Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: The Long Game (Fixer #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Long Game (Fixer #2)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Rating: 5 STARS!!!
The Kendricks help make the problems of the Washington elite disappear…but some secrets won’t stay buried.
 For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington, D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.

Meanwhile, Tess’s guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can—and cannot—be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she's about to discover firsthand that power always comes with a price.--
Summary from Goodreads
The Long Game is everything that The Fixer is and more. More suspense. More drama. More at stake than ever before. Every time something big would happen in the book I just couldn't believe it! And then it would escalate father than I could have ever anticipated... and then that escalated even more. I was literally tense while reading this book. I dreaded knowing what would come next but I couldn't stop reading! I had to know! Even now I can't believe how amazing this book is. It surpassed all my expectations, which is saying something considering how much I love the first book.

All the characters that I love from the first book are back and it's great seeing them in action. The book starts with Tess, Henry, Asher, and Vivvie doing what they do best: blackmailing a powerful person for the right reasons. Asher makes everything hilarious and Tess is as brilliant as ever. But like I said, things get more intense after that. These relationships grow and change throughout the book as events happen and all I can say is that it is completely believable. The same can be said about Tess's relationships with her grandfather, Ivy, and Adam. I love all these characters and the author writes such complex and interesting relationships that are beautiful and sad all at once.

One of the things that makes this book so intense is because it all feels so real. The events in the book are scarily possible and I really couldn't believe the places this story went. The events were handled in a believable manner and Tess's ability to deal with the them as a teenager was realistic as well. I really couldn't respect this series any more than I do right now. I believe this to be one of the best YA series going on right now. THERE BETTER BE A THIRD BOOK!!!

The Long Game is a non-stop, high-stakes, political thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. If you love The Fixer than you will no doubt love this sequel. This is a book to move to the top of your to-reads list.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Never a Ravenclaw, Always a Slytherin

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

When I was being sorted into my Hogwarts house on Pottermore, I assumed, because of some of my answers, that I would be in Ravenclaw. I wasn't trying to get into any house, I like them all, but Ravenclaw just made sense: I am a book nerd and I love learning. Then I was sorted into Slytherin. I was surprised, but I accepted my house immediately and when my sister was sorted into it as well, it just seemed to fit. So I have lived as a smart and kind Slytherin ever since. Then Micheline did a post on Hybrid Hogwarts Houses and so I took the quizzes expecting to get some form of Ravenclaw while fearing that Slytherin would never appear. Out of the three quizzes my hybrid houses were Gryffinpuff, SlytherPuff, and Slytherdor. Basically I am everything BUT Ravenclaw. It was actually really surprising, but I realized not being a Ravenclaw makes me even more of a Slytherin.

I didn't always like to read. It wasn't until I started finding books that I liked that I started to read obsessively. After a few years of this, I decided I was going to read 100 books in a year! And I did. I would read classics! Did that too. I would read all types of genres! And that. I kept logs of all the books I read (this was before I discovered Goodreads) and how long it took me to read each one. I wasn't only reading for the love of books, I was ambitious. Each year I tried to read more than the last. Each year I tried out new books and new genres. It was an obsession that was not always fun, but reading was the only thing I was good at, so I wanted to use that for something. This shows me that my love of books comes more from being an ambitious Slytherin than a brainy Ravenclaw.

Also, I love school, I really do. I love learning and I love the structure of it. But the reason I do good in my classes is because, like reading, I found out I was good at it and so I became a perfectionist. I am not a self-motivated learner, I need school to force me to learn and to do research. I am a last minute studier and sometimes I have severe anxiety about just writing an essay, but I always manage to get through it somehow. These don't sound like the habits of a Ravenclaw. My perfectionism is another form of my ambition. I take a lot of pride in doing things well and I like the recognition of getting a good grade.

So it turns out that all the qualities which I believed made me a Ravenclaw actually tied me to Slytherin. Truthfully, this makes me love being a Slytherin more because through my Hogwarts sorting I was able to learn something about myself that I didn't know previously. Although I may have Ravenclaw hobbies, I'm Slytherin through and through.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

HP MotW (13): How did Quirrell add to the overall storyline?

Harry Potter Moment of the Week
 A weekly meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Lunar Rainbows Reviews. For more information about how to participate and future topics, go here.

This Week's Question: How did Quirrell add to the overall storyline?

