Friday, April 29, 2016

Discussion: What Makes a Good Villain?

I'm sure we've all seen that picture of Dolores Umbridge with the huge, block text that reads, "ADMIT IT. YOU WANTED HER DEAD MORE THAN VOLDEMORT." Not ringing a bell?

Okay, so now we're all up to speed. The thing about this is that it's true! I hate Umbridge so much more than I do Voldemort. And I'm willing to bet that's the same for you. (And if that's not the case, than you're just a tad crazy.) Anyway, sure, it's been years since I first saw this, but I've recently been really thinking about it. What makes those truly nasty, horrible, despicable characters such good villains? 

Picking on the main character's weaknesses

Some villains are just out there, doing what they're doing for "the greater good". The greater good doesn't necessarily involve the main character all that much as an individual, but when the villain is always there, attacking the main character's insecurities and weaknesses, you have to loathe them automatically. 

Another thing is simply when the villain has all the power, and they can easily get away with everything they're doing. Take Umbridge for example. Every last cruel act and horrible rule she got away with because she controlled the law. With the law on her side, there was literally no way for her to get in trouble for what she was doing at Hogwarts. That feeling of powerlessness and despair, when it seems like there's no way out, makes it very easy to hate the villain. 

Being tangible

Another concept I find makes a stronger villain is simply when they're tangible. A luminous villain who lurks around in the back burner of the plot as more of a "concept" than a real being is difficult to actually loathe. Sure, they provide a conflict, but I don't hate them. Which, in some stories, that's perfectly fine, but for many others it's not. 

No redemption 

Some villains in some stories turn good in the end. They see the truth behind their ways, and decide to change. Sometimes, villains have redeeming qualities. Whether they had a messed up childhood, a lost loved one, or some other traumatic experience, there are some cases where you can somewhat sympathize for the antagonist. However, when the villain is purely evil- they simply glow in the fire from the pain of others, it's so much easier to hate them. When a villain's views are purely evil, when they have no moral ethics, and when they just don't seem to care about other people's happiness, boy do I love to loathe them. (At the same time, a complex villain does seem to make for a better character, I just find it easier to sympathize for them.) 

Able to relate to the main character

This is directed more towards the realistic fiction genre, although there are certainly some exceptions, but when an antagonist treats the protagonist in a way you can relate to, I feel like I can dislike the antagonist more. I'm talking about simply being mean, bratty, jealous, or unlike a true friend. When you see a rendition of someone you knew (and weren't particularly fond of) come to life in a book, it's easier to dislike them. 

Love to hate

So what am I saying makes a good villain in my opinion? Someone who isn't just a generic bad guy doing this for the "greater good". When a villain is targeting the protagonist, attacking their weaknesses and insecurities, and taking everything the hero loves most about their world away from them, they end up as a villain we all love to hate. When the villain is a tangible person, someone who could really exist in this world, and someone we actually see occasionally, you get to know them on a level fit for strong dislike. And when the villain has no hope for redemption- everything they do is out of spite, hate for humanity, or personal gain, there just isn't any sympathizing. 

So what do you think makes for a good villain? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Retribution of Mara Dyer

Title: The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Pages: 470
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Purchase this book:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

In this conclusion novel, Mara Dyer wakes up trapped in a research facility. Just as Dr. Kells attempts to kill her, Mara manages to escape with Stella and Jamie. The trio makes their way through the country, searching for answers to their many questions about who they are, and how they got to be in the state that they are. For they aren't just your average mental patients. No. This trio has special powers.

I personally dislike it when the first two books in a series are actually pretty good, and then you get to the last book and it's all very underwhelming. Don't you? That's how this book was for me. I found a lot of it to be quite far fetched, and the rest simply to be filler stuff that didn't really come back into play the rest of the book. 

I won't spoil the book or anything, but the ending was so disjointed, and everything that went down simply didn't add up. None of it was credible. Plus, there were plenty of loose threads that never get tied up. It just wasn't a very good conclusion.

But the thing is, this book probably could've been a nice conclusion. You'd think with 470 pages the author would be able to wrap everything up and get the point across, but she really didn't. The whole beginning of the book was Mara being rather stupid and robot-like. She wasn't snarky, witty, or anything like the Mara we know and love. Then we get to the end, which is pretty much a series of conveniently easy and rather incredible events. There was a lot of this book that just A.) didn't need to happen or B.) shouldn't have been able to happen at all. 

Anyway, why don't we move onto why I gave this book a 3.5 star rating. For me, three stars means that the book was okay, and that I don't really lean either way with it. Anything lower than a three star means I didn't like it, anything higher than a three star means I at least somewhat enjoyed it. I gave The Retribution of Mara Dyer a 3.5 star rating because the whole trilogy, all and all, was good. When I look back at my experience of reading this trilogy, I look back at it positively. I feel like the final book deserves that half a star more. Plus, I did like Jamie's Harry Potter/ Hunger Games/ Lord of the Rings references. And to be fair, I did appreciate the last two pages of the book, and how they tied in to the very beginning of the first book. 

