don't think she liked me. I didn't like the class as a whole either. Actually, I never much liked any of my English classes or teachers. This is difficult even for me to believe (it must be blasphemy) since I am, and almost always have been (there was this period during high school...), the book nerd I am today. I liked my English Tech class in 11th grade, where we used computers to do more cool book-related things rather than sitting at a desk and handing in traditional essays (I still have the portfolio/binder thingy they made us put together. Oh my God, I'm totally uploading those!) Anyway, I digress. The only thing I remember liking about my 7th grade English class was this book. It stayed with me for quite a while after I read it that first time.

In the years to come, I would re-read this book several times, forcing it on anyone who made the mistake of asking me for a book recommendation or asking what my favorite book was. If I can think of one reason why I loved it so much at the young age of twelve years old (Jonas's age. Coincidence?), it probably wouldn't be for the reasons I love it so much today. I probably loved it for exactly the same reasons that dystopian novels are all the rage these days (slowly fading, but still flooding the market). Seeing such a drastically different world was intriguing, it was fascinating.

Of course, I'm sure the class discussed all the hidden meanings and deeper reasons while we were reading it because obviously that's the point of English class, but I was twelve and definitely didn't care. Nowadays, these things are much more important to me. Okay, I lie. They're only a little bit more important to me. I usually just like a good story, but it's books like The Giver that make me think that end up staying with me for much longer than a smutty romance or fun mystery do (not that there aren't romance or mysteries that defy this logic - I'm just sayin').

I read Fahrenheit 451 earlier this year and in the copy I read was an Introduction by Neil Gaiman that goes into lengthy, but nevertheless enlightening, detail about dystopian novels. "...although [speculative fiction] doesn’t try to predict an actual future with all its messy confusion. Instead, [speculative fiction] takes an element of life today, something clear and obvious and normally something troubling, and asks what would happen if that thing, that one thing, became bigger, became all-pervasive, changed the way we thought and behaved." Gaiman explained.

He went on to say, “People think—wrongly—that speculative fiction is about predicting the future, but it isn't; or if it is, it tends to do a rotten job of it. Futures are huge things that come with many elements and a billion variables, and the human race has a habit of listening to predictions for what the future will bring and then doing something quite different.What speculative fiction is really good at is not the future but the present—taking an aspect of it that troubles or is dangerous, and extending and extrapolating that aspect into something that allows the people of that time to see what they are doing from a different angle and from a different place. It’s cautionary."

In other words, maybe we don't need to worry about our society somehow losing it's color and weather and losing all capacity for human emotion, but it's a way to look at, "if we continue on this road," with many aspects of the world today, such as individuality, especially, as it's being challenged across the globe. We may be an advanced society but you know as well as I do that this is a problem in homes between people as well as with the government and its citizens.

Maybe I'll stop rambling now. I could go on forever about the political, moral and social aspects this book touches on, but somehow I don't think you'd care all that much.I suppose you'd like to know about the actual book, not just the ramblings in my head.

Coming from the standpoint of someone who loved the book, I obviously think it is amazing. The world-building, while after a certain point doesn't go as in-depth as one may wish, is perfect for the story. We learn about all the little rules Community has and at first glance, it doesn't seem so bad. How many of us haven't thought, "if no one was hungry, no one hurt, no one was different, we'd all be happy"? Then we're reminded of what real life is like, which still makes the Community look pretty good (considering humans have an affinity for trying to blow each other up) but the Giver says in the story, “We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.” They achieved Sameness for the entire community, there was no pain or hunger or sadness, but there also wasn't true happiness, joy, colors, seasons, love, or freaking hills. Of course, now we know those are things we'd never give up in exchange for never going hungry, feeling sad, being hungry... or would we?

Whatever your standpoint is on the themes and messages of the book are, the book at it's core is amazing. The writing, while simple, is powerful. It is considered middle grade, so when I say simple, I mean it, but this never bothered me - not once. Jonas is a character that is easy to like, to identify with and empathize with, along with the Giver and some of the other minor characters. Even after all this time and this many re-reads, The Giver still manages to speak to me and turn me into an emotional mess like it's the first time.

RATING: ★ - Absolutely loved it!

The Giver is one of my favorite books of all time so it's a little hard for me not to gush, and hopefully I was able to give you more than just an "ohmigod I love this book" reason to pick it up and read it yourself. I'm reading the next book in the series, Gathering Blue, which if I remember correctly, I didn't love nearly as much as The Giver but I'm incredibly anxious to finally read Son which was released at the end of 2012. Fans of this book will understand how the ending of The Giver will give me the motivation to wade through two mediocre books to find out what happened next in Son.

Have you read The Giver? Is it something you picked up recently for the first time in anticipation of the movie (which I think is going to suck balls, but that topic is for another time, another blog post), or has it been a favorite since childhood like it was for me? I love discussing favorites! Let's talk books!


A.