Eclipse (#3) by Stephanie Meyer

Published: 7th August 2007 (print)/4th May 2009 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 629/16 hrs and 25 mins
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

This book should not have been 16 hours long. This story didn’t need 629 pages.

I wanted to claw my eyes out for 95% of this book and for the other 5% I’m furious because there’s actually good story hidden amongst this which we could have had. There is a unique and interesting narrative buried in here but you would never know, you have to break through the hours and hours of nothing before you come across decent parts of the story and by then you’re so apathetic and drained emotionally that these little moments only offer short lived joy.

Because I refuse to entirely dump on this series I will highlight the positives. There is decent foreshadowing that I recognise for events in the next book, but of the very limited details I know it isn’t a deterrent. I can see Meyer trying to build up suspense and history without doing it in an obvious way.

This is the story where we get a lot more backstory about the vampire and werewolf legends. There are long stories about origins and histories, about past events and fights. It’s not uninteresting, but it’s a lot. There’s the usual Bella/Jacob/Edward fiasco, eventually after half the book of the bickering we’ve seen before there is a truce of some kind. I swear the name Bella is said more times than any other word in this book, and doing this as an audio reminded me constantly of The Magic School Bus episode when Wanda lost her bullfrog and 90% of the episode was here yelling Bella all over the place. That was this. Just Bella repeated over and over by Jacob, by Edward and by Jacob again.

Even though I’ve only read three so far, I’ve worked out you could break the Twilight books down in three main sections: Bella having conversations with Edward/Jacob about not dissing the other, Bella doing housework because Charlie is apparently an invalid who can only watch TV or work, heavens knows how he survived without her before now it’s nothing short of a miracle, and the third part is the long talks about either the vampire/werewolf way of life. Sprinkled in there you have school stuff, Bella yearning to be immortal after having her first love that totally will last forever, and let’s not forget the mortal danger she is always in but that never takes up nearly enough time.

The best thing Bella ever does in this entire 600 page endurance is she punches Jacob for kissing her when she doesn’t want it. For those few moments Bella was a great character, and Charlie becomes grosser by congratulating Jacob for kissing her and not taking her side when she explains why she punched him. For a brief moment Bella was a strong character who fought against things she didn’t like, but soon she was reduced once more to her whining self that is veiled thinly into presenting as her being strong and getting her way.

The fight scene that this whole book (and the previous) has probably, poorly been leading up to was actually quite good. It didn’t quite make up for the previous 14 hours but it was interesting, well presented, vivid and full of emotion. Where this writing was when the rest of the book was happening I do not know. This is part of the 5%. These small gems of writing makes me so sad this series isn’t presented better. It could have been a new, unique retelling of the vampire/werewolf myth and seeing what Meyer is actually capable of in some scenes makes me mourn for the other utter nonsense we have to endure.

Kadushin again narrates us and I’m used to her tone and manner in reading these characters. There isn’t a huge range in her voices but you pick it up after a while. As I go into the final book I hope I will be able to sum this story up into a short summary because once you break through the angst and the yearning to the plot underneath it might sound like a decent read.

You can purchase Eclipse via the following

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Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Published: 14th February 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. It begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

With a story like this it’s going to be a tough read and it was, sweet at times but filled with sadness too. Initially I thought Wonder was about a teenager, not too old but maybe 13 or 14. When I realised he was only ten, that he was only a child it was such a shock, I hate thinking of little kids being mean to each other because you know it’s not always their own opinions they’re repeating. It was easier to think of them as 14 but I had to constantly remind myself these kids are only in primary school.

It was mainly my own interpretations of their age because Palacio captures the voice of the child narrators wonderfully and it really reads like kids of ten or eleven are telling you the story, giving their sides of the experience. Each voice stands out and through actions and dialogue their personalities come to the surface.

Auggie himself is a complete sweetie. He is smart and kind and he has adapted brilliantly to his circumstances and how he interacts and deals with people. This is very much a story where everyone else needs to learn to accept Auggie, not one where he needs to learn to be ok with himself. Auggie knows who he is and what he is capable of and having his little shining light through everyone else’s cruelty and unkindness makes you proud of him.

