Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

So I am somewhat amazed that I hadn't heard of this book prior to last week. I found it while perusing Facebook and someone posted a picture of the novel talking about how they were so excited for the new book to come out. The cover looked pretty, and I knew I'd seen it before, but had never really looked into it, so I looked up the synopsis on Goodreads and I couldn't figure out how I hadn't already added it to my TBR list. It has quite a few things I look for in a book-fantasy, love, a little bit of magic, and it's a retelling of Arabian Nights (aka One Thousand and One Nights), which I've never read, but I do know the story of it. So I decided why not, I need a good love story right now, and boy did I get one!



Plot

Following the story line of Arabian Nights, The Wrath & the Dawn follows the story of Shahrzad, Shazi for those who know her well, who has volunteered to marry Khalid Ibn al-Rashid, the Caliph of Khorasan, the King of Kings. Although the title is impressive, to Shahrzad and the city of Rey, he is a monster. But why? Because every night, Khalid takes a new bride, and by dawn she is dead. So any normal person wouldn't volunteer to marry someone if they knew the next morning they were going to have a silk cord wrapped around their throat, never to see the light of day again. But Shahrzad is here to seek revenge for the death of her best friend, and cousin to the boy she loves, Shiva, who also married Khalid and was killed.



Throughout the course of the story, Shahrzad befriends her handmaiden, Despina, and the captain of the guard, Jalal, who is also the cousin to Khalid. At night, Shazi tells stories to Khalid, leaving every night on a cliffhanger so that Khalid will not kill her, and she spends her days trying to figure out how she will kill the monster. But she must also fear for her own life because if someone finds out her plans to kill the Caliph, she will be killed. Also, there is someone trying to poison her, and attempts on her life are made on multiple occasions.

While all of this is happening, Tariq, the boy who Shazi loves, is trying to make his way to Rey so he can kill the Caliph and rescue his love. With the help of his friend Rahim, Reza bin-Latief, his uncle, and Jahandar al-Khaysuran, Shazi's father, he comes up with a plan and sets about to save his love.

While Shahrzad is living in the palace, she learns what she can about Khalid, in hopes of learning why so many girls have died at his hand. Throughout the course of the book, you learn that Khalid does not sleep at night, and that rain is scarce. The way Renée Ahdieh sticks these tidbits into the story, you don't think much of them, but they are important as to why the young girls of Rey are being plucked from their families to marry a murderer. 

The more time Shazi spends with the Caliph, the more she learns that there is more to the monster behind the mask and they fall in love. Their love is strengthened when she learns of the curse that Khalid is bound to, all because of a girl named Ava. 

When Khalid leaves on a trip to try and settle a war effort that is building, Tariq comes to rescue Shazi, not knowing that she has fallen for the beast, or that Khalid is not currently in the palace. Reza uses the little magical strength that he has left to cause a lightening storm that burns down portions of the palace and the town of Rey, causing thousands of people to die. In the Caliph's absence, Jalal tries to protect Shazi from being taken by Tariq, but when they see the destruction that has befallen the city, he tells Tariq to take her out of Rey and never let her return.

What I Liked
  • Shahrzad is an amazing heroine. She goes in this to get revenge, but she also wants to know why this is happening. She isn't just blood thirsty. When she learns that the reason is something out of the Caliph's control, she changes her attitude. She also doesn't take shit from anyone. On the night after the wedding, she makes a comment to Khalid which causes him to tell her that she could be killed for saying that; she comes back with telling him that she's already dead. 

  • The love story is organic. It's not love at first sight, it's real. It happens the way that most relationships do...you know, when you're married to a royal who could kill you any morning.
  • It's not just a retelling of Arabian Nights, but in a lot of ways, Beauty and the Beast. Two retellings for the price of one? Yes please!
  • You have no clue who the bad guy is. There are so many different definitions of good guys and bad guys, I don't know who to hate. And then the ending! Lines are very clearly drawn and only the reader knows.
What I Didn't Like
  • Magic is clearly very important to the story line, but it's not very well explained. At the beginning of the book, Jahandar brings a rose to Shahrzad and uses magic to make it bloom, but it dies in his hands. It took me a good part of the book to realize he was using magic there, and it was only because the curse is magic. I really didn't know how magic was involved up until then, I just knew it eventually played a part in the story because I read the synopsis for The Rose & the Dagger and it mentions magic.
  • I hate Tariq. I don't know what others opinions of him are, but I think he is stupid. I get that he's upset that his girlfriend is supposed to be killed by the Caliph, but after she has survived more than a month, you think he'd get that something is up. Especially after she tells him that it's not what he thinks. But go ahead and let your testosterone run your life. No one tried to warn you that you were being stupid.


Overall Thoughts

I'm so glad I read this book! I needed some romance in my life, and one can only watch Sex & the City so many times before you get tired of watching Carrie end up with Big (I will always be #TeamBig). And despite the fact that it's a Fantasy, the characters are very real. They acknowledge their wrongdoings and attempt to repent for them; they know that forgiveness doesn't happen over night. Also, if someone can find me a Caliph so we can fall madly in love, I'd really appreciate it. Now I'm ready to dive into The Rose & the Dagger, and the 3 other books I'm currently reading.

Rating: 8/10
Pages: 395 (hardback)
Number of Books in Series: Currently 2 Primary Works and 3 Novellas
Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Retelling
Would I Recommend It: Yes! I think every girl, lady, woman needs to read this for the heroine factor; I think everyone needs to read it for the story.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World by Dr. Dave Braun & Dr. Troy Amdahl

Last March, Young Living sent out a notice that they were furthering their partnership with the Oola Guys and releasing new essential oils to help their customers achieve Oola while being oily. What is Oola? you ask. Simple.

oo-la: noun. That state of awesomeness. It is when your life is balanced and growing in the seven key areas of life; the 7 F's of Oola (fitness, finance, family, field, faith, friends, and fun). (p. 31)

I am always a person who looks into things before doing something, and I don't just jump in, I wade in. So I looked into Dr. Dave Braun (the Oola Seeker) and Dr. Troy Amdahl (the Oola Guru). The lucky thing for me is that they are both very active on Twitter. I searched their profiles to learn about this Oola thing. They post lots of things like this.


They make you feel really good about  yourself while also being very honest about what you need to do to get your stuff together.

On the left is Dr. Dave Braun and on the right, Dr. Troy Amdahl.
So, yeah, last March. I was beginning to enter into a stage in my life when I needed to change a lot of stuff because I wasn't happy with where I was at. I was severely overweight, I had quite a few toxic friendships, I did nothing to make myself happy, and I was very depressed; pretty much I was just existing, and that is not what I wanted out of life, especially because I have big goals for my life. So I decided that I would listen to the Webinar that the Oola guys and YL were doing, which was at the beginning of April.

