Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: Wolf Hall

Book Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: historical fiction fans

Objective Rating: 7/10

Subjective Rating: 10/10

Setting: Tudor England

Content:

  • Moderately frequent swearing, but touches on basically all curses on the profanity spectrum.
  • Frequent and varied forms of violence. A character experience domestic abuse, a character i known for getting into knife fights, the rack as a torture device is mentioned frequently, various forms of execution are mentioned and sometimes described in graphic detail, etc. 
  • No drug use. 
  • Sexual content isn't graphic, but is very relevant to the story line (we are in part talking about Henry VIII, after all).
  • Overall, it's a mature book, but I think that ages 13 and up should be able to handle it.
Description (Goodreads): England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

As an avid fan of history, especially that of Tudor England, Wolf Hall is a book that I've been intending to read for quite awhile, and honestly, I'm kicking myself a little for waiting so long to get around to it! I absolutely and completely adored it. 

The fluffy, worshipful review:

As far as historical fiction goes, this book was absolutely incredible. Heck, as far as fiction goes, this book was incredible. Mantel's writing style is probably one of the best that I've ever seen. Her words twist together so perfectly to create a mood (or is it tone? I get confused, kids) with so much gravity as you read about the seedy background of Henry VIII's grand life and court. The dialogue is filled with biting, witty double entendres that perfectly capture the two-faced nature of courtiers. Thomas Cromwell serves as a wonderful protagonist to experience the chaos of the revolutionary changes of the time period, as well as the effects of rising in power. Mantel did a marvelous job of believably fleshing out a person that history can't provide many details on, and I greatly admire the skill with which she weaved events together. Honestly, this is probably one of my favorite historical fictions that I've ever read. 

The realistic, 'this may not be everyone's cup of tea' review:

Though I loved the book, I recognize that there are issues with it that others may not be able to forgive:

  •  The perspective/tense sometimes shifts and gets very confusing. There were several times that I had to go back and reread a couple of pages just to understand where everything was going. 
  • Mantel frequently uses the pronoun 'he', which makes things tricky since most all of the characters are male. I learned after awhile that 'he' almost always referred to Cromwell, but getting through the book could be very challenging if one didn't pick up on this. 
  • There are so many characters in the story that it's hard to keep track of them all, especially all of the Thomases. Mantel does provide a little guide in the beginning, but going back and looking through could easily become a quite tedious. 
  • The plot isn't very eventful, nor is there a clear climax. I thought this was an acceptable choice because history doesn't necessarily have a climax, but it would have been much more audience-friendly if there was one; it is made for entertainment, after all. 
Overall:

I highly recommend this book, but only if you have prior knowledge of Tudor history. I would advise that if you are new to historical fiction, do not pick this one up because it's very complex and boring if you aren't very enthusiastic about history, especially this specific point in time. I have a friend that is also attempting to read this book, and she loves history, but doesn't enjoy this book at all because it's an awful lot to sort through. 

If you are really set on reading it, try picking up another book that is about the same time period to familiarize yourself with the characters and the events. A personal favorite author of mine is Philippa Gregory, who has written several books about Tudor England, but fair warning, her books are much more sensational in the original sense of the world than this one. 

BUT, if you consider yourself quite the Tudor expert and you don't mind details details details, then I'm practically begging telling you, go ahead and get your hands on Wolf Hall. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Long Time, No See

There's no point in prolonging it, so here's an unhappy announcement: I've really sucked at maintaining this blog. I haven't been reading much, and what I have read, I haven't exercised many critical thoughts on. In truth, my critical thoughts for everything are at an all time low since I'm kind of hitting this I'm-an-adult-now-and-have-to-make-real-decisions wall. It's a bit of a bummer.

However, there is a happy announcement (or maybe it's another unhappy announcement for you poor folks): I have the intent to really get back to reading and reviewing for you fine people!  I hope to release at least two reviews a month, which isn't very many, but it's best that I start out slow. I'm also considering throwing in more miscellaneous posts, perhaps about some entertainment mediums other than reading. Let me just say there will be education about Welcome to Night Vale at the very least, and I'm not sorry about it.

As we speak, I have reviews in the works for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I hope you all hang in there with me as I get back into the swing of things, and thank you for sticking around while I was on my unannounced hiatus!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Recommended to: teens

