THE IMMORTAL RULES (Blood of Eden, #1): Review

Hello! I am back…three days late with no update on my WiP. Sorry about that.

The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. I didn’t touch my WiP this past week, so there’s really nothing to report.
  2. This week has been pretty busy.

So, to make up for it, I thought I’d post another review for you guys. ūüôā Here it is!


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The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, #1)  by Julie Kagawa
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 24, 2012
Genres: young adult fantasy, paranormal, vampire fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, young adult romance,
Pages: 485
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Indiebound

Rating: ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ¬†


I found this book in hardback at the used book store, and bought it because it was in near perfect condition. Judging by the reviews of my Goodreads friends, I figured it’d be an opportunity for me to do some research while simultaneously having fun.

They were right. This was a heck of a ride.

The World-building

Originally, I was a little wary of the idea of vampires in a post-apocalyptic setting. In my mind, the two don’t really mix. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong about this. Julie Kagawa blends both these elements beautifully, creating a world that’s original, exotic, and really, quite terrifying.

The world Allison Sekemoto lives in dreary and cutthroat. It’s not a place where making friends is recommended; you’d lose them to death far too often. The world has been ravaged after a devastating virus outbreak called Red Lung, and the vampires have taken control of almost any cities left standing. With multiple threats to the human species (vampires, rabids, mole men), the safest option is to stay within the walls that keep rabids and mole men out, and become a blood donor for the vampires, who offer protection and food in exchange for human blood. Those who do not become donors are left to forage for themselves, and, if caught, hanged for disobeying the law.

I felt the world-building here was a good balance of “showing versus telling”: You learn about its construct through Allison telling you directly, but also by reading and discovering for yourself. I also felt Kagawa never shied away when it came to depicting vampires as they were always meant to be shown: as cruel, bloody, heartless creatures. Her vampire “rules” were consistent with most of traditional vampire lore, and remained consistent throughout the book.

Also the descriptions of the rabids were chilling; I got scared every time Allie and her group encountered one (or several). This created a tense atmosphere that had me on the seat of my pants throughout most of the book.

The Characters

Allison “Allie” Sekemoto, our main character, is one of these humans who refuses to become a “bloodbag” for the vampires. She lives under the radar with a group of other humans who forage for food. I found Allie to be resourceful, competent, strong, and fiercely independent. ¬†By no means was she a wimp. I appreciated being able to root for a character who did what was necessary to survive without becoming a blubbering mess in the process.

I also really liked Kanin, even though he was shrouded is mystery for most of the book. I loved how, though he was strict with her, you could tell he genuinely cared about her and her safety. His teaching sessions with Allie were always fun to read.

Zeke was a sweet character, if a little bland. Despite whatever development his character might have lacked, it was refreshing to have a character who was soft and gentle in this book’s brutal, merciless world. It made for a nice contrast.

 

The Plot

Here’s where things got really fun. >:)

Sometimes, foraging for food this leads Allie and her group outside the city walls and into rabid territory. When Allie finds a large stash of food, she alerts her group to it, but they end up being ambushed by rabids on the way back into the city, and most of the group is killed. Allie herself is fatally mauled by the rabids, but, before she dies, a vampire named Kanin finds her and offers her a choice: die and become a rabid, or become a vampire with his help. She chooses the latter and begins training under Kanin, but when they get separated, Allie falls in with a human group looking for Eden, a fabled town where humans can live without fear of vampires or rabids. On the journey, Allie begins to befriend some of the people in the group, and even fall in love with one of them. But for how long can she keep her identity a secret? And is there any way for her to be both human and vampire, or has the monster inside her already won?

In Allie’s world, there is always a threat of some sort present, especially if you’ve chosen to fly under the radar and not donate blood to the vampires. It makes for a tense read; my jaw was always tight whenever Allie (and anyone with her) ran into rabids.

As she and her group of humans travel to Eden, they encounter a lot of hardship in various forms, and it really made me sympathize with and root for them. Can’t blame them for wanting to be safe, right?

It was also interesting to see Allie’s struggle to retain her humanity and not let her vampire side get the best of her. We see her grapple with her unquenchable bloodlust and try to resist feeding on the people in her group, even if she’s starving. It made me cheer for her even more.

