Friday, January 30, 2015

"I have just met you, and I love you."

At the end of last year, I read (and loved) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. (Seriously, if that book isn't on your radar yet, you should probably check it out.) In one of the earlier chapters in this novel, there is a secondary character introduced that I just immediately fell in love with. And it struck me, when I realized how deeply I already cared for this character, that this was sort of a bookish version of instant love. Because when you meet a secondary character that provokes an emotional response in you right off the bat, it's magical and wonderful. You just know, you know?

I've been analyzing it for some time now, trying to figure out what it is about these guys and gals that just made me fall for them and want to follow them to the ends of the earth immediately. They might not be the main characters, but they definitely leave an impression right off the bat! I've found that, personally, I'm attracted to strong characters with distinct personalities, with a special affection for the ones who can make me laugh and the ones who are good friends. Here are some of my beloved secondary characters, the ones who I love so dearly (and sometimes even more than some of the main characters):

Also Known As + Shatter Me book covers
Roux from Also Known As - If I find out one of my best friends is a spy, I hope I'm as excited + supportive about it as Roux is. Plus, she's got a healthy sense of humor!

Kenji from Shatter Me - Now here's a guy who's not afraid to say what he thinks! Kenji has a quick wit and strong perception, and would make a great coach and best friend.

Cinder + Siege and Storm book covers
Iko from Cinder - Iko would be a fun companion to have, particularly if you needed updates on the latest gossip or opinions on your fashion choices.

Sturmhond from Siege and Storm - Who doesn't want a charming, smart captain to be one of their best friends (or potential love interests)?

Where the Stars Still Shine + Making Faces book covers
Kat from Where the Stars Still Shine - One of my best friends is also my cousin, the way Kat is Callie's cousin. I love how supportive Kat is, even though their circumstances are so different.

Bailey from Making Faces - You'd think that being disabled would prevent you from having a sunny outlook on life, and then you meet Bailey. He's smart, fun + optimistic!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone + Heir of Fire book covers
Zuzana from Daughter of Smoke and Bone - I would love to have a friend as artistic as Zuzana! This gal is not only talented, but is also majorly supportive when it comes to Karou.

Rowan from Heir of Fire - Here's the guy I would bare my entire soul to, who I would trust with every single part of me - good and bad and in between. It helps that he could be a protector as well!

Open Road Summer + A Court of Thorns and Roses book covers
Dee/Lilah from Open Road Summer - I love that Dee is a source of encouragement and support for Reagan, even though she has a career she is passionate about and truly involved in. Such a sweetheart!

Lucien from A Court of Thorns and Roses - And here's the guy who inspired this entire post! Lucien is a good friend to Tamlin, one who is funny, offbeat and really charming in spite of the things he's suffered. Doesn't hurt that Sarah compares him to a fox either!

And there you have it, some of the secondary characters that I'm head over heels for! I seriously wouldn't mind reading entirely separate novels about these guys and gals (Zuzana has her own novella!) if the authors were ever to write them. Now, you tell me, have you ever felt like this about secondary characters? Tell me your favorites!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes - Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes book cover
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 1, 2015
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the contents of my review.]

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There's only one problem: she's not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel's convinced she's found her solution--Roman, a teenage boy who's haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. 

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other's broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

If there is one thing that I can highlight as a takeaway from My Heart and Other Black Holes, it is the way that this story endeavors to encourage readers to believe that there is a way out of the “black holes” in their own lives. Many of us, in varying degrees, have felt beaten down, burned, oppressed by the circumstances that we face daily, and Aysel’s story is a reflection of that part of human experience. As a person who constantly strives to remain positive + hopeful in the face of anything negative, this story resonated with me on a very personal level.

There are certainly great moments in My Heart and Other Black Holes, and most often they are the simplest of interactions – a touch, a line, a thought – between Aysel and Roman. Warga crafted two characters with different backgrounds, brought together solely by the sorrow that encourages them to commit to ending their lives. While at first I was hesitant about getting to know these two, it’s undeniable that there is something in both that feels so familiar. They are regular people, filled to the brim with all sorts of emotions; their different backgrounds set them apart from us, but their emotions, their pain, their joy – those things are very universally experienced.

