Monday, July 24, 2017

Review - Lady of Milkweed Manor

Original Title: Lady of Milkweed Manor
Series: -
Author: Julie Klassen
Published: January 1st, 2008

Publisher: Bethany House 

I’m totally speechless of how brilliant this book is. It left me with my mouth open, after making me gasp, cheer and almost cry throughout its pages, and makes me want to say to all those writers out there, “this is how you write a historical novel”. Julie Klassen takes the best from both historical romance and fiction, and blends it together to create these wonderful novels that keep you up at night, needing to know what will happen next. She’s definitely one of the best authors I’ve ever read, and anything she writes its guaranteed to have a solid research foundation, an elegant writing, and an emotionally gripping plot that will grab you and won’t let go.

This isn’t your typical Regency story. You won’t find balls, parties, fine dresses and sweet romance on it. It’s overall darker than that. From the very start you know that something went horribly wrong, and Charlotte Lamb, the twenty-year-old protagonist, is about to pay the dire consequences. Already in the first scene, things looked grim, as she packed her belongings to leave her home, knowing that she wouldn’t get anything back from that life. She’s was a fallen woman about to fall even lower. Her family had cut all ties with her, wanted her out of the house as soon as possible, and her father even forbade her maternal aunt to make contact with her, which, in my opinion, is not only overly cruel, but an order there’s no reason to obey; it bothered me that she didn’t decide to break the rules, given that her niece’s situation was a lot more important than her reputation, and needed her family more than ever. As Charlotte arrived at Milkweed Manor, nothing looked good, not even the house in itself. Honestly, I first thought she was going to enter a brothel, as the implications seemed to suggest. But when Mrs. Moorling said Manor Home for Unwed Mothers, I confess my jaw dropped, and I thought, “this can only go from bad to worse”. That was serious indeed.

Although Charlotte wouldn’t say, it was somewhat guessable that Charles Harris was the father of her child, as there was no other option, save William Bentley (I thought it was him, at first). Charlotte and Charles shared only one unwise night of passion, and although we get to read that scene, there’s nothing explicit; we readers get to know what we need to know, and nothing more, as the book focuses mainly on Charlotte dealing with the consequences of that night. Something I loved about her is how we can read the birth and growing of her strength both as a woman and human being. She paid for her mistakes, but became selfless, and found more love with the other women in the Manor and her son, than with her own family. She got beaten down, but still managed to get up and keep fighting, making the ultimate sacrifice as she gave her son to his father, Harris, in replacement of his own stillborn baby, to save her cousin Katherine from madness. It broke her heart (and mine), but she understood that she was doing what was best for her son. I don’t doubt she would have done anything to take care of him on her own, but at least she knew he would be taken care of. And from that decision on, she grew and became stronger, as she decided to help in the Manor the best she could, instead of sinking in her pain (and she would have had a good excuse for it). Even when she could have re-entered society, she chose not to, as she didn’t belong to that world anymore, after seeing all those things she saw.

On the other hand, we have Daniel Taylor, the hero in this story. He had met Charlotte in the past, as Dr. Webb’s apprentice in Doddington, and had a crush on her. But years passed, he married another woman, and later on, we find out she woman was also hospitalized in the Manor, and was also pregnant. It was their baby girl, Anne, that Charlotte started nursing with her own milk, giving a new purpose to her torn-apart life, given Lizette’s puerperal insanity, while Daniel took care of her. It’s heartbreaking to see him rediscovering his feelings for Charlotte, as they crash with the love he used to feel for his beautiful wife, now lost to him to madness. He couldn’t deny that he cared for Charlotte, all the while trying to heal and get back the woman he married. It took me a few chapters to start rooting for them, as they were so far away from each other, and with so many issues for their own, because I didn’t see the possibility of a love story, but, as I said before, this isn’t your typical romance.

There’s a few things I would like to mention. First, John Taylor, Daniel’s father. I felt that the plot around him could have been easily removed from the book, and nothing would have changed, save him delivering Charlotte’s baby. Daniel took Charlotte to this Miss Mardsen’s house, in a completely useless scene that doesn’t serve much of a purpose. The topic about John Taylor’s mistakes as a surgeon are briefly mentioned later, but I think that the book could have gone just the same without it Although a complicated relationship with his father gives Daniel another level of character depth, letting us see how many problems he is dealing with, and his strength as he fights to make everything right, that scene just isn’t useful to any future plot point. On the other hand, William Bentley –Harris’ nephew and heir–, felt like a useless character too. I mean, he acted as Bea’s suitor, but ultimately chose to marry another woman for her money, and, in my opinion, that entire subplot could have been avoided, because it didn’t add much to the main plot. The Lamb sisters already vied over Harris’ admiration and that’s enough, without adding someone else to the mix. I guess his part in the story could be read as a way to say that, even without Charlotte, her father and sister continued with their lives as if nothing had happened, although more bitterly. Their attitude made me so angry! One would think that a vicar would know about forgiveness and righting wrongdoings, but he died without wanting to ever see her again. He chose his reputation and his name over his own daughter! Same as Beatrice, who decided her sister was dead to her, but even after parting ways, she managed to keep vying with her over Harris! I can’t wrap my head around that a family could do that, even back then. It’s already bad enough that Harris, even after professing his “love” for Charlotte, didn’t marry her after ruining her, but becoming strangers with your own family? I can’t understand how someone who loves you (a parent, a sibling) doesn’t consider you a priority, especially when you need them the most.

In fact, the only one willing to help Charlotte, that went beyond rules and gossip, was her cousin Katherine, married to Harris, and foster mother to Edmund (without knowing it). I didn’t like her as a person, but at least she was the only one willing to help her cousin, when her own family deserted her. She never suspected or knew her real son had died at birth, and she died giving birth to her second child, who died along with her. Early on in the book, we are told that pregnancies were risky for Katherine, given her age, so when I read that she was going to have another baby, I could guess she wouldn’t make it. I’ve seen her death referred as a badly written plot point created to open the road for Charlotte to be reunited with her son, but I don’t see it that way, because that, actually doesn’t happen. She gets to see Edmund but doesn’t say a word about her being her real mother, nor attempts to do so.

As for Lizette Taylor’s story, it was a bit hard to swallow, because she wasn’t in her right mind, but it’s brilliantly written how her relationship with Daniel started to crumble, as insanity, jealousy and homesickness took over her. She saw Charlotte as a threat, as she nursed their daughter, and didn’t fail to see her husband’s attachment to her. She was mad, but not stupid, and clearly, the only way to get her out of the way to develop Charlotte and Daniel’s story was her demise. But it was incredibly tragic, and not at all what I was expecting. I confess I almost cry when I thought Lizette, in her madness, had drowned her baby with her, but then I let out a sigh of relief when I read Charlotte had her. As I said, this book is so gripping, that I read it at the edge of my seat, actually concerned about the characters, feeling their pain, and in this particular moment, all the weight of Daniel’s burdens over his shoulders, his confusion, his mixed feelings for both his wife and Charlotte, his helplessness in his attempts to recover the wife he fell in love with, knowing that there’s no turning back to what it used to be, and not knowing what to do in regards of Anne’s future. It’s heartbreaking, and for that brilliantly done. It makes these characters a lot more human and relatable.