In regards to the technicalities of the plot, I felt it was the perfect mix of action and “rest” scenes, you could say. Either way, it was compelling and fun. The ending left a wide grin on my face; it sort of reminded me of the ending of an Indiana Jones movie: a good resolution, but also a little open-ended.

The Romance

Call me a softie, but I think Allie and Zeke make a really cute couple. In my opinion, they balance each other out pretty well. He offers her the humanity she’s so desperately trying to hold on to, while her toughness and grit saves his butt quite a few times. It was intriguing to see their relationship blossom, and I can’t wait to see where the next book will take it.

On the note of “saving butts”: I appreciated how there was no “damsel in distress” in this book regarding their relationship; Allie and Zeke saved each other throughout the story solely because they cared for each other, not because one was trying to assert dominance over the other. It wasn’t ever a power play, which was refreshing.)

So, overall, a fun, gritty, action-packed book you should check out if the idea if the phrase “vampire apocalypse” appeals to you. Definitely recommended!

Mood & Music Monday: 4/18/16

It’s time for¬†another Mood and Music Monday post! Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week.

SONG OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? In last week’s post, I mentioned I’d been listening to¬†Midnight Machines,¬†Lights’s acoustic¬†follow-up¬†to¬†Little Machines. Well, the album also has two original songs on it, and¬†“Head Cold” is one of them. I enjoy how gentle and warm it sounds, perfect for listening to at nighttime and while doing schoolwork. It’s a nice contrast to my upcoming week, which looks to be pretty stressful. :/ The lyrics are also a nice reminder that all thing pass, even the bad or stressful things (“head colds,” so to speak). I kind of need that this week.

I’ve also been listening to “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You” by The 1975, also a good song to play at night. It has their¬†signature¬†dreamy sound¬†to it–only this song is calmer, and I really like that.

What are you reading?¬†I finished¬†This Monstrous Thing, and–wait for it–¬†A Tale of Two Cities! (Cue the confetti, guys; it’s taken me forever to finish the latter.) Both were enjoyable or, at least, the end of¬†Two Cities¬†was enjoyable. I’m hoping to post a review for¬†This Monstrous Thing when I have the chance.

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Just two hundred more pages to go. I can do this.

I tried to start Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls, but¬†I couldn’t connect with it too well, so back to the library it goes. Please don’t kill me, but I picked up¬†New Moon instead, and I’m more than halfway through. (I started it yesterday.) It’s pure fluff, sure, and the characters are shallow, but since someone basically pushed a copy of it into my hands¬†gave it to me and I’ve read the first book in the saga, I thought I’d go for it.

What are you drinking? Just finished another KeVita a few minutes ago. Other than that, nothing too remarkable.

Any goals for this week? I just want this week to disappear, honestly. Too many stressful journalism deadlines and a test do not make for a good week. Not at all.

Maybe I’ll¬†finish¬†this round of book revisions this week. Maybe. I can’t say for sure.

But, yeah. My goals are to make it to the weekend (which is also very busy) and to finish book revisions, as usual. Not much has changed.

We’ll see if I post tomorrow, but, in case I don’t, a #WipWednesday Post should be up on Wednesday. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great week. See you soon!

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

WiP Wednesday: 4/13/16

Hello! I am back , and a day late. ūüôā Between packing for JEA/NSPA and schoolwork yesterday was pretty busy, and I apologize for the delay.

Having said that, I’m so excited for my first #WiPWednesday post! #WiPWednesday is a weekly meme¬†started by Brigid Gorry-Hines from Wordfare. Every Wednesday, I’m supposed to post an update about my WiP (Work in Progress), including word count and where I’m at in writing/revising it. Hopefully, doing this meme will keep me motivated to continue working on my WiP.

So let’s get started! I’ll try to fill out these categories as best as I can.

WIP:  

I’m not all that comfortable revealing the title just yet, so I’ll call this “The L.S. M.S.” (“L.S.” standing for the initials of the title and “M.S.” standing for “manuscript.” This WiP was my NaNoWriMo 2014 project, so I’ve been working on it for a long time. (In fact, in a day or two, it’ll be exactly one year since I finished the first draft.) It’s about what happens when a vampire aspiring to be leader of his coven has a run-in with Orthodox Christianity.

Writing or Revising? 

Right now, I’m revising my manuscript; I’m on the third draft. ¬†I’ve been rereading it and making chapter summaries so I can go back and delete unnecessary/filler scenes later. I’m also testing new versions of scenes I’ve written with the rest of the manuscript and trying to decide which version works better with the story.

