Posted in Bookish

Book Review: The Legend Series

• Legend
• Prodigy
• Champion

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It has been very long since I have read a gripping book series and it’s been even longer since I felt a new hope even after I completed reading the entire series. The ‘Legend’ series has inspired me in so many ways. This is my glowing review to the incredibly fantastic Marie Lu.

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On the Champion cover we have the following words by Wyck Godfrey, producer of ‘The Twilight Saga’,
“Blows the socks off Hunger Games”
Though I don’t completely agree with Wyck Godfrey, as for me, ‘The Hunger Games’ will be the best dystopian book series ever, ‘The Legend’ book series comes a close second.
To begin with, all the three books in the trilogy have insanely creative covers, designed by Lori Thorn. All the three are connected to each other, in that they begin where the previous book ends, all three are written in two different perspectives of our leading protagonists, June Iparis and Daniel Altan Wing a.k.a Day. Marie Lu, the author of this amazing series, has even gone ahead and chosen two different fonts for each character, even having a coloured one for Day’s character in the first book, Legend.

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My personal reason for liking Legend was that the central characters really hit you. You are literally sucked into their big bad world of the Republic of America.
It is 2054*. The United States of America, as we know it today, no longer exists. It is divided into the ‘Republic of America’ and ‘The Colonies’. Antarctica has been colonized and is among one of the richest, most powerful and progressive countries of the world.
(If you haven’t read the series, then a fair word of warnings. LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD)

Children are subjected to Trails, a mix of physical and intellectual tests to determine their future course. Only two children receive the highest scores- 1000/1000. The Republic, where our protagonists reside, makes June Iparis retake the test. She attains the perfect score yet again. She is hailed as a Prodigy for the Republic, completing school early and training to join the military.
On the other side, Daniel Altan Wing scores 1000/1000 but he is not hailed as prodigy. My theory is that he belongs to the poorer sections of the society and is hence taken in for experimentation. During this course of experiments, his eye and knee are damaged. Thinking of him as dead, he is left to rot in the laboratory basement, from where our hero makes his escape. He doesn’t return to his family but becomes their fairy godmother, helping them whenever he can and destroying the Republic with his superior intellect.
Daniel adopts the street name ‘Day’ and that is how he is introduced to us.

Legend dives into how June and Day meet, the prodigy and the criminal and what happens there after. It makes for a very interesting read. It throws light on how the poor people live in the streets or in their ramshackling houses. It describes the deepest misdeeds of the Republic.
Action packed with Lu’s distinct style of writing and full of fascinating side characters, Legend is a thrill of a ride.

The ride continues with Prodigy, the next book, we see June and Day being taken in by the Patriots who have always been against the Republic.

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They agree to help Patriots carry out their big plan of assassinating Anden, the new Elector-Primo. (The Elector-Primo is akin to our Prime Minister) It is an elaborate book, detailing the journey of both June and Day as they are forced to acknowledge their feelings towards each other and their role in Anden’s assassination attempt which leads them to two different paths.
The climax of Prodigy is stunning, when we realize that the Patriots were Republicans in disguise who wish Anden dead. We never know who the real Patriots were but it all ends nicely with an incredible twist- revealing Day’s illness- caused by the Republic experimentation and how he has numbered days to live. What is the result? Day ends up pushing June away from him and we are now waiting to get our hands on the final book of the trilogy, Champion.

Champion begins with Day attempting to forget June and the Republic and the Colonies on the brink of a peace treaty.

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But a deadly plague, the one which kick started the events in Legend, is back and is threatening the temporary peace. Here, we get to really see Anden, the new Elector-Primo in action. His dialogues with both June and Day are electric and in between all this, I actually wondered how the fate of a country rests in the hands of three youngsters, two of them being teenagers. It is a very remarkable prospect. Could this really happen in the future? I have no doubt that it will.

Coming back to Champion, the book excels in throwing twists at every turn and Marie Lu excels in tying up everything neatly. I have already given way too many spoilers so I will try to refrain from telling the plot in detail, as I feel Champion really deserves to be read. A fitting finale to the amazing Legend, CHAMPION is a Champion in itself.

