Blast to the Past: Requiem by Lauren Oliver (Delirium #3)

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“Requiem” by Lauren Oliver

3 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed. The nascent rebellion that was underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight. After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven. Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.

As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.Requiem is told from the perspectives of both Lena and her friend Hana. They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.”

So, I have currently been in a re-reading kind of mood; I’m so behind on what’s currently coming out in YA, so I thought that I return to some of my oldies-but-goodies that have been sitting quietly on my bookshelf waiting to be picked up again. I recently repurchased the entire “Delirium” trilogy because (1) the covers are STUNNING and they make for great accents on my colored bookshelf, and (2) it is one of those trilogies that really left an impression on me when I fist started reading YA fiction. I loved “Delirium” because it felt so new and inventive for a dystopian world, and Lauren Oliver’s writing style and approach to storytelling demanded my attention the moment I picked up her book. The plot of “Delirium” was emotionally driven at times and then it could feel cold and closed off, much like the two warring sides of the cureds and the un-cureds; I liked the contrasting views and sides being reflected in the writing style. It was “Pandemonium” that totally stole my heart, though, when I first read it back in 2012. It felt wild and earthy, dynamic and rich, rather than cold and sterile one moment and deliriously emotional the next, like “Delirium” had. I personally did not like Lena in “Pandemonium,” but experiencing the Wilds sprinkled with new characters and then meeting Julian made it such a rich, warm feeling book to me. Normally I wouldn’t call a dystopian “warm” or “fuzzy,” but that’s what I feel whenever I pick up “Pandemonium.” There are two completely different vibes within the same series, and I loved them both. As much as I loved “Delirium” and “Pandemonium,” I could never bring myself to read the final book in the trilogy, “Requiem.” That is, until now.
I never wanted to read “Requiem” because I had heard from so many fellow readers and read so many reviews about it, nearly all of them agreeing that it was a total let down. Mind you, this was back in 2013, which was the year of Trilogy Ending Let Downs (for me, at least). There were several series/trilogies that I was avidly following that year, and their final books were total let downs. The problem I found with them was how their plots and final executions of tearing down the old world to build a new one felt empty or completely open-ended, making it seem like the last book was entirely unnecessary. A lot of the love triangles were also poorly executed or left unresolved in these unnamed series. After so many terrible endings, I didn’t want to read “Requiem” and have it ruin or taint my love of the previous two books. I lasted 5 years, but I caved this past month when I repurchased “Delirium” and “Pandemonium,” because, well, odd numbers are more aesthetically pleasing when one is decorating. I also have a weakness for pretty hardcovers, so…
I adored rereading the first two books in the “Delirium” trilogy, and I think that I appreciate them even more now than I did when I first read them. I love how starkly different each of Lauren Oliver’s books are in this trilogy, and it definitely showcases her talent as a writer. That being said, I was not a fan of the vibe that “Requiem” put off.
“Requiem” felt a bit limp and lifeless in comparison to the previous two books, and I think that it is mostly due to Lena. Her character was so aggravating in this book because of her internal monologue and how she treated both Alex and Julian. Personally, I think that both of them were better off without her. The guys got s*** done, whereas Lena whined 90% of them time, blamed other people for her problems, but then somehow she was credited for her “heroics.”

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In addition to Lena dragging the story down with her whining and indecisiveness, I feel like the book was really slow and wandered (literally and figuratively) for 300 pages until something finally started to happen. Hana had some interesting moments, and she actually was the most dynamic person in this book, but it still took some time for her sections of “Requiem” to lead somewhere meaningful. I feel like the ending was so abrupt and empty due to how long the story wandered and how unresolved the world felt, “Requiem” almost felt pointless in this trilogy. Some advice, just stop at book two and make up your own ending, because that will be a hell of a lot more fulfilling.
I was not missing out on much over the last 5 years, but I am glad that I did finally read “Requiem.” It was so much fun to come back to a trilogy that I loved as a teen and to have its story and characters still resonate with me. Even though this trilogy had an unsatisfying final book, I definitely recommend reading this trilogy solely for the first two books, because they are SO worth it.

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Les Petits Bonheurs #27…

Labor Day weekend was pretty crazy this year! School and work have kept me busier than I would like, and I wish that I had the energy to read for fun after finishing work and studying. Sadly, it has been about a month since I have picked up a book for enjoyment, but that did not stop me from going crazy at Barnes and Noble this last week with buying every book and vinyl record that I could get my hands on. Yeah, call me greedy, but when there are amazing sales and 40% off the vinyl soundtrack of Disney’s”Cinderella,” one must become a little cupide, as the French say. And let me tell you, the music from “Cinderella” has never sounded better than it does on vinyl, and I just adore relaxing to this classic soundtrack!

