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.