Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Uprooted, Naomi Novik
I've got mixed feelings.

  • The writing, from the start, is incredible.  I stopped, read the opening paragraph aloud to Haki, and said, "And that is how you open a book."  I continued to be floored by the power of the prose for the whole book.  Respect.
  • And the world-building?!  Woah.
  • Then there is the horror.  I didn't see this coming.  This book is dark.  I like narratives that touch upon darkness, and perhaps lean to the darker side.  This text crosses a line, for me, incorporating elements of horror that I did not see coming.  The darkness of this novel is both something I love and dislike about the text -- I think it will stay with me for longer, for having this content, but I think I will hesitate to recommend it to some of my peers for having it.  It contains violent content as well (with fairly graphic descriptions).
  • A BIG BEEF:  The love story.  Not okay with me.  I can rationalise the behaviour of one of the characters, sure, but I still am not comfortable with people basically being jerks and being loved for it -- especially if little to no redeeming tenderness is gradually uncovered.  Yeah, I'm sure there's a precious soul buried beneath each grouchy exterior out there, but novels marketed to YA featuring Grade A Cruel Characters being adored in all their Cruelness?  It's not to my taste.  I know there are a wide range of romantic offerings and attractions out there, but this modelling risks too much, in this field, for me.  I don't know how transmitting any variation of the message, "Someone can be really abusive towards you, and that is okay, in fact, it might make you feel pretty hot for him" can be okay I'm uncomfortable with this.  Girls, you know what?  Maybe there is someone worth loving in there, underneath all those layers.  But please, please, when someone treats you like dirt, try looking for someone else maybe?  There will be enough conflict in a healthy relationship without starting at first base with someone whose default mode is to criticise and disparage you.  How depressing!
  • Secondary beef: The sensuality is too much for my taste, for a YA-marketed text, especially.  Ya ya, "Teenagers are having sex though."  I know.  I still won't be offering this book to my girls to read anytime soon, and the treatment of romantic relationships and sexuality is why, NOT because of how dark or scary it is!
  • The narrative is worthy of Grimm or greater!  It is something special.  I did not feel a deep connection with any of the characters, nor many relationships (there is one female friendship I began to respect), but the story and setting?  I felt very strongly about those and there was never any question I was seeing the development of the story and setting through -- they were engrossing, beautiful and worthy of my time.
So.  If those beefs would bug you a lot, or you don't care for darkness -- steer clear.  Otherwise, you may find, like multiple of my friends, that this book is a jaw-dropper.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 44
Jurassic World
I think you know before you go into movies like these if you have a chance of liking it or not -- it's a franchise, after all (a franchise I enjoyed.  And guys, weren't the Easter Eggs super?  ).  So I was hopeful I would enjoy the latest instalment.  And I did.  Why?  Well, because after robotic violence, my next preferred kind is dinosaur violence.  People hurting people?  So much harder to stomach.  Dinosaurs eating people because we proved to be arrogant and over-reaching?  There's something right about it.  Also like: Spielberg's preference for splatter over severed limbs, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard for leads.  Didn't like: the teenager.  Oh man.  I could talk for a while about that guy.
The Theory of Everything
I'm so glad I saw this.  What incredible performances.  Great date night movie if you enjoy history-inspired drama, we had a lot to talk about and read afterwards.
Maze Runner
I really enjoyed the book this movie is based on, despite its mixed reviews.  I devoured the tiered reveal of mysteries.  The movie was okay.  It wasn't bad (a better adaption than Divergent, I think), but it was probably a seven out of ten.  Haki, after it finished: "That wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be."  That about sums it up.  Pretty good action, pretty good script, pretty good pacing.  You won't be sorry you saw it, I suspect -- whether you've read the book or not.  I still love the concept.  I think this one's too scary for younger YA.  Oddly, it made me want to read the books that follow on in the series! (which I passed on after being told they weren't so flash)  Final questions: Did anyone else find this too dark, literally?  Actually not enough lighting?  Unclear what was actually in-frame?
The Giver
The source book for this adaptation is a touchstone for me.  The film presented a world very different from the one I pictured, but I enjoyed the new world in its own right (it was beautiful!).  I respect their ability to capture the essence of the narrative in a more modern setting.  Other minor tweaks made sense of screen (e.g. their ages, for example).  Sadly, the acting was hard to watch.  I understand the characters lacked emotion and therefore initial depth, and so this may have informed their choices, but it made it hard to connect with them, depsite the montage attempts.  I filled in the gaps because I wanted to feel. Another unfortunate casualty of translation was that some of what carried okay in the novel was absurd in the film (say, the ending!).  Overall, I think this works if you are up for very willingly suspending disbelief to enjoy a true dystopian classic.  Note: Some of the imagery in the film is crushing and disturbing, and will haunt me for a long time.
It is what it is.  It has so many things crying "Happy Madison" productions, throughout, yes (and therefore, I don't deem it a "family movie").  But it is also mildly funny and touching.  I did enjoy seeing this pair reunited, on screen (our impetus to rent it, revealed).  I'd be interested to hear what a RL blended family thought of the jokes.
What a fine science fiction specimen.  Super satisfying.
Alexander at the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Pretty average.  Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner's pared-back comedy were the best part of the movie.
The Best of Me
This is no Notebook.  Dud.  (A shame, because I like both leads.)  I still managed to feel emotional at least twice though /eye roll.
Pitch Perfect 2
Crude...and funny.  Another movie I don't need to recommend -- you already know if this is your flavour or not.  Mom, it's not yours.
Haki warned me that this had terrible reviews.  With low expectations, it didn't seem so bad!  Yes, yes, the original is already great (but not perfect, in my opinion!)...but guys, the songs in this one are fun too.  And the efforts to update the story are pretty good!  I still enjoyed this movie (would have enjoyed it more sans Diaz, but hey).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson
The blurbage for Aurora sounds much like the premise of the film, Interstellar -- both focus on inter-connectivity, the search for a home to replace earth, and a character-defining voyage and arrival in space. Yet these two tales are very different.

