Book: Where Futures End

"Where Futures End"

“Five Teenagers.
Five Futures.
Two Worlds.
One Ending.

One year from now, DYLAN develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.
Ten years from now, BRIXNEY must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtor’s colony.
Thirty years from now, EPONY scrubs her online profile and goes ‘High-Concept.’
Sixty years from now, REEF struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.
And more than one hundred years from now, QUINN uncovers the alarming secret that links them.

Five people, divided by time, determine the fate of us all. These are brilliantly connected stories of one world bent on destroying itself and an alternate world that just might be its savior–unless it’s too late.

In the future, who will you choose to be? And how will you find yourself before the end?”

I was excited when I first started reading Where Futures End. The first story, Dylan’s development of his ‘sixth’ sense that allows him to see and enter an alternate world, wasn’t very original–but it was very engaging. Sure, Dylan was a character that we’ve met time and again in many fantasy adventure novels, but there was something in the way author Parker Peevyhouse wrote him that makes you want to see him get his happy ending.

And then his story suddenly ends.

Brixney’s story was strange. Original, yes– But also very familiar in our social media-obsessed world. Again, we get a character worth rooting for, and a predicament you want to see unfold.

And then her story suddenly ends.

I’m starting to feel restless. What is the author’s purpose in cutting the stories off? Why aren’t they being allowed to flourish? We’re being given promising beginnings with no middle, and no end– But then, I remember: the book blurb promises a last story that would link all of these vignettes.

The third story with Epony was more self-contained. A short story that had a clear beginning, middle, and end. My need for a satisfying story was quenched–even if the story itself wasn’t as good as the first two. And then when the fourth story with Reef ends, I’m starting to feel that my enjoyment of the book was diminishing.

Still. No matter. The final story promises to link all the stories together. I tell myself that it will work out, probably, because why else would people be saying the story was good. I started to hold on to the promise of the book blurbs. Of people saying the book was good–

And then I read the final story. A story that was supposed to link all the stories together. And it does, yes. But the stories were already linked in the first place. Reef’s story was spurned on by Epony’s. Epony’s by Brixney’s. Brixney’s by Dylan’s. And yes, technically the book didn’t lie when it promised an alarming secret that links all five stories.

But it’s a horrible link. It doesn’t tie up the stories together. They remain vignettes of half-realized premises that never became whole. Except the third story. And as I turn the final page, I find myself asking if the gimmick of linking these stories with a last story was realized because the author couldn’t find a way to wrap up the individual stories. That she couldn’t push the story forward to a satisfying conclusion.

Because the book ends and I don’t get the point of it all.

Because the book ends, and the weakest story in terms of originality and characterization suddenly becomes the strongest for actually having an ending and character growth.

Because the book ends, and all I want is the chance to go back in time and stop myself from buying it. Or, at the very least, warn myself not to expect anything from it. Can I do that? Can I go back in time and stop myself from hoping that this book would give me any satisfaction?

Movie: Catching Fire

"Catching Fire"

Katniss Everdeen has returned home safely after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell), a competition that could change Panem forever.

Terrific. Fantastic. Magnifi..que!

I have no words to describe how elated I am with the adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s Catching Fire. But that won’t stop me from trying to put my thoughts on paper…even if it’s cyber. (Old figures of speech don’t all work anymore, do they?) Anyhow.

Catching Fire does right a lot of the things that the first film did wrong. Number one, the handheld camera work are kept to a minimum. Number two, the action happens in front of us most of the time and not off screen. Number three, Jennifer Lawrence is really on fire here. Number four, and most importantly, the adaptation doesn’t just translate the book’s content–it imitates the book’s intent as well.

You would think Hollywood executives would understand this by now: books are not screenplays–they are bibles. If you buy the rights, adapt it properly. Many books-turned-movies fail because they either become too restricted by the source material, or they don’t follow the source material enough. Catching Fire does something that hasn’t been done since Prisoner of Azkaban and the Lord of the Rings

It treats the book as a guide, but only keeps the parts of it that are needed to convey the message that the content wants to make.

In Catching Fire, it’s choice. Choosing to live a good life, or choosing to live a life of good. It’s choosing to stand by a lie that saved lives, or turning that lie into a weapon to stop lives from needing to be saved in the first place.

And the film nails it.

I haven’t been this happy with a film adaptation of a book in years!

This definitely makes me wary about the last two films though. I’m hoping that it would at least be as good as Catching Fire.