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Over the weekend, I also decided to get another vinyl by one of my favorite artists, and I might have also bought, like, five other books. For blog related research, of course…

I’m still cringing at how much I spent, but seriously, how can a girl resist the most magical store on earth when it has a 40% coupon just calling her name? It came to the point where my battery had to die on my computer before I could stop purchasing books and vinyl albums.

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Yeah, we’re going to be paying those items off for a little bit, but it was a wild ride! Thanks for visiting my blog today, and hopefully I’ll see you soon with a new review!

Les Petits Bonheurs #26…

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“Lire, c’est toujours une bonne idée.”

(Reading is always a good idea.)

This is my goal for the weekend: a delightful book with some powerful coffee in hand, and no school books or work to be dealt with. Crossing our fingers…

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Monsters of Verity #1)

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 “This Savage Song” by Victoria Schwab

3 ½-4 out of 5 stars.

 Goodreads summary:

“There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?”

“This Savage Song” ended up being a very enjoyable and conceptually unique YA read, and I liked the fact that it was a dystopian novel, but it also felt like it could belong to the fantasy genre because of it strangeness at times. The concept of Schwab’s novel felt fairly unique to me, though I can imagine that there have probably been other novels before it that took hold of the idea that humankind’s wicked actions had the ability to bring to life real monsters. But for me personally, I had yet to read a book with that concept as the main theme until I picked Victoria Schwab’s latest novel, and that made my reading experience a lot more enjoyable. Oh, and did I also mention that this was my first Victoria Schwab book?

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I know, I call myself a YA book blogger and I only just got around to one of its up-and-coming authors. I have personally never felt the need to read a Victoria Schwab novel beyond wanting to be up-to-date with the rising authors and their successful books, but I still did not get around to reading Victoria’s novel “Vicious” or her “A Darker Shade of Magic” series before this book was released. With “This Savage Song,” however, I was thoroughly intrigued by its concept, and when amazon.com dropped the hardcover price to just under $8, I knew that I had to give at least one Victoria Schwab books a try to see if I liked her writing style.

I liked the depths that Victoria’s writing reached toward in “This Savage Song,” and I found her concept of monstrous actions awakening various kinds of monstrous creatures to be quite fascinating; it made for a darker reading experience, but it almost felt brutally honest to how such crimes awaken ugly things like hate and fear in the hearts of people. I liked how in August, though, Victoria displayed the changing force of hope that comes along with the desire to do better, to be more than our former selves, which created a silver lining to her novel’s darker tone. Victoria Schwab’s writing style also added a haunting atmosphere that made her story and its concept fit quite well together.

A lot of bloggers and readers of Victoria’s most recent novel complained about the pacing, but I was actually quite happy with it. I never felt like the pacing of “This Savage Song” was too fast or too slow while I was reading it, and I enjoyed the progression of this book’s plot and how Victoria Schwab slowly revealed little details about the world that her protagonists lived in. Schwab is fantastic of writing impacting and/or slow reveals of certain places or events that have taken place, and I like that her style has the ability to create an atmosphere of mystery to surround its readers, even as they are making guesses as to what is happening. Although some of the events and surprises in this book felt a little predictable to me, I still enjoyed the atmosphere that those plot twists created in “This Savage Song.”

Despite finding the story held inside of this dark book to be interesting and Victoria’s writing to be quite good, I don’t feel like I fell completely in love with “This Savage Song.” It was well-written and fairly unique, but I just felt like there was a slight disconnect from me and the story and its characters.

August was a sweet and compelling character, but I did not fall in love with him. I was always interested in “This Savage Song” when August was present, and his struggle between embracing what he was and who he wanted to be was very compelling in my opinion, but there was just a distance between either me and this book or its characters that could not be bridged. I though that August was a sweet, interesting character, and I liked the moments where he reminded me of Jem from Cassandra Clare’s “Infernal Devices” series with his gifted violin playing, but my heart was not completely invested in him as a character.

I had expected to dislike Kate because of her desperate need to do terrible things in order to have her father notice her, but instead I just felt bad for her. I felt the same disconnect with Kate’s character that was present with August in this book, but I still enjoyed reading about her character. The little glimpses of her past were quite interesting, and the dynamic between her and August definitely kept me reading, despite the fact that I was not particularly emotionally invested in them. Neither of Victoria Schwab’s characters were under develop or lacking in dynamic, but there was a slight distance between the characters and me and that might have just been the time in my life when I read “This Savage Song.”

