A court of mist and fury book review

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Let me just start by saying that this may be my new favorite book. Ever. (Excluding Harry Potter, of course.) If you didn’t know, this is the sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, who is an amaaaazing YA author. This review is going to have some minor spoilers (it is the second book, after all), but this first section is mostly spoiler free.

If you haven’t read this series yet, you need to! It’s literally amazing. AMAZING. I’m blown away at how much I loved this book. My favorite part was the character development. Maas writes incredible character development that is wholly engrossing and riveting.

This book, in my opinion, was better than the first book. It felt like the first book was the exposition and now the ball can really get going. I remember wondering if there would even need to be a second book, but I’m so glad there this is a trilogy! I love it when the series only gets longer and better.

Her characters are downright perfect. This book introduced several new characters, and I love them all. It’s rare that I can talk about a book without having any complaints! The plot took YA past the border of reason, and straight into the pit that sets this book apart. This book was a ride, and I didn’t think that Maas would take these characters down these dark roads like she did. The entire book is brutal, but in the best way. It’s easy to describe flaws, but I’m struggling to define what made this an incredible read for me without drooling over the perfectness. If you’ve read ACOMAF, keep reading for my full discussion! If not, do yourself a favor and check these books out! Maas never fails to make each book better than the last.

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War and Peace- BBC TV Series Review

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I tend to judge books by their covers and titles. C’mon, everybody has done it at some point! Whenever I saw the size and the title for War and Peace, I was immediately not interested. I figured that this old, dusty book was another novel that contained page after page of war detail with no substantial characters. But a few weeks ago I decided to try out this adaptation that just released a few months ago.

Basically, it was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I don’t regret watching it. But whether or not I make it around to the 1500 paged book is still yet to be seen.

One of my favorite things about this series was the length. It wasn’t too short, like in a movie, but it wasn’t stretched out over 20 episodes, where the characters steered from the path that Tolstoy put them on. 6 episodes turned out to be the perfect length for me to enjoy watching, and the series left me with a good impression. I was initially drawn to it after seeing Anna Karenina, and I was curious was else Tolstoy had in store.

On the other hand, one of the details that I didn’t quite understand was the accents. Yes, it’s a British show. But does it take place in Britain? Not quite. This detail for me wasn’t overwhelming, but at first I was a bit confused. Another downfall was the sexual appeal. Surely, the writers of the show should’ve known that their audience came from the Downton Abbey marathon- every review that I’ve seen didn’t agree with how the romance was displayed, and I have to agree. The true, strong bonds of love were depicted in a much less racy manner, but it was definitely less prevalent. It wasn’t exactly shocking to see the sexual aspects, but I can’t imagine that Tolstoy intended for that interpretation. My love for this show, though, far outweighs the downsides.

However, I loved the characters. If you are drawn to shows were the characters are genuine and deep, then this is the show for you. Pierre was a delight to watch, especially as he yearned to find meaning in the universe. Though other characters might have been more entertaining, Pierre’s inspiring quest was truly wonderful. All of the characters’ interwoven storylines made this period drama rich and complex. The finale was so brutal and glum that I didn’t know how these characters would make it out okay, but the epilogue was so peaceful and soothing that it made up for the suspense.

The filming style was really captivating as well; the directors used the lighting to reflect the mood of the characters, which isn’t something that I see too often. The contrast, then, between winter and spring, especially for characters who were moving on and growing, was stark. I also was dreading the arrival of the war (just like the characters) because I typically am not a fan of dry violence from several centuries ago. Instead, this show made the war scenes invigorating and suspenseful. I’ve never been to war or have any connections to that feeling, but War and Peace‘s war was the greatest antagonist on the show, and it held the most power to change a character.

Whew, that was a lot of adjectives. But let me tell you once more- this show is so good! I hate to be the girl who compares adaptations, but if you love Downton Abbey or Jane Austen, then this period drama should definitely find its way to your television. I watched the first twenty minutes a few months ago, and then stopped. Luckily, I picked the show back up again and fell in love!

Is YA Repetitive?

If you scan down the spines of the YA section in the bookstore, the books are almost always eye-catching and gleaming. But are some of these books carbon copies of others? Today, I wanted to talk about the common tropes in YA books and what stories/characters attract more readers and which ones make me gag.