Rating: 10/10

Setting: somewhere in the Eastern U.S. during the 90's

Content:
  • Frequent swearing.
  • Sex is not graphically depicted, but is a very big part of the book.
  • Frequent substance use, much of it by underage teenagers. 
  • Violence is infrequent, but also a pretty key part of the book. There is at least one school fight and a couple examples of physical abuse. 
  • Overall, this is for mature readers. Yes, I know I recommended it for teens, but this is a pretty heavy book in more way than one, so be prepared for it. 
Description (not mine): Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

~~~

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those books that you constantly hear about. Honestly, if you haven't had to sit through at least one person singing its praises, then I suspect you may be living under a rock (in which case please remember to take a Vitamin D supplement). While the fact that it's so popular drew me to the book, it also made me scared to read it. I mean, things never seem to live up to expectation, do they? Wrong. This book is everything you've heard and more, let me tell you. 

Perks is charming, witty, thoughtful, and deeply moving, all due to the most well-written protagonist in recent memory, Charlie. Observant, yet caring and unassuming, Charlie paints an intimate picture of what it's like to grow up and try to live happily by sharing what he sees in the people around him. His narrative is simple and a bit reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye, but it's written in the most indescribably perfect style, something that will probably never be replicated. 

Sad, but ultimately hopeful, Perks ends in such a way that leaves you thoughtful and emotional for hours afterwards (a good kind of emotional; I promise). It shows the reader the importance of being more than just a bystander in your own life and that truly loving someone requires you to first take care of yourself, the main reasons why I highly recommend this to teenagers. 

Overall, I hope that every young person finds this in their hands at least once; trust me, it will stun you. Enjoy!



Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: The Ghost Writer

Book Review: The Ghost Writer by John Harwood


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: horror fans, thriller fans

Rating: 7/10

Setting: Australia and England

Content:
  • Some sexual content including mild sexual fantasies and a couple of sex scenes that are reasonably inexplicit since they come from the view of someone walking in on the whole ordeal.
  • A substantial amount of swearing, including the use of the f-bomb (if I'm remembering correctly).
  • Mild violence that is made to seem worse by sheer creepiness.
  • No significant alcohol/drug use.
  • Overall, I'd recommend that this only be read by mature individuals. While nothing is all that explicit, the sexual content and the violence are further marred by the horror of the story and are pretty darn disturbing. 
Description (not mine): Viola Hatherley was a writer of ghost stories in the 1890s whose work lies forgotten until her great-grandson, as a young boy in Mawson, Australia, learns how to open the secret drawer in his mother's room. There he finds a manuscript, and from the moment his mother catches him in the act, Gerard Freeman's life is irrevocably changed. What is the invisible, ever-present threat from which his mother strives so obsessively to protect him? And why should stories written a century ago entwine themselves ever more closely around events in his own life? Gerard's quest to unveil the mystery that shrouds his family, and his life, will lead him from Mawson to London, to a long-abandoned house and the terror of a ghost story come alive.

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I do not often read from the horror genre, so if you're looking for an opinion from a well-cultured horror critic, do not look here. I repeat do not look here.

Also: I'm going to use the words "horror" and many forms of "creepy" several times because I don't have the energy to tap my inner thesaurus, and you will never understand just how sorry I am about that.

That being said, I do think I'm qualified enough to give the definitive opinion that this book is mega creepy. The first few pages alone had me jittery and freaked out, even though they were simply benign descriptions of Gerard's home life. I credit this partially to reading it in a room that has a wall of mirrors and two terrifying old portraits after watching three episodes of "Hannibal" right in a row, but I think the majority of the credit belongs to Harwood, whose writing is absolutely a thing of wonder. I don't think I've ever come across something quite like it. The first person flows beautifully, well-written, but not too grand, and the style itself immediately launches you into the perfect atmosphere for a horror story, somehow managing to make you feel unsettled and edgy even during the most mundane parts.

Even more impressive than the overall narrative is the insertion of Viola's stories, clearly written by Harwood, but of such a different (though still hair-raising) style that I had to seriously consider whether or not these were actually established works. These stories lend the novel a double-layer of creepy factor, as well as an air of mystery as you try to figure out the relation to Gerard's own journey. 

Unfortunately, there was one major flaw in the book: the climax. This, and this alone, is the reason that three points were knocked from my rating. Not only was it predictable, but it wasn't even all that frightening. In fact it was merely textbook, giving off the feeling of a cheap scare instead of the creative and subtle make-your-skin-crawl-kind-of-creepy that the rest of the book used. Honestly, everything leading up was just so gorgeous, so perfectly shiver-worthy, and then that hot mess happened. Ugh. Words will never describe how disappointing it was. 

Overall, I still recommend The Ghost Writer. Even though I felt underwhelmed by the ending, this certainly is not a bad book, and it certainly still deserves your attention, especially to the amazing writing (have I mentioned enough that I liked the writing?). I sincerely hope that you'll pick it up and enjoy!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Review: Dear Mr. Darcy

Book Review: Dear Mr. Darcy by Amanda Grange


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: Pride & Prejudice fans

Rating: 7.5/10

Setting: England (I'm too lazy right now to be more specific)

Content:
  • Three extremely explicit sex scenes, one of which contains BDSM elements
  • Intense language--approximately one f-bomb every three sentences
  • Several knife fights and one major character death
  • Two examples of character drug abuse
  • ha
  • ha
  • ha
  • ha
  • Jaykay. I thought you could all use some excitement in your lives; there's actually nothing inappropriate at all. 
Description (not mine): In this imaginative retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Amanda Grange now tells the classic story through the eyes of its compelling romantic hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy—in a series of revealing letters that casts a sparkling new reflection on the manners and morals of the landed gentry in 19th-century England…

Here, for the first time, are the letters written by the exceedingly proud and stubborn Mr. Darcy, covering the life-changing events that defined him—from the death of his father, to his control of his Derbyshire estate of Pemberley to his conflicted courtship with the lively, intelligent, and delightfully willful Elizabeth Bennet. Try as he may, he cannot deny his attraction to this woman with fine eyes, a playful spirit, a mind of her own… and an embarrassing family that is frankly, and utterly, beneath him. But it is Elizabeth who controls both their destinies, and whose surprises will change Darcy’s life yet again.


This book came to me as a gift that I put off for approximately two months before reading because, although I love me some P&P, it's really hard for me to accept when people adapt classics because they're classics for the love of God. Yet I'm actually really happy to say that this book turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. 

