Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

341305

Title: Little Women

Series: Little Women, #01

Author: Louisa May Alcott

First Published: 1868

Genre: Historical, Classics, Romance

Age group: Young Adult

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

I’ve been really into reading classics recently, and ‘Little Women’ was one of those books that I really wanted to read for quite sometime. As I live in Russia, our school reading lists are way different from those in other countries. Naturally, they are filled with our own classics, and there are very few foreign authors that Russian students get to know while at school.

As I remember myself as a teenager, I really liked reading. But comparing to this whole approach to information Internet gives us nowadays, which I didn’t have during my school years, it’s no wonder that I was very limited in my reading choices. And that’s really sad, because there are books, that I’ve already read as an adult, that I loved so much and that I wished I would have read way earlier. But I didn’t know about their existence, because, well, I may have heard about some popular European books, but Classic American Literature was practically out of limits for me. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, for example, falls into this category, just like ‘Little Women’.

The way I learned about this book is really funny. It did happen when I was in high school, and I was watching this amazing TV show ‘Friends’, the episode where Joe and Rachel read each other’s favorite books. Rachel gets to read the book that scares the living hell out of Joe, ‘The Shining’ (I’ve read it recently, and it’s AWESOME!). And Joe is reading ‘Little Women’. I was so impressed by the reactions this book gets out of him, he loves it and he connects with the characters and he is really upset with the way the plot is developing.

I can say that I was really intrigued by this book, and I made a mental note to myself to get to read it sometime. Then there came the time, when I finished school, and I was busy at the University, then I felt like I was really tired of all those classics and wanted to read something new and fresh.

But there is always this thing about Classics, no matter how exciting and entertaining newly released books may be, very few of them can actually stand the test of time and appeal to any reader of any age, no matter when they read them. Classic books became classic for a reason. They either tell about some important historical period or they just tell a story of ordinary people dealing with some life dramas. Classic books are the first books that come to our minds when we make our lists of all time favorite books, because each of them has taught us something about life’s values.

‘Little Women’ tells about a year in the life of four sisters – Meg, Joe, Beth and Amy. The girls live with their mother while their dad is away serving in the war. Their life is not easy as they have to struggle to make ends meet, with two older girls, Meg and Joe, having abandoned school and gone to work. The house they live in is not very fancy, since the family has been having money problems for a long time, and at the same time there’s constant worry that they might never see their father again.

Each chapter of the book shows different incidents in the girls’ lives. The sisters are all so different in characters and states of mind and each of them has her own dreams. At some time one of the sisters would act out of her frustration with the current state of things, and the outcome may be very sad. But as the girls get to learn along the way, life is all about getting to know one’s worst personal qualities and try to not let them take hold of you.

There are some very light and funny chapters in the book, but there are also a lot of them, which show how tough is the life the girls actually have to live. So, while every sister is not portrayed as an ideal, they all have their own good and bad characteristics, you can’t really not be impressed with their strong spirit and the way they always stand for each other.

I wish I’d read the book when I was a teenager, too, just like the sisters. Because, well, then I could have connected more with them. And also this book has a great educative aspect in it. In a very light and understandable way, this books sets right from wrong and explains what a good person actually is like. Meg, Joe, Beth and Amy are far from perfect, but their are really trying to be better, which is really admirable and can be very impressive for a younger reader.

‘Little Women’ is the first book in the series, and the continuation ‘Good Wives’ tells about the girls’ lives as adults. I’m really excited about it, because I got very much attached to the 4 sisters and also I really loved Louisa May Alcott’s narration. I hope I’ll also find the time to watch the movie adaptation of the book.

Raven by Lauren Oliver

16089223Title: Raven

Series: Delirium, Book 2,5

Author: Lauren Oliver

Published: March 5th 2013, HarperCollins

Genre: Dystopia, Romance, Drama

Age group: Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Raven (Delirium, #2.5)

Summary:

This captivating 50-page digital-original story set in the world of Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium series focuses on Raven, the fiery leader of a rebel group in the Wilds.
As a teenager, Raven made the split-second decision to flee across the border to the Wilds, compelled to save an abandoned newborn—a baby girl left for dead and already blue from the cold. When she and the baby are taken in by a band of rebels, Raven finds herself an outsider within a tight-knit group. The only other newcomer is an untrustworthy boy known as the Thief until he finally earns himself a new name: Tack.
Now she and Tack are inseparable, committed to each other, the fledgling rebellion, and a future together. But as they both take center stage in the fight, Raven must decide whether the dangers of the revolution are worth risking her dreams of a peaceful life with Tack.
As her story hurtles back and forth between past and present, Raven transforms from a scared girl newly arrived in the Wilds to the tough leader who helps Lena save former Deliria-Free poster boy Julian Fineman from a death sentence. Whatever the original mission may have been, Raven abides by a conviction that she believes to her core: You always return for the people you love.
By turns surprising, revelatory, and poignant, Raven’s story enriches the Delirium world and resonates with a voice that is as vulnerable as it is strong.

