Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Seriously, There Needs To Be a Law

Yes, there does indeed need to be a law. For what? For writers who get us invested in characters and settings through two and 3/4 books, then leaves us with a non-ending. If we had such a law, I'm afraid Lauren Oliver would be paying the price for Requiem right this minute.

Possible spoilers ahead...

Don't get me wrong...I love Ms. Oliver's writing and this trilogy was no exception. I love that right up until the last moment, our heroine Lena is conflicted about her relationships, and that means almost all of them--the one with her mom, the one with Hana, the one with Alex, the one with Julian. I like that she's unafraid to fight for what she wants, and she even questions whether or not it's all worth it. I do like that we get the sense that the story's not really over, that our Invalids will continue the Good Fight for change. And right up until the final chapter, I was right on board the whole plot...still not sure how things would get resolved, but still on board.

And then they didn't get resolved.

There are open endings, and there are open endings. A good open ending leaves you feeling good about the characters and their futures, with a good idea of how everything will eventually play out. This ending is not one of those. No, indeed, this ending, with its talk of tearing down walls, doesn't let me know that the Invalids gained a thing, or that Fred paid the ultimate price, or that Hana learns to experience any emotions again, or that Lena even makes a choice. Of course, I believe her feelings for Alex are deeper and stronger than those for Julian, but if they do get back together, what does it say about her that she can turn her back on the one boy who never questioned her, never let her down? Quite honestly, after all we experienced in Requiem, I'm not even sure what the Invalids were fighting for was actually worth it. I mean, who wants to be hunted and mowed down repeatedly, always having to struggle for food, warmth, a home? No amount of love will overcome the fact that these people will die young and not in a good way through their deprivations. I'm not saying love isn't worth it exactly, but that even if the Invalids did succeed in taking over Portland, who is to say the other cities don't send more troops to destroy them?


It's very sad that an ending that I'm sure the author labored over strikes the overall tone of this novel and its predecessors down so far. I could have overlooked Lena's indecisions and hurt had I found her relationships more redeeming, but as it stands, Hana is the one who stole the entire show in this finale. Hana made the big choices and gathered information along the way. Lena just rode the coattails of those around her and when the going got tough, she struck out on her own, leaving behind the boy who'd saved her life over and over.

I'm not saying to not read this entry; in general, it's well written and I can interpret the ending as I wish. But seriously, I am so let down that I'd like to ask Ms. Oliver to consider one more novel to help wrap things up. As it stands, consider this reader very underwhelmed--but still giving the book 3 stars because of my enjoyment until the last chapter.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Diva by Jillian Larkin

While I've known The Flappers series was light, gossipy fun, I still became attached to the characters and was looking forward to Diva, the final book in the trilogy. And Diva starts off well enough; Gloria is being released from prison (if she helps the cops), Clara is bereft without Marcus but still writing, and Lorraine has started college and is ready for love. So what happened? What went wrong and what went right?

What Went Right: Issues are resolved, and I'm basically pretty happy with them. Clara doesn't back down; she's absolutely the best character in the book and comes the furthest as far as character development. There's a huge, exciting climax with a major dramatic flair that really feeds a romanticist's dreams.

What Went Wrong: So, so much. This is going to be a bit spoilery, so consider yourselves forewarned.

Marcus? Really? He breaks up with the love of his life and then is actually marrying someone else he basically knows nothing about within a month? Nope. So ridiculous.
Forrest and Ruby? Just didn't care about either one, particularly a woman who so obviously uses men for her own ends. Got what you deserved. Still don't understand the whole bit with Forrest and his father. It just didn't make sense, no matter how it was explained.
Lorraine? Her character degenerated into ridiculous comic relief. I kept thinking she couldn't get any dumber and then...yep, it happened. Sort of a Lucille Ball, over-the-top airhead with no redeeming qualities at all. She never gets better, even when she finds love instantaneously with a boy whom she requires keep his glasses on so he'd look good.
Gloria and Jerome? I still don't buy that they sailed off into the sunset. Yes, I get that people still gave them a hard time as a mixed race couple in the 1920s, but I still don't see it. Maybe they did, but Gloria's immaturity and lack of foresight just seemed to make me feel that these two have more issues than race. Not feeling it.
Clothes? If I read one more description of clothing, down to the threads used, one more time...arrrrrrgh! I get that the author loves the period and knows her stuff. But it's self-indulgent to spend so much time describing costumes, not to mention it's just a filler for having nothing else to say.

I don't know...maybe my tolerance for superficial young women falling instantly and forever in love is low this week. Despite knowing that this would be fluff, I'm let down. Yes, it delivers what it should. Yes, I know it's young adult and therefore should be forgiven, perhaps, a little more than adult fiction. But then again, I don't think so. I expect a certain amount of believability in my fiction (unless I know in advance that it's fantasy), and I just feel shortchanged. I wanted to love this final book, and I just didn't. I didn't hate it, but it just fell short of what it could have been. I'll round up from 2.5 stars because I did enjoy the first two, so I'll give this one the benefit of my good feelings for those two.


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lucky Ones

The final book in the Bright Young Things trilogy, The Lucky Ones, brings to a close the stories of socialite Astrid, bootlegger daughter Cordelia, and rising starlet Letty. The three young women were all looking for love and affirmation in the Roaring Twenties when booze was outlawed and life seemed to be one long party. And the finale, while not unexpected, was a fitting ending to a very good series.

Moving among the three points of view, there's an underlying theme of naivety and longing. Astrid has married Charlie but it doesn't take long for the shine to leave the marriage and her eye falls elsewhere fairly quickly. Cordelia has found perhaps the best relationship of her life with pilot Max Darby, but his African-American heritage casts a shadow in a time where blacks were still considered second-class citizens. And Letty? She's moved in with a famous movie star and his wife, ostensibly to "learn how to be a star", but her feelings for Valentine O'Dell may be the very thing that causes all her dreams to crash. All three end up in very unexpected places, some tragic, some wonderful, but very, very different than where they began.

