Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoughts on the Doctor Who Christmas Special

The Snowmen


As some of you may know, yesterday was not only Christmas (and I hope all of your had a wonderful one!), but it was also the premiere of this year's DW Christmas Special The Snowmen, which I was redonkulously excited for. 

Obviously, the main draw was the new companion, Clara (who previously appeared as Oswin Oswald) and how she would match up against the beloved Ponds. And how did she match up? I wish I could give a definitive answer, but I just don't know yet! Jenna Louise Coleman is certainly gorgeous and makes for a very mysterious companion since we don't yet know how she becomes the poor girl trapped inside a dalek. In the previews for the upcoming episodes, the Doctor was even show saying that she "doesn't make any sense." While this is all very well and good, I worry that she won't have enough personality to fill the spot! Of course, given the time that all companions should be allowed to develop, she could be wonderful. I just hope the mystery surrounding her doesn't outshine her as a (fictional) person. 

Yet another worry for me is the the potential romance between her and the Doctor. I know that the Doctor also acted particularly affectionate towards Amy Pond, but there was a little bit too much face-stroking and kissing between the Doctor and Clara for it to come across as even slightly platonic. 
 All I can say is that this better not turn out to be something! It took quite some time for me to accept the Doctor and River Song, and if Moffat tries to introduce another love interest, I will be ticked. Do we really need all of the female companions to fawn over him all the time? I think not! All I'm saying is this: if Donna could resist falling in love with the Doctor (and still be awesome) when he was a fox and a half, then so can Clara/Oswin!

However, this episode was, overall, very good. The plot wasn't anything too mind-blowing, but I daresay that Moffat was probably trying to focus more on reintroducing Clara more so than the actual story. The reappearance of a Silurian and Sontaran friend was a nice treat and added much more humor to the episode. 



We also got a few looks at the impressive new TARDIS interior! While much less cheery, I don't think you can deny that it sure is cool. 


So I guess that, all in all, I've been left with a lot of hope for the next half of the season! Hopefully I'll find some new Whovians to delight in all of it with me (:


All photos taken from BBC America.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling 


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: realism fans, people that haven't read Harry Potter (though you won't actually listen, I understand)

Rating: 6/10

Setting: A little town named Pagford during modern times

Content:
  • Very strong language including frequent uses of the f-word and c-word.
  • Quite a few instances of sex, but usually described in about two or three sentences. A young woman is raped, but this is also described in a few sentences. Plenty of dialogue about sex. 
  •  Quite a few instances of domestic violence. 
  • A lot of drug use, particularly heroin. 
  • Some deaths, all varying in level of disturbing-ness. 
  • A lot of large vocab. 
  • Overall, not suitable for young readers. Not even slightly. 


The Casual Vacancy starts with the death of a man named Barry Fairbrother, a prominent member of the local government and a generally well-loved man. What follows is the stories of several characters from the tiny Pagford and their experiences during the aftermath of Barry's death.

The Positives

-Most of the characters. The majority of them were well rounded and very distinct from one another. There were a couple, however, that seemed a bit ridiculous and unbelievable.

-The small town atmosphere. As an experienced member of a small town, I can tell you that this is a pretty accurate portrayal of a little town, especially the way that everyone literally knows everyone and their business.

-The realism. If nothing else, The Casual Vacancy has a very real and stark feel to it, which I like (though many people probably do not).

The Negatives

-There's very little change in the characters. Naturally, I wanted to see the characters grow up and learn, but I think that about two of them really did. Disappointing.

-The story line. You wanna know why this is? Because it's close to nonexistent. It's kind of a book about a town election, but it's really a book about people--which isn't necessarily a bad thing--but I prefer a stronger focal point than this one.

The Mehhhs

-The writing. For the most part, I enjoyed J.K. Rowling's writing, but there were quite a few times that I was stopped in my reading tracks because a particular part sounded really awkward.

-The ending. I just don't know how I felt about it. On one hand, it's really exciting and fast paced, but on the other...it was a lot of action compared to the rest of the book.

Overall

It was alright. I really wanted to like it because of how much I love J.K. Rowling, but this was really not a good thing. Not only did it jack my expectations up (even though I had read several poor reviews), but it was hard for me to get out of my head that J.K. Rowling wrote this, so it was incredibly difficult to get past the fact that the woman that shaped my childhood was throwing out the f-word like it was nothing, among other things.

