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The Time Traveler's Wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger | 2003 | Fiction & Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy
2
8.2 (40 Ratings)
Book Rating
I've been thinking a lot about what I would write about <i>The Time Traveler's Wife,</i> partly because it seems one usually falls into one of two camps: Love it, hate it. It turns out, I belong to the latter. I won't bother with the sci-fi elements, the could he/couldn't he, the exploration of time travel as a plot device - I'm always willing to engage with a story as long as it follows it's own rules. My problems run deeper.

Spoilers abound.

<spoiler>

First, I'd be remiss not to at least acknowledge the creepy factor of a 40 year old naked man befriending a 6 year old girl. It's been discussed ad nauseum, but I've got to put my two cents in.
The whole experience reeks of grooming. Henry shows up, naked, in a young girl's life and (although true) casually explains that he's a <i>time traveler</i>. Her imagination is hooked. Her very own secret Magic Man. Over the following years, their friendship blossoms, and Henry refuses to tell her anything about the future. He is friendly, charming even, and always respectful. But he remains an enigma. Clare is pulled in by the mystery of the Magic Man. All she knows are the dates of his future arrivals. Until one day he begins to break his rule and tell her that they will be together. They'll get married and be in love and have a life. What changed? Why is he suddenly willing to tell her snippets of her future life? Puberty. She admits her desire to be with him and he basically says "keep waiting, it'll happen."

From that moment, her life has been decided - by Henry, and for Henry. Clare spends the entirety of her teenage existence (and beyond) waiting on Henry. The whole of her character arc is basically one big middle finger to the Bechdel test. Henry leads her by a leash with clues and vague promises of the future. We'll be together when you're older (we're destined). We'll have sex on your 18th birthday (wait for me). We'll meet in Chicago (move to Chicago). Even after his dying breath, he subtly slides direction her way. "I hope you move on, but by the way, I'll drop by when you're EIGHTY. But by all means...move on." Is it coincidence that Henry's time traveling mimics an emotionally abusive relationship? Clare tells us, "Henry is an artist of another sort, a disappearing artist. Our life together in this too-small apartment is punctuated by Henry’s small absences. Sometimes he disappears unobtrusively . . . Sometimes it’s frightening." Sure, you say, but he can't help it. He wants to be there for her. <i>It's just the way he is.</i> It's not even hinted at. Multiple people tell Clare <b>to her face</b> that Henry is bad news. But she won't hear it, because he spent her entire childhood molding her into his wife.
The author doesn't hide the allusion to Homer. Rather, she beats us over the head with it. And sure, it makes sense; Clare is the patiently waiting wife, Henry the distant traveler. Even Alba takes up her role as Telemachus, going on her own journeys in search of her father. But do we need both main characters referring to Henry by name, as Odysseus? We get it, girl. You want to write your own romantic Odyssey. Ease up.

Oh, and by the way - Clare's quote above? That's one of her first comments on married life. Her first thoughts after the wedding are "Why is my husband always gone? Why am I always afraid for him?" Henry's first thoughts? "How can Clare listen to Cheap Trick?" Let me remind you that this is the guy who's willing to rattle off a comprehensive list of early punk before jumping up to join in singing a Prince song, but he's upset that his wife listens to The Eagles instead of some obscure as hell French punk band. Also, this man who is thrilled to share musical tastes with a young teen with a mohawk then laments that the kid can't find his own music and has to take his? He preaches the meaning of punk before privately questioning why those kids want to be punk? Here's a guy who's entire life was shaped by music - both of his parents made livings playing music written before they were even born, yet he can't comprehend why two preteens could (or should) like The Clash, or why Clare would like The Beatles. <i>Stay in your own time,</i> he is essentially saying, <i>leave the time traveling to me.</i>

The guy doesn't even realize the pain he causes. Ingrid asks him "Why were you so mean to me?" "Was I," he says, "I didn't want to be." I know, I know. Everyone around her didn't want him to see her or speak to her. But need I remind you - dude time travels and frequently gives himself tips from the future. "Hey pal, take it easy on Ingrid," or "Bro, Ingrid is really shaken up, don't listen to her family or doctor, she needs some closure." But of course, nothing can really change, everything is the way it is.

This is all before I even begin to mention how much Niffenegger LOVES to name-drop. Of course there's the aforementioned punk band name-vomit, mentions of Henry's parents' work can't go by without naming a specific piece, despite adding nothing to the story or our understanding of the characters, there are two separate references to Claude Levi-Strauss (why?), and various other casual mentions of figures that seem to serve no purpose other than to prove that Henry is smart, and knows smart people things.

</spoiler>

I wanted to like this book more, I thought it had a fascinating premise and an interesting perspective. Obviously, I'm not a regular consumer of romance, and I realize that the problems I have with this book are problems shared by a large portion of the genre. But I am positive that we can have a love story that isn't mired by (at best) morally ambiguous relationships. I understand it was a different world when it was published, and that's not directly anyone's fault. Questions of consent and power and respect have been thrust into the spotlight in the short years since this book was published, but that's the lens with which I have to peer through. Stop glorifying these vapid, and frankly, abusive relationships as the paragon of romance. We're better than this. We need to be.
  
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Kyera (8 KP) rated Lady Midnight in Books

Feb 1, 2018  
Lady Midnight
Lady Midnight
Cassandra Clare | 2016 | Children
10
9.0 (13 Ratings)
Book Rating
I do not discuss any plot points in my review, so you will not be spoiled.

While the Dark Artifices may not be my favourite Shadowhunter series, I believe it is the most well written thus far. It is difficult to accurately judge, as this is only the first book in a trilogy but the more that Cassandra Clare writes – the better a writer she becomes. Her books have always been fantastic but Lady Midnight just felt like another step up. Cassie has clearly grown as a writer and storyteller over the years, which gives me so much hope for all her future Shadowhunter novels.

While it is possible to come into the Shadowhunter Chronicles with Lady Midnight as your first book, I would not suggest it. The Mortal Instruments is fantastic for that, as we follow Clary a girl who discovers that there is more to the world than the mundane life she thought she knew. The world building in that first series really lays the groundwork for Cassie’s entire Shadow World. Even in the Infernal Devices, we mainly experience the Shadow World through the eyes of Tessa who has also not grown up with the knowledge of who she is. That is the first aspect that makes Lady Midnight so different from the previous two series – our two main characters Emma and Julian have grown up as Shadowhunters.