One can hope.

Book: Zombinoy #5

"Zombinoy #5"

Just like the biblical apocalypse, nothing can stop the zombie end-of-the-world event. Everyone will be equal: rich and poor, genius and uneducated, handsome and ugly–Lakers and Miami fans.

Okay, so it doesn’t actually say that at the back of Zombinoy‘s latest issue. But it was long and it was in Filipino, so I translated it and shortened it. Yes, the part about the Lakers and the Miami fans really were there.

Now. About the latest issue.

I don’t like it.

After the stellar fourth issue of Zombinoy, the writers of the comics seems to have lost interest in the world they created. And I wouldn’t have gotten this idea if it weren’t for the note at the back of the issue where they say that they’re wrapping up the story in the next issue.

I’m saying issue a lot. Then again, I have a lot of issues with this installment.

Number one; the characters. We have, by now, established a connection with leads Clara and Paolo. They barely appear here. And most of their panels are accompanied with lyrics to a song. Paolo’s brother gets relegated to a fool’s mission of getting survivors off a ferry and to safety. I think. But they just get swarmed and shot at. And let’s not even go to the mostly absent president.

Number two; the lack of content. I was pleased when I first saw the thick issue. And then I realized that it was thick because it had a lot of panels for action. Mindless action. Action that don’t really propel the story forward. And then I was miffed.

Number three; the lack of direction. We get teased with a cure. We get teased with a conspiracy. Neither one goes anywhere. We get really cheap thrills instead.

So what are we supposed to do with Zombinoy? It’s ending in the next issue. But with a penultimate issue like this, would we even want to know where the creators plan to take this disaster?

Well, I have until May to figure out my answer.

In the meantime, check out the photos I took from last November 16’s Komikon at the newly made Facebook fan page for Taking a Break!

Book: Fear

"Fear"

Despite the hunger, despite the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they’ve built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally–turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. A will to survive and a desire to take care of those they love endures in this ravage band, even in the bleakest moments. But in darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. After so many months, is all about to be lost in the FAYZ?

To be quite honest, the only reason I’m even finishing this series is because I’ve already invested in it. That said, I do think Fear is better than the last three books. Which would make Gone (the first book) and Fear, the only decent ones in the series.

Not that any of my previous problems with the series actually goes away. I’m still annoyed that we keep getting introduced to new characters who ups and dies anyway. I get that there’s a need for death, because it’s dystopian on speed. But it doesn’t really have much of an emotional impact if the characters that get killed off are characters you’ve only just met.

The ensemble cast still doesn’t gel. And by that, I mean we’re still following way too many stories–even though it’s the second the last book and things need to get tidied up soon.

And the characters still flip flop from between being a good guy and a bad guy. Which is really frustrating. You can’t even trust your heroes to do what you expect them to do. Every book, they do something so out of character that it’s actually starting to become a trait now.

What worked for the book though was the new elements: the countdown made sense again, as by the end of the book, a major thing does happen to the world our characters inhabit. and then, there’s the outside world where we finally see what happened to all the other people who were ejected by the FAYZ.

It really helps the book that the end game is upon it. There’s really no need to stretch storyline anymore.

Little Pete is still being an annoying jackass, more so now that he’s an omniscient presence. And I still don’t get, three days in, what his deal is with the avatars and his meddling with people’s DNA. It doesn’t move the story along, aside from add to the fear factor, and after the couple of victims die, you don’t even fear for any of the main characters’ life as they’re obviously safe from whatever the author would think of next.

Which brings me to a point of consternation.

Does Michael Grant love his characters too much? Because there are times when a writer really should learn to let go. And really, if he’s going for emotional deaths, nothings crushes a heart more than a beloved character dying.

Just ask Joss Whedon.

Having said all that, let’s go ’round the ‘net to find out what other people have said about this book:
The Book Smugglers
Realm of Fiction
Cuddlebuggery

Book: The Scorch Trials

"The Scorch Trials"

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get tehir lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated–and with it, order–and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim…and meal.

The Gladers are far from done running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They mus cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder–does he hold the secret to freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

The problem with sequels is that they rarely live up to the genius of the book that came before. And The Scorch Trials is no different. It is not as good as its predecessor, The Maze Runner, but that’s not to say that it’s bad. It’s not. The Scorch Trials is quite the page turner as well. It’s just that– Well, some of the charm wore off. Especially when it comes to main character Thomas and the mystery of WICKED.