Not only does Dear Mr. Darcy offer up more insight to the motivations behind the character actions in the original story, but each character representation stays true to Austen's initial representation, and every letter "written" gives off a feeling of authenticity. The author did an especially nice job of this with Darcy, particularly since it would be so easy to try to take away all of that incriminating pride he starts out with in an attempt to make him more sympathetic. 

I also really liked that the book was written in epistolary form, especially since it has been suggested that perhaps this was the way that Jane Austen originally intended for the novel to be written in the first place. There were so many things about the original story that Grange got to explore by using this format, such as minor and/or unmentioned characters such as Bingley's parents or the other Bennet sisters. 

As for the negatives, I'm not sure that there is any one thing I can say truly bothered me about this book, but I only gave it a 7.5 because it was merely a pleasure read, not something that really has much of an impact. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book for Austen fans, but just make sure you go into it with an open mind!



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Scarlet

Book Review: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: YA fans, Cinder fans, dystopian fans, fairy tale fans

Rating: 8/10

Setting: France and Commonwealth (China) in the future

Content:
  • No sexual content.
  • No drug use.
  • Little to no swearing.
  • A decent amount of violence for a YA book: physical confrontations, gun violence, violent animal-like behavior.
  • Overall, appropriate for just about anyone that wants to read it.
Description: This sequel to Cinder starts up right where the first book left off: Cinder's escape from prison. In the midst of breaking out, she makes a blunder that forces her to tote around another prisoner, Captain Thorne, who luckily turns out to be quite a valuable asset. Together they set out to locate Michelle Benoit, the woman that was thought to have housed Cinder after her escape from Luna. Meanwhile in France, Michelle Benoit's granddaughter, Scarlet, is frantically trying to discover the whereabouts of her grandmother. She teams up with a mysterious young man named Wolf, whom she knows she cannot completely trust, but can't afford to let out of her sight. What ensues is a compilation of the efforts of both parties to find Michelle Benoit and more importantly to discover the dangerous secrets she has been keeping.

Although not quite as good as Cinder, the author kept up much of the good work in this sequel, the bulk of which is seen in her twist on "Little Red Riding Hood." It's basically a guarantee that any time that an author does this I will like it, but Marissa Meyer just does it so well. It would probably be very easy to slip into the confines the particular fairy tale story, I imagine, but Meyer does a wonderful job keeping all of the important elements while still maintaining a completely unique plot arc. I could just pat her on her little head for it. 

Additionally, I quite enjoyed the suspense in this book that its predecessor kind of lacked, especially in terms of the character Wolf. I won't say anymore because I would hate to spoil anything.

Finally, the chemistry between all of the characters is absolutely fantastic. I could read about Cinder and Thorne all day long because their friendship is such a well-executed combination of squabbles, teamwork, and humor. The romantic chemistry between Scarlet and Wolf is also notable, but I can't say that I "felt it" quite as much as I did in the previous book with Cinder and Kai, but that may just be because I support the latter ship much more fervently oops my tumblr is showing.

The only real complaint I have about Scarlet is that I felt that near the end there was an undeniable break of character just so the plot could move along to the next book. I was actually fairly upset about it, as you can probably tell by the entire two point dock it caused. Don't ever do this, authors. Just don't.

Overall, this is yet another great YA experience given by Marissa Meyer, and I definitely recommend it!

P.S. Sorry this was such a lame review. I finished this book awhile ago, so I have lost a bit of my reviewing mojo for this particular book. I'll try to be better about this for the next book!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: Lone Wolf

Book Review: Lone Wolf  by Jodi Picoult

Things to know up front...

Recommended to: Picoult fans, fans of good 'ole adult fiction

Rating: 6/10

Content:
  • Frequent profanity
  • No drug use
  • Not much violence. Two characters get into a car crash, but it isn't really described. One character is extremely involved with wolves, so some descriptions of bloody carcasses may rub the squeamish the wrong way.
  • Little sexual content. One character describes a sexual experience with his wife, but it lasts for maybe a half a page and doesn't go into grueling detail. A character recalls walking in on a couple having sex, but nothing is described.
Description (not mine, for once): On an icy winter night, a terrible accident forces a family divided to come together and make a fateful decision. Cara, once protected by her father, Luke, is tormented by a secret that nobody knows. Her brother, Edward, has secrets of his own. He has kept them hidden, but now they may come to light, and if they do, Cara will be devastated. Their mother, Georgie, was never able to compete with her ex-husband’s obsessions, and now, his fate hangs in the balance and in the hands of her children. With conflicting motivations and emotions, what will this family decide? And will they be able to live with that decision, after the truth has been revealed? What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?

Lone Wolf. I'm struggling on how to even approach describing this book, so I'll stick with a very handy, albeit unfortunate, adjective: disappointing. Luckily for this review and you, I can actually pinpoint what made this particular novel so bleh. 

The premise of the story is interesting enough: a family torn apart by the obsession and aloofness of one member due to--not the traditional drinking, drugs, gambling, etc.--but wolves. Not only does this lead to some very admirably written conflicts, but also a couple very well-executed characters, as well as a wealth of information about wolves that you may not have known, and if you're like me, you will love it. 

Unfortunately, these things weren't quite enough to carry the novel as a whole. Luke's interest in wolves was an original idea, but despite a whole narrative used to force his love and dedication to his work on you, he's a very tricky character to empathize with. In fact, many of the characters, Edward and Joe (Georgie's new husband), were not easy to really and truly feel for, which I would say is usually one of the defining characteristics of Picoult's novels. 

Another thing that Picoult has made herself known for is picking topics/conflicts that are often pretty relevant and pretty disputed, too. She has a particular talent for starting with a topic that you may think is pretty black and white, but make you see that there is so much more to consider by the time you finish. It's possible that this isn't what she was trying to do with Lone Wolf, but I highly doubt it. As far as I can tell, she was taking another stab at euthanasia with a side of oh, so you think this was a good guy that deserves to live well how about now, huh? how about now??? but I can't say that I felt like I was being presented with any new insight on the subject, and I definitely didn't have to reevaluate my feelings or opinions by the end.

Before I quit bashing, I also have to add that she added a couple of narratives into the book that were underutilized and clearly only thrown in to carry the plot, so they felt unfinished and just plain out of place.