Current Word Count: 97, 984

How It’s Going:

It’s been‚Ķinteresting, for lack of a better word. Now that I’ve taken off my rose-tinted glasses, I’m noticing a lot more problems and inconsistencies in my manuscript, especially plot-wise, and it’s both overwhelming and disheartening. It still needs a lot more work than I thought, but I am determined to get it to a place where I’m proud of it again.

Goal for Next Week:  

To finish my reread so I can start on the larger edits! That’s much easier said than done, though, so we’ll see. Maybe I’ll have started on that by next week.

There you have it: my first #WiPWednesday post. I’ll see you guys when I get back from JEA/NSPA. Toodeloo!


Mood & Music Monday: 4/11/16

Hello, and welcome back to another Mood and Music Monday. Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week.

SONG OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? Today, I’ve been listening to “Tell Her You Love Her” by Echosmith.¬†They’re known for their song “Cool Kids,” but I like this one better. It tells the story of a relationship worth fighting for¬†because, this time, there’s something to lose. I think it’s really sweet, and, honestly, I love the guitar¬†during the chorus. ūüôā Also, I found out that Lights just released an acoustic¬†album containing¬†some of the songs off her most recent album,¬†Little Machines, so I’ve been listening to that, as well.

What are you reading? I’m almost three quarters of the way through¬†This Monstrous Thing, and I read a chapter of¬†A Tale of Two Cities today (which is huge for me, seeing as I haven’t touched it in several months because of its density). I’m hoping to finish the latter really soon; I only have a few more chapters left, and it would be nice to finally be able to mark it as “read,” haha.

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The lighting’s a little funny, but look at that little leaf poking out of the tea! In Tea Forte’s blends, the “string” of the tea bag is a sprout. Isn’t that adorable? ūüėÄ

What are you drinking?¬†I tried a tea called Blueberry Merlot by Tea Forte while at the doctor’s office today. It could’ve used some sweetener, but, otherwise, I liked it. I also have another¬†KeVita waiting for me in the fridge when I want it. Don’t judge.¬†

Any goals for this week? Again, to manage schoolwork. I’m on journalism staff at my school, and this week is my group’s perform week, which means I have to attend several events, take pictures, and get interviews. I’m also going to the JEA National Convention at the end of this week, which means I’ll be gone on Friday, and some of the¬†other staff¬†members will have to fill in for me. It’s going to be a lot to juggle, and I’m just hoping I’ll be able to enjoy JEA and meet our deadlines. I guess we’ll see.

Ideally, I’d also like to finish¬†this round of revisions for¬†my WiP¬†by the middle of this week so I have a more exciting post for #WiPWednesday, but, with everything else going on, we’ll see.

That’s it for today! Check back on Wednesday, when there will hopefully be an update on my editing progress for my WiP. See you all soon! ūüôā

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

 

LEGEND (Legend, #1): Review

9275658Legend (Legend, #1) by Marie Lu
Published by Putnam Juvenile on November 29, 2011
Genres: young adult, dystopian fiction, young adult romance, science fiction
Pages: 305
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Indiebound

Rating: ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ


I’ll start this off with a bad pun by saying that, as far as dystopian novels go, this book was definitely a legend¬†among my friends and the reviewers I follow on Goodreads. Out of all the dystopian books on the market, a considerable amount of people hailed this novel as different and brilliant take on the whole “totalitarian government” scenario.

So, when I finally found it at my library (which usually has sequels to books I want to read and not the actual books themselves), I knew I needed to check it out.

I finished Legend¬†in two days, and I’m a little confused about the hype. While I liked the book overall, I didn’t feel it was anything special when compared to the other books in its genre–which is a shame, because it had the potential to be something newer and more exciting than what it actually was. Allow me to explain.

Perhaps it’s because I’m slogging through edits on my own manuscript and my inner editor is on the prowl, but I think I was a more critical reader than normal while reading this book. There were a few things, in particular, which bothered me:

The World-building

This was the area that I felt needed the most work. While it was intriguing to explore Lu’s Republic with June and Day, I found myself asking two questions: Why? How? There are “plagues” in Los Angeles and the city in half submerged in water. How did that happen? How did the plagues get there, and where did they originate? Why are Trials so important, and how did they come into existence? How did society morph from that of the United States, a nation which strongly emphasizes freedom, liberty, and choice, into a restrictive government run by the military? What is military school like? What caused the financial gap between the richer and poorer sectors, and what caused the sectors to form, anyway?