If I can suggest anything at all, it's that you can't go into this expecting the sheer awesomeness that is HP because it's apples to oranges, my friends. And honestly, I highly, highly, HIGHLY suggest that you are a huge HP nerd, like myself, to just not pick it up at all, no matter how tempting it is.

Now, if you have no previous Rowling experience, go for it: I'm sure it won't amaze you, but it probably won't be a letdown. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Last of the Breed by Louis L'amour

Book Review: The Last of the Breed by Louis L'amour 


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: Western fans, action fans, people more interested in story than quality

Rating: 1/10

Setting: Siberia, sometime during the Cold War

Content:
  • No profanity that I can recall (it's possible that there may be a damn or two). 
  • Basically no sexual content. A woman is in a sexual relationship with her employer, but it isn't blatantly state, and there aren't any sex scenes. 
  • Several people are shot and killed with either guns or a bow and arrow. There are also some deaths by booby trap how embarrassing. Most of this violence, however, is stated matter-of-fact-ly rather than in bloody detail. 
  • The writing isn't too complex, although there is some big vocab. 
  • Overall, this is pretty suitable for readers around the 'YA' age and up (though I highly doubt young readers would like it). 
A Warning: I'm gonna rip this to shreds, and I apologize for how hateful this review is going to be. If you happen to be a fan of Louis L'amour, you may want to avoid this because it will probably enrage you. 


The Last of the Breed is the survival story of Joe Makatozi, more often called Joe Mack gag me after he escapes his captors in Siberia. Joe Mack has to master the elements of the deadly and icy terrain, using the skills of his Native American ancestors to survive as an all-out manhunt ensues. 

The Positives

-The adventure. All other things aside, this is a very interesting and adventurous plot. Too bad that it's the novels only selling point.

The Negatives

-Joe Mack. Honestly, this man is the most arrogant, annoying protagonist ever invented, and even worse, he has no technical flaws. Do you think he struggles, even for a second, in the 70 below temperatures of Siberia? Nah, he'll just keep killing a bunch of large animals easily with the aid of his homemade bow and arrow. Then he'll make 10,000 pairs of mocassins from their skin, including a pair that has elk hooves attached to their soles to make his tracks look like that of an animal...I'm not even kidding.

I honestly wanted him to get captured and die. That's right folks, I was rooting for the Soviets. That's how much I *hated* Joe Mack.


-The writing. Dear Lord, why did you let Louis L'amour ever become an author? The man rarely ventured beyond simple independent clause sentences, and even when he did, it was bland and awkward. It overall made me want to gouge my eyes out came off feeling poorly executed and too simple. Please, allow me to provide you with some examples:

"The hunters took that one startled look and then scrambled to escape. All three made it."
"Dark were the forests, dark and still. Now it was snowing again, a thick heavy snow falling steadily, and there was no other sound but that of falling snow, a whisper faint, faint yet discernible."
Please, tell me more about the snow. 
 "He went swiftly into the night and swiftly through the forest."
 "Cold it was, even with the fire, bitter cold. He added fuel and thought of Natalya, so far away now, and hoped she was warm and away from the wind."
"It was cold...cold."
"He was cold, cold!"
Probably you are thinking that I'm overreacting, but honestly, the entire book is full of stuff like this. Awkward, short, repetitive things like these...oh, and much, much more about the cold. Oiii.


-The attempted love story. As if things weren't bad enough, Louis had to throw in an underdeveloped and completely inauthentic feeling love interest in Natalya (because what else could a Russian woman possibly be named?). To top it all off, it was written in that awkward style again. Prepare yourself for more examples:

"A last golden leaf from from an aspen fell and lodged in her hair. Joe Mack looked away. She was a woman, this one." 
(Glad you caught on, Joe.) 
"Did she truly love him? Or was it that he had brought some strange magic into their empty, colorless lives?He had given them meat, but more than that he had given them hope."
 "He must not die! He had too much to offer, he was too good a man, and he was her father. He was all she had...All? She thought of Joe Mack. Was there really anything there? Or was it all a dream? An impossible dream?" 


-The emphasis on his heritage. Okay, I get it, Joe Mack is a super cool Sioux--but my stars!--did that need to be reiterated every chapter? I cannot tell you how many times I read sentence that was along the lines of he was a Sioux, a Sioux warrior, or, 'He's an Indian? A real Red Indian, like from the films?' I'm sure L'amour was really patting himself on the back for making a cool Native American protagonist, but honestly, he would've been cooler if Louis didn't have to keep reminding us that he made a cool Native American protagonist.