This is a really interesting question; I've never actually thought about it before. I can't really think of any specific things that he added except that he showed anyone could be a follower of Voldemort. Quirrell was very young, he was probably a student at Hogwarts right before Voldemort disappeared. It's hard to imagine how he was convinced to keep the Dark Lord in the back of his skull, the only explanation could be a lust for power. Quirrell also  acts as the first in a long line of DADA professors in the series, showing that the curse is real and still functioning (even though we don't know that it exists yet).

From a writer's perspective, Quirrell acts as the primary villain in The Sorcerer's Stone. Yes, Voldemort is the main villain overall, but Quirrell literally acts as his hands and feet in this story. Quirrell is the one who has to be stopped from getting the stone and Harry has to be the one to do it. Harry couldn't defeat Voldemort in the first book or there wouldn't be a series, and the villain couldn't just run away in the end (which is what Voldemort does). Harry had to have a win. He had to defeat someone by the end of the book or else we might be left feeling like there really wasn't a conclusion. Quirrell is that someone. Because Quirrell is human, he can be defeated by Harry; he can die and never return. That is Quirrell's true purpose. If he had known what Rowling had in store for him he probably would have thought twice before putting Voldemort on the back of his skull.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Things I Can't Wait to See in the Upcoming HP Illustrated Editions

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

As I said in Thoughts About the Harry Potter Illustrated Edition, it took me some time to get used to the new visual look at the HP world and characters but now I'm in love with the art work. The artists style is really dark and shadowy, while at other times it is filled with vibrant colors I'm really excited to see the future books and the scenes and characters envisioned inside them. After some thought, here are some of the characters and places that I'm most excited to see in the new illustrated editions.

The Chamber of Secrets: The artist does shadowy/creepy scenes really well. I can't wait to see what he does with the Chamber of Secrets.
The Marauders: It always annoyed me a little that in the movies the Marauders were played by actors much older than their characters were supposed to be, but since the actors were so amazing I couldn't complain too much. Still, it would be interesting to see them reimagined.
Thestrals: Beautiful creepiness.
Dementors: More creepiness.
The Department of Mysteries: Mysterious and creepy labyrinth filled with magical things. 
Room of Requirements: So much clutter and interesting stuff to see.
Grimmauld Place: Dark, mysterious, magical, dangerous, chaotic. What's not to love?
Knockturn Alley: More creepy awesomeness.
Rita Skeeter: She's such a flamboyant and extreme character. It would be fun to see her reimagined.
Luna Lovegood: Pretty much for the same reasons.
The Yule Ball: The set in the movie really was visually amazing and it would be interesting to see what the artist does with it.
The Lake: I imagine that it would be cool to see under the water in GoF
Slytherin Common Room: I don't know if this will be included in the CoS illustrated, but I really hope so. There's so much to see in a common room and so many details that could be snuck in. And it would just be really cool to see my common room.
The Ceiling in Luna's Room: This is one of the most beautiful things in DH and I really wish that it would have been in the movie, but I don't think it would have had the same impact as it does in the books. That is why I really hope that it makes it in the pages of the DH illustrated. 

What things do you most want to see illustrated in the new Harry Potter editions?


Thursday, July 21, 2016

HP MotW (12): HP Lunch Budies

Harry Potter Moment of the Week
 A weekly meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Lunar Rainbows Reviews. For more information about how to participate and future topics, go here.

This Weeks Question: You can have lunch with 3 characters from the series, Who are they and why?

This question is so hard! I think I would like to have lunch with the Silver Trio: Luna, Neville, and Ginny. Luna would be such an interesting person to talk to and there would never be a boring moment. And who doesn't love Neville?! He's just the sweetest person and I'm sure we would get along fine. Ginny is the type of person who gets along well with everyone. She's a people person and would keep the conversation lively and loud. I not only love all of these characters, they also get along really well together. I love their friendship and it would be great to be a part of their group for a little while.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

My HP Profile

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

After seeing Lee and Faith's HP Profiles I had to join in on the fun. So, here it is: My HP Profile. Ta-da!

