It’s A Wonderful Death

Image result for it's a wonderful deathFirst Lines: The gypsy fortune-teller at the Halloween carnival predicts I’ll have a long life full of possibilities.  Of course, that’s right before she uses me as a human shield to avoid the outstretched hand of a black-cloak-clad, sickle-weilding Grim Reaper and then flees hysterically from the tent.  Really, if you think about it, that makes her a liar and a murderer.  I better get a refund.

This was a book I saw at the library a couple of times and finally grabbed in early October.  (Dude, I had this at my house for weeks before reading it.)  It looked sarcastic and funny while still being about death (which I wanted leading up to Halloween), so even though I’d never heard of it, I grabbed it.

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants, from the position on the cheer squad to the Hot Guy.  So when a Grim Reaper snags her soul on accident, well, somebody better figure out how to return her to life or heads will roll.  But during her fight for life, she finds herself as nothing more than a piece in a millennia-old fight between an archangel and Death himself.  And they give her a choice: remain in the lobby where souls are processed until her time is actually up or relive three moments of her life to make better choices that makes her life worth saving.  Total no-brainer.  Should be easy to make these changes, right?  But each change unravels the life of Queen Bee RJ had built until she’s little more than a social outcast.  If going back to life means sixty years of being an outcast, is that worth it to RJ?

It was so good. I’d call it a cross between A Christmas Carol, the Adam Sandler movie Click, and Before I Fall.

I knew from the first paragraph that I was going to like RJ (as you can see above). Sarcastic, witty, and arrogant, RJ doesn’t let a single slight pass her by. And with the injustice of being reaped before her time, she’s especially not going to take any crap. So I really enjoyed that.

But it’s more than just sarcasm. RJ makes a lot of terrible choices in her life that she has to atone for. So while it starts off incredibly funny and sarcastic, by the end you are going to need a box of tissues. Which is why I’m so drawn to these kinds of stories. Because it’s not about what you have in your life but how you lived it, and that’s what these stories are always so good at showing.

The portrayal of what the Afterlife looks like (and many of the people usually associated with the Afterlife, like Death himself and St. Peter) is unique, interesting, funny, and novel. It tends to blend various religions from around the world with versions of life as we’re used to it. Like all souls must wait in the Lobby until their name is called. Much like a doctor’s waiting room.

It’s been a few weeks since I read this (y’all have met me right?  I’m pretty bad about posting these in a timely manner, especially around the holidays), but I still remember the very interesting cast of characters.  They stick with you, from the characters she befriends along the way, the quirky holy beings (Death is a surfer, St. Peter plays Cornhole, etc.), to the ones who will break your heart.  I look back on this book pretty fondly.

This is why I sometimes really like pulling off random books I’ve never heard of off the shelves at the library.  You truly never know what you’re going to find.

This was really moving. Sure, it’s irreverent and potentially blasphemous at times depending on your perspective, but it really hits some truths about how we should be as people. It was cute and deep at the same time.

Compare This! Hush, Hush vs. Unearthly

Hey everyone!  So it wasn’t too long ago on Twitter I discovered they were turning Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick into a movie (Yes, a MOVIE) and I thought it would be a good time to take a look through some angel series.  They’re kind of classic, in that they never quite go out of style because religion never really goes out of style.  And I don’t know about you, but I’m always drawn to every person’s interpretation of angels.  They’re all so different while still retaining certain elements.

So back in the hey-day of angel series, there were really two that I felt like everyone was talking about/reading.  I decided to stick with those for this, but I have more in mind for a later post.  (Hint: warrior angels…so cool)

Alright, let’s get this party started!  Tally-ho!

Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick

VS.

Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand

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Hush, Hush

Premise: Nora Grey is fairly average, except maybe for the fact that she doesn’t have a whole lot of interest in the guys at school, especially the ones her best friend keeps throwing at her.  But when Nora meets Patch, she’s drawn to him, no matter how much she kind of knows she shouldn’t be.  When a series of terrifying events happen involving Patch, Nora doesn’t know if she should run from him or run to him.  He seems to know more about her than her best friend.  Either way, it’s too late.  Nora is caught in the middle of an ancient battle–and choosing the wrong side will cost her her life.