The Lucky Ones (and obviously the title is very tongue-in-cheek) is a realistic finale but I found myself wanting more. It's a glimpse into a short time period into the lives of three beautiful, talented young women, a deliberate move on the author's part to show the wildness of the twenties and the recklessness of youth. Still, I wanted more. I wanted to know firsthand how it all plays out in the future. The book moves along at a good clip and yet I still felt I was only skimming the surface of what happened. Definitely a good read whose layers are probably going to reveal more as I continue to think about it. Godbersen is an engaging writer and this series is recommended.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Elite

The Elite picks up where The Selection leaves off--America is now part of the Final Six young ladies left vying for the attentions of Prince Maxon. She knows she cares for him, but there is still Aspen, her former boyfriend who is now a palace guard, hovering around and making her decisions next to impossible. Throw in the fact that she doesn't care for a couple of the girls also in the Elite and that the Rebels are closing in, and you've got the set up for this novel.

What's to like? America is refreshing since she doesn't apologize for who she is and where she comes from. Maxon is charming and it's easy to see he should choose America. It's a light, fun novel filled with a sincere voice and an agonizing love triangle--which is actually more of a love septangle if we include the other Elite. There is some danger and several secrets that keep the pages turning.

What's not to like? Well, some of the very things to like are those that make this novel so frustrating. America jumps to conclusions repeatedly and she doubts Maxon so often that I'd like to knock some sense into her. Toward the end, there is a revelation (or two) from Maxon that hits America hard, and she is shocked, though after her actions throughout, she shouldn't be at all. Though the book is about finding a spouse for Maxon, it's easy to see how immature these teens are by what they choose to do and say. And quite honestly, if Rebels could break into the palace so easily, I'm not so sure I'd be trying very hard to become a princess.

The Elite is a fast read and an enjoyable one, though definitely not very deep. Still, it kept my interest quite well and I found it fun and light. I'd actually give it 3.5 stars, but my overall enjoyment will boost it 4.


Friday, June 07, 2013

Another Little Piece

You know right away that something is off about Annaliese; the story begins with her in a hospital being interrogated because she's recently shown up after a year of being gone: Missing, no news type of gone. More oddly, she disappeared during a party...after showing up covered in blood. Everything went dark and Annaliese disappeared. Now that she's back, she has no memories of where she's been for the past year, but her hopeful parents believe they will be able to find their Annaliese somewhere inside the girl who is now home. Trouble is, their Annaliese disappeared forever the night of the party, and the Annaliese in their home is not the one they know.

The premise for Another Little Piece is riveting: Just who is this new Annaliese and why doesn't she remember anything? It doesn't take long to realize that there is way more than just a missing year going on here; Annaliese tells us what she knows as slowly the layers are peeled back to reveal someone who may not even be human. She doesn't want to become attached to the parents who are overjoyed to have her back but she does; she doesn't want the attention of the boy who took her virginity at the party from which she disappeared, but she can't bring herself to be mean to him. This Annaliese doesn't seem evil but there is definitely something evil happening and it centers on a razor, a strange boy named Eric, and her upcoming eighteenth birthday. Meanwhile, Dex, the odd boy next door, captures her interest as Annaliese struggles inside skin she doesn't really own.

Another Little Piece is a very different book, filled with violence and deception but also intense feeling and mythology. I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first, not because of the storyline itself but because I felt the book initially dragged in the first 50 pages; the very slow revealing of the layers of Annaliese had me wanting to skim ahead until the real action was revealed. I also didn't really get the attraction of Dex for quite a while; he was just too abruptly introduced and his circumstances were just too oddly written for me to feel a connection. But as I kept reading, the story became more intriguing until I found I was unable to put the book aside--I had to know what happened next. I may even need to reread it at some point to discover the carefully laid clues that make more sense the further along you go. It's not your run of the mill paranormal, and for this unique tale, that's a very good thing. I believe that the more I think about this one, the more I will likely want to bump the star rating up. Intriguing and imaginative.


Monday, June 03, 2013

The Testing

Cia has dreamed of being selected for The Testing all her life, but thinks her opportunity has passed now that she's graduated from school with no word. But when the Testing officials unexpectedly show up to her colony after graduation and select not just she, but three more graduates, she is elated, even if it means she will be leaving behind her family, possibly forever. Only her father, himself a Testing graduate, shows concern, and as it turns out, not without cause. Almost immediately upon being taken to Tosu City, the Testing becomes a brutal competition between 108 candidates, only 20 of whom will ultimately be chosen to go to University. For sheltered but brilliant Cia, it's an eye-opening experience that culminates in a weeks-long trek across 700 miles filled with danger, disaster, and death. Will it all be worth it?

The Testing is a young adult dystopian with echoes of The Hunger Games and other recent novels that share its theme. However, it is very well written, with the innocence of Cia being its main turning point; Cia believes in only the good in people, and it is both her downfall and its saving grace. There aren't a lot of surprises along the way; it's a dystopian novel, so we know there will be an uncaring government and people who aren't what they seem, with lots of harsh conditions and heartbreak. If I have a complaint about The Testing, it is that the relationship between Cia and Tomas is a little too sweet, but that follows Cia's naivety.

The Testing is the first of a trilogy, and it is well-plotted with its twists and its smart heroine. The set up for the next novel is well done, with a cliffhanger ending that promises more surprises and horror ahead. The Testing doesn't break any new ground, but it does provide page-turning action and an interesting premise which makes it a very good read. I'm hooked.