Review:

‘Raven’ is yet another short novel inside of the ‘Delirium’ series by Lauren Oliver, and this one tells a background story of Raven, one of the prominent characters of the second book ‘Pandemonium’.

Anyone who is familiar with the series knows, that these books are about a Dystopian futuristic world, where love and any affections are considered a disease preventing the society’s proper functioning. So every citizen at the age of 18 has to undergo a cure to get rid of the virus called Amor Deliria Nervosa. This procedure has been functioning for many years and appears to be succeeding. But, of course, things are not what they seem, and aside from all these cured and emotionless people, living in their guarded, isolated cities, there are also rebels, or invalids, living in the Wilds, who try to sabotage this whole system.

When the main character of the first book ‘Delirium’, Lena, escapes to the Wilds, she sees this other, free world and meets people, who also managed to get away. Among these people is Raven, who has already spent years in the Wilds. Raven is a tough and strong girl, who at first doesn’t show any weakness or emotions. But as time goes, Lena learns that, just like her, Raven cares very much about her future and people she loves.

I generally like all the short additions to this series, primarily because they don’t focus on Lena, as she has now three long books dedicated to her solely, and her story is thoroughly explored. Instead, it’s nice to get to know more about other characters as well, as they too, naturally, have to survive in the same world as Lena, they also have their struggles with finding what’s wright and wrong.

‘Raven’ is definitely my favorite among the others (‘Hana’ and ‘Annabel’), and this mostly has to do with the story’s total changing of my impression of Raven. I didn’t like her in ‘Pandemonium’, even though she obviously didn’t have it easy, with so many bad stuff happening to her. But she was a closed book to me, and I didn’t have that clear picture of her in my mind, as I have of Lena’s.

This short novel is told from Raven’s point of view, and it finally opened up to me Raven’s inner world. It’s now understandable to me, why Raven is the way she is, and I consider her the true image of an Invalid, a person who continues fighting for her beliefs, no matter how hard and heartbreaking it may turn.

‘Raven’ also turned my attention to another character, mostly overlooked by me in ‘Pandemonium’, Tucker. I didn’t care much about him before, but now I’d love to learn more of his background story. And also Raven and Tucker’s romance was so beautifully written, that now I’m just as worried about their future as I am about Lena and Alex’s.

This is definitely a book worth reading to any fan of the series. It’s pretty short, but it’s quite informative and sort of prepares the reader before continuing with the final installment ‘Requiem’.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

8235178Title: Across the Universe

Series: Across the Universe, Book 1

Author: Beth Revis

Published: January 11th 2011, Razorbill

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Mystery, Romance

Age group: Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)

Summary:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My review:

This book was on my TBR list for seemingly ages! I really liked the cover, there is something both mysterious and romantic about it. Also, I genuinely like anything involving space or space adventures, so I was interested. But for so long time I didn’t feel a strong desire to read it. Maybe due to the book’s very vague summary, that doesn’t actually hint at what really is going to happen. Or maybe I was just not in the mood to read a long sci-fi story.

But this year the last third installment was released, and I’ve seen like millions reviews on it, or people saying how they needed to read it right away, so I was kind of compelled to find out what the hype was about.

I’m not gonna lie. I LOVED this book! It was amazing and absolutely not something I expected. Well, I guessed it would be just another teenage love story only set on a spaceship, with some drama that would all end happily when they land on a new planet. But that’s not what this book is about at all.

The beginning of the book reminded me of ‘Alien’ movies, where people would get into hypersleep to fly to different planets. This type of journey would typically take ages, so there’s no other way to survive it.

In ‘Across the Universe’ Amy and her parents are sent to a whole new planet, which is 300 hundred years away, to build a colony there. So the three of them, including a hundred other scientists and military people are frozen, and I really liked the scene depicting this process. It was really creepy, but so greatly described, like the author had seen it done before.