-It feels incredibly unrealistic. It already takes some suspension of disbelief to take in that a man is surviving in the ridiculously low temperatures in Siberia in which you can get frostbite in literally seconds, but to believe that he can do it for a year? And not get caught by the Soviets? Or eaten by an animal? At one point he narrowly escapes a bear by climbing up a tree, though it does catch one of his legs with its claws, but is this a problem? 'Course not! Just a scratch! And when he later kills and skins this same bear, he carries what is specifically designated 300 pounds of meat and hide across the mountains in his pack...300 pounds! Seriously?! That would be hard enough if one was at peak physical shape, and basically impossible if you've been stranded in freaking Siberia for weeks!

My favorite unrealistic moment, though, definitely has to be when Joe has been in Siberia for months, and it's absolutely freezing, and he has to be careful to not work up a sweat so that it won't freeze on his skin. Alright, that makes plenty of sense, I thought to myself, even though I was slightly annoyed that the author mentioned it so many times, but then when Joe is avoiding some baddies, L'amour hits me with this one:
"He ran the next twenty miles in almost marathon time, rested briefly, and then started again at a much slower pace."
Huh. Guess Joe Mack isn't too worried about working up a sweat anymore! And come on, I don't care if Joe Mack almost went to the Olympics, you don't just up and run twenty miles in marathon time after living off of whatever kill you can get in the icy wilderness for months on end. Then again, I guess I'm forgetting that Joe is a real Red Indian, like from the movies! He can do anything!


-The dialogue. Honestly, it hurts me that Louis thought that people speak so woodenly. Maybe it's the hat: clearly it's blocking some brainwaves.
  Sigh. Look at what a cute old man he is. Why did you have to write this novel, Louis, why?


-The fact that I could go on and on with how bad it was....but I'm not going to, as a kindness to all readers of this review. 

Overall

It was painful. I honestly haven't felt this hostile towards a novel in years. I mean, really, any book that makes you root for the Soviets has got to be pretty bad. 

I'm not sure if Louis L'amour is really a terrible writer, or if this is just an exceptionally terrible book of his. I can only recommend this to people that enjoy the Western genre because I can't imagine anyone else being able to tolerate it. So just stay away from it! Away, I say! You'll be doing yourself a huge favor!



Quote of the Day

Finally, a quote from Doctor Who. Prepare yourself for future bombardment.



"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things. But, vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant."
                                                                           -Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor

Oi. Someday, dear followers, I'll probably just have to write one huge post about Doctor Who, or else this entire blog will probably change from Read It and Geek to Watch Doctor Who for the Nine Millionth Time and Geek, which I must say is much less catchy.

Okay. I'm stopping now. Back to book reviews we go!

Image found here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quote of the Day


"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting."

                                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: historical fiction fans, court story fans

Setting: San Piedro Island (off the coast of Washington state) in the 1940s-50s (?)

Rating: 8.5/10

Content:
  • Plenty of profanity, including the f-word. In addition to this, there are several racial slurs directed at the Japanese.
  • Several instances of racism, prejudice, and oppression mostly in relation to Japanese Americans.
  • Quite a bit of sexual content. There are 5-10 instances of sex, varying from mildly descriptive to quite detailed. 
  • Much of the story has to do with the murder of a man. There are in-depth, completely revolting descriptions of his autopsy that, honestly, made me want to gork. 
  • There are a few flashbacks to WWII and many of them are very descriptive, disturbing, and gory. 
  • Overall, this should be read by mature readers only. In no way is this meant for children; I would recommend that this be read by those in their upper teens at the youngest. 

Snow Falling on Cedars follows the trial of Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American living on a small island off the coast of Washington. When Carl Heine (a man that purchased land that Kabuo's family used to own before they were interned during WWII) turns up dead and caught in the netting of his fishing boat, suspicion turns to Kabuo rather quickly. Snow Falling on Cedars, however, is about more than just a murder mystery: it's a finely-crafted and deeply layered novel full of prejudice, grudges, war, pride, love, suffering, and heartbreak.

The Positives

-The writing. Descriptive, but not too wordy, the author's style is the element in the story that sweeps you into the story and completely engrosses you. The vocabulary he uses is lovely, and thankfully, never ever obnoxious.

-The POV. The novel mostly sticks to three characters: Hatsue, Kabuo, and Ishmael (all described in third person), but it wanders to other minor characters, providing brief, but memorable snapshots of their lives. Guterson executes this beautifully, and has a way of subtly changing his writing to match the personality of each character he speaks of, which rocks.