I loved Daniel and Charlotte’s story. It’s not your typical romance, as there were sad and difficult circumstances what reunited them in the Manor, after so many years. Theirs is not a happy story, but there’s a lot more than romance going on. The two of them are deep characters, they feel like real people, with both virtues and flaws, struggles and fears, and you can understand how and how much they get not only to love each other, but to need each other. After so many years of Charlotte taking care of Anne as if she were her own daughter, after everything they went through together, I understand how they couldn’t have lived without each other, and for a moment it bothered me that they still had this master/governess relationship and formalities between them, when they both knew their bond was a lot deeper than that. For a second in which my heart sank, I believed she had accepted Harris’ long overdue proposal, thinking of her son, but for once she stopped listening to the voice of duty, and thought of her own happiness. Along the whole book, milkweeds are mentioned over and over again, and I loved how they were a metaphor of their relationship, and of Charlotte herself: her family thought her a weed, something that needed to be pulled out from their lives so they could have a perfectly ordered existence, without the blemish of something that would take root and ruin them. But Daniel saw beyond that. He saw her healing powers, her many virtues, merits and talents, that were always there, but nobody cared about, choosing to discard her, to treat her like the disposable weed they considered she was, when in fact, there was so much more in Charlotte Lamb that what met the eyes. I loved Daniel for still loving her and caring for her when the world thought she didn’t deserve more than rejection and her rightful punishment for ruining her reputation, as she were the sole culprit for her situation. She learned from her mistakes and became a better, stronger, person, ready to face the world once more and make her life count, even with all her disadvantages. 

The only flaw in their story is their first kiss! I hate when it is left for the very last page. They literally kiss at the last paragraph before the epilogue, and such a thing is always disappointing. I’d have been rooting for that kiss, and when they finally had it, it ended before we could truly relish on their joy, savoring the moment after so much expectation and sorrow!

A great thing is that there’s not a happy ending for everyone. This is a story of forgiveness, of how love heals the wounds, and states that, as there’s not one perfect life, neither there’s a perfect happy ending. Charlotte doesn’t get her child back, though I had hoped she would at some point, and it left me thinking, once Edmund and Anne get married, will she ever tell him? He deserved to know, and, if she decided to do so, that would be an excellent scene I would read biting my nails. It’s like the story continues, even when we turn the last page. As I said before, these character feel so like real people, that you just know their lives will continue long before the book has ended!

Although I couldn’t do justice to every little detail of this story, and left many things out (like Sally Mitchell and Thomas Cox’s story), I can’t finish without mentioning the excellent research Julie Klassen did before writing this book. I knew nothing about the world of wet nurses and foundlings, and I found it utterly fascinating. It’s clear when an author writes knowing what he/she’s doing, it’s visible when the foundation is solid and carefully studied, and I personally love a book more when it’s actually historical, with everything that means. This story is filled with historically accurate details that make it even more of a gem. Julie Klassen is an amazing, passionate author, and everything she writes is worth reading, as she creates deep, layered characters and stories that will keep you at the edge of your sit. She’s definitely among the best authors I’ve ever read! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review - The Tutor's Daughter

Original Title: The Tutor's Daughter
Series: -
Author: Julie Klassen
Published: January 1st, 2013

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Julie Klassen does it again, delivering a deep, engaging novel you just can’t stop reading. Once again, I found myself staying up late at night, in need of answers, turning page after page, sinking in the mystery and romance, dashed with gothic suspense, this book has to offer. This author is definitely one of the best I’ve ever read, and her passion and commitment for storytelling are visible in the pages of each of her books.

The Tutor’s Daughter is a wonderful gothic romance set in the coast of Cornwall, that starts when Emma Smallwood and her father leave their academy for boys and go to live and teach the younger children of Ebbington Manor, home of the Weston family, whose older sons, Henry and Phillip, both studied with Mr. Smallwood as kids. Emma remembers both from the past, as they played lots of pranks on her as children, and is more eager to see Phillip than Henry, since she recalls him being the kindest, most attentive from the two brothers. But trouble starts head on. From the moment they arrive at Cornwall, things start going oddly wrong. No one shows up when they were supposed to be picked up by a carriage, their rooms aren’t ready when they get to the Manor, the masters of the house have completely forgotten they would arrive that day… And from there, things start to go wrong.

I confess that a part of the mystery didn’t engaged me, simply because I could predict what was going on. The mysterious nocturnal visits to Emma’s room, the handprint on her mirror, the piano playing on its own in the empty music room… That was no ghost. From the moment I read Lady Weston forbidding them to visit the house’s north wing, I knew that the mad man/woman locked up and isolated plot was coming. It isn’t badly written, but it can be seen coming from miles away, and instantly reminded me of another, classic novel with a mad woman locked up in a mysterious, dark, echoing attic (you all know which I’m talking about). It’s not a wrong decision from authors to choose this path, but the thing is that, in my opinion, that other book I mentioned is the first thing that pops into our heads upon reading it. Again, it’s well put, but it’s been read a lot of times before, it’s an overused plot point. Although, as we get to know, this particular madman isn’t exactly crazy; I guessed he was another Weston brother after the brief conversation between Henry and Lady Weston that Emma manages to overhear, but the surprise part for me was to read that Adam wasn’t aggressive, and never meant any harm; he was just curious, as a child, and although the book doesn’t say so, his case sounds more like a case of autism than insanity. It is horrible that having such a child was considered shameful for these grand families, that decided to give them away to be elsewhere, but I loved how Henry still remembered he was his brother, wanted him to have a loving, comfortable home, and loved him for who he was, in despite of everything.

As usual, this book is full of deep constructed characters, and there’s some you love, and some you hate. Emma Smallwood is utterly adorable, and I utterly loved her. She’s smart and organized, and isn’t afraid of anything, she’s bold enough to do whatever is needed, no matter what. I loved the fact that nothing could stop her once her mind was made, and didn’t need anyone’s approval to go ahead with her plans and ideas (when she slapped Lizzie, she did something I had been longing to do myself). Somehow, I felt I could be friends with Emma. Julie Klassen’s characters are always deep and passionate, with both virtues and flaws, and I could truly see some of me in Emma, in her doubts and fears, especially as a Christian, and in that feeling of not-belonging, of not being there, but neither here. As tutors at Ebbington Manor, Emma and her father aren’t servants, but neither part of the family. They are somewhere in the middle, and for the well-organized, always-in-control Emma, that’s a difficult position in which, I believe, most of us have been, are, or will be. And creating a relatable character is key in any piece of fiction, because it can make the reader connect with the character on a deeper level. And Henry! I loved him from page one. He acknowledges he did wrong in the past, and wants to become a better person and Christian. He has to keep his head cool and think as his family’s heir, and that means watching for the state and its grounds, managing finances, and of course, marrying the right woman, which his stepmother already chose to bear the Weston last name (she doesn’t care which brother marries her, as long as one of them does). He is a hero for me, in the way that he doesn’t care what happens to him if that means he can avoid a greater evil. He’s seen enough of men drowning in the sea during storms in the coast, and when his time comes, he does his best to save as many lives as he can. It was very impressive, and mostly because the rescue is based on a real rescue occurred in the area, when a man on horseback was able to rescue sailors from the sea after a shipwreck. Again, Julie Klassen proves how well she knows how to use her research, and how much she cares for historical accuracy.