The storytelling of the book shifts from two points of view, one belongs to Amy, and the other to Elder. Elder is a 16 year old future leader of the spaceship ‘Godspeed’ that’s been sent to this new planet. The thing with this whole journey is that, apparently, there were needed active people on the ship to ensure it would function properly. This is the thing that I never fully understood, as it’s mentioned later on, that ‘Godspeed’ is on autopilot…. So there’s a whole human population counting many generations. And there’s also a sort of imitated world inside the ship, with houses, farms, where people grow plants and breed animals, and also a solar lamp as a sun.

It’s really hard to maintain a normal society, especially in an enclosed space, so the leader is needed. On ‘Godspeed’ the leader is called Eldest, he controls every aspect of the ship, both its functioning and the people on it. At the same time Eldest is preparing his successor Elder. This scheme has been working for years, but it’s all getting messed up after Amy is accidentally woken up when it’s yet too early for the ship to land.

What happens next is a whole set of mysteries that just kept me unable to put this book down. There was so much stuff going on, I always wanted to know more. I really admired the way Beth Revis took this absolutely unimaginable and totally unrealistic theme about space travels and made it so believable and realistic. Before that I would only need a movie to be able to imagine this type of setting, but her writing certainly built a very bright picture in my mind. Everything, starting from the moment Amy gets frozen, to describing the life on a spaceship perfectly recreated this feeling of being in confined place, yet terrifying as there’s only endless space outside and no other place to go.

Speaking about the characters, I think they were all OK. I liked both Amy and Elder, though I didn’t care that much about the romance between them. I really did feel like the storyline was so much stronger in itself, that all the characters sort of blended into it and simply played their parts to keep it going. Because I seriously couldn’t care less about Elder pining over Amy, or Amy worrying if her attraction to Elder is the reason of having no other choice, when there are people getting killed by someone, and this happening on a freaking spaceship, which left Earth like 300 years ago! Teenage angst definitely could wait!

All in all, the book was amazing, and I really loved it. I really hope they would make a movie version of it, I think it would be terrific!

 

Boundless by Cynthia Hand

13049981Title: Boundless

Series: Unearthly, Book 3

Author: Cynthia Hand

Published: January 22nd 2013, HarperTeen

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Age group: Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Boundless (Unearthly, #3)

Summary:

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.

My review:

‘Boundless’ is the third and last book in the ‘Unearthly’ series, the fact I’m both happy and sad about. On the one hand it’s amazing, that Cynthia Hand didn’t try to prolong the story more than it was necessary, just for the sake of making more books. There are lots of book series out there, which don’t have quite as amazing stories, yet they consist of four and more installments. On the other hand, seeing that this series have become one of my favorite, I was really sad to see the end of it. I came to love the story and the characters so much, but the ending was really great and I’m quite satisfied with it, things did turned out just the way I was hoping for.

In ‘Boundless’ we follow Clara in college. She goes to Stanford University with Angels and Christian, and hopes to start over. There are a lot of sad things that happened to Clara in the second book – her mother died, her brother Jeremy ran away, and Clara had to break up with Tucker.

Being in college is all about Angela’s vision, though. She saw her, Clara and Christian being there together. But as the time passes, her vision gets clearer, and she also sees herself talking to her Italian boyfriend, angel Phen. Angela has to tell him something important, but she don’t know yet, what that is and why.

Meanwhile, Clara and Christian are trained by Clara’s father to use their powers, for them to be prepared for a possible battle in the future. Clara’s visions get more and more confusing. She sees herself in a dark room with Christian, hoping she won’t be found. There’s also smoke and noises. That is a driving Clara crazy and she tries some of Angela’s methods to bring visions on purpose.

At the same time Clara is very worried about her brother Jeremy. She finds him soon, but is not sure if he’s really alright. He now has a girlfriend, who bothers Clara for some reason. And also practically every Clara’s thought and dream are filled with Tucker, she misses him a lot, but she thinks he deserves a normal life with someone human, which she isn’t.

All the things happening in the beginning of the book are very mysterious and clearly interwoven, leading to the big fight. What I loved about the storyline, was that it was not solely action. There were some really dangerous moments for both Clara and Christian, where they almost got killed. Also a lot of mysteries to open up. Yet the book is all about emotion. It’s also mostly sadness, as it’s not only Clara who has to sacrifice the things she loves.

Angela is dealing with a great deal of hurt and drama. The book may be told from Clara’s point of view, but Angela was just as important character, because all the events are pretty much related to her. I wasn’t much of a fan of her before, but this book showed just how strong and admirable she really is. There are just so many tragedies that happened to her, that at some time I was sure there would be no happy ending for her. Gladly, I was wrong.

