Saturday, January 2, 2016

Favorite Character Tropes in Books!

Today I will be talking about my top two favorite character tropes, which was once a topic in the Goodreads group Top 5 Wednesday, but I never got the chance to write the post at that time. I enjoy reading character tropes so much when they are written well, so I’m excited to share my favorites. A character trope is an element in a story that relates to the characters and is used often in various books. It can sometimes feel redundant or overused, but a good author can add twists and turns to a plot that seems common! For further clarification, I’m just going to get started with my first example.
I love a sci-fi/dystopian novel where one girl stands and fights against a corrupt government. There’s a lot of potential for different authors to create a unique political system through world-building. Usually it involves massive amounts of action and clever thinking from the main character, which is so fun to read about. The heroine often has to deal with putting the greater good’s interests in front of her own, and the struggle to find the balance between the two creates intriguing conflict. Some books I’ve enjoyed reading that include this idea are Divergent, Half-Blood, Shatter Me, The Hunger Games, An Ember in the Ashes, The Book of Ivy, Snow Like Ashes, and The Winner’s Curse.
My second favorite character trope is when two people who dislike each other in the beginning of the book (because of misunderstandings and misinterpretations) eventually fall in love. This is partially Pride and Prejudice inspired, though usually books I like that contain this idea are not focused solely on the romance (there’s typically a larger storyline.) I like reading how two seemingly different characters find understanding in their similarities; character development is just wonderful. If this interests you, you might appreciate books like Shatter Me, These Broken Stars, The Wrath and the Dawn, The Book of Ivy, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Pushing the Limits.
These are the main character tropes that I find thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining in novels. The books mentioned above are some of my favorites (marked with a *), so I have linked the reviews I’ve written (on my blog & Goodreads). Just click the following book titles (in alphabetical order):

Thursday, December 24, 2015

♥Top Movies of 2015!♥

It's almost the new year, which gets me really excited to make lists about 2015. I've watched a large amount of movies both at home and in theaters, so I thought it would be appropriate to share my favorites that have come out this year. The following are listed in no particular order:

Jurassic World- I randomly decided to rent this on Redbox and I'm really glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and thrill feel of everything that happened. Though they were mostly likely all CGI, the scenic shots of the island and the theme park were beautiful. I highly enjoyed the comedic moments scattered throughout the movie.
Inside Out- The characters were great, the animation was fun and colorful, and the meaning behind everything was so thoughtful. It was exciting that I could point out the references to concepts I've learned in psychology class. So many feelings and thoughts of the characters were relatable to real life, which was my favorite aspect of the movie. The graphic design of the characters was so well done and their personalities were so unique. A great movie for people of all ages.
Cinderella- This live-action adaptation of my favorite princess's story exceeded all my expectations. I wasn't planning on watching this, but it popped up on the movie screen when I was flying from Shanghai, China to Tokyo, Japan this summer and I thought why not and just watch it. So I did. Ella is a kindhearted, hardworking girl that never gives up hope, which I've always admired. The addition of certain words/phrases to build up Ella as an independent woman who can make decisions for herself was a good one on the script writers part. Furthermore, the dresses and sets were absolutely stunning and you can't help but feel swept up in all the beauty.  For "where there is kindness, there is goodness. And where there is goodness, there is magic." :)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2- It still feels like the first Hunger Games film just came out, so it's crazy that the last one has come and gone. As usual, the whole cast was amazing and the acting was on point. Bringing Katniss to life is a big feat and Jennifer Lawrence pulled it off so well. I think she made the character even more likeable than she was in the books. There was so much action, suspense, and a lot of thrill. I really enjoyed this and I would definitely recommend anyone who hasn't watched it (or any other Hunger Games movies) to watch it!
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials- This movie lived up to its name because there was a whole lot of running and a huge, scorching desert. There were so many unexpected twists and turns (I didn't read the book), which was really exciting. All the action and running got me into a running kind of mood (because the cast looked so cool doing it), so it's a good movie to watch if you want some motivation to exercise. Also, you should watch it because the characters are amazingly badass. Mostly because of that reason.
Pitch Perfect 2- You aca-believe that this movie was extremely entertaining. Usually sequels aren't as good as the first, but this was awesome. The abundance of Bella Barden performances and new medleys/songs (Flashlight has become one of my favorite songs) created a fun, lively atmosphere. The humor and romance was no downside either. I liked the new character, Emily, who was played by Hailee Steinfeld because I've liked the actress for years now and because it added something fresh to the plot. You can't help but sing along after watching this film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service- A refreshing, badass and humorous take on a spy movie. I enjoyed the spy training scenes and suspsenful moments the most. Read all my thoughts in the full movie review that I've written here. A fantastic movie if you're looking for something action packed and funny.

