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Category Archives: Fiction Reviews

The Last One’s Always the Hardest (Final Books in Series)

Many people have read series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner, all of which include 3 main books with an occasional prequel or side short story. The main thing I tend to hear when people reach the final book is how disappointed they are. It can be the storyline, the fate of certain characters, or the resolution to some of the conflict.

Having read all three series, I can understand why people are reacting. Yes, its heartbreaking to read favorite characters either dying or fighting to save the main character or perhaps a pairing ends up with someone else. But take a step back and think about this: In order to show how high the stakes are in a fictional world or dire situation, people die. Not just the bad guys but some of the neutral figures and beloved allies have to. If they didn’t, it would become a very cliche story and you’d probably be complaining about how the story ended too neatly with a perfect ending.

Also consider that the authors could be under stress from their publishers or fans to meet certain expectations. Some people feel that Mockingjay had a rocky ending that seemed forced but I feel that in order to get to the conclusion she wanted while giving some fans the resolution they wanted, Suzanne likely had to plan out certain deaths to symbolize the message of dying for a good cause while showing that love can persevere in very difficult situations if the bond is there.

I still think back to J.K. Rowling saying how she regretting killing off a minor character. Recently, she’s apologized to killing off other characters in the series via Twitter. You have to admit, she wrote an impressive roster of characters and eventually some of them had to succumb to death in some way in the series. Otherwise, it would be a nightmare for her to manage all of them in the conclusion.

I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to slam your book shut, throw it across the room, and scream your frustration at the ending. But instead of bombarding the author with hate, I think its best to take a deep breath, think about how difficult it likely was to write that scene/character fate/etc., and remember that the author wants to give you a fairly realistic scenario of what can happen when the stakes are high.

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Is the Force Strong to Help This One?

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Whether you’ve seen the hashtags on Twitter, read the article on Nerdist, or seen the video above, you’ve probably heard about Daniel Fleetwood, a Star Wars megafan who has a dying wish to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens early before he succumbs to spindle cell sarcoma.

What in the world is spindle cell sarcoma? The medical dictionary defines it as “a malignant neoplasm of mesenchymal origin composed of elongated, spindle-shaped cells.” In non-doctor terminology, its a form of cancer when the malignant connective tissue cells (AKA the cells that help patch us up when we’re hurt or injured) grow quickly and in high numbers. This can occur in the joints, bones, or even the lungs, kidney, or liver. It is difficult to diagnose in early stages, as common symptoms include malaise and fatigue, along with other symptoms, depending on the progression of the cancer.

The young man has been given 2 months to live and has used social media to try to reach out to Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams, hoping they would consider screening the film early for him before he passes.

Have any of you tweeted or signal boosted this fan’s plea?

EDIT 11/5: Great job to everyone who tweeted and supported Daniel! His wish was granted and he was able to see an unedited version of the film in the comfort of his home. Jedi, this one is! (Little Yoda attempt there!)

If You Could Exact Revenge with a Little Help, Would You do it?

When I was younger, I found myself flipping through the pages of a Japanese mook filled with manga for girls and one of their darker features included a series called Jigoku Shoujo or Hell Girl. The manga told the story of a girl named Enma Ai who is forced to aid the humans who wish to send someone to Hell by offering them a doll, trapping the said person with her fellow hellbound aides, then ferry the wretched souls into Hell. Humans would call to Enma by entering the name of the person they wished to be rid of into a website that only appears at midnight. Enma will aid the person who called upon her but in return, they will end up in Hell once they die.

The series always made me wonder whether anyone would ever take that risk if it was offered to them: To be temporarily rid of someone until death when you would see them again. Some of the victims who use her services were depicted as students who suffered bullying at the mercy of others, stalking, and in some cases gruesome incidents.

The idea was intriguing but too frightening for me to comprehend at the age I discovered this series at. I saw the offer as a temporary one, as there is no choice for redemption but instead, you are allowed to bide your time alive while the accused party is offed right away, so to speak.

Would you have done something like this?

Even in the Shadows, There’s Light (Daily Prompt)

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It’s been a while since I answered The Daily Prompt! But then again, writing my thesis took priority over anything else…

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has been part of the latest fiction craze that is being adapted into a film debuting in August. After seeing the trailer with some of the intense fighting sequences and a humorous exchange between Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower (“Oh no…You killed two cops!”/”They weren’t cops!”) I picked up a copy of the novel to read.

The first book follows 15 year old Clarissa “Clary” Fray who has lived an ordinary life with an overprotective mother. After she witnesses a trio of teens killing a human-like demon in night club, Clary attempts to have them arrested, only to discover that no one else can see them. Days later, she runs into the leader of the trio named Jace, who suggests that she may not be a regular human being but a Shadowhunter, possessing the blood of the angel Raziel which enables her to see demons. Clary is then forced to embrace her new lifestyle as a Shadowhunter when her mother is kidnapped from their home and few clues to her location are found.

The novel fits within the action, adventure, romance, and fantasy genres neatly. Yet one questions whether Clary can be classified as a heroine or borderline damsel-in-distress. (She is not the deft archer fighting the government like Katniss Everdeen nor is she trying to escape her present for the unknown challenges and adventures like Tris Prior.) When the readers are first introduced to Clary, she is presented as the typical teenage girl who likes exploring the nightlife, admiring attractive boys from a distance, and as the defiant daughter who blames her mother for ruining her summer. For me, it took some time to warm up to Clary as the story progressed, as she is struggling to assimilate into Shadowhunter culture. While this is the first book in the series, I felt more drawn toward the attitude and development of Isabelle Lightwood, a fellow Shadowhunter who keeps the boys in line while fighting the demons with her whip.

