Review of “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer 1Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: Mara Dyer Book One
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 456
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance


BLURB:

Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong

Chronicle Review by Audrey:

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a story told considering multiple aspects and different points of view.  A tale primarily of love, but with the complexity of hidden pasts, forgotten memories and familial ties, this book is elaborate and unforgettable.  A friend of mine first recommended this book to me.  Before I even started reading, I was already excited because I saw the enthusiasm she had while reading it and I wanted to experience it for myself.  I read this book a while back and although it took me a few moments to recall each scene,  the details all came flooding back to me.

This book immediately plunges the strong female lead, Mara, into the waters of experiencing a new school and dealing with traumatic events in her past. The development of this protagonist begins the moment you meet her.  Although I didn’t always agree with her choices, I still understood them and felt connected to her. You cannot talk about the characters without bring up Noah Shaw as he is the leading male role. From the onset, his personality and quick witted banter, especially with Mara, make him (subjectively) lovable. The dynamics these two provide throughout the book make it enjoyable. I find I am not envious of their rapport, but while reading, it is apparent the author carefully constructed their entire relationship. Of course, when discussing notable characters in this book, I couldn’t dare leave out the highly lovable and most entertaining character, Jamie.  With his own baggage and highly sarcastic and humorous personality, he provides comic relief throughout The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Honestly, there are so many characters that have close ties with Mara that I could continue gushing about them, but I guess I will cut short and just hope that you take it upon yourself to discover them personally.

The plot holds many different avenues that could make the book too hectic and disorganized, but with well thought-out plans and clearly an endgame, Michelle Hodkin didn’t lose any aspect of the story to chaos. I found this story enjoyable and the complex details brought life to each of the characters. Without the author’s plans, the crucial backstory would be weakened, inevitably making it a sub-pair read. Every detail in this book mattered, and all of the subtle particulars added to the overall experience. Some books are so focused on making everything a big significance, to the point where it doesn’t feel as relate-able to our everyday lives as it should. In The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the small aspects are what we can connect to and use to build a love or hatred towards each character. 

This book, if you haven’t noticed already, kind of makes me rant. Even while I am writing this, I find myself eager to reread it. The execution of the story overall makes it one of my favorites and makes me teeter-totter between the rating below and one higher.

Audrey’s Rating: 5/6
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My Book Series Reading Wish List

Despite the many book series I have read, it feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the infinite library of possibilities I want to decipher. Some of these series have been recommended to me personally and others have just caught my eye at one time or another.  Listed below are the Top 20 Series I want to conquer! At least the top 20 that are currently queued at this moment…but tomorrow, I’m sure I will discover more to add to this list.  (Quick note: I am only listing books that have already been published, many of these series are on-going with new releases planned in the future.  I noted an “+” next to the number of books released under each specific series if a new release is impending.)

20.)   How to Hang a Witch by Adrianna Mather (2)
How to Hang A Witch 1 copy   How to Hang A Witch 2

19.)   Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia (5)
Beautiful Creatures 1   Beautiful Creatures 2   Beautiful Creatures 2.5   Beautiful Creatures 3   Beautiful Creatures 4

18.)   If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2)
If I Stay 1   If I Stay 2

17.)   Matched by Ally Condie (3)
Matched 1   Matched 2   Matched 3

16.)   Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (2)
Wintersong 1   Wintersong 2

15.)   The Veil Diaries by B.L. Brunnemer (4)
The Veil Diaries 1   The Veil Diaries 2   The Veil Diaries 3   The Veil Diaries 4

(14.)   The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (3+)
The Kingkiller Chronicles 1   The Kingkiller Chronicles 2   The Kingkiller Chronicles 2.5

(13.)   The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid (2+)
The Diabolic 1   The Diabolic 2

12.)   Soul Savers by Kristie Cook (8)
Soul Savers .5  Soul Savers 1  Soul Savers 2  Soul Savers 3  Soul Savers 4  Soul Savers 5  Soul Savers 6  Soul Savers 7

11.)   Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (6+)
Red Queen .1  Red Queen .1-.2  Red Queen .2  Red Queen 1  Red Queen 2  Red Queen 3

10.)   The Dark Artifaces by Cassandra Clare (2+)
The Dark Artifices 1   The Dark Artifices 2

9.)    The Diviners by Libba Bray (3+)
The Diviners 1   The Diviners 2   The Diviners 3

8.)    Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (6+)
Throne of Glass .1-.5   Throne of Glass 1   Throne of Glass 2   Throne of Glass 3   Throne of Glass 4   Throne of Glass 5   Throne of Glass 6