That is all for today! I hope you enjoyed reading about my top movies of 2015. I would like to know what your favorite movie/movies are that were released this year, so feel free to comment. I'll be back with more lists of my favorites of 2015, so be on the lookout for that. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!(:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Actual rating: 4.85 stars (-0.15 stars because I passionately dislike love triangles, or love squares in this case)
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

In my heart, An Ember in the Ashes deserves 5 stars, but I had to be a little critical:P. This has definitely become one of my favorite books! The entire time I was reading, I was thinking “There is just so much suspense built up in the plot. What are emotions?”. After seeing so much hype surrounding it, I was skeptical like any other avid reader would be. However, like many of my favorite books, this was different and better than what I expected. The novel was well written and the premise executed nicely. I could picture scenes and settings in my head (and it was cool to have maps of the world in the front and back cover of the book). I was repeatedly surprised, which really messed with my feelings.
Map of Blackcliff Military Academy from the back cover
I love the dual POV’s. Understanding the characters’ backgrounds and emotions from the core was fabulous. I can’t deal with my love for the characters. Laia’s determination and belief in the good of people, Elias’ courage against injustice. I felt for them because when they got injured, it just felt so real and painful. Sabaa Tahir created such vivid, strong characters that I felt like if I was in their positions, I would think and do similar things. Tahir did something that authors often don’t do- she put her characters in serious danger and I was pretty much sitting on the edge of my chair for the majority of the book. The characters’ emotions felt so real. Even the littlest of smiles made me so happy that I read the sentence(s) multiple times. There were certain scenes that made me smile so much and melted my heart. I sympathized for some of the minor characters as well.
A few downsides that I encountered. The beginning was a bit slow, but there was good set up for the fantasy world. So to anyone who thinks the book drags, I assure you the book will get better! Also, love square- UGH. I passionately dislike love triangles and there was a darn love square. While romance was a large aspect of the novel, it wasn’t overwhelming and it definitely wasn’t full of stupid drama, so I gladly say that it wasn’t too bad. (Tho I felt like one side of the square was unnecessary, but handled alright nonetheless.)
An Ember in the Ashes was a big book, but the action and suspense captivated me to no end. I finished it with a few bathroom and eating break in between. I cannot believe that there wasn't going to be a sequel for this at first, but I'm so thankful that there is going to be one now. CANNOT WAIT! 

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Actual rating: 4.85 stars (-0.15 stars because the first 1/5th of the book was ehhh)
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. 
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I cannot explain my happiness that I picked this book up. I’ve seen so much praise for The Wrath & The Dawn, as well as some negative reviews. Naturally, when I started reading, I was skeptical. The plot continuously intrigued me, but some of the choices the main characters made in the first 1/5th of the book didn't make much logical sense to me. However, as I got further into the book, pieces of the mystery slowly began fitting together. I fell more and more in love with the characters and the story. If you didn't know, the novel is inspired by A Thousand and One Nights and I thoroughly enjoyed the retelling.
The characters’ feelings were so raw and I couldn’t help but feel for them, even if I didn’t fully understand what was going on. There was emotional tension and unexplained answers for a majority of the book, but it was executed nicely. Shahrzad is a strong, caring soul and Khalid is definitely not who he seems to be (don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything).  Needless to say, I got completely lost in the romance; it was just so beautifully written. Some scenes brought me Mount Everest-sized amounts of joy to read, that I felt I was going a bit crazy. There were some exceptional quotes in Shazi and Khalid’s conversations that absolutely melted my heart. I grew to love the minor characters, Despina and Jalal, so much too.
While the entire book was written in third person perspective, the book would sometimes follow different characters and their thoughts. Most of the time, it was Shazi’s POV, which was great because I appreciate reading gradual character developments in books. I also really liked the occasional Khalid POV, though I didn’t care much for Tariq’s or Shazi’s father’s perspectives.
I couldn’t stop reading and finished in six/seven consecutive hours. The scenes with lots of dialogue, romance, action, and/or humor were my favorite. The cliffhanger ending makes me cringe because I know I’ll have to wait many more months (possibly even a year) for the sequel to come out--though I am really glad that this is a duology because I couldn’t stand it if the story was not finished in one more book. 
A shortened version of my thoughts:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I really wanted to love this and it was extremely enjoyable and entertaining, but it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve been reading recently. If you didn’t know, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so it was fascinating to see how the concepts of the fairytale tied into the fantasy plot. The writing is easy to follow and quick to read. I wish there were more specific details when Maas described certain settings because while I could visualize scenes in my head, there were certain small details that I felt were missing.
Overall, there was a diverse character cast: Feyre is a caring and courageous leading woman in the story and I appreciated reading about her determination through hard events in her life. However, I didn’t like how she would sometimes make decisions that people had previously warned her against. Tamlin is a fascinating character, and I kind of wish that there were chapters written in his perspective to get a stronger hold on his emotions. There’s also Lucien (who reminds me of Kenji from Shatter Me because they’re both awesome, but different at the same time) and Rhys (interesting is a good word to describe him and the choices he makes).
The last 100 pages was full of action, which wrapped everything up nicely. I’m absolutely terrible at riddles (I’ve never been able to solve one on my own without hints), but I was able to successfully guess a huge part of the ending. It was a slight disappointment. There was a slight cliffhanger at the end, but not a huge one. Now onto some of my rambly thoughts towards the possibility of a love triangle in the next book- I REALLY hope there isn’t one because then everything that happened in this book would seem like a complete waste of time/effort. Romance drama in the next book would just make me feel sad. To think that the two main characters went through so much for the love interest to change...that would definitely change my positive feelings towards the characters and these books in general. In that sense, I kind of wish that this was a standalone novel, so I can get immediate closure. I wonder if this series will turn out like the Lunar Chronicles with different fairytale retellings in each novel. It would be cool to see them featuring more than one character’s point of view and include new characters/romance plot lines (but NOT for the two main characters).