I felt that there was less world-building overall for the Shadow World, but that’s not to say that the world building in this novel wasn’t fantastic as can be expected from Cassandra Clare. The politics of the Clave and the Downworld, the role of the Shadowhunter and the world that they live in have been brilliantly described over the course of the novels that Cassie has written. It is for this reason that I feel that while it is not necessary to read the Infernal Devices or the Mortal Instruments before reading the Dark Artifices, I would highly recommend it. You won’t necessarily understand the history or the events that led up to Lady Midnight as well as you could. There are also spoilers from the previous series and character cameos that you won’t appreciate as much unless you read the previous series.

The world building the Los Angeles itself and the new aspects that Cassie writes about the Shadow World, like the Shadow Market, are absolutely fantastic in this book. With each book she writes in the Shadowhunter World, she continues to build and develop this immersive experience that is like no other. Her words are vividly descriptive and paint the image of the world in your mind. It is what makes her such an incredible writer and one of the reasons that I love her books so much.
Lady Midnight takes place in Los Angeles, the Institute that has been the home of the Blackthorn children for their whole lives. Our main characters, Emma and Julian are parabatai which makes for a nice change to the point of view that we have experienced before. You learn a lot more about the parabatai bond and its potential in this book.

With Helen exiled to Wrangel Island and Mark taken by the Hunt, Julian has had to raise his brothers and sisters for the last five years. This forced him to grow up a lot faster than he would have otherwise and changed him in various ways. He loves his family more than anything else in the world and would do anything for them, even if it meant crossing a line. That ruthless heart, willingness to betray, and capacity to lie was learned after the Dark War. Those were not traits that he had prior but were forced upon him when everything changed and the Clave tore his family apart.

Emma has made it her life’s mission to discover who killed her parents at the end of the Dark War and why. That mystery has defined her every day, pushing her to train for hours at a time, run along the beach to get faster and turn her into an incredible Shadowhunter. She is also very sassy, quippy in conversations and the midst of a battle, which reminds me a lot of Jace.
The other characters we spend time with throughout the book are Julian’s siblings: Ty, Livvy, Dru, and Tavvy; Cristina; Diana and Malcolm. Diana has a lot of secrets, which I’m sure we’ll discover over time, but she’s the character we end up knowing the least about. Beyond being their tutor, not wanting to take over the Institute and supposedly taking her travel year in Thailand, I can’t tell you anything about her.

It was nice to see the Blackthorn children grow and develop from how we knew them in the Mortal Instruments to this series. Their familial relationship and interactions were authentic and heartwarming. You fall in love with them, just like you do with Cassie’s other characters and understand Julian’s plight.

Cristina is a Shadowhunter from the Mexico City Institute who decided to spend her travel year in Los Angeles. It was nice to get to know her because we don’t always get to experience or hear from Shadowhunters from other Institutes. I really enjoyed her addition to the Blackthorn family (plus one) and the dimension she added. Plus, her backstory created a connection to the Scholomance and the Centurions which are going to add even more world building to the Shadow World we know – and I can’t wait to see more of it.

Malcolm is the High Warlock of Los Angeles and although his personality is very different, you immediately like him. He’s more playful and childlike at times than Magnus but seems to really care for the family. After falling in love with Magnus in the Mortal Instruments, and Catarina Loss to a lesser degree in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, I wanted Malcolm to be the next warlock character I loved.

There is so much betrayal in this book that I could never anticipate what was going to happen next. It doesn’t just come from those you would consider “bad guys” but Shadowhunters, crooks and those with broken hearts alike. Cassandra Clare is the Queen of plot twists, fantastic character development and astounding, emotional rollercoasters in her books – and this was no exception.

Lady Midnight was a fantastic read that made me fall in love with the Shadowhunter World all over again or more than I was before? It’s unclear. Either way, I adore this book and I actually think that I enjoyed it more the second time through. I would also highly recommend a re-read prior to Lord of Shadows because the novel is so packed full of incredible character development, world building and plot that you will appreciate its sequel more if the story is still fresh in your mind.
  
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Kyera (8 KP) rated The 100 in Books

Feb 1, 2018  
The 100
The 100
Kass Morgan | 2018 | Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
6
7.5 (16 Ratings)
Book Rating
"The door slid open and Clarke knew it was time to die." What a way to start the book. Kass Morgan dives right into her storyline with an in-your-face opener. It took a bit of time before I, as the reader realized what this book was about. She began by setting up a number of characters, switching between perspectives, to quickly introduce you to the players. Those people who will have the biggest impact upon the storyline.

Each character is thrown into the mix, destined to be sent to Earth. The first in a long, long time. While not all make it, we are still treated with back stories and past relationships. Had the author not included those scenes, her characters would have been much more difficult to relate to. You come to briefly understand what the person goes through, exactly why he/she is so angry and hurt, and what they each did to become subjected to the fate of the 100. Personally, I would have preferred that greater attention had been given to character development rather than relationship development.

The Earth was unlivable for so long, and yet they send these 100 "children" as guinea pigs, rather than trained professionals. People who could colonize, build shelters, feed the colony, study the land and environment, or even tend to the ill. Instead, these youths are forced to come together with a common goal - survival.

One gets to a certain point in the novel and then realizes they don't entirely know what these different living situations/names mean. Of course, the Walden and Arcadian people seem to be of a lower class, economic, and social standing than the Phoenix. Walden also had an outbreak at one point that had to be quarantined. But beyond that? I'm not entirely sure what the distinctions are. Clearly the Phoenix people are "posh", with foreign accents, prone to extravagances and taking what they have for granted. But how did they come to be in that, dare I say, caste to begins with? Were people settled based upon their original locations on Earth? Or perhaps based upon the money/knowledge they could provide? Unfortunately, that aspect of the story is not very clearly explained. It seems that the author took more time to focus on the intricacies of the relationships than the world building.

