Thursday, November 28, 2013

Disney's Frozen: A New Kind of Heroine(s)

Going into Frozen, I was a little dubious. Not that I wasn't excited about the movie; I was. I thought it definitely had potential, and I liked the setting and storyline from what I could gather about in in the trailers. But still, I wasn't expecting an amazing movie. After all, Disney doesn't always pull it off. Tangled was great, and while it was obvious they were trying to do another Tangled with Frozen, I wasn't sure that they would succeed. The most worrying aspect of the previews was the talking snowman. He seemed silly and pointless. What was he doing in the movie?

So when I walked into the movie theatre and took my seat, I was cautiously optimistic, but not expecting a whole lot. Certainly not anything up to the level of Tangled.

And then the movie started. The opening segment gradually melted all my reservations (and I'm not talking about the Mickey Mouse short before the movie; that was just kind of weird). The first thing was the opening music. This may sound kind of corny, but it really transported me to a fairytale kingdom. It had the right feel for fairytale music, kind of magical and ancient sounding, but distinctive. The next thing was the opening scene with the men breaking up the ice. It was so cool. They were singing this cool song and breaking up the ice in time to the song, and it really set the mood for the whole movie. In fact, now that I think about it, the opening scene is really interesting in the context of the rest of the movie. There's a male dominated world, with men using their brute strength to break up ice, all the time singing about "breaking the frozen heart" and how ice is both beautiful and dangerous. Also, little Kristoff and Sven were so cute in this scene, so by this time my worries were beginning to subside. But they hadn't quite disappeared yet.

I was pleasantly surprised, but not yet ready to turn myself over to the movie free of reservations and just enjoy it all. The next part of the movie turned to a softer, more feminine world: the castle of Arendelle (pronounced Airindale, which, on a side note, might remind you of a Tolkien name). In the castle we see the royal family of Arendelle, starting with Anna and her older sister Elsa. The beauty of the animation and the absolute adorableness of Elsa and especially Anna were the things that began to convert me at this point. Not only Anna's appearance and actions but just her whole character and personality were adorable. And Elsa was pretty cute, too.

Then we went to the Trolls, and I was kind of thrown off guard. What was this? It was like something out of a fairytale. Wait a second. Doesn't Disney do fairytales? Yes, but this was like, an actual fairytale. It was magical in the supernatural, faerie sense. And it was cool. Also, I loved Elsa's relationship with her father in this scene and the following ones. Even though he was obviously trying to get her to repress her abilities (which is never a good thing in these movies), he was so tender and caring towards her. It was very sweet.

And then (spoiler alert) the parents die. OK, but seriously, that isn't really a spoiler, is it? The parents (or at least both parents together) are seldom present in Disney movies. And in all the great fantasy adventures, the parents are dead. So you had to see it coming. But moving on, the segment with Anna constantly coming back to Elsa's door and asking her if she wanted to build a snowman was so heart-breakingly sweet and adorable. And then, after the death of their parents, when Anna returns to Elsa's closed door and asks her once again if she wants to build a snowman, I found it very touching. That was the thing that finally convinced me this was going to be a good movie. After I realized that, and after letting go of my last reservations, I just sat there and let the whole thing wash over me and it was great. I loved it.

I don't want to spoil the movie for those of you who haven't seen it yet, so I'll stop here without giving away any more of the plot. Before I finish though, I'd like to say a few things about other parts of the movie, such as the characters, general themes, and storytelling.

I'll start with the main heroine (though not to shortchange Elsa): Anna. She was spunky, cute, and determined. Where other Disney princesses try to be spunky and fail, Anna succeeds and wins over everyone's heart (except for one certain character in the movie). She just had a delight and joy for life that was kind of amazing and inspiring. And she was so funny. I loved it when she was wandering around the castle by herself and doing crazy things like talking to the paintings and hanging out with the suits of armor. It was great. And then she was so sincere. There was no begad nonsense about her. She loved her sister so much, and she was so sure that she could just talk to Elsa and resolve everything. She was kind of simple but in a good way. In the best way. In short, she was a very compelling character, possibly one of Disney's strongest and most compelling.