Well, I guess I'll end by analysis on a good note. Even though I put all of my other positives in one spot and should have put this there, too. And that was an unnecessary fragment, and so is this oh my god I'm so annoying I'm sorry. Although I just didn't get many other good vibes from this particular book, I do feel the need to praise Picoult for an especially good portrayal of a gay character. In my opinion, many authors these days put in gay characters to be hip and forward thinking, but rarely give them the opportunity to be anything other than angsty over repressive familes/friends, as though they can't be given as important or as unique issues to deal with as other characters simply because they aren't heterosexual. Picoult did a darn fine job of making him multi-faceted, well-developed gay character. Heck, he was a darn fine multi-faceted, well developed character, regardless  of his sexual orientation, and that in itself is worthy of recognition, too.

Overall, I wasn't that pleased with this book because I am, as you have likely concluded, a fan of Picoult's work, and I don't think that it measures up to many of her other books. If you've never read anything by her, this may be a good book to start with because it is certainly worthy of your time, but I would definitely recommend you look to her other novels as well if you're looking for a more impressive read (I recommend Nineteen Minutes and My Sister's Keeper in particular). If you do decide to pick it up, I hope you enjoy!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Cinder

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer



Things to know up front...

Recommended to: fantasy fans, YA fans

Rating: 9.5/10

Setting: China in the future (known as Commonwealth)

Content:

  • No sexual content.
  • No drug use in a non-medical sense.
  • Very small amounts of violence. The most noteworthy is that one character has a gun forced to her head, but this scene only lasts a moment. 
  • Very few swear words. 
  • Overall, appropriate for anyone that has a high enough reading level for it. 

In this fresh new take on a classic fairy tale, we meet Cinder, an oppressed, hardworking girl who also happens to be a cyborg. Cinder's life is not a particularly happy one, but she mostly knows what to expect of it until two things happen: Kai--the prince of Commonwealth--asks for her help and her sister falls prey to a plague that is ravaging the country. As things come to unravel in ways that she never imagined, Cinder finds out a life-changing secret about herself that could just change the world, too.

Well, first thing's first: I LOVED THIS! I had heard that it was a pretty good book, but "pretty good" is such an understatement!

First of all, the twist on "Cinderella" was so cool. I've always really enjoyed reading books based on fairy tales, but this has to be the most original concept I've ever come across! How on Earth the writer thought to make Cinderella a cyborg, I can't say, but I don't even care; I'm just so glad that she did.

And as for the "Cinderella" in this story, I just adored her. I have this image in my head of a saintly Disney Cinderella who is silently sad and sings with all kinds of furry creatures, but Cinder is--thankfully--nothing like that. Cinder's tough, strong, smart, and vocal. She's everything that you can want in a heroine, and you will unabashedly root for her through the entire story.

The next thing that I will say is something that I can't quite believe, so prepare yourself...I was totally into the love story. Usually the romance in books completely underwhelm me and fail to hold my interest because I hate love, but for some unknown reason, I really enjoyed reading about Cinder and Kai, though that could just be the five-year-old fairy tale fanatic in me that never died. I do choose to believe, however, that it's mostly due to the connection being extremely believable and well-written. You can actually understand why these two are interested in each other, and your heart breaks when things keep them apart.

The only thing that I have to complain about this book is that the final twist is pretty predictable, but I hardly cared because the rest of the story was so fantastic, thus only a 0.5 reduction in points.

Overall, this book is an absolute page-turner that I highly, highly recommend to any fairy tale lover/sci-fi fan/YA fan. I can almost 100% promise that you won't totally regret it (:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Doctor Who: Hide

Hide by Doctor Who Spoilers

Summary of my thoughts on "Hide": Finally.

If you have been reading my other posts that started with my thoughts on "The Snowmen," you will knw that I haven't quite enjoyed any of the episodes from then on, which has made me so very sad.

But this episode, guys...ahhh. This episode was so good. It was the Doctor Who that I--and I assume most others--know and have come to love. Not only was the plot interesting, but it was thoroughly creepy, and it had real, unforced tension. I got goosebumps several times, and the hair on the back of my neck literally stood up every time that freaky little monster came into view. Plus, this episode had a cute little surprise ending that made this eerie story a little bit lighter.

There was also a lot more flirting between Clara and The Doctor, and...I think I'm starting to be okay with it. God help me.  It was the cute little high fives that did it. I just can't help it. I also couldn't help but notice that there seemed to be several references to this thing between the two of them becoming love.
 "This isn't a ghost story; it's a love story."
"You are the only mystery worth solving."
Subtextual love. Ooh.

There wasn't much that stuck out to me as a clue to the story arc, but I did have an un-enlightening realization: Clara only wears the colors red and blue (excepting black accessories). I'm not kidding, go ahead and Google all of the episodes that she's in; she only wears red, blue, or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, The Doctor never wears his red or blue bow tie anymore...Coincidence? Prossibly (the love child of probably and possibly), but I hope not because I just want to have some clever observations for once.

That's all I have for this week! Please please please leave a comment below and come again for my thoughts on next week's episode, "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS." Thanks!

 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Doctor Who: Cold War

Cold War by Doctor Who Spoilers
Cold War, a photo by Doctor Who Spoilers on Flickr. Creative Commons License

In yesterday's episode of Doctor Who, we were taken along as The Doctor and Clara accidentally find themselves aboard a sinking Soviet submarine during the Cold War, a problem The Doctor could easily fix if an offended martian Ice Warrior wasn't aboard the sub as well. With the TARDIS gone and the warrior threatening to fire off the nuclear, The Doctor and Clara must try to find a way to appease this alien before the Cold War heats up.

I had hoped that this episode would mark the upswing for the last half of this season of Doctor Who, but it fell ever so unfortunately flat. This story was similar to The Rings of Akhaten in that it was a bit plain, but unlike TRoA, Cold War didn't have much humor and not a single impressive monologue to compensate for the dullness. Honestly, the only part that I really enjoyed was seeing Matt Smith kiss a Barbie doll, but that's just because I love Matt Smith.

Furthermore, I didn't notice much that seemed as though it's later going to be relevant to the story arc, but this could be because I lost enthusiasm for the episode about ten minutes in and then didn't try very hard to gain it back. With my luck, this will probably turn out to be an extremely significant episode, just you watch.

Before I finish up this puny little thought session, I have one more thing to ask: WHERE THE HECK IS RIVER SONG?! I want her back, and I want her back now. The woman makes everything less dull. She probably could have even saved this episode...

