Top Ten Tuesday – Romantic Tropes

This week’s TTT list was difficult (let’s say that’s why I’m late posting it… yeah, let’s say that)! Mostly, I found it challenging because it’s not my genre. I read stories that have elements of romance, but not romance novels. So, when confronted with the things I love/hate about romance novels, I wasn’t sure where to start. Everything I came up with fit into both categories. There are books that do it well and books that do it terribly. So, eventually I decided that the only option was to do exactly that – tell you the things that stand out in romance novels as good and bad. I’m going to pick the top five things that popped into my head.

Instalove – this is a trope in a lot of romance novels, especially YA romances. Two people see each other for the first time and fall instantly in mad, crazy, foolish, unbelievable love. It’s terrible. And it never feels real. But sometimes, an author is able to make it feel right. They create a build up to the relationship even when the feelings are instantaneous. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday – New to Me in 2014

2014 was a good year for me authorwise. I read a lot of new authors this year. I found a few that I’m absolutely in love with. This week’s Broke and Bookish TTT wants to know who these writers are. Who did I read for the first time this year? Not necessarily debut authors, but authors I’ve never read before.

I love discovering authors that already have loads of books out. It means I don’t have to wait. I can read lots and lots of books. This happened a couple times in 2014. I also read several authors in their debut appearance. Both of these experiences were highlights in my reading year.

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Natalie Haynes

Haynes’ released her debut novel this fall. I have a review coming for this one at some point, but I’m struggling with it. Not because it’s a bad book, it’s actually quite excellent, but I’m stuck on the review. Worth a read if you’re looking for something kind of sad and hopeless. Just in time for Christmas… Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Series Review

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about series I want to start reading that have come out in the last year or two. I literally have no answers for this week. I could maybe come up with one or two if I really tried, but not enough for a full post. So, instead, I’m going to talk about series in general. Some I like. Some I think are overrated. Some I’ve recommended. Some I started and then stopped.

 

Overrated/Didn’t Finish – These are series that people seem to adore. They rave about them and insist everyone reads them. I did not think they lived up to the hype.

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The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

I actually started this series before it got all hyped up. I like the titles and the covers. There were only three books out. I thought that was the whole thing. It seemed worth it. I actually got them as a gift and I was excited to start them. I enjoyed the first book but I wasn’t blown away by it. It was entertaining enough to read the next one, but they were starting to feel really formulaic and a little more juvenile than I was looking for. I read the third book anyway. When the fourth book came out, it had been a while since I’d read the first three and I’d kind of forgotten why I hadn’t loved them. I decided to read it and quickly remembered. I didn’t bother with the rest of the series or with the movie. Continue reading

Requiem by Lauren Oliver (@Oliverbooks)

I did not hate this book as much as I expected to. I credit a big chunk of that to the surprisingly open ending. I was expecting a neatly tied up bow that brought everything together and made sure no one, except the big bag villain, was unhappy. Instead, we get a glimpse of Lena, Alex, and Julian all making it through the fight. All helping to bring the wall down. So the biggies make it through – expected, but what can you do. Sure, it’s pretty clear that Lena and Alex will end up together, but she does admits that she’s not 100% certain how things are going to go. We’re reunited with Grace, which makes me happy, but she’s definitely a bit of a broken child. Hana is wandering, literally just walking aimlessly, with no goal other than not being where she was. Raven dies and not in battle. She’s simply caught in the crossfire– this is a good thing. This is how things happen in real struggle. I detest books where every single person close to the protagonist survives. If the movement matters, there has to be some kind of payment by the heroes. Raven dying in such a senseless way is more painful than if she’d been killed in the middle of a fight.

However, the ending wasn’t perfect. It was super preachy. It should have ended with Lena and Grace going over to the wall. The whole ‘voice over’ portion of the ending and the description of the uncureds attacking the wall feels like it was written to be a movie ending. It was just too much. It was extremely overwritten (oh, and Oliver – you used the word overloud too many times. So many times that it felt like the only sounds were either silence or earth shatteringly loud), but that’s normal. The text of the books has been trying too hard from the beginning of the series. It’s a very ‘testify’ moment. The book should have ended a several pages earlier than it did.
Testify

I have some big issues with this recent trend of trilogies suddenly switching to alternating povs in the final book (yeah, I’m looking at you Allegiant). I don’t mind alternating views, but this feels like it’s being done because the author doesn’t have enough of a story to tell from the viewpoint we’ve been following in the first two books. That is completely true in this story.

The Hana story is so much more interesting than the Lena story. We all knew the cure wasn’t going to work on Hana, she dabbled in too many ‘dangerous’ activities before her treatment. Her future husband is a disgusting, blechy man. He’s so righteous. I hated him, and that’s great to read. I had emotions! The mystery of his divorce from Cassie and Hana’s eventual discovery of her incarceration is one of the more interesting plots in the book. I wish there could have been more time spent focusing on this new regime of punishing people who don’t completely comply with the rules. Had that decision been highlighted, there would have been a much more involved battle at the end. There would have been citizens not willing to put up with these rules that would have joined the resistance. And others who wanted so badly to prove their worth that they would have tried to stop the resistance.

Part of what’s missing from this story is the conflict between the cured and the uncured. Obviously, the battle is there, but there’s little direct interaction between the two sides. In the first two books, we had the uncured people influencing those people who wanted to be changed. We could see the direct contradictions between the uncured and the cured (think Alex vs Lena’s aunt).It starts to go away in the second book but Julian is so into the cured movement that the disparity between him and Alex makes it feel like there’s room for growth. In this book, we have Lena and the Resistance in one story and Hana and the Cured in the other. We get a bit of their interaction at the end when Hana finds Lena, but the separation ends up feeling lacking. I loved Hana’s ambivalence towards Lena’s return and Fred’s abuse and imminent death. She’d been struggling throughout the story – feeling conflicted about how she should feel about the possibility of Lena being dead. She knows she should be outraged at her husband. But when she’s confronted of with actual events, she’s unable to work up the emotions she wants to have. These scenes solidify how flawed a society this is and how awful the process of the cure really is.

