Book: They Both Die at the End

"They Both Die at the End"

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure–to live a lifetime in a single day.

What do you do when you’re told you’re going to die within the day? It’s a great question, and I love that They Both Die at the End tries to answer it in multiple ways. We have two main characters that are very different from each other, who then fate brings together to help them grow. I love that author Adam Silvera doesn’t go for the saccharine and goes deep into thoughts that most people probably have had, about what to do when confronted with the idea that they are about to die.

I love the book… but I’m not in love with it. Probably because it veered into romance territory near the end.

Spoiler alert?

I’m not going to say much. It’s just– I thought the book was amazing, and the way Silvera handled the multiple points-of-view was particularly outstanding. I love the way he threaded the stories together, and how passing characters in the beginning make quite an impact in the latter chapters.

But the love story felt out of place for me.

I understand that the characters would grow to care for each other. That they would grow to love each other. And there were hints throughout the book about the eventual… relationship development. It was not sprung on us. I just felt like, if the book really wanted to go there, they could have prepared the readers better. Or have been more upfront about it. As it was… the romance in the latter part of the book made me like it less.

Still– I do still love the book enough to recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a great story. Maybe other readers don’t (or won’t) feel the same way I do about the love story in the end.

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Book: United As One

"United as One"

They hunted us for our legacies.
They are coming for you now too.
They know you have powers.
They fear how powerful we can become–together.
We need your help.
We can save the planet if
We fight as one.

They started this war.
We will end it.

I read this last year. I thought about skipping writing about this since it’s been so long, but the completion-ist in me didn’t want to go ahead to the new Lorien Legacies series without at least posting about the finale of the previous one.

So–

If you’ve been keeping up with the I Am Number Four series of books, United As One provides a very satisfying conclusion to the novels. The previous book, The Fate of Ten, stumbled in providing plot movement–and that actually leaves a problem for this last book. Which I will get to.

For the most part, United As One reads like a series finale of a television program. Things really come to a head, and you don’t know which of the protagonists will survive until the end. But the first few chapters felt a little cramped, with no wiggle room for breathing. I feel like some elements of United As One‘s first act would have benefited being introduced in the previous book.

I just hope they apply their learnings from the previous series to the one that’s currently being written now, Legacies Reborn.

And this is pretty much all I can write, because this is all I remember from my reactions after reading the book last year. There’s a lesson here for me as well: never disappear from blogging, unless you don’t have plans of ever returning.

Book: The Fate of Ten

"The Fate of Ten"

This is the day we’ve been training for. The day we’ve all feared. We’ve spent years fighting the Mogadorians in secret, never letting the world know the truth about our war. But now all of that has changed.

Their ships have invaded Earth. If we can’t find a way to stop them now, humans could suffer the same fate as our people: annihilation.

I wish I could be with John on the front lines of the battle in New York City, but I am hoping–praying–that the key to our survival lies within the Sanctuary. This is where the Elders always meant for us to go when we came of age. This was their plan for us. There is a power that has been hidden here beneath the earth for generations. A power that could save the world or destroy it. And now we have awoken it.

They killed Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
Number Three in Kenya.
And Number Eight in Florida.

I am Number Six–but our numbers don’t matter anymore.

Because now we are not the only ones with Legacies.

Much like the previous books in the Lorien Legacies series, The Fate of Ten is a fast and fun read. An escape from the real world, if you will. But compared to previous installments, this one felt a little lackluster.

Maybe I’m starting to feel fatigue. Maybe it’s because the last book was so amazing that my expectations were set much higher. Or maybe the material was just a tad too stretched than usual.

In The Fate of Ten, we get three perspectives: Number Four’s, Number Six’s, and Number Ten’s. While I loved the pacing of Number Four’s and Number Six’s separate stories, Number Ten’s point-of-view felt a little too convenient. It’s as if the author saw the page count and realized he still had a lot of things to cover, so he used up two chapters to just explain why certain things are happening.

I wasn’t a fan of the extensive flashback to things I never actually wondered about as well. And I felt like some of the characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of the books got short-changed in this installment. And these concerns colored my enjoyment of the book a little bit. Especially Sarah, Number Four’s girlfriend. I feel like the book would have been better with one of the point-of-views being hers.

My biggest concern with The Fate of Ten though has to do with the fact that nothing big actually happens. Well, a handful of big things did happen–but they felt more like a holdover than a precursor to bigger things. Things that shout “grand finale!” Instead, this book feels like the publishers are just trying to milk the readers’ money for one more book.

Well, at least I hope it’s just one more book. Because I am definitely ready for this series to end.

Book: I Am Number Four The Lost Files, Hidden Enemy

"Hidden Enemy"

You know we have been betrayed. You must discover why. You must learn the truth. They have put a plan in motion. They have infiltrated your government. They have already turned some of you. They will do whatever it takes to have your planet. The battle lines have been drawn. Whose side are you on?

In the previous set of novellas from the I Am Number Four continuity, we see an expansion of the universe our characters are inhabiting. We see Lorien as the planet it once was, while moving the plot of the main arc through the actions of the Mogadorian traitor named Adam.