Going back to the first book, everything felt new and intriguing. There was intrigue in who Thomas was. And as the book went on, we found out that he had a hand in creating the world that our characters were inhabiting. WICKED was a complex character, with us (the readers) unsure if they really are good, as Teresa wrote on her arm, or if they’re just a group of cold-hearted scientists.

And that’s where the second book hit a snag.

Yes, we were moving forward with the plot. The Gladers, the characters we’ve grown to care about in the first book, are out of the maze–but they’re not completely safe yet. Instead of getting back to whatever normal is, they are thrust into a new test that puts them in direct contact with illness that has been decimating the world’s population in the most dangerous place on this new Earth. And to top it all off, one of their numbers is replaced by a person from another group of Gladers.

New dynamics? Yes. Except the framework of the first novel remains the same in this second book: Thomas still does not know who he really is, save for the fact that he has a hand in all these tests. WICKED is still straddling the line between good and evil.

The setting might have changed, but the story has not. And that’s where the second book fails. All these new action masks the fact that we are only replicating the events of the first book. If we read deeper into this, we could probably draw a parallel to the fact that the Gladers are being subjected to more variables and stuff. But why should we make an excuse for the novel?

At the end of it all though, The Scorch Trials was still enjoyable to read because of the new adventures and challenges. Now, I’m just hoping that the last book wouldn’t hold back on the answers–that it would live up to the promise of The Maze Runner.

Now, before we go, let’s take a look at what other bloggers have said about The Scorch Trials:
My Books. My Life.
Foil the Plot
Reading for Sanity
YouTube: TheJeanbooks

Book: Hunger

"Hunger"

Food ran out weeks ago and starvation is imminent. Meanwhile, the normal teens have grown resentful of the kids with powers. And when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, chaos descends upon the town. There is no longer right or wrong. Each kid is out for himself and even the good ones turn murderous.

But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

After reading the first book, there was only one thing that I found myself caring little about: the powers. While important, it played so little into the unfolding stories of the book–save for the battle scenes that, I must admit, were really cool. But there were seeds planted in Gone that fully blooms here in the second book. After the battle of good and evil, where good seemingly won, the battle moves inward. With the normal kids fighting against the super-powered ones.

Hunger continues to tell its story with an ensemble cast. Unlike in the first book though, this one introduces a sub-story starring one of the smaller characters in the first book, Albert, which I want to discuss first.

Back in Gone, I liked the character of Albert because he was a normal kid whose common sense was a breath of fresh air from all the super-powered shenanigans happening all over the place. And, for the most part, that remains unchanged. For the most part. The awkwardness that stemmed from being the runt of a huge family seems to have disappeared. This makes sense because he’s slowly finding his place in town. But the common sense that separated him from the other characters in the first book seems to be giving way to ambition in Hunger. And I must say, I don’t like where it seems to be going.

It’s gradual. Albert, for the most part, still has great ideas for their community. The plans he execute are actually very smart. Too smart for a teenager, but we’ll suspend our disbelief. But the last leg of his Hunger journey has me scratching my head. In what universe is it smart to use bullets as currency? Especially around kids who are ready to wage war against each other? Where there are guns aplenty, and no one is regulating their use?

That way leads to a lot of stupid mistakes. And I can’t believe this came from Albert. Unless the author reveals a sudden twist in the next book where Albert was replaced by an agent of darkness. Who knows.

The reason why I bring up this sub-story is because I feel like this will play a bigger role in the next books. Much like the other sub-story that, I feel, should’ve been the one in the spotlight: the normals versus the freaks.

It’s discrimination. There are no pretensions about it, as one character explicitly points it out. And in a post-apocalyptic setting where mob mentality rules the mostly kid population? It’s a very interesting premise that, I feel, falters in the end. No one even dies.

I’m sure there are reasons for there no being casualties. And I don’t think author Michael Grant is afraid of killing off characters, as evidenced in the first chapter of this book. But I do feel that something bigger should’ve happened with this story before the book ended. I just hope there’s more to this storyline in the next book.

With the sub-stories aside, let’s move on to the main plot: which is hard to put into paper. You have Sam who is dealing with leadership issues, Caine who is holding on dearly to his crumbling dictatorship, and then there’s the Darkness–and its hold on a number of our main characters, and its plans of being released out of the mine shaft.