Aurora reads like a hard sci fi classic -- a classic unafraid to dive into dense scientific exposition, jargon and world-building.  I love starships as much as the next girl (okay, more, you got me! /hands held up in surrender), but sadly, I am also often an impatient reader.

Stanley's careful, experienced voice calls for a level of patience and attentiveness I can't always promise I'll bring to an end-of-parenting-work-day.  I had to restart the novel twice, for this reason, and struggled to become engaged in it.

If you are a patient, and have a Love of the Science, these are the things I think you'll be pleased to find in Aurora:
  • Honest human moments strung together in amidst all of the science and larger questions (and answers) about humanity.
  • Great protagonist growth.
  • Plenty of detail.
You may find a little lacking in:
  • Supporting characters' characterisation.
  • Pacing (which sadly, is a clincher for me, in this chapter of my life).
Overall: This novel is most likely a case of the right novel at the wrong time.  If you are already a KSR fan, or if a slow, detailed SF read (that is less Space Cowboys and more Plausible Physics, Biology, Population Science) sounds just like you, then proceed with eagerness.

Review copy received from Hachette.  Available in bookstores today.

Speak (A book about bots)
Speak, Louisa Hall

Yup, the blurring on the cover text is deliberate.  And I like it.  Sadly, you'll see another cover (I like less) around a fair bit.  I love this one.

I am impressed with this book;
  • The narrative is split between five different voices -- each one connected by their contribution to a robotic doll (with artificial intelligence).  Each voice is distinctly different from the others, and offers a compelling story.  It is a bonus that each sounds from a different time.
  • Like many adult books, there is some adult content; there is some swearing (not a lot), and a wide range of allusions to sexual activity (to paint character, not excite).  There isn't really any violent content.
  • I'm quite certain I didn't find the big questions Hall was asking as thought-provoking as she does, I did mull over a lot of others fringe questions that arose.
  • Some of the narrative devices and choices are fascinating, and would make great discussion!  If you read this, I want to talk about it!  There are some motifs I think will endure akin to Fahrenheit 451's book-burning.
  • I steadily read this with interest -- not in a devouring way (like I do with an easy, entertaining and gripping YA novel), but with a keen investment in reading it through.
I think you will know from the blurbag if this book is for you -- Have questions about A.I.?  Enjoy multiple perspectives?  This is your book.  (And you'll receive commentary on a lot more.)

Review copy received from Hachette. Available in bookstore today.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sweet, Sweet Fruits of Laini's Mind

Lips Touch, Laini Taylor
I ordered Laini's short story collection a long time ago, and I have had it on the bookshelf, waiting.  This may seem odd, given how much I have loved all of her other work.  But the thing is, I have read all of her other work.  And I don't want it to be over yet.  While I know she is not yet finished writing, I know a new title isn't due soon enough, and so I have been holding onto this last morsel of wondrous imaginative fantasy.  For what?  For a literary "rainy day." You know the type -- when you are in between books, and the last few have failed to capture and ignite any fire inside you?  For me, the last three books (or more? Can I even be sure?) have left me in a lettered fugue.  Why was it I would trade sleep to read, again?  Was that ever tempting? 

It was time to open up my gift to self and reawaken all of the love for the words.

I am so glad I saved this book (although I intend to re-read it).

Laini, we can always count on you.

This woman's imagination! And I practically salivate over her constant prowess to turn a phrase into poetry without calling attention to itself -- to have me lapping up every sentence, turning every page, with admiration and envy.  To imagine and frame the imagined so well?  Oh my.

Lips Touch contains three tales, each beautifully-crafted and memorable.  There is darkness there -- so you should avoid these if you shy away from such, but there is delicate beauty too. 

The first has dialogue akin to Daughter.
The second has an epic love story that feels 1,000 years old, reborn in Laini's voice.
The final isn't quite as playful (although the second feels weightier, and old, as mentioned), but rather has a sombre, dark, and challenging tone.  The implied messages about our existence aren't offensive, but the characters who lack what we value are pretty scary pieces of work, who do scary things. 

For fans of DOSAB, Dreamdark, and's time you considered a self-gift too.

For the first two:
  • Warm sensuality, allusion to hot (confirmed only after marriage).
  • Mid-level cussing, nothing I found awful.
  • Some provocative possible interpretations of intended moral.
For the last:
  • This one has some potentially disturbing content, and I recommend treading carefully for those with sensitivities to invasive material.
Overall:  recommended for those of kissing age.
    Post Script:  Husband Jim's illustrations are a splendid bonus, although I do prefer my cover (the one I've led with, to the more common one featuring his work).
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