On the day of the Webinar, my mom and I sat on my living room couch and hooked my laptop up to the TV so we could watch it more clearly. In the Webinar, they discussed the 7 F's of Oola, Oola Blockers and Accelerators, and how to achieve Oola. For each F of Oola, Young Living has made an oil to help center you while you work on that F, along with Oola Balance and Oola Grow (these two oils had previously been released). So after listening to everything, I decided that I needed to do this; I needed this in my life. I bought the book and I carefully read it to make sure that I understood everything I was being told, and started implementing their suggestions for a life full of Oola into my life. I also bought the Oola oils in order of what I needed to work on the most.

Fast forward one year almost to the date. I've lost 81 pounds and counting; I have rid myself of toxic relationships; I have built upon the relationships that matter most to me; I am paying down my debt at an amazing rate; I wake up in the morning and actually want to get out of bed and accomplish something (once my cats stop snuggling me); I have found what I am truly passionate about and I am working towards my ultimate goal. Those are the big things, those don't include the little things I do every day to build my Oola.

When my Timehop app told me that a year ago I had started reading the book, I thought it was a good time to re-read the book and see what things I had forgotten, areas I needed improvement, and just read another good book.

So without further ado, this is what Oola is all about.



It starts out with the Oola Seeker telling you about how he hit rock bottom and that he did not want this life for himself. He was divorced, living in a horrible motel, and in extreme debt. After a shocking experience one night, he reaches out to the Oola Guru and asks for help to return his life to a life full of Oola. Being a person who has also been at rock bottom in her own life, I know how hard it is to ask for help, but I also know how grateful I am to the people who extended their hands and helped me off the ground.

After learning about how the two have worked together to get the Oola Seeker on the right path again, and learning about the amazing feats of the Oola Guru, it gets into the 7 F's of Oola: Fitness, Finance, Family, Field, Faith, Friends, and Fun.

"1. OolaFitness is everything health and wellness in your life. However, we are primarily referring to how you use your body and what you put into your body.
2. OolaFinance is is personal finance.
3. OolaFamily is all things family. Single, committed, married, divorced, kids, stepkids, extended family...all belongs here.
4. OolaField is your career, your profession. Stay-at-home parents, this includes you. We feel being a stay-at-home parent is very Oola.
5. OolaFaith is based on gratitude and humility and an understanding of our greater purpose in the world.
6. OolaFriends is everything social.
7. OolaFun explores you personal passion in life." (p. 40)

Each chapter is devoted to an F, and both the Guru and the Seeker share a story of theirs regarding the F. The personal stories for me is what really makes the book. It's one thing for a person to tell me how to improve my life, it's another for a person to tell me their own story and how they worked on overcoming something and how they work to improve it still. I know that most things in life require constant attention, there are no quick fixes, and the Oola guys know that too.

As I read though each chapter, I thought about where I stood in regard to having perfect Oola in that category. Last year, my standing was: Fitness: 1; Finance: 6; Family: 7; Field: 4; Faith: 5; Friends: 6; Fun: 2. As you can see, Fitness and Fun were dismal; so was Faith, but at the time, it wasn't that important to me, but that was more because I had no clue how to define my Faith. I was also quite okay with where my Friends rating was, but the more I practiced Oola in my every day life, the more I saw that it wasn't actually that high, it was more like a 3-4. 

This year when I read the book, I was much happier with where I stood. Again, I would read the chapters, listen to their stories and their tips for maximizing that F, and I would look at where I stood. Fitness: 6; Finance: 6; Family: 9; Field: 5; Faith: 6; Friends: 8; Fun: 6. I still have a long way to go, but I'm happy with getting everything to a 5+.

After you learn about the 7 F's, they go into the OolaBlockers and OolaAccelerators. which are things that hold you back, and things that push your forward. Although there are numerous ones in each category, they go over the most common ones.

OolaBlockers

1. Fear
2. Guilt
3. Anger
4. Self-sabotage
5. Laziness
6. Envy
7. Focus*

*"Focus is clearly an OolaAccelerator. It can, however, morph into an OolaBlocker if it takes one of two forms: 1) lack of focus, or, 2) misdirected focus. (p. 131)

OolaAccelerators

1. Gratitude
2. Love
3. Discipline
4. Integrity
5. Passion
6. Humility
7. Wisdom

As I read about the OolaBlockers, both times, I thought about each F and thought "is this the Blocker that is causing me to not fulfill my Oola for this F?" For Fitness, it was, and still is, Self-sabotage and Laziness. I will come up with any excuse to not exercise; it's raining outside, I have a headache, I worked extra hard yesterday. When it came to Friends, it was Guilt. I had a friend who I loved very dearly who helped me overcome a lot of things, but he was heading in a downward spiral. I wanted to help him like he helped me, but it was only dragging me back down. I still deal with letting go of that toxic friendship.

In regards to the Accelerators, I thought about which ones would help me improve the different F's the most. Discipline is a big one with Fitness, as well as Integrity. Passion is important to Field. I applied the different chapters to the F's as I weeded out the Blockers. 

"We're going to clean house first. Section III deals with removing the OolaBlockers. This is the junk in your life that is holding you back from a life in Oola. Although it may be a challenge to look at yourself honestly, we know that by 'cleaning your house' first, you can build from a fresh place. First, remove the crap that blocks your path. It is important to clear the way, so you don't step in the crap while you work toward the life you want. If you don't, you will step in it, it will stick to your shoes, it will slow you down, and it will smell." (pp. 103-104)

Through everything I have read, it is this paragraph that has stayed with me the most. Why? Because I feel that this is the mistake I've made every time I try to turn my life around. I only focus on adding good things to my life, I don't look at the bad things holding me back, or better yet, I ignore them. I know they're there, I just choose to not acknowledge their presence. That is the worst thing anyone can do.

In the last section of the book, the Guru and Seeker go over the steps to achieving Oola: the OolaWheel, the OolaPlan, the OolaPath, and the OolaLife.

The OolaWheel is just that, a wheel, where each section represents an F, and in the center is your hub, or your ultimate motivation (mine is my family). My OolaWheel gives me a score of 577, which I'm pretty proud of. Last year when I started, it was only 301. You can find out your Oola Score here.




The OolaPlan is your goal for each F: a one week goal, a one month goal, and a one year goal. You can set however many goals for each F. For Fitness, I did two, one for weight loss and maintaining, and the second for exercise; without either, I wasn't going to build my Fitness score, but I needed to break it down to that they weren't as scary, and worked on them concurrently. You can download pages for your OolaPlan here.



The OolaPath is how you achieve the OolaLife. You know where you stand with the OolaWheel, and you know what you want because of your OolaPlan, now to make it a reality. You do this through action steps, tracking, and accountability.  Action steps are the steps you are going to take to reach your goal. Tracking is checking off when you complete a step, be it a daily step, a weekly step, monthly step, etc. And accountability is holding yourself accountable, and having some friends or family hold you accountable. It's always easier to achieve your goals when you have someone to keep you in check. You can download pages for your OolaPath here.


These pictures are samples from the workbook section of the book, but I have made my own copies and use those to help me achieve my Oola.