Sometimes the author was redundant, choosing to repeat the same fears/desire over and over again. Yes, we understand that the medicine is missing. Was it flung from the ship before the crash or during? Can they survive without it? We don't know yet, but if we didn't realize the medicine was important the first time it was mentioned... We certainly realized it after the tenth.

This book has a very unique concept in that it combines the post-apocalyptic Hunger Games or Divergent-type Earth with space. While it may exist in other novels, I've not yet read something similar. Where it does seem to follow typical YA novels is the fact that it has a love triangle. Those seem like they are a requirement, as they are in most popular young adult novels. (HG, Divergent, TMI, Vampire Diaries, etc.)

There is a bit of mystery in the book as well. It seems that the reason one of the characters is arrested must be kept a secret, even from the reader. The author continuously has the girl think to herself, 'Why isn't he asking me about my confinement?', 'He's happy, this is for the best [that he doesn't know.]', and even has her love interest say "I heard a rumor about a girl on Phoenix who was arrested for..." Yes, there was a dramatic pause. And no, he does not finish his sentence. After the third or fourth time, the author finally reveals the girl's situation during a flashback.

Throughout the novel, the author develops the relationship between two main characters. Unfortunately, it's a bit jarring and sporadic. It quickly jumps from bitter hatred from the moment they step foot on Earth to reconciliation after one act, then back to hatred. Again, after one act. While relationships can be a roller coaster, this is a bit too authentic to the carnival ride.

The relationship is not perfect, especially when she has a second possible love interest. A guy who after only a short while, thinks of only her before he falls asleep. That girl must be something. The first time they really spend any time together, he decides that making out is the best course of action. Much to the dismay of her other love interest, though it does not dissuade him. Sound familiar?

It doesn't take long before he snaps at her and their brief... Whatever it was is over. Or is it?

They must be masochists, because it seems they're just gluttons for punishment and emotional, gut wrenching hurt... Or just those that don't learn from history. (Doomed to repeat it and all that.) Who would continuously subject themselves to that kind of torment? Move on and let yourself heal. It's not a post-apocalyptic world that only the two of you can repopulate... There are other individuals in camp with you. (Like the second guy you may or may not like, but that you certainly make out with in the woods.) But that's just my perspective.

While I found myself bemused and skeptical at times about certain aspects of the book, none of those times corresponded to the purposefully exaggerated environment that they must adapt to on Earth. Rather it is the progression of relationships, situations characters find themselves in, and utterly disastrous karmic intervention. Seriously, they must have really messed with the world for it to so perfectly separate two lovers as it does.

I suspected there would be a particular plot twist and unsurprisingly it came to fruition approximately 98% of the way through the book. I'm intrigued to see where the author takes it and how it will develop in the sequel - The 100: Day
21 (which is next on my review list!)

I find myself enjoying the read, dispute the obvious flaws one notices whilst reading it. If you take it as an easy, enjoyable read - then that is what you will come away with. If you expect it to be a fantastic piece that delves into the human psyche to truly draw you into a character's life and relationships - then you will be quite disappointed. Overall, I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy dystopian, teen romance series.
  
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Dana (24 KP) rated Vanishing Girls in Books

Mar 23, 2018  
VG
Vanishing Girls
Lauren Oliver | 2015 | Fiction & Poetry
10
8.0 (4 Ratings)
Book Rating
I am not sure why I keep being surprised at how good books are, especially since I have read some of these authors before! This book is no different. I was thinking this book would be just okay, nothing too memorable, but I was so wrong! Oh, and I got to meet Lauren Oliver at Yallwest 2015! She was so sweet and signed my book!!

This book is interesting in its set up. It is told in a "Before and After" story line by two characters: Dara and Nick. There are also some photographs and some blog post type pages which were really interesting.

So I am going to try to write whenever there is a large spoiler, but there may be some minor plot points written throughout. So look out for SPOILERS in the review if you want to skip those.

Okay, so I'm going to start off with talking about the three main characters: Dara, Nick, and Parker.

Nick is the main character of this book and, honestly, she was very interesting. She seems quite detached throughout a good part of the book, specifically the first half. I did not like either of the sisters at first, if I am being completely honest. But then I grew to partially understand both of them separately. Nick is emotionally distant because, as seen in the beginning of the book, she sees herself as needing to be the responsible one out of the two sisters. Where Dara is wildness and spontaneity, Nick is the reserved older sister who has to keep her sister in line. Nick, however, is not all she seems. It is known that there was a bad car accident that happened before the book started, but none of the details were really disclosed. Neither person involved really wanted to talk about it. SPOILERS ARE IN THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!! I wasn't a fan of how Nick treated both Dara and Parker. For Dara, it can easily be understood why she wouldn't want to talk to Nick. I would be pretty upset if that was my situation as well, but Nick seemed like she was just being petty. With Parker, she was unfair. Yes, they had been best friends and then he started dating her sister, but they were still best friends. She could have at least tried to talk to him about her feelings, but no. She didn't.

Dara was a very complex character. It seemed as if she would rebel just to do it and to see if she could get a rise out of her sister and/or her parents. She is wild and reckless because she needs to try to distance herself from her sister's shadow. I totally understand that (even if I would not take that path myself). I think her story arc was very interesting, to say the least. I will go more into the plot points a bit later, though.

Parker was just a guy who was caught in a tough situation. Yes, he was dumb in putting himself in that situation, but he seemed like a pretty good guy all in all. I enjoyed his story line because he grounded the other characters in the real world.

Okay, now onto the plot. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THE REST OF THE REVIEW EXCEPT FOR THE LAST PARAGRAPH. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED, SKIP DOWN FOR MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK.

Okay, so the plot. Oh my goodness, that was a good story. I really liked the complexity and all of the little connections throughout the two time lines.

Let's start with the "before." We get to see a lot of how Nick and Dara's relationship had disintegrated the closer to the accident we get. I loved getting it intermittent between the "after" sections because sometimes it made the previous chapter more clear, but a lot of the time, it convoluted it just enough to keep me intrigued. Each moment up to the accident felt like it had more tension because you, as the reader, knew what was coming, but not necessarily when or how. I do wish, however, we got more of the accident itself. That would have been pretty cool.