So would I recommend this book to you? Well, assuming you've actually read the first two books, yes. I would recommend you finish up this series. You've already invested in two books, you might as well see how it ends. Would I recommend this trilogy to you? Yes, I would. It's very unique, very new, and very fascinating. 

Other books in this series: 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

RYBSAT Round 8

           Hey guys! I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating in RYBSAT for a second time this year! If you haven't heard of RYBSAT, it's a reading marathon created by Miranda over at BooKss101. RYBSAT stands for Read-Your-Book-Shelf-A-Thon, and it takes place from May 1st to May 8th. In this reading marathon, you choose any location on your bookshelf/random stack of books, and try to read as far as you can from that point onward in one week. If you get to a series, you can skip it as long as you read at least one book from the series. You're also allowed to rearrange your shelf before the marathon begins, and TBR shelves are permitted.

You can check out the official announcement video filmed on Miranda's channel here:

If you're interested in joining in on RYBSAT, be sure to follow their Twitter, because the challenge is run heavily through Twitter. There's practically always a sprint being run by one of the hosts, and they actively retweet all of our TBRs and updates. Make sure to use #RYBSAT whenever you're tweeting about the challenge. 

Lastly, let me know if you're planning on participating in RYBSAT round 8! I've done it before, and I can assure you that it's tons of fun!

Happy Reading,


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ready Player One

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 372
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Purchase this book:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

Living in the brutal world of 2044, Wade isn’t exactly content with his life. His parents dead, he lives with his indifferent aunt in the stacks, and his only escape is the OASIS. Wade isn’t the only one who loses himself in the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, which is essentially a simulation where the world works, attends school, shops, communicates, and lives. With greenhouse gases suffocating the atmosphere, pollution destroying food supplies, and litter spilling over the brims of landfills, most people prefer to enter the made up world created by multi-billionaire James Halliday and act like the world isn’t bursting at the seams. So, the economy in such disarray that people care more about the OASIS currency than the actual world’s money, James Halliday has succeeded in ensnaring the human race.  Wade had been convinced he’d be living with his aunt in a trailer park all his life, until one day, while he was watching TV, breaking news interrupted his show, announcing the death of the idolized James Halliday. But the breaking news wasn’t the death, it was the inheritance, and the fact that Halliday hadn’t left his billions of dollars to a single soul. Instead, he created a contest. James Halliday hid an easter egg deep within the depths of the OASIS, and the first person to find it would be granted his entire fortune. Five years later, Wade is still searching for this egg, and he isn’t any closer to finding it than anybody else.

Whoops- long synopsis. Sorry! Anyway, this book is pretty darn powerful. It is a futuristic novel, and it definitely makes you think about where we're heading. The environment is completely destroyed; the supply of oil has dwindled down to a minimum, and the economy is so unbalanced that the credits used in the OASIS have more importance than actual money. Before I continue telling you how messed up the world is, let's just breeze through the OASIS.

The OASIS stands for the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. It's a mouthful, I know, but it essentially a simulator that allows you to immerse yourself in a virtual world where your senses still function. And the OASIS is where the world spends literally every last drop of its freetime. On the train going to work? Log on to the OASIS. Sitting down to eat at a restaurant? To the OASIS. Running early? Quickly jump on to the OASIS. Most students attend school on the OASIS, and many people work from home via the OASIS. I'm sure you can see some up sides to this- but the world has actually chosen to ignore all their problems by immersing themselves in a virtual world. They are choosing to ignore reality.

Ok but where does James Halliday fall into all of this? He's simply the creator of the OASIS. Yes, it is by his hands this monster was created. I'm sure you can guess how much money he's attained through this, as well. To put it simply, he's a multibillionaire. And then one day, James Halliday died. Oddly enough, he didn't leave his fortune to anyone. Not a single soul. Instead he launched a wild hunt for the egg that represented his billions of money, as well as control of the OASIS itself. So our main character, Wade, has dedicated his life to becoming a gunter. (A.K.A a person who hunts for the egg.)

But what did I think of this masterpiece of a novel? It was brilliant! I loved it! It really, truly touches on some important topics. And does show you how people are starting to think- how we're often turning to a world trapped in a device rather than the real one we have. How ignoring our problems never actually makes them go away- it just makes them less of a bothersome.

But not only are the deeper subjects beautifully incorporated- it was a good story! I was drawn in from the start, and after that I was never bored. There were so many unexpected twists and turns. It was just such a captivating, powerful story.