7.)    Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (2+)
Stalking Jack the Ripper 1   Stalking Jack the Ripper 2

6.)    The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (3)
The Grisha 1   The Grisha 2   The Grisha 3

5.) Habiscus Daughter Series by Lana Popovic’ (2+)
Habiscus Daughter 1   Habiscus Daughter 2

4.)    The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele (2+)
The Marked Girl 1   The Marked Girl 2

3.)    Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (4)
Hush Hush 1   Hush Hush 2   Hush Hush 3   Hush Hush 4

2.)    Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin (3)
Mara Dyer 1   Mara Dyer 2   Mara Dyer 3

1.)    Haunted Hearts Legacy by A.G. Howard (2+)
Haunted Hearts Legacy 1   Haunted Hearts Legacy 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of “Stranger Things” on Netflix

Stranger ThingsTitle: Stranger Things
Network: Netflix Original
First Aired:
July 15, 2016-Season One, October 27, 2017-Season Two
Seasons:
2
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rating: TV-14


BLURB:

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.

Current Crusades Review by Audrey:

Arguably one of the hottest shows out right now, Stranger Things is a TV series that honestly, I was tentative to write about. I mean, how can you say something about a new hype that most likely has had almost everything said about it by others.  However, after some coaxing, I figured that since it is one of my favorite shows, it is only right for my thoughts to be voiced as well.

From beginning to end, I was captured by the 1980’s setting.  This excellent cast is one to remember.  These actors are lucky to have a natural camaraderie that easily transitions onto the screen while they are interpreting complex characters in the midst of a  phenomenal plot-line.  I’ve noticed things sometimes tend to go haywire and overboard in most alien and supernatural shows.  Not the case with Stranger Things! The delicate balance between the supernatural and normal remains in the dome of believable and never breaches it’s apex.  The show is able to maintain the improbable story-line without going into an abyss of ridiculousness.   

The transition from modern 2010’s to the 1980’s atmosphere is impressive. The creators of this innovative series, transport the viewer back in time to an authentic and spot-on portrayal of this distinct decade. Well, from what my parents tell me of the 80’s, as I have not experienced it myself.

I am not hard to please, but I do hold high standards for shows that I consider among my favorites. From accurately capturing the 1980’s and the believability of these supernatural creatures and ideas, to the excellent soundtrack, and to the realistic representation of each character’s’ psyche, the creators and actors successfully balance everything that could make this intriguing series go under. This TV show brings a special drama that I have not seen for a long time. The innocence and humor presented by this normal group of friends makes me wish I was younger, as it was a time when I felt that anything seemed possible.

Stranger Things is a show that I cannot forgot. When I finished season one, immediately I began to do research on when the second season would be out. I had been anxiously waiting for it’s release and delightedly, after binge watching it, I was not disappointed.  My expectations after watching Season One  were quite high and I am happy to say that Season Two is an amazing continuance. I am excited for what is to come.

Audrey’s Rating: 6/6
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Review of “The Waking Moon” by Wattpad Author T.J. McGuinn

The Waking MoonTitle: The Waking Moon
Author: T.J. McGuinn (Wattpad – @tjmcguinn)

Series: N/A
Status: Completed
Parts: 41
Genre: Teen Fiction, Romance


BLURB:

Paulette’s life is in shambles. Her sister is dead, her mother is a drunk, and she’s been forced to transfer into a chaotic public school full of bullies. Things go from bad to worse when, one night while driving them home from dinner, her intoxicated mother hits and kills a teenage boy and is sent to jail. Now Paulette is truly alone. But when the teenage boy mysteriously comes back from the dead looking for Paulette, she finds herself face to face with the purest love on earth.

Concealed Crowns Review by Wendy:

This is yet another one of those Wattpad books that I have had endlessly waiting to be read in my library queue.  After finishing this book, over the period of just a couple  insomniac nights, (I may add)  I am disappointed in myself that I hadn’t read it sooner.  This book was surprisingly really good.  I was impressed with the author.  The Preface is captivating.  Immediately the opening address in the first line caught my attention and held it through all 39 chapters!  In fact, as I was nearing the end, around chapter 36, I found myself checking again to see how many chapters the author allotted to wrap up this fantasy.

The Waking Moon, although listed only under YA Romance Genre, encompasses so much more. I found this story really touching.  I connected to the characters, their quirks, personalities, shortfalls, fears and emotions.  Even though I personally feel strong disgust towards individuals who choose to drink and drive, I was almost surprised to feel as much empathy as I did for Paulette’s mom, who is guilty of the intolerable act.  The story is more complex than the quick synopsis above describes.  McGuinn describes an alternate realm of an afterlife scenario that I hadn’t begun to conceptualize.

