perfection

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2017 Reading Goals

Published January 31, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

Has it really been SO long since I last visited your homes? *cringe of shame* Apparently, I’ve been a bit consumed lately by working on The Jungle Princess, ironing out some blemishes/going where the story takes me, catching up on the mass amounts of paperwork at the office, planning a trip to Nashville (the heart of country music) to see my bestie, and also—oh, yeah, preparing for this year’s voyage to Realm Makers, the best writer’s conference. In. History. So forgive me, because, honestly, you can’t stay mad at this face.

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I’d like to say I’m coming back online to impart some great writerly wisdom on you, or blow your mind with a snippet from my work in progress (but keep your eyes posted for this, because soon . . .). But alas, I have simply journeyed to the Internet to humbly present an update on my 2017 reading progress. *raises hands to defend self against expected volley of rotten vegetables and fruit*

I set my 2017 Reading Challenge goal on Goodreads at 45, the same as last year, so I’m hoping to do as good as I did in 2016 and exceed my goal. I haven’t read much yet this year, so I figured now would be a good time to share my opinions so far.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnely ***

these-shallow-graves

Umm, I think I liked this book?? I’m typically not this confused over my opinion on a story, but there were moments while reading that I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the setting. But then there was the forced romance that was so cliche it was often painful, and the killer was fairly obvious from the first chapter of the book. There is this fabulously intense scene at the end where the main character (whose name I can’t recall, she was so memorable) gets into a scuffle with her father’s murderer and runs for her life in a mental institution. I wish there had been more exciting moments in the book because the author did it so well. It had a lot of potential and there were a few characters that I liked and wished had been in it more, and the setting of old-time New York was very fun. Overall, though, I feel like this book is a bit forgettable. 

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman ****

illuminae

(really 4.5 stars for cleverness of plot and design of the book itself)

Things I learned from Illuminae:
1. I can now survive the zombie apocalypse, though my hacking skills are seriously lacking.
2. You can fall in love with a person because of their emojis. EZRA!! ❤ ^_^
3. Artificial intelligence is a bad idea.
4. Nukes don’t really makes a sound in the vacuum that is space.
5. You should definitely have Gemina on hand to prevent symptoms of the Phobos virus (i.e. violence, incessant shaking, catatonia).

Wow. Just wow. The plot, the characters, the tears and edge-of-your-seat intensity made me stay up all night to see what would happen. This is the most uniquely designed book I have ever read, and the storyline is fantastic and very involved. The first 100 pages were a little bit dry as I got into the style of the book, but then I couldn’t put it down as I became involved in the story and these characters (and the death toll!!! o.O) The ending was such perfection—so intense and tragic and then your heart leaps in hope—making it one of those books that resonates with you for a long time.

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman ***

gemina

(3.5 stars)
There were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed more than Illuminae. I felt like the characters were more alive in this story through the way they wrote the scenes to involve more action and surveillance footage, rather than just IM’s back and forth between characters.
That being said, I actually liked Kady and Ezra more as the driving force behind the plot in Illuminae. Also, I didn’t appreciate the casual drug abuse in the book or how the authors made it seem all right for the characters to use “dust” because they know when to stop or because it dulls their senses so they can get through a tough situation. I felt like it was unnecessary and actually sends a terrible message.

Despite my misgivings, I really enjoyed the book and will continue on with the series. Kristoff and Kaufman have crafted an incredible world, and the design of these books is unlike anything you will ever read. 

I’m also currently reading Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken *squeal of pure joy* and have Unblemished by Sara Ella patiently waiting for me on my bookshelf. I got them both on the same day, and there is nothing like that “new book” feeling where fresh hardbacks follow you home. 

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Also, my sister just ordered By Your Side for me by my auto-buy author Kasie West. A thousand yesses. I’ll do an Instagram post when I receive the book, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Lastly on the reading update, I feel like I’ve never had to wait for a sequel to release like I have with the much-anticipated Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman. Those who are also waiting for Book II to come out probably feel like each day just drags on and on. But we’re in this together, guys, and so we have to hold out and lean on each other through these hard times. Hang in there, friends, it will be here soon! 

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Fictional Deaths Heard ‘Round the World

Published July 14, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Sick of ‘Em? Kill ‘Em . . . in Fiction!

We all know those authors, the ones who can’t figure out a place for a beloved character or think it will be just sooo dramatic and win them some kind of award if they randomly kill them off. If you’ve ever picked up a book or binge-watched a TV series, then you’ve probably experienced one of those Fictional Deaths Heard ‘Round the World. It’s that terrifying scene where you aren’t sure how they can get out of it this time, that breathless moment of denial that your favorite character could die and that a writer could be so cruel. And in the instant that they perish, your denial turns to tears, which evolve into a heart-wrenching, gut-twisting lifetime of pain.

princess bride

To honor those gone-too-soon heroes of fiction, I’ve compiled a short list of some of the fictional deaths that still twist my insides and provide a plethora of ugly sobs, though there are plenty more where these came from. This post will be spoiler-rich, so if you’re still waiting to read anything by Bodi Ashton or Cassandra Clare or have yet to watch Buffy, then you had best just avoid reading any further. Or if you know precisely what I’m talking about, then feel free to lament these fictional deaths all over again with me! *raises imaginary cup of shared pain and throws bars of dark chocolate into the air*

#3: Jem Carstairs in The Clockwork Princess

jem

Chances are you’ve heard about The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, but if you’ve read this series, then it’s safe to assume you’re still walking strangely. (And that Epilogue–just why??!!)