Elsa was interesting. I've heard there have been some feminist interpretations of this movie, and I can definitely see where they got that. Elsa is good. She wants to do what's right and she loves her sister very much, but she's also conflicted. She has this amazing power, either terrible or wonderful or both, and she has to find the balance within herself to keep this power in check. I thought that the song where she was finally "letting it go" and not trying to repress her powers anymore, was a powerful moment. All her life she had been hiding what she could do and trying to pretend like she didn't have these powers, but that only seemed to make everything worse. Now she finally just lets it all out and rejoices in what she can do. Ultimately, she has to find the balance, which means neither repressing nor giving free reign to her abilities, but... you'll see.

Kristoff was also pretty compelling. I might just have fallen in love with him by the end of the movie. I loved how he was always having conversations with himself by projecting one side of the conversation onto Sven (his Reindeer). And I still think his "duet" was hilarious. Like Anna, he was very funny, but not just flat comic relief, and he was very loveable. As the Trolls said in one of my favorite musical sequences from the movie, he's a fixer-upper, but he's worth fixing up... or you can fix him up... or love can fix him up... or whatever it was.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the time has come to say a few words about the talking snowman. That's right: Olaf. Now, while it is true that most of my reservations had disappeared by the end of the opening sequence, there was still the matter of the snowman, and when we reached the part of the movie where I knew he was going to make his entrance, some of my worries came back temporarily. I was thinking something like, well, this movie has been pretty dang good so far, but now it's time for the snowman. Great. Surprisingly, I didn't mind Olaf as much as I thought I would. Of course, that's not to say that I loved everything about him and that he never made me cringe with some of the things he did or said, but overall, he was actually pretty funny; his remarks made me laugh more than once. And he was kind of interesting. The whole idea of him longing for summer even though summer would mean his pretty immediate death is actually rather deep once you start thinking about it. It reminds me of some things that C.S. Lewis has said, especially in the Narnia books. I think it's Emeth, in The Last Battle, who says that he would want to look on Aslan even if it meant his death in the next moment. Not that I think Disney was aiming at this (although you never know) but still, it's an interesting concept. Strange that the screenwriters chose to put some of the deepest lines of the movie in the mouth of Olaf, the talking snowman. One of my favorite lines was, "Some people are worth melting for," which sort of reiterates Olaf's summer conundrum. But I guess Sam the Snowman says some pretty deep things, too (he's in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, if you were wondering).

I'll just say a few general things about the storytelling of the movie, by which I mean, the way the story was told and the way the plot unfolded. Aside from a few predictable elements like the death of Elsa's and Anna's parents, this movie was pretty surprising. It threw you some loops. Especially that one, towards the end, regarding a certain character, which, if you've seen the movie, you know what I'm referring to. While I'm still not entirely convinced that everything leading up to it was consistent with this twist, I have to admit that it was a pretty great twist. I never saw it coming, and neither did the two people who saw the movie with me.

And then there was that big thing, the thing which, at the moment, is kind of overshadowing for me the whole rest of the movie. This is the part leading up to the climax and then the climax itself. I thought I knew how the climax was going to work. It was going to be like so many other Disney movies. It was going to be like Enchanted (that's all I can say without giving too much away; if you've seen Frozen you'll know what I'm talking about). I knew what was going to happen and, while it was pretty clich√© and predictable, I figured it would be sweet and romantic, so I didn't mind all that much. It had happened many times before, but after all, why not? Except it didn't happen. Something totally different happened. Something infinitely more satisfying happened. And I can't tell you what it is.

So go see Frozen and find out for yourself. Go enjoy it. Go without reservations, or, if you do have concerns that you can't seem to shake, hopefully the movie will melt them for you as it did for me (yeah, sorry about the bad pun). Enjoy the numinousness, the adorableness, the humor, the love, and the inspiring story of a different kind of heroine who doesn't wait around for other people to save her. Find yourself in the movie and then sit back, relax, and just "let it go." 


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Rising by Terra Harmony

The Rising

Title: The Rising (Painted Maidens #1)
Author: Terra Harmony
Series: The Painted Maidens
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Publication Date: November 7, 2013
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads Summary: Fifteen-year-old Serena is the youngest member of a dying race. The increasing acidity of the ocean is destroying her home, slowly eating away at the once thriving underwater landscape. But since the night of Serena’s birth, it is an outside force that most threatens their dwindling population. Werewolves, who once served as protectors for mermaids in the Kingdom of the Undine, now seek to eliminate all who dwell in the ocean — and Serena is about to find herself right in the middle of the deadly conflict.