In this set of novellas, we revert to what the original set of novellas set out to do: expanding the universe without affecting the main timeline. Except, this time, the novellas do it right.

My main problem with “Six’s Legacy” and “Nine’s Legacy” in the first collected set of novellas was the fact that we already know their back stories courtesy of the main series. The expansion adds details, yes, but for the most part–we already knew where the story started and where it was going.

In “Five’s Legacy,” although we know where the story is already going, it’s how the character begins his journey that is made interesting. Because unlike his contemporaries, Five falls into the wrong crowd. Five is fed lies. And Five makes a decision based on what he knows–with the aid of a misguided friend.

But what I like most about “Five’s Legacy” is how it is juxtaposed to Number Four’s journey. How they start out the same, but turn out differently because of the people surrounding them.

And it makes Five less hateful than when we meet him in the main series.

This is what a great expansion of character is.

Five’s Betrayal” continues this exemplary development of character–rounding Five out as a character who isn’t just bad–he’s misguided. And he still can be a good guy. This is a development that is serviced by a line or two in the main books, but is explored further in the novella.

And then there’s “Return to Paradise,” a novella from the point of view of I Am Number Four‘s secondary antagonist who turns out to be a secondary protagonist. It expands the world in a different way, showing the aftershocks of a town hit by an alien battle–and the lives of those left behind.

The Legacies” started out in the wrong foot when it gave us novellas that focused on stories already established in the main story, while “Secret Histories” improved on the idea of expanding the universe–but took the action that was supposed to be for the main story. But it is here in “Hidden Enemy” that the writers of the I Am Number Four series finally hits the nail on the head of expansion stories: by actually expanding already existing stories, giving us a better understanding of already existing characters and story lines.

Book: I Am Number Four The Lost Files, Secret Histories

"Secret Histories"

You know our stories are true. You know why we fight. You must discover their secrets. You must learn from our mistakes. They are hiding, just like us. They plan to destroy your planet. They destroyed ours. We cannot let this happen again.

The last time I wrote about the collected novellas of the I Am Number Four series, I said the novellas were good but, if you’ve already read the main books, were unnecessary. But that was because two of the three novellas were back stories for characters we’ve met in the main series. And those back stories were already shared in said main series.

Fortunately, the second set of novellas focus on expanding the universe that I Am Number Four is creating–and not expounding on stories we already know from the main books.

In “The Search for Sam,” we pick up where we last see Adam–the Mogadorian traitor we meet in “The Lost Legacies” from the first set of novellas. Continuing as a companion series for the main story, “The Search for Sam” shows us what’s going on in the Mogadorain camp while John Smith and his new-found allies travel to find the other Garde members–and save their allies.

Out of the three, this is the only novella I have a problem with… Because this is where we see Malcolm Goode first.

Malcolm is a character we already know of in the main story. He is Sam’s dad, and he has been missing for around a decade. My main beef with this novella is that this is where we find out what happened to Malcolm, and this is where he rejoins the fight against the Mogadorians.

I know he’s not as important a character as the Garde are–but I felt it was disrespectful to the Sam character that we meet his dad here–and not in the main story–when he is one of the major arcs of the I Am Number Four series.

Other than this complaint though, I loved “The Search for Sam” because of its excellent pacing. Adam’s journey from the death of Three, to his acceptance of One’s fate–and his eventual mission to help the Garde was exhilarating. I think there was even a point, during the time I was reading, when I found myself liking Adam’s characterization more than I do any of the main Garde characters.

And then “The Last Days of Lorien” started. And I loved this novella too. I loved getting to know Sandor, the unorthodox Cepan who chose to hide in plain sight. I loved discovering the reasons why he was unconventional. And I loved how we got to see the society of Lorien–what was taken away from our main characters.

But before I could love Sandor more than Adam, our erstwhile Mogadorian makes a return in “The Forgotten Ones” where he finds himself a new mission: to save the Chimaeras who were captured by the Mogadorians.

In the main series, Adam made his debut with the arrival of the Chimaera at the base of our heroes. And although this is another case of having the main action take place in the companion series instead of the main books, I couldn’t fault the authors for not including this story in the books.

Adam’s mission to save the Chimaera is a side story–one that will slow down the action of the main story. And it’s not like their arrival in the main story causes the tide to turn in their favor anyway. They’re still outnumbered and in over their heads. They’re more supplementary than the second coming of a savior.

And this is where we see that the novellas are finally finding their place in the I Am Number Four continuity. As expansions of the main series told through episodic stand-alone stories. And I can’t wait to see where the writers of the I Am Number Four series take us in the next set.

Book: Symbiont

"Symbiont"

The enemy is inside us.

The end began in a thousand places at the same time, sending little cracks through the foundation of mankind’s casual dominion over the Earth. It was born of hubris, and it started slowly, only to gather in both speed and strength as the days went by.

The SymboGen tapeworms were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts, turning them into a ravenous horde.