These are just some of the questions I had while reading. Ms. Lu’s idea of placing Los Angeles under the rule of a military nation was intriguing, I found myself wanting to know more about the world and its government, and feeling that knowing more about the Republic would make it a more memorable fictional society. What makes dystopian novels impactful and frightening is that the societies they portray could easily exist in real life, if certain aspects of real-life society were taken to extremes.

However, I didn’t find that was the case here; I wasn’t able to draw parallels to issues in modern society while reading about the Republic and its dysfunctional, paranoid state. As a result, I wasn’t able to see the transition from modern US government to the controlling, militarized Republic, and, instead of it feeling believable, I actually had to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the book.

The Characters

Overall, I enjoyed reading about June and Day and their adventures. Both had dilemmas I could sympathize with and goals I could root for. I felt the way each grieved over the loss of loved ones was believable and something rarely seen in YA literature, especially in this genre. Day’s goals and weaknesses were consistent throughout the story, which in turn helped to create a consistent character. I also liked his use of slang; it gave him a unique personality and helped me differentiate between narrators (as if the change in font weren’t obvious enough).

On that note, June and Day always read like two separate characters to me, even though there were some instances where they seemed to be rather unrealistically on the same (metaphorical) page, or thinking/discovering the same things around the same time as the other person did. This made the plot seem a little too convenient at times, and I believe miscommunication on their parts would have added both to the plot and to the development of their separate characters.

But here’s what really bugged me: I just can’t see June and Day as being fifteen. They read like sixteen- or seventeen-year-olds. I don’t know anyone who could possibly be as talented or intelligence as they are at their age, which was another instance of suspension of disbelief for me. This led right into…

The Romance

I thought June and Day made a good couple, but I also thought it was highly unrealistic that two fifteen-year-olds could be in such a committed, deeply-trusting relationship at their age, especially after knowing each other for only a month. Again, most fifteen-year-olds I know aren’t mature–or selfless–enough to make the kinds of decisions and sacrifices they made for each other. It felt a little like insta-love, which made it somewhat difficult for me to buy into the romance initially.

Overall, I liked this book, even though I had some issues with it. While it wasn’t perfect, it was a quick (and somewhat addicting read). If you’re more comfortable with suspending your disbelief than I am, consider checking this one out. A fun, fast dystopian read, if not a bit underdeveloped.

WiP Marathon: Intro

Hey, all! I promised I’d be back with a post about my current novel, and here I am!

I’ve decided that, to keep me on track with editing this thing, I’ll be participating in two weekly memes: WiP Marathon and #WiPWednesday (created by Brigid Gory-Hines of Wordfare). (For anyone who doesn’t know, “WiP” stands for “Work in Progress,” and references a writer’s current novel/manuscript.)

Since it’s Wednesday, it seems reasonable to assume this would be a #WiPWednesday post, right? Well, I figured there was no point in updating you on the progress of my current work if you had no clue what the novel was about. So this will be my WiP Marathon Intro post, and, starting next week, I’ll be posting for #WiPWednesday every Wednesday (duh). Close to the end of the month, I’ll post a WiP Marathon check-in to keep you updated on my progress and goals for each month.

So, without further ado, let’s get started on my WiP Marathon intro!


 

Marathon Goal:

I’m currently rereading my novel and making chapter summaries so I can delete filler scenes later and get an idea of the overall plot. I’m hoping to finish that by the end of this month so I can devote May to those big, scary plot edits. 0_0

Stage of Writing:

I’m in the revision stages, somewhere between the second and third draft of my WiP, so I’m editing more than I’m writing. On April 16, it’ll be a year since I finished the first draft, which I started in November of 2015. Hopefully this marathon, combined with #WipWednesdays, will help me work on my WiP more consistently.

What inspired my current project:

Quite a few things inspired my WiP, and they kind of surfaced or occurred all at once: a Banks song¬†(or two or three), a friend’s offhand comment about someone we both knew being an “emotional vampire,” and me wondering what would happen if a vampire had an extended encounter with a Christian priest and another vampire who still ascribed to her human faith.