Jem is possibly the sweetest, most sacrificial and tragic character you will ever encounter. He’s been ill for most of his life and has to take this silver powder called yin fen to stave off the weakening effects of his disease so he can continue to live a relatively normal life. BUT the caveat is that the medicine he needs to function is killing him more quickly. His friends try to wean him off the poison to lengthen his days, but Jem wants to spend what remains of his life with his friends and his fiance, Tessa. And when she is taken, he stays on the yin fen to have enough strength to find her. But he becomes so sick anyway and weakens while Will (be still my heart! Never have I been so torn between two characters) goes out to find Tessa, who is in love with BOTH FRIENDS. Yeah, it’s messed up. So while Jem lies dying because he took too much medicine/poison to save his fiance, Will is off saving her. The tragic part–well, one of them–is that Jem always knew he was second violin to Will (poor joke), but he never held a grudge against his friend and loved him like a brother, and for a time they were all they had. I shed tears for Jem dying without either Will or Tessa, and I cried for Will’s loss when he was told his parabatai had died (Tessa who? She has feelings?!).

But almost more tragic than Jem’s “death” is the fact that he didn’t actually die. Waaaa???? What do I mean?

lemme splain

On the brink of death, Jem was turned into a Silent Brother, sort of like a monk with an eternal vow of silence that they all considered freaks for a lot of the series. The most horrific aspect of this change is that our Jem, whose greatest solace was found in playing his violin, must live in the Silent City where music is forbidden. And he did it all to fight one final battle with Will and Tessa and protect them. Yeah, killing him is too easy. Let’s destroy his life ans everything he holds dear.

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Even though he didn’t technically die, he still makes this list because the Jem we fell in love with disappeared and was replaced by this tragic creatures. *ugly sobbing*

#2 Cole in Evertrue

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Ohmysweetgoodness. First fictional death I ever really cried over. Cole is a total bad-boy, rock star, soul-sucker in Everneath, but I found him totally fascinating. He appeared to have this vague, broken past, but all we really know about him is that he chose Nikki to be his “life-support” for 100 years and wants her back.

When you see how he tried to protect Nikki in the Everneath and hear how he was a lost, lonely boy tricked into becoming what he is . . . Let’s just say he became a sympathetic “villain” in an instant. He disappoints you at the end of Everbound, but you can’t even be mad at him in Evertrue because he tries so hard to make things right and gets his memory swiped, so he thinks he’s an innocent Norseman who has no clue of the torment he’s caused! *sucks in a breath*

Nikki and Cole (whose memory has been restored by the end) are trying to destroy the Everneath throughout the book. BUT they also have to destroy the thing that tethers them to the Everneath to complete the process, which means they will return to their human forms. Cole is tired of taking life from others to survive and tearfully tells Nikki that they have to break their tethers, which means that he will return to his 900-year-old self. Desperately, Nikki begs for his heart before he can break it and turn to dust to close the portal to the Underworld. But he just kisses her and tells her she already has his heart, and THEN HE SNAPS THE PICK AND TURNS TO DUST.

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It’s so horrible because he changes in the end and chooses to sacrifice himself to protect Nikki and make up for his past. I could barely see the page through my tears, and the watermarks are still on my book.

 

#1 Angel from Buffy

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He was Stefan before there was Stefan, and he was too cool to sparkle

I know it happened over 15 years ago, but believe me when I say that the tears are still flowing from this scene oh-so-long ago. This fictional death is actually what sparked this post of tragedy and eternal torment (thanks, Liz!) . . . and also the fact that writers won’t stop killing off beloved characters.

Quick background if you never watched television in the ’90s: Buffy and Angel were the ultimate star-crossed lovers of the decade. A vampire slayer + a vampire with a soul and a conscience and who hates what he was turned into = perfection. There are a few other obstacles in their way–for instance, if he experiences a moment of pure joy, his soul will be stripped from him and he will revert to the monster he was before. Yeah, big problem, but it makes for the best romance on TV!

buffy and angel

Which brings me to the most dramatic fictional death of all time.

Angel does, in fact, find a moment of true happiness with Buffy, and he loses his soul because of it. It is this epic race to stop the total maniac he was before, and Buffy loves him too much to kill him, even though there is absolutely no sign of his kind and tender former self. But when Angel plans to open a portal that will destroy the world, she knows she has to kill him or send him into the portal, since only his blood can stop what he started.

There is a super dramatic battle between the two, and Buffy is getting ready to stab him through the heart when Angel ‘s soul is suddenly returned to him (let the cries of exaltation and fangirling ensue!).

angel death

He just looks at her and says her name like she’s all he understands, and Buffy just knows he’s returned to her. They have this beautiful moment together, and we the fans are already crying with joy at this point. BUT THEN she sees over his should that the portal has already been opened, which means the end of the world if she doesn’t make a decision to act, and you can just see in her eyes how it guts her. Angel clearly has no idea of her inner struggle as she tearfully admits that she never stopped loving him. Then she tells him to close his eyes and that everything is going to be all right. . . . AND THEN SHE STABS HIM!

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Believe me, we all felt that mortal wound to our core. Angel looks so confused and betrayed because he’s her Angel, and he has no idea why she would do that to him. It’s so tragic because it was Angelus who did those horrible things, and now he’s our sweet Angel again and has no idea that Buffy had to kill him to save the world. The torment!!! All he knows is that Buffy stabbed him and then let him get sucked into the portal to close it, and there’s no time to explain. So he dies confused and hurt and betrayed. The gut-wrenching death of Angel was analyzed and cried over for weeks, and we still shudder when we think on it nearly two decades later. Don’t even get me started on how much we cried during “I Will Remember You” from Angel.

buffy angel sobbing

Now, please excuse me while I consume an entire chocolate pie after reopening these very real wounds caused by fictional characters and their demises.

 

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