Given the title of Werewolf Liaison, Serena is determined to make things right for her people. When she ventures to The Dry, she meets Liam, the werewolf with hazel eyes, and her whole world gets turned upside down. As Serena discovers the real history between werewolves and mermaids, she is left wondering who her true enemies are.
My Thoughts
       Storyline: Wow, this was a really interesting storyline. When I first picked up The Rising I was a little wary, werewolves and mermaids? Harmony, good job woman, I didn't think it would work, but you nailed it.
********WARNING SPOILERS********
The idea that the werewolves were part of the Undine, was a major plot twist. That was the point in the story when the elements all started to fit together. Before Serena learns this information the rebellion of the wolves doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. However, as the story continues and Serena learns more about her people everything fits into place ending with Serena becoming Queen.
      The Undine: I really enjoyed the world of the Undine. I loved how each individual was reflected through the colors of their tails. I also thought it was interesting that although the Undine strive so hard to be different from the Ungainlies, there are plenty of similarities. The court is one example of just how vain the Undine really are, I think it's interesting that the only two people who don't seem to be concerned with what others think of them are the King and Serena. The king, because he is the king, and Serena because she just doesn't care. In her life the important things are not how people see her, but how she can help those around her. It made perfect sense once the reader learned that Serena was the princess. Her sense of love for all around her, and her concern for the ocean and it's life is so unique. It makes her into the perfect queen.
                             Okay, so just for a moment let's freak out about how cute Serena and Kai are. AHHHHHHHHHHH. okay done. So now we can move on.
       The Werewolves: I LOVE Liam. A LOT. Actually I was secretly hoping he and Serena would get together, but then she fell in love with Kai, and I really liked Kai, and then we found out that Liam was her brother, so the love part would've been really awkward . . . Anyway, he was great. I loved how genuine he was, and how he helped Serena to quench her fears, and learn to be brave. I also thought it was really interesting that the fear of the Undine was what really controlled the Change. I thought that that was a really interesting touch. I loved how tender Liam was, and how protective he was of Serena. It was really sweet.
       The Questionable: So, yeah I enjoyed this book, but that doesn't mean I didn't have questions. In fact there were many places in the book where I just had to suspend my disbelief and keep reading. Let's revisit those places.
                  The Undine's scales: So, when the Undine are on land, or out of the water their scales form into a sort of close fitting clothing. Okay, I got that. However, when they go into the archives they have to wear robes. I don't know why this is, couldn't they just wear their scales????? it was really confusing. Also at one point when Serena is hanging off of a cliff the scales at the tips of her fingers rub off. However, when Ervine is hit by the bullet his scales only dent. I really didn't understand why that was. Also multiple times in the book Serena talks about totally covering herself in scales, but when the battle is in full swing, Ervine get hit in the face, where apparently there are no scales, WHAT? I really didn't understand why he didn't have scales there.
                   Weapons: Why didn't the Undine Maidens get better weapons when they were going to war with the wolves? All they were given was knives. Who thought that knives would be a good defense against wolves? I mean I guess if you could throw the knife that would be great but I got the feeling that the maidens were just repeatedly stabbing the wolves. So, maybe it's just me, but it seems like werewolves would kill the maidens before they could even get their knives into the wolf. I feel like the canines range is bigger than the maidens.
                  Mating: So, the king's palace isn't underwater, and neither are anyone's houses, WHY COULDN'T THEY JUST MATE THERE????? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense that they can only mate on that one beach . . . like NO SENSE. Yeah, so that was strange.
Overall however I found this story VERY engaging and exciting as well as well written. I would recommend it to other mermaid fans, or even werewolf fans.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mind Bond by Julie Haydon

 Mind Bond

Title: Mind Bond
Author: Julie Haydon
Series: N/A
Publisher: Feather in Cap Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Source: Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon
Goodreads Summary: This book is an urban fantasy that explores New Age themes. The blurb reads:

"The year I turned sixteen, the media featured reports of a worldwide phenomenon – the emergence of Interspecies Telepaths, or ISTs."

When Christa Wilder mind-bonds with Magnus, a wolf pup, on a camping trip in Sakima National Park, her life changes forever.