I liked that Palacio really brought home the point that Auggie is a normal kid, no disability or special needs, he was just a kid that looked different on the outside from something out of his control.  The fact that he has had to deal with this his whole life makes him acutely aware of the remarks, the side glances and the staring people do to him and yet he remains a good natured person. He is an adorable kid that powers through and is ok in himself and while obviously he is a bit hurt what others say, it doesn’t bother him too much.

The different points of view are an excellent choice as it allows you to see other people’s perspectives of events and offers up more not only to their character, but it enriches the entire story. We get to hear from classmates at school but also people close to Auggie. I loved Auggie’s whole family, they are so much fun. His dad, mum, and sister are delightful and it’s fascinating to see and hear how they have managed to work their lives into remarkable normalcy around Auggie.

I found that I came to admire these characters. For their love and support, but also for their strength and determination to prove that there was nothing wrong. That yes, Auggie looked different but he was still a kid. He had feelings, he wanted friends, and he wanted to feel accepted like anyone else. Palacio has told a heart-warming story filled with love but also exploring how everyone is different and that kindness can come from anywhere.

You can purchase Wonder via the following

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The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Published: 31st October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Children’s Publishers UK
Pages: 348
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I can’t believe I waited so long to read this book. I loved it. I loved the unique characters, the different experiences they’d had and the different lives they both lived, and I loved how Yoon makes an entire day feel so long and life changing. I simply adore books that take part in one day but feel like many more. This a full day of so many experiences that make you realise all the possibilities that can happen in one day. It also helps being in New York City because there’s heaps more things to do and transport between places is infinitely simpler.

Both Daniel and Natasha felt like real people. They had experiences behind them, complications in their present lives, and hopes and dreams that are so different from one another but stem from the same desire to live their lives how they want. There is instalove but the way Yoon portrays it is with a feeling, or instinct; there is a connection felt between them which neither can truly ignore. It isn’t just they love each other after a day, there is actual effort in trying to understand one another and an ease when the two interact.

There are a few moments where both of them can be insufferable. But I think it’s important to remember that at 17 these kids are in their own worlds. Natasha has a crisis in her life which brings out her selfishness and her pessimism, while as a poet Daniel is always going to be a cringy teen romantic. I think enough credit isn’t given to Natasha that while Daniel can be weird, Natasha doesn’t have to keep engaging him. Her own curiosities and self-proclaimed connection intrigues her and yes Daniel can come across as pushy and stalkery but if we keep pointing this out it takes away some magic, which is what these stories are all about.

The story is filled with moments that show the flow on effect on people’s actions. How one simple act creates a butterfly effect and small moments can result in bigger things that impact on more than just the lives involved. The writing is incredible, it’s profound without being over the top, there are some beautiful sentences and thoughts expressed that show the issues everyday people face and how deep the everyday can be.

It is a wonderful story about how passion can be a gift or a downfall, dreamers and realists coming together and having an effect on each other’s lives. Yoon explores the fascinating debate about love, fate, and destiny through the story and with three narrators – Natasha, Daniel, and The Universe – you see the different perspectives and learn about secondary characters in quite a poetic way. The structure is perfect and Yoon has stitched together these moments into the main story so it still flows seamlessly and each added bit of info adds a lot of context and explanation in a fantastic tone.

Secondary characters, while only being brief a lot of the time, felt full and complete. With different narrators you see different sides of the characters so you understand them quite well even when they are only present for a brief while. The ending is curious because you get answers and you don’t. And for all the coincidences throughout there are still lives at stake that can be impacted on by the decisions and whims of other people which may change paths completely. I can understand how people can see this as fanciful and unrealistic, but from the very beginning I was invested in this story. I loved how the story didn’t go where I thought it would and I loved the narrative dynamics.

You can purchase The Sun is Also a Star via the following

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New Moon (#2) by Stephanie Meyer

Published: 6th September 2006 (print)/1st June 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Random House
Pages: 563/14 hrs and 51 mins
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal
★   ★  – 2 Stars

I knew we were both in mortal danger. Still, in that instant, I felt well. Whole. I could feel my heart racing in my chest, the blood pulsing hot and fast through my veins again. My lungs filled deep with the sweet scent that came off his skin. It was like there had never been any hole in my chest. I was perfect – not healed, but as if there had never been a wound in the first place.