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Dream A Little Dream by Kerstin Grier

Actual rating: 3.75 stars
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yes, Liv's dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially the one where she's in a graveyard at night, watching four boys conduct dark magic rituals.
The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly know--unless they actually arein her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute...

Dream A Little Dream was a fun and fast paced read. I was looking for something light and this was definitely it. As a part-time lucid dreamer, I found the plot original and very interesting. In a tiny way, it reminded me of The Archived by Victoria Schwab. The main character, Liv, is smart and loves a good mystery to solve, but she irritated me at times. She would constantly describe her appearance (“My dark-blue shirt had a low neckline, and the new jeans that I’d bought fitted perfectly. I was also wearing lip gloss, mascara, Mom’s concealer…”) and the appearance of others, specifically the four main boys. She has an annoying habit of agreeing to do things without really thinking about how it might affect the people around her. While I felt the book was a little immature for my taste at times, since the main character is only 15 (soon 16) years old, but it was entertaining to read.
At first I thought this was going to be some sort of a love pentagon (with four boys), but the romance was simple, so I liked that. Interesting turn of events towards the end of the book, but it didn’t fully make sense to me. So far this trilogy is less complex compared to Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red trilogy, but I have a feeling that the second and third book will dig deeper into some of the characters' pasts, where some problems between relationships may possibly rise. That should be interesting!
Side note: I really like the cover and the metallic silver theme. Also, Liv’s mom is embarrassing and irritating.

A shortened version of my thoughts:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book Reviews: The Winner's Curse & The Winner's Crime

Actual rating: 3.95 stars
Here's the synopsis of the novel from Goodreads:
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 
      One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 
     But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
     Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I was really excited to get into The Winner’s Curse because I’ve heard many great things about it (and also the cover is just gorgeous). It was different from what I expected, which was a heavy but sweet romance. Instead, I got that but 100x more complicated and lots of politics. The main character Kestrel boosted my overall feelings for the novel as a whole. She's strong, smart, and courageous, making strategic decisions while using her heart. She is a consistently good character. I also enjoyed the extensive world building that built up the fantasy world. There was complexity weaved throughout the plot that was fascinating to think about.
While I liked this book a lot, my feelings were conflicted for most of it. There was something about how the romance first started that didn’t settle with me; it just seemed like Arin was mad a lot, which annoyed me. But I will for sure continue reading this trilogy because I thoroughly enjoyed the ending of the book. Kudos to the author for creating such a unique book when there are so many young adult novels similar to each other.

Actual rating: 3.75 stars (No Goodreads synopsis because that contain's spoilers and this is a no spoiler zone)

I felt like most of the book was just build up for the last book in the trilogy; there was only slow progress to figuring out a misunderstanding and moving on from there. There was a lot of inner conflict in both of the main characters’ minds, as well as, emotional conflict between the characters. I was hooked from the beginning because I had no idea what was going to happen, but by the last 1/3rd of the book, I felt that the problem in the plot had dragged out too long. I felt for Kestrel because she faced tough situations in her life; her actions and decisions made me respect her. Like the first book, the details describing the setting and people were vivid and well written. Overall, The Winner’s Crime had so much angst, which definitely made me think. I’m looking forward to see how Marie Rutkoski ties everything together in the last book of the trilogy and provide well-needed closure (which I’m really hoping happens). Sadly, it’s going to get published in March 2016.