As the bond between Christa and Magnus grows stronger, other ISTs befriend them, including teenage Romy and her mountain lion, and Karl, a famous wildlife artist, and his golden eagle.

But not everyone is happy that ISTs exist or that wolves have been successfully reintroduced to Sakima, especially when wolves begin killing livestock on nearby ranches. Suddenly, with the first wolf hunting season about to open just beyond the park's boundaries, Magnus's pack is placed in jeopardy.

Even inside the park there is danger because a lunatic is slaughtering animals while staying one step ahead of the authorities. Next on the hit list: a wolf.

And, unbeknown to Christa, her brother, Josh, who went missing on his fifth birthday, has reappeared, but what sort of man is he? Why is he keeping his identity a secret?

Soon Christa is forced to commit to a new life full of challenges, friendships, learning, love and loss. With her psychic grandmother and her best friend, Ava, Christa will explore her spiritual beliefs, discovering a deep connection with nature and Spirit. But, most importantly, Christa will discover the sheer joy of the Mind Bond.
My Thoughts:
        Writing: Although I don't believe that this was the most well written book I have ever read, it did have a high level of writing, and a good strong plot line. There were a few typos, but nothing that really distracted from the story.
        Content: This ebook was advertised as a Young-Adult novel. However, I don't think that it really fits the description of a ya book. The characters were in their twenties, and mature themes were commonly thrown into the story. At the very beginning of the novel there is a implied sex scene between Christa and Tom. While the author does not go into detail it is there, as well as other hints at such scenes throughout the novel. Although there was hardly any swearing, the word "bitch" was used multiple times to refer to female canines, and a few times to human women.
        The Good: I think that this novel had a very interesting plot line. I was intrigued by the general off the beaten track feeling of the book. I felt like you really got to know the characters and I especially liked the family elements that Haydon included. I appreciated how the novel was not entirely about Christa and Magnus mind bonding, but about how important family is, and doing what you're meant to do in life. I really enjoyed the moments that were spent with Romy and Karl I thought that their characters were very well rounded and developed, as was Christa. My favorite character was probably Magnus. His conversations with Christa were completely adorable, and I loved the amount of energy that Haydon was able to write into his dialogue.
                           I also loved the beauty of Sakima park. I am a hiker, skier, and wildlife lover. As such I really could connect to the IST's love of the natural beauty of the wild. There were many times throughout the novel when I felt like I was right there next to Christa and Magnus tromping through the snowbound park of Sakima. So, hats off to Haydon for her vivid descriptions.
**********Warning Spoilers**********
        The Bad: I really, and I mean REALLY hated the character of Tom. I get that his purpose was to show how Christa needed to change her life. But really he was just a pain in the butt. Whenever he was in a scene I felt like the beauty, maturity, and goodness of the scene went way down. I really didn't understand why Christa was still with him. I guess I just felt like they were so different that I had no idea how they got together in the first place. I feel like Christa's boyfriend should have been a little nicer even if he didn't like her as an IST, but seriously, he sucked. I didn't understand why Christa hadn't broken up with him before, because they didn't even really work together. ugh.
                        I didn't like the sex scenes, or implied sex jokes that ran throughout the novel. I really didn't. I don't feel like they were necessary, or helped the plot in any way, shape, or form. They were just dumb, and uncomfortable. THIS IS LABELED AS A YA BOOK FOR PETE'S SAKE! Okay, calming down. Also, I got the need for the religious speeches from Grandma, but once again I didn't feel like they were necessary. They were long, and confusing, and kind of boring. Sorry, but they were. I think that maybe a few lines from Grandma would've been find, but there were WAY too many!
                        But, in case you were wondering, the good did outweigh the bad.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Grimm Legacy by Janna Jennings

A Grimm Legacy

Title: A Grimm Legacy
Author: Janna Jennings
Series: N/A
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads Summary: Enchanted castles and charming princes thought to exist only in stories come to life in this classically twisted fairy tale that combines the timeless quality of generations old folktales with the challenges of the modern world.

The woods of Elorium appear ordinary to Andi Grace, until birds start talking and elves answer doors. Along with three others, Andi has been whisked out of her world and finds herself the reluctant guest of the perplexing millionaire, Mr. Jackson—a stranger willing to help get them home, but who’s keeping secrets of his own.

