Shades of Earth (Across the Universe, #3)Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should preface this review by saying that I’m not a fan of the romance genre. I roll my eyes at the scandalous embraces and rippling torsos on the covers. I laugh at the ridiculous titles. No, seriously. Out loud. I think they’re hilarious. Half this series focused on a romance. …And I liked it. I feel like this has been some kind of guilty pleasure that I’ve had to justify to myself with the sciencey bits. And without the sciencey bits, I probably would have hated it. I certainly wouldn’t have read the whole trilogy. But the sciencey bits were good. And the romancey bits were good. And mashed together it was a good series.

Shades of Earth, the third book in the Across the Universe trilogy, takes up precisely where it left off. Amy and Elder are sitting in the cockpit, about to embark on their one way mission to Centauri-Earth. And everything immediately starts going wrong. Which I appreciated very much.

I find myself comparing Shades to Allegiant, the third book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. Except everywhere that Roth went wrong, Revis went right. Both books switch perspectives every chapter back and forth between the in-love couple. But where in Allegiant, I kept having to check back to remember who’s perspective I was reading, I had no trouble telling an Amy chapter from an Elder chapter. All of the logic was sound, the characters stayed true to themselves, and the plot twists and foreshadowing were on point. Completely unlike Allegiant, where the “twists” felt like they were made up on the spot and the character’s choices became completely illogical. The books even have events that can be paralleled near the endings. But instead of the moment feeling unjustifiable, and the end of the book feeling empty, Shades makes total sense and has you feeling all the feels at the end. When I put down Allegiant, I felt hollow, listless, dissatisfied and utterly disappointed. At the end of Shades, I let out satiated sigh and found myself smiling. …And the sciencey bits of Shades are rooted in science. Allegiant, not as much.

Like I said, I’m not big on the romance genre. And I have an extremely low tolerance for saccharine sap. (Slow clap scenes make me angry, and scenes with singing make me slightly homicidal.) But there was so much more going on than Amy and Elder’s relationship. …And there were deaths. One of them gruesome and bloody and horrifying. Which is always a big plus in my opinion. Amy and Elder could never be alone for five minutes without someone getting maimed or dying tragically or violently. …Oh! That’s why I liked this series! 😛

Considering that, as I’ve already mentioned, this book is half romance, Beth Revis retains her crown and title as queen of creating sexual tension. It wasn’t quite as intense as the second installment of the series, A Million Suns, where the characters literally don’t touch for half the book, but it was definitely there. Usually the reason for the characters not getting together was their lives being in danger as they snuck around to not make out and gather clues instead. I always appreciate a book where the characters can set aside their hormones when they’re in mortal peril. (Hunger Games, I’m lookin’ at you!)

I’ve read a few other reviews that say the ending is good except the cheesy last chapter, but since it involved my favorite character, I was completely fine with it. Quite happy with it actually.

So, start to finish, this book- and this entire trilogy- was full of suspense and really good. I’m eager to see what Revis comes up with next.

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Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i really liked the Graceling Realm series and was quite satisfied with its conclusion. i loved the characters and getting to see everyone from Graceling and Fire from a new perspective. Bitterblue is a good read if you can get over one flaw: the beginning. (obviously, I did, but still.)

it started very slowly with Bitterblue constantly doing nothing but signing paperwork all the time. and you have to wonder how it is that a girl of 18, who was very precocious at 10, never got curious enough in EIGHT YEARS to explore her own castle, let alone her kingdom. i’m an adult and i get curious after eight MINUTES. every time Bitterblue’s age, the amount of years passed, or how Bitterblue spent her time was mentioned, I again expected to get some kind of explanation as to what would make her so patient. I just don’t find it true to the character, as smart and strong as she is, to have been so meek for so long. especially someone who is apparently adept at knowing how how to make her advisers flustered enough to leave her be. it’s unbelievable that she never went exploring- again, in her own castle- during these respites. i think she easily could have been as ignorant and naive as was necessary for the story and still have snuck around the grounds now and again. with such overprotective advisers, it would even have made sense if she had avoided people so no one could tell on her. and it would be fitting that someone used to sneaking around her own castle for so long would finally get emboldened to venture outside her walls and be confident she could manage moving around undetected. but if you can get over that, it ends up being a fun story.

it was strange seeing characters from a different perspective. after having read from the perspective of Katsa in the first book, it’s very odd to see her from an outside view, where it wasn’t that odd to see Fire at all. i could almost fill in some of Katsa’s thoughts and feelings during her time in the tunnels, which was actually good because i wasn’t left wishing I could see that part of the story.

i feel rather bad for Po, though, during these stories. he always seems to spend the majority of the time miserable and/or bedridden. and i also feel bad for Teddy in this book. he’s pretty much everyone’s tool. he chats up a pretty girl in a pub against the wishes of his best friend, only to have said friend and the pretty girl fall in love. he gets stabbed and then gets his house partially burned down from his forgiveness and continued involvement with the pretty girl. he’s going to be the surrogate father of his lesbian sister’s baby (remember when Bitterblue wonders if he and Bren are sweet on each other, then Po later tells her about their plan?). and in the end, he gets to work two jobs because it’s out of character for him to turn down the Queen (the pretty girl) when she asks him to be head of one of her ministries.

also, i felt satisfyingly horrified whenever Leck was mentioned. i liked that he was still a frightening character a decade after his death. and i liked the big reveal about Bitterblue’s advisers. when you think they just had to do the patch up work after Leck had his fun, you already can understand why they’re so damaged. but when you find out that Leck made them do the horrible things- *winces* *shivers*- it was a surprising confession. it was weird to feel so much revulsion and pity at once.

of late, i’ve rather taken to happy endings. not sappy ones, but i kind of like when the hero/ine gets the girl/guy. though i suppose i would be complaining about a sappy, saccharine ending now if Bitterblue had ended up with Saf. and after all, it’s implied that she ends up with him down the road, anyway. so i guess that’s ok.

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

i knew i would cry. i looked forward to it.

it was inevitable. chances of tears from dearly touching moments are extremely high where prose written by John Green is concerned. The Fault in Our Stars seems to do its best to exemplify this.

how much i cried surprised me. how much i laughed surprised me. also, what made me cry surprised me. ludicrous, sarcastic, dark-witted dialogue made me laugh, often while revealing some of the more tragic aspects of the story. and i cried at some of the sweetest, happiest details.

to be clear, there were also moments that were purely happy or simply sad. these moments, at least for me, usually occurred between the laughter and/or tears.

i think the reason i feel so affected is i really didn’t expect it. i mean, i got the foreshadowing loud and clear. there was an abundance of clues and i followed them easily to the conclusion. but the way the characters changed and grew and (in classic John Green fashion) remained flawed and human, was not something that i could predict. these were the things that i found touching and thoughtful and excruciatingly beautiful.

i think it helped to finish the book the same way i had started it; listening to John read it to me. i got the Limited Edition Audiobook box set, and i’m so glad that i did.

also, the title couldn’t have been more perfect. not just meaning of the title and how it relates to the book, but there is much talk of stars sprinkled throughout the story. both real and metaphorical ones.

oh, and Orion happens to be the only constellation i can identify as well.