Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook


Soooooooooo let me tell you something about this book.  IT WAS AMAZING.  IT WAS ROMANTIC.  IT WAS FABULOUSLY STUBBORN.  IT WAS INTENSE.  IT HAD ME SWOONING.  IT HAD ME SCARED.  IT MADE ME FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS.

I don't think you understand.  Sometimes, every once in a while, I'll read about a book that just clicks with my brain.  I'll see the blurb and think, Yes, yes this.  I must have this.  And then I buy it and read it and it's as glorious as I imagined it would be.  This book was exaaaaaaaaactly that for me.  100%.  Hands down one of my favorite books and favorite romances.


This was basically my face when I saw the blurb.  Just FYI.  Except I can never be as fab as RDJ, but that's another post entirely.

Anyway.  When I saw it was Romeo and Juliet in reverse, I flipped.  I don't like Romeo and Juliet at ALL (unless it's presented as a cautionary tale, and not a romance, because it is NOT A ROMANCE - *ahem*).  But somehow this made sense.  This is the way to go, obviously.  The Bard got it wrong; Cook got it right.  (Sorry, again, I'm off track.)  I ordered it immediately, and when it came in the mail I started it the next day.

I read it in 3 hours.


LET'S TALK CHARACTERS.  You all know I'm a character driven reader/writer.  I can't stand books that lack great characters, even if the plot is awesome.  If I don't have a reason to root for the people I'm reading about, that's a bad thing.

In any case, our heroine, Jemma, is fabulous.  She rocks.  She spunky and fun and totally her own person.  She doesn't do things right all the time but she knows what she wants: to break the mold and go to film school in New York.  I feel like a lot of times authors make their level-headed girl characters emotionally constipated - but not Kristi Cook!  Jemma loves her family and feels deeply, while still keeping her head.  I loved that about her; she inspired me.

And Ryder.  RYYYYYYYYYYDDDDDDEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR.



Someone please get me a Ryder.  PLEASE.  I need him in my life.  He was as equally dimensional as Jemma, totally his own person, and SO SO good for Jemma.  I loved how he related to her, even when they were arguing.  I mean, what can I say - especially when they were arguing!  The tension!  The friction!  THE BUILDUP!  It was all so intense.


Now, let's get to the story now.  I was sooooo surprised - this book had a lot more to it than I was expecting.  I thought maybe the hurricane would be a small portion of the book, but noooo.  It was a huge part and was actually freakin' scary to read about.  (I live on the west coast and have never experienced any sort of storms like that.)


And then there was the actual romance.  Oh my gosh, it had me falling hard.  I was soooo surprised.  I mean, I love romance soooooooooo much but even this one had me falling harder than I usually do.  It was stunning.  The connection between them was raw and real and based things other than physical attraction...although there was that, too.  Gosh darn it, Ryder was gorgeous, how could there not be?!


Okay, creepy eyebrow-waggle gifs aside.....I loved this book.  I loved Ryder and Jemma and the beautiful southern setting.  I loved the hurricane (*shudders*) and the way their relationship built on itself and the way they fell in love so beautifully and seamlessly.  I JUST LOVED IT OKAY?!  I'm actually surprised it has 3.79 average star rating on Goodreads?  I don't know...I feel like it should be higher.  I highly recommend it to romance junkies and also to people who just like a good story - I sincerely hope you all love it as much as I did!
SYNOPSIS
In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.
CONTENT
Some brief strong cussing and some heavy making out.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab (#1)

          
This.  Book.  Was.  Insane.

I loved it.  It didn't quite make 5 stars for me (you'll see why below) but it was an incredible read, and one I can't wait to dive into again.

The characters.  GUYS.  I'm 100% a character driven reader, and these characters were mineminemineMINE from the start.  Kell is sexy as hell a gorgeous example of a well-written male MC.  Totally three dimensional, completely lovable, and still human.  He doesn't do everything "perfect" and "heroic" at every turn, and it worked only to make me love him more.  And can we just talk about that coat?  YES PLEASE.  I want it.

