Book: Moonlight Masquerade

"Moonlight Masquerade"

After being abruptly jilted, Sophie Kincaid flees to the place her friend Kim Aldredge calls heaven on earth. But Sophie’s first taste of Edilean is far from heavenly: after her car breaks down on a country road, she is nearly run over by a speeding sports car. A small act of revenge brings satisfaction, and word quickly spreads that a gorgeous newcomer gave the driver, the notoriously bitter Dr. Reede Aldredge, a dressing down! But it isn’t the first time the fiery artist has gone too far for payback; a secret possession she carries with her could shatter her ex-boyfriend’s future. Reede Aldredge has secrets, too, including a desire to get closer to the beauty who is turning his dark world upside down. Under the night skies, their masquerade is magic–but will it turn to dust by the light of day?

Magic definitely turned to dust with this latest romance novel by Jude Deveraux.

Now, I think it’s no secret that I’ve been following Jude Deveraux’s romance novels. Heck, she’s the only romance author I’ve been reading so far for this blog. Save for Kristin Hannah that one time. So it saddens me to say that I am extremely disappointed with Moonlight Masquerade.

Oh, it starts out good enough. Jude Deveraux is still a great writer for easy-reading. But it’s the plotting and the pacing that’s gotten sloppy.

Romance novels usually end one way: with a happy ending. Sometimes, they’re open-ended enough that a second or third book might be in order. With this trilogy, Jude Deveraux gives enough of an ending for the first two books that you don’t long for more. Unfortunately, she has overdone it a little for this last book.

In Moonlight Masquerade, we get one fully-formed heroine in Sophie. Reede is a little too cut-out for my taste, but he has more character in him than Travis from Stranger in the Moonlight, definitely. Unfortunately, those are the only two good things I can say about this book.

Let’s list down the bad:

Number one: we have meddlesome characters who push the story forward because the story doesn’t want to move on its own. That, I feel, is lazy writing. Especially for someone like Jude Deveraux who I don’t remember having to resort to such tricks before.

Number two: the love story doesn’t sweep you off your feet. Jecca and Tristan, from the first book, had the love that defied what was expected. Kim and Travis, from the second book, had the love that was deep-rooted. In Moonlight Masquerade, Sophie and Reede had a love that made them miserable. How are you supposed to feel romantic after that?

Number three–which, I think now, should have come after number one–we have way too many characters to care about. There’s Carter, the ex-boyfriend, there’s the robbers, and then a guy named Henry who appears out of nowhere. I mean, come on. Are they really that important to the story? Well, Carter, maybe. But the others?

Number four: too many subplots. Isn’t this a romance novel about the love story of Sophie and Reede? Then why do they disappear at times? Why do we have to find out what’s happening to them through the eyes of other people who are better off in the background? And what the heck was up with Sophie starting a sandwich shop?! Really? What did that add to the story? Aside from the excuse it gives Sophie to stay in Edilean for a few weeks more? It reeks of deus ex machina.

And number five: a forced happy ending. There’s nothing less romantic than compromise. It’s a reality of life, yes, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to escape when we dive into books like this? We don’t want reality! We want true love! We want passion! We want to see two characters so in love that they would do anything in their power to be with each other! Compromise can work–but did we really need to see how miserable they were with their compromise?

And the novel had the gall to cite The Gift of the Magis! That short story worked because the sacrifice the two characters made didn’t make them miserable. It made them better people, and made them appreciate each other more. If that was the intent for Sophie and Reede, it did not translate.

I could probably go on and on about what I didn’t like about this book. But I’ll stop there. Instead, let’s see if other people felt the same way as I did–or if they saw something in it that I didn’t:
Oh Damn Books
Wakena Runen’s World
Fresh Fiction

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

Movie: The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever… Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths ofguile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” …a simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.” — (C) Warner Bros

In one word, the film was epic. Now whether that’s a good thing or not is still up for debate. Personally, I’m torn. Especially with the knowledge that there will be two more films after this. On the one hand, I’m happy because we get to explore the world of Middle Earth more. On the other–

Well, let’s just say that compared to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, the first of the three Hobbit movies is narratively weak.

"The Collectionary: Lord of the Rings"

Now, for those who are unfamiliar with the source material, the Hobbit is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, a novel that’s more packed and fast-paced than the original trilogy–meaning, author Tolkien trimmed out a lot of unnecessary details that he deemed unimportant to the book. Yes, book. Unlike the original trilogy, The Hobbit begins and end in just one book. So why three films?

According to interviews given by the producers, writers, and the director: it’s to put in the stuff Tolkien left out, to make the film more fleshed out. I found this idea interesting, especially since I was very intrigued with Gandalf’s side quests in the story that were barely glanced upon in the book. There’s a promise of seeing those quests in full action in the films. Yay.

Except, in An Unexpected Journey, none of the added action seem particularly interesting. Gandalf’s meeting with Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman the White was repeating information that we already know from an earlier scene with Radagast, and the one where Gandalf and Elrond meet for the first time (in the film, I mean).

The added stuff that did work though had more to do with the dwarves–especially with Thorin. The people behind the film thought it would be a good idea to flesh out the history of the dwarf leader–and they were right. Thorin’s become a much more relatable character with the flashbacks to what he had gone through prior to meeting Bilbo Baggins.

Unfortunately for the other dwarves, save for Kili, they didn’t have much to work with.

And that leads me back to my assessment that An Unexpected Journey is narratively weak; instead of following Bilbo, our titular Hobbit, and the company of dwarves he suddenly finds himself part of, we get thrown about a lot to quite a few different characters. Although it’s fun, as a fan, to see how Peter Jackson plant the seeds that would push the world of Middle Earth into the version we see in The Lord of the Rings, but as a regular viewer it’s makes for a confusing tale.

Take for example Radagast. We get a weak lead-in from Gandalf enumerating the existing wizards and suddenly we’re rushing through the forest following this character we know nothing about. And he doesn’t even add anything to the story of The Hobbit–his arc has more to do with the setting into motion of the events of The Lord of the Rings! From there we jarringly cut back to the main plot where our heroes are, well, still on the road without a care (and unaffected by) what happened to Radagast.

I am reserving judgment on the decision to make a trilogy still though. Maybe the second and third films will justify the need to split the story into three. But from what we get in the first film, I’m already having doubts.

That said, An Unexpected Journey is still very fun to watch. Martin Freeman is a joy to watch as Bilbo Baggins. And he is Bilbo, there’s no doubt about it. Actor Freeman was able to lose himself completely to the role that by film’s end, you’d have forgotten that he played any other role.

And the Riddles in the Dark chapter of the film is exceptionally executed by Peter Jackson and his team. It was exceptional.

I might not have enjoyed The Hobbit as much as I thought I would, but the bottom line is still that I enjoyed. And An Unexpected Journey is truly an adventure for the family. And for the girls who don’t think they’ll find anything to like now that there’s no Legolas to fawn over?

One word: Kili. And he’s proficient with the bow too.