Panic spreads as these predators begin to take over the streets, and those who do not appear afflicted are gathered for quarantine. In the chaos, Sal and her companions must discover how the tapeworms are taking over their hosts–and how they can be stopped.

After a long time of waiting for Symbiont to be released here in the Philippines… I finally decided to just have Fully Booked order it for me. And I don’t regret it.

Granted, the book took a wee bit too long for me to dive back into the action. Mostly, I think, because it’s been so long since I read the first book, but also because the sequel doesn’t dive back into action. And it’s something that the characters themselves point out in the book. There is a safety cocoon surrounding the characters in the first third of the book, and it made me feel like nothing was happening.

I mean, yes, I understood the need to lay down foreshadowing, and world-building, and mythology-building… but there was just no sense of urgency in the first third. It wasn’t until the second third of the book kicked off that I started to feel that something was happening.

There were times when I felt Symbiont lost the edge that made me intrigued in the world Mira Grant was building with her Parasitology series. But the way Grant handles her main character, Sal, makes me want to continue holding on. Not because I cared about her, but because I was curious to find out what exactly she is–and why she’s different.

Grant doesn’t have strong characters in this series, but their gray moralities make them interesting enough that you don’t want to leave them behind. And that’s what made me keep reading Symbiont during the times when I was starting to feel bored at the lack of anything happening.

Sure, I understand that events can’t happen in rapid-fire succession. Things breathe. Plans take time to be built. And I commend Grant for not losing hold of a logical timeline. Or, at least, one that’s logical in her world. But I really, really hope that the last book in the Parasitology series is better paced than Symbiont.

Right now, I’m not understanding the need to expand this duology into a trilogy. Even if I am glad I get to spend more time dissecting the motivations of Sal, her allies, and her enemies.

Don’t be a Peter Jackson or a Christopher Paolini, Ms. Grant. Do the right thing: tell the story the way you intended for it to be told originally. And don’t let your falling in love with the research pull you into writing more than what you had planned.

Because I cannot be the only one who thought that Symbiont was overlong and overwrought. Right? Let’s see what other people wrote about the book:
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The Discriminating Fangirl
Booking In Heels

Book: Project 17

"Project 17"

Lillian is merely looking for a babysitting job for the summer, but a desperate man named Paul Dolores hires her to look after his 28-year-old brother, Caleb. Caleb is suffering from schozoaffective disorder, and Paul, who is about to start on his first office job in a long while, wants to make sure his brother takes his medication on time. Lillian, at first hesitatn, accepts the job for the pay and the perks, but soon starts to wonder about the brothers she is working for. How come she can’t find any information online about the drugs Caleb is taking? And how come the national central database lists them as dead?

Where have you been all my life, Project 17? Well, all my life might be pushing it. Since I’ve started reading locally-produced novels, I mean.

Oh, right. Languishing in my bed, because I kept reading other stuff first. Now I regret not getting to this book sooner. Because not since Naermyth have I read something that has a good premise, a good plot, and a near perfect execution. (Okay, so maybe Naermyth doesn’t have a near perfect execution. But I still have my fingers crossed for the sequel. But we’re not here to talk about that book.)

This is the first Filipino novel, I think, that I’m posting about here with no complaints whatsoever. The book cover is nice and intriguing, and so is the title. The synopsis is slightly misleading, but it doesn’t really lie. And our plucky heroine, even though she’s a little too nosy for her own good, isn’t annoying. She’s just the perfect blend of curiosity, spunk, and general niceness.

The world-building Eliza Victoria does for Project 17 is just right. It doesn’t veer away too much from what is real, so her world actually does feel real. It doesn’t dive too much into sci-fi territory, dealing instead with technology that is entirely plausible–give or take a decade or two. The point is, it doesn’t overpromise. Technology has gone far, but it doesn’t forget the fact that the Philippines is a third world country. It doesn’t forget our penchant for idolatry. It doesn’t forget that it is Filipino.

How Project 17 deals with family is a very Filipino concept. I mean, I’m not saying if something is family-oriented, it’s already very Filipino. I have seen Italian films, and Jewish films, and Greek films… and I’ve also read novels from all over. But how author Victoria handles family is what makes it Filipino.

There’s a sense of loyalty that sometimes border on begrudging while being completely rooted in love. And it is this that makes Victoria’s Project 17 work. You care about the characters because the characters care about each other. You want to see them succeed, even before you know what they need to succeed from.

You want them to have a happily ever after, even though the odds are never in their favor.

If there’s anything to complain about the book it’s actually just the fact that it’s too short. I think Eliza Victoria could’ve snuck in a few more chapters in there just to further develop main character Lillian’s relationship with everyone. And with the discoveries and uncovering of conspiracies.

But what we got is just right too.

And we wouldn’t want to mess with something that’s already good, right?

So, hurrah, Eliza Victoria, for giving me an awesome first Filipino Friday read for 2014! May you write more quality novels with substance that would (hopefully) sell well.

I look forward to reading more novels from you. In the meantime, I’m gonna get my hands on your A Bottle of Storm Clouds.