And something that I love the most is pairing my goals with my Oola oils. Every month before I pay my bills, or before I make a large purchase, I place some OolaFinance and OolaGrow oils in my palms, rub them together and repeat I am financially free and living abundantly three times and meditate on that before I do anything else. Before an outing with my family, I do the same thing with OolaFamily and OolaBalance and repeat I am unconditionally loving, patient, and respectful. I use the Grow with F's I am needing to build, and Balance with F's I want to remain where they are at.

Oola Mantras

Fitness: I am fit, healthy, disciplined, and strong.
Finance: I am financially free and living abundantly.
Family: I am unconditionally loving, patient, and respectful.
Field: I am pursuing my purpose in life.
Faith: I am grateful, humble, and fully connected.
Friends: I am blessed with empowering, healthy relationships.
Fun: I am pursuing the joys of life.



What I Like

  • This book breaks down the 7 key things in life and makes it possible to be balanced in all of them. 
  • They are very honest with you that it takes work and discipline and that this isn't going to happen overnight. There is no sugarcoating. But they also aren't mean about it.
  • Their personal stories are wonderful. They range from very moving to very funny.
What I Didn't Like

  • In the book, Faith talks a lot about God. That's not me. Through both readings and their other sources of help, I had to discover how to make Faith work in my life. My Faith is more meditation and nature and less religion. I wish the book was more broad in this subject.


My Thoughts Overall

I know that all of this sounds cheesy, and honestly, it is. But it also works for me and I think it can work for you. Over the years, I have read my fair share of self-help books. Honestly, I love self-help books. I think they're amazing because they are interesting and you learn something, even if it's just one thing. But out of all of the self-help books I've ever read, this is the one that has spoken to me the most and that has improved my life and my outlook on life the most. Dr. Dave, the Oola Seeker, has the most positive outlook I have ever seen in a person. Between the book, the webinar, and their Oola videos on YouTube, his positive attitude just jumps out at you and makes you feel better and that you can accomplish anything. Dr. Troy is my motivation. Three things that are talked about the most is his beautiful marriage and family, that he is debt free by 40, and that he has traveled to more than 50 countries. Even before reading the book, these were 3 things that I knew I wanted in my life, and he is proof that you can have all of them.

Rating: 10/10
Pages: 256
Genre(s): Self-help, Non-fiction
Would I Recommend It: Yes!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Recently I decided that there are some books that I want to re-read. Books from high school that I had to read for school and didn't appreciate, books that I might have been too  young to appreciate the first time I read them, books that mean more now that I'm older, and some just because they are good books and deserve to be read again. Speak is one of those books. I definitely understood it when I first read it sometime in my high school years, probably around 07-ish. But it had a bigger impact on me this time. I have known people who have been raped; I've been in situations where I was uncomfortable with a guy but didn't know what to say or do. Rape is a topic that is talked about in hushed tones and sparks a lot of controversy. It always seems to come back to if the girl (or guy) was "asking for it" because of what they were wearing or where they were. I am of the belief that it is always, 100% wrong. No one asks for it. This book does a brilliant job of saying just that, and I love Laurie Halse Anderson for writing it out so beautifully so that people who haven't been through it can understand the pain the victim feels a little better and so that people who have experienced it can know that they are not alone in what has happened to them or what they felt.

Plot

Before Melinda Sordino started her freshman year, she attended a party. She was having a great time until Andy Evans raped her. Melinda did what anyone in that situation should do, she called the cops. However, she didn't tell anyone what happened. The cops busted the party, kids got in trouble, and Melinda went back to her house and hid herself away. Now no one wants to be friends with Melinda; she's a snitch. She also doesn't exactly want to be friends with anyone either. Melinda retreats into herself, skipping classes, letting her grades drop, and hides in an old broom closet.

At the beginning of the year, she makes friends with Heather, a new girl who doesn't know anyone or know that Melinda busted a party. But Heather wants to do things, join clubs, and Melinda isn't that girl anymore. Heather feels that Melinda is just too depressing to hang out with, and has probably heard the rumors, and tells her that she can't be Melinda's friend anymore.

It doesn't help that Melinda's parents are always arguing. At one point in the book, Melinda says that she wishes that they had just gotten divorced so they could all move on with their lives; she says if she had never been born, her parents would have gotten a divorce already, but now they have to fake it until she turns 18. They treat her bad grades as a reason to fight with each other more, and instead of asking why, they get mad at her. Her mom is very work oriented and leaves Thanksgiving to manage the store; her dad is the more relaxed of the two. At one point, it is alluded to they might each be having affairs.

Melinda's one escape is her Art class. At the beginning of the year, her teacher, Mr. Freeman gives the class an assignment. They draw a word and that is the thing they will be drawing for the rest of the year. Melinda's word: tree. In this class, Melinda has a lot of her breakthroughs in this class and when interacting with Mr. Freeman and a girl in the class, Ivy Hall.



When Melinda learns that her old friend, Rachel, is dating Andy, Melinda starts to worry for her friends safety, but she doesn't know how to tell her. Melinda and Ivy write on the bathroom wall "Guys to Stay Away From Andy Evans" and it is soon filled with other girls comments: "He's a creep." "He's a bastard." On and on talking about how horrible he is. During a period in the library, Melinda sits down next to Rachel and they pass notes back and forth, and for the first time, Melinda tells someone what happened, but does not say a name. When Rachel asks who it was, she does not believe Melinda and yells at her and calls her jealous. At prom though, Rachel dumps Andy and it is the talk of the school.

In the last week of school, Melinda is cleaning out the closet she hides in, she no longer feels that she needs it, when Andy steps in and tells her that he knows she enjoyed it and that he is tired of her spreading rumors. When he attempts to rape her a second time, she tries to escape and he hits her. She then hits him with a board and is able to unlock the door, where the lacrosse team is waiting with their sticks raised as someone runs to get help.

Melinda finishes the school year completing her tree, rekindling her friendship with Rachel, and earning the respect of everyone for standing up to a known bully. Finally, Melinda feels like she is able to begin working past her rape.



Characters

Melinda Sordino: A freshman in high school who was raped at a party before the school year started and has become the outcast of the school for getting the party busted. At the time of the incident, she doesn't tell anyone. Throughout the school year, she retreats farther and farther into herself until just before the end of the school year when she sees that an old best friend is now dating the guy who raped her. Finally, at the end of the year, she stands up to the man who raped her and can begin to get her life back.

Andy Evans: The senior who raped Melinda and is also one of the most popular guys in school. He dates Rachel, a previous friend of Melinda, towards the end of the school year, but when she refuses to let him feel her up at prom and breaks up with him, he becomes the joke of the high school. He corners Melinda in a broom closet and attempts to rape her again. Melinda fights back this time and other students come to her aid.

Rachel: Melinda's friend since childhood who disowns Melinda after she called the cops to a party. She makes friends with the foreign exchange students and ignores Melinda through the school year. Before prom, Melinda and Rachel pass notes in the library and Melinda tells her about the party; however, when Melinda says that it was Andy, Rachel's current boyfriend, she accuses Melinda of being jealous. However, what Melinda says stays with Rachel and she ends up breaking up with Andy. After the second attack, Rachel reaches out to Melinda to repair their friendship.