Now onto the "after." Wow. If you want a really complex story line that you won't see coming, read this book. That freaking plot twist was not something I called, and I am normally really good at calling them! I think I was too preoccupied trying to figure out what happened in the accident to see all of the signs (and there were a lot of them) of the truth of what happened. I loved how Lauren Oliver was able to explore mental health issues that we don't normally get to see in a young adult novel. The post-traumatic stress is usually shown as being withdrawn, not all of the other symptoms that may be possible in the human mind. I don't even necessarily want to touch on the FanLand plot line because it's pretty self explanatory. I did like how those were bright moments in the otherwise very dark story. I could go on and on about this section, but I'll keep it short. If you want to talk to me more about my thoughts on it, then feel free to message me about it!

Madeline Snow's story line was really cool. Not what happened to her, of course, that was super messed up, but the unraveling of what happened was crazy! Oh, and the disappearance actually happened on my birthday. Super random fact, but hey, at least it's interesting? Okay, lets start with the fact that there was a semi-sex trafficking ring going on and that wasn't even the highlight of the book. You know it is an intense book when that happens. I thought it was really interesting that Nick's mom was so enraptured with the case, because instead of noticing her daughter's struggles, she is focused on a stranger. I do like how it ended, us learning about the truth of the accident while learning about the truth of Madeline's disappearance because they were very interconnected! I am very thankful of how it truly ended happily rather than a very horrible possibility.

Overall, I was highly impressed by this book. As I said, this has become one of my favorite books of the year! If you enjoy thriller, suspense, or mystery books, definitely check this one out!
  
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Dana (24 KP) rated Winter in Books

Mar 23, 2018  
Winter
Winter
Marissa Meyer | 2016 | Children
10
8.9 (26 Ratings)
Book Rating
There will be spoilers, so you have been warned!

I have said this before and I will say it again, this series is amazing! I love how much power Meyer gives to her leading female protagonists, and I especially like how she makes them to be so dynamic. The same goes to the male characters, but honestly, I don't think they are given as much of a role as the women, and I am okay with that.

Lets start off with Cinder. She is so kick ass in this book. Not like she isn't in the others, but in Winter, she allows herself to become the queen she is. Even though she is scared to death and does not want any harm to come to her friends, she is willing to accept their help and start a gosh darn revolution to save both the Lunar colonies and all of Earth! All of this while trying to stay sane, learning how her powers work, trying to not become like her Aunt, trying to save all of her friends, and have a romantic relationship with a certain Emperor. I just really appreciate how, even though she is painted as this weird thing being a cyborg, she is able to push past those hardships and still come out a great person.

Iko is so amazing in this series as well. She is such a great friend and, honestly, I just freaking love her! All of the sarcastic comments she makes give me happy thoughts. Plus, she is just as bad a flirt as Thorne is!

Scarlet is so fierce. Not only has she been kidnapped (multiple times in this series), she also has to deal with the fact that basically all of her family is dead and the only person she loves is a Lunar wolf-hybrid. She is so strong and loving. Once someone comes into her pack (yes, I said pack because she is the freaking Alpha), she protects them at all costs. Her relationship with Winter, while it started off rocky, ends up to be really special. I love how Meyer made her so strong and level headed, but still gave her a "soft" side. (I put soft in quotation marks because she is never really soft, but she cares a lot and I couldn't think of a better way to describe that.)

Cress is one of my favorite characters in this whole series. She is just so full of hope and love and joy and is able to spread that to everyone else. I love how much she loves Thorne, but she doesn't want to ruin their friendship, so she kinda tries to hide it and push away the fact that HE FEELS THE SAME WAY ABOUT HER. Sorry, I am just very passionate about these two. They are just so freaking cute together I want to die. Also, even though she is this tiny, cute thing, she is a bad ass as well. She can hack literally anything and shot her boyfriend's fingers off. On top of that, SHE SURVIVED BEING STABBED IN THE STOMACH! How much more metal can she get? (Apart from becoming cyborg, I guess)

Now, to conclude our leading ladies, we come to Winter. I feel so horrible for her. She had to endure her whole life with her evil step-mother Levana, but she was still able to come out on top. She used her kindness and compassion to succeed in life rather than manipulation. She genuinely cares about the people in her life and her love for Jacin is stellar. (get it?) I am so glad she is able to be happy in the end because, stars above, she deserves it. I kinda wanted her to become queen for just a second, but I am honestly fine with her being ambassador. Like I said before, her friendship with Scarlet is so pure and good. I just love her so much.

Now onto the boys starting with Kai. Kai is so great. He has to marry Levana, yet he still believes in Cinder as much as he can. He just wants what is best for his country, and while being emperor is difficult, he still makes time for his friends. Well, they do kidnap him for about a month, but he helped them with their plans!

Wolf is too good for the world. He has been through so much, from the alterations, to his brother being drafted and then killed (?), his girlfriend being kidnapped, then his mother being shot in front of him, and more alterations. Give the guy a break! I do love how he tries to quell his animal instincts for Scarlet and how he shows how much he loves her.

Thorne was so adorable when he got his sight back and all he could do was stare at Cress. Like, oh my stars goals! He was still as sassy as ever, but we also got to see a super sweet side to him that was very insecure about his feelings toward Cress. I thought that was really cool to see alongside his arrogant asshole side.

Jacin was a mystery from the start. I knew he wasn't all bad, even when he sold out the crew to Levana, but I didn't really know the extent to his feelings toward Winter. Everything, and I mean everything, he does is for her. He just wants to protect her from the world, Levana, and herself, but he doesn't really know how to do that completely. He is so shy with his emotions, but once he lets them out, it's like he can't hold back the floods anymore!

The plot was very well thought out as well. I was very impressed with the structure of it, and quite possibly more important, the actual format. I did NOT expect the book to be over eight hundred pages just looking at it. When I looked to the end to see the page count when I was about 42 pages in, I was shocked to say the least. Holy cow Fiewel and Friends! Great printing job! But back to the actual plot, I really enjoyed it, and while I was sad to see it over, I loved the way it ended. There was hope and happiness, but it wasn't as if it was not hard won. They all had their battle scars, but they were functioning and moving past their problems.

Overall, I freaking loved this series so much! If any of you ever want to talk about it with me, feel free! I am up to the task!
  
