Mini Reviews: Gathering Blue, Messenger, & Son by Lois Lowry

The first book of a series is usually the most famous (or infamous) one, and the same can be said for Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet. Instead of sequels, Lowry calls the next three books “companions”, and that’s how I view them: I can do with or without them, and some of them really enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the world that she’s created, while others are a little too bizarre for my liking.

Gathering Blue
 

 
Gathering Blue is set in a society that does not tolerate physical flaws – with a deformed leg, Kira is the exception to that rule solely because she has the embroidery skills to mend a very important robe. While housed in a nicer place than she’s ever been in before, Kira discovers the secrets that the Council of the village has been hiding from the rest of the people. Like in The Giver, this dystopian world seems normal from the main character’s eyes because it’s the only thing they knew, until they start seeing the cracks and shadows in which secrets are hidden. I thought Gathering Blue was okay because it still had an interesting premise, but it does lack character development and relationship-building. I also thought that it would be connected in some way to the setting and characters from The Giver, and was disappointed when this felt like an entirely new world. It makes more sense after reading all four books, but at this point, I wasn’t too excited after Gathering Blue.

Messenger
 

Title: Messenger
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #3
Publication Date: April 26, 2004
Genre: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Finally, the link between the first two books is made! In Messenger, which is set in the Village that welcomes all rejects from other communities, Matty – Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue – is our protagonist. As the Village starts showing signs of evil (ex. villagers being not as welcoming to new folks and who, for some reason, start becoming less friendly and good in general), Matty plays a key role as a messenger in delivering and retrieving messages from the outside world because he is one of the few people who can go into the woods that surround the Village and not get lost. Characters from The Giver also show up in Messenger, and it’s interesting to see the concept of “magic” come up again. What I didn’t really like is the ending. There’s probably some sort of symbolism in what happened and what Matty and the other characters stood for (ex. good vs. evil, strengths and weaknesses of humanity, etc.), but it requires too much thinking. As a story, it’s abstract, but also somewhat magical – Messenger was also super short, where I would’ve preferred something lengthier with more analyses/reasoning behind certain events.

Son
 

Title: Son
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #4
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Category: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Son is my favorite follow-up/companion story to The Giver. It connects all of the characters and settings in the previous books while also providing new characters and new settings that really complement what Lowry had created previously. In another writer’s hands, this story could’ve definitely become a more modern standalone dystopian piece with full-blown romances and conspiracies and sci-fi/fantasy elements – but in Lowry’s hands, the simplicity and nuances in the imagery and the characters are very characteristic of her writing, and they force the reader to think a lot more (this is a good thing!). Good imagination is key to reading this!

bird

Overall, I think The Giver Quartet is a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in an interesting way. These stories make you think, whether it be analyzing how symbols and motifs play a role or imagining and embellishing the scenery and people in your mind. Lowry provides a simple skeleton on which you can build your own ideas upon, and I think it’s good to have these types of stories once in a while.

Have you read the rest of the Giver quartet?
Have you read any books that combine fantasy and sci-fi elements?

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Mini Reviews: The DUFF & Wallbanger

I’m really averse to doing things that I don’t like, which includes giving presentations (but I still give them), getting flu shots (but I still get them), going to tennis camp (but I still go), and writing reviews for books I don’t like (but I’ll still do it). I can actually feel an invisible, mental barrier come up every time I think about doing these things, but I push through anyway. It makes me a better, stronger person in the end… I think.

The DUFF

 

I must admit that I wanted to read this book because I saw the movie trailer and really liked it. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about the book. The DUFF is about seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper who gets into a frenemies-with-benefits relationship with “man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush” (I didn’t say this, the synopsis did!) – the very boy who nicknamed her the Duff (designated ugly fat friend). The reason why Bianca got herself into that situation was because of problems at home that she didn’t want to deal with, and lo and behold, she ends up developing feelings for Wesley. I think my main problem is that I didn’t like Bianca that much, and this first-person narrative didn’t help. She’s a very volatile character, and lashes out often because she doesn’t know what else to do. While she gets more and more involved with Wesley, Bianca is completely blind to the changes in her relationships with her best friends and her family. Then Love Triangle happens, and it’s a downward spiral from there.