Mr. Freeman: Melinda's Art teacher who is easily a favorite among the students because he lets them listen to music and eat in class. At the beginning of the year, he assigns them all a word, and that word is what they will spend the year drawing in different styles. He works on a painting of a prison with other school employees behind bars during the course of the school year. His distaste for the school board is palpable, but that does not stop him from teaching the students to the best of his abilities. Melinda bonds with Mr. Freeman over the course of the year and he is always open to her and tries to get her to open up.

The Parents: Melinda's parents, in a lot of ways, are normal parents. They are upset when they learn their daughter is cutting class and not doing well in her classes. However, they aren't parents of the year either. They blame Melinda for these things and do not try to figure out why she is acting this way. It is alluded to that her parents may each be having an affair, and they argue a lot. They both put work before family, but they have different work ethics. The Christmas scene though, is very touching, when they gift her with a sketch pad and charcoals because they notice she's been drawing. In this moment, Melinda wants to tell her parents what happened, but she also does not want to ruin the moment and still isn't ready to talk about it.

Heather: A new student who befriends Melinda at the start of the school year. Heather is a very Type A personality. She knows what she wants to be when she grows up, she wants to join as many clubs as possible, and she is emotion driven. She often uses Melinda to get things she wants, but does not listen to Melinda. When one of the groups, the Martha's, won't let Heather join, Heather drops Melinda because she is too depressing and doesn't have the same ambitions. When she realizes that her change in friends group still isn't going to help Heather get into the Martha's, she goes back to Melinda. This time though, Melinda stands up for herself.

David Petrakis: A boy in a few Melinda's classes, and her lab partner in Science class. He goes back and forth between wanting to be Pre-Med and Pre-Law. He is very politically driven and gets the History teacher in trouble for his racist rants. He also helps Melinda stage a silent protest when the same History class. Melinda forms a type of crush on him, but because of the rape, she cannot properly explore these feelings until she works on that.

Ivy: A girl in Melinda's Art class who through the course of the year, forms a friendship with. They bond after Ivy accidentally gets marker on Melinda's shirt and Ivy helps her get the stain out in the bathroom. In the bathroom, they write the remarks to not trust Andy Evans. When Ivy sees that more girls have added to their comment, she grabs Melinda to show her. 

My Thoughts

Rape is a very upsetting topic. People do not like to talk about it. No one wants to admit that someone could do something so horrific to another human being. However, the bigger issue is that people are quick to blame the victim and forgive the abuser. 

"Look at what she was wearing." 
"She was drunk." 
"They were asking for it."
 "They never said no."

Both men and women are raped every year, and it is not because of these reasons or any others. It is because someone took advantage of them. When a person tells you that they have been raped, they are trusting you with a very personal issue and they believe that they can talk to you. Do not judge them, do not verbally attack them; just listen and ask them what you can do to help. 

When it comes to any form of touching another person, consent is the most important thing, and it can be given and taken away at any point. The minute a person says no, or to stop, or resists, it is rape.



What I Liked

  • As I have said, this book beautifully discusses what it is like for a person who has been raped and how they work through the aftermath of it.
  • The students are very accurate descriptions of what it is like to be a teenager. I saw a lot of my high school self in Heather and Ivy, and other characters reminded me of high school friends and students I knew. 
  • It has a happy ending. Not every situation like this has a happy ending, but this story gives people hope that no matter what they are going through, you can get through this.
  • At the end of the book, Anderson gives information about how she wrote the story, her mindset during it, etc. It also gives information for people who have suffered abuse or know someone who has. This information should be everywhere!
What I Didn't Like

  • The novel ends almost right after Andy attacks Melinda a second time. I would like to know what happened to Andy, how Melinda's parents reacted.
Banned Books



Speak is on a list of banned books, mostly because of the rape scenes. By banning this book, you are preventing people who have gone through similar situations from realizing they aren't alone, feeling that they can seek help, and helping people who haven't been through it understand what the person is feeling. I'm not saying you need to read it to your 5 year old, but this should be available in high schools, seeing as Freshman is the person who was raped by a Senior.

Rating: 9/10
Pages: 198
Genre(s): Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Would I Recommend It: Yes! Read this everyone!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My most recent read was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I have been looking forward to reading this book for quite some time for a few reasons. One, I was told that I would love it because it is an adult version of Harry Potter. Two, the cover of it is beautiful and mysterious. Lastly, it has wonderful reviews, not only by people who I trust to give good reviews, but also by multitudes of other people.



I had started reading it just after Christmas, however, I just wasn't in the mindset for the book, so I shelved it to finish it later. When I started it this time, I felt much more ready to enter this intricate world. I must say, I wasn't disappointed. Morgenstern has done a brilliant job of painting this circus of black and white and shades of grey. Her detailed description of the acts, tents, and people make you feel like you are there watching everything happen. She pulls you in from the very beginning.

"The circus arrives with no warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not." (p. 3)

From that instant, you need to know more about this mysterious circus. You can tell it is something magical and it pulls you in and you don't fight it at all.

Plot

The story follows the lives of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair from when they are just children up until their death. Celia is the daughter of Hector Bowen, aka Prospero the Enchanter, and Marco is an orphan adopted by Mr. A. H., aka Alexander. However, unlike normal children, they are used as pawns in a game by Hector and Alexander to see who has the better teaching method. But what are they teaching? you ask. Simple. Magic!

Celia and Marco spend their youths learning manipulations and enchanting and bindings when they are both pulled into Le Cirque des Rêves, a magical, dreamlike circus that travels the world with performances that defy everything you've ever thought to be true. This is the stage that Celia and Marco will spend their lives performing on, Marco behind the scenes keeping everyone bound to the circus safe and young, Celia as The Illusionist. They both add tents onto the circus over the years that become more unique as their talents progress and they begin to work together, against the advice of Mr. A. H. and Hector.



Over the years, we follow the lives of other people involved in the circus, some performers others Rêveurs, people who have fallen in love with the circus and follow it around the world when they can. You have Isobel Martin, a young lady who has fled a marriage who falls madly in love with Marco. She becomes a fortune teller for the circus and sends Marco letters so he can keep contact with the circus without actually being on the road with the circus. Then you have Tsukiko (Kiko for short). She is the contortionist for the circus and has tattoos that cover her body. Through the course of the book, we learn more about her mysterious past. Towards the end, we learn that she was a competitor in the last competition between Hector and Alexander, which she won 83 years ago. Although Celia has been looking for a way to end the competition with Marco without causing anyone's death, Tsukiko is the cause of the end of the competition, resulting in a stalemate between Marco and Celia.

Rules of the Game

The rules of how the circus can function are pretty vague. Each tutor must select a participant that they will teach in their own ways. At the end of the novel, we learn from Alexander that Hector was once a pupil of his, but he disagreed on how it should be taught. Alexander prefers a more ancient way of teaching with symbols and writings; Hector is more of a hands on teacher. They cannot interfere with the others pupil or the circus at large. The winner is declared when one of the pupils dies.