The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries, #1)
The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries, #1)
L.J. Smith | 1991 | Paranormal, Young Adult (YA)
10
6.3 (15 Ratings)
Book Rating
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#1 <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2998210568">The Awakening</a> - ★★★★★
#2 <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2998210684">The Struggle</a> - ★★★★★

<img src="https://diaryofdifference.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Book-Review-Banner-24.png"/>;

<b><i>I had The Awakening and the Struggle (the first and second books from the Vampire Diaries series) on my shelf for years.</i></b>

When I say years, I mean it. It all started when I was in high-school, around 6 years ago, and I was in love with the Vampire Diaries TV Show. When I found out there are books as well, I begged my mum to buy them for me. And once I had them, I never got to read them, because teenage logic...

I recently noticed the Vampire Diaries books sitting on my shelf, forgotten, and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to read it in October, because of the whole spooky vibe. So there it is now - even thought the wheel didn't choose it, I did, because it deserved the attention!

Elena Gilbert is a popular girl in high-school and she always gets what she wants. Boys want to be with her, girls hate her, or want to be her best friends. And when this new boy Stefan comes into town, all mysterious, Elena wants him. But Stefan is hiding a deadly secret that Elena might now be ready for just yet. And her life, as well as the life of everyone living in Fell's Church is in grave danger... Elena finds herself between two brothers - one who came for a new life, and the other, who came for revenge...

Reading this book, while already knowing what the plot it, I thought I found find it boring. But no. I still enjoyed every single page of it, and I still devoured this book in one day.

From the first chapter, this book is intense and captures your attention. It is written in third person, but it also contains diary entries that belong to Elena and capture her deepest thoughts that she doesn't dare share with anyone else.

<b><i>I loved Elena!</i></b>

Her character is exactly what I was expected and what I have known to love - brave and fierce, and also willing to sacrifice her own happiness and safety for the people she loves the most. 

Elena's friends, Meredith and Bonnie are the friends every girl needs. Funny and caring. A few pages in, and you will get to love them too.

Stefan - the mysterious new guy in school. The guy that tries to stay away from the girl he really wants because he's a danger to her. A little bit of Twilight vibes, but we can get past that. Because there is one thing that Twilight didn't have, that you can find reading The Vampire Diaries...

<b><i>DAMON</i></b>

Even though we only get a glimpse of him in this book, we can feel his presence throughout the whole book. We can feel his connection with Elena, as weird and spooky as it may be. All that danger that he carries with him, we all want to see whether there's anything good in him at all. His story is the most intriguing one, I think. His hunger for revenge makes you really understand both sides of the story and choose a side for yourself.

<b><i>So, are you team Stefan, or team Damon?</i></b>

I loved reading this - it was an amazing experience and it reminded me of my high-school days, of those innocent happy memories. My teenage life didn't include vampires, but hey - it was still awesome!

Pick the Vampire Diaries up if you love Young Adult spooky books, if you loved Twilight and if you love vampire, love and mystery stories in general.

<img src="https://diaryofdifference.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Book-Review-Banner-8.png"/>;

<b><i>The Struggle is the continuation of the Vampire Diaries Series by L.J. Smith. The second book that features the life of popular girl Elena Gilbert and her endeavors with the mysterious vampire brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore.</i></b>

The Struggle continues where The Awakening ends; Elena is looking to talk to Damon, knowing that he has something to do with Stefan's disappearance.

I felt like there was more action in this book, compared to the first one. It made me more engrossed with the story and I was very excited for all the twists.

Elena was obviously the main character in this book, alongside Stefan and Damon. I am not sure how I felt about Elena in this book. She seemed to ignore everyone for a while and just be her selfish self - which resulted in getting people in trouble.

On the other hand, I really loved the history of Stefan and Damon. The memories from hundreds of years ago. The author manager to portray the time very well, and I was easily transported into another world, another time... I think these scenes were definitely the favourite part of this book.

I wish we saw more chapters with Bonnie and Meredith. Even though best friends, it didn't feel like they were too involved in the story. We didn't get to know them properly and it has already been two books. I really hope book three will let us meet these two characters better.

I am happy with the book in general.

The scenes, the plot, the twists - they were all very carefully put together. Elena's love choices are opening up, letting us wonder which brother she might choose. Making us choose sides (team Damon here!). This battle between the love and hate of the two brothers definitely seems interesting.

<b>The ending was everything I was hoping for and now I can't wait for the next book. The Awakening and The Struggle were only an introduction and the real adventures are yet to begin!</b>

I recommend it to all of you that love young-adult, teen romance and vampire stories. It will keep you on your toes for sure!

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Where Creatures Hide
Where Creatures Hide
10
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
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My rating: ?????

Review:
I was sent Where Rogues Hide to read and review for my honest opinion but I only got about 20 pages in when I realized that I needed to read Where Creatures Hide (which is book 1 of the series) and Where Puppets Hide (book 2 of the series). So I rented them off of Amazon so I can give them a quick read through and review. Here is everything that I have felt throughout my read through of Where Creatures Hide.

The story starts by introducing the "Chant of Creatures." This then leads to the opening of the story where there are a bunch of lab technicians doing tests on a girl that is frozen in a tomb of ice. They decide to melt the ice so they can carry out other tests that would lead to the girl's puppet soul being released.

A note on puppet souls:
Puppet souls are the darkest part of a creature's mind. The part of the mind that tells you you're not good enough. That voice that can break you down until you're nothing. They are extremely dangerous because they are numb beings that enjoy killing for pleasure, even if it costs them their own life. <i>"Now what I mean here is that when you give into your dark thoughts, you forget about everything around you. Your family, your friends, the people who love you, the people who matter most. You don't see them, all you see is a shadowy haze of darkness, nothing else. The sun doesn't shine, rain pours thicker than it ever has before but you don't care because you're falling. Falling into that endless bottomless pit of ebony nights. You're not scared because everything you see means nothing. Everything you hear means nothing. The people who call your name, mean nothing... Falling into your puppet soul is like ecstasy. You crave for silence, bliss, happiness and you think the only way you're going to get it is if you truly allow it to overcome you. Even if it means hurting the people around you, and yourself."</i>

The girl's puppet soul ends up releasing for only a short moment before she passes out. This is where Alex comes into the story as he was the only one to survive the release of the girl's puppet soul. Where Creatures Hide follows that girl's story. Her name is Dawn, she is a creature with a puppet soul and has no recollection of who she really is but she's determined to figure that out, even if it means hurting others around her.