Name: Christina
Hogwarts House: Slytherin
Ilvermorny House: Pukwudgie 
Year I Discovered HP: 2007, my sister decided she wanted to see what all the hype was about so she would read a book and then we'd watch the movie together which hooked me into the series. We read the entire series that year, went to a marathon which ended in the midnight premiere of OotP, and eventually went to the midnight release of Deathly Hallows. What a year to become a fan!
Number of Times I've Read the Series: I'm reading SS for the 10th time and I've read the rest of the series 8 times.
Last time I read the Series: 2014, I was taking a Tolkien and Rowling class. We were only supposed to read 1, 4, 6, and 7, but I'd never read the series out of order and I wasn't about to start so I breezed through the missing books in the free time that I didn't have.
Favorite Book: It's always changing, but right now I love Deathly Hallows the most.
Favorite Movie: I really love Deathly Hallows pt. 1. It's slow and atmospheric and it spends a lot of time on the characters.
Spell I'd Like to Use: Reparo. It would be nice to be able to mend a dish after I break it.
Quidditch Position: Beater. I'm not just saying that because I would get to hit people, when I played soccer I was defense, so being a Beater makes sense.
Pet I'd Like to Bring to Hogwarts: An Owl. Duh.
Class I'd Be Best At: I'm going to go with Charms. It sounds like a fun and creative class which would keep me interested. I'd say History of Magic if it wasn't taught by Professor Binns, but, seriously, how do you fire a ghost???
Class I'd Be Worst At: Transfiguration. It sounds very technical and stressful.
Favorite Hogwarts Hangout Spot: Under the tree by the lake.
Prefect or Prankster: I'd totally be a Prefect. I am (sadly) someone who follows rules.
Kiss, Marry, Avoid (Marauder's Edition): I'd kiss Sirius, marry Lupin, and avoid James.
*Yes, I know the game is supposed to be "Kiss, Marry, Kill", but I am a coward and I think James Potter has been killed enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

HP MotW (11): Favorite Ginny Moment

Harry Potter Moment of the Week
 A weekly meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Lunar Rainbows Reviews. For more information about how to participate and future topics, go here.

Question of the Week: What is your favorite Ginny moment?

Ginny's got so many awesome moments that it's hard to choose. But the first one that came to mind is from Half-Blood Prince. It's during a quidditch game (I love me some quidditch) and the temporary commentator, Zacharias Smith, is talking trash about Harry as Captain, Ron and Ginny, and the entire team in general. Gryffindor ends up winning the game and shutting Smith up, but that isn't quite enough for Ginny:
"Ginny, Where're you going?" yelled Harry, who had found himself trapped in the midst of a mass midair hug with the rest of the team, but Ginny sped right on past them until, with an almighty crash, she collided with the commentator's podium. As the crowd shrieked and laughed, the Gryffindor team landed beside the wreckage of wood under which Zacharias was feebly stirring; Harry heard Ginny saying blithely to an irate Professor McGonagall, "Forgot to break, Professor, sorry." - Pg. 298, Ch. 14
 You can totally tell that the twins had an influence on Ginny. I love it!

What are some of your favorite Ginny moments?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Thoughts About the Harry Potter Illustrated Edition

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

I love the Sorcerer’s Stone illustrated edition, I really do, but I have to admit I was a bit hesitant after I first saw the picture of Diagon Alley. It’s huge, incredibly creative, completely chaotic, and there are so many things to find. It is magical. My problem with it at first was that it was not the Diagon Alley that I knew. There’s nothing in Rowling’s text to say that Diagon Alley doesn’t look the way it does in the picture, but I had grown too attached to the movies.

I am not a visual reader. The majority of the time when I read a book I cannot picture the setting or what people look like. I find magic in the words themselves even though I usually cannot conjure up the picture in my brain. When I watch a movie that is based off a book it gives me the world and the characters in a way I never had before. It gives me something to visualize. So when I read the Harry Potter books I see Hogwarts, I see the lake, I see the great hall, I see the Hogwarts Express. The world that the movies bring to life, the actors that bring the characters to life are what I see when I read. To me, those images are a part of the books.

At first I was hesitant about liking the illustrated book because it was not showing me the world I knew and loved. Now I know that is what makes it magical. The art by Jim Kay is showing us the world of Harry Potter through different eyes. There’s new magic to experience in the artwork and the way it brings the story to life. One of my favorite pictures is the one at dusk where there are dozens of birds sitting on the Quidditch hoops. That one picture seems to bring the story into the physical world; of course the birds would want to sit on the hoops, I wonder if Filch has to go clean them off or if Madam Hooch has a spell to take care of the mess. I wonder if Oliver Wood ever had to chase away birds when he was playing keeper. The picture itself is beautiful, but the way it encourages readers to continue to use their imagination while reading and access the world in new ways is exciting.