Other than that, we don't know much about how the game is supposed to work, and we only find out all of these different tidbits of the rules as the characters learn about them. We spend the entire book just as confused as Celia and Marco.

How the Circus Works

The circus itself is magic. It is held together by the acts of Celia and Marco. Marco creates a bonfire that keeps the circus alive, and as long as it is burning, then everything is okay. He also binds the different people in the circus to it, so that they never age (well, they age very slowly in a way that no one notices), no one is born (aside from the twins on opening day) and no one dies (unless magic is used to kill them), and no one can leave the circus for extended periods of time.



Characters

Celia Bowen: The daughter of Hector Bowen who appears at his door after her mother committed suicide when she is just 5 years old. She has a natural talent for magic and Hector teachers her how to use it. She is the Illusionist for the circus, and through her bond to the circus, ends up falling in love with Marco. She has a very defiant personality, but she is very loving. She hates that her father has bound her to this game that she does not understand, but she loves the circus and its members and wants the best for them. She dies in the end, with Marco, and their ghosts haunt the circus.

Marco Alisdair: An orphan adopted by Mr. A.H. who is taught magic through symbols and books. Although he does not travel with the circus, he is bound to it by the bonfire he created. He and Celia create different rooms for the circus, showing off their talents as they compete with each other. In the end, he agrees to let Tsukiko sacrifice him so that the circus can go on and Celia can live, but Celia cannot live without him.

Hector Bowen aka Prospero the Enchanter: A real magician who enlists his daughter in a game that he knows may end in her death when she is just 5 years old. In one of his acts, he tries to make himself disappear, but the magic used was too strong for him and he is now a ghost of what he used to be, bound to places that he has a strong connection with.

Mr. A. H. aka Alexander: The other real magician involved in the contest. He adopts Marco and trains him as his pawn for the game. He is a very strict man who always wears a grey suit.

Isobel Martin: A runaway trying to escape a marriage, she runs into Marco before the circus starts. She agrees to join the circus as a fortune teller so she can keep him in touch with what is happening at the circus. She falls in love with Marco, although it is unrequited. The night that Marco tells Isobel that he is in love with Celia, the circus begins to crumble. She tells Marco that she thought he loved her and thought that if and when Celia was out of the way, they would be able to be together, but she knows now that isn't true. She says there is no hard feelings, but she is the one who sends Marco to Tsukiko to sacrifice him, so I don't know how much I believe that. Hell hath no fury.

Friedrick Herr Thiessen: In the beginning of the novel, Herr Thiessen is commissioned to make a clock, but he is not told what it will be used for. Years later, while he is on vacation, he is told about Le Cirque des Rêves, so he goes to check it out, and finds the clock in the courtyard is the very clock he made. Herr Thiessen falls in love with the circus and becomes the first of the Rêveurs, and inspires the costume of the Rêveurs, black and white with a small piece of red, like a rose or a scarf. Herr Thiessen writes newspapers about the circus, and these articles are translated across the globe so that people everywhere can fall in love with it. Through these articles, Celia contacts Herr Thiessen and they become friends, although they don't meet until they have been exchanging letter for quite some time. On October 31, 1901, Herr Thiessen is killed when Chandresh throws a knife at Mr. A. H. and A.H. moves out of the way, letting Herr Thiessen take the knife instead. Celia tries to use her magic to save him, but is unsuccessful and blames herself for his death.

Chandresh Christophe Lefevre: Chandresh is the technical owner of Le Cirque des Rêves. He is known for is theatrical productions pushing the boundaries. Marco spends most of his life working for Chandresh, but also altering his memories so that he does not remember everything he sees or hears. He is an alcoholic, and mixed with his blurred memories, he causes the death of Herr Thiessen. The circus members gather at his house frequently to have lavish parties.

Tara and Lainie Burgess: Sisters who help with the production of the circus because of their eye for fine details. The sisters are witty and never admit to which one is older, although they say they are not twins. Tara becomes aware of the magic that holds the circus together, however, when she goes looking for information for Mr. A.H., she distractedly steps in front of a moving train and dies. Although nothing is confirmed on if A.H. is involved, I highly suspect he altered her memory, causing her to step in front of the train. At the funeral, Lainie delivers the most beautiful eulogy I have ever heard.

"'I do not mourn the loss of my sister because she will always be with me, in my heart,' she says. 'I am, however, rather annoyed that my Tara has left me to suffer you lot alone. I do not see as well without her. I do not hear as well without her. I do not feel as well without her. I would be better off without a hand or a leg than without my sister. Then at least she would be here to mock my appearance and claim to be the pretty one for a change. We have all lost our Tara, but I have lost a part of myself as well." (p. 243)




Tsukiko: The contortionist for the circus, she shows up at one of Chandresh's parties and agrees that she will join. She is a regular at Chandresh's parties after that. Through the course of the novel, we learn that she was a previous contestant in the game that Celia and Marco are now involved in and that she was the winner. She had fallen in love with her opponent, Hinata, who killed herself when she could not take being involved in the competition any longer. In 1901, Celia tells Tsukiko that she is going to try to find a way to keep the circus alive without her or Marco, and Tsukiko gives her one year to complete this task. When Celia fails, Tsukiko takes it upon herself to end it. She plans to sacrifice Marco, who she feels the lesser of the two since he does not actually perform, and he agrees. Celia does not like this though, and Tsukiko ends up watching the two of them "die."

Penelope "Poppet" Aislin Murray and Winston "Widget" Aidan Murray: The twins and last people born in the circus. They are known for their fiery red hair and their performances with the kittens. They both share an affinity towards magic, which may be due in part to their birth happening as the bonfire was being lit the first time. They are the only people part of the circus who age naturally. After the circus falls apart, they, with the help of Bailey, bind themselves to the circus to keep it going.

Bailey Clarke: Bailey first attends the circus as a little boy, when his sister dares him to go into it when it is closed. Here he meets Poppet for the first time, and she gives him one of her white gloves. He falls in love with the circus and dreams about it often. When the circus comes back when he is older, he visits it again and meets Isobel, who tells him how to find Poppet. He becomes good friends with the twins. Poppet tells Bailey that she knows that he can save the circus and he needs to run away with them. After some thinking, Bailey agrees, but finds that the circus has left already. He joins some Rêveurs and makes his way to New York, where he again breaks into the circus and finds Tsukiko. She takes him to Marco, where Marco and Celia tell him the he is the only one who can save the circus, but they give him a choice of whether or not he wants to do this. Because the circus is his home, he agrees, and Marco binds him to the circus.