"Because love thrives so much more than fear and darkness. Loyalty lies so much deeper with family than it does an army."

Characters:
Alex - the leader of Europha and one of Titan's sons. He is light in a dark and cruel world.
Dawn - the main character with a puppet soul. There is a twist that I can't reveal about her because it's a spoiler, but it was amazing!
Xavior - my baby, my smol cinnamonroll, my love. Xavior is by far my favorite character. He's just so innocent and loves to eat - I can get down with that!
Aziel - a god sent from higher up gods to find and protect the princess, eventually he must... wait, I can't tell you that cause it's a spoiler!
Luna - this little girl right here has my heart wrenched into a million pieces. I want to smother her into my arms and protect her from the world but at the same time, she's strong and independent and doesn't need any protection as long as she has her violin.
Titan - Alex's father. A gruesome man who wants to control all
Inaya - the princess that is to save her people from Titan's grasp
Tremayne - a phoenix lady who is cursed with not being able to touch anybody. Raised Alex after he lost his mother.
Ava - a vampire who doesn't come in until roughly the halfway mark of the book. She ends up standing close with Uma and Susi to protect them.
Uma - a bad ass little cat girl who I just wanted to cuddle in my arms!
Susi - wolf sidekick and protective of Uma

Reasons why I rated it 5 stars:
1. The plot:
I've never read anything by PJ Sheperd and I honestly have no idea why. PJ is an amazing human being with great storytelling skills. Where Creatures Hide packed a punch that I was not ready at all for. I bawled my eyes out, I fell in love, my heart raced at the twists and turns that littered throughout this breathtaking novel. There was an aura of mystery across the entirety of the novel and it honestly added such an appeal to the plot that left me craving more.

2. My enjoyment:
I absolutely 100% enjoyed reading Where Creatures Hide. The execution of the writing was amazing and the amount of background, development, and story that was packed into this little novel was a whirlwind of a roller coaster ride that I will gladly take over and over again.

3. Character and story development:
Guys! The character development within Where Creatures Hide is some of the best I've seen. PJ Sheperd does an amazing job and it was honestly a lot better than quite a few popular authors that have great editors. The story development was a little slow at first but with how the story ended up laying out, it made total sense the way that it was written.

4. Grammar and spelling:
PJ Sheperd has had a lot of hardships finding a good editor as each one has screwed her over. So I am not rating her on grammar and spelling as she is a new-ish indie author. There weren't many grammatical and spelling errors, just a few that could be overlooked but I happened to notice. She knows all about them already.

5. The overall story:
I absolutely am in love. I cannot express how much I've come to love this story-line just know that it's a lot. I can't wait to get my hands on some physical copies so I can reread the story. I'm already ready to do it!

"When you have strength, you fear nothing, and when you fear nothing you overcome the darkness with a blazing beacon of light."

There are three (3) different covers for each book in the Where Creatures Hide series. Each cover has a bit of extra stuff added to either the story or at the end of the book.

OG paperback cover - original PG-13 storyline
Special Edition paperback cover - smut filled storyline
Hardback cover - smut filled storyline + artwork
  
Deckscape: The Mystery of Eldorado
Deckscape: The Mystery of Eldorado
2018 | Adventure, Card Game, Puzzle, Real-time
Who out there has ever gone to an escape room and not enjoyed themselves? I know nobody (though if that’s you, it’s okay). I have only been to one in my life (eek!) and I absolutely loved it! I have watched videos of celebrities tackling escape rooms and have been riveted. I like the shows you can now find streaming of similar type activities and am always glued to the screen. Heck, I have played the EXIT and Unlock systems of board games and enjoyed them as well. So having the experience I have and never having played the Deckscape system, how did it fare for me? Decent. Read on.

Imagine yourself trapped on a jungle island after your plane crashes. Or being locked within a pyramid whilst visiting Egypt. These are the settings for the pair of games we reviewed and I really cannot and will not be going further into a lot of detail so as to avoid any spoilers as best I can.

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a copy of both The Curse of the Sphinx and The Mystery of Eldorado for the purposes of this review. These are retail copies of the games, so what you see in these photos is exactly what would be received in your boxes. I will describe the overall game flow and major rule set so that our readers may get a sense of how the game plays. For more info, you may purchase a copy online or from your FLGS. -T

To setup a game of Deckscape, open the box and take out the cards. You are now ready to play. Seriously. No rules to read. Nothing to teach others. Just read the top card and do as it says. You have now begun your adventure!


Playing the games involves players (or a solo player) encountering cards in the 60-card deck in order to solve puzzles and use items found to best finish the scenario. There are no turns in these games, and players are encouraged to discuss possibilities before committing to answers to the puzzles. Randy from Dora and the Lost City of Gold would be so happy to be figuring out “Jungle Puzzles” and “Pyramid Puzzles.”

Each card is either a puzzle or an item and each card will more than likely be encountered throughout the game. Players are trying to figure out the puzzle clues and best solve them. Incorrect guesses will result in costly errors that affect endgame scoring. Sometimes correct guesses will allow the players to erase errors or give other positive clues.

Once the players have made their way through the game solving puzzles and riddles they will consult the table at the end to see how well they scored. Usually time is of the essence, and finishing the games sooner is better than later. Once the game is over and the score tallied the game owner may gift the game away as the final result is known and replaying is kinda cheating.

Components. Okay, these games are small boxes full of large cards. There are 60 cards in each game and the cards are beautifully illustrated and laid out well. We had no problems reading anything or deciphering any part of the games, so thumbs up on components from us.

Gameplay is a little polarizing, we found. I like the flow of the game and puzzles within. My wife, however, couldn’t stand them. But she later admitted to now understanding that she just does not enjoy escape room styled board and card games. That said, these games play more like Choose Your Own Adventure games than the typical EXIT/Unlock style games, as most (if not all) cards in Deckscape require players to complete them before moving to the next card in numerical order with either a success or penalty. This can rub players the wrong way if they are used to the other style of escape room games. It was no problem for me, and I enjoyed my plays.