Because of this book, I’ve stopped trying to see the Wizarding World one way. The visual world the movies provide will probably always be more prominent in my mind when I read, but now the art from the illustrated edition will help visually enrich the world I love.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Harry Potter Month: 4 Reasons to be Excited for Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

A new movie set in the wizarding world is, of course, exciting. But here are four reasons that I'm excited about Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them that really have nothing to do with the amazing trailers that have come out and everything to do with being HP fanatic.

1. The script was penned by Rowling
This woman does everything! MG/YA fantasy, fictional magical textbooks, adult literary, detective novel, and now a movie screenplay. And even if I don't love all of her works, her writing ability is never in question. She will always be one heck of an author whose imagination is magic. I'm excited to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them come to life.

2. It was made to be a movie
Now we can't complain about them cutting out half the book or our favorite characters or weird changes in details. This movie is the complete story that Rowling intended, told in the way she intended. How awesome is that?!

Okay, same world, different country. If you've been reading the new content on Pottermore about the American wizarding culture, you can tell this is going to be a lot different. And it's set in the 1920's! From what I've seen of the promo photos and trailers, the historical setting gives is a great atmosphere. The story also follows all new characters who are older and not confined in a school. This is not your typical Harry Potter story.

4. We thought Deathly Hollows was the end
Going to see Deathly Hallows on opening night was one of the best movie experiences I ever had. It wasn't until a year or two later that I realized that HP was over. There were no new books or movies going to come out EVER AGAIN! It was a very sad realization. BUT I WAS WRONG! Just this year we're getting a script to read and a movie which will probably be a trilogy. The HP world is getting all new content from a world that we adore. We are so fortunate.

How do you feel about the upcoming movie? What about it are you most excited for?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

HP MoTW (10): How Long Would You Attend Hogwarts

Harry Potter Moment of the Week
 A weekly meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Lunar Rainbows Reviews. For more information about how to participate and future topics, go here.

Question of the Week: Would you finish your studies at Hogwarts in your 5th year, or would you go on until the 7th year?

I'm not quite sure I understand the question, could students dropout after 5th year? Or is it referring to students returning to Hogwarts after the end of Voldemort's tyranny? Either way, as a person who is currently planning on going to muggle grad school, I'd definitely continue attending school for as long as possible. As many subjects as there are at Hogwarts, I would always feel like there's so much that I haven't learned yet. I'm kind of a Hermione like that.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Harry Potter Month: The Magic of HP Covers Part 2

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

In Part 1 of The Magic of the Harry Potter Covers, I broke down the covers to find things hidden in the art. I'll be doing the same here with covers 4-7, but starting with number 5 the covers are much plainer. It's like the covers are growing up alongside Harry just like the story is. They later covers do not have all of the fun hidden objects, but I think there's definitely some interesting hidden meaning to discuss. It's so exciting!

4. Could be another monster, but I think it's Voldemort because the eyes match the ones on the 7th cover.
5. Beauxbaton's carriage
6.*EDIT* Triwizard Cup that was the portkey to the graveyard (Thanks Alex!)
7. Spider and a Blast-Ended Skrewt
8. There's no demeters in GoF, so I'm guessing this is a Boggart
9. Crowd of people to watch the Tounament
10. Sirius, or should I say Snuffles
11. Very impressive looking Goblet of Fire
*Very much in the style of the previous covers. I think there might be even more to find in this one than any other book cover.

2. Sirius at Grimmauld Place or the Department of Mysteries?
3. Who is the shadow?
4. The Department of Mysteries
5. Mad-eye, Tonks, and Remus coming to get Harry at Privet Drive
*There's a dream-like quality in the smokiness of the cover. I also love that it shows us scenes from two (maybe three) places: Harry at the Department of Mysteries (or at least his dreams), the Order coming to get him at Privet Drive, and possibly Sirius standing in a door way. There also seems to be a general theme of doorways.

1. Dark Mark
2. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny
3. Hogwarts
4. The Pensive
*In general, the cover looks very cloudy (kind of like the 5th). Maybe the entire book itself is a Pensive showing us a memory.