-The historical content. There are a couple of atrocities that the U.S. as a nation has owned up to and educates its public on, such as slavery and the forced migrations of Native Americans (is that still the politically correct term?), but there are quite a few others left out, such as Japanese internment during WWII. I think it's great that the author drew attention to events that I--and I suspect many other people--knew very little about. The blatant prejudice and suspicion against Japanese Americans is heartbreaking and, for me, at least, infuriating and frustrating, but still made me thankful for how far we have come. 

-The unfurling of events. I loved the way that the story moved back and forth along time-lines, instead of dishing out all of the background knowledge, and then the current happenings of the story. It gave the novel a  memorable style and feel that carries over well between readings.

-The courtroom scenes. Is there anything more I can really say about this? They're just awesome.


The Negatives

-The ending. The rest of the novel felt so complete, so whole that when it's finale turned out the way it did, I felt rather astonished at the unsatisfying end. Something about it was too tidy and too rushed for my taste (even though those things seem to not go together).

-It can be confusing. I grew accustomed to the way that the story skipped back and forth in time, but I was a bit baffled by it in the beginning, and had to flip back to figure out the order of events.

-The beginning felt a little slow, but it was only the first few chapters. Eventually it picks up and finds a very nice rhythm.

Overall

 Honestly, it's a title that I was completely unfamiliar with when it was handed to me, and therefore, I was wary of it. I'm so pleased to say that it turned out to be a beautifully done, well-thought out novel that is one of the more emotionally involving novels that I've recently read. To me, it's a universal read that will be just as potent if you are 19 or 99! I could say more, but it would honestly just be a lot of different ways describing how wonderful it was, so I leave you with this: read it, read it, read it!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Book Review: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: mystery lovers, Marple fans, anyone in need of a quick read

Setting: England during the 1930s or 40s

Rating: 6/10

Content:
  • Centers around the murder of a very young woman. The dead body is described a couple of times. 
  • No profanity.
  • No sexual content, though there are subtle hints at a woman's possible promiscuity. 
  • Little to no violence.
  • Written in an easy-to-read style.
  • Overall, appropriate for a reader of just about any age.

The Body in the Library is a Miss Marple Mystery concerning the murder of a young woman named Ruby Keene, and the mysterious appearance of dead body in the library of a well-to-do old couple. Is the murder committed by the two people that stand to benefit most from her death, or is the case more than it seems? Miss Marple uses her quick wit and observant nature to discover the truth in this amusing little novel. 

The Positives:

-The mystery. As has held true in all of the Agatha Christie books I have read thus far, the air of mystery is maintained throughout the whole novel. This shock of the final reveal was definitely not of the same caliber of, say, And Then There Were None--though I feel I'll never experience quite the same thing ever again--I still didn't know who the killer was until the end. 

-It's accessible. This is quite a quick, easy read that never confuses with extraneous details, which in my short experience with her, is characteristic of Agatha Christie's novels.

-It's amusing. I adore the subtle humor with which Christie wrote her novels, and how there are just the smallest remarks here and there that mock certain human characteristics. She was so brilliant.

The Negatives:

-It's a bit slow-paced. While it is a speedy read, the story does seem to develop rather slowly, and it doesn't excite quite as much as other Christie novels. While I could have easily finished this particular book in one sitting, it took me about a week (I think), though that is in part due to the amount of homework I had.

-It lacked any oomph. I think that I'll forget this plot in a few weeks' time, and won't ever care to refresh my memory of it with another read. Just look at how short this review is: I think it speaks louder than anything I could put into words.

Overall

It was just okay. I think that I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't read And Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express before this one. I recommend it if you're looking for a book to amuse you for an afternoon or a car trip, but I wouldn't have you rush to check it out otherwise. If you're looking for heart-pounding excitement, definitely look for the two aforementioned Christie novels before picking up this one!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Harry Potter Makes Me Cry...Again.

Every time I think I'm recovering from a deep emotional investment in Harry Potter, someone does something like this...


..and I cry because they're all my childhood. 

Sigh. The life of a geek is a hard one. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quote of the Day


"When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead."
                                                                                                                  -Ernest Hemingway

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer 



Things to know up front...