Pros:

  • I think the angel backstory in this is well done.  It’s a bit different, since it deals with fallen angels rather than angel-angels, but that means they’re that much more dangerous because they lack that fear.  So that was fun.
  • Near the end of each book, when the action really picks up, you’re going to have a hard time putting these books down and going to bed at a normal time.  Trust me.
  • There are some interesting twists in the story line, especially later in the series.  Let’s just say that the longer you stick with it, the more things get exciting.  More action, more plot twists, etc.
  • I was really into watching Nora grow as a person throughout the series.  She gets put through the ringer and she comes out so much stronger on the other end.  It was fascinating to watch that happen.

Cons:

  • Admittedly, the first book feels a lot like Twilight.  I mean, dangerous stranger she should stay away from, stranger rescues her from danger and pushes her away, etc.  Like, lots of similarities.  (But those similarities DO go away after about half of the first book and it becomes its own story.)
  • The Sequel Slump (where the second book feels incredibly melodramatic) is STRONG with this one.  It’s rare for me to start a book and not finish it, no matter how bad it is, and I did that with this one.  I put it aside, only to pick it up and finish it at a later date.
  • The plot can be overly convoluted at times.  There were times where a lot was thrown at us very quickly and I didn’t understand why even half of it mattered to the story.

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Unearthly

Premise: Clara Gardner has recently learned she’s part angel.  Not only does that mean she’s stronger than humans, but she’s also given a purpose.  Her life has meaning.  The only problem is figuring out just what it is.  She has visions of a forest fire and a stranger standing in it.  These take her family to a new town and a new school, where she meets Christian, the boy from her dreams (literally).  At the same time, she’s drawn to a boy named Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.  In a world she no longer recognizes, Clara is faced with decisions she never thought she’d have to make and a choice between honesty and deceit.  When the fire finally ignites, will she be ready to face her destiny?

Pros:

  • I really enjoyed these characters.  Clara is funny and her struggle to discover what she’s supposed to do with her life was all too real.  Even if I’m not part angel.
  • The setting is interesting as well.  There aren’t a whole lot of books set in Wyoming, and I thought that was really creative, not to mention it opened the story up to a lot that I don’t normally get to read about.  (Horses, cowboys, huge forests and mountain ranges, etc.)
  • There are clever plot twists in the story and secrets revealed.  If I can’t see them coming, then they’re good.  And there were a few I certainly did not see.
  • I really liked that even though it is an angel series with like, actual angels (as opposed to fallen angels), it never felt like it was pushing religion on the audience.  It was part of Clara’s life, but even then it wasn’t like it was Everything.  (I have a problem with books that become preachy.)

Cons:

  • There’s a love triangle.  Sigh.  That’s the early 2010s for you.
  • From book to book, I had a hard time reconnecting with the characters.  You know how some books do a great job reminding you of who everyone is and things that happened in the previous books?  This is not that series.  So you either need to read them in close succession or just muddle your way through it.  Like I did.

 

My Winner: Unearthly

Why?  For whatever reason, I just got into this story more.  I think I related to Clara and Christian and Tucker more than I did Nora and Patch, perhaps in part because I think Clara is witty and funny.  Perhaps it was because the action felt more realistic to me and less like a soap opera.  Looking back through my previous notes and reviews, I had less to complain about with Unearthly and more notes about how quickly I got sucked into the story.  (Whereas Hush, Hush‘s notes were more along the line of, “I don’t get why…”)

As per usual, neither story is bad.  I finished each series and stuck with them for years.  But when put head-to-head, I felt like Unearthly had more to offer.

What are your thoughts?  Hush, Hush or Unearthly?  Let me know below!

Top Ten Best Fictional Couples

So Friday (7/6) was International Kissing Day or something like that, so I got thinking about the best fictional couples, the ones I adore reading about the most.  I feel like this is different from my favorite fictional crushes because there is different criteria for this.  For example, when it comes to my crushes, I’m looking for the characteristics that mesh the best with mine.  For the couples, I’m looking for the ones whose personality traits mesh well together.  I’m looking for couples that balance each other well, the ones that I fight for to stay together through every hardship.

