Top Ten Tuesday (February 19): Favorite Dystopian Characters

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

I considered thinking outside the box for this week, but then my kids had a 3.5-day-weekend and we had company and I am TIRED. So instead I’m going to pick what is probably an über-popular genre, and I’m not going to go into detail on my answers, because the options for this evening are either write a curtailed post, or write nothing at all. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Here we go.

Top Ten Favorite Dystopian Characters

(Also, I understand that some of these are borderline dystopians. I’m going based on what the popular consensus is, even if I personally think some of them tread a little more in sci-fi territory).

10. ZanePretties. Did anyone else really like this character? Just me? He actually tried to figure out if there was something more outside the world of the Pretties without being pushed. Tally always needed someone forcing her hand. Zane didn’t. And he was good to her. I know I’m supposed to be all about Tally and David, and in a way, I am, but I just really liked Zane and don’t feel like he gets a lot of love.

9. Rue, The Hunger Games. I can’t talk about Rue or I’ll start crying. Such a sweet character.

8. Tris’ mom, Divergent. I’m supposed to pick Four, right? But seriously, even with her abbreviated page-time, I loved Tris’ mom. Tough, loving, self-sacrificing, forgiving. I wish more YA parents were like her. 

7. Hana, Delirium. I haven’t read her novella yet, but she was by far my favorite character in Delirium. Even more than Lena. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

6. Prince Maxon, The Selection. For me, there is no love triangle. Maxon is the clear winner. Aspen who?

5. Manchee, The Knife of Never Letting Go. He’s a dog, and it doesn’t even matter. Best part of the book.

4. Zeke, The Immortal Rules. I think I have a soft spot for strong-yet-compassionate leader-types.

3. ChubsThe Darkest Minds. I simply adore smart, loyal friends.

2. MinhoThe Maze Runner. All of the Minho scenes are my absolute favorites.

1. Peeta MellarkThe Hunger Games. Because Peeta rocks and I don’t even care about arguments that say different.

Throwback Thursday (February 14) – The Notebook

The giveaway is still going on! Put up a Throwback Thursday post this week to participate! Rafflecopter is in the bottom of this post, and you can see all the AWESOME Prize Packs you can pick from in this post!

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books.

Here’s how it works:
  • Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  • Write up a short summary (include the title, author, and cover art, if applicable) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
  • Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  • Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list – or some other classic!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

The Notebook (2004) based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

It’s Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d pick a sappy romantic movie, and what better movie than the one that made millions of women everywhere fall head over heels in obsession with Ryan Gosling? I actually did read the book first in this case, although it was in high school (read: years before the movie came out), so I don’t remember a ton about it, except that it gave me the sappy romantic sad feelings, and later I thought the movie did a pretty great job with the adaptation.

For those of you who don’t know, The Notebook follows the story of Noah and Allie, teenage sweethearts pulled apart by Allie’s controlling parents, only to find each other again years later after Allie is engaged to another man. We flip back and forth between the story of young Noah and Allie’s hot-and-cold romance, and an elderly couple in a nursing home, where a man named Duke is reading this story out of an old notebook to a woman with dementia. And of course, through the course of the story, we ultimately find out what happens to Allie and Noah, and to Duke and his friend.

This is my go-to happy-sappy-sobby movie, which my husband will never, ever watch with me.

Here, since it is Valentine’s Day and I like you, I have found you a sappy video to go along with it. With Taylor Swift, whose songs I often like against my better judgement.

Participating this week gives you another entry into our giveaway! Check out the awesome prizes, and earn those entries!

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This is a blog hop! Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis (@bethrevis @PenguinTeen)

I’ve had Across the Universe by Beth Revis sitting on my shelf for months, because a murder mystery on a spaceship sounds like pretty much the best thing ever. But I got bogged down in life and review books and burnout, so it just sat there, unread. I even went to an author panel with Beth Revis (who is delightful, BTW) and got it signed, but still hadn’t read it. However, listening to her talk about her books made me even more excited to pick it up. So finally, over the holidays when I decided to re-embrace pleasure reading, I cracked it open.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to awaken on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed‘s scheduled landing, Amy’s cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense.Godspeed‘s passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed‘s hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

My Thoughts:

I haven’t actually read a lot of YA that was purely sci-fi. Everything has been dystopian with sci-fi elements, or fantasy with sci-fi elements. So I was excited for this book, which takes place in a more realistic near-future, where the technology is advanced, but not so advanced that it’s almost magical. And from the first few pages describing Amy’s internal conflict as she undergoes the (cringe-inducingly painful) cryogenic freezing process, I was swept up in this book.