What I Liked

  • There is mystery around every corner. The entire place is so magical and beautiful. I want so badly for this circus to be real so I can visit it and become a Rêveur.
  • 90% of the time, I love Morgenstern's writing style. She puts you right inside the circus and you can practically feel it buzzing to life around you.
  • I really loved all of the character, even the ones I hated. The personalities of them were so intricate, they are like real people.
  • The different tents of the circus. I can't pick which one is my favorite. The Wishing Tree, the Cloud Maze, the Illusionists Tent. I have no clue, don't make me pick!
What I Didn't Like

  • We are never given a firm set of rules and the reader only finds things out at the characters do. It makes it very confusing. This is the 10% of the writing I don't like. 
  • Are Celia and Marco dead? Is Hector really dead? I mean, Hector's invisibility is due to a performance gone wrong, so is he really there if he has to tether himself to place? The same with Celia and Marco. A.H. feels that their lack of being physical makes the dead, but Widget says they are alive. 
  • This book requires some serious paying attention. It's like Game of Thrones, you stop paying attention for two seconds and everyone is dead and a new person is in charge.
  • The book alters from second and third person point of views, and is told from the eyes of many different characters. I felt like I was getting whiplash keeping up with who I was seeing the circus through.
After Thoughts

I both liked it more than I thought I would, and less than I thought I would, if that makes any sense. I think the only people who will understand that is people who have read the book. I didn't want the magic to end. Every time I opened up the book again, it was like coming home to old friends. But I wanted it to be done with so that I could find out what the point of it all ways. I often found myself getting a headache trying to figure it out before it happened. All in all though, I did thoroughly enjoy the book, and I can see myself reading it again and learning more about Le Cirque des Rêves and falling in love all over again.



Rating: 8/10
Pages: 512 (paperback)
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Would I Recommend It: Definitely! Just not if you're reading something else or super busy. It needs your undivided attention.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

This book is full of swearing.
This book references the female body and things that women experience,
both internally and externally.
Everything from puberty, to child birth, to sexism is discussed.
If you are sensitive to harsh language, I am sorry.
If you know that any of this will offend you, do not bother.
Any hateful comments will be deleted and the user will be blocked.

For the month of April, Emma Watson chose How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran for the feminist book club Our Shared Shelf. I joined the group for a few reasons. I have always been a fan of Emma, not only as an actress, but as a human. The work she does outside of acting is an inspiration for me, and because she is only a year older than me, it makes me feel like I can accomplish just as much. Secondly, one of my goals this year was to read more books that I wouldn't usually read, and although I do identify with feminism, I hadn't read many books that I would classify as such. This group provides me the opportunity to learn about something that means a lot to me, while expanding my reading genres. Lastly,  I love reading.


Although I am still working on last months book (there's been too many other things I really wanted to read) I bought this one on Audible so I could listen to it. Although I do own a copy of the book, it has been sitting on my shelf for about 7 months unread, and the version on Audible is read by Caitlin, and I always love when the authors read their books, it's so much more personal.

I don't do this with most books, but before I started this one, I wanted to know what I was getting into because I had heard such a mix of reviews on how it was either the best thing ever read or the worst. Although most feminists believe in equal rights for men and women, and empowering women to do what makes them comfortable, there are feminists who believe women are the superior race. These feminists are often referred to as feminazi. Their radical thoughts are something I really can't get behind and often time, it makes me really angry. And the last thing I want to do when I'm reading is get angry.


So I turned to Goodreads reviews to find out what people were saying. I always read the reviews of people who I'm friends with first, because I know them and their reading style, so it gives me a good feel of the book. I didn't have too many friends who had read it, but the ones who did did not have very nice things to say. Words like "derogatory," "could not relate," "offensive," and the dreaded word "feminazi." The reviews of people I am not friends with were even worse. Yes, there are many good reviews and I read those too, but they just referred to how it was "funny" and "made good points." They didn't go into what the good points were, what if we have different opinions of what a good point is?!

Next, I turned to the Our Shared Shelf page. Although it's early in the month, I knew there had to be some discussion on the book. Luckily, there was. I read through a couple, but wasn't finding what I wanted, they were just people asking about swapping the book, people wanting to get together, no real discussions. Then I clicked on one titled "White Perspective?" Here we go! The person who wrote the post had said that she was enjoying the book so far, but people have told her that it is from a very white perspective and doesn't include transgender. These were my fears of the book and this wonderful person was asking them for me!

People had already replied to it, but the first few replies were all I needed. One reply from a Moderator said that although part of it had put them off a little, they knew they were reading a book that was from the perspective of "the life experiences of a white, cisgender, heterosexual English woman." Which to me make sense. You can't expect a person who identifies under all of those labels to talk about experiences from a different label, unless a person who identifies that way is telling them what to write. So that eased that worry. Down a few more replies, a person said that Moran quotes Germaine Greer's work frequently, and Greer is a known transphobic. Although the person said that they wished Moran wouldn't put Greer on a pedestal, another person responded to this by quoting the book: "Germaine Greer, my heroine, is crackers on the subject of transgender issues!" (p. 13) Now I'm thinking, "Well, she might mention her a lot, but at least she doesn't agree with everything the woman has to say." The person who quoted the book also gave me the final nugget I needed to ease my mind. They said that although many people read the book as a feminist manifesto, they were reading it as a memoir with feminism undertones. "Okay, I can do that, I can read the book." Finally feeling confident in the book, I dove into it, and I am so glad that I did!


The prologue starts on Moran's 13th birthday where some Yobs are chasing her and throwing rocks at her.

Side note: Yob is a rude, noisy young man.
Although I was able to figure that out through subtext, there were a few words I looked up to clarify.
This taking place across the pond and there is a different vocab.

She runs home to cry and has a conversation with dog. Once she is finished, she is back to being positive and excited for her birthday, only to find out that her mom says she is too old for birthday cake, so she has made her a birthday baguette filled with Philadelphia with only 7 candles. Despite the non-birthdayness of it, she enjoys it. She spends the night writing in her diary. Her entries are things all too familiar to my old diary entries. Bad habits I wished to stop, goals I would love to accomplish, how by the time I was grown up, I would be thin and pretty and everyone would love me. My heart broke for 13 year old Caitlin and 13 year old Kelsey. "I hope any children in the future do not have similar diary entries," I think. Afterwards, it goes into the things she has figured out from that birthday on and then into the bulk of the book.

The chapter titles were one of my favorite things about the book. "I Start Bleeding!" and "I Don't Know What to Call My Breasts!" I mean, yeah, they tell you exactly what you're about to read, but they also provide you with a little laugh. Not all of them though, There are some somber chapters, which as hard as they are to read, emotion wise, they help to balance the tone of the book.

Many of the early chapters I related to easily, as they were things that all women go through at some point. Later chapters, I couldn't relate to the same way because I haven't been married or had children, but that didn't stop them from being entertaining and give me something to think about. In the first chapter after getting her period for the first time, she make the comment that she didn't think it would happen to her, I thought, "You mean I'm not the only one?!" As girls, we are told about puberty a good long time before it happens, but when I first got mine, it was just like, "Well, I wasn't really expecting that."

In "I Don't Know What to Call My Breasts!" I found myself offended for the first time. Moran is talking about names for her vagina, all the different names her and her sister have called it over the years. She has finally resolved that she has a cunt.


That word right there was what I found offensive. I hate that word. If someone calls me or someone else that, they are insulting me in the worst way possible. If I hear someone use that word, I immediately lose respect for them. Simply put, them is fighting words...erm, word. Once I have picked my jaw off the ground, I continue with the book. Her explanation of why she has chosen that word helps me not throw the book out of the window and stop listening to Audible.