‘Boundless’ is also the book where the reader gets all the answers to the questions risen in the first two books, like what angel-bloods purposes really were about. The action scenes were amazingly written, and I, personally, was really impressed with the Hell description, it was so vivid and dark at the same time.

Also, in this book the main love-triangle of the series finally comes to solution. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but still, I was so happy with the way things turned out. If the whole book was totally amazing, the last pages of it first made me  cry, then I was so relieved, that all ended well, so that I loved the book even more.

So my verdict is – a great book, an amazing and captivating story, a series worth reading, and a very talented author.

Radiant by Cynthia Hand

15851966Title: Radiant

Series: Unearthly, Book 2,5

Author: Cynthia Hand

Published: December 4th 2012, HarperTeen

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Age group: Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Radiant (Unearthly, #2.5)

Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand comes a riveting original novella (available only as an ebook) set in the world of the Unearthly series.

Clara is desperate to get away—from the memories that haunt her in Wyoming and the visions of a future she isn’t ready to face—and spending the summer in Italy with her best friend, Angela, should be the perfect escape. . . .

For as long as she can remember, Angela has been told that love is dangerous, that she must always guard her heart. But when she met a mysterious guy in Italy two years ago she was determined to be with him, no matter the costs. Now she must decide whether she can trust Clara with her secret, or if telling her the truth will risk everything she cares about.

Alternating between Angela and Clara’s perspectives, Radiant chronicles the unforgettable summer that will test the bounds of their friendship and change their lives forever.

My review:

I absolutely love it, when the authors of my favorite series decide to publish these additional short novellas, aside from the main books. I think it’s a great way to give additional information on the characters or pay more attention to some minor events, that weren’t essential for the main story.

The ‘Unearthly’ series consists of only three installments (the fact I’m both sad and happy about), and ‘Radiant’ is its only additional novel. While all the three books are focused on the main character Clara, her life and the decisions she makes, this short novella gives the reader a chance to learn more about her best friend Angela, whose character is very significant to the story.

If there weren’t ‘Radiant’, there would have been this gap in the series – the summer between Clara finishing school and going off to college. And I wouldn’t have been this excited about knowing what happened during this time period, if it wasn’t mentioned in ‘Hallowed’ that Clara planned to visit Italy with Angela. Well, I definitely thought that would be a very interesting journey. First of all, Italy is emphasized to be the place full of hidden secrets about angels, besides this is where Angela once met an Intangere. And also, she has a secret boyfriend here, who Clara really wants to meet.

The story is not action-packed, but it gives a plenty new facts, mostly about Angela. I wasn’t not be a big fan of her in the beginning, given her know-it-all attitude and the way she constantly wants to be the best, but it was nice to learn about her experiences, aside from Clara’s, and to compare how these two different girls dealt with the same thing. I really love Clara as the main character, but I can’t deny that she did had it easier. While Clara always had someone to guide her – first her mother, who was a Dimidius, then after her death, her father stepped in, and he is a 100 percent angel. Angela’s mother is a human, who was raped by a Black Wing, and therefore Angela is all alone with her secret. She doesn’t have anybody to give her advice, and all she came to know, she acquired all by herself.

Most of the facts about angels Angela got from books, but once during her vacation in Italy she met an angel named Phen, who soon became her main source of all angels-related stuff. But also, the fact that Phen, despite from being centuries old, looks really young and attractive played its part. And soon Angela found herself in love with him. She knew that it was dangerous and nothing good would come out of it, but she just couldn’t resist her heart.

The book is really short, but I found myself quite satisfied with this fact. This trip to Italy was mostly about the girls looking for ideas about their purposes, and as it is, it would have been unnecessary, considering that all of this would be later mentioned in the third book. But as it focuses on Angela and her unrequited love for Phen, it was not only very refreshing, but also provided additional material which would be very important further on.

I found myself actually liking and sympathizing with Angela. She turned out a very strong person. The first two books showed her a bit annoying and one-sided, like nothing really mattered to her aside from fulfilling her purpose. But in ‘Radiant’ I got to see her inner world, and I learned, that even though her angelic origin may be different from Clara’s, she goes through the same emotional struggles.

I really do hope Cynthia Hand would write some other additional novellas for the ‘Unearthly’ series, it doesn’t even matter what character’s POV they would be from. I just really love the world she created, and Clara is really great, but getting to read the story from a different perspective would be really exciting. ‘Radiant’ is definitely a must-read for all the fans of the series.