Across the Universe alternates narrators between Amy and Elder, and at first it took me a little while to get used to Elder’s POV, because he’s just so different from Amy. He’s been raised on a mono-ethnic society where everyone fills the role they were born into, and nothing more. He doesn’t question that most people are confined to one area of the ship. He doesn’t wonder about Eldest’s harsh treatment of anyone who might be a bit different. He’s been raised to lead his society, and it seems perfectly reasonable to him when Eldest insists that Hitler had it right. But at the same time, Elder is lonely. He longs for connection, for understanding. And he’s curious, even though he’s not supposed to be. He wants to understand everything about this ship he’s supposed to run, even though he’s been told it’s not necessary. And by grasping those few threads, he slowly became a character I could relate to, in spite of his differences.

Amy almost acts as the voice of the reader, since she comes from a world very much like ours and wakes up in one very much not like ours. She questions the society that has evolved on the Godspeed, she questions the leadership of Eldest, she questions the way Elder has been conditioned to a different set of moral standards than what she believes. She’s a bit of a reluctant heroine in the story, as she wasn’t even sure she wanted to go on this mission, and definitely didn’t want to be awakened early. Her slow acceptance of her unfortunate circumstance almost mirrors the stages of grief (in many ways, she is grieving), and her progression through the story was fascinating.

I’ve heard some people disappointed that there wasn’t much of a romance in Across the Universe. I wasn’t really in this group, because I was more intrigued by the mystery element (AND THE SPACESHIP) than the potential romance. But if you are among the group hoping for an epic space love story, prepare to alter your expectations. While there are hints of romance, they are not the main focus or driver of this story.

As far as the mystery element of the story, Across the Universe kept me guessing. It dropped just enough clues that the ending was surprising, but satisfying. And I appreciated that once the truth comes out, it’s all in shades of gray. The villains are not purely evil (maybe a bit sociopathic, but not evil). The good guys are not purely good. Everyone involved in the murders and their resolution had motivations that, viewed the right way, were justifiable. (No, the murders themselves were not justifiable, but the reasons behind them were, to a degree, understandable). I’m all about nuanced villains and heroes, and I thought Across the Universe delivered both in spades.

Across the Universe was an imaginative and thoughtful story, with a fabulous space setting and complex characters. The ending tied up the murder mystery, but left the bigger question of the fate of the Godspeed open, which is what I assume is explored in the sequels, A Million Suns and Shades of Earth. I’ll be excited to pick them up and find out what happens to Amy, Elder, and the rest of the people on the ship.

Top Ten Tuesday (February 12) – Favorite Romances

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Today’s topic is fun and appropriate for those of you who celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, either because your are Valentine-less or because you’re jaded or because you think it’s a stupid holiday, then I guess it’s no more appropriate than any other topic.

No judging. When I was in college, my friends and I used to dress in all black on Valentine’s Day because we were so Above It All. So if it’s not your thing, I get it.

Truthfully, I don’t think my husband and I are doing anything for Valentine’s Day this year either. Not Making a Statement, just…no plans. DOCTOR WHO IT IS.

Anyway. I’m getting off topic.

This week’s topic is:

My Top Ten Favorite Romances

I’m going to assume this is referring to the couples themselves, and not to actual romance novels, since I don’t read romance novels. So here we go (again, in no particular order, because I suck at particular orders):

Ron and HermioneHarry Potter. I love their friendship. I love that they have had Feelings for each other for years, but that wasn’t their main concern in life. There were bigger things happening, like Voldemort. But there was always this underlying, intangible thing between them, that of course was finally realized in the last book.

Anna and Etienne, Anna and the French Kiss. I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, at all, but I was totally sucked in by this one. Their relationship was sweet and fun and gave me the heart flutters.

Elisa and HectorThe Crown of EmbersMy biggest problem with the first book in this series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was the lack of Hector. So when he was front and center in this book, I was a happy camper. Their slow-burn romance gave me chills. Serious. Chills.

Kaleb and LilyTimepiece. I loved Michael and Emerson in Hourglass, but Kaleb and Lily in Timepiece were just perfection. Their romance was fun and quippy and shivery-in-a-good-way. I loved every second of them together, even before they were together.

Claire and Jamie, Outlander. As far as male leads go, it just does not get any better than Jamie Fraser, pretty much ever. Their romance felt so deep and passionate and real. Even when Claire was still sorting out her feelings for him, just reading about how Jamie interacted with Claire was enough for me to feel All The Feelings.

Echo and NoahPushing the Limits. Another contemporary romance. The kind I keep saying I don’t read. What can I say, people keep recommending good books! I will admit that some of the things that come out of Noah’s mouth kind of ooze cheese, but I don’t care. I love him and I love Echo and I love them together. They’re the perfect compliment to each other. (And if the sequel, Dare You To, was out yet, I’d put Beth and Ryan on this list too, because they deserve it. But you probably haven’t read that book yet, so I’ll just say — read it. If you loved PTL, you’ll love this one too.)