Go read this fantastic series!

If you do not mind spoilers or like to read knowing the story before hand, or have already read the series then read ahead for my special observations.

Nicely Done
All of these take place in the final book, Champion.

  • Day’s speech to the people alongside the Chancellor of the Colonies and his subsequent escape was thrillingly explained. I could picture it perfectly.
  • June’s connection to the deadly plague, the Colonies tampering with her system; it all tied up tidily.
  • Antarctica: I was floored! The entire ‘Daily Score’, ‘Cumulative Score’ and ‘Level’ system was brilliant! I also like reading about how countries co-ordinate and bargain during times of war, Anden asking for Antarctica’s help with the war against the Colonies and Antarctica laying down conditions.
  • The Titles and Positions were supremely intellectual. ‘Elector-Primo’ and ‘Princeps-Elects’
  • June and Anden’s relationship. It was a nice touch, having another suitor for June. And Tess pining for Day.
  • Day’s moral dilemma. How to love the girl who got his family killed? The ethical and moral ramifications were portrayed vividly by Lu. Kudos!

Flaws

  • We never know why Daniel was not hailed as a prodigy despite attaining the unachievable perfect score. He was never given a retest like June Iparis. He was lied to, given a fake score card and taken for experimentation. Another mystery is their experimentation. Was day treated differently as he had received the perfect score? And how did the Republic not notice him missing? Did they even achieve anything through the experiments? They left Day to suffer through the bad knee and eye (of course, they had thought that Day had died).
  • I thought there was a whole theory behind June and Day’s score on the Trails and hailing one as a Prodigy and preparing her for the same and leading the other to become a Legend, the best and the smartest criminal. I was under the impression that the Republic must have hatched an elaborate scheme to get these two to face off each other. Sadly, that didn’t turn out to be true.
  • Commander Jameson is a cold, cruel and cunning villain. I liked her as the antagonist but somehow her words to June, “Little Iparis, how much you remind me of myself at your age,” confused me. Again, it misled me. I thought that there would be a back story on Commander Jameson’s childhood or maybe some connection between her and June which would reflect on this statement which is said more than once in varied ways by Commander Jameson.
  • Day’s dad. He was the biggest mystery. How did he die? Why did he suddenly leave? Where did he get that coin of the former U.S.A? Where were all the other treasures stored? Total mystery.
  • Another thing which hit me hard was Day’s retrograde amnesia. He remembered the death of his family but not the people who caused it, namely June, Commander Jameson and Thomas. How? Does the brain protect itself that way? And what about John, Day’s elder brother? He sacrificed himself for Day when June helped Day escape his own execution. Day remembers John’s death but doesn’t recollect June who was his savior. It seems a bit weird to me. But it did add a sweet twist to the story which led to a sweeter end.

Wishful Thinking (Would like to read more about)

  • I wanted more of Anden. I really liked him. Marie Lu painted a striking picture. I wouldn’t have minded a part of the novel from his point of view. Or maybe a novella in the future?
  • Does Tess fall in love? More importantly, does she fall out of love with Day? What about the time when June makes her difficult decision of letting Day go? Did Tess, Eden and Anden support her?
  • What about ten years later, when June encounters Eden and Day, does Eden not recognize her? (I remember about the eyes, still.)
  • I would have liked to read more about the dreaded Plague and how were the Republic both creating and destroying it. What part did Eden actually play in it?
  • The Colonies and their governing systems really intrigued me. I would definitely be interested in knowing more.

In conclusion, I completely back the ‘New York Journal of Books’ when they say-
“Clear your calendar to allow yourself the luxury of reading this book in one or two sittings. You will be shaken.”

 

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Posted in Bookish

And here comes the Champion

When I first came across the dystopian book series, ‘The Hunger Games’ three years ago, I read all the three books in a span of four days. Needless to say, I loved all of them! The series sucked me in and I was stuck in that District for many days to come.