Even when I was afraid, for a moment, that this book would contain a love triangle (I hate them), I was relieved to find out that it didn’t. I never thought, not even for a moment, that Emma would end up with Phillip. She had fond memories of him, but clearly, she wasn’t going to fall in love with him. She was too smart for someone like Phillip, who always felt like some foolish, soft guy, not at all at the level of what Henry could be. Unlike his brother, Phillip is guided by his feelings and acts upon them, he leaves Oxford at midterm to see some girl of humble origins he’s in love with… I mean, it’s not like there’s too much space for doubting and guessing. Phillip is clearly depicted as somewhat inferior to Henry, and there was no reason for Emma to fall for him, and I’m glad she didn’t, for her relationship with Henry had me rooting for them the entire book, eagerly waiting for them to kiss, and when they did…! *sigh* I read that kiss over and over again, it was beautiful, emotionally open, and raw honest, they stopped thinking and for once listened to their hearts. It’s not like I feared for their lives, but I imagined myself in the whole situation, and it gave me goosebumps (for the record, the flooding chapel, not kissing Henry, but it could be applied to both). Although Emma doesn’t acknowledge her feelings for a big part of the book, she sees Henry’s superiority of character and personality, and how he struggles to improve every day, but knows, the whole time, that he can’t marry her, given her station as the tutor’s daughter. I’ve read many other books in which the characters want to be together, but they struggle to hide their feelings and remain apart from one another simply because they shouldn’t, whatever the reason for that (mostly social standing, but also money conditions, stubbornness, reluctance to accept feelings… you know, the usual), and I liked very much the fact that Emma and Henry know the barriers between them, but they avoid this endless rambling that normally takes lots of pages about all the reasons why the shouldn’t be together. And that’s great, because it speaks of an author behind the book that cares about not exhausting her readers with repeated information, assuming they are smart and don’t need a constant repetition of the same thing over and over again, which happens a lot with other authors. 

After the disaster in the Chapel, I was engrossed with the whole explanations around the mysteries build as the novel moved forward. The plot around Lady Weston was engrossing and I felt outraged, because it was justified. Many times, villains don’t have a believable goal, they exist for the sole purpose of opposing the hero, but you can’t figure out why exactly… But in this case, it has a purpose, and I even understand it. I know why she acted that way, thinking as a mother, going beyond the law for her sons to have something for their future lives. I loved that Rowan decided, in the end, to do the honorable thing, proudly calling Henry his brother and apologizing to Emma for all those pranks, bordering cruelty. But Julian! That prepotency! Upon the ending of the book, seeing him talking to his father and brothers like that, I was thinking “please, sir Giles, slap him as the disrespectful brat he is, he deserves it!”. But he didn’t, instead sending him to the navy. Not everyone gets a happy ending in this book.

There’s something I would like to mention, that doesn’t get completely clarified. Was Phillip in love with Lizzie? That’s probably the only loose end, because everything is an assumption, there’s no clear affirmation that they actually wanted to get married (and they don’t). On the other hand, Aunt Jane’s happy ending left a big smile plastered on my face, because even when she had little part on the story, she was an adorable character and I was very happy that she got to make her delayed dreams come true.

Not much else to add, except that I loved this book, and I wish to do justice to all the awesome little details it has. All authors need the passion Julie Klassen expresses with each page, and of course, I’ll eagerly grab any book with her name on it, because it’s guaranteed to be excellent!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review - The Girl in the Gatehouse

Original Title: The Girl in the Gatehouse
Series: -
Author: Julie Klassen
Published: January 1st, 2011

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

I plainly, honestly, loved this book. It is my fourth by this amazing author, and when you think things can’t get better, there she does it again. I was pleasantly surprised by The Girl in the Gatehouse, it was impossible to put down, and it got me reading late into the night, because I just needed to know more. 

First things first. I feel compelled to say that not every piece of Regency fiction is to be compared with Jane Austen. That’s unfair, and unnecessary, to say the least. Although in this book, the comparison is needed. And in a good way! I didn’t fully understand it until I got to the very end, although I could read some winks, through the entire novel, to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and mostly, to Mansfield Park. For those who have read the latter, the name Mariah will ring a bell, and remind you the unfortunate but well-deserved ending of Maria Bertram’s character. In The Girl in the Gatehouse, and just like her namesake, Mariah Aubrey has a sister named Julia, an Aunt Norris, and a man she cares for, named Crawford. Such things are not randomly done. In Mansfield Park, our main focus is to see how the poor, resigned and sweet Fanny Price gets her heart’s desire and her happiness, and how those wretched villains that made her life miserable pay for what they did. But Julie Klassen takes that classic novel to a whole new level. She decides, through her heroine, to give Maria Bertram a chance of redemption.

There’s so many good things to say about this book, so many twist and turns, plenty of delightful details, that I don’t even know where to start. It was wonderful, and brilliant. For starters, it jumps straight into action, with Mariah sent away from her home, by his own father’s decision, to live in solitude in an abandoned gatehouse, with only a loyal servant and friend for company, in the grounds of a grand state, where her old, widow aunt lives. We don’t know why, but we can imagine that such fate could only come after a big, resonant scandal. Something happened with Mariah Aubrey that made her fall from grace, and cover her family in shame, and although we are not told what that is, as chapters go by, you are able to piece together the puzzle thanks to the clues scattered through the whole story. Something I really loved about Mariah is that, in despite of her situation and the many limitations forced upon women at the time, considering them inferior to men in all aspects, she chose to make her life count and put her talent as a writer to good use. True, she did it for the money she needed to afford the gatehouse she lived in, but still, she didn’t back up, and continued to write her stories, sure of her talent and the knowledge that her books were good enough to be published. 

On the other hand, we find our hero, Captain Matthew Bryant. He’s a naval officer, and comes from a very strict family who never truly appreciated him for what he is, in despite of his efforts to please them, and his many virtues. There’s no way I could not love him! He’s desperately trying to win over a woman who rejected him years ago, the blonde, beautiful Isabella Forsythe, who is engaged to another man, a fact that he doesn’t care about. He’s sure that, by renting Windrush Court, and inviting her to a house party, along with other guests, he will make her change her mind, and thus, break her engagement to marry him instead. He put all of his efforts to win Isabella, no matter what, and although she wasn’t the woman for him, that nerve and determination are certainly admirable. But he found Mariah before making his plans a reality. They met in the middle of a storm, both real and metaphorical, as they were both weathering a gale of their own by the time he knocked on her door, Mariah struggling with her scandal, her new life, her writing, and her longing for her family and the man she loved; and Matthew, trying to make his life count after years at sea, fighting both in the Napoleonic wars and the home front, dealing with his sister’s past scandal, and his parents, that always focused on everything he wasn’t, clearly stating that they preferred his late brother over him. They didn’t have it exactly easy, but they still knew what they wanted, and went for it. 

Their love story was utterly beautiful, and it had me rooting for them from page one. With every word and encounter, with that soft, unexpected first kiss, and all those almost-kisses, I just saw how they simply had to be together. Both Mariah and Matthew are deeply built characters, and their love goes beyond mere romance. I especially loved that emotionally raw, open moment they shared that night in the gatehouse, only the two them, deprived of sleep, and although it was short, it was a beautiful instant of shared trust, where I could see how much they came to be friends and rely on one another, in despite of all their flaws. Mariah certainly made a terrible mistake when she gave herself to an engaged man she was deeply in love with, later being both discovered in bed together, and she felt devastated when she found out that it didn’t have the same meaning for her than it did for him, because he had the chance to go back for her and propose to make things right, after Isabella Forsythe called off their engagement, but he didn’t, and she was the one paying the steepest of prices, bearing all the weight of society’s condemnation. I liked the fact that James Crawford, in the end, had a chance to acknowledge his guilt, and told everyone what he did, why he did it, and his true feelings about Mariah, stating that he would have chosen the honorable path if his life wasn’t manipulated by his father. But still, in my opinion, that was weakness, because, with enough determination, he could have broken free of that iron fist and made the decision to marry Mariah, facing the consequences that it would bring, if he had seen her worth. But he chose not to; he had the opportunity, and didn’t take it.