THE GAG LIST:

The Bella Swan- Now, I used to be a Twilight fan. I think we’ve all been there, done that, and we’re moving on. Right? I’ve seen my fair share of YA characters (a lot of side characters, actually) who are attached to their boyfriends and don’t send a good message to the reader. I love romance in YA, but love triangles and intense relationships are something that I’m not a fan of. I like realistic characters and relationships, and I don’t think that these should be promoted.

Love triangles- On that note, love triangles never happen in real life. I’m pretty young, and none of my friends can get a boyfriend, let alone TWO. Also, the girl would have to be pretty selfish to drag two boys along. It’s also interesting how the center of the love triangle is always the main character, and it’s between two boys fighting over a girl. I think this trope is moving it’s way out of YA, but I think we’ll have to wait a few years to be sure.

The absent parents- Why are your parents gone?? This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining, but parents are supposed to be role models, not villains or absent.

MORE TROPES (that don’t make me gag!)

KIck butt heroines- I love action and fantasy novels. But I also love contemporary. With that being said, strong female characters are usually associated with fantasy, and I hope that changes. It’s also interesting to note that most YA main characters are girls, and I think it attracts more girls to the genre than boys.

Bookish main characters- If I wrote YA, I’d probably be guilty of this too! But if I stacked the main characters of novels up against each other, over half of them would have main characters who love reading and writing.

Fantasy and retellings- Retellings are on fire right now. If you pick up a fantasy book, I’d bet the back either says that she didn’t know she was half-whatever or that it’s a twisted take on a fairy tale.

So what makes a YA book a bestseller and a flop? For me, it’s all about character development. If an author can take an old trope and turn it into something completely fleshed out and engrossing, that’s when the readers will come. Something about YA separates it from the rest of the general fiction. YA gets a bad rap, and yes, some books are pretty bad. But some are great! I hope that someday we can celebrate all books and move away from that stigma, and I hope that authors won’t feel the need to appeal to an audience.

YA has created its own archetypes and tropes, building off of the same ones we learned in English class. The wheel of literature will keep churning out similar books, but the best ones are connected not to each other, but to the reader. The fact that YA books connect with young people is super important; we are the future of readers and writers, and we’re craving books that can take us away from the monotony of life. And that’s why the genre has exploded.

Why do classics matter?

A lot of people don’t enjoy classics. I didn’t enjoy classics until recently. Why, though? I don’t think that I understood their purpose in society.

I doubt that when an author, like Tolstoy, sat down to write War and Peace, he imagined that it would be deemed the ‘greatest novel ever written.’ And some fantastic books fade into the background while others thrive hundreds of years later.

It took me years to realize that the themes and symbolism in the stories are eternal. I used to reject symbolism, seeing it as a fanciful idea in which the reader could feel more connected to the author. I couldn’t understand how someone would discredit my YA books, yet me, being the hypocritical teenager I was, turned away from the ‘snobbish’ people who only read classics.

Classics are eternal, and they often don’t attain immortality until the author is dead or the work is no longer relevant to the time period. My lifestyle doesn’t relate at all to the society in Pride and Prejudice. But I can remember that book and the impressions it left on me more than a lot of the books on my shelves. These books have themes that are central to what it means to be human. They don’t just exist for entertainment, but they exist to change society. Authors will take an empty slab of marble and turn it into something worth studying for hundreds of years.

In our society, I’m afraid- no, terrified- that books will become obsolete. If we lose these novels and those that haven’t even been penned yet, we’re doomed as a human race. These books are the epitome of breaking the human hamster wheel, and books are one of the only ways people from hundreds of years ago communicate today. Books are a blessing from human thought and existence. Discussion and creativity are two powerful tools that merge in a classroom.

Of course, I’m not saying that any current novel has no value. But I don’t think that we should be shoving classics down childrens’ throats with no context. Classics are sometimes shamed for being boring or irrelevant- and some of them are, in my opinion. But some of them have changed my outlook on society, and they will continue to thrive for hundreds of years to come.