And let's talk about my favorite character, Rhy.  RHY.  RHYYYYYYY.  Let me love you, Rhy.  This young man is just....a delightful person to read about.  I love the characters who give off a frivolous air but actually feel really deeply and passionately underneath.  Rhy was so fun and flirtatious and hilarious....and yet his bond with Kell was so incredible and immediately made me yell out BROOOMMMAAANNNNCCE!!!!  I couldn't control my love for him the entire book.  Plus, my favorite twist in the story revolves around their brotherhood, soooo....I am one happy chica.

Lila is awesome as well, although my least favorite of the three characters.  I typically don't fall in love with her type of character (think Dani O'Malley from the Fever series, but older).  However, I did enjoy her POV and everything she brought to the table.

My favorite aspect of the story (aside from Rhy and Kell and their bromance) was the Dane twins.  Scary. As. Hell.  I was in love with the atmosphere they gave to the story, and the conflict they brought, and *screeches in agony*.

BUT.  They also presented some problems for me.

Let's talk about climaxes, and deux ex machina.  I DO NOT WANT CONTRIVED ENDINGS, PLEASE.  I HATE THEM.  I DESPISE THEM.  I also hate when characters I loooooove (whether villains or heroes) are terminated (whether killed or removed from the equation) way earlier than I would like.  Something like this happened with the Dane twins (I'm trying to be discreet and non-spoilery here) at the end and I was left...just....so unsatisfied.  Like, what?!  That's it?!  I wanted SO MUCH MORE from these incredibly powerful magicians, and I felt like their potential was wasted.  I was actually so confused and disappointed that I missed something important that happened right after the climax, and had to have another reader explain it to me.

Also (although this is a minor complaint) I would have liked a little bit more clarity on the magic system and how everything works.  BUT.  I have hope more of that will come with the next book.

So, that's my beef.  While I was really disappointed with that one aspect of the ending, I have hope that the rest of the series will be as epic as the first 90% of ADSOM.  A Gathering of Shadows really cannot come out fast enough!

What about you?  Have you read ADSOM?  What did you think of the characters, and of that ending?
SYNOPSIS
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.
CONTENT
Actually, fairly clean.  Some sexual references (Rhy is bisexual) but it's all handled tactfully and I would recommend this book to older teens.  It is rather dark, however, so that is something to be considered.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My TBR For Summer 2015

A meme hosted by the lovely Broke and Bookish!



Oh my goodness.  SUMMER TBR!  YESSSS!  Click on each picture to go to the book's Goodreads page.
                
       
            



  



What about you guys?  Have you read any of these books?  Leave me your links in the comments!

10 Ways "Mad Max: Fury Road" Could Have Been A Lesser Movie


I have now seen this movie three times in the theaters.

I've done this with only one other movie, Man of Steel, my favorite movie on the planet.  Mad Max now ranks at #3 on my favorite movies list.  (Interstellar is #2....do you see a trend of science fiction?)  After so much soaking in, and deciding that this movie was the least preachy but most beautifully-done themes movie I've ever seen, I was inspired to write this post.

Because really.  There are a lot of ways this movie could have gone wrong, but George Miller literally did everything right.  Not only was it incredibly aesthetically pleasing, and filled with Oscar-worthy performances (I'VE NEVER LOVED CHARLIZE THERON SO MUCH), and told with such exquisite detail that broke my heart......but the truth in the story, the redemption, was developed with such feeling that it is hard to miss.