Clary’s relationship with Jace is explored in the middle of the novel as the two begin to warm up to each other. Because Jace starts off as brash and condescending toward Clary, his treatment of her seems evocative of Edward Cullen’s initial rejection of Bella Swan in Twilight. Yet Clary always matches his cold remarks with some smart ones of her own, proving that she can hold her own against him.

I like the descriptions of the setting and the battles that the characters fight in. Cassandra Claire is skilled at presenting readers with fantastic descriptions of facades created through magic, grimy buildings home to various factions, and the gritty image of battles between good and evil. She includes some funny, memorable quotes that brought a lightness to the fast-paced novel.

Currently I’m reading the second book in the series to see whether I’d like to continue reading or not. As for the City of Bones, I would rate this novel a 3.5/5. There are elements that are enjoyable and well done but the novel has some errors and some questionable behaviors that prevent me from giving this a higher rating.

Here, Let Me Correct Your Taste

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Whether you know him from his other works or from the Oprah Book Club uproar in 2001, James Franzen is hailed as a master of writing stories with families that unravel the nitty gritty problems within them, beneath the perfect, smiling exterior. His book The Corrections is a prime example of how all families have varying degrees of being dysfunctional, real or fictitious.

As I’m reading the novel for a literary criticism class, its been interesting to see people take extreme sides about each of the characters, most of the class hating one of the sons, Chip, for being pretentious and negative about the 1990s society and its obsession with commodity. There are a few brave souls who argue that because he’s flawed and trying to learn from his mistakes, he is interesting and they desire to see him try to improve and learn from his errors.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Franzen’s characters are a mixed bag of emotions for me. I admire the fact that he is able to develop characters that feel real, in terms of emotions, reactions, habits, and tone, which in turn, reminds me of figures I know in real life. At the same time, I can find the quirks of some of the characters to be a bit of a headache after reading them over and over again in different passages.

The only character I really despise in the book is Gary’s wife since she seems like a throwaway character who uses the very tactics that I’ve seen some girls use in high school and college: “The Weak One” that everyone comes to the aid of. In turn, the weak one is able to make the sympathetic parties around her do her bidding. I knew a girl in high school who pulled this act all the time, even in Band. Finally, my conductor called her out on it, when she started to blame her weak sound on her reed. “It’s not your reed, its you.”

Despite its status as an infamous book, you should take a look at The Corrections and make your own judgement.

Hunger Sinks Ships and Annihilates Renunions

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If the people at Lionsgate weren’t doing the polka in my last Hunger Games post, then I’m sure they are singing, dancing a jig, and whooping for joy with the non-sequel film making $300 million for its 3rd week at the box office. Interestingly, a correspondent for Entertainment Weekly boasted that since the Titanic and American Pie did so well during their initial releases in the 1990s, there was no way The Hunger Games could stack up to Titanic at the very least. (Looks like he’ll be eating his words once he sees the numbers!)

Aside from Lionsgate, Jennifer Lawrence is sure to be rolling in the deep with profits from this popular adaptation. I’m sure in addition to playing a role model character she liked since reading the series, she’s probably grateful for the financial benefits the film will bring her.

Still Hungry for Heroines and Dystopia

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What a weird title, I thought when The Hunger Games started becoming an ‘It’ series. I never paid much attention when it was first released since I was still recovering from reading nonsense and fluff in New Moon.

Eventually the movie trailer released for The Hunger Games and I took a peek for grins. Camera work and pacing seemed pretty good – not that I know a lot about film but it keeps things interesting. Intrigued, I bought book 1 of the trilogy and began reading it in early February 2012. Then the remaining 2 in the trilogy followed.

For those who have never read the series, it is narrated by Katniss Everdeen who lives in a dystopian version of North America now renamed Panem. Long ago Panem had 13 areas called districts which produced goods for the government called the Capitol, some given more preferential treatment than others. Eventually all 13 districts rebelled against the Capitol and were put down, with District 13 being obliterated as an example. As punishment, the Capitol created an event called The Hunger Games where each district would send 1 young man and 1 young woman aged between 12-18 to fight in a controlled arena until 1 emerged victorious. In book 1, Katniss volunteers in place of her younger sister Primrose and encounters trustworthy people like fellow tribute Rue and finds enemies who want her dead like President Snow, head of the Capitol, and vicious tributes from privileged districts.

Unlike Twilight, I found myself more interested in Suzanne Collin’s characters which seemed to have a familiar set of emotions, interests, and flaws like any human being. I liked Katniss for being the rare strong heroine who thinks things through, questions things suspiciously, and cared for others like Primrose because I’ve found moments in my life where I’ve been like her. Yet I loved Rue from book 1 the most since she was a surprise in the Games for being small and young, yet very capable of using her small form to hide easily and stay up high in the trees from the other tributes.

Like many other fans, I attended the midnight premiere of the film adaptation with some friends on a whim. The film, like any other, has its cheesy moments but for the most part was true to the book and I did enjoy some of the additions they put into the film. My favorite scene was when all the tributes were training in the Training Center and Cato, the male tribute from District 2, decided to accuse another male tribute of taking his knife. While the pair are pushing and arguing with one another, the camera pans up to the ceiling where Rue is tucked up in the fabric straps on the ceiling with Cato’s knife and an impish smile on her face.

For a film distributor company who was struggling, I’m sure Liongate’s whooping for joy with over $200 million brought in from a non-sequel film.  Can they keep up the act with an adaptation of Catching Fire in 2013? We’ll just have to wait and see.