"I, personally, have a cunt. Sometimes it's a 'flaps' or 'twat,' but , most of the time, it's my cunt. Cunt is a proper, old, historic, strong word. I like that my fire escape also doubles up as the most potent swear word in the English language. Yeah. That's how powerful it is guys. If I tell you what I've got down there, old ladies and clerics might faint. I like how shocked people are when you say 'cunt.' It's like I have a nuclear bomb in my under pants or a mad tiger, or a gun...In a culture where nearly everything female is still seen as squeam-inducing and/or weak-menstruation, menopause, just the sheer, simple act of calling some 'a girl'-I love that 'cunt' stands, on its own, as the supreme, unvanquishable word. It has almost mystic resonance." (pp. 57-58)

Well, when you put it like that, why isn't everyone calling it that?! Am I going to start calling my lady bits a cunt, no. But can I fault her for calling hers that when that is her reasoning, no. I am now able to move past this and continue reading without the need to yell.

The chapter "Why You Shouldn't Have Children" resonated with me the most. As I have gotten older, my want for children has diminished. I can remember being 5 years old and thinking "I am going to have 3 kids because that's how many mommie and daddy have and they're happy." to a 5 year old, that is perfect logic. Then I learn where babies really come from (hint: it's not the stork), and I begin to think, do I really want to push three babies out of there? I decide that two would suffice. But then I keep getting older (I'm working on a way to stop this that doesn't include dying) and I watch my nieces age, the oldest one specifically, and all the things she goes through as a teen in today's world. I read articles about bullying in schools, or about the cost of how much it is to raise a kid in today's society (forget what it will cost by the time I actually have kids). All of a sudden, I'm think "I don't think I can do this." I see my friends who have kids and watch what they do. Mostly, they're all wonderful parents and they handle the different situations brilliantly, but how do I do it? To my knowledge, no one yet has made a book on how to be a perfect parent for all 92 million possible child personalities and situations you might deal with. Also, part of me is selfish. I want to travel, I want to eventually get a Ph.D., and I want to have a life. Is it possible to do these things with kids, yes, I know people who have done it. But how do I know that I can do it and still be happy at the end? That is an answer I can't get until I actually have a kid and that scares the hell out of me.


In this chapter, Moran touches on things I've been told many times when I tell people I don't know if I want kids.

"Women, it is presumed, will always end up having babies. They might go through silly, adolescent phases of pretending that it's something they have no interest in-but, when push comes to shove, womanhood is a cul-de-sac that ends in Babies "R" Us, and that's the end of that. All women love babies-just like all women love Manolo Blahnik shoes and George Clooney. Even the ones who wear nothing but sneakers, or are lesbians, and really hate shoes, and George Clooney." (p. 230)

I have been told that I'm being silly, that I don't know what I'm missing, that I'll change my mind when I meet the right man. But what if Mr. Right doesn't want kids? And I don't hate kids either, I love kids, I love other peoples kids, where the only responsibility is to spoil them and not injure them while they're in my care. I haven't completely shut the door to kids, but honestly, I don't know if I want one, and if I do, I don't want more than one for the aforementioned reasons and many more. I did not come to this decision over night. I have been thinking about kids as early as the age of 5, possibly earlier. Seeing Moran word what I feel so perfectly made me feel better about my decision. And for those who haven't read the book or know who Caitlin Moran is, she does have two children. She is writing this as a bash at people who have kids and has no clue what parenthood is about.


Caitlin with her daughter, Eavie.
There were chapters I didn't enjoy as much, like "Role Models and What We Do with Them" and "Intervention." Not that there was anything I totally disagreed with, they just weren't chapters that shone as brightly compared to ones I enjoyed more. But the entire book was extremely well written and is full of funny antidotes that I related to anywhere from "I get that" to "Oh my god is she quoting parts of my life?!" (Like the chapter "I Am in Love!). I am so glad that I have finally read this book, and I feel more secure in calling myself a feminist and that I am a better read person.

Rating: 8/10
Pages: 301
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Feminism, Memoir
Would I Recommend It: Yes! As long as I know the person will understand her sense of humor.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

So after the disappointments of Delirium and Pandemonium, I was pleasantly surprised with Requiem. This is why I push through books when I'm not in love with them. I mean, there is a difference between hating the book and not liking it. I wouldn't waste my time on something I hated, but I never hated this series, I just never bonded with it-until this one. I feel like the series has ended on a very high note.



Plot

Requiem takes place from two points of view: Lena and Hana. Although it alternates every chapter, just like Pandemonium did, the fact that it was from two different people made it easier to follow.

Lena's Story

Lena's story starts 3 days after Pandemonium finished. Julian is still learning how to live this completely new lifestyle and Alex ignores Julian and Lena. The group is in the Wilds outside of New York, but they quickly learn that the Wilds are no longer safe. Regulators are canvassing the Wilds, killing Invalids as they find them, burning down the camps. Due to the lack of safety, the group makes their way to Camp Waterbury-it is told to be a haven for Invalids. However, when they get there, they learn that there is conflict between people living there and the atmosphere is tense. 

While there, the water supply to the camp is cut off when the Valid city dams the river. A group of people make an attempt to go into the city to destroy the dam, however, everything goes wrong. Lena discovers that Lu, a trusted member of the group, has been Cured and has been giving their secrets to the Valids. The group barely makes it back to the camp in time, only to watch it be burned to the ground. 

The group is then on the move again, and finds a safe house where they spend some time. Their first night there, they discover a few bottles of alcohol and celebrate. Lena goes to sleep early, but wakes up to discover the Alex is "teaching" Julian how to fight. One thing leads to another and it turns into a brawl. The fight is broken up, but while everyone is sleeping again, Alex leaves the camp without telling anyone, only leaving a note for Lena referencing the Book of Solomon.

What I imagine the drunken brawl between Alex and Julian looked like.


After some time (it's not specified if it's days or weeks, but the book takes place in a one month time span), some members of the Resistance show up at the camp. One of the members is Annabelle, Lena's mother. She is an important member of the Resistance, and because of her time in the Crypts, very well respected. Lena is incredibly upset with her mother for countless reasons (and all well deserved). After a big blow up and some time, Lena and Annabelle begin to work on a new relationship.

Finally, the group heads to Portland and plans for attack are planned and put into action.

Hana's Story

Meanwhile, Hana is preparing for her marriage to Fred Hargrove, the new mayor of Portland after his fathers untimely* death. Everything in Hana's life is going exactly as it should be, except Hana is constantly dreaming and thinking of Lena, her childhood best friend. The reason: Hana feels guilty because she is the one who told the Regulators where Lena and Alex were planning to meet because she was jealous. Some best friend.

While Hana is living a guilt ridden life, she is also dealing with her sociopathic (or is it psychopathic, I always forget what the difference is) fiance. The more Hana "disobeys" him, the scarier he gets.