Discovering unexpected family connections to this fairy tale land, the group must rely on each other as they dodge evil fairies and battle giants, intent on keeping them in Elorium.

Faced with characters short on whimsy and bent towards treachery, Andi, Quinn, Fredrick and Dylan are forced into fairy tale roles to find the way home. But in Elorium, happily ever after is never guaranteed.
My Thoughts:
          Writing: I have no idea if I got an unedited copy or what, but the writing was terrible. I don't mean like a low level or something, no, it was totally and utterly confusing. Many words which should have been plural, or agreed with the rest of the sentence did not. Not only that, but often times it felt like an entire paragraph was missing from the story. And then, to go on top of all of that, the punctuation was off, and sometimes so was the formatting. This made it a very confusing read in itself, but then at the beginning of every chapter there would be a line from later on in the chapter as the first line of the chapter. For example:
                     Chapter 34
     "I'm a girl of many hidden talents. Keeping myself out of trouble is not one of them."
      Andi stepped into a quiet clearing. Overgrown grass and wild roses blanketed the area, running right up to the base of the tower and entwining themselves into the architecture.
And then a ton of the chapter until, low and behold:
        "Not willingly." Quinn clasped her hands together as she sat back. "But I couldn't imagine how you were going to find me. At first I didn't have any clue who took me. How could you?"
        "I'm a girl of many hidden talents." She gestured to her filthy, damp clothes. "Keeping myself out of trouble is not one of them."
And then just because I feel like adding it, bad grammar!
       "How am I always the one turned into a bird or stolen by giants?" Quinn scowled.
Oh, and here's some more! This is where it feels like a paragraph is missing or something:
        "I've been heavily involved in ensuring the kingdom's future." She laughed lightly, an acidic undercurrent to her words. "The realm doesn't run itself, after all."
         Andi didn't like where this was going.
         Prince Wilhelm had been spinning her around the dance floor for the last hour, while his mother tracked them with a concentrated look, and Andi was getting nervous. She hadn't seen Dylan or Quinn for sometime. Fredrick still kept within her line of vision, which was odd considering he'd been glued to Quinn all evening. It was getting late and Andi felt she should be making her Cinderella-exit soon. She never did get a chance to read the story in her grandmother's book. Without the mice and the fairy godmother, was the magic still going to wear off at midnight?
         When Fredrick surreptitiously shook his head at her, his face worried, her stomach dropped. Something was wrong.
WHAT????? Did that not confuse you? Because all those paragraphs were together in the book, but I felt like whole other paragraphs were missing. They don't even connect together!!
This is why I feel like I was given a rough draft of the novel, because when you go on Goodreads people don't even mention how horribly it was written!!!!!! Confusing much?
           What did I think? Well, besides the major issues with the writing, I think this story had a pretty good plot line. It was a really interesting idea. I do give Jennings props for that, I really do. However, it was jumpy, and I mean REALLY jumpy. For example the first four chapters were all about different people, talk about trying to remember character names when you only just met them and then get introduced to three other new characters. This made it so that throughout the book I kept getting confused about who exactly was talking. Yeah I mean I knew their names, but their background stories all sort of ran together!
        I also felt like Jennings was trying to hard to fit in so many stories. Sometimes it just became a little ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE fairytales, and fairytale novels. However, there was just something about this one that didn't work for me. It felt too mushed together, and kind of cheap.
Well, I think that's all I have to say about that. If anyone could shed light on the really weird writing please let me know.

 Why two trees? I did enjoy the story line, just not the rest of the novel . . .

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Autumn by Sierra Dean


Title: Autumn (Dog Days #1)
Author: Sierra Dean
Series: Dog Days
Publisher: Sierra Dean
Publication Date: June 2013
Goodreads Summary: As if being a high school senior in a small Texas town wasn’t hard enough, Cooper has bigger things to worry about than who he’ll take to prom and whether or not the Poisonfoot Padres will win homecoming. He has less than a year before his eighteenth birthday, when a curse placed on his family will doom him to live in coyote form forever.

The last thing he needs to complicate his already messed-up life is a girl, but fate has other plans in mind for him when it brings Eloise “Lou” Whittaker to Poisonfoot. She’s grouchy, sarcastic and has no love for her new Texas home, but she might be exactly the right person to help Cooper break the curse.