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Since then, I have been on the lookout for another smashing dystopian book series, something to take my love for ‘Dystopian’ settings forward. When I discovered that there were literally uncountable books set in the dystopian world, I was overjoyed!
But alas! My joy kept dimming with every book series that I read. Or rather, unread. I began with the hugely recommended ‘Divergent’ series by Veronica Roth.

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It was good, I do admit that. But it did not sustain that ‘good’. Somehow, I have realized that the first book in any dystopian book series is incredible, trapping the reader in its wake and leading them with great expectations towards the sequel. But something goes wrong there and there is a big resounding crash when you force yourself (yes, ‘force’ is the right word here) to read the final book in the trilogy. If that’s not enough, the author brings out novellas- to showcase the same events, or even new events, rather a prequel, from the point of view of other supporting characters. True fans of the series lap them up, excited to read new material.
Unfortunately, that will only happen for me, if Suzanne Collins, the author of the truly impeccable ‘Hunger Games’ series writes something new in Katniss Everdeen’s world.
Coming back to the ‘Divergent’ series, I really liked the first book. I picked up the second in the series, Insurgent, excited to dive back into Tris and Tobias’s world. But I did not like Insurgent, to say the least. However, I did want to find out how it all ends, as I admit here, I was kinda in love with Tobias. And I also had a tiny hope that Veronica Roth will steer the whole thing back to the ‘good’ stuff, bring the story back on the right path in the series finale, ‘Allegiant’.
I borrowed the book from one of my students (like I did the others) and I quote my student now, “Teacher, either you are going to bang your head or bang this book” – pointing at Allegiant – “right in the middle of your reading.”
I smiled. I expected no other outcome. I agreed with her, though instead of banging my head on the book, I let the book rest comfortably in the confines of my cupboard. Or skipped a huge number of pages when I really thought I was going to tear my hair out. Because the book was going nowhere! It was infuriating!
I did, however, reach the end somehow, dragging my eyes in the process and was happy when I finished the book. I was not happy with the book, just that I had finally completed the series. When I found out that there was a novella from Tobias’s point of view, I picked it up with dread. That book was good. But the series had lost its appeal for me.

I then read ‘The Maze Runner’ series by James Dashner.

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It met the same fate. Excellent first book, bad second, I did not even attempt the third book. Instead, I read the summary of the final book online. I did not even feel like picking up the series prequel.

Next for me was ‘The Selection’ series by Kiera Cass.

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Excellent first book! I moved to the second. But in the middle of it, I got bored. Yes, bored. So again, I read the entire summary of all the books online. I may still read the books sometime ahead. After a year-or-two, if I am facing a book drought, I will complete reading this series.

Then I came across the riveting ‘Matched’ by Ally Condie. I loved it so much that I didn’t read the next two books ‘Crossed’ and ‘Reached’, keeping them aside like treasures which were meant for special occasions.

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But when I did read them, I was disappointed. I muddled through Crossed because it was confusing. And don’t even get me started on Reached. I gave up. I hate giving up books once I start reading them but this was torture. None of the central characters were even in one SINGLE place. All of them were doing their own thing. I could only take so much. I stopped reading. And wondered what went horribly wrong. I thought that there was something erroneous with me, giving them up. Right then, I found a review online which confirmed all of my doubts and agreed wholeheartedly with what I felt about the series. There! Relief! I was not alone.
After this, I took a lengthy pause in reading dystopian stuff. I went back to the trusted Romance books. I also turned to Mythology, reading Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ series. However, I couldn’t stomach the third book in this trilogy as well.

Then I chanced upon Marie Lu. Her ‘Legend’ was again an excellent first book. But then, I was expecting it to be excellent. First books, according to my observation, generally are incredible. Very carefully I began ‘Prodigy’, the second book in the series. And I loved it! Were there no flaws? No, there were flaws. But could I ignore them and move towards to the final book? Yes, I absolutely could!