The lack of depth in Lean’s story is the major problem in the completion of the trilogy. It was half a story. Nothing is every fully developed. Instead of focusing on the love triangle that doesn’t end up being anything other hand Lena staying with Julian until Alex wants her again, how about spending more time with her trying to become a figurehead in the rebellion? Or on her relationship with her mother. There were years and years of time they needed to make up for and instead, we get tiny snippets. Wouldn’t Lena have been more interested in building that relationship than in Julian or Alex? Why was Coral even introduced? Her only purpose was to make Lena jealous, which made me dislike Lena, a lot. Honestly, I could have done without pretty much all of Lena’s parts. The only good part was when she goes over the wall and finds out what happened with Lu. This scene includes exactly what I was talking about before – interaction between a cured and an uncured, and it was excellent. Otherwise, Lena just kept spinning around and around letting things happen to her as she got indignantly angry about the stupidest things.
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I made it through the series, but I don’t know that I feel better for having done it. Let’s put a stop to this need to stretch YA stories out over three books and start coming out with some really solid, well developed, standalone books. Publishing industry, can we start doing this? Please!

Pandemonium – Lauren Oliver (@OliverBooks)

The title about sums it up. Pandemonium was my entire experience with this book– and it wasn’t entirely the books fault, at least I don’t think do. My audiobook went insane. Tracks were present on the discs but were literally not there when it came time to play them. It wasn’t like they skipped or the discs were too worn out to play, they just weren’t there. And, of course, it always happened at crucial moments.
The Gaps:
Lena and Julian are hiding in wardrobe after escaping the scavengers. Suddenly, we’re in a flashback on the journey to the second encampment.
Next gap
Lena and Raven and the crew arrive at the last encampment and see that the guys never arrived. Then blamo, where’s back in the present and Julian and Lena are safely in the sewer camps with Coin and rat man.
Next gap
Julian and Lena are going to bed in the encampment outside of New York talking about Alex. Then they’re being invaded by the regulators.
Next gap
Lena is jumping on the top of a garbage truck. Next second, she’s in Julian’s family’s house. Wtf! How the hell did she get there?
And the worst missing track – the final one. The end of the book I got was Raven saying someone arrived from Portland. Now, even if I hadn’t gone and done some research, I would have figured out it was Alex. Who else could it be, she’s already found her mother – sort of. And this is ALWAYS what happens in these books. Come on! Can we please have some payment for the reward for bringing someone back? Give us the entire book without Alex. Make us believe that he really is dead. If you must bring him back, do it in the third book.

I can’t really hold these gaps against the book so much as the audio company. Great things, or terrible things, may have happened in those pauses. I get to choose that they were great. How did I feel about the book I got to listen to? It was okay. It was an easy read. It was ‘dark’ in the way authors tend to write dark to youth – Sprinkled with a healthy dose of romance. And here’s the crux of my problem with these trilogies that keep popping up all over the place. The girl who’s never dated finds her perfect boy, then she loses her perfect boy, cue the second almost perfect but slightly less so boy, then she realizes that if she can’t have the first boy this one will do, and then she uses the second boy to convince the first one he really wants her (if this is what happens in Requiem, I might scream). Hello, love triangle, I am very tired of having visit with you. I had really, really hoped that this wasn’t the way this series was going to go.
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However, the book wasn’t entirely bad. The portions of the book in the Then actually explored some interesting topics. I wish more of the book had been focused on that part of the story. Looking at how the right to have passion and love also leads to suffering and pain. By choosing to live outside the bounds of cultured society, the Invalids are not only maintaining their ability to feel for one another, they’re also maintaining the ability to mourn. When Lena speaks of death in the first book, it’s always at a distance. It’s something that happens and then goes away. Raven’s grief when members of the invalids die is hard and ugly and hidden. There’s no need to hide death in the valid areas because there’s no grief. There’s need in the Wilds. I wish the book had spent more time with the sadness.

Towards the end of the book, Oliver touches on a topic that could have been a great story arc. A priest is among those present as Julian’s execution. He reads from the Book of Abraham. Religion continues to exist in the form of science. But isn’t faith a crucial part of religion? Nothing is more driven by love than blind faith – the key component in religion. You have to be able to believe in something that can never be proven. So how does this new order justify maintaining religion? Why do they even try? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to create more government? There’s always doubt with the old stories, why would the cured even allow this doubt to be present. It makes me wonder if the higher levels of government, like Julian’s father, are perhaps not ‘cured’. If they were, would they even try to maintain the illusion of religion? There are so many great ideas that could have been delved into in this book, but instead, we got a love story.
could they please be more generic

I also have a few issues with the timeline. Lena states when she is with Julian that it’s been six months since she crossed into the Wild. Six months to acclimatize herself to being an Invalid, for them to take what seems like an incredibly long journey to the winter encampment, for her to get to New York (how does that happen anyway? Is that in one of the parts of the book I was missing? Or is she suddenly just there?), set up a new identity, and infiltrate the DFA? And to get over Alex? The timeline doesn’t feel authentic.

Again, my favourite thing about the book was Sarah Drew’s reading of it. Credit where credit’s due. I’m going to listen to the last book simply because I have it, but I have little hope for it being more than just a stereotypical young adult novel.