Side note: This type of behavior is never okay and is a warning sign that you need to leave.
Do not let someone treat you like are their property.
Do not let someone talk to you like you are nothing.
Please, always remember this:



Hana has been wondering about Lena's family, and goes in search of them. She learns they have been banished to Deering Heights, the place where the city puts undesirable people who haven't technically done anything wrong. She finds Grace and is determined to help the family. After all, if she hadn't told the Regulators about Lena, the Tiddles would still be living in their other house in more safety, and not scraping by to make ends meet.

Frank learns of Hana's little excursion and threatens her, telling her "you may not be my dog, but you will learn how to sit." This causes Hana to want to know more of what happened to his first wife, Cassie. Frank has said that their marriage was terminated because of "irreconcilable differences," but Hana wonders if there was more to it. She finds that Cassie is being kept in the Crypts and goes to visit her. 

How I picture Frank.

During this visit, she learns that Cassie isn't crazy, she is very much sane. Cassie tells her that Frank, when he was young would poison cats just to watch them die, and that he had been poisoning her to keep her sick so that she was dependent on him and could not cause issues. She also tell Hana that Frank paid Scavengers to kill his father during the Incidents. Hana is very frightened for her impending marriage, but knows that there is nothing she can do.

The End

The Resistance breaks into Portland the day Hana and Frank are married. While the Resistance is making a break over the wall, Raven is shot and presumably dies. Lena makes it over the wall, but instead of fighting, she goes to find Grace and bring her into the Wilds. On her way across town, she is spotted by Hana, who "captures" her and plans to "interrogate" her. Once they have made it to Frank's house, Lena realizes that this is the house where the third bomb will go off. Hana tells Lena she was the reason Alex and Lena were caught. Lena is upset, but tells Hana that there is a bomb there. Before Hana lets Lena escape, she tells her where to find Grace.

Frank returns to the house just after Lena leaves and Hana says that Lena attacked her and that's how she got away. Frank is furious and wants to go out and search with the Regulators, but Hana begs him to stay in the house "because it's dangerous out there." Frank agrees, Hana leaves through the back of the house, not looking back as the house explodes.

Lena makes her way to Deering Heights and locates Grace. Grace however is scared and runs away to hide. Lena locates her and tells Grace to come with her. They make their way back to the Border where they run into Alex. Alex is no longer his cold, detached self, and they reconcile. Grace yells to Lena to look, where they see that people are knocking down the wall. The three of them go to help take down the wall and they all live happily ever after. As long as no power hungry government takes away the ability to love again.



New Characters

Alex: Okay, he's not technically new, but he isn't the same Alex that Lena fell in love with in Delirium. The Crypts seriously changed him (can you blame him). There were days where he wanted to die, he begged to be killed. The only thing that kept him going was that if/when he got out, he would be with his true love Lena. Only once he got to Lena, she was in the arms of another man. But you never forget your first love.

Coral: An Invalid roaming the Wilds where her group was attacked by Regulators. She is severely injured, but Raven, Tack, and the group were able to save her. She's pretty quiet, but she forms a bond with Alex that makes Lena jealous. In the end, Coral tells Lena that Alex never stopped loving her. 

Lu/Lucky: Again, not a new person, but she plays a bigger role in this book. At some point (supposedly around Boston) she was taken captive by the Valids and the Cured her. She is then used to spy on the group and find out their plans and where they're heading so that Regulators can kill different groups of Invalids and destroy their camps. Lena is the one who discovers her, and although she gets in a few good hits, she let Lu live, which I think was a mistake.

Pippa: Tack and Raven knew Pippa from a previous camp a few years ago. They are reunited at the Waterbury where she is a makeshift leader and tries to keep the peace between everyone.

Hana: Hana has now been cured and she isn't the same as she was in book one when we first knew her, but peaks of her old self show every now and then and she dreams, regrets past decisions, and discovers her fiances scary past.

Frank Hargrove: A true villian. Throughout the book, we not only learn that he is violent towards Hana, but that he would torture cats as a child, poisoned his last wife to keep her dependent on him, had her sent to the Crypts when he got tired of her, and had his father killed so that he could be mayor. He deserved whatever came to him.

Cassie O'Donnell: Frank's ex wife who is supposedly crazy, but after Hana speaks with her, we learn there is nothing wrong with her. She tells Hana of all the horrible acts that Frank has committed.

What I Liked

-The two POVs. The whole story up until now has been from Lena's perspective. But seeing what's happening in Hana's life, especially now that she is Cured, provides an interesting insight for the readers. And when they converge at the end, it ties up everything in a neat little bow.

-The book isn't all about Lena's love interests. Although Julian and Alex make their appearances, and we know that Julian is effected because of Lena still wanting Alex, it's not the main story line. It really is about Lena choosing to not be Cured, and to help her family (Grace and her mother). Also, how the lack of love has destroyed the country. 

-Raven and Tack's secret love story. I had my suspicions and they were confirmed. Apparently they had been together for about a year secretly when a member of the group wandered upon them one night "trapping." They just seem like they belong together.



What I Didn't Like

-As much as I like that it was told from Lena's and Hana's perspectives, I don't like that it switches off every other chapter. Just as I would get into the swing of what was going on with one story line, it would switch and I'd have to remember what was going on in this plot. 

-That the other books weren't as strong as this one. I feel like the whole story could have been a lot better if the others carried the same substance that this one did. However, reading reviews from others, they seem to disagree with me. Most feel Delirium was the strongest and they decreased in interest. 

Other Thoughts

-I know it would have been silly of Oliver to give us a complete background of how America got to this state, I really can't help but wonder. What doctor was like "Oh, I wonder if I can make people stop loving?" How did America become so hurt that we turned off all of our emotions? Why didn't other countries step in when we started regularly practicing this surgery on our people? Why did Americans agree to this in the first place?

-How does the surgery work? Do they insert something in our brains or take something out? Are they performing lobotomies? Part of me wonders if it's like the placebo effect. I tell you that I've given you a surgery to remove your ability to feel so you think you can't feel and just go about your life. There seem to be a fair amount of people who the surgery didn't work properly on. Maybe it's because nothing was actually done.

-How did the Christian faith get so far away from what it is? Who let someone change the Bible so drastically? I feel like some of the devote Christians I know would never let someone make such drastic changes to it. 

-How did Grace go from not talking to anyone in Delirium to talking normally in the last one? It's only been a year, not even. If anything, you'd think all the trauma would have set her back a few more steps.

-What happened after the wall came down? Portland is just one city. What about the rest of the state? The country?

-If they were that close to Canada, why didn't they just go there? Canadians are friendly. I can't see them turning away refugees of the creepy neighbor country next door.



Overall

I liked this one the most out of all 3 of the books, however, there were still things left unanswered, or things that weren't as clearly put together. It's a very interesting plot, and this book has enough going on to keep you interested. I just feel I don't know enough about it.

Rating: 7/10
Pages: 391
Books in Series: 3 primary works; 4 novellas
Genre(s): Dystopia, Romance, Young Adult
Would I Recommend It: Since you have to wait until the last book for it to get good, no. But if you've already finished one, I'd power through it.