Books that I love to reread

I’ve been wanting to reread a lot of my favorite books lately, but like most people, I have too many books that I haven’t read that I should read before I dive back into the other worlds I love. I’m definitely a person who loves to reread books, to be in that world with those characters again. With that in mind, I complied a list of all of my favorite books to reread.

  1. Harry Potter (1-7) by J.K. Rowling

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Do I even need to explain this one? I have read the Harry Potter series many times, and hopefully many more! I love collecting the different editions and formats of my beloved series. My favorite author, favorite books, favorite EVERYTHING is Harry Potter. I’m a serious nerd, y’all. I recently got the illustrated edition of the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I so want to read from that edition! The illustrations are really lovely and make it a special addition to my book collection.

2. Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

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These books ignited my love for reading in elementary school, and something about that just always makes me come back to them. I have read Eldest, the second book, maaaaany times. It’s actually embarrassing. I know that this is kind of a hit-it-or-miss it series with a lot of people, but it was a definite hit for me. If you haven’t read it (first of all, check it out! I love it.) it’s about Eragon, a dragon rider, and his many adventures to defeat the king. The movie was so bad for this book; it was really disappointing.

3. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

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This one isn’t quite the phenomenon that the top two were, but it’s a classic in my book. It isn’t that I love the first book even, but I love seeing the story and characters develop as the series goes on. It’s a super quick read, so it’s not hard to pick this series back up. In a sentence, the plot is about Juliette who has a lethal touch. I really, really like Warner, one of the characters from the series. The writing style is also incredibly unique, and it sucks me into the story.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to travel and see everything. This book kind of fed that craving. Stephanie Perkins’ books are known for being fun, heartbreaking, and full of travel destinations. They are light and fluffy, but I come back to them anytime I need a pick me up. I actually met Stephanie last spring, and she was so nice! The romance in this book is so good, too. Just thinking about it makes me want to pick it back up again!

5. The Selection by Kiera Cass

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Now I have to say, this series is kind of hard to reread. Why, do you ask? Well, the main character is really frustrating, as is the plot. But that’s kind of the point. Kiera Cass makes everything so difficult for the characters that the ending and bright parts are really emotional for the reader. I think the reason I like to reread this series is for the characters. Maybe not for the main character, America, but probably for all of the side characters and the romance. Though I’ve gotta give America some credit- basically being in a dystopian version of the Bachelor has to be pretty hard. And she’s under a ton of scrutiny. But besides that, this series is. so. good. It’s an addiction.

Why we shouldn’t be making YA books into movies

Adaptations are an interesting thing to discuss. On one hand, it can be really intriguing to see how the director and crew take the work and visually translate it. However, the adaptations usually fall short and break a wing on the way down. The result? It turns the YA community into something it’s not.

When you take a book, which is entirely based on imagination, and turn it into a movie (mainly speaking to the bad movies), it tends to ruin the reader’s perception of the book. For example, when I think of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare these days, I can’t really picture what I imagined- instead, I have this Hollywood depiction that was not satisfying. For some reason, the industry preys on young people’s money, hoping that if they throw a story on the movie screen, the audience will instantly love it. But that’s not how good movies work, is it? Even the simplest of proles will subconsciously not like a really under-developed movie. (Granted, there are some successful bad movies out there, but I consider them to be the exception.)

In the past few years, I’ve seen all of my favorite books have their film rights be bought off and turned into grotesque renditions of their original material. It feeds the stereotype that all YA literature is not well-written and meant to satisfy a really basic audience. Simply put, that’s not true! But what sparked this slew, this trend of YA books being turned into movies? For a lot of people, it’s easier and more entertaining for them to see a 2 hour long, visually pleasing movie than to read a book. I get it, reading isn’t for everyone, and film can be a really creative, different outlet for a story. But I get the feeling that a lot of these producers and directors want to feed on the money, wanting a piece of the pie. That mindset is their first error.

Let’s take Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. The movie flopped, and with good reason. (Note: I think those books are great and entertaining!) The movie was written to satisfy a teen audience (stereotyping “teens”), and it took the book and turned it into something that it really wasn’t, trying to get on the Twilight train.

YA books are just that: books. Not movies. Rarely do we ever see book adaptations of movies, and in my opinion, I think it should work the other way around too. Books weren’t written with the intention of fitting all of that content into a short movie that focuses on captivating the audience. Most of the time, the hype for the movie is exciting and intriguing, and then the movie is a disappointment.