So really, if you haven't already read Ready Player One, add it to the TBR pile. Because you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Eye Catching Book Covers

Earlier this year, I made a post about all my least favorite book covers. (You can see that post here.) But today, we are talking all about those beautiful covers!

I personally find that minimalistic book covers catch my attention more so than books with a lot going on. However, I like illustrated covers more than actual photographs. What do you think makes for a good cover?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Swap

Title: The Swap
Author: Megan Shull
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 382
Rating: 4 Stars
Purchase this book:
AmazonBarnes & Noble • Book Depository

Ellie had her life figured out until middle school started, and suddenly her best friend dumped her for the new girl.

Jack's life has been tough ever since his mother died, and his father's heart hardened into ice.

When the two run into each other under unfortunate circumstances, they end up switching bodies- and lives- taking on one another. But will this switch help the two
improve their lives, or will they ruin each other?

This book, no doubt, is quite funny. Watching two middle schoolers switch bodies is bound to be. However, I still found that I had a few problems with this book.

For starters, I don't think it was all that realistic. I don't really think that the way Jack and his friends act throughout the book accurately represents the way eighth grade boys act. And Ellie's "best friend" Sassy? Well, nobody would actually look up to Sassy if she's mean like that, that's just not the way it works. (I actually find this a lot in books or media, where the popular girl is portrayed as mean and bratty when that's just not how it is in real life- or at least that wouldn't be the reason people respect her.)

I also disliked the way the book demoralized women. Throwing around jokes like, "don't be such a girl", or "if I were a girl, I'd be crying right now, but I'm not" is so insensitive and flat out offensive. That's so incredibly annoying to read. I get that that's a bit of a stereotype currently- that girls are weak- but The Swap is written by a woman, and I personally think she'd turned those types of comments down to a minimum. Instead, it's a prevalent guideline by which Jack and his friends live their lives.

All that aside, I did find the book enjoyable. It was funny and lighthearted, but still had a deeper meaning about what it means to be a friend- and a family. Plus, I really liked all the characters. Each one was developed very nicely, and they all had very distinct personalities.

I found the end a little predictable, but I still feel like the story wrapped up nicely. The overall plot line was sweet and touching. Watching these two attempt to navigate each other's lives not only teaches you sympathy, but it proves that nobody's as simple as they seem on the outside. Everybody's fighting their own battle, and you shouldn't act like you know everyone's story. Four stars to The Swap for a lovely life lesson.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Intimidating Books

When I look at my TBR list, there are definitely books that I simply struggle to bring myself to read. Whether it be their length, plot, or genre, there's a reason each one of these books has yet to be read by me. Let's discuss which ones are on my personal list, and which are on yours! 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I've heard nothing by fantastic things about this book, and multiple people have recommended it to me. However, this book it pretty lengthy, and it's sequel even lengthier. Add that to the fact that it's high fantasy- and you've got the recipe for an intimidating book. 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Here's another novel I've heard nothing but good things about. However, despite the fact that I own this book, I haven't actually read the Grisha trilogy. I know that it isn't required that you read the Grisha trilogy first, but I'd rather have anyway. Reading Six of Crows means that I'll have to read an entire trilogy that's not even supposed to be all that good. That personally intimidates me.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I know that this book is supposed to be really good. I own it, and I've read many of the blurbs on the back that compare it to Harry Potter. Honestly, the only reason I'm scared to open this book up is simply because of how good it's supposed to be. Catriona over at Little Book Owl said finishing this book felt similar to finishing Illuminae, and finishing Illuminae for me resulted in not being able to crack open a book for a good handful of days. Scary! 

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige
This book certainly doesn't appear intimidating, and it's not. It's super short, and I can probably finish it up in one sitting. However, I think that's what intimidates me. I really, really loved Dorothy Must Die, the first book in this trilogy, and was ultimately disappointed reading The Wicked Will Rise. I was hoping the finale book would wrap it up nicely, and be much better than book two, but it's just so short in comparison to both books one and two. I'm worried that this book will completely ruin my appreciation for Dorothy Must Die. 

So that's it for my intimidating TBR list! What are some books you're apprehensive about cracking open? 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Title: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Pages: 527
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Purchase this book here:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleBook Depository

In this continuation novel, Mara Dyer knows she's being stalked by her ex boyfriend, Jude Lowe. Unfortunately, considering her frequent hallucinations, PTSD, and the mere fact that Jude is supposed to be dead, nobody seems to believe her. The only person on the face of the Earth who truly knows that Mara is telling the truth is her boyfriend, Noah Shaw. But she and Shaw are linked in more ways than meets the eyes. Mara destroys while Noah heals, and she's supposed to love him to ruins.