Victoria Schwab is a very good writer, and I can see why people like her writing so much, even though I was not deliriously in love with the first book of hers that I read. “This Savage Song” was an interesting book with a unique premise, and I am very curious as to how Victoria will continue August and Kate’s story in “Our Dark Duet.” If you are looking for a dark, dynamic dystopian novel that has streaks of fantasy in it, you should give “This Savage Song” a try.

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Fangirl Friday #18….Wonder Woman Is Coming!

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done a Fangirl Friday post, but I think that it’s high time to announce that I’m fangirling once again! Obviously Comic Con happened this past week, and with it always comes some news about the amazing upcoming movies and books. There was a lot happening this last Comic Con, and although I am quite excited about all of the new books and movies that are going to be released late this year and in 2017, the thing that I completely geeked out over was the new “Wonder Woman” trailer!

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My sisters and me were beyond excited to see our favorite “Fast and Furious” actress in “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” so you can imagine how ecstatic we were to see the full trailer for her own movie as Wonder Woman. Everything about it looks amazing, and I can’t wait for “Wonder Woman” to come out!

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In that vein of fabulous new news, I am also quite excited about some old news.

A few months back, it was announced that several well-know and very talented YA authors were enlisted to write books based off of DC comic characters. Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo were two of the authors on that list, both of which I was very excited about. I am SO happy with the choice that was made in having Sarah do a book about Catwoman and Leigh write Wonder Woman’s story. Once Gal Gadot was cast as Diana (AKA Wonder Woman), I was on the train, and then to have it announced that the fabulous Leigh Bardugo was writing a “Wonder Woman” novel was just icing on the cake.

Leigh Bardugo is amazing at writing powerful, strong female characters who not only have a lot of heart, but also quite a few faults and weaknesses; she takes her heroines on journeys that enable them to grow and develop as individuals, and they become stronger because of the weaknesses that they overcome and conquer. I think that Leigh’s gift for creating kind, goodhearted, and strong female characters is exactly what the “Wonder Woman” story needs, and I cannot wait to see this powerful character on the big screen and read the newest novel about her!

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Check out these link for the announcement of YA authors writing DC characters and a little something from Leigh’s website!

http://mashable.com/2016/03/31/superhero-ya-dc/#XzfEzvjTBOqRhttp

 

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Les Petits Bonheurs #17…

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From “Unravel Me” by Tahereh Mafi.

It has been such a long time since I have read “Unravel Me” by Tahereh Mafi, but with it being the summer of rereading some of my favorites, I am going to take the time to pick up Tahereh’s book. It was such a beautiful and amazing book, and Tahereh’s writing style really stuck out to my sister and I as being very unique from most of the other novels that were being published during that time. Seeing some of the quotes from Tahereh’s “Shatter Me” series made me want reread it, and since I have a book buying problem, I bought myself a copy. ;-D  I am so excited to pick back up the amazingly addictive book that is “Unravel Me” for a reread session!

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts #1)

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“Blackhearts” by Nicole Castroman

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.”

“Blackhearts” was such an amazing read! The story and concept of Nicole Castroman’s debut novel had seemed quite promising from its summary, but the reading material of the first part of this year has been a little spotty; some good and some not so good. I was wary going into “Blackhearts” because I desperately wanted to fall in love with the story and its character, and goodness knows I have a weak spot for historical fiction, but I was afraid that it would turn out to be another novel that did not reach out to me. I should not have worried because “Blackhearts” was the diamond in the rough that I had been searching for, and I was deliriously happy by how wonderful Nicole Castroman’s debut novel ending up being!

Nothing makes me happier than when an author writes a book that honors the historical fiction genre. I love how books have to ability to not only transport me to a different place, but to also help me discover and learn about something that I had little to no knowledge of before picking them up to read. Historical fiction, when it is well done, is the icing on the cake for me because it combines the magic of literature with facts and knowledge, and my favorite novels usually involve historical themes and events or a fantastical world that mirrors ancient cultures. When I had heard that “Blackhearts” was a historical novel based off of the life of the elusive pirate Blackbeard, I was as excited as I was wary, because some historical books can read like a dream, whereas others can be a bit mundane to get through. But let me tell you, “Blackhearts” is the kind of novel that reads like a dream.

Nicole Castroman is a truly gifted writer, and I fell in love with how she wove history into her retelling of Blackbeard’s life. I felt like I learned new things about the late 17th century from reading “Blackhearts,” and it was one of those books that seemed to just pull me into its story, characters, and era from the first chapter. Another thing that I admire about Nicole Castroman was how she was able to write such vivid characters who seemed to belong in the late 1600s, but who also resisted the restraints and the prejudices that existed during their time. Anne and Teach pushed against the boundaries of the world they were a part of in ways that made sense for the time period and what they had been raised to think and believe about the world. How they fought against their situations in life made perfect sense to me, and it made this story, their story, feel real, as if it could have been a part of history. I was so pleased to read a book where the mindset of the era was not disregarded in the protagonists, however wrong it may have been, for convenience’s sake. I was happy to see Nicole honor the historical facts and atmosphere, while still writing two amazing characters who were era appropriate, but who also thought for themselves and saw the world differently than those around them.