What I liked most about these games is that the story is easy to follow and the puzzles mostly make logical sense. A few of them stumped me, but luckily players may find helper cards to give clues to puzzles in the game. We relied on these helpers a few times, but I did not feel like we were consulting them for every puzzle. So that’s a definite positive. I also liked the thematic immersion. For a card game I felt drawn into the stories and wanted to complete them as well as I could.

What I disliked most about these games is the fact that you end up encountering every card or nearly every card. The intrigue of other escape room games I have played is wondering what was on some of those other cards. Or what did I miss on a card that I should have noticed? While you get SOME of that here, I found Deckscape to be more entry-level in difficulty. That is certainly not a bad thing for most gamers. We were expecting something different than what we played, and I think that unfortunately immediately put us off at first.

However, I played the second game solo and I liked it quite a bit. I think I mostly liked it because I didn’t have my wife around to figure out the puzzles with me and I was truly all alone. This added to my anxiety to finish well, or finish at all! I definitely cannot see myself playing these games with the full compliment of six players as I feel I would be too overwhelmed with people shouting out their guesses and trying to parse everything. But that’s just me. I prefer these with low player counts.

All in all these games are pretty good, and a decent something different from the other games in the same style. If you have yet to try Deckscape and like escape room games in general, I reccomend you give them a try. They are quick (and even quicker as your goal is finish in a short amount of time for the best scores), easy to play with zero teaching and setup time, and gives a great amount of puzzles to decipher. Purple Phoenix Games gives the Deckscape system of games an unsure-but-you-seem-confident-about-your-answer-so-let’s-just-go-with-yours 6 / 12. If you see them on the shelves pick one up and try it out. Add these to your growing collection of escape room games for show, or play them and pass them along, as I intend to do.

(Note: I usually add a messy components photo at the end of my reviews, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just throw some cards down that won’t really ruin anything at all.)
  
Cinderella is Dead
Cinderella is Dead
Kalynn Bayron | 2020 | LGBTQ+, Young Adult (YA)
10
7.5 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Contains spoilers, click to show
Thank you to Netgalley and Kalynn Bayron for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of Cinderella is Dead in exchange for an honest review.

With such a strong title to a novel, it’s easy to predict that an author would struggle to maintain the sense of danger and mystery that is immediately evoked. However, as Kalynn Bayron opens on the revelation that Cinderella has been dead for 200 years and introduces us to two young women hiding from those who are sure to kill them, I think it is safe to say that she has the drama side of things covered!

The kingdom of Mersaille was once ruled by none other than Prince Charming and Cinderella. After her untimely death, Cinderella’s tale is held in almost biblical stature for generations, with young girls reciting it each night in preparation for their own chance to attend an annual ball once they turn 16 and wishing for their own fairy godmother to grant their happily ever after.
However, as the reader enters the town of Lille 200 years later, we witness that life within the kingdom is far from that of a fairytale. The balls that act as a tribute to Cinderella are mandatory meat markets with lecherous “suitors”, domestic violence and the suppression of women is commonplace and the ruler, Prince Manford, thrives on the power, fear and violence.
 
The reader witnesses this abysmal society through Bayron’s use of a first-person perspective: that of our protagonist Sophia. Sophia is everything a modern protagonist should be: she questions the unjust world around her and, having just turned 16 is preparing to attend her first ball, not with excitement, but with trepidation.
Sophia reveals to the reader that a girl only has three chances to be chosen by a suitor at the ball, after that she is considered forfeit, taken away from her family in disgrace and placed either into a workhouse or service. Men, however, are under no such conditions: they can attend balls when they wish and can choose a number of girls if they want to. Many girls’ singular hope is to be chosen by a good man at the ball, one who will not beat her, perhaps even one who will take them away from Lille. This is not enough for Sophia, she wants more for her life and, as she says herself:
“I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armor. I’d like to be the one in the armor, and I’d like to be the one doing the saving.”

At the beginning of the book, Sophia’s main gripe with the society she lives in is that it will not allow her to be with Erin, the girl she loves. As the book continues, the underlying theme of the rights and treatment of women strengthens, along with Sophia, but the first few pages at least are centered on the teenage relationship between Sophia and Erin.
What I absolutely adored about Bayron’s writing style here is the complete lack of shock or awe in this relationship: it is mentioned right from the start and at no point in this novel does Sophia “come out”, there is simply no need. All those around Sophia, who know her and care for her, are aware of her feelings for Erin and, although Sophia is occasionally referred to as “different”, the author chooses to abolish any unnecessary labels within her novel.

Unfortunately, Bayron does not have an easy ride in store for Sophia: reeling from a firm separation from Erin, Sophia is cast a lifeline, an “easy way out” in the form of a local boy who is also “different”. Sadly, this option is quickly and dramatically ripped away from her: forcing her to find her strength pretty damn quickly as she begins a life as an outlaw.
Along her path, Sophia meets two strong female characters: Constance and Amina. Although, wildly different, both these women play a significant role in Sophia’s self-discovery.
Amina is as far from the traditional fairy godmother image as you can get and, although she feels guilt for her previous actions, it takes meeting Sophia for her to recognise her previous denial and to help change the way of the world. Amina is a protector to Sophia right to the end, in her own unique way.
Constance, what can we say about Constance? I defy anyone to read this book and not fall in love with this girl! Constance possesses the strength that Sophia does not yet recognise within herself; she is fiery and, as a descendant of an “evil stepsister”, leads a resistance movement to uncover and publicise the truth about the real tale of Cinderella. Despite, technically saving Sophia towards the beginning of the story, Constance is not Sophia’s saviour: nor is Sophia the saviour; however, the power that they find together is monumental.
Constance is a complete juxtaposition to Erin: whereas Erin accepts the rules of society out of fear for herself and her family, Constance actively rebels against them. It is almost as if they represent the paths Sophia has to choose from. Nevertheless, along their adventure, Sophia and Constance’s relationship strengthens into love. This is no fairytale, love at first sight deal though! If anything, the slow-burning romance between the two made it more believable and I really appreciated that Sophia didn’t just rebound due to Erin’s choices: she had been burnt and she was still unsure of her own feelings never mind anyone else’s.