The clock is ticking, and Cooper will have to decide if he’s willing to let Lou in on his dirty little secret before it’s too late.
What did I Think?
             The Good: I really enjoyed Autumn. I must admit that at first I did have some misgivings. Although the plot was definitely different than anything else I had ever read I thought it was just going to be a general YA paranormal book. I was wrong. I read the entire book in one day, it kept my roommate and I up reading up to midnight. We were both very upset to learn that we would have to wait for the next one. When twelve pages were left my roommate suddenly cried out "OH NO! This book is the first in a series! That means it's going to end on a cliffhanger! AGHHHH!" she was right. Wow Dean, good cliffhanger, I will definitely be reading the next one, my roommate will too.
           Alright and now, let's take a moment to admire the cover. As a book cover designer I have a great appreciation to covers that catch the eye, but also reflect the novel itself. I love this cover. Something about it really draws me in. When I was flipping through books for review this one immediately jumped out at me. Who was this girl? What was her story? Why was she alone? Again, Dean good job your cover designer knew what they were doing.
           Okay, before we go any further I want to talk about the title. At first I was confused as to why the book was called Autumn and then I read it. Wow Dean, good title. I totally understand the meaning behind the title of this book, and the others in the series. I know from personal experience that it can be hard to come up with a title that represents your novel, but Dean did well. Now, let's talk about why the title is so perfect . . .
************WARNING SPOILERS************
            Autumn is the season during which things start to change. The summer has been beautiful, and thinking about school and what would happen during the fall has been put off, when suddenly it is upon you, and you have to think about it. Yes, I realize that the novel takes place during Autumn, but the title means so much more than that. Cooper Reynolds has known for a while that on his eighteenth birthday he would change into a coyote, but he has put off thinking about it, living his life as well as possible. Lou Whittaker has known that her father is dying but has never thought about what would happen once he was gone. Then Autumn hits. Suddenly Cooper must think about his impending doom, and Lou must move to Poisonfoot, Texas. The leaves and weather are changing, and so is Poisonfoot.
            Lou is the first person that has been friends with Cooper. She actually likes him. Cooper is the first boy that Lou feels completely comfortable around. This is the first time that members from the Reynolds and Whittaker family have been friends since the curse. Their families forbid them to meet, but again this is a time of change. Cooper and Lou refuse to be fitted into the strict roles that their families seem to play. They want to change the curse, and they want to be together. This is a time of change.
             Things come to a head when Lou is captured by the Wyatts. This is the ultimate period of change, this is when the last leaf falls, the one that has been hanging on all fall. This is the moment when it finally gives up and goes the way of the rest. And winter descends. Lou has fought against those that oppose Cooper, she has shied away from Archer and the power of his touch, but now she can fight it no longer. The winds are too strong for the leaf and it falls. The Wyatts are much stronger than Lou in her low blood sugar state. She can no longer resist them, and they remove Cooper from her mind. The leaf falls and goes the way of the rest. When Lou exits the building, she has forgotten her memories of Cooper, and will go the way of the rest of Poisonfoot, and shun Cooper. Winter descends and the world is at a standstill.
         The Bad: Although I understand the need for awkward lovey scenes between Cooper and Lou, that doesn't mean I enjoyed them. It made me feel awkward, but I guess that was kind of the point . . . Anyway, I really hated the ending. I mean, yeah, once again I get the point in relation to the Autumn theme, but really? Losing her memory???? That means she's going to have to start all over again! I'm very upset about that. Cooper was my favorite character and it hurts knowing the pain Lou's loss of memories will cause him. Really, though otherwise it was a great book.

Content: Although Autumn did have swearing, and underage drinking there were no sex scenes, or inappropriate moments between characters. I give kudos to Sierra Dean for writing a book centered around high school students and keeping out explicit scenes.
Style: This book was pretty well written. Sure, it may not have the best writing style out there, but it's sufficient enough that it doesn't detract from plot of the novel.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Grisha
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: June 12, 2013
Source: Provo Public Library
Goodreads Summary: Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal--and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina's extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart--and her country--in two.
What Did I Think?
Content: For most of the story this novel was remarkably clean, and then, suddenly it became borderline. Sexual relationships are hinted at between