Title: The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: Mara Dyer Book Two
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Mara Dyer knows she isn’t crazy. She knows that she can kill with her mind, and that Noah can heal with his. Mara also knows that somehow, Jude is not a hallucination. He is alive. Unfortunately, convincing her family and doctors that she’s not unstable and doesn’t need to be hospitalised isn’t easy. The only person who actually believes her is Noah. But being with Noah is dangerous and Mara is in constant fear that she might hurt him. She needs to learn how to control her power, and fast! Together, Mara and Noah must try and figure out exactly how Jude survived when the asylum collapsed, and how he knows so much about her strange ability…before anyone else ends up dead!
The Evolution of Mara Dyer is a good continuance to the first book of the series. With more threats of death, and the development of both Mara’s and Noah’s intertwined backstory, the progression of the story sets up even more impending peril that these two protagonists may not be able to make it through.
In the first book, Mara discovers things about herself that changed her life forever. When the second book arises, Mara has to confront these changes, even though she may not know how to handle new truths about herself. Noah takes it upon himself to assist Maya to work through her conflicted feelings and beliefs. He tries to show her that she has to control her fears, no matter how scary the consequences. On the other hand, Mara tries to help Noah with his own self-worth.
Julian provides the major conflict in the story, but forces Mara and Noah to even further confront the deepest of their fears.
The lovable characters that we met in the first book add to the development of this tragedy. Jamie adds much needed humor and makes this overall dark(ish) plot line just a little brighter. Without characters like Jamie and Daniel, the book would be flatter and have less substance as they bring balance to the whole story. I believe that the “minor” and “secondary” characters are more important than some people give them credit for, as they bring details that harmonize and add life to the series as a whole. The Evolution of Mara Dyer is definitely a book that contains amazing characters who directly pertain to the saga. Michelle Hodkin’s writing avoids useless plot holes, making nothing and no one useless.
Title: Bad Boys with Wings
Author: Jojo B (Wattpad=@Jojo_B)
Series: BBWW Sequel 1-Completed April 1, 2017
Status: Completed January 27, 2017
**Watty Awards Winner 2016**
Four bad boys, something definitely different about them. Not only have they started creating a lot of trouble in the area since their arrival, but there’s something more, something inhuman.
Vienna is a girl with issues. Anger finds its way to her quickly, and what’s more is that she always gets the sense she’s being watched.
A story about a difficult girl and four fallen angels, as well as a lot of arson, assault, disaster, drunkenness and a guardian angel?
Bad Boys with Wings turned out differently than I expected from when I began reading. Disclaimer…this story includes more than four bad boys, however the four referred to in the above blurb turned out to be my favorites. Jojo B. scripted an interesting story and created complex characters. Her writing even invoked me to feel defensive on their behalf, multiple times! Some of the injustices afflicted on these ‘bad boys’ continues to fuel my feelings of reproach.
Vienna is complicated girl with a sullen temperament. I appreciated the gains she made through her struggles and dilemmas, but I am a little disappointed that she didn’t emerge with more maturity and insight regarding her future at the conclusion of the story. Vienna’s siblings both feel genuine in their actions and in the dynamics between all the character interactions. Her older sister is dependably a sweetheart and her younger brother’s actions are consistent with other 15 year old adolescents I have known.
Jojo B. weaved together familiar circumstances occurring within a relatable family and their daily routines, but included supernatural interference which helped keep this story from becoming predictable and mundane. The characters were each distinct and throughout the story performed true to their described personalities.
Without giving too much away, the story ended on a positive note, tying up loose ends for an ideal conclusion. I however, actually preferred the alternate ending in an additional chapter titled #The Exorcist. I’ve confessed before that I tend to get emotional which can otherwise be described as being a crybaby. I did shed a few tears in a couple of ending chapters, so that is testament to the attachment I felt for these characters and their story. I think I preferred the alternate ending because it was less cliché, but overall, Bad Boys with Wings was an enjoyable story.
-The Harry Potter Series
-True Reign and Cage of Secrets
Medieval Tuscany, Italy
-The River In Time Series
19th Century England
-The Infernal Devices Series
-Dorothy Must Die Series
-Brave New World
–The Dark Side of The Forest
Author: Melissa Haag
Series: Judgement of the Six, Book 5
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
I hate. I thought I hated before the letter, before the werewolves, but now I understand that was nothing more than a chip on my shoulder. The urbat took what was mine. They will pay.