1. Voldemort... I added him to the list because for some reason I always thought he was a dementor
2. Broken bits of Hogwarts
3. The crowd standing around watching shows that this is probably the last battle between Harry and Voldemort
4. You can barely see it, but Harry's wearing the pouch Hagrid gave him for his Birthday. The one he used to carry the Snitch, part of Lily's letter, his broken wand, etc.
5. Neither of them are holding a wand, maybe because they're reaching for the Elder Wand after Voldemort was disarmed?
6. Books 1 and 7 are the only ones to use the curtains on the edge of the cover. Maybe they "open at the close"

Do you prefer the art of the earlier covers or the later ones? Did you notice anything I missed?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Harry Potter Month: The Magic of the HP Covers Part 1

Harry Potter Month is hosted by Faith at Geeky Zoo Girl and Micheline at Lunar Rainbows Reviews. This fun event runs throughout the month of July. Find out more about it here.

I have never paid much attention to the Harry Potter covers, by the time I got into the series they were so familiar that I never looked closer. Recently I've been finding a lot of things in the art that I had never noticed before and I'll never be taking these covers for granted again. Here's a list of all the things I found:

 1. A Bludger
2. Possibly a flying key?
4. Unicorn that hasn't been killed by Voldemort
5. The Snitch
6. Fluffy
7. Hogwarts
8. Student sneaking out of bed

1. Snake engravings on the pillars
2. Mrs. Norris
3. a VERY LONG snake
4. Written in the same style as the messages left by Ginny
5. Moaning Myrtle's Bathroom?
6. The Sword of Godric Gryffandor
7. What is with the cloak? Is that from the story or is it just supposed to go with the red theme?
8. Basilisk
9. Lockhart's shadow?

1. Hadrid's Hut
2. Harry's Patronu
3. Womping Willow
4. Forbidden Forest
5. Moony
6. Crookshanks?
7. Lots of Dementors
8. Sirius
9. Wormtale
*This is one of my favorite covers. Hogwarts at night is beautiful and I love that all of the Marauders are on this cover one way or another (if you count the stag as a version of Prongs)

It turns out the covers are as amazing as the stories are, filled with many small details that create the  magic. And I also notice something new each time I look at them, just like when I read the books.

How about you, did you notice anything new? What do you think of the more questionable objects? Did you see anything else hidden in the art?


Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: The Apple Throne (United States of Asgard #3) by Tessa Gratton

Title: The Apple Throne (United States of Asgard #3)
Author: Tessa Gratton
Publication Date: 12 March 2015
Rating: 4 Stars
There is only one person in the whole world who remembers the famous prophet Astrid Glyn: the berserker Soren Bearstar.

Ever since Astrid agreed to give up her life, her name, and even her prophetic dreams to become Idun the Young, the almost-goddess who protects the apples of immortality in a secret mountain orchard, she’s been forgotten by everyone. Everyone except Soren.

For the last two years he’s faithfully visited her every three months. Then one day he doesn’t come. Though forbidden to leave the orchard, Astrid defies the gods by escaping with a bastard son of Thor to find Soren. But ancient creatures are moving in the mountains beneath the country. They are desperate to leave the shadows and Astrid’s quest might be the key they need.

Not-quite-a-goddess, but no longer only a girl, Astrid must choose a path that will save herself and the people she loves without unraveling the ancient magic that holds the entire nine worlds together.

Welcome to the final chapter of the United States of Asgard
- Summary from Goodreads
The best thing about the United States of Asgard series is the world. It's ancient ideals combined with the modern world creates such interesting culture that just seems right. Like Harry Potter, each new book in USoA provides new insight and reveals new aspects of the world which makes it come to life whenever you read it.

The Apple Throne is the last book in the series. Despite each book having a new narrator and complete story, the series must be read in order to be understood. This novel is told from Astrid's POV and picks up right after she becomes Idun, but after a while it skips forward until after the events of Strange Maid. She has trouble adjusting to her new life being both goddess and girl, mortal life and immortal name. On her quest to find Soren she is learning to reconcile the juxtapositions in her life. This is completely Astrid's story. She's very different from the previous Beserker and Valkyrie narrators, but she's probably my favorite out of all three. While the others are physically strong, Astrid is strong without being a fighter. She's a good person who's trying to do what's right for the world, the people she loves, and herself.

Like the previous books in the series, there a road trip, romance, and prophecy. In The Lost Son, I felt like the writing style felt distant, but I didn't notice it in this book. I think it had more to do with me getting used to Gratton's style rather than it changing. It has the same slow, meandering style that the rest of the series has, sometimes it flows, other times it drags. There are plenty of familiar faces in this book, but Astrid's two main companions are new to the series (although they were introduced in the novella Gold Runner which I have not read). Soren isn't in the book as much as I would like, but the scenes he did have were great.