As a fellow introvert, I felt I understood Paulette (Paulie).  As a mom of young adults, I just really wanted to hug her and help her deal with the heavy circumstances in her life. As the story unfolds other imperative characters are introduced and as we discover the heavy circumstances also in their lives, I find myself wanting to hug them too and well, I just wanted to take them all in!

I have confessed previously that I am any easy crier.  I will admit it once again…the ending of this book also invoked my eyes to leak and my nose to stuff.  I won’t give away spoilers because I encourage others to also read it.  It was  worth while fiction that addressed serious topics.  T.J. McGuinn’s story included some undoubtedly sobering ideas, but she integrated them smoothly amidst the commotion surrounding her characters. She brought the story full circle, joining THE END back to that captivating Preface!  

Wendy’s Review: 4/6
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Review of “A Kiss in Costume” by Wattpad Author London Sutterby

A Kiss in CostumeTitle: A Kiss in Costume
Author: London Sutterby (Wattpad @elsetterby)
Release Date: March 18, 2016
Parts: 4
Genre: Short Story, Romance

Watty’s 2016 HQ Love Award Winner

BLURB:

This Halloween, Maggie Juarez just wants to nerd out on the finer points of period costume design in her hand-made Regency ballgown and try to ignore her painful, awkward crush on beautiful ice-queen Samantha Winters. But Sam is impossible to ignore, especially when she shows up to a party dressed–perfectly–as Mr. Darcy. She can’t be trying to attract Maggie’s attention…can she?

Wendy’s Condensed-Concealed Crown Review:

I spent another insomniac night concentrating on the words illuminated by my phone’s glow.  I started a couple different books on Wattpad, but quickly became frustrated with  each one while trying to decipher the clunky delivery of what I initially thought were promising story concepts. After deleting two failed reading attempts, I was hoping I would finally find sleep soon…optimistically, my next choice was the short story, A Kiss in Costume.

A Kiss in Costume takes place at a party on Halloween.  (Hmmm, well that’s appropriate timing!) This sweet little snapshot was so refreshing, especially after the evening’s two previous reading attempts to engage my mind turned out to be so dismal. The author expertly describes the scene where this short story ensues. My quick summation-a Halloween party in a crowded apartment full of costume donning high-school students all hanging out while hip-hop blares so loud each partier feels it through their feet to their chest.  In just four short chapters, London Sutterby manages to eloquently describe Maggie and Sam’s churning emotions while discerning their counterpart’s motives, despite the composed facade each girl portrays.  The dialogue in each of these young ladies minds is so relatable.  It is such a normal step in a very human process of establishing a personal connection with someone new. 

Maggie and Sam each have two chapters written from their perspective.  The inner dialogue of each protagonist depicts her own insecurities and her interpretations (or misinterpretations) of others’ actions. Each girl holds concerns similar to those that most of us have experienced in comparable situations in our own lives.  Again, the thoughts and emotions of these two typical teenagers are so relatable!

In my tired state at 3AM after I finished reading this very short story, my mind continued to ponder…In general, our society’s center of attention is misplaced. In our world today, especially as of late, where tremendous focus has been placed on hate and prejudice, we should be concentrating more on the factors that make us similar and less on those that set us apart. Through the emotions and insecurities of Maggie and Sam, London Sutterby beautifully illustrated a conventional situation from the perspective of an unconventional relationship.  For me, the bigger picture includes finding common ground in our experiences and in the way we feel and process emotions. It really shouldn’t matter your sexual orientation, skin color, nationality, political affiliation or heritage, we are all just people.  Seriously, can we please apply the Golden Rule? Treat others like you want to be treated I want for my own kids and now especially my grandchildren to live in a world where people are people and we can see past our differences. (I grew up in the 80’s, can you hear the Depeche Mode song like I just did?

As representatives of modern society in 2017, we should be beyond hateful prejudices and racism.  After reading A Kiss in Costume, I realize I may be alone in feeling this level of inspiration from this cute little story which caused me to rant, but for now, that’s okay.  Maybe someone else who reads my energized thoughts will also be energized…? Implementing the Golden Rule in our own actions and pay if forward. 

Wendy’s Rating: 5/6
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Review of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

A Brave New WorldTitle: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Release Date: September 1st, 1998
Pages:
268 (paperback)
Genre: Dystopian


BLURB:

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Chronicle Review by Audrey:

Books based in the future all have a different take on how life will be for the world later on.  Brave New World is a dystopian future based off of a “perfect society” or utopia.  Aldous Huxley focuses on the imperfections in utopia, creating an ironic situation where the citizens believe they are purified.