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Delighted, I began reading ‘Champion’, the last book in the gripping series which follows the tale of June Iparis and Daniel Altan Wing a.k.a Day through the Republic of America, a fast forwarded U.S.A. I loved Champion! I loved it so much that I am writing this article now. Finally, I found a really good dystopian book series after the indomitable ‘Hunger Games’.
Why did I love it? Why didn’t I give up or tear my hair out this time? Why did I have a bittersweet smile when I closed Champion? Why am I sure that I will reread Champion again in the future? Why do I want to see a movie series based on this fantastic book series?
All these questions will be answered in my next article where I will review the entire series, what I loved, what I didn’t (there isn’t much) and why I am finally open to reading dystopian novels again.
Marie Lu. Thank you! You are the true Champion here!

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Posted in Bookish

Book Review

Book Review: Match me if you can
Author: Susan Elizabeth Philips
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Avon Books (August 2006) First published August 1st 2005
388 pages (part of a series)

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I first heard about ‘Match me if you can’ on my twitter feed. People were posting great reviews about it. I decided to read it on a Saturday afternoon and thought it will make a good read. I turned out to be right.
It was a typical girl-falls-for-guy-but-guy-realizes-later love story. Annabelle Granger, thirty-one, inherits her recently deceased grandmother’s match making business ‘Marriages by Myrna’. Renaming it ‘Perfect for you’, she’s looking to turn the business and her life around. Her two successful older brothers and mother are always on her tail for ‘doing something in her life’. They think she isn’t able to work on her ‘purpose for life’. Hopping between jobs which fail like her own gift shop business or just shut shop, like another small scale enterprise, Annabelle is determined to prove her family wrong.
Annabelle is a very likeable protagonist. Funny, determined, hard working with a great group of friends, she already has readers rooting for her. I remember, in the first few chapters itself, I had begun praying that Heath Champion, our novel’s hero, falls for Annabelle, and not for any other girl that she sets him up with. Finding Mrs. Champion is the goal of Annabelle Granger’s new life. She knows that Heath Champion, the rich and handsome sports agent was the biggest client for her new venture. How does she manage to get Heath, who is fondly called as the Python by friends and enemies alike, to hire her makes for the first chapter of the novel. The entire account is a little reminder of the interview scene from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, at least for me. No fireworks there, but enough drama to keep the meeting interesting. After that, you are hooked. The novel alternates between Annabelle and Heath’s viewpoints, keeping the readers interested. The same group of motley friends shared by the leads gives rise to a few tricky situations. These girlfriends stand by Annabelle through thick and thin and just make you wish for her friends to be yours. Seriously, such nice friends only exist in books.
Both our girl and guy have previously faced bitter relationships where their ‘I love you’s’ were not returned. As such, both are wary of the ‘love’ territory. Spending a lot of time together, both grow fond of each other and the turning point comes when they spend the necessary one night together. Till this point, I was with the author. After this though, I didn’t get why she did what she did. Heath berates himself for ‘using’ his professional friend who is trying her best to find a bride for him. Annabelle realizes she’s in love with Heath. (Like umpteen other heroines after they spend the night or during the act itself) She tells Heath that she ‘used’ him for her own reasons. Both pretend nothing ‘Big’ has happened and things go downhill from then, not only for them, but also for me.
I had picked up the book after reading a particularly glorious review online and this turned out to be, well, the same drama.
Annabelle manages to find the perfect girl for Heath. Heath, in turn, tries his best to be happy. But then, one fine day, he realizes that Annabelle is perfect wife material and proposes. As he fails to mention the ‘L’ word, she declines. Then, the regular ‘guy realizes he’s in love, scrambles to find his lady love who has suddenly gone missing, finds her and convinces her of his undying love’ drama ensues.
There’s a parallel love story revolving around Bodie, Heath’s best friend and Portia I-forgot-her-last-name of ‘Power Matches’, the big agency which Heath had hired to find him a wife before Annabelle had marched into his office, and then life. I mostly skipped this parallel love story and was trying to come up with a reason as to why was the author developing it in the first place. That was because both Portia and Bodie help the happy couple reach their happiness. How does that happen? That’s the part which you should probably read yourself. It is kind of cute. Portia helps Annabelle confirm that Heath indeed loves her.
For regular readers of the author’s work, this will be a blockbuster. It features characters from her previous works making an appearance as Annabelle and Heath’s common friends.
The book has all the elements of a good romance novel. If you are looking for something light and on the ‘L’ side, go grab this one.

