Wednesday, January 16, 2013

[Book Review] Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Summary (on Amazon):
When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.
But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Although I’ve only read two of Nicholas Sparks’s books, I’ve watched enough of his movies to know that I’m a fan of his storytelling. Still, the chance to read a book before it turns into a movie isn’t one I like to pass up. For that very reason, the next couple of book I’ve set up to read are all upcoming movies (Beautiful Creatures, City of Bones, The Host).

Plot: Like almost every book I read, it did take me some time to actually get into the storyline. However, it wasn’t as long as it normally is. I think it was like 20 pages for SH. I’d heard a great deal of this book from people on Twitter without actually doing too much investigating about the book. So, I knew he was a widow. I just didn’t know what else was going on. For the most part, the plot was ok. I’m not going to lie, I felt like there could have been more twists and turns, but I have to remind myself that this is a standalone and contemporary novel. As the book was coming to an end, I was waiting for that last piece of non-closure that series give. The last chunk of books that I’ve read have been part of series so I think I just have to snap myself out of that mentality. 

Characters: When reading a book, you meet a character and you find out stuff about them. I really love how Nicholas Sparks does the discover of his character’s past. His characters have a past and therefore you, as a reader, see why they act a certain way or why they’ve become a certain person. 

Relationships: I accidentally (not so accidental) ended up reading a section of the back. So, that big spoiler at the end of the book, I knew about it about 150 pages in. This only made me like that relationship 10 times more because I knew. It made me look forward to that discovery. The relationship Katie has with Josh and Kristen is also something that I loved about the book. She was so caring and understanding of who they were. Her relationship with the kids is what made the romance, if you ask me. 

Romance: I’m a fan of romance (big surprise there). So, that’s what I look for in a book. If there’s no romance, chances are the book will not be too good on my scale. Thankfully, the romance in this story was a good one. Katie and Alex’s patience for each other shows what just one of the aspects of love should be.  

Creative way of writing: There’s a reason why people coming back to Nicholas Sparks book. There’s a reason that once he writes a book, it immediately gets signed for a movie. Nicholas Sparks has a creative way of using things that happen in every day life (loss, struggle, love) and making them into something special. 

Looking forward to watching the movie and crossing me fingers that they don’t change too much. 

4 out of 5 stars to Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks  

Monday, January 7, 2013

[Book Review] Matched by Ally Condie

Summary (from Amazon):
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I should start off by saying that I almost didn’t read this book. Just a couple of months ago at Austin Teen Book Festival, I sat down in a panel where Ally Condie was speaking. When I hear that her book was dystopia, I immediately didn’t want to read it. Due to my past history with dystopia books, I was sure that the genre wasn’t for me. However, I have to admit the plot of the story, arranged marriage in the prom night format definitely had me second guessing my decision. Due to the long signing line, I didn’t end up getting the books. Fast forward a couple of months, I find out she’s coming to Houston where I live to my favorite book store (Blue Willow Bookshop). I took a further look into the books and researched a little. Barnes and Nobel had the first couple of chapters online. I read them and well, let’s just I ordered the three books just minutes afterward.

I almost made the mistake of dismissing an entire genre because just a few books I read previously. Never judge a book by the cover? Never judge a genre just cause some other books sucks. Just reading this first book in this series, I’ve decided to give dystopian books a second chance.

Plot: The plot of this story is unique. While the arranged marriage piece is not something unfamiliar to the reading crowd, it’s the prom like dress up ritual & its publication that is pretty drawing. They go to this, let’s call it a party, and find out who they will be matched with. As always, things go wrong. Mistakes are committed. New relationships are made. Being apart of a series, it ends with unsettled things.     

Characters: A big part of what makes the characters who they are, is the environment they are in. Many times while reading a book, I’ll feel like there’s something off with the character. Then I have to remind myself that these are characters that have gone through different circumstances than I am used to. The same happened while I was reading Matched. These characters are living in a whole different world than the world we know. So, when Cassia makes one decision that I don’t exactly agree with, I’d get angry. But anger, frustration, happiness, jealousy, etc. all of these are signs to let a reader know that what they’d reading is good. 

Relationships: Although there wasn’t a lot of Cassia & Em moments, I liked where their friendship was. Yes, there are secrets between the friendship, but overall I could see how much they really cared for each other. I would love to see some flashbacks between Cassia and Xander as friends before they were matched. I feel like it’s only fair considering readers got to read about Cassia and Ky friendship growth.    

Romance: Like I said, I wasn’t always on board with the decisions Cassia was making. Heck, I’m not even sure if I’m Team Xander or Team Ky at this point. Ally Condie has written both romances in their own unique way. One being familiar. The other mysterious. Cassia could end up with either of the guys at the end of the series and I could see myself being happy with it.  

Writing: I loved Ally Condie’s way of breaking up the chapters. Being that I spend a lot of my reading time at night, I’m always looking for a good stopping point. The end of a chapter or the end of this section. I couldn’t do that with this series because every place that I stopped at, left me wanting more.   

Overall it was a good book. I give Matched by Ally Condie 4 out of 5 stars.