Overall, I feel positive about My Heart and Other Black Holes. It’s got a great underlying message, but doesn’t cross the line that would have made it a preachy novel (though I do think it does toe the line of cliché). It’s not necessarily a novel that I can see myself revisiting in the future. But it certainly was worth a read, if only for the way it left me feeling optimistic at its end.

Our question: What gives you hope?

Whenever I feel down in the dumps or particularly hopeless, I have a tendency to fight back by indulging in the things I enjoy. (Take, for instance, the way I fought against despair by reminding myself of good things.) But while empowering songs, inspiring stories and gratitude lists are all very helpful indeed, there is nothing that gives me more hope than the faith I hold so dear. It's because I believe that there is a God who loves me, grants me strength, grace and abundance to persevere that I continue to remain hopeful in all circumstances - and will always stay hopeful.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Polaris - Mindee Arnett

[Please note that this is the second novel of the series. If you're interested in the series, check out my reviews of Proxy & Avalon instead!]

Polaris Mindee Arnett book cover
Polaris by Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #2
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the opinions expressed in my review.]

Jeth is desperate to find the resources and funding he needs to rescue his mother from an ITA’s research lab and leave this whole galaxy behind for a new life somewhere else. But the ITA is just as desperate, and soon Jeth finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing Jeth and his crew—dead or alive. In a last-ditch effort to save everyone he holds dear, Jeth enters into a bargain with the last person he ever thought he'd see again: Dax Shepherd, the galaxy’s newest and most fearsome crime lord. And he’s not the only one: upon arriving back at Peltraz spaceport for the first time since he witnessed the death of his old employer, Jeth discovers Dax has a new partner: Jeth’s mother, Marian. (from Goodreads)

I honestly wish that it were possible to declare wholeheartedly that I enjoyed Polaris as much as I enjoyed Avalon. My hopes were high at the prospect of rejoining Jeth and the gang on another hair-raising, high stakes adventure in space. And all those expectations were raised even more after I finished a reread of Proxy and Avalon, and finding that both were still as excellent as they’d been the first time around. Unfortunately, Polaris was not the same sort of magical reading experience Avalon was.

I do fear, however, that this might be a purely subjective thing. Polaris narrates the darker, harsher things Jeth and company go through after everything that happens in Avalon. The story is riddled with desperate circumstances and dramatic turns, with events that had my insides churning with all sorts of feelings. Everything unfolds in a straightforward, organic manner. But it was uncomfortable and difficult to read about everyone I had come to love in Avalon going through these things, and that’s what made it a more difficult, less (personally) enjoyable read.

It is, without a doubt, the characters that saved Polaris in the end. Remember how I mentioned that I had problems with the characterization in Avalon? Truth be told, it’s very much the same in Polaris. Each character is, yet again, relegated to having one main characteristic that sets them apart from the others. But to be surrounded by so many familiar faces (especially after a reread) was a nice thing, a comforting thing. Ultimately, these familiar faces were the reason I remained invested in the story. Let it be known though: I’m not overly fond of the fact that Arnett writes characters in and out to work conveniently with her storyline.

Of all the characters, Jethro Seagrave is the one readers will get to know a little better in Polaris. It is his struggle for self-control, to be able to make his own choices, that was most fascinating. It’s a concept many readers will be able to relate to – fighting for the freedom to make your own choices – and that aspect is certainly a big part of Jeth’s story. While this definitely lends slightly more complexity to his story, I still felt a little disconnected from Jeth overall.

To sum it up, Polaris fell short of my expectations. The only reason I kept reading it was because of the very tenuous character connection I felt. Honestly, even that wouldn’t be enough motivation for me to ever reread this particular chapter in their story again. It was still nice to find out what happened to Jeth and company in the end, but honestly, I would have felt more positive overall if it had just ended with the open ending of Avalon instead. Perhaps if you read and loved Avalon a lot, then you should definitely give Polaris a shot; otherwise, just stick to reading Proxy and Avalon, both of which were great on my first read and my reread.


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