I guess that the main moral of this story is something we all need to remember, all the time, because we face it every single day, and that is that our mistakes do not define who we are. God took care of that when His Son shed His blood in that cross, only for love. Mariah got to be an accomplished author, and started writing her own dire past in a novel she titled The Tale of Lydia Sorrow –from which we can learn what really happened that fateful night–, but that book never got to a conclusion, because, although there were consequences to what she did, she decided not to focus on narrating how terrible the price she had to pay was, choosing to burn the pages and leave the past behind. In the end, she was the heroine of her own story because of the decisions she made, and funnily enough, stories are one of the things that unite her and Matthew (that letter of his, at the end, was the sweetest thing). Matthew found out about her scandal, and although he was angry at first, later he understood that Mariah was more than her past, and that she was worthy of being loved, of a second chance. Unlike his first love, she wasn’t fickle and changing like the tide. They were alike because they both had different goals when they met, but upon getting to know each other better, they knew which of them were worthy, and which weren’t. Mariah grew stronger from her experience, in despite of the many tears she shed, and although both of them lived under the pressure of pleasing everyone else, they made the very important decision to stop trying to get the world’s approval, and for once, do what was good for them, attending to their very neglected happiness. 

I wish I could do justice to all of the amazing little details in this novel, and of course, the other but equally important love stories, like Dixon and Martin’s (and Maggie, obviously), Lizzy and Hart’s, and of course, Captain Prince and Amy Merryweather’s. All of them speak of a love that chose to go beyond mistakes and flaws, and the shallow opinion of society, and they warmed my heart, making me root for all of them, wishing for them to find their happiness. Captain Prince’s story is fascinating, and although for a moment I considered it a little unnecessary for the main plot, I was soon engrossed by his life and all those things he did, after he chose not to please convention and society rules, and live by his own decisions, that I couldn’t stop reading. The only thing I wish I could have read is William Hart fighting to rescue Lizzy Barnes from her horrible life at the poorhouse, and although their story is not the main focus of the novel, I would have liked to read a little more development in both of their characters, see them fighting for their love. After all, they had their share of bitterness, but their love took them by surprise and lead to a happy ending.

I say this in all my reviews on books by Julie Klassen, and I’ll say it again. She’s a brilliantly committed author who truly cares about historical accuracy, and makes the effort of sitting there and do her research, when so many others don’t, and it is noticeable in their novels. It’s a pleasure to read a well-constructed book, with a solid foundation. She creates deep, passionate characters, blended with a unique, elegant writing style, and knows how to add the dashes of mystery right when they are needed to keep you turning the pages. She’s probably one of the most talented authors I’ve ever read, and all of her books are a treasure chest I’m always delighted to open. This book is a proof of it, because, how are we so sure that, in Mansfield Park, Maria Bertram didn’t regret what she did, didn’t become a better person after ending up in exile, with only her memories and the reminder of her mistakes for company? How do we know that she wasn’t worthy of being loved, only because social pressure and convention dictated she wasn’t? Didn’t she have the right to a second chance, to truly, deeply fall in love after what happened? Did her mistake and the price she paid made her stronger, or utterly destroyed her? I know that Mariah Aubrey isn’t Maria Bertram, but even so, I chose to believe the first. In Mansfield Park, she was a hateable character, with her spoiled upbringing, her well-trained vanity and the constant praises towards her beauty, her remarkable but dull engagement, and her rivalry with her sister, not only over Henry Crawford, but over every other aspect in life in which they were required to excel. Her future, after the ending of the novel, is a big question mark that Julie Klassen chose to fill with her own tale of redemption, humanizing her, and going to the roots of her scandal. And it is brilliantly done.

Needless to say, I’m going to read each and every one of Julie Klassen’s books, and I hope all of them are as good or better than this one! 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Review - Eve: The Awakening

Original Title: Eve: The Awakening
Series: Eve, #1
Author: Jenna Moreci
Published: August 12th, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

I’ve been following Jenna Moreci’s vlog for a while, and every time she mentioned her book, I grew curiouser and curiouser about it, but I just couldn’t get a copy to finally read it, until now. It is my first SciFi novel ever, so I wasn’t sure about what to expect, but I’m definitely impressed. It was amazing! Really good for a first novel! Jenna Moreci is a gifted writer, I will definitely read more by her, and I can’t wait for her second book, The Savior’s Champion, that won’t be a part of the Eve series, but a fantasy romance novel.

I’m a huge fan of Jenna Moreci’s vlog, her videos are funny, witty, and brutally honest about what it means to be a writer. I’m not really sure for how long I’ve been watching them, but I like to replay them almost every day, especially when I’m feeling sad or somewhat sick of the world out there. So, this review will mix both my appreciation as a reader and an aspiring writer, based on my experience as both, and some things I saw on Jenna’s vlog. This is especially important (at least for me) because we rarely ever get to know more about the authors than their books and how they worked on them. But here, it’s different. Jenna shares her personal writing experience, her techniques, and her way to see some parts of the whole process, and gives us tips to improve ourselves, and also to get back to earth, not only in how to write certain parts of our novels, but also to forget a little about that perfect fantasy in which you are already a published and successful writer with tons of books and fans, bringing us to reality with brutal honesty, and telling us how being a writer isn’t just about writing, but also marketing, editing, and, let’s be honest, not getting very well paid (which may be not what we want to hear, but we need to). She’s unapologetically herself, and she reflects that in her writing. And in my opinion, a person who isn’t afraid about being herself at all times, and doing what she really wants to, loyal to her own dreams, and in love with her profession, it’s someone worthy of imitation.

But back to Eve! Every character is unique on its own, each one with special talents and personalities, layers and complex lives. I really liked the protagonist, Evelyn Kingston, and one of the best parts was that I could see many things of me on her. Creating a relatable character is key to feel it as a real person, and Eve falls on that place. She has both virtues and flaws, habits that come to the surface when she’s nervous (we all can think a bunch of them of our own, right?), like picking up her cuticles, and she isn’t a dazzling beauty, she’s just your average girl, with brown eyes and hair, and I could mostly relate to her because of the bullying she suffered through her entire life. Obviously, my case wasn’t like Eve’s, and although I was never physically bullied, it did happen on a daily basis, and verbal bullying is equally bad, it should never, ever be dismissed. But that’s another day’s topic. My point is that Eve is a very strong character. She is the only girl taking combat classes, and although she’s often verbally abused by her classmates for the sole fact of being a girl in an entire male class, she knows how to demand respect, and instead of suffering in silence, she kicks her bullies in the ass and leaves them bleeding and hurting. She’s a no-nonsense person. She demands respect, and has no qualms about demanding the answers and explanations she needs, no matter the station of the person she’s dealing with. She can both beat Chin Dimple up in combat class (loved that part), and yell to Billington’s dean in the face, completely unafraid of him. I love her for that. It’s really fun to see her giving the people who are mean to her what they deserve. She’s been through a lot of horrible things, and she won’t take more of that if she can help it. 

As for her nature as a chimera, I’ve seen other reviews referring to Eve being the world’s most powerful chimera as a cliché, but I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, this is well done. I mean, in a world of evolved humans with special abilities, I would definitely want to know the story around the most powerful of them all, especially considering how regular people despise them. I just hope that in future books we get some kind of explanation around the reason of this evolution of humans into some sort of super-humans (humanovus). Are they evolved so they can fight interlopers, as some sort of natural adaptation to the new threat? That’s only one of my questions. An especially good bonus point is that Eve already knows her power and instead of reading about her discovering them and learning how to control them, we get to see her in full control of them, and how she teaches someone else to do it (even when nobody taught her, she learned on her own). However, there’s something I don’t fully understand. I can see why people hated and bullied Eve, she has a history around the accident in which her parents died, and she couldn’t control her powers, killing the man who crashed his truck on their car. But I don’t fully understand why people hate chimeras so much. It’s not their fault to have been born like that, but still, I think that, in any case, chimeras should be the ones hating humans, because they are the evolved ones, and hence, superior to them.