From the beginning, I knew this book was going to capture my attention. This prospective society is completely different from ours today.   It is purely amazing, and a little scary, at how Huxley’s mind conceived this futuristic society.  After every chapter, I was stupefied with the outrageous standards people were forced to live by in this contrasting civilization. Language terms, we consider innocuous, such as “mother”, “father”, and “birth” among many others, were considered as smut words.  The comical and outrageous ideals held by those so young, provide a feeling that is indescribable. I could not possibly go into all of the details of the book that made it so…amazing.  There are too many things too difficult to explain, so all I can do is tell you to trust me, and read it for yourself.  

The author fabricates no emotional ties connecting his readers to the characters. Bernard Marx, Lenina and even characters like Helmholtz, never instilled any sort of need to protect them, much less like them.  This lack of attachment only emphasized the  preposterous aspect to their society.  The ridiculous standards in this culture and excessive use of the drug soma, made a sort of laughter erupt as their continued actions technically followed expectations, but are overwhelmingly different from what we expect in our realm today. 

I do not believe I can stress enough that civilization as we know and recognize it could not be any more different from this brave new world.  Though, if we dare to compare some underlying factors, like stereotypes and following the status quo, our civilizations seem to be a similar match.  This brings thoughts that go to consider science and how we may not be so completely far off from this technologically advanced society in the future.

Audrey’s Rating: 5/6
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Review of “Wings of Arian” by Devri Walls

Wings of ArianTitle: Wings of Arian
Author: Devri Walls
Series: The Solus Series
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 462
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal


BLURB:

Kiora thought she had never heard a lie until she was sixteen. But she was wrong. Her entire existence was based on nothing but. She thought that evil did not exist. Lie. That magic was not real. Lie. And that the land of Meros was all there was. One more lie.

With Aleric telling her that evil is knocking on the door and that she is the only one who can stop them she has a choice to make. Refuse, or start the wildest most painful ride of her life.  She reluctantly dips her toe into her new existence of magic and threads, dragons and shapeshifters, and the person who wants to take control of it all: the evil Dralazar. 

However, this journey was never meant to be hers alone. She will be accompanied by a Protector. To her disbelief, and utter irritation they name the hotheaded, stubborn, non -magical, (albeit gorgeous) Prince Emane. They will have to trust each other with their lives, but right now Kiora would settle for a non hostile conversation. 

And now it comes down to this, If you had never heard a lie, would you know when you heard one? Is knowing good from evil innate? Kiora finds herself having to decide who lives and who dies on those very questions.

Chronicle Review by Wendy:

Before starting this book I was intent on finding a book to read that would go along the lines of a supernatural theme for October and Halloween.  I am not a fan of being scared, not in my reading material and not in anything I watch.  I might be a little bit of a ninny, but I’m actually okay with that.  I had seen Wings of Arian on other reviewers’ sites and it peaked my interest.  After sifting through so many options, I settled on the first installment in the Solus Series, despite the fact it may not correlate exactly with our attempt at a Halloween theme this month.  

Wings of Arian is a pretty smooth read.  The fantastical world containing magical creatures and powers conceived by Devri Walls is imaginative, yet easy to picture.  Her characters discover unlimited possibilities while navigating their feelings, conquering their fears and pushing themselves far beyond their limits! Each individual is compelled to ‘dig deep’ while they are deciphering what is right or wrong and forced to take a stand in a timeless war between good and evil.  The main protagonists are just young teens, the Solus and her Protector.  The pair, Kiora and Emane, grow so much in this first book, not only in their abilities and powers but also in their awareness of this newly-discovered magical world existing right within their familiar one.  As a reader, it was enjoyable to discover this colorful universe alongside them. 

Devri Walls is excellent at encouraging the reader to feel connections with her characters. This story is rich in the development of multiple players while each individual maneuvers his or her way through layers of dynamics including relatable concepts of prejudice, love, family, and responsibility.  Kiora is highly emotional.  Her sensitivity is both a great strength and a great weakness.  At one point, I found myself thinking… “Wow! This girl cries more than I do!” (As I am the biggest sap at our house, it takes a lot of tears to out-cry me!) And right after thinking that, the author had Emane acknowledge Kiora’s abundance of tears and even called her out on it.  It was good timing for a quick internal chuckle from me.  The book is not short on action.  Good and evil forces use opposing perceptions of history and unique magical abilities to strategically outwit and battle each other. I am interested to see Kiora and Emane’s journey continue in the second book, Wings of Tavea.

Wendy’s Rating: 4/6
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