Luckily, the previews for next week's episode, Hide, do look extremely  interesting and very, very creepy, and episodes with both of these elements usually turn out very good. Unluckily, it doesn't look like River Song is going to be in that episode either. I'll just have to cross my fingers that she'll be back after this!

But until next week, I would LOVE to see some thoughts and opinions down in the comments; I'm dying for some Whovian interaction. Seriously guys, dying, so just do me a huge favor and please, please, pleeeeeease tell me what's on your mind! Thanks!



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten

The Rings of Akhaten by Doctor Who Spoilers

I must admit, I initially didn't appreciate this episode. I thought it was dull and underwhelming, and to be honest, I didn't really understand what was going on. I tried to write up this post, but I was extremely bothered by all of the things that I wasn't sure of, so I watched it again. That's right, twice in one night. Oh, the things I do for Who. 

After my second viewing, I liked it a whole lot more. At first, I was bothered by the slow pace of the story; I kept waiting for the thing to pick up and was disappointed when it took until about halfway through to do so. Now, I realize that this isn't necessarily meant to be a fast-paced episode; instead, it's a bit more of a nostalgic piece, partially exhibited by the salutes to Indiana Jones, such as The Doctor only just managing to swipe his sonic screwdriver as a door drops down. It focuses on sacrifice and sentimentality; it's actually quite beautiful in parts, especially The Doctor's speech to Mary. The climax was pretty touching as well, despite the fact that Matt Smith was yelling at what appeared to be a massive, cranky jack-o-lantern. Don't judge it, guys: I think we're all that grumpy when we've just woken up, too.

Overall, I liked this episode. It wasn't spectacular, but it had a touching enough storyline to make it worthwhile. 

Here are some questions that I still have and some things that I'd like to point out (in pretty poor organizational order; sorry):

  • The leaf in Clara's book was a different from the one we saw in the previous episode. The first is widely believed to be one that a young Clara picked up in the prequel to The Bells of Saint John. This leaf, as shown in the beginning, is one that brings Clara's parents together. What's the meaning of this? Has Clara's timeline changed again? Maybe by The Doctor going back and checking up on her so many times?
  • Clara is beginning to emerge as her own character. I've seen many complaints that Moffat only writes one kind of woman, but this episode shows that Clara is different from Amy. I loved the scene where she comforts Mary, which, for me, showed a type of compassion and sentimentality completely separate from Amy. 
  • Is there a reason that the TARDIS doesn't open for Clara when she tries to get in with Mary? She says that she doesn't think it likes her, but I'm wondering if this could have a deeper meaning. 
  • In the end of the episode, Clara opens the doors of the TARDIS to see home and says that it looks different. Does this mean something as well, or is it simply strange to her just because of the things that she's now experienced? I'm inclined to believe the latter, but things are never simple in the Whoniverse, so I'm paranoid. 
Well, that's all! As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, opinions, theories, etc. Seriously, I'm starved of Who discussions in this tiny town, and I would be really, really grateful to hear some thoughts other than my own! 

Review: Bitterblue

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore


Things to know up front...

Warning: this review WILL contain spoilers for the two previous books in the series, Graceling and Fire, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum

Recommended to: fantasy lovers, fans of the series

Rating: 7.5/10

Setting: Monsea (Graceling Realm)

Content:
  • One extremely glossed over sex scene. Other than that, all other sexual content is limited to subtle allusions to the characters' sex lives. 
  • Quite a bit of violence, but it's pretty mild. At least two characters are stabbed, some characters commit suicide, murder is mentioned, shops are burnt to the ground, etc. Rape and torture also plays a huge part in many of the characters' backgrounds. 
  • No drug use, except a form of birth control.
  • Moderate number of mild swear words; "ass" is probably the most common example. 
  • Overall, there's nothing too extreme; ages 13 & up will be absolutely fine. 
Bitterblue follows--you guessed it--Queen Bitterblue, daughter of the sadistic King Leck of Monsea, as she fights against the chaos and confusion that still remains eight years after her father's death. Surrounded by men and women that can't seem to answer any of the questions that she has, the story takes off when Bitterblue sneaks into her city to find some truths of her own, befriending a handsome Graceling named Saf along the way. Through Saf and his friends, Bitterblue is able to see the corruption and mysterious phenomena in her kingdom, but before she can solve any of her kingdom's problems, she must first solve the mystery that is King Leck's lasting effect on her castle. Yet when even her most trusted advisors are concealing King Leck's secrets, can Bitterblue solve anything at all?

For starters, I would like to give Kristin Cashore an imaginary high five for managing to complete an extremely engrossing series that I'm sure will take its place beside The Hunger Games in the future! However, with that being said, I also felt that Bitterblue was the weakest of the trilogy, even though it seemed for awhile that it was going to be the strongest. 

I was led to believe this by the first extremely promising two-thirds of the book, which was packed with mystery and intrigue, romantic tension, and action--pretty much all of the cliches that you could possibly want in a book...too bad that it ended. The fact of the matter is that Bitterblue is just too long and grows tired after awhile. The plot and subplots are so complicated and give the impression that they will all come together beautifully, but it never feels like they do. Again, Cashore gives us that underwhelming climax and drawn-out resolution, which she could get away with in the previous books, but is an absolute killer with all of the subplots in Bitterblue. Way too many things were resolved at separate times and felt too random to be satisfying. 

I'm also lodging a small complaint that I often mixed up characters, but I suppose that it's my fault that I took so long to realize that there's a character index in the back. Oops.

Otherwise, I enjoyed Bitterblue. It seemed to me that Cashore managed to explore several different alleyways in this particular book, ranging from first love to psychological illness. She also threw in several gay characters, which I liked, despite that it felt like a last minute effort (with this being the final book and all) to make the books even more forward thinking. Nonetheless, I give her major kudos for this. 

The characters are also as strong as ever. I liked Bitterblue and Saf quite a bit, and it was also wonderful to see many much beloved characters such as Katsa and Po back for another round as well. Perhaps the best character, however, is Bitterblue's librarian, Death; words do not even describe my love for this sassy little curmudgeon. I would read an entire book dedicated to him--so get on it, Cashore! 

Overall, I this was a decent final installment to the Graceling Realm Trilogy, though I desperately wish that I could say better things about it. I still hope that all fans of the previous two books check it out because it does provide a satisfactory ending, at the least. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John

Warning: spoilers, sweetie. 

Imagine a really cool image from this episode right here. Are you doing it? Good, because Flickr's being a pain in my tuchus. Thanks for understanding.

Tonight marked the much anticipated return of Doctor Who with 'The Bells of Saint John." And when I say much anticipated, I mean it. I might have done something crazy if it hadn't returned any sooner...