As I said, there’s an entire cast of characters that made me laugh and gasp out loud. The sarcastic hacker, JJ, is really interesting, key to the success of their quest, and I definitely want to know more about her backstory, so I hope there’s more about her in future books. Sancho is also really witty, funny, and with a bit of a mad scientist, obsessed with weapons and blowing up things; he says balls every time something goes wrong, it’s hilarious! And he’s loyal to death, he didn’t doubt it when he had to stay back to give their friends the opportunity to escape, and I really feared for his life. I literally left out a sigh of relief when I found out he was alive. And of course, Percy, my dear Percy LaFleur! I utterly loved him! It’s the first time I read an openly gay character, as in other books, they are always secretive about it, but this one is just frank, and amazingly captivating. Rich, eccentric, and proud of it, he’s as capable of shooting an alien in the face as to take you in a one-day trip to New York in his private jet. He’s also a loyal friend, and his date with Madison is the funniest scene of his, and probably in the whole book. Oh, the lengths you go to help your friends, and also thwart an evil menace of winged aliens!

The fight scenes are AWESOME! I don’t know how to describe them, you need to read the book to understand what I mean, but I can tell you feel every punch, every shot, every gasp and scream! And the interlopers’ buildup and anatomy is brilliantly written. I could totally visualize in my head how their fangs protruded from their jaws, protecting their life source, and their overall scary aspect. The whole plot around the beacon, the torq, and the second skin… Pfff! AMAZING!! The final battle, in the interlopers’ lair, is everything you can imagine, and obviously, it is greatly written, with the exact amount of dialogue and action required for it to be fast-paced and climatic, keeping you at the edge of your seat. I won’t say anything more, you need to read it to understand how much. I would like to cover all the details, but I can’t. I just would like to mention the scene at the Meltdown, the chimera club. It bothers me when people in books do not connect the dots, I mean, you found out that interlopers are disguised as humans, hunting for chimeras and dissecting them, but you don’t think that it may be some of them in a place literally full of chimeras, openly displaying their abilities? But again, only Eve and her friends know about it, so I’ll let it sly.

On the other hand, we have the villains of the story, aside from Fairon and the interlopers. They are amazingly well written, as I truly got to hate them all, especially Madison Palmer. She’s a rich, spoiled, child-like bully, who has her life mapped out in front of her, which includes marrying an equally rich guy from her list of possible suitors. I didn’t fully like the words she uses, like barftastic and suckgasmic, but again, she’s the only one who uses them, so they are a reflection of her character. And she’s relatable, in the way that we all know at least three or four Madison Palmers in our daily lives (at least, I do). As for her condition… Yeah, big surprise. Well done, Jenna! Only one thing about her: when Eve found the ashes on Madison’s bed, it was a bit too obvious. I mean, you scribble DIE CHIME in the walls of an entire classroom, but you don’t want to give yourself away, so you spread the ashes in your bed? Right. It was clear that it wasn’t Madison’s doing, because she wouldn’t give herself away that easily. She’s not very clever, but she’s definitely smarter than that.

Heather McLeod is a whole case in herself. She’s also evil, but her malice is cold, and calculated. She’s more machine-like, she goes for her own interests, and I can’t wait for a scene in which Eve gets to kick her ass as she deserves. She’s smart, and scary, and knows when to act, especially if there’s an open wound, and she just has to dig a little deeper to cause more pain, on her favor, obviously. The thing is that, as I read about her and saw how hateable she was, I admit that I considered the possibility that she was an interloper, but then I realized that it was a misleading clue. Again, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t buy it for a big part of the book, but after a few chapters I just knew I should be looking elsewhere, she was the ideal interloper in disguise, so I turned my eyes towards those who seemed too nice, like Professor Clarke, who publicly defended Eve after her humiliation, because, who would do that for a chimera if there’s not a hidden purpose behind it?

As for Hayden, I suspected something wrong with her, simply because she followed Madison around like a lapdog, doing exactly what she was told, and then, she ended up under Heather’s thumb. I found myself thinking, “no, she’s not worth a thing, it can’t be her”, and then, for that very thing, I realized that it was exactly the wrong thing to think; the lapdog would show her fangs at some moment.

And we get to my favorite part! The love story! The bonus point is that there’s no love triangle. Of course, Jenna says that they are the dumbest thing ever, and I agree, so I was sure (and grateful) she wouldn’t write any of that in her novel. Eve and Jason’s story is truly beautiful and it had me rooting for them the entire book. They fall in love with one another through their tutoring sessions, when Jason’s power as a chimera awakens, after having been kidnapped and dissected by interlopers. It may have happened somewhat quickly, but it’s ok. I liked it, anyway, and a lot! Eve has a really hard time letting people in, she’s been bullied and abused her entire life, and being with Jason, she discovers she doesn’t have to pretend to be anything she isn’t. She understands that he wouldn’t hurt her, and finds someone who cares for her and wants to be with her exactly for who she is. She doesn’t make a single effort for him to like her, she just does what she has too, and there’s a no-pretending relationship between them. She never puts up masks when he’s there, she’s purely herself, and they get to know one another at their worst, openly expressing their feelings and opinions. Virtues, flaws, and fears, Jason truly wants everything she is and loves her exactly for those things the world hates her for. He understands that she’s someone not to mess with, and she doesn’t treat him like a weak, sick person, but goes straightforward and tells him all the truths about his nature as a chimera. She opens him to this new world in which he definitely will suffer, as he struggles to dominate his powers, and there’s also a public image to maintain, as his father is a very powerful politician, and considers his name and family tainted by his own son’s nature. But Eve becomes his strength, his reason to fight, the fuel to his fire. One insult towards her is enough for him to go full chimera. His scene beating Chin Dimple up was theproof of his love, because it was the ultimate trigger he needed to unleash his gift towards him and punish him. Needless to say, it was a great scene. And their first kiss! I read it few times and I love how they don’t fight against their feelings once they acknowledge them, knowing that they both want this… I eagerly wait for more scenes with Eve and Jason together, I loved them with all my heart! 

In her vlog, Jenna says that dialogue is a strong point of hers, and that is clearly visible. Most dialogues are written with little or no narrative, and it flows, reflecting the character’s emotions through it. They are strong, and you can practically imagine the characters’ voices in your head, whatever they are saying. And although she says she hates setting the scene and most forms of narrative, she's still good at them! But there’s one thing I especially want to mention, that happens right at the start of the novel. Jenna tells us all we need to know about chimeras right from the get go. She throws all the information we need to understand Eve’s nature, and that isn’t something I fully criticize –everyone has their own style–, but still, I would have done things a bit differently. As an aspiring writer, I’ve been writing since I was ten years old, and I’ve developed my own personal style. I believe that, if you have created an entire race of beings, or in this case, a group of evolved humans, and know everything about them, you shouldn’t give away every single piece of information at the first possible opportunity. You shouldn’t use all your bullets in one shooting, because, that way, you can create surprises and plot twists to use in the future, that will help you surprise your readers, and engross them even more into the story. As the author, you should know way more than you give away, and keeping things to yourself can help you create new powers and abilities that will help in the deepening of this characters’ nature. But that’s just my opinion. 