Will there be some overlap?  Undoubtedly.  But I think it’s going to be enlightening nonetheless.

And if you’re not into series or if you’re looking for a standalone contemporary romance, I made sure to include those on my list as well.  Hopefully you can find something you haven’t read before!

Top Ten Best Fictional Couples

1. Henry and Kate, The Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter

So, this is one of my favorites series to reread (in large part because of the Greek mythology, I won’t lie) but also because of the level of emotion I feel from Kate.  Kate is sweetness and despair, constantly intertwined.  Henry is completely closed off, seemingly emotionless, hopeless all because he lets fear rule his life.  I love that Kate never really gives up on him and that he has a lot more depth than he ever shows anyone else.  It’s awesome.

2. Rhys and Feyre, A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Y’all, let’s not even pretend to be surprised that these two are on the list.  Besides the fact that Rhys made it onto my swoon-worthy crush list AND I just did that spotlight on Maas books on Friday, it was pretty much certain that these two would show up at some point.  These two are the perfect counterpoints to each other.  They both have a lot of bravado and snark, but they feel pain deeply.  They both strive to protect others until their dying breath and they are utterly vicious toward anyone who wants to hurt them.  Their similar personalities also mean that arguments are explosive.  It’s delightful fun to watch them fight and make up.

3. Anna and Etienne, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I don’t think I give this book as much credit as it deserves.  I adore these two because when I first read this book, it was like they were speaking to me.  Anna was me. But what I like about these two together is that they’re encouraging.  They see what the other’s hopes and dreams are and they listen and push them to reach it.  It’s not an easy beginning to their relationship, but I think it makes them stronger for it.

4. Penryn and Raffe, Angelfall series by Susan Ee

I debated a little with this one.  Like, were they actually a couple of epic proportions?  But considering the story involves explosions, death, and dismemberment, I’d say it’s pretty epic.  We’re talking angels, so everything is on a massive scale.  The danger level is high, which means the emotions run that much stronger.  They’re both bitter about the life they now lead, but they find someone who understands in each other.  And while that maybe doesn’t lead to a perfect life, it does show exactly how far they’ll go to save the other.

5. Scarlet and Robin, Scarlet series by A.C. Gaughen

Ok, this couple right here needs to stop being so freaking adorable.  The life Scarlet’s running from is absolutely awful, so awful that she’d rather live dressed as a boy than let anyone even guess who she really is.  The fact that she trusts Robin means a lot because she no longer trusts anyone.  And Robin, while being understanding and sweet, is undeniably fierce when it comes to protecting her.  I really enjoy reading about these two.

6. Kate and Matt, Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Do you ever have a book that you read and you just can’t get it out of your head, no matter how much time has gone by?  That’s this book for me.  This couple is different from many other couples.  Kate is religious and quiet.  Matt is silly and a nerd who grew up into all his delicious glory.  It was so much fun to watch these two try to understand each other, to learn from their mistakes, and to finally acknowledge their feelings.

7. Charlie and Braden, On The Fence by Kasie West

I think this is easily my favorite Kasie West book.  Charlie is a tomboy.  She hangs out with her brothers and plays all the sports.  Braden is her neighbor and best friend of her brothers.  They’ve known each other forever, so when the feelings start becoming more than that, it runs the risk of making everything awkward.  But I loved that Charlie really doesn’t fit the mold of a typical romantic lead and that there is this that friendship between them before it becomes something more.  It’s sweet.

8. Christian and Elyse, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

When we’re talking about two characters that balance each other out, I don’t think there are two better characters than these.  Elyse is from the Caribbean, a talented singer who lost her voice in a freak accident.  Christian is a rich boy who lives on the coast with his family and is pretty much spoiled.  They’re complete opposites in so many ways, but Christian sees Elyse in ways that no one else does.  He’s the only one who treats her normally, not like she’s broken.  She’s the only one who sees the pressure being piled on Christian’s shoulders.  I adored that balance.

9. Ali and Cole, the Alice in Zombieland series by Gena Showalter

Again, this is a couple that balances each other well.  When Ali and Cole meet, she’s almost afraid of her shadow because of what happened to her family.  Cole is tough as nails and definitely someone Ali should be running from.  But he gives her confidence and treats her like a person.  And Ali softens his edges.  Again, it’s a very cute couple, even though they’re quite terrifying at the same time.