For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning… 

First things first, this book could have told the exact same story in 1/3 of the time. Second of all, nothing happens in this book. 14 hours of my life! 563 pages of book for barely no plot whatsoever. The only good parts were when Bella was with Jacob. For the entirety of this novel I was Team Jacob because he was the only normal, sensible person and it is the only normal part of the book that didn’t feel like it was going to implode because of all the angst and self-pity. Honesty I wanted to shake Bella/Meyer to gain some reason why Bella was so ready to jump into being an immortal. This is her first love and OF COURSE she wants to die for him and be with him forever. At least, and I can’t believe I am writing this, but Edward had some sense in this in his refusal and attempt to give Bella a normal life because she jumped right in and even for a guy as old as Edward that would have scared anybody off.

Bella moping around like a sad puppy was infuriating only for the length. I would have welcomed it because it made sense if she was going to fall hard she was going to be heartbroken, but it did not need to take up the first 9 hours of my listening experience on this alone, especially when a lot of it was repeating the same thing over and over again.

In other news, the Cullens in this book felt a bit more eternal than they had previously when they were trying to be the normal family. They behaved a bit more like the ancient eternal beings with the distant care and preoccupation with the human matters. I felt in a few conversations that petty human issues were of no concern to them which was good, it took away their phony pretense of being normal. I know they have adopted Bella as one of the family in their weird way but it felt like a tolerance. She pushed a lot of boundaries and I’m surprised they didn’t seem to mind how pushy and demanding she was.

Again, not a great narrator helping Meyer’s case. Kadushin’s approach this time was to take a pause after she spoke. After. Every. Single. Sentence. A full on pause whether it was the end of a paragraph or not. Every line. It did not matter if I had it running at 1.5x speed. I felt those pauses in my soul and wanted to scream.

Overall I felt nothing happened in this book. It was a few small issues dragged out way longer than it needed to be. I liked we got more of Jacob’s story and his relationship with Bella. I never knew he was meant to only be sixteen but I liked his side of the story and what happens between him and Bella. Meyer misses a few key point in regards to his own story that I had questions about but I was in a forgiving mood because after all the drama and emotion I was happy the story was feeling normal once again, at least for a while.

You can purchase New Moon via the following

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Star Crossed by Minnie Darke

book-bitePublished: 5th Mark 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Michael Joseph
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help. When childhood sweethearts Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) bump into each other as adults, a life-changing love affair seems inevitable. To Justine, anyway. Especially when she learns Nick is an astrological devotee, whose decisions are guided by the stars, and more specifically, by the horoscopes in his favorite magazine. The same magazine Justine happens to write for.

As Nick continues to not fall headlong in love with her, Justine decides to take Nick’s horoscope, and Fate itself, into her own hands. But, of course, Nick is not the only Aquarius making important life choices according to what is written in the stars.

Charting the ripple effects of Justine’s astrological meddling, STAR-CROSSED is a delicious, intelligent, and affecting love story about friendship, chance, and how we all navigate the kinds of choices that are hard to face alone.

Why rely on fate when you can rewrite the stars?

When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her old friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by change. Or perhaps it’s written in the stars.

Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star – and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine’s astrology column to guide him in life.

Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to ‘Aquarius’ before it goes to print.

It’s only a horoscope, after all. What harm could changing it do?

Having read the blurb for this when it came out, I was really intrigued because it sounded fun and light-hearted. Unfortunately when it came to actually reading it, I couldn’t engage with the story and found myself skimming quite a lot. The story shows how changing something as innocent as the horoscopes can affect others, but it is long, clunky, drawn out and often uninteresting. The premise sounded great but the actual writing is what turns you off. I think it would have benefited from being shorter, to keep it a more succinct series of events. I understand you need to have it take place over a long time to get the benefit of multiple horoscopes but this could have been done without so much extra detail.

To Darke’s credit, I initially enjoyed the interweaving moments of other people’s lives to see how it wasn’t just Nick’s life Justine was affecting, but they had no connection to the story that I saw and I skipped those after a while to try and get through the story faster. Eventually I skimmed the last half to get the gist of the story and see how it concluded, but I had no connection to the characters or had any interest in whether they got together or not so sitting through page after page of the drama and lead up to that wasn’t worth the time.

You can purchase Star Crossed via the following

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 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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