Basically, it’s vampires meets Orthodox Christianity. I’m still trying to figure out what age range and genre I could classify that under, but hopefully I’ll get there as time goes on and I tweak more things.

What might slow down my marathon goal: 

School, for sure, as well as church services, which happen more often around this time of year.

Also, I’ve been really tired as of late, which causes me to push off revisions until “next time” and helps me procrastinate. But I will make this goal, I promise (and, if I don’t, I’ll be humiliated because I broke my promise on the Internet). I can do this. (I think.)

Best time of the day for writing:

The afternoon on weekends, and, on week nights, probably the evening. The problem with writing or revising in the evening for me is that usually I stay up too late doing it. ūüėõ


 

So, there you have it: my first WiP Marathon post. ūüôā Here’s to all the posts to come! Check back tomorrow or Friday for another book review, and stay tuned for more WiP updates.

DUMPLIN’: Review

18304322Dumplin’¬†by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 15, 2015
Genres: young adult, contemporary fiction, contemporary romance
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ‚ėÖ¬Ĺ


Unfortunately, this dumpling was a little too bland for my taste.

From the moment I saw the cover for this book, I knew I wanted to read it. It’s so simple, but I think that’s what makes it so pretty. If only its contents lived up to its beauty.¬†Someone give the cover designer a prize.

Because I judge books mainly by their covers, I checked out the blurb for this book, and I was sold. A fat girl participating in a teenage beauty pageant? Sign me up. This was pitched as story about an humorous, sassy, overweight girl who enters a beauty pageant to prove she’s comfortable in her own skin. As someone who has struggled with my weight for many years, I was hoping I would be able to relate to Willowdean and her insecurities and self-consciousness about her size. I wanted to root for her, her relationship with Bo, and her friendship with Ellen. I wanted to see her step into her own.

However, this book fell short for me in quite a few areas, which made it a struggle to get through. I’ll go through the positives first, though, because there are still a few of those.

Things I liked

  • Willowdean’s relationships with her aunt Lucy and her best friend, Ellen
  • Mitch
  • the cover

Things I didn’t like

  • Character-wise, nothing was developed beyond the superficial aspects. Willowdean doesn’t really have a reason for liking Bo other than his good looks and there was no development in their relationship other than physical attraction. Every character in this book seemed more like caricatures, including our main character herself.
  • I really wanted to like Willowdean, but I found her to be selfish and unsympathetic. Shortly after she enters the beauty pageant, several other “misfits” are inspired to do the same. Instead of supporting them, Willowdean discourages them from participating on the basis that they won’t have a chance of winning because they’re “too different.” I felt she should have been more supportive of these girls, especially because they were in the same boat she was, and also because they were very loyal to her. She gets there eventually, but, for me, it was too little, too late.
  • SPOILER:¬†Another thing about Willowdean that I didn’t appreciate is the way she treated Mitch. She led him on emotionally, even when she knew it was wrong. If she wasn’t entirely sure she didn’t want a romantic relationship with him, she should have stated that more explicitly. He was supportive, kind, and there to give advice when she needed it, but I felt Willowdean didn’t treat him very well. She used him, which reduced his role in the story to that of a tool instead of an actual character.
  • There’s a clumsily-resolved love triangle in this book which I feel the story could have definitely done without.
  • This novel could have been cut by at least 100 pages, and the overall plot wouldn’t have suffered for it.
  • These characters have just become juniors in high school, which means they’re 16 or 17. These same characters are drinking beer and getting into serious (and sometimes physical) relationships like it’s normal. It’s not‚ÄĒat least, not in my experience. I hardly know any juniors who act the way the ones in this book did. Maybe I’m the odd one out here, but these characters didn’t read like their ages to me. I feel making them seniors would have made them a lot more believable as characters.
  • The ending of the book is rather anti-climactic. Nothing felt very resolved to me; instead, the story just ends.

So, overall, this was a book with a promising premise, a nice cover, and some realistic relationship dynamics I enjoyed reading about, but it wasn’t nearly as developed as it could–or should–have been. Half a star each for Willowdean’s relationships with Lucy, Ellen, and Mitch; for the cover; and for the idea, which could have been much better executed if it would have taken some inspiration from Miss Congeniality. Probably won’t be picking up any more of Julie Murphy’s books in the future.

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