Anyways, I went in ready to find out some more important pieces of the puzzle about Clara/Oswin and to hopefully enjoy another great Who adventure. I regret to say that I was disappointed on both counts, boys and girls. Not only do I feel even more confused about Clara, but I also thought the story a bit like an elephant dart to the face dull. Not that it was terrible, but with Steven Moffat writing it, I was hoping for something a bit less "meh." However, this does not stop me from listing a few of my thoughts:

-The new theme is awesome; I love how it's quite reminiscent of the themes from episodes of classic Who. I know that because I'm just so retro.

-It's official: I like the new TARDIS interior. I was a bit skeptical about it after watching the Christmas Special, but I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy the dark and so very "alien" look to it. Its move away from the more stylish version that we saw before and truly marks the end of the Pond era.

-I was pretty thrilled that the book that the book that the girl in the episode was reading was written by Amelia Wiliams. Less thrilling was Clara's response when the girl told her that she was on chapter ten: "Eleven is the best. You'll cry your eyes out." Eleven is the best. You'll cry your eyes out. It's like Moffat enjoys our sadness. Just kidding, I crossed that out because I know he does. That little sadistic [insert insulting name here].

-How "Run you clever boy and remember" relates to anything at all is driving me crazy! Why can't I be a clever boy girl and figure it out? Gahhhh. You would think that all those times watching and stressing over Moffat's other heart breaker would increase my powers of deduction. Not so.

Well, that's just about all that I have on this one! Hopefully next week I'll have something new for "The Rings of Akhaten."


WAIT WAIT WAIT! Are you guys aware that David Tennant and Billie Piper are coming back for the 50th Anniversary Special?! Seriously, between the options of YES! and YESSSSS!!!, are you super excited?!

Okay. Now I'm really done.

If you guys have anything to add--opinions, theories, anything!--go ahead and leave a comment; I love hearing from fellow Whovians! (:


Review: Fire

Book Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: Graceling fans, YA fans, fantasy fans

Rating: 9.5/10

Setting: The Dells (land adjacent to the Seven Kingdoms from the previous book)

Content:
  • Some sexual content. Not explicit in the least, mostly mentioned as "taking (insert name here) into bed." A couple of characters have children outside of marriage, and most characters are in sexual relationships. Rape is mentioned a few times, but not described. 
  • Quite a bit of violence. The main character is constantly being harmed in some way or another and is even shot in the arm with an arrow at one point. One character has completely lost the use of his legs because someone was sent to crush all of the bones in them. Several characters are stabbed. Monsters are constantly attacking the characters in this story. 
  • Drug use is mentioned as part of a king's downfall, but drugs other than a form of birth control aren't used by any main characters. 
  • Swear words are used sparingly enough that I can't specifically recall them, but I'm sure that they are present. 
  • Overall, there isn't anything too bad. Ages 13+ should be just fine reading it. 
In this prequel to Graceling, we meet Fire--the last of the exquisitely beautiful human monsters--who inspires lust and/or jealousy in nearly every person she meets. Not only does being a monster give her great beauty, but it also gives her the ability to sense and potentially control a person's mind and puts her in constant danger of being attacked by the monster animals in the Dells. These manipulative powers bring Fire to the King's City to help uncover the dangerous secrets of the king's enemies that threaten to bring down all that is good in the Dells.

I must say that I LOVED this book! Fire is much different from Graceling, but it succeeds even so. More a mystery than an action story, this book is concerned less with adventure and more with the underhanded workings of a king's court and the internal struggle of Fire, who--much like Katsa--is terrified of her own power and abusing it as her father did. Despite this difference, there is still enough action and romance to keep any reader interested.

We are given a bit of a different setting in this story, which is free of the Graced, but filled with fascinating and vicious monster animals that often wreak havoc on the kingdom. This confused me for a little bit because I couldn't quite figure out what Fire was or if Gracelings existed in this book, but I adjusted to it eventually and didn't like the story any less for it.

On the other hand, Fire keeps up the work of Graceling by continuing to give us strong characters. As the protagonist, Fire was brilliant, and the secondary characters such as her guards and the royal family manage to come to life and be very distinct. Fire's father--a deceased character--even manages to be one of the most memorable people in this story. While we're speaking of characters, it must be mentioned that this book contains a character from its predecessor that plays a very important role. I loved this inclusion that links the two books together, and one of the most exciting parts of the books was trying to figure out how this character was functioning in the plot.

The writing was, again, very good. I really admire Cashore's style in that it manages to not distract you from the plot, which is the main attraction in these books, but it's not something that you go back and inspect more carefully and go Oh my God--why was this woman allowed to pick up a pen? *cough cough* Twilight. 

The only complaint that I really have about this book is that the love story didn't feel quite right: the two characters didn't meld together quite as well as Katsa and Po from the previous book.

Overall, I would have to say that I found Fire to be even better than it's predecessor and that it's definitely worth your time! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Graceling

Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore


Things to know up front...

Recommended to: YA fans, fantasy fans, girl power fans

Rating: 9/10

Setting: The Graceling Realm

Content:

  • Some sexual content, but it's described more poetically than graphically. 
  • Lots of fighting and killing: someone is shot through the mouth with an arrow, a character is wounded several times with arrows, the main character regularly beats people up, etc. 
  • No drugs.
  • I don't recall any swear words, but it's possible that there are a few. 
  • Overall, I would say that it's alright for around 13 and up; however, there are a few messages that others may not want to read, which I'll go into later. 
Graceling is a thrilling story of a girl named Katsa who is "Graced" with the skill of killing. As a Graced person, Katsa is under the control of her uncle, King Randa, who uses her to inspire fear in all those that cross him. Independent, fierce, and too powerful for others to be comfortable with, Katsa is mostly an outcast in her society, until she befriends Prince Po. Together they fight to take down an evil force that threatens to take over the entire Seven Kingdoms of the realm. 

First of all, wow. My mind was blown by the creativity and utter originality of this story concept, and I firmly believe that Cashore is an extremely talented writer with a good career ahead of her. Anyone that can so convincingly take you into a world of fantasy and make it feel real clearly has "it." Furthermore, she wrote a story that has just about everything that young adults nowadays are looking for: a strong lead character, romance, and action. The main character--Katsa--was awesomely powerful and seemed very real. 