10. Sydney and Adrian, the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

I have a very hard time deciding between Sydney and Adrian or Rose and Dimitri, from the companion Richelle Mead series, Vampire Academy.  But I ended up going with Sydney and Adrian because of their amazing character development.  And it’s not just that Adrian grows up–it’s Sydney too.  She finally starts to realize how important other things are in life, starts to question what she’s seeing.  But together, these two are magical.  There’s just something so compelling about how Adrian can pull out Sydney’s sillier side as well as see her in a way that she doesn’t feel like anyone else has seen her.  And there’s something wonderful about the way Sydney saw a spark of promise beneath Adrian’s sarcastic, self-destructive exterior.  They understand each other in a way that is simply beautiful.

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)

17849112First Lines: Everyone thinks I’m dead.

Ok, so if the beginning of this book wasn’t a big ol’ spoiler for the previous book, I would definitely give you more information.  But as it stands, that one sentence is all you get for first lines.  This was a book I moved to the top of my to-read list like a year ago and I finally tried reading it.  (I move quickly, you see.)  But first, I reread Angelfall to remember the story and the characters.  Best. Idea. Ever.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

To Penryn, the world after the angel apocalypse looks nothing like the world she knew before.  Making it seem normal again isn’t easy, especially after a group of people attack her sister, Paige, thinking Paige is a monster.  What ends in a massacre leaves a family torn apart and Paige disappears.  Desperate to find her again, Penryn takes to the empty streets of San Francisco, but a question lingers: where is everybody?  Her search reveals the angels’ plans and the depths they are willing to go to for control.  Meanwhile, Raffe can’t rejoin the angel ranks unless he gets his wings back.  But stuck between helping Penryn survive or his wings, which will he choose?

Y’all, I love this series.  There’s something that’s so different about it and I wish I could put my finger on it. But I’ll do my best.

Penryn is such a fascinating lead. She’s independent and self-reliant for such a realistic and reasonable reason: her mentally ill (and unstable) mother has never been able to care for her or her sister. So for Penryn to be clever and resourceful makes sense. She has strong survival instincts that only come more in handy in this apocalypse. I love that she’s sassy and a fighter. It makes every scene where she gets to fight back that much more exciting.

The minor characters also are a complete joy because they are so nuanced. I adore Raffe, I have a crush on Dee and Dum, and I have a place inside of me where I just want to pummel the angels for destroying Penryn’s world. But even the angels (looking at you, Uriel) have nuanced motivations and personalities. There was one moment in this book where Uriel was startled by something that happened and it sticks with me because it shows that he wasn’t planning on something happening the way it did. Penryn assessed the situation perfectly and I just can’t get over how simply perfect that one little sentence was.

The action is as amazing as ever. We haven’t seen the last of the scorpion creatures and they certainly bring a level of insanity and terror to every scene they are in. They’re just creepy and wrong. But at least we have Penryn around to kick butt (literally…just wait and see what she does in this one!) and take names. The fights are intense and I just love the way a couple of them turned out.

The world of this apocalyptic Silicon Valley is just amazing. I may never have been there, but it doesn’t matter. I can picture all the destruction and devastation as easily as if I had seen it myself. Ee pulls in a lot of landmarks that also help set the scene well.

What I loved best about this book was this tension with whether or not Penryn and Raffe would find each other again. There are a few…twists…that come along the way that I thought were well done.

Seriously, is there anything this book can’t do?

Sweet Reckoning (The Sweet Trilogy, #3)

Screenshot 2016-07-14 13.20.43First Lines: Not a soul in the Vegas cocktail lounge had any idea demons were in their midst.

This book has been on my to-read list for ages, but this is that series for me that I constantly procrastinate reading.  You have those?  The ones where even after you get the book, it sits on your shelf for months if not a year before you *finally* decide it’s time.  And then you wonder why you procrastinated so long.  (Or maybe not?)