Another thing I noticed, that it is also mentioned in the vlog, is the very strict outlining. I never truly outlined, I made plans for my stories, but I never strictly followed a previously structured plotline. In my personal opinion, writing should be a mix between outlining, and letting the story flow. I know that just letting it flow on its own can cause plot holes, and other nasty things, but a really structured outline from which I cannot look away…? It’s not for me (at least for now, that may change someday, who knows?). Part of the beauty in writing is to see the character take a shape that perhaps wasn’t what you planned. In short, you should have a plan, but also cut yourself some slack, and at some parts, let your characters tell you some of their story. But that’s just my humble opinion.

Finally, not much left to say (like I haven’t said enough already), except, read this book! And take a look at Jenna's vlog –especially if you are an aspiring writer–, here. If you love SciFi, it is for you! Perhaps I should warn you that it contains a lot of swearing, lots of blood and violence, and some mature content, that I wasn’t completely happy to read, but still, it’s an utterly good book, and you should give it a try! I will, for sure, read the next installments of the series! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Harry Potter - 20th Anniversary


Wow, that was loud.

Anyway, today, is a very important day. It's when it all began! Today, we celebrate 20 years of the magic that has fed our souls and hearts for so many years, and will live forever inside us! Today, we remember that day when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first published, and took the world by storm, changing and shaping lives, and becoming a life jacket that kept thousands of kids afloat in the middle of a difficult childhood, taking them to a place that will never truly abandon them. After all, Hogwarts will always be there for those who remain loyal.

I was going to write a long, wordy post about how wonderful the Harry Potter series is, and the place it has in my life, but then I remembered, I've already done that (check my post titled "A Witch's Life for Me!"), so there's little else I can add, except a few tears of joy and love here and there. But I definitely had to do something for the 20th Anniversary, right? I couldn't just remain silent and say nothing about it. So I decided, at least, to display this amazing new covers of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the anniversary edition, obviously) for those who haven't seen them yet. And for those who have, look again! Just look! Aren't they beautiful?
I want those so bad! You can pick your own House! I myself am a proud Ravenclaw! And no, I'm not happy that in the movies they replaced the eagle by a raven. I mean, I get that the name spells "raven", but that's no excuse. A raven has another kind of metaphorical meaning that has little to do with the intelligence Ravenclaw prioritize above all other virtues. That's way it is an eagle. But that's just how we Ravenclaws are, we love correcting people, especially their grammar. Some people just hate the dictionary.

ANYWAY, we veered of course a bit... How about you? Which is your House?

Oh, and let me tell you a tiny story. On June 18th, I had a magical experience. For starters, I could spend an entire evening sorrounded by die-hard Potterheads. My people! I went to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Concert, where the Buenos Aires Academic Orchestra played live John Williams' original score, as the movie played in a giant screen. It was fantastic! The place was decorated with Quidditch loops and broomsticks hanging from the ceiling, and at the stage, right above the orchestra, and by the screen's sides, there were banners with the Houses on them! After my experience with Harry Potter during school and all the bullying I had to bear for liking something no one else cared about (it's all in my post), this was just great. People in full costume, or with a Hogwarts scarf, or pointed hats, or wielding wands, or even wearing socks with the Houses' colors, all gasping, and cheering, and yelling, and applauding every time something amazing happened in the movie, or the musicians played some especially meaningful tune (like the harp solo during the trap door scene, or the chess game's part), turned this experience in one of the most magical moments I've ever lived. For a couple of hours, I just let all my worries slip away and watch for the hundredth time a story that fills my soul, and makes me just plainly and purely happy. 

For those who are interested in this concert, there's good news! It's on tour. This time was here, in my city, Buenos Aires, but it is planned to perform in 35 countries around the world, so yours may be next! I couldn't find the entire list of cities it will be in, but I can tell for sure that Spain and Mexico are both in it! And even better news! Next year, we will get another concert, on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets! It will start this year, around October, in Europe, and it will be stopping by Buenos Aires in March 2018. Needless to say, I'll be there.

Thank you so much for being there and read my little post. If you haven't read the Potter series, oh my God, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?? Movies are great, but are not enough, in any possible way. And if you have and you are my kind of crazy, I'll just say Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus. You know what I mean. *wink*

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for so many years of this moving, healing and overall fantastic story. Magic is within us, and there it will stay, to the very end. Always.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review - The Twilight Saga

Original Titles: Twilight - New Moon - Eclipse - Breaking Dawn
Series: The Twilight Saga 
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Published: 2005 - 2008

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Before starting this, let me tell you that I didn’t read this saga recently. I did back when I was 17, 18 years-old (2009, 2010), but I didn’t write reviews back then. Now, I’m just having a couple of rough days, with a lot to do, bad mood, everything hurting, and overall, I’m one stupid question away from bursting like a bomb. And that means that I have the right to complain about whatever I want. I’ve always intended to take this saga and write my thoughts about it, but as, sadly, I have no praise to dedicate to it, what better way to do it than when I seriously need something to rant about? 

You will probably notice that I’m not the first one to mention certain things about this story, and God knows that I’m not the first one to criticize it, and complain about it. So, if you like the Twilight saga (books and/or movies), please, do not read what follows, because you are not going to be happy about it. Stop right now!

You have been warned.

First of all, I read the first book back when I was in high school, and I had never read something like this before. I had no idea this genre was called Paranormal Romance, and to be honest, the only romances I had ever read back then were the classics by the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen. And I had definitely never read anything about vampires. I only picked it up out of curiosity, because of all the fuss around it. All the girls in my school were in love with it, and I decided to give it a try. I do not recall all the little details in this saga, fortunately, but when I remember the taste it left, it’s not a good one. 

The very first annoying thing the Twilight saga has, of course, is its protagonist (don’t make me use the word heroine, please), Isabella Swan. She’s a 17 year-old-teen who is sent to live with a father she hates, in the saddest town ever, where it is always raining. I had never read a character like her, and I remember thinking “Am I supposed to like her?”. From page one, I knew she would be as annoying and unbearable as a stomach ache; her attitude, says it all. She doesn’t want to be there, she hates the house, her father, the town, and overall, her own life. Way to go, Bella. I understand that the author tried to make her relatable, to make her “like any other girl”, but ended up failing miserably. What lots and lots of authors do not realize is that it isn’t enough to give your protagonist brown eyes and hair (the most common type) for people to feel identified with her. Don’t get me wrong, I get that, at 16 and 17, most teenagers have low self-esteem and a negative image of themselves, but Bella is a whole case in herself. She beats her up, telling us how clumsy, mediocre, insignificant and not at all remarkable she is; it is as if she somehow enjoys trampling over herself, and there was a point in which I was thinking, “Ok, you hate yourself, I get it. Next!”. But it isn’t just self-loathing what Bella feels. She hates EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. Her “friends” at school (I don’t think she likes them enough for that), her family… Even her own birthday! I mean, I understand when a person goes for the low-profile type of personality, but there’s a difference between that, and just being a plain idiot. Nothing is good enough for Bella Swan. All the other girls are stupid (and are stupidly portrayed). Literally, the only thing she likes is beyond human, and so amazingly beautiful and perfect, that even matches her expectations. *eye roll*

Which brings me to my second point. The vampires. Particularly Edward Cullen, the male protagonist. Oh, those good old days when vampires hated sunlight, lived in gloomy castles, bit necks, slept in caskets, and you could get rid of them wielding a powerful piece of garlic! But these guys seem like beauty pageant contestants. That’s their only merit, aside from their amount of cash. They are overwhelmingly beautiful, have tons of money, designer clothes, and a bunch of supernatural abilities, like mind-reading, super speed, etc. And believe me, it’s been years, and I still can’t figure out why, in the name of God, Edward fell in love with Bella. You’d think that a 107-year-old guy would have some common sense inside that granite skull of his. But no. Every possible interaction Bella and Edward have in the first book of the saga is filled with poorly written dialogue, and I got bored sick of how Bella described her body’s reaction every time some part of Edward’s touched her. Too many paragraphs describing the electricity that crawled up her arm when it accidentally brushed his, how she forgot how to breath… It gets tiring, and all I could think of was “what a waste of ink and paper.” First of all, girl, breathing is an involuntary body function, you literally don’t have to think for it to work. And second of all, where’s the conflict here, the fight to look forward to? My patience doesn’t last forever, and it wasn’t different back then.