There's definitely a shift in overall mood between book one and book two. Book one's plot was pretty much all stuff that could scientifically happen. All her hallucinations and PTSD symptoms were things that absolutely could happen. And I think I liked that better. The realism was what made it so interesting for me. The fact that everything taking place could actually happen held a certain amount of interest for me. It made it very unique and original. But, between the end of book one and book two, it shifts into a more fantastical genre. Suddenly special powers develop, and we've moved away from realistic fiction into fantasy. This was probably the main reason this book dropped half a star from book one.

But this doesn't go to mean I didn't like the book. I still did like it. It was interesting, fast paced, and original. The simplicity of the plot allows for more complicated concepts to be introduced without it all being too overwhelming. And I do still like the eerie, creepy aura surrounding the plot. I mean, and stalker is pretty creepy. But the problem with Jude being alive for me was I found it difficult to believe Mara. For about half the book I was strongly supporting her therapists' recommendations to transfer to a residential institute, because I was convinced she really was crazy. I'm pretty sure you're actually supposed to side with the main character from the start, but I did get there eventually. 

I must be honest with you, I'm not a huge Noah fan, either. I really don't feel the chemistry between him and Mara, and I find their whole relationship to be rather insta-lovey.  Plus I miss getting to see her brothers as much. We hardly get to see Daniel and Joesph- it's always Noah she turns to. 

Okay so maybe I'm making it sound like I don't like The Evolution of Mara Dyer, but I swear I did! Overall it was a nice read and a good continuation. I'm relatively excited to find out what happens next. This is definitely a unique series, and I recommend giving it a shot. 

 Other books in this series:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March Wrap Up

Hello! The month of March has come to an end, which mean Spring is in full bloom. (For some reason there's still snow,  though.) Anyway, today I bring you a wrap up for the month of March!

 • R e v i e w s •
~ Covers linked to review ~


• P o s t s •
Books I Want to Re Read
Childhood Favorites
Green Books
Books for the Beach
Minor Characters Who Play Major Roles

This month, I was nominated for the Infinity Dreams Award (thanks Eve!), I made a list of books I want to re read this year, and brought back some books from when I was younger. I also made an aesthetically pleasing collage of green books of St. Patty's day, and gave you my favorite books for spring break. At the end of the month, we discussed some minor characters who play major roles.

• B o o k s  I  A c q u i r e d •


 • F a v o r i t e  B o o k  •

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight is the first novel in Cassie's newest trilogy, the Dark Artifices. I absolutely loved it, and gave it a well deserved 5 star review. It follows the story of Julian and Emma, two parabatai who've committed a terrible, unforgivable crime: they fell in love. Not only does this story throw you back into the Shadowhunter world we all love, you get to catch up on what's been happening with the characters we met in the Mortal Instruments.

• F a v o r i t e  V i d e o •

My favorite video this month was Christine's interview with Cassandra Clare, because, well, it's Cassandra Clare being interviewed by Christine. Who else watched it? 

Thanks for sticking with me this month! What was March like for you? And what was your favorite book you got, read, or reviewed this month?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Code Name Verity

Title: Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1)
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pages: 332
Stars: 4
Purchase this book:
AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

After her plane crashed in France, "Verity" gets captured while the pilot, her best friend, escaped. In order to survive, Verity is forced to write the truth of what happened to her and what her mission was.

This book is told through Verity's written account of what her mission was. And, while I did like the book, I found it to be extremely slow. It took me forever to get through, and it never really sped up. There's only one or two pages I can think of that sped up to the point that I was truly immersed in the novel. The rest of the time I was simply waiting for the chapter to end. 

Pacing aside, I did like the book. My rating says as much. I love WWII novels, and it's awesome to see such a great one in YA fiction. The writing style was very exquisite as well, and the different character were all developed so nicely that I was instantly able to truly care and relate to them. My favorite character was definitely "Verity", because she was just so feisty and full of unapologetic sarcasm and attitude. I love a good, snarky character- and Verity was just that! 

I must say that some of the more technical parts left me rather confused. Anytime she mentioned any function within an airplane, I was instantly lost. And all the different acronyms or ranks or offices are still jumbled together in my mind. But these are all things that aren't necessarily essential to understanding the plot. 

I found the overall story of this book- two best friends trying to make it through a war- to be so inspiring and sweet. I love it when a story feature a true, female friendship, because they're so often portrayed as catty or spiteful, and seeing Verity and Kittyhawk's devoted friendship was really nice. 

So I would recommend this book to you if you're willing to sit back and take your time reading this novel, because it is worth it. It's beautifully written and beautifully plotted, and the author really knows what she's talking about. It might take you a few pages to get used to the writing and to understand what's exactly going on, but once you do, it all comes together. I hope you give Code Name Verity a try!