At the hands of Bayron, Sophia experiences heartbreak, friendship, murder, love and conspiracy: she is on the brink of danger too many times to count and is constantly second guessing who she can trust. Yet, it is clear that the author adores her main character: Sophia’s journey to realise that she is enough is incredible and the strength that she finds within herself is inspirational. Sophia is also surrounded by a cast of strong female characters: there are no Prince Charming’s in this novel that’s for sure!

I wasn’t that far into this book when I decided I need to read more of Kalynn Bayron’s work. I love how there are no chapters in this novel, we are taken on this relentless journey with Sophia: the reader is not given a chance to stop and take stock, reflect or rest until it is all over and this creates the tensest experience. Even we don’t know who to trust towards the end!
‘Cinderella is Dead’ is powerful, thought-provoking and is constantly leaving the reader guessing. On a basic level the novel deals with violence, love, politics and a little bit of necromancy thrown in there for good measure. However, the intelligent writing as well as the massive plot twist and the subjects of LGBTQ love, women’s rights and domestic violence lifts this novel from that basic level into, what I predict could be a bestseller.
  
Tales of Evil
Tales of Evil
2020 | Adventure, Horror, Miniatures, Murder & Mystery
It is no surprise that following the enormous success of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” that creators would begin developing ideas borrowed from the show’s setting or characters. Of course we have seen games in this “80s kids Goonie-esque adventure game” genre before, and I have to say that I love the setting. When I saw the Kickstarter campaign for Tales of Evil I was immediately drawn to it. Did my investment pay off or is this one a gnarly bust?

Tales of Evil is a cooperative, horror, storytelling, adventure game that uses a unique new “Fusion System” throughout the game. Players will be taking on personas of kids from the 1980s who belong to a club named “Pizza & Investigation.” I do not wish to reveal too much in this review, so I will be covering this as a Solo Chronicles using one character going through the introductory tutorial mission.

DISCLAIMER: We are using the Kickstarter Deluxe version of the game. We do have the expansions from the KS campaign, but will not be using those for this review. Also, we do not intend to cover every single rule included in the rule book, but will describe the overall game flow and major rule set so that our readers may get a sense of how the game plays. For more in depth rules, you may purchase a copy from the publisher directly or from your FLGS. -T


To setup, well, just follow the setup instructions in the rulebook. There’s too much for me to explain here. For one character playing the tutorial scenario, the game setup should look similar to what is pictured below. Maybe. The rulebook does not specifically state WHERE each item should be placed, so players will have ultimate freedom to setup items where they see fit to be most efficient for themselves.
Players in Tales of Evil will have no real “turn structure” as most games do, because all players will be adventuring together as a group. So characters will be moving as a group and never splitting the party (RPGers breathe a sigh of relief… maybe). However, as with many adventure games of this style, once players explore into new areas certain markers will placed on the board (Clue, Darkness, Mystery, Search, etc). These markers signify different actions that can be taken, or entrances to areas that are blocked or found, or something that could be traced from one area to another. The leader of the group for the time being is in possession of the Walkie-Talkie and will make all final decisions for the group after any discussion (for solo players, it is just a nice prop). Usually searching for items will result in a card draw and upon the card will be a test to pass using the stats on the player character mat to roll dice for successes. Of course, the other side of that are horrible losses as well.


Players will be traipsing through the area and reading passages from two actual books: the Story Book and the Event Book. Most of the action happens in the Story Book and it will guide players through the story and once choices are made or tests succeeded/failed, the book will instruct players what to do next and to which section to turn to further the story (a la Tales of the Arabian Nights). The game continues in this fashion until the story ends with victory or defeat.
Components. Why yes, that is a real spoon in the photo above. No, it does not come with the game. I will explain in a bit. The components in this game are great. Each character has their own mat for organization, action cards, equipment cards, and status cards that dictate the difficulty of the game and how the character degrades over time in the horror-filled mission. Some components are even glow-in-the-dark! A nice touch, but certainly unnecessary. I find everything to be wonderful quality, even the cards that are kind of polarizing on the KS comments are nice (people are complaining that they are not linen-finished, but I believe the publisher made the right call to make them matte finished if the linen obscured the look and art on them). Thumbs up for components from me.

I wanted to wait until my final thoughts to explain the whole “Fusion System” that is in play here. Tales of Evil uses the catchphrase, “You will get into the game and the game will get into you!” Now, I’m not sure exactly how this game is getting into me, but I’m certainly digging the game and this Fusion System. You see, some cards (in the tutorial, remember, so I’m not really giving much away here) will give players 60 seconds to grab a kitchen spoon for some benefit and a debilitation if they are unable to find one – hence the spoon in my photos. Another card relies on the character (and also then the player) removing their shoes. Still yet another deals with fire or people smoking in the vicinity. If there is fire nearby in real life, it affects the effects of the card drawn. It’s ingenious and I love every little bit of it! I can’t wait to see how the Fusion System will work in this game more and how it can be applied to other games in the future.

All in all I love everything about Tales of Evil. The setting is great, the Pizza & Investigation kids are awesome, and the game itself is incredibly engaging and makes you really think about the choices you make within. Perhaps the haunting feeling of doubting some choices is how the game gets into you, because I did find myself wondering what would have happened had I chosen a different course for some instances. I am very drawn to this game and I want to tackle all of the scenarios. Even solo! And another great thing about Tales of Evil is the fact that a player (or players) can join a game already in progress! So if I am exploring solo and my wife decides she wants to hop in, she just grabs a character mat, sets up the character, and dives right in with me. I LOVE games like that. So versatile.

While I should probably stop gushing at this point I just can’t. This game is so much fun and worth every penny spent on it. I implore you, if you are a fan of exploration adventure games in this vein you definitely need to snatch up a copy whenever you see one. And if you love it as much as I do let me know. We can swap adventure stories.

Oh did I mention the designer is even created a way for us normies to create our own scenarios and upload them to other Tales of Evil players? Yeah, I’m fascinated by that as well…