Anne and GilbertAnne of Green Gables (the whole series). I’m a sucker for stories where the love interests grow up together. I love that Anne and Gilbert start out as childhood rivals. I love that their rivalry slowly evolves into friendship, which evolves into romance. I love that he calls her Carrots and pulls her pigtails and gives up his teaching position so that she can stay home.

Gus and HazelThe Fault in Our StarsI think I’ve mentioned before how this book utterly destroyed me, and also how, despite the criticisms I’ve heard saying that Gus and Hazel don’t talk like real kids, they actually talked pretty much exactly like some of my friends from high school. So they were incredibly real to me, and their relationship was so sweet in the midst of so much sadness. It ripped my heart out, but I loved it.

Wanda and IanThe HostI would never put Bella and Edward on this list, but I felt like this book came much closer to getting a relationship right. I loved Ian and how he could see Wanda so clearly, when no one else could. And I loved how she learned to trust him, even though it went against her nature to do it. Also, for the record, I am super excited about this movie.

Samantha and Kent, Before I FallTheir slowly evolving one-day romance made this book for me. Sam’s spiteful and shallow friends and some of her poor decision making just made me want to slap them all, but her growing feelings for Kent, and the way he always saw the best in her, even though she’d given him no reason to, are why I love this story.

Honorable mentions to: Every Jane Austen romance ever (especially Elizabeth and Darcy, and Elinor and Edward), Westley and Buttercup, Jane and Rochester, Jo and Laurie (yes, I know they didn’t wind up together, but I still love them), Christy and Doctor MacNeil, Clare and Henry, and Katniss and Peeta. All romances I loved and was super-invested in, but ultimately, didn’t make me feel quite as much as the ones above. (Going totally on books here. In the movies, Jane Austen always wins for Fluttery Feels.)

How about you? What couples make your heart go pitter-patter?

Discussion: Dragging yourself out of a slump.

Confession: Sometimes I get in a slump where I don’t want to do…anything. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to blog. I don’t want to write. I definitely don’t want to work, but I have to because things like food and heat are “important.”

It’s not necessarily because anything is wrong; my brain has just hit this point where it doesn’t want to engage anymore. Its capacity gets maxed out and all it is capable of is flopping on the couch and watching old episodes of Friday Night Lights while surfing Tumblr. Books require concentration, and I just don’t have that superpower in my wheelhouse anymore.

The problem is that without me doing something about it, it’ll take for-freakin’-ever for me to snap out of it. I need to jump-start my brain or it will just sit sputter weakly in my living room until the end of time.

So what do I do to snap myself out of an intellectual slump?

  • Engage with the humans. I’m an introvert who can be perfectly happy without leaving my house for weeks at a time, but when I get like this, it’s important to get out and interact with other humans. Other bookish types are the best, and fortunately we have a lot of events here where I can interact with people who get really excited about books and writing. It’s rare that I leave a book/writer event without wanting to immediately read half a dozen books and write fifty pages. But in the absence of bookish folk, just hanging out with friends and changing up my discussion habits can get my mind re-engaged.
  • Read something I likeThis can be either something I’ve already read that I know I love, or something I’ve really been looking forward to. But if I’m not feeling it within the first few pages, I switch to something else that I can really become immersed in. And just because a book is “good” doesn’t mean it’s the right one to pull me out of a slump. I love The Book Thief, but if I’m slumpy, I probably won’t be able to wrap my brain around it. I need something more like Anna and the French Kiss, which is delightful and keeps me engaged, but doesn’t require herculean amounts of effort from my brain. Which brings me to…
  • Change up genres. Maybe I’m just burnt out on sci-fi and I need to go read a contemporary romance, or I’m feeling bleak from dystopians so I need an action-packed fantasy. Maybe I’ve read one paranormal romance too many and need an imaginative fairy tale retelling. The name of the game is trial and error. If I’ve been bingeing in the same genre, I just have to mix things up until I find one that sticks.
  • Set aside time for reading. You know what the prior two suggestions have in common? I actually have to force myself to sit down and do it. I don’t get all ambitious and set aside three hours. Just about 30 minutes, where I say, “now is reading time.” I have to walk away from the computer (and the iPad. Darn you, siren song of mobile technology) and go sit in my recliner with my snuggie* and a mug of hot chocolate. I’m not allowed to check my email or channel surf. I need to read. If I force myself to do this for a few days, with a book I really like, I can generally recharge my brain batteries.
  • Talk about what I’m reading. Whether this is online on blogs or Twitter, or in person with my friends or my husband, I can get a lot more engaged in what I’m reading if I have someone to discuss it with. It’s why I started this blog in the first place.
So how about you? Ever get a terrible case of the reading doldrums? Any inventive tips to snap yourself out of it? Anyone currently in a slump and need a pep talk? Let me know in the comments!

*Don’t knock the snuggie, snuggies are awesome.