Isabelle leads a very normal life…for an emotional syphon. If not for Ethan and his bar, she would have lost her sanity long ago. But everything changes with the crash of her fighting cage and a man who transforms into a wolf. There’s something about Carlos—when he’s not growling at her—that makes her do things she wouldn’t normally do, like sigh and daydream.
Attraction aside, she is faced with the very real evidence that werewolves and urbat exist, and the urbat are after her.And the only way she can keep Ethan safe is to join with the werewolves and Carlos. It’s a race against time to stop a war, fight for love, and find the last Judgement.
The fifth installment of the Judgement of the Six series kicks it up a notch. Isabelle is the fighter of the group, so naturally there is more action in her story. As an emotional siphon, Isabelle considers herself a danger to anyone who is in her close proximity and certainly anyone she physically touches. As the summoned emotions swell inside her, Isabelle uses physical activity like running as a way of expelling the overload of feelings. Sparring is an excellent release, but the superior emotional purge is actual fighting, and she is a beast of an opponent. Her fierce assault serves both her sister Judgements and werewolves alike while she is defending against the Urbat.
Despite unconsciously drawing the emotions of anyone around her, Isabelle has learned to protect her own heart by ironically not allowing herself to acknowledge her own feelings. She is similar to her other Judgement sisters striving to protect others by isolating herself both physically and emotionally, but Isabelle’s segregation is the most extreme. She is somewhat cynical and blunt in her expression. To me, she is a welcome addition to the personalities of the Judgements.
The plot continues to develop throughout this book, however the ending leaves you hanging more than any previous books in this series so far. I am now really ready to read (Sur)Real, the sixth installment and conclusion in this exciting series by Melissa Haag.
Title: Jane the Virgin
Network: The CW
Running: 2014 – Current
Genre: Comedy, Drama
A young, devout Catholic woman discovers that she was accidentally artificially inseminated.
As you can tell, I am a binge watcher, especially when it comes to television series on the CW. Jane the Virgin is another series on the ever growing lists of shows I am currently waiting for to return from its long winter hiatus. I watch Jane the Virgin for the over-dramatic, and romanticized lifestyle of Jane Villanueva.
In season one, we meet the characters that you will either grow to love, hate, or become indifferent to. With Michael’s and Rafael’s love for Jane, a love triangle forms that rocks the boat every chance it gets. I am not typically an admirer of dramatic love triangles, however I was pleased in the way this particular triangle develops, making the turmoil and end results understandable, even if I would not have made the same choices as Jane. Truthfully, this is what I need most out of any narrative. To be able to understand the decisions each character makes so they become more human and you can begin to envision yourself in their shoes.
When season two hits, the story progresses and becomes even more intertwined with double crossing and murder that brings a hysterical hint as it feels very juxtaposed to the love the characters have with one another. Adding in more elements of love, Jane’s choice with how to raise her son, Mateo, the day to day struggles of parenting and the goals she wants to accomplish create a very apparent reality.
Season three takes a break from the love triangle. The characters try to find themselves as tragedy strikes. Learning to deal with the repercussions of their previous actions, the main characters have to live with the heartbreak that loss brings and then how to move forward with the life they intended. Rafael, Jane, and Petra are brought together as these losses brought forth fear in all of them that hadn’t been as present before. I found that this depiction of the fear of failure was very accurate and slowed the show down, a very needed change in pace because in the beginning it was thrust into fast forward.
Over all, Jane the Virgin is a show I would recommend. I enjoy the cheesy narrator, the comedic situations, and all of the lovable characters. This series really embodies the blunders in life (of course with a bit more exaggeration).
Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Release Date: December 19, 1843
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Fantasy, Holiday
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”
The holiday season brings the chance to give, and what better gift is there than one of the most beloved stories in the English language? This year, we at Atria Books are offering a free ebook edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the perfect companion for a cozy night by the fire.
Since its publication in 1843, A Christmas Carol and the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge have become literary classics. Illuminated with practical scholarship and questions for discussion, this edition makes a charming package that includes the facts behind the fiction, as well as the pure joy and magic of this timeless tale about the true meaning of Christmas.