Don't let me bore you with my rant, though.  Here are 10 Ways "Mad Mad: Fury Road" Could Have Been A Lesser Movie.
#10.  It could have lingered too long/spelled things out for us.
You know what I'm sick of?  People spelling out problems in the world and blaring them obnoxiously in people's ears, as if that will get them to listen and change.  Preachy movies irritate the crap out of me.  I call "The Lorax" A Political Musical.  Please, let the children watch a fun movie about goofy trees and grumpy old creatures and cute little boys without going all "SAVE THE TREES" on them.  I think they know this alreadys - they live in the 21st century, after all.
You know what brings change?  Truth.  The truth of a situation will always trump everything else if it is shown.  Actions speak louder than words, right?  Right?!  Well.  Mad Max's actions certainly spoke loudly, without being shoved down my throat and forced into my mind like a foghorn at 5 a.m.  (I am not a morning person.  Do not wake me from my precious slumber.)
#9.  It could have had All Kick-Ass Female Characters With Katniss Attitudes.
Please don't hear this wrong.  I adore Katniss, but she needs to stay in her box.  Women are amazing, because of one reason that encompasses all reasons: We're all different.  Don't...just don't tell me that in order to be strong I need to be Physically Capable and Stoic and Emotionally Constipated.  I say, screw that.  I'm strong in ways that my sister (whether by blood or by choice) isn't, and she's strong in ways that I'm not.  We help each other, you know?  We balance each other out.  The women in this movie are amazing.  AMAZING.  They blew my mind.  They were feminine and sometimes delicate and each strong in her own way (whether with fighting or weapons or engines or cunning) - and they all played their part.  No woman meant something more or less than the next.  They were who they were and it meant everything to me.  Furiosa is a freakin' queen.  Emotional, desperate, willing, strong, tough, kind of scary, tenacious, dedicated, beautiful.  Don't get me started.  Don't let me start tearing up.  I will.

#8.  Max could have been both meaner, or nicer, than he was.
Max is such a great character.  He's tortured and has gone through hell and back, but he doesn't give up for anything.  They could have taken it either way:  Make him mean, because he's crazy and doesn't want to deal with people's crap - or make him nice, because we want our sort-of-insane MC to be likable.  No no no no.  No.  Max is what he is: a little crazy, totally wonderful, utterly dedicated.  Because he's a naturally developed character that is grounded in humanity, it didn't matter if he was nice or mean...it mattered that he was Max.  Period.  I was trying to imagine the movie with either a more destructive and devil-may-care Max, and then a more "I want to save everyone because I'm a sad person and love everything" Max.  Both would have been dumb and stupid.  Both would have been annoying tropes.

#7.  They could have glorified/Hollywood-ized Tom Hardy and his body.
Let me set the record straight:  I have two eyes that work perfectly well (with the help of corrective lenses, but still) and are more than capable of seeing the gorgeous manliness that is Tom Hardy.  Please, it is incredibly hard to miss those lips.  (In fact, his lips are the first thing my own dear mother commented on when I mentioned this point to her on our way out of the theater.)  So don't get me started.  Thank the Lord in Heaven above that Tom Hardy exists on this earth.
But.
We all know he's gorgeous.  We don't need the slow-motion, lingering, Thor-like shots of his 6-pack and rigid back muscles and vein-riddled arms and smoldering eyes and....are you still here?  Still listening?  Goooood.
*ahem*
What we need are solid action sequences that focus on the brutality of the world and the strength of one man.  Not exactly physical strength (although there is that, and it is shown perfectly without half-nakedness, thank you very much), but also strength of character.
(This point applies to the women, too!)

#6.  It could have been Just Another Dystopian:  Perfect people, perfect world, perfect perfect perfect ready to be shattered.
I love dystopia.  I mean, I'm kind of tired of it, some aspects at least.  But, man, there are some great stories out there.  You know what this move did?  It showed the already shattered, the brokenness of humanity, in its ugliest forms.  And I reveled in that.  Sure, it's great to see the "perfect" society of Divergent, with all the pretty people and nice buildings and weapons and sidewalks and gardens.  But what was even more powerful to me?  Seeing the destruction, and the madness, and the ugliness, and the lengths human beings will go to survive and gain redemption. (Once again: Truth, people.  It works.)