I loved Anne as a heroine. I thought that Nicole did such an amazing job of writing a female character who had been mistreated most of her life, but was not jaded into becoming a mean, abrasive person. Anne had endured a lot over the course of her life due to her heritage and what people perceived as “polite” society, and despite being driven to do a few unsavory things, her past and present did not strip away the determination and goodness of her heart. She was a strong female who stuck to her guns without becoming too intense or overbearing, even when what she really wanted was to be with Teach. Nicole did an amazing job of writing a genuine feeling character who responded to situations and acted like a person from her time would have, while still being a witty, independent female with a mind of her own. The ease in which Nicole seemed to mix historical facts and what we all love to see in female characters together made me love “Blackhearts” all the more, and I also loved that Nicole Castroman wrote a male character who was just as intelligent and independent as Anne.

I did not fall for Teach Drummond right away. I had been hearing many good things about this book and its characters, and how Teach was very similar to Ross Poldark from “Poldark,” which is a new favorite BBC show of my sisters and me, and so I was quite excited to meet Teach Drummond. The opening of “Blackhearts,” however, did not paint him a hero’s light, which made for an uh-oh moment, and I was worried for a little bit that I would love everything about this book except its hero. Despite the more…abrasive introduction, I ended up falling in love with the character that Nicole Castroman wrote, and I adored how I gradually began to care for Teach over the course of “Blackhearts.” Edward “Teach” Drummond was destined to become the dreaded pirate Blackbeard, and that should have repelled me on some level, but instead I found myself slowly falling in love with this character as he began to show me that he was an extremely dynamic and likable character. The more I got to know Teach, the more I liked him, and I loved the side of him that Anne brought out whenever they were together.

I completely fell for the slow-burn romance that blossomed and bloomed between Teach and Anne in “Blackhearts.” I loved that Anne and Teach started out mildly hating each other, because that meant there was no love at first sight for this couple. I think that was great decision on Nicole’s part because it led her hero and heroine down the path of them getting to know one another for a little bit, rather than them just being obsessed with each other. Nicole Castroman’s approach to Teach and Anne’s romance was perfect for this book because of its historical and fantasy foundation, and the progression of their relationship felt deliciously slow, even if this book did not span over that much time. I also liked the fact that both Teach and Anne were kindred spirits because of how they felt confined by the meaningless perceptions and expectations of the upper classes and “polite” society, and how they wanted to travel and see the world. Teach and Anne were individuals who desired more out of life than to just play the game that those in power had created, and I liked that they did not read like rebellions teenagers but like mature individuals who saw what was wrong with their time and wanted for it to change. Anne and Teach’s relationship felt well founded, and I thought that it felt genuine and was perfectly paced for who they were.

Most of the people who did not like “Blackhearts” thought that it was not “piratety” enough, and they were right. This book is not a pirate book, it’s a story about a young man and his journey to becoming one of the worlds most infamous pirates. What people disliked “Blackhearts” for was exactly what I loved it for, though; it was a strictly historical romance novel with a twist, not an adventure novel. The majority of YA books that I read are supposed to be epic tales of protagonists going on a journey where they find themselves and become heroes, with maybe a little (or a lot of) romance thrown into the mix. Nicole Castroman’s choice to write something a little bit different from everything out there made “Blackhearts” feel unique in how I got to know the characters and how the pacing made this story unfold. This book was a coming of age story, but I loved that there was not much action because its absence allowed me to have enough time to bond with Anne and Teach and to feel truly worried about what might happen to them. The lack of action almost made this book more suspenseful because I was drowning in my fear and sadness as to how Teach and Anne’s story would end. Oh, and let me tell you, those last few chapters hurt. The ending of “Blackhearts” was what I deem a “quiet heartwrencher” (just read Nicole’s book and you will understand what I am talking about!), but I thought that it was, in sense, perfect for the story that Nicole Castroman had told and for who her characters were. It was beyond bittersweet, and I loved it!

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Overall, “Blackhearts” was the perfect read for me. This novel was a completely immersive experience with its beautiful, slow-burn romance, its wonderful main characters, who were just right for the time they were supposed to have lived in and for each other, and the historical facts woven throughout it. The ending was also perfectly bittersweet, and it left me with quite the book hangover. Nicole Castroman is an amazing writer, and I cannot wait to see what she has planned for her second book, “Blacksouls.”