This is one of the rare classic novels on our ‘To Read’ shelf that I was looking forward to reading. This story has been re-told so many times that I felt I already had a pretty good idea of the overall plot and flow. After reading it, yes, my preconceived impression of this classic tale proved to be correct, however, the actual novel by far exceeded my expectations!
Charles Dickens’s original version of this classic tale is superior to many of the other interpretations, including the plethora of movies that have been released since. In this book, I felt so much more connected to Ebenezer Scrooge (I didn’t see that coming). Reading the book specifically from his point of view, intrigued my interest in this familiar story and created a connection between the reader and Mr. Scrooge. My previous impression of Mr. Scrooge, I believe, was very cliche. I viewed him as a grumpy old man, greedy and uncaring. After reading the Ebenezer Scrooge Charles Dickens created, I saw him as more complex man, lonely and entrenched in habit and self-preservation. Scrooge’s loneliness was completely self-imposed, but not necessarily intentional. After understanding more of his history, we realize his frugal ways and cold demeanor is more a result of a defense mechanism he developed from a young age to safeguard his own feelings and person.
My favorite part of the whole book was how genuine Ebenezer’s epiphany transformed the crotchety old grump. After all the ends were tied up and conclusions drawn, I still found myself wanting to read more. It was truly enjoyable to feel the drastic change in Ebenezer’s outlook and I wanted to stay in his ‘happy place’.
Maybe ending the book on such a high note played greatly to my want for a happy ending and in turn elevated my rating of this short holiday tale. The quality of the overall content of the story as a whole, however speaks for itself.
Our little review blog has only been in existence since April of this past year, but I thought it would be fun to recap some of my favorite reviews from the past eight months. Below is my favorite appraisal from each of our “C”ategories.
Click on each picture to read the review.
Admittedly, I definitely didn’t read and review one classic book per month. Can you feel the upcoming New Years Resolution to be declared with this category??? That is decidedly my primary resolution for Casual Narrative’s 2018 blog; I will strive to read and review one classic book per month. Of the sadly few number that I read and reviewed in 2017, my favorite was Jane Austin’s, Pride and Prejudice. This book was my nemesis for several years. It took me three times starting and stopping before getting through the entire thing. It might have found its way to the top of my Classic Reviewed list because Audrey and I read it to each other, aloud, a memorable experience!
Considering how much Audrey and I obviously love Jennifer Anne Davis’ writing, it’s no surprise that the book at the top of my Chronicle list is Rise, Book 1 in the series The Order of the Krigers. Book 3 releases February 1st, 2018 so expect more reviews from me in this fantastical series in the next couple of months!
Rob Thier is an excellent writer I discovered on Wattpad a while ago! I highly recommend reading his stories! Silence is Golden is another quality read in his Storm and Silence Series. I love Miss Lilly Linton’s wit and sarcasm. This is an exciting story based in Old England, but not limited to that continent, and it includes action, humor and romance, some of my favorite genre’s! I am waiting for Sir Rob to complete the forth installment, Silence Breaking, I just can’t be patient enough to begin reading a book unless I know I can quickly finish what I start…
Despite it’s negative point of view, my favorite Codex to write and post, was posted on July 21st, Most Disappointing Book Series. Audrey and I both contributed our opinions to this list, and although many of these books still leave a lingering feeling of let-down, I stand behind our thoughts for each series.
I think I have struggled writing reviews for our TV show category just as much as our Classic Challenge! I can’t explain it just yet, but in the upcoming year, I will also try to put more emphasis on writing reviews of more Current Crusades. My favorite review from this past year was the one I wrote analyzing Alias, but my favorite TV show that I watched, I think was Lucifer. I will add Lucifer to my ‘TO DO’ list of reviews to write in 2018.
Another split on this one…My favorite review to write was from the 1931, Black and White Classic Dracula. Sometimes I worry we appear to basically enjoy most everything we watch and read and this review helps reassure that is most definitely not the case! My favorite movie that we watched and reviewed however, was Pride and Prejudice Zombies! I loved the irony and humor of this spoof take on the romantic classic! It had me laughing most of the time!
Title: Miracle on 34th Street
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Family
Film Production Studio: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 1hr 36 min
Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne
When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.
Since it is so close to Christmas, we thought we would spark our holiday spirit by watching a Classic Christmas Movie. After deliberating over a few options, we finally agreed on Miracle on 34th Street, and I can say I was happy with our decision. Of course, holiday movies, and especially the classics, are required to include the child-like quality and cheesiness that viewers expect.