If I was supposed to root for them, it didn’t work. Besides, there’s no fun in reading flawless characters like Edward. It’s not me saying it, and I quote: “He was too perfect, I realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no way this godlike creature could be meant for me.

After all, it’s not so difficult to love someone who has beauty, color-changing eyes, tons of money, five cars, brains (sort of), and treats you well (sort of, again), and says what he really wants is to drink your sweet, sweet blood. Alright. 

My point is that never, ever, in my entire life, I have witnessed such a flawless guy falling for some little, no-personality, annoying human being. Every girl out there read about Edward swooning, believing that it was possible to find such a man out there, and I was baffled. How could they want someone like him? I mean, besides that sparkling vampire isn’t my type, Edward is a control-freak, he’s is constantly following her, watching what she does, who she sees, and doesn’t trust her. That is not love. That’s being a stalker. The only thing I like about him is that he plays the piano, and I like musicians. That’s all.

Oh, and the whole mind reading power Edward has is supposed to make him special, even among vampires, but it is nothing but creepy, because his curiosity for Bella comes from the fact that he can’t read her mind, that it is impossible for him to decipher her thoughts. So, Edward’s interest starts because he can’t invade her privacy? It isn’t enough for him to sneak into her room as she sleeps and stare, or watch at her from afar every time he has a chance? He has to read her mind too? Not that there’s too much in there to read, of course.

And Bella, honey, stop being so surprised. If you believe yourself to be so clumsy, and ugly, and you get pissed off by literally every person out there, you don’t need a hot, supernatural boyfriend. You need therapy.

I’ll leave tons of things out (like the heroic rescue, and the prom night, ugh), and I’ll jump right into New Moon

Bella still hates her own birthday, and her major concern is that, as Edward is stuck at 17, she will turn 18 and be older than him. This made me want to throw the book at the wall. Bella, he’s already older for no less than a freaking century! If he didn’t grow physically in that time, I really hope he did mentally. Besides, how much do you think your aspect can change in one, single year? But let's not waste time with trifles. The main bad plot in this book is that Edward gets all brooding, and suddenly abandons her “for her safety”, telling her that her life will be as he had never existed. This is where we get to probably the worst possible thing that could ever be written. A burning, painful hole appears in Bella’s chest, and she goes practically comatose. For months. Literally, because there’s a few pages that only have months in them. All those that go by as Bella stares into nothingness, absorbed by her pain.

*Deep breath at the growing rage*

I don’t see any of this as something someone who loves you could do. But besides that, the attitude? Seriously? It isn’t for the sake of comparison, but, if you take a look at other YA heroines, none of them has such behavior, and, that I recall, all of them have a guy they love, but they do not let them take the center of their lives nor they depend on him for it to have meaning. I mean, they love them, yes, but all of them have lives and reasons to fight, aside from being someone’s girlfriend. Look at Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and Annabeth Chase. They have their loves, but they keep fighting to the very end, with everything they have, and do not let the guys take control of their lives or their decisions. They fight their own battles and don’t need anyone to fight for them, unlike Bella, the permanent damsel in distress that needs to be rescued at every turn by a knight in shining armor. They are plenty of better role models for teens than Bella Swan, who lets her life slip into a worthless mush of staring into the distance, unable to react, and putting herself in danger (multiple times) just to hear Edward’s voice, which isn’t even real, but a product of her imagination. Jumping off a cliff? Come on! What kind of example is that? Act stupid and your boyfriend will return? Abandon everything and everyone (that you already said you hated), just because a guy dumped you? You can only be and have a life with a man’s validation, that you are absolutely nothing if he isn’t around? Again, girl, consider therapy. Or get a hobby. Please. If the author was trying to reflect some sort of love with this… No. Just no. 

But she gets the consolation prize, befriending Jacob Black, who has nothing else but chiseled abs, and a zinger or two here and there. Oh, and he’s a werewolf. Seems like stupid girls are a magnet for supernatural beings. And don’t make me start on those posh Vulturi vampires, although they are the closest thing to a real vampire (in a manner of speaking – at least, they drink human blood). Let’s move on to Eclipse

If I thought the story couldn’t be worse, this book just did it. Now, you may be thinking, why did she kept reading if she hated the story? To be honest, backstories were the most interesting part for me. The Cullens, before turning into sparkly, living granite statues, had lives, and that was the most interesting point to me, like Rosalie’s story, or Jasper’s. But if you are a reader, you will understand that sagas are sagas, and if you get to the third book, you already are far too deep down the rabbit hole. You need closure. 

But let’s get to it, shall we? After the “hinting” (yes, that was sarcasm) of the love triangle in the previous book, she saved her boyfriend in Italy, everyone came home and lived happily ev… Wait. No. Not like that. There’s still a bunch of supernatural creatures trying to kill Bella, and other two trying to win her over. This is where I get confused, and I’m gonna quote the authoress Jenna Moreci on this one: “love triangles are the dumbest thing in the history of dumb things.” Not only that, but it is also so poorly written, that it gets supremely annoying! I understood the metaphor of fire and ice, how Jacob and Edward are so different, but still… It’s Bella Swan. Still the same weak, hateable girl who despises everything asides her sparkling boyfriend and his special family. And it’s not enough that she has one guy in love with her, that she gets two who want to fight for her? How can anyone be like she is, and still be loved by two men? And they are both immortal! Who, please, someone answer me, in their sanity, could decide or want to spend no less than eternity with a girl like her? 

Through some sort of epiphany, Bella discovers that she’s in love with both of them. *Eye roll so big that I may go blind*. But even so, she and Edward get engaged to be married, diamond ring and everything! Come on! I still don’t see any love in this, because I haven’t seen the blood, sweat and tears! Especially the blood! They are vampires, for God’s sake! They take this big step, and still, there’s no character development, whatsoever. Unless you want to call that to Bella getting horny over Edward and trying to sleep with him as the last thing she wants to experience as a human before being turned into a vampire. Edward tries to bring her to her senses, basically stopping her hands when she tries to get him out of his clothes, and proposing. He’s still the abusive, control-freak, father-like boyfriend, watching her every move, telling that she can’t protect herself, not letting her see Jacob, who, by the way, kisses her against her will. But still, her dependence of men gets to a whole new level in this book. I recall only one mention of Bella mildly saying that she wants to study, and go to college. But then again, only one. There’s not another hinting of her desire to forge her own future, in addition of being with Edward, ever again. She has no passion for any topic, and wants nothing but her toxic relationship, because it “makes her whole”. In this aspect, Leah Clearwater, even being a secondary character (and not very well written, that is), is a lot better than her, given that she’s a werewolf too, but instead, she does want to make her life count, go to college, study, and overall, have a future, in despite of her immortality.

Oh, and the imprimation thing! Don’t even get me started. That could have been romantic, but, for me, only went down as dumb. And it gets so much worse in the next book! 

