Sunday, January 27, 2013

Circle of Fire | by: Michelle Zink

Lia is anticipating the prophecy to be over, but there's still a lot to do before that can happen. She and her allies need to find the rest of the keys, find the stone, and try to avoid her twin sister Alice's appearance. But the biggest threat of all? The presence of the Souls that haunt Lia in her sleep is becoming more and more profound. If they continue to torment her, Lia fears she may not make it to end the prophecy once and for all despite the support of her friends.

I absolutely loved Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate, and I expected to adore this final book in Zink's trilogy just as much. I was so confident that this awesome story wouldn't let me down, especially when I liked this sequel about as much as the first. In fact, I was a bit sad upon cracking this book open, because then one of my favorite YA series was that much closer to being over.

But unfortunately, even though Circle of Fire had some positives going for it, I found it disappointing compared to the previous books. And strangely enough, some of the characters and elements I used to like about this trilogy seemed to be at the heart of any irritation I experienced while reading.

First of all, Lia. In my reviews of Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate, I mentioned how I liked her well enough, but I couldn't stand her this time around. She whined nonstop (though considering her situation, one can't be realistic to get too mad) and her situation with all of her friends just felt really awkward, primarily because I didn't know who I agreed with. I understood why Lia felt like she couldn't trust anyone, but I also understood why Luisa and Sonia were mad at her for not trusting them. So, I just got annoyed with everyone, which is often what I tend to do with real-life drama.

But then Dimitri... I also liked him before, and really, there's nothing wrong with him now. It just irked me that his relationship with Lia got magnified more than the rather large problems at hand. It all felt a bit cheesy and really threw the whole book off. Besides, I never signed up for romance when I picked this up; I signed up for the creepy elements concerning Lia and her sister, I signed up for a solid finale that didn't involve her thinking of her boyfriend in ways no girl in the 19th century would have. I know that Lia's previous visit to Altus gave her a different view on what society could be like, but I highly doubt that two weeks there would change any typical New England girl's concept of what is appropriate.

Similarly, the writing in this book sometimes felt melodramatic with its choppy sentences and repetative phrases. This surprised me; I loved Zink's writing in the past two books. Did her style change from Guardian of the Gate to Circle of Fire, or did my preference just change? Honestly... I think it just depends on what she's writing about. When Zink would write about how tired everyone is from the prophecy, I just rolled my eyes. Her generally dark writing style seemed to make everyone's exhaustion seem too dramatic, but by the time we get to the climax, falling action, and resolution, it's just as great as I remembered it to be. I even teared up a little during the last ten pages.

Hence, from the climax until the end of the book, I was satisfied. Even though it wasn't necessarily predictable, this series ended the only way it could have. The old elements of Prophecy of the Sisters seemed to come back then, particularly that of sisterhood. Alice and Lia's unusual relationship was the center of my attention in that first book, and then again at the end of the final book. But this time, it came back full circle. So essentially, the ending saved this book, along with the creepy setting when looking for the stone earlier.

This is why my emotions towards this book are a bit conflicting. I have the cool ending fresh in my head, and that deters me from making a general statement about the whole book when I wasn't exactly happy with parts of it. But it's not as if I didn't like it, either. I just wanted to like it as much or more than the other books in this trilogy, and unfortunately, it didn't quite happen.

However, I still encourage people to try out this trilogy, because it's great overall. And though this final book was exactly what I was hoping for, it wasn't written without positives.

3.5/5 Stars

Monday, January 21, 2013

Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In Puritan society, moral code is at a high standard. The guilt, shame, and even humiliation is bound to burden whoever dares to sin during this time period, whether it's their own conscience eating at their souls or the harsh stares of fellow community members. So when Hester Prynne is impregnated as a result of adultery, her punishment is to always wear a red "A" stitched onto all of her clothing. Anyone who sees her will be reminded of what she's done, and of course, Hester will also be reminded of her circumstance, which is a bit more complicated than it may initially seem.

Facing motherhood and the scorn of the town on her own, Hester must find a way to survive it all, to remain strong as she lives through her punishment.

The Scarlet Letter seems to have as many fans as haters, and it's easy to see why. On one hand, the writing is ramblesome and suffers from overly-detailed sections that include unneeded description and very little plot. The writing isn't typical of the time period it was actually scribed in (the 19th century, which is stylistically my favorite period in writing) since Hawthorne wanted to keep it more Puritan, and therefore more relevent to the storyline. But on the other hand, it's just a great story with well-defined characters (that didn't need an entire chapter each devoted to describing their individual personalities and other things related to them) and themes that made me think.

Despite the historical setting that may seen anything but normal, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter displays heroism in a more ordinary way with Hester Prynne's tale. One doesn't need to fight in physical battle to be considered a heroine or hero, but to just overcome some sort of obstacle, whether it happens overnight or it takes years. This is what first attracted me to the book as I began reading the first few chapters. Hester didn't want to be owned by sin or by the town's opinions. She wanted to be strong.

But her personality never stopped me from feeling sorry for her, because even though she held her head up in town, she often felt lonely and miserable. Her marraige should've never happened in the first place, she feared that her child would reflect unholy sin in her personality, and it was impossible to be with the father of her child without revealing his identity.

Mr. Dimmesdale also kept my interest and sympathy throughout this little novel, while Pearl's strangeness kept me smiling. Sure, she was unruly, but it was funny. She was the sunshine in The Scarlet Letter as a whole, much like she was the sunshine of Hester's life, which had unfortunately turned so bleak. That concept sums up this book quite well: Generally unhappy, but the little sparks of hope really stand out in contrast.

All things considered, The Scarlet Letter isn't exactly a favorite of mine, but I did like it; it tugged at my heart strings a little bit. It just could have been better if Hawthorne focused on plot development more than over-explaining. But, if he was more overly-descriptive of what these characters were feeling in an emotional time... Then, I'd have little to no room to complain.

Even so, it's really no wonder it's a classic.