Having watched a lot of Christmas movies over the years, some not so great and others hitting the holiday spirit exactly on point, I know what I was personally looking for; Overall good acting and a good lighthearted story to make me smile. This is exactly what Miracle on 34th Street gave me. The actors each portrayed their character how I wanted to see them represented.
I think Christmas movies have an unspoken criteria of required content.
1.) A skeptic that has taken the logical route
2.) The skeptic’s friend who strives to get them back to believing
3.) The child who pulls at everyone’s heartstrings
4.) And of course, Jolly Old St. Nick
Without each of these elements, how can it even be considered a Christmas movie exactly?
Christmas is a time that usually requires us to be around family and loved ones. Regardless of whether or not you particularly enjoy the converging festivities with all of those family members, there is something special that comes with the craziness of holiday reunions and surrounding yourself with those you love. Miracle on 34th Street, brings this to light in a subtle way that brings life to the characters and situation. It reveals a sense of purpose and an end game spotlighting what people desire-To be with those they care about and those who care about them, inevitably dealing with a few bumps in the road along the way. And maybe also a reminder to open our hearts.
Title: Sugar Babe
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Ever had Ramen Noodles for an entire month? Lilly Fenster has and she’s tired of it. Which is why she ends up managing the fashion industry’s hottest Brazilian model. Lucky her, right? Not really. Lilly can’t stand the intolerable Joshua Lachowski . Heck, she can’t even pronounce his last name, much less manage his professional life. What happens when the nerd enters the fashion world and meets the biggest jerk imaginable? Mayhem, Ramen Noodles, and love. That’s what.
From beginning to end, Sugar Babe is full of witty remarks and light concepts that are paired with deeper meanings which make this an enjoyable book. The expression and personality that WeAreAHurricane brings to the story elevates the characters and makes the story more unique than one may first think.
The main character, Lilly, is full of life as she is determined to get through her employed stint with a major fashion business. Of course, with any romance oriented book, drama flows left and right. Could it even be considered a romance book if a new element wasn’t added at every opportunity? I will be the first to admit, Sugar Babe does not seem all that unique from a lot of books out there, but the individual characters make it a worth while read. Lilly possesses some attributes that I would like to possess myself, but like the rest of us, she has her own flaws and stereotypes to overcome. This creates a connection as her character flaws make her more human and relatable.
The plot as a whole is entertaining. The superficiality and over-the-top-drama that WeAreAHurricane uses to bolster the plot and personalities, at times may go a little too over the top, but not so far out there to ruin the overall story. Lilly and Joshua find themselves in a number of situations where, as a reader, I felt it lost a realistic flow. Fortunately, these situations didn’t derail the progress of the story as the author brought it right back on track to maintain Sugar Babe’s personality and yet still keep it engaging and different from the rest.
This is a shorter review, I know, but what can I say? Sometimes everything that needs to be said can be done in fewer words and not drawn out into long essays that no one really wants to read anyways.
Author: Melissa Haag
Series: Judgement of the Six, Book 4
Release Date: November 24, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
I left home because I didn’t want to end up in a cage like a lab rat. Hitching rides, begging for cash, and sleeping on the ground got old fast. That was the only reason I braved an overgrown path to a group of buildings. I’d hoped to find a bed and a decent night’s sleep. However, what I found was a place overrun by werewolves.
While on the run, Charlene finds herself surrounded by werewolves, creatures she can’t control with her mind like she can humans. Their existence has her believing she’s found a safe place to stay, a place where secrets are okay. However, she soon discovers she’s anything but safe. Charlene must learn how to use her abilities to influence the strange new species because if she can’t, the next bite she suffers might just kill her.
Read how the cycle begins, and have no doubt. Charlene’s past will shape the future of the Judgments.
The leading protagonist in the forth installment of The Judgment of the Six Series is a bit different compared to the previous Judgments we have met. Actually, it is not the protagonist that is so different, but the timing of when her story unfolds. Charlene’s story is revealed out of chronological order. The events that occur when we first meet Charlene and then when her life intersects with the supernatural, actually take place many years prior to the telling of the other Judgments’ experiences. In fact, we were introduced to Charlene’s formidable sons, Emmit and Jim during Michelle’s story, (Mis)fortune in Book 2.