In Breaking Dawn, the damsel in distress, still in love with the werewolf, finally walks down the aisle to meet her knight, in a fancy dress and a luxurious wedding she doesn’t like in the first place (shocking! - just add it to the list), more worried about what people will say about her marrying so young than her happiness for being with the man of her dreams, and then, they go to their honeymoon to their own private island. Because everyone has a private island, and can buy expensive cars to give to their girlfriends, it is so relatable! The sparkling vampire can’t expose himself to the sun, he tried to die doing that very thing, but takes his wife to the sunniest place on Earth… Right. Ok. Moving on. So, she loves him so badly, that lets him leave her all beaten up and bruised after their nights together, and if the relationship wasn’t abusive enough, they seem to like this moments of “love”. 

Now, when she gets pregnant, comes the only silver lining of the entire series. I’m not saying that I liked the fact that a man who is practically… I’d say “dead”, but wouldn’t be right; but then again, he’s isn’t alive in the first place, isn’t he? Anyway, he manages to father a child, we never know why, and when Bella realizes she’s going to have a baby, Edward’s immediate reaction is to take her to get rid of it. Your child, Edward! You are the father! I can’t believe I have to say this, but he was the first one ready to make Bella abort the baby, and for once, Bella does something right. She refers to her baby as a necessity, and refuses to get rid of it, because they are both responsible for it. But that’s where it ends. After it, it gets genuinely disgusting. The baby starts sucking the life out of her, and the only way for them to save her is to make her drink blood, because the baby is half a vampire. So, the girl who used to faint in Biology class at the sight of a little blood, now is willing to drink tons and tons of blood, and she likes it! Come on! Is that supposed to be character development? But it only gets worse. Bella goes to labor, and everything not only gets more disgusting, but terribly disturbing. Her spine and other bones loudly break into pieces, she throws up tons of blood, screaming… There’s a reason why I remember that scene better than the rest of the book, and not because I want to. Ugh.

But if there’s anything worse than the whole unhealthy, vampire pregnancy plot, is the whole part of the book narrated by Jacob. I’m not delving into that. There’s no way you can make me. He’s not smart, he doesn’t have any plan for his life apart from complaining about his little pack drama, and moping over the fact that Bella would be safer with him, and all the “what could have happened” sort of thing, if Bella had chosen the hairy one instead of the sparkling one. And of course, the imprinting thing! I already said it was dumb, but it gets almost-pedophile, because Jacob imprints on Bella and Edward’s child! This is the author’s way to explain it all. Why the love triangle, and why Jacob’s obsession: because he was destined to imprint Bella’s daughter. And that’s supposed to be… what? Romantic? Ugh. Nop. No. Just no. 

When Bella gets turned into a vampire, only then she feels she can shine, and count, and be someone. And it really bothered me. So, if you are human, you have zero value? You need to be beyond human to be worthy of something? She’s as insufferable as a vampire as she is as human. Her maternal feelings are the only redeemable thing that can be read around those pages in which she goes from sick and broken pregnant teen to strikingly beautiful, blood-sucker vampire. And not even the transformation brings some development. *if I keep rolling my eyes it may get permanent*

I’m all for happy endings, but I don’t think that was the way to do it. Then, there’s the final showdown (sarcasm, again). The Vulturi are ready to come and kill Reneesme –and everyone in their way–, if not because she was a vampire child, because of that stupid name, though they may very well kill Bella for choosing it, and they would have my support. They come, all tall, hooded and scary, after the Cullens got an entire army of vampires and werewolves on their side, and here is where I get a few points to discuss. First, the good vampires. All of them hinted an interesting story, like the ones from Ireland and Egypt –like Benjamin and his elemental powers–, but there was no delving into their stories, and, as I said before, I like backstories. But no, there were only a few moments of them helping Bella to train her newfound power (shield! *gasp*), and little more. We get all those training scenes, expecting an epic fight, and at the end, the Vulturi practically turn back with a flourishing of their cloaks, and go back to Italy, just like that, because there’s no fight! NO-FREAKING-FIGHT. Alice comes back from South America with a young, half vampire, half human guy, who tells his story and just says how old he was when he stopped aging, and that’s it! Literally, NOTHING happens. And you can’t just build all that anticipation, bringing all those characters, and then play your readers like that! You just don't do that. No. It was boring, and disappointing. It was the only thing that could have, at least, given some bonus points to the story.

Oh, and Meyer, quick advice. You said that the half vampire guy was descendant of the mapuches. I am from Argentina, the exact country where the mapuches lived, and you could have said so without just mentioning South America. Don’t take this the wrong way, but Americans have absolutely no idea where my country is, I’ve had to explain it hundreds of times, maps included, and I’ve even been told that, when I mentioned it, they immediately opened a new tab just to google it. I’m not saying that this happens all the time, but nine times out of ten? Yes. The mapuches where the natives of the land in the Southern areas of the country, more specifically, the Patagonia, a land of forests, mountains, lakes and snow. Being Argentinian, I get offended when authors and filmmakers dismiss us just as South America, because stereotypes are preferred over an actual research. But, after all, in Breaking Dawn, there’s no deepening on anything, so why would it be in such a “trifle” thing?

Oh, this feels much better. Ranting is fun! In short, I just want to add that this saga sucks in so many levels, it is impossible to cover them all. I really hate to say bad things about books, but when they practically ask for it, giving me the green light to unleash my fury, how can I resist? I’m sorry that some people out there have this idea of romance. Bella and Edward do fall in love, I still don’t get why, but you’d think that love would change them, making them better, getting the best of them to the surface, and making them fight for their love. I may never have been in love, but I know one thing: this isn’t the way it is. Love is patient, and creates beauty. It makes you stay by your love’s side when they need you the most, you support them in their interests, projects and passions, and it isn’t a guarantee that you will have a perfect life, but at least, you will be willing to spend it with someone who truly cares for you and accepts you just the way you are, flaws and virtues. You grow. You get better. You FIGHT for your love. But, sadly, in Bella and Edward’s case, one of them is all perfection and the other, all flaws; there’s no balance, no reason to root for them, and no explanation for the fact that a completely flawed person gets the love of two people who vie over her. At the end, Bella gets the perfect life: her husband, her child, her family, but no personal development whatsoever. She never had any plans besides that, and that’s not the role model any girl should have. After all, you may not get the perfect guy (because no one is perfect, and much less, that perfect), but that’s not a reason to stop! You have your heart, your head, your passion and your fire to set you forward, towards any goal you have in mind. You can be anything you want, and I firmly believe that impossible is a word for those who have no passion or are too comfortable whining and feeling sorry for themselves. After all, I’ve seen skateboarders with no legs, deaf ballerinas and musicians, painters with no hands or feet, and hundreds of other people ready to make their lives count with no need to go comatose, and their problems were a lot bigger than just being dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend!

What I get from all this is “don’t be a Bella Swan.” Have a life, forge your future, fuel your fire, pursue your passions, fight for your beliefs! And with this, I’m not telling you “don’t get a boyfriend, don’t get married”, because everyone has a different opinion on those topics. I’m not opening that can of worms. Just, don’t do either of those things the Bella way. She’s pathetic. You aren’t. And if you are looking for a lot better YA female leads that know how to punch back, fight like hell and prove their worth all on their own –no sick love triangles needed–, there’s tons of books and sagas out there for you: try Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Percy Jackson. Those are the ones I’ve read and know, at least. And I’ve been told that the Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare, is good too, but I can’t tell for sure because I haven’t read it. 

Thanks for stopping by and read! I know I haven’t been very active since my last post. I’ve been very sick, and overwhelmed by exams and assignments, with little time to read. But you’ll get a new review soon enough! Feel free to comment, I want to know you, guys, my dear followers, and all those ghost readers that I know, are out there. I promise my next posts won’t be like this one, unless the book is so bad that practically begs me to do it. 

‘till next time!