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Evil is loose in the world, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time until it finds her.  Life under the Dukes is oppressive and degrading, and Anna’s determined to end their reign.  Instead of it being a weakness, Anna is going to prove that love is her true strength.  But that’s hard to do when her loved ones are constantly targets as well.  And when the Dukes send Anna’s great love, Kaidan, to work against her, Anna will have to decide what’s worth fighting for…and if she can manage it alone.

Like I said, I waited a long time to read this.  Not because I thought it would be bad, but it just never found its way to my “anxiously awaiting” pile.  And I didn’t exactly remember a ton from these books even though I took notes on their endings.  I was kind of a hot mess going into this.

But I quickly remembered a lot about the characters and the plot.  Some of it came back to me and other bits and pieces I just had to fill in using my imagination.  It happens.

Easily the cutest part of this book was Anna and Kaidan.  For real, they were adorable.  I totally think Kaidan did the most growing of all the characters in this book, but Anna definitely had her own challenges to overcome.  And it was interesting see how they dealt with being pitted against each other.

As you may expect if you’ve stuck with this series, the minor characters are also sweethearts.  Marna is my favorite, but Blake and Ginger weren’t far behind.  It’s just really cool seeing all the characters together and interacting with each other.  I enjoyed that, whether they were fighting or getting alone.

The plot doesn’t go the way you think it will, even if by the end you felt like you’d called it.  There were a lot of things that happened that I either didn’t see coming or didn’t even think I should suspect were possibilities.  Some weird things happened too, but that is not a bad thing.  I never quite knew where things were going.  Well, except for the ending we were all waiting for.

I know I’m going to sound a bit weird for saying this, but it was fun to read about bad guys who were nearly omnipotent.  It created a real sense of paranoia that at any moment, Anna and her friends could be overheard or seen and be turned over to the Dukes.  I liked the interesting challenges that brought and how they had to subtly work around those challenges.

I’m not going to say this novel is perfect.  It’s not.  It frequently crosses into cheesy territory.  The ending wasn’t quite as climactic as I was hoping.  Some aspects could have been better, but it was still fun.

Entice (The Violet Eden Chapters, #2)

First Lines: The angel had been ordered to make his choice.  It had to be of his own free will.  But what they asked of him carried a high price.  He would most likely never return.

It’s been a ridiculous 3 years since I read the first book in this series.  Why?  Because I could never, for the life of me, remember which book was the 2nd in the series.  I could stare at the cover for 10 minutes solid, go to the library, and immediately forget.  Honest to Zeus truth.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Violet wonders if she made the right choice in giving up her humanity.  Because being a Grigori is far from easy.  She doesn’t understand all her new powers yet, and worse, she’s not sure is capable of using them anyway.  But not matter what comes her way, she won’t run away or quit.  Even if it means pretending the guy she loves doesn’t love her back.  Even if it means asking an enemy for help.  With no one telling the truth, Violet is going to have to figure out a few things for herself.  Only…with both Exiles and Angels wanting her, who can she turn to for help?

For it having been so long since I read the first book, I was actually pretty surprised by how much I remembered of it.  It must have made an impression on me.

Even better, this book grabbed me quickly.  I sometimes have that issue with a long hiatus, where I no longer feel attached to these characters.  This book quickly got me reinvested in the storyline and the characters.  It was nice to not have to worry about that once I got rolling.

For me, Violet was a bit hard for me to follow sometimes.  Her thoughts seemed a little too dramatic and pessimistic.  I attribute this in part to not remembering a couple of specific life-altering events from the first book.  So that’s on me.  But still, she seemed a little off.

But really, every character in this story was awesome, even the ones you didn’t want to like.  Well developed, well characterized, and distinct in personality.  I was impressed by that.  It definitely helped the story a lot.

There was some heavy-handed foreshadowing in this book, which is really my own negative note.  And what I mean by “heavy-handed” is that at some points, it wasn’t even in the realm of subtle.  There were two things I spotted so early in the story that it was kind of ridiculous.  It just became a waiting game of when it would crop up.  (One was so obvious that I thought it had to be a fake-out…only it wasn’t.)  I wish the book had been more surprising than that.  It took some of the fun out of the story.

Overall, though, it’s a book with a great cast of characters and plenty of action.  Just don’t come looking for an epic love story or for major plot twists.