While reading Charlene’s story, we discover she is only 15 during this major turning point in her life. Despite being the youngest of these rare insights when her path converges with werewolves, Charlene has a maturity far beyond her years. In fact, Charlene seems to have a sixth-sense in understanding the statement made popular by Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben when he said “Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.” The unusual maturity Charlene exudes at 15 establishes a premise of others looking to her for innovation and leadership. Her nurturing spirit and her impressive abilities, even the ones she dutifully conceals, influence her position among her adopted family or more specifically, pack. Charlene holds her secrets tightly, withholding the extent of her powers even from her mate, and werewolf Elders! I believe her ability to mask the extent of her powers, is a testament of Charlene’s strong mind: Fitting, considering she is Strength among the Judgments.
Just like Bethi, young Charlene took the extreme step to leave her home and family, a desperate action to protect loved ones and maybe a decision also made out of self preservation. Similar to the previous three Judgments’ struggles, Charlene is learning to deal with her amazing abilities while navigating the world in isolation. (Un)bidden is a refreshing episode in the series because in all of the other books up to this point, we learn tidbits of information along the way. In Book 4, we get an education and not only on Charlene’s back story. We discover the creation, specifically of this unique pack, how Charlene integrated into werewolf lives, influenced their future and even guarded their survival as a species!
Charlene’s story is an ongoing saga as the other Judgment’s narratives are released. Because I can’t remember so many details from these books from when I read them a couple years ago, I am anxious to read the remaining installments and relive revelations and understand the ones not yet explained. Isabelle’s story is up next in Book 5 and then I’ll finally get to read the conclusion in the recently released Book 6, Olivia’s tale.
Title: Slaughterhouse Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Release Date: October 6th, 1998
Genre: Autobiography, war drama
Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
So, disclosure from me, right at the beginning….I am not drawn to war novels, or overly heavy stories, or biographies of those enduring horrific circumstances. I believe I have enough stress in my own life to deal with, why would I want to spend my limited free-time dwelling on someone else’s? And even though I like my characters and their stories complex, I avoid depressing tales, especially if those tales have no light at the end of their tunnel. For example, I really did not enjoy “The Giver” for this reason. I found it depressing and it left me feeling annoyed and empty. I am also not a fan of satire. I find that it also leaves me feeling annoyed…so you can imagine my anticipation of reading Slaughterhouse Five as our next Classic Challenge. As part of a realistic agreement with Audrey for us both to read and review Classic books, I need to read some titles that she is already committed to reading for her AP Language class. This is the first title we are both reading from her assigned list.
I am shocked, I didn’t hate this book! This book, written with a pen dripping in satire about a guy and his depressing experiences in war. Slaughterhouse Five would not normally be a book I would choose on my own, however in hindsight, I am glad I read it. After all, our goal of reading and reviewing classic books is to CHALLENGE ourselves to become better thinkers and writers. This book was a good stepping stone for that specific purpose.
Vonnegut structured the retelling of Billy Pilgrim’s story in such a way that it was surprisingly easy to follow. It jumps around from scene to scene in different periods of time and various stages of thought or consciousness, but it remains consistently told from Billy Pilgrim’s point of view. Regardless of the symbolism or irony being used, I was able to clearly picture each moment through his descriptions. Wow! His amazing descriptions! Common everyday occurrences as well as fantastical events are all described with serene ease. Usually just by recounting the facts as seen through Billy Pilgrim’s eyes, the writer illustrates beyond sight and smell to include emotions, prejudices, ideals and dynamics that often can be quite challenging to convey!
Many situations had dual, if not at the very least, a deeper meaning. The bigger picture, I think, is how profoundly poor Billy Pilgrim was affected by his experiences in war-torn Germany. His mind is overwhelmed with the grisly images he saw and the horrific cruelty he survived, despite his seemingly indifferent narrative. In the end, I saw Billy as a pretty regular guy with a knack for survival. Yes, he endured horrific circumstances (as I eluded to in my opening statement), but Billy’s triumph is his ability to remain a relatable character while expounding his perception of reality.
7.) Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard
6.) The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
5.) Dorothy Must Die Series Prequel by Danielle Page
4.) Dorothy Must Die Series by Danielle Page
3.) The Dark Artifices Series by Cassandra Clare
2.) The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin
1.) The 100 Series by Kass Morgan