Aaand adult fiction through the link!
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Mini Reviews: Fire and Thorns Novellas by Rae Carson

I liked this set of novellas from Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns series because they give us insight into some of the minor characters that were in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Each of these characters really deserve their own series, since even these novellas showcase some amazing character traits and growth in a limited amount of pages. (Or maybe that just means that Carson should write more wonderful adventures, haha.)
 
The Shadow Cats

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. And it was not Alodia.

I love how Alodia, the one who seemed like the perfect heroine, was not actually the star of the show. Elisa’s perception of her older sister was such a bad one that I’m glad I got a chance to see things from Alodia’s perspective, and Alodia’s definitely a heroine in her own rights. In this story, Alodia and her faithful guard, Zito, sets out to investigate a corner of their land where crops have failed to grow and a creature named Espiritu is rumored to be killing the farm animals. In the process, Alodia finally realizes the worth in her younger sister.

The Shattered Mountain
 

 
Mara – who Elisa meets in The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the protagonist in this novella. When Mara tries to leave her small village in Joya d’Arena with her lover, her village is burned to the ground that very same day. She is forced to lead the other survivors of her village to safety. Carson skillfully brings Mara’s past to life and connects her story with her appearance in the main book.

The King's Guard
 

 
This is the story of how Hector, King Alejandro’s personal guard, got to where he is in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I think his story is the most exciting out of the three novellas, and it shows his growth even in the short span of a hundred pages or so.

Mini Review: Glitches by Marissa Meyer

Glitches

Title: Glitches
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #0.5
Publication Date: December 5, 2011
Category: (Young Adult) Novella / Fantasy / Dystopia

 

 

This prequel to Cinder tells of how Cinder comes to her new family and learns about her cyborg side. Evil stepmother is evil, and I feel for what eleven-year-old Cinder has to go through in a household that doesn’t want her. With gorgeous cover art and clear thematic points, Glitches shows the “glitches” that Cinder finds in her new body, and it does a good job in evoking sympathy for the protagonist and setting the scene for Cinder.

Review: Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Seating ArrangementsI haven’t felt this bitter about a book in a while. I’m actually wavering between liking Seating Arrangements and thinking that it’s OK, because the characters in this book aren’t likable at all, and yet they touched me in some way. Seating Arrangements cracked open its numerous characters with a hammer to expose their many flaws, secrets, and impure motives. Shipstead’s vivid descriptions bring to mind the smell of sea salt in the air, a quaint cottage on an island, and eroding perfection, and overall, Seating Arrangements left me disappointed and skeptical of human nature.Read More »

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder
Cinder¬†sucked me in with its awesome cyborg-Cinderella protagonist and evil moon people and fast-paced storyline, and I stayed up late just to finish it BUT THAT ENDINGGGG AHHHHH! I seriously kept turning the last page back and forth, thinking that the pages in the last half of the book MUST have been torn out by some really mean people. Not a fan of cliffhangers and loose ends, since it makes me feel like I lost sleep for nothing. So when will I start reading¬†Scarlet? Soon, my friends, very soon…Read More »

Review: A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan

A Girl Named Digit

This wasn’t what I expected at all. I expected a lot more math geekiness, introspection, and self-acceptance, but was disappointed to find that the female protagonist was in la-la land throughout most of the book. A Girl Named Digit is action-packed and has an interesting premise, but the characters are too fickle and shallow for my tastes, and the plot wrapped up too quickly and cleanly.
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Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet

Quiet is a book that every introvert should own at least ten copies of so that a copy can easily be whipped out and shoved into someone’s face when said introvert gets asked, “Why are you so quiet?” “Why aren’t you contributing anything?” or “You should speak up.” Cain earnestly champions for introverts with this well-researched work and makes a strong stand for the importance of introverts in an extroverted society.
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