However, I did have a slight problem with Katsa and a couple of the messages that the author seemed to endorse through this character. From the very first we see Katsa as fiercely independent and unwilling to either marry, have children, or be remotely girly. Now, this didn't particularly bother me because that's just what floats some people's goats. As the story goes on, it becomes clear that Katsa seems to view all of these things as a mark of oppression for women, which is where I felt the doubt start to creep in a little bit, but it was still wasn't anything that made me appreciate the book less. Then Katsa and Po inevitably fall in love and begin their physical relationship, something fell flat. Even though I don't have a problem with sexual independence, it seemed to me that somehow this contradicted with the ideas previously expressed. This is also a message that may make parents wish for their children to avoid this book, since it will seem irresponsible and immoral for Katsa to be unwilling to commit, but completely willing to yield physically and emotionally. 

While we're talking about negatives, I feel I must also mention that the climax of the story was a bit dull; it was awhile before I actually realized that it even was the climax. The resolution seemed to slog through a bit as well, but that could just be because I was still expecting the climax. 

Other than these issues, the book was crazy good. The plot was strong, as were the characters. I really liked Katsa for her strength of body and mind, and her depth. I found the first half of the book to be particularly powerful because she is so at odds with her own existence due to her fears that she is just a monster. My liking wavered a bit because of the aforementioned events, but I still consider her to be wonderfully developed. Po was very well developed, too, and his Grace is sweeeeet. I'm in love. And the villain. Dear Lord, what a wonderful and extremely terrifying villain. Kudos, Kristin, kudos.

Overall, I highly recommend it to all YA fans, unless you have an issue with any of the aforementioned things, but even then, it doesn't hurt to give it a try!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Effects of a Rebellious Appendix

Or: Part of Why I Have Sucked at Posting


So, lately there hasn't been much action here at Read It and Geek: much of it is due to reading Harry Potter over again and nothing else, but this has been further extended due to a very recent removal of a very useless organ from my body. While this has provided me with quite a lot of down time, it seems to have instilled an acute interest in m&ms and "Important Things with Demetri Martin," so it may be a bit longer until I have anything new posted on the 'ole blog. 

I promise that when I do get back on my blogging feet, there will be some new reviews of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and maybe even some more Harry Potter thoughts that most will opt to skip. Riveting stuff. 

Aaaand, that's all I've got to say! Thanks for understanding! (:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stories That You Always Come Back To...

Stories That Stay With Us Forever: A Post of Too Much Nostalgia

(I promise that at the end of this I will speak of something other than Harry Potter.)


So, a scarce few of you may have noticed that I'm currently reading the entire Harry Potter Series....again. Maybe for the billionth time. And I don't think that I'm shocking anyone here when I say that I'm a huge and ridiculously dedicated fan. Like, ridiculously. My visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal may have been one of the greatest days of my entire life. I cried.

Anywho.

My love for HP began when I was in the first grade. I had seen the movie, and my older siblings were reading the books, so naturally I had to read it. The first book took me about a month to read, and Lord only knows how much of it I actually absorbed. But that didn't really matter because I was already hooked. I ran through the rest just in time for The Order of the Phoenix, which I distinctly recall forcing our parents to buy while we were vacationing in Colorado. I remember the agony of awaiting the next two books and the bittersweet moment when the final movie came out.

For a time I think that I must have thought that after the last movie, the magic would be over, and Harry Potter would slowly fade away. Well, I'm glad that I was so wrong! In fact it's nearly impossible that it will ever leave me. I fully credit Harry Potter for introducing me to reading and for my advancement in English and reading skills. And even beyond that, Harry Potter never stops amazing me. The progression of darkness as the books go on is absolutely fascinating to observe, and the continuity is beyond impressive. I could praise the imagination, intricacy, and character progression for ages and still feel that I haven't done it justice!

Harry Potter taught me that even the most unlikely people can be heroes, that you must always stand up for yourself, and that love, above all things, can save us all. All of this is--and so much more--is why I loved Harry Potter all those years ago, why I love it now, and why I'll love it for all those years ahead.

I think the appropriate way to end this rant is...

Harry Potter, always.

So, after all of this emotion on my part, I want to hear what you think! What story has always stayed with you? How did you come by it? How has it affected you? Can you please be more of a freak than me? I'd love to hear from as many people as possible! Thanks! (:



Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: The ABC Murders

Book Review: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie


The ABC Murders

Things to know up front...

Recommended to: mystery fans, Christie fans

Rating: 8/10

Setting: various towns in England

Content
  • No sexual content.
  • Several murders (obviously), but not too graphic or disturbing. 
  • No drug use.
  • A few curse words, but most are what I call "dashed out" such as d----d or b------d. 
  • Overall, suitable for as young of readers as are interested. 


The ABC Murders starts out with the wonderful Hercule Poirot receiving a letter from "ABC" warning of a crime to be committed that no one, except Poirot, seems to take seriously. Yet, sure enough, murder strikes an old woman named Alice from Andover, and the story takes off with each murder following a grim alphabetical pattern. Poirot and his good friend, Hastings, must put their minds together in this fast-paced novel to track down the murderer before--God forbid--the culprit reaches "Z."

I really quite enjoyed this little novel! Poirot was, as always, brilliantly entertaining, and the premise of the book is extremely exciting. Christie also departed from her usual style to give us a few chapters that were a third person narrative on the agitated murderer! I have read other reviews that have criticized this move on Christie's part, but I quite enjoy the extra excitement and pieces of the puzzle that it gives the reader. 

As usual, I didn't quite know what was going to happen until the very end, though I may just be very un-clever (stranger things have happened). Nonetheless, Christie gave the story a very satisfactory and characteristic twist that completely unraveled all of the ideas that I had formed about the plot; I honestly yelped "What?!" aloud as I was reading! 

Overall, I found this to be an extremely entertaining novel and think this would be a perfect read a day at the beach (though those days seem far off here in the high five of the nation) or a semi-long car ride! This is something that Christie fans, old and new, can enjoy, so go ahead and give it a try! (:   

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: Flight Behavior

Book Review: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver


So, due to lack of time, this review is going to be a bit more on the traditional side! Hope you enjoy!

Things to know up front...

Recommended to: those interested in the climate change, Kingsolver lovers

Rating: 9/10

Setting: Feathertown, Tennessee during modern times

Content: 

  • There is talk of a woman's flirtations outside of marriage--nothing serious. A woman sees another man naked, but nothing is described. A woman has a child out of wedlock. 
  • No violence of any kind. 
  • No drug use, except for cigarettes. 
  • Smatterings of curse words, but most--if not all--are pretty mild. 