In the first book, the Darkness felt a little tacked on. Again, as I said, the powers really do feel like a latch on in Gone. But in this book, the Darkness is explored further as a character. Sort of. It’s definitely used more to explore the characters of Lana the healer and Caine. Which, I thought, was a great use for the monster in the shaft. Just not a very complete use. I mean, by the end of the book, it felt like the Darkness was one of the monsters that the Power Rangers fought week after week, presented as the strongest force, as something to fear–and then defeated by the end of an episode.

Unless, again, it plays a bigger role in the next book. How? I don’t know as I haven’t started reading the third book yet.

What I really want to discuss though is Sam’s character.

Sam who was an amazing flawed protagonist in the first book mutated into something of a whiny baby in Hunger. Aside from the first chapter, I don’t think there was a single scene in which Sam did not complain about his circumstances. Sure, he didn’t ask to be made leader–but he accepted it. And while it’s understandable for him to feel the pressure of the job, we didn’t have to be reminded of it every single time he appears.

It reached a point when I sought refuge in the scenes that revolved around other characters. Even horribly underused new characters who seemed to have been introduced just to serve as canon fodder.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading the book, but it’s not exactly the most perfect book written. But, I must say, Hunger being not perfect makes it the perfect book to have discussions with. And it’s not like the book turned me off the series. I already bought the third and fourth book, actually.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about this book:
Reading Writing Breathing
Georgia Summers
Books4Hearts
YouTube Review: beardude37

Book: Flesh & Bone

"Flesh & Bone"

Benny Imura and his friends are reeling from the tragic events of Wawona and the second Gameland, but there’s no time to stop and mourn fallen comrades. Survival in the great Rot and Ruin requires movement, and so, with heavy hearts, Benny, Nix, Lilah, and Chong continue their quest to find the jet they saw in the skies months ago. If that jet exists, then humanity itself must have survived…somewhere. Finding it is their best hope for having a future and a life worth living.

But the Ruin is far more dangerous than any of them can imagine. The zoms seem to be mutating in terrifying ways that could change everything Benny and his friends know about surviving among the walking dead. And even worse, a death cult has arisen that is gathering new followers at a frightening rate and is devoted to sending every living person in the Rot and Ruin into the waiting arms of death.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Which makes me happy after being dismayed by The Mark of Athena, which was supposed to be my happy read of the week. Thank goodness for Flesh & Bone then.

Jonathan Maberry is at it again with the third book from his Rot & Ruin series–the zombie story that doesn’t just scare you, but is also out to make you cry. And this book, while not as heartbreaking as the second book, will still make you… what’s the word? Feel like a friggin’ crybaby.

Now, I don’t know what it is about Maberry’s writing, but I love how he makes his readers feel the threat against all his characters. There is an actual fear for the characters you will most certainly love as you read on. As his characters confront death in different ways, you know that any which one of them is in actual danger of dying. Because Maberry doesn’t shy from killing off beloved characters.

Kinda like Joss Whedon.

But more than that, I think, it’s because Maberry was able to convince us readers of the actual dangers that the Rot and Ruin has in store for anyone and everyone.

I have to admit, compared to the first two books of the series, Flesh & Bone is the one with the least amount of character growth. Maybe it’s because the events of the book happen in a span of two days (less, actually), with a time jump at the end. Maybe it’s because we’ve already known the main characters we’re following for a couple of years now. Or it could be because most of the book is exposition, which set-ups the next book.

The intensity of the writing though, and the feel of imminent danger, completely makes up for it.

That’s not to say that Flesh & Bone is all action, all the time. It’s not. The theme of the book is actually grief, and the many ways people deal with this. But Maberry was able to infuse each chapter, each scene–each line of dialogue, with the foreboding sense of coming death that you don’t feel any lull in the action.

There’s a surge of adrenaline in every word you read. And I loved it.

It would be a disservice to the book though if I don’t mention how, even in the fast-paced events, Maberry doesn’t forget what makes his zombie stories special: the characters.

I already said that this book has the least amount of character growth. That’s not to say there’s none, because there is. Except, the previous books have already laid down the groundwork for these growths. Nothing comes out left of field, everything feels like they’re the natural progression of things.

My only gripe about the book is that it ended too soon.

And that there’s no release date for the next one yet. That the next one isn’t out yet.

I can’t wait for the next book–just like the following bloggers who loved the book as much as I did:
Christy’s Love of Books
Elitist Book Review
A Librarian’s Take