Over all, The Apple Throne is a strong addition to the United States of Asgard series and provides a great conclusion for our characters. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Severance: Stories by Robert Olen Butler

Title: Severance: Stories
Author: Robert Olen Butler
Rating: 3.5 Stars

The human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one-half minutes after decapitation. In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute. Inspired by the intersection of these two seemingly unrelated concepts, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler wrote sixty-two stories, each exactly 240 words in length, capturing the flow of thoughts and feelings that go through a person's mind after their head has been severed. The characters are both real and imaginedMedusa (beheaded by Perseus, 2000 BC), Anne Boleyn (beheaded at the behest of Henry VIII, 1536), a chicken (beheaded for Sunday dinner, Alabama, 1958), and the author (decapitated, on the job, 2008). Told with the intensity of a poet and the wit of a great storyteller, these final thoughts illuminate and crystallize more about the characters' own lives and the worlds they inhabit than many writers manage to convey in full-length biographies or novels. The stories, which have appeared in literary magazines across the country, are a delightful and intriguing creative feat from one of today's most inventive writers. - Summary from Goodreads

This short story collection contains sixty-two stories, all of which are exactly 240 words long. The stories are told from the point-of-view of famous figures from history, mythical characters, a random chicken, etc. all of whom were beheaded. These 240 word stories show the thoughts of these characters after their head has been severed from their body. Despite being short, there are lines that have more than one meaning in them which shows the economy of the writer. Stories that seem to be straight forward turn out to have undercurrents of the most disturbing scenes and subjects. Because the stories were so short, they were incredibly addicting and it was always exciting to see who lost their head next. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Title: Star Wars: Bloodline
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: LucasBooks
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Rating: 5 STARS!!!

When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy — from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position — even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing… -
Summary from Goodreads

Let me just begin this review by saying that every Star Wars fan should read Bloodline.

Not only was the characterization of Leia fantastic, the politics of the time (5 years before Episode VII) were completely believable, interesting, and sounded a little too familiar. I was hooked from the first chapter, which rarely happens to me. As fans of the movie we only see the surface of everything that’s going on, Claudia Gray digs into the world and makes it work logically while giving it diversity and flavor. I will never stop being impressed. 

One of the most important things to me as a SW fan and a booklover is that I could hear the voices of beloved characters like Leia, Han, and C-3PO while reading. Not only did the author capture this, she helped to develop Leia’s character more by presenting a whole new story in which the stakes were both political and personal. We get to see inside her mind and understand the heartbreak of losing Alderaan, the tumultuous feelings she has towards Vader, the frustration she feels at being trapped in a political process that no longer works, and her determination to take action to get something done. This is the Leia we know and love and, with all the benefits that the novel form of storytelling has, we get to know her better than ever before. 

On a side note, with novels it’s so much easier to add in backstory and explanations of things that the movies should have addressed. For example, the fact that Leia and Han are married. THANK YOU! Obviously Bloodline also deals with much more than this small detail since it has the freedom and the time to, but their marriage was something that was not established in the new canon until now and I am thankful for it, no matter how small of a detail it may be. 

I was a bit surprised that the story followed more than just Leia’s POV and I thought I would get bored reading the “extra” characters’ chapters, but it was great seeing the universe through their eyes and learning more of their stories. I came to love the side characters like Greer, Joph, and Ransolm; it was amazing to watch each of them grow and change over the course of the novel. Especially the young Senator Ransolm Casterfo (who I imagine looks like Loki). I started off hating his guts and by the end of the book he was my favorite character, second only to Leia. Because he belongs to the political opposition he and Leia get off to a rocky start, made worse by the fact that he has a thing for collecting Imperil artifacts for fun. If you can’t imagine Leia’s horror, just imagine a WWII veteran meeting a young punk who collects Nazi memorabilia. It was like that. But over the course of the book Leia (and the reader) begins to understand his character, which is so interesting and layered! I would love to see a companion novel that focuses on Ransolm after the events of this book. There are brief cameos and occasional mentions of established SW characters besides Leia, but they aren’t used as a crutch. This makes the appearance/reference of said characters *cough* Han *cough* even more rewarding.

Bloodline managed to balance political games with high stakes action while also slowing down just long enough to delve deep into the minds and backstories of beloved characters, both old and new. It is a great novel by its own merit, but the fact that it is a great SW novel makes me love it even more. This has been my favorite book of the year. I literally loved every page. I hope the future is filled with many more Star Wars books written by Claudia Gray.