Hopefully, in a few years, the “craze” will die off, and Hollywood can leave these books on the shelves.

Daredevil works as a TV show- and here’s why

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Daredevil is one of Netflix’s newest productions, and certainly one of the best. Netflix is known for not being afraid of creating the next big TV show, and Daredevil isn’t an exception. Today, season 2 was released onto Netflix, so I’ve decided to chat about what made season 1 so special for me.

My favorite part about this show is the characters. I can’t say we have anything in common (in our lifestyles, not personalities) but I’m constantly wondering which of the main characters I can relate to the most or which is my favorite. These characters are real and hardhitting. When I watch a TV show or read a book, I’m invested in the characters. Daredevil is satisfying for me because of the intense character growth and dynamics. Matt Murdock is a shining star amidst darkness in this world, and that light is spurned from perserverance and his friends. Foggy and Karen provide the audience with a breath of entertaining, sustainable air. I personally wouldn’t want to watch an entire series of blood and action over and over with no plot, but the plot is so rich that it’s completely immersive. There amount of characters is just right so that the writers can build huge arcs with a small group of talented actors. Murdock is developed not just as a hero, but as a person with a small law firm.

On that note, the fighting and details in this show are amazing. It’s different from the rest of the Marvel movies, yet they exist in the same world. Whereas the Marvel movies focus on saving the world, Daredevil hones in on Hell’s Kitchen for a more realistic platform. I know nothing about fighting styles and choreography, yet I can sense the amount of creativity and detail that subtly works itself into the show.

The show is gritty, but it’s personal. This show is full of contrasts, rare and dynamic constrasts that we don’t see enough of on TV. People are drawn to this show, and they don’t know why. Content creators see their audiences as mindless sheep who will eat up anything. Daredevil works because it’s not just action and blood. The blood runs deeper in this show; it flows from the rivers and oceans. Writers are forgetting that good content attracts viewers more than shallow movies do. Daredevil, though, is inspiring in that it doesn’t follow the traditional guidelines.

The villians in this show are a definite highlight. They complete this world, especially Wilson Fisk. The writers took this piece of stone, and instead of gently poking at it like most content does, it creates a masterpiece. Fisk is just as well-developed as any other character, and the actor does an amazing job at performing his role. Fisk is equal parts frightening and relatable; the audience doesn’t know whether to support Fisk or to root for his demise.

This show is an example that all other shows should look to for inspiration. Daredevil is in it’s own league for me. Hopefully, season 2 deliver the show that we’ve been waiting for.

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

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Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

*minor spoilers ahead*

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YA Books for College Students

I’m about to take the next step in my education and go to college! With that being said, sometimes I want a book that deals with what I’m going through or one that I can relate to. YA typically gears towards teenagers in high school, and a common misconception is that all YA is horribly written or immature. I can’t disagree more; YA is unique in that it connects and relates to everyone.

  1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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For those of us who have read this book, I think we can all agree that when we think of college YA books, this comes to mind! Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic author who can relate to young people while still weaving an intricate, beautiful story. I might actually pick this up again for a re-read before I head off. If you enjoy the book as much as I did, the spin-off Carry On is an incredible, well-written fantasy companion.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

2. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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The cover is stunning, yes, but so is the story inside! This debut book took me by surprise; I’m always entertained by retellings, and this book didn’t fail me. I think this book is perfect for college-aged YA lovers because it presents a really mature young women that I could relate to. The love story in this novel is unparalleled. (It also led me to learn more about Sheherazade’s story, and I learned that Sheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, one of my favorite classical pieces of music, is based on her story. So cool!)

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

3. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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Another retelling- I’m sensing a trend! One thing that sets apart more mature YA for me is the character development, and this book is no stranger to strong characters. This book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it’s very captivating, even if you’re familiar with the story.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

4. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

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If you’re in need of a new high fantasy series, look no further! This series isn’t as well-known as the rest, but it’s just as good, if not better. There’s something for everyone in this book since there’s multiple POVs. This series gets better and better with every book.

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.
As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.
The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?
It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side. 

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.
Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.
Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.
Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword….

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