Recommended to: readers wanting a good cry, deep thinkers, adaptable readers

Rating: 10/10

Content:
  • Some profanity, including the "f-word." 
  • There are a few instances of sexual encounters. However, they mostly just describe the action of removing clothes. There are a few uses of sexual terms throughout, for instance, two minor characters ask another if he would rather get a hand job or a blow job from a certain celebrity, and a young boy wants to ask his mother if she is humping her "friend." 
  • There isn't much violence, but keep in mind that the story keeps coming back to 9/11, as well as an air-raid during WWII. If this is not disturbing, it is, at least, incredibly heart-breaking.
  • It's a challenging read. All of the narrators use either figurative language, or have a knack for wording things in a very unique, yet cryptic way. 
  • Overall, I wouldn't recommend this for young readers. I would say that this could be read by 14 or 15-year-olds at the youngest
**An extra thing to know up front** This is my second reading of this particular novel, and everything I'm about to say in the review was just as real through both reads. 


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close mostly centers around an extraordinary young boy named Oskar Schell as he ventures to find solve what he thinks to be his father's last puzzle for him in the wake of his death in 9/11. The story is also narrated by Oskar's grandparents, each haunted by tragedies of their own. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the most uniquely styled books of our time, and deeply emotional. 

The Positives:

-The narration. All three viewpoints are wonderful. Where others have failed to create a distinct voice in a split-narrative story, Jonathan Safran Foer created not only three distinct entities, but three distinct entities that could each provide a poignant reading experience. I also loved the different styles in which each narrator "wrote": Oskar often used run-ons to contain his sporadic thought process; Thomas also uses run-ons characterized by their incorrect punctuation and grammar; Oskar's grandmother (I'm trying to recall her name, but as I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure she was ever given one) often wrote in short, fragmented sentences that always began several spaces after the period from the last sentence. I adored that each didn't write with technical perfection because it just gave the material such a "real" feel to it. 

-The characters. While I loved Oskar and all of the other narrators, it's the minor characters in this book that leave the greatest impression. All of them, while a little bit unbelievable, add the extra "oomph" that makes this story: a man that hadn't turned on his hearing aids for years before Oskar asked him if he would like them on, a woman that never left the Empire State Building after her husband died and lived in some sort of utility closet, a couple that kept museums of each others' life. Seriously, I could go on and on with this. Trust me, they're amazing. 

-The heartbreak. Look, it's not like it's rare for me to cry while reading books, but it's also not like I cry at the slightest provocation, either. But let me tell you, I sobbed during this book. There are points where it's so overwhelming that I couldn't always pinpoint why a certain moment made me cry because it was just an onslaught of emotional sabotage. While this is sounding a bit like a negative, it really isn't. The tragedy of the story/stories is beautifully done and so, so, so moving. It isn't just empty sadness; it's the kind that makes you think long afterwards, which is the very best kind. 

-The pictures. I've never read an adult fiction novel that incorporates the use of literal images in the way that this one does, but the important thing is that it works. In no way are the distracting, or detracting from the story: they help to make it the unique experience that it is. And don't even get me started on the very final pictures...waterfall of tears, waterfall

-The ending. If you haven't read this, I promise I'm not ruining anything for you with this next sentence...I adore the lack of resolution because how could there be one in a novel like this? This book at it's most basic level is about a boy trying to cope with the loss of his father, but beyond that, it's about the universal feeling of tragedy that each person holds inside of them and the way it links us all together. Because that theme is so universal and just so real, the ending was perfect. The main conflict was resolved, but not every problem was fixed along the way, in fact, all of the main characters are still pretty broken. This just goes to show that there are some things that people never heal from; there are some things that will just stay with us forever, and this was conveyed beautifully. 

The Negatives:

-Sometimes it feels like the author is trying too hard. In no way does this ruin the book, but there some of the imagery was very hard to connect to (for me, at least), and it was hard to really find a meaning behind it. 

-Jokes on you because there's only one! Ha!

Overall

This is an incredibly beautiful, extremely thought-provoking read. I wish I could rant to you about it all day long--but alas!--you probably have a life to get back to! So, I guess what I really want you to take away from this review is this: read it, read it, read it! Even if you don't end up liking it (the overall erratic writing style may not be for you), I doubt you'll regret the unique (I apologize for the sheer number of times I've used that word) experience it will provide you. If nothing else, it will make you want to use the phrase "heavy boots" and kind of make having "yes" and "no" tattooed on your hands sound appealing. Just me? Okay. Just me. I hope you'll check it out and enjoy!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Quote of the Day


"Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles."
                                                                                                                      -Charlie Chaplin

Image found here.