Posted in Bookish

Fifteen things about Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifteen things about Fifty Shades of Grey

I have titled my article ‘Fifteen things about’ and not ‘Fifteen things I love’ or ‘Fifteen things I hate’ so it includes everything- Fifteen things I liked, disliked, loved, hated and enjoyed. I am including all three books of the trilogy here- Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

  • Any individual book can be picked up and read

Case in point, me. I picked up the last book mistaking it for the second as the first was unavailable. I understood the story perfectly. Then I read the second book, finishing recently with the first.

  • Christian Grey

Although, I prefer my heroes to be sane and not sexual addicts, my heart does go out to him. His experiences have made him what he is today and today he is a fantastic fictional character, not one who can be forgotten easily. He livens up every page that he resides in.

  • Anastasia Steele

First off, I love her name. What a lovely name for the protagonist! It rolls off your tongue. She is a smart and matured young lady yet, she is heavily confused about the half the time, leading us to also be in a confused state of mind. But that said she is a fitting leading lady.

  • Taylor

I know. I know. I know. It’s like I am listing my favorite characters in order of preference. But really, there’s no Christian Grey without Taylor. He’s missing most of the time, appearing out of nowhere, leaving Ana and us flummoxed about his whereabouts. But his quiet demeanor and strong presence does add a lot to the novel.

  • Laters, baby

First said by Elliot, Grey’s funny brother, it takes a different dimension when uttered by Grey. It always leaves us wanting more.

  • The E-mails

All throughout the three novels, the e-mails exchanged by our lovers are fantastic. Some are well-thought while others are funny. It’s always exciting to flip through their witty repartee. I, unintentionally, have a smile on my face when I am reading their correspondence. The subjects are interesting too. So are the sign-offs.

  • The Contract

I couldn’t really get myself to read it. I skipped the pages (the contract is very detailed) and read ahead and then came back to it the next day. I read it slowly to understand every aspect and the more I read, the more horrified I got.

  • Sex

If you thought I was going to gloss over this, let me tell you something, I CAN’T. It’s there in practically every page. And sometimes I want author E.L. James to not go into excruciating details but that’s exactly what she does. If you have the stomach for it, go ahead or like me, skip the less enjoyable parts.

  • Gliding

Before reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, I didn’t even know what gliding was. Sure, you could point to my lack of worldliness right about now, but the book makes gliding look very exciting and at the same time, effortless.

  • The Good Life

You get a fair idea of how the uber rich live. Even their daily meals are top-of-the-line and family meetings are events in themselves. Christian lavishes expensive gifts to Ana (the Mac book, the Audi, even clothes for that matter… and how can I forget…First Edition Collector’s Books)

  • Helicopter Rides

I want one (at least) with my special someone next to me (Grinning goofily here!)

  • The murky past

Christian’s past is shrouded in mystery. Even thought the mystery is slowly unraveled in the three books, all the answers are not provided. Maybe the readers will get their answers in ‘Grey’- the new novel by the same author- Fifty Shades of Grey retold from Christian’s point of view.

  • Trilogy

The important question here is- do we require ‘three’ books for this story? For me, the answer is a simple ‘no’. But then, there would be a lot less sex and that could be a problem for some (or many). And now that there is movie franchise being built on it- one book wouldn’t be enough.

  • Dangerous to society

This book would definitely give ideas to the already creative creeps out there. And it may add to the already present dilemma that girls all over the globe face- to be brave or not? Almost all strong fictional female characters- whether in a book or T.V show or movie have been shown to be unconditionally in love with the hero- even though he’s anything but perfect. These girls are credited to be fantastic and most importantly, bold to bring about such a turnaround in the guy.

  • The End

All’s well that ends well.

The end is sweet with everyone being happy. Christian is still Christian though now he is a man who is a loving husband and a proud father and Ana is the one who got to keep her Fifty Shades.

P.S: All the three novels have incredible cover art!