#5.  Piggy-backing on #6:  It could have asked dumb questions like "Are you sure I can give him my blood?  What if we're not the same blood type?"
This one might be a personal, petty thing, but...
Excuse me, this is the apocalypse we're talking about here.  You're all dying of radiation poisoning (tumors and fevers and missing limbs and sores and bad air).  If someone else's blood is going to save your life for the time being, please, take it.  I was worried the whole time that this was going to become an issue.  For some reason, the idea of that irked me.  And then it never happened and I was so relieved.  I mean, they mentioned the blood types....but it doesn't make it a big deal, or a huge plot point.  Again, I don't know why this would have bothered me...  I suppose it just was such a small worry in comparison to the rest of the things going on in the movie?  Yes.  That's it.  Similarly, there were a lot of other things throughout that I was like "Any other movie, and they'd make this a big deal..." and then, nope, they left it out, because it wasn't important.

#4.  There could have been useless girl drama.
THANK THE LOOOORD.  These girls had their moments of disagreement, but they were brief.  You know why?  They trusted each other.  They didn't need to fight and argue and add useless drama to the story because they were sisters, best friends, ready to kill for each other and also die for each other.  I mean, to a certain extent that is drama, but it's not useless - it's the kind of drama that's worth spending your time on.  Just sayin'.

#3.  Max could have told Furiosa his name toward the beginning of the movie.
I am just so so so so so happy this was not the case.  It pleased me beyond almost anything else that these two grew to respect each other......without words, without background.  They didn't need to know each other's names to see that they had one goal and they could work together well to accomplish it.  Who needs names when a person's soul is bared to you?

#2.  Nux and Capable could have said "I love you" or something equally ridiculous.
Actually, any number of the characters could have told each other how they felt.  This movie had the passion and magnitude to hold a plethora of emotional monologues.
BUT.  We didn't need that.  Remember what I said above about showing things rather than telling?  Well, this applies here, more than anywhere else.  Whether dealing with romantic feelings, or friendship, or just plain respect (see #3) - no one needed to hear any of it because we could see it so plainly.  It was like they plastered it onto my eyeballs, it was so clear.  I didn't need fluff or or explanations.  I just needed gestures and expression.  And that's what I got.  And it was gorgeous.
#1.  Furiosa and Max could have had a romance.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Let me just say:  There was enough fiery chemistry between these two to make something happen.  (Not exactly "romantic" fiery, but screen chemistry nonetheless; they have to have that to make a good movie, right?)  It's Hollywood.  They can do whatever they want.  They can throw sexual tension at us and make us beg for more.  Right?  Right?
Well, maybe some of us.
But this movie wasn't about that.  The possibility of a romance was something that I was uncertain about from the beginning.  Obviously, their paths were going to cross, but I wasn't sure how I felt about romance blossoming in a movie like this.  Especially between leads, because that would take time and energy that I didn't want to devote.  I wanted crazy, and action, and brutality, and explosions, and cars, and more brutality.  I wanted excellent character development and a reason to keep watching, a reason to get invested, that wasn't romance.
(For once, my romance-loving brain wanted something non-romancey.)
So, yes, I was given everything I ever wanted from this movie, and they kept the romance out.  Maybe there would be room for it in another Mad Max movie in the future.  Maybe I wouldn't mind it so much if Furiosa came back and she and Max had some tender moments (or maybe that's not them...more like intense/weird moments?) and that something between them, that mutual respect that so inspired me, developed into something a little deeper.  Sure, that'd actually be really nice.  But it wasn't for today, it wasn't for this movie, this plot.  And that, my friends, is the #1 reason why this movie gained the high ground, and stayed there, and won all the Sierra-loves-this-movie-and-here's-why awards.
What did you all think of this movie?  Did you enjoy it?  Do you agree with the points I lined up?  Give me all your comments!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday (4)

This is hosted by Breaking the Spine, who you should totally check out.



This week's post is for....

SOUNDLESS (#1)
Richelle Mead


For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. 

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

I am honestly a HUGE fan of Mead.  Not for Vampire Academy, but for Bloodlines.  I'm super interested in this one because my family is about to adopt a little boy from China, and I've been keeping my eye out for all the Chinese culture/mythology I possibly can.  Super stoked to read this one - I've already preordered it!




What are YOU waiting for this Wednesday?

 
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