  • Overall, suitable for about teenagers and up, but the themes are very mature, so the book may not have much appeal for those younger readers. 

Flight Behavior centers around Dellarobia Turnbow, a woman not yet thirty who is a perfect symbol of missed opportunities. Pregnant and then married soon after at seventeen in a tiny southern town of Tennessee, opportunities and excitement have passed Dellarobia by for too long. But when Dellarobia hikes up the mountain one day for a tryst, she discovers something amazing: millions of monarch butterflies flooding the trees, so many that she retreats back down the mountain without ever meeting her man. Suddenly, the butterflies become the center of Dellarobia's life as it brings controversy, love, and unwelcome ideas about global warming to Feathertown. Flight Behavior is an amazing story of life and the chosen and un-chosen events that get us there.

I started out reading this with some serious doubts. I'm a huge fan of some of Kingsolver's other novels such as The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible, but I know I've read one or two others that have been a bit of a miss for me. Fortunately, my doubts were very unnecessary! Kingsolver delivered once again with this one!

The protagonist, Dellarobia, is a truly amazing medium to tell such a tale through. You can't help but love this sassy little woman that wants so much, but got stuck with so little. Her rise to someone that finally decides that she deserves something more after she helps biologists study the monarch phenomenon is inspiring and yet so very saddening at the same time.

The best part about Flight Behavior is that it's a novel that works even though it seems like it shouldn't. A fiery woman with two children, a pushover husband, imposing in-laws, and oppressing small town ideas coming into contact with a beautiful but disturbing appearance of monarch butterflies and global warming?  None of it seems to fit together, but somehow Kingsolver carries it off with perfect fluidity.

Overall, I loved this book; it's insightful, thought-provoking, and inspiring. I would highly recommend it to just about anyone, especially Kingsolver fans! Even if you are unfamiliar with any of her other books, you should definitely give Flight Behavior a try anyways; you will experience the unique and intoxicating way that she can blend together science, faith, and the fallibility of human nature to produce something that you won't soon forget. I hope you pick it up soon! 


Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Les Miserables

Book Review:Les Misérables by Victor Hugo**


Things to know up front...


Recommended to: classic fans, historical fiction fans, people that are okay with huge books, people prepared to have their souls crushed several times over. 


Rating: 9/10


Setting: Paris, France, during the early 19th century


Content:



  • No real sexual content. Men and their mistresses are talked about, prostitution is mentioned a few times, a couple's wedding night is briefly spoken of, but if you aren't reading carefully, you probably won't even catch that it's sexual. In addition, any sex outside of marriage tends to be narrated with a tone of pity or disapproval, so there's no really no reason to worry about any explicit stuff.
  • I'm pretty sure there isn't any bad language, but if there is, it doesn't go far beyond PG.
  • No drug use.
  • A bit of violence. A chunk of the book is dedicated to a barricade scene during which several people are shot and killed, but it isn't especially gory.
  • Many, MANY deaths, all heart rending. Sob.  
  • Very long and challenging. 
  • Overall, it's suitable for young readers, but anyone that picks it up has to be prepared for the length. The unabridged version is 1,000+ pages, and the Barnes & Noble abridged version that I read was still 829 pages. It's ginormous. 
A Warning...
Except, perhaps, by this:

But the point still remains that it's long and complicated. I'll do my best, but things are going to get pretty general because there's just so much that could be given away...

Though, for the record, that last picture may be the explanation of the musical. Don't care. Still pretty accurate.  

Les Misérables mostly follows the life of Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed himself and his numerous nieces and nephews and for trying to escape from prison so many times. After finally getting out, Jean is man hardened to the world and unable to see much good in anything. This changes when an old clergyman gladly helps him out, offering no judgment. He even assures the police that the silver candlesticks that Jean swiped from the clergyman's residence were a gift to Jean, allowing the former convict to continue on. This inspires Jean to try and live a better life and be a better man, one a bit more like the generous abbé  Jean goes on to reinvent himself a number of times under many different aliases, but he never seems to find the redemption or forgiveness he wants so much. He does, however, find hope and love that he never imagined in a little orphan girl named Cosette, whom he raises and cares for until she reaches her teenage years and falls in love. 

The Positives

-The whole plot. Yes, it's nearly impossible to neatly sum up, and yes, it seems like a hot mess at times, but--my lord--is it awesome. I can't imagine writing 500 pages that all fit together, let alone twice that! The fact of the matter is that Hugo achieved something amazing with this hefty book that has little to no loose ends. 

-The tragedy of it all. I'm not afraid to admit it: I cried. There was so much depressing stuff going down that I often felt like I was going to be crushed if one little thing didn't go right in the near reading future. The beginning, especially, is absolutely heartbreaking (Fantine, poor, sweet Fantine), but the heartbreak is beautiful. I don't feel that it was ever elevated quite to the point of melodrama (which I find extremely annoying), but instead found it to be believable and all the more soul-crushing for it. 

-Hugo's style. So the man may tend to go off on several tangents (even in the abridged version), but he's still brilliant. He has that special way about his writing that truly engulfs you and makes you either incredibly sad or incredibly happy. Honestly, he can make you cry in like two sentences...and he will. 



-Jean Valjean, AKA: the whole protagonist package. Dynamic, complex, and interesting, I absolutely adored him. He's the type of character that you are rooting for deep down and the kind whose misfortunes will break your heart several times over. It's also quite nice to find a character that you care for and feel bad for, but doesn't spend his time swamped in self-pity--and, believe me, he very well could. 

-The villains. Oh, the wonderfully wicked Thenardiers, so skeezy and plain 'ole bad to the bone. After reading so much more recent books where the bad guy is always more than he or she seems, it was refreshing to find some that you can just hate to your core and not even feel bad about it. 

The Negatives

-Cosette. I liked and pitied little Cosette, but I wasn't such a fan of the older version. I know that Hugo was creating a "pure" character, but that made her quite boring: all chatter, no substance. 

-"This man was Jean Valjean." I stated before that Jean creates several aliases for himself, and this was all good with me. The thing is, every time Hugo chose to reveal that this mysterious character was Jean, he would use the aforementioned sentence, or something of that variety. I found it a little irritating, but this is really just me being nit-picky again. 

Overall

It was excellent! It took me way too long to read, and I unfortunately missed out on being able to see the movie in theaters because of it, but I definitely don't regret picking it up! I would certainly recommend that you add it to your reading list at some point in your life because it's one of those that everyone should read at least once! Enjoy!

**I apologize for the weird formatting going on in this post. I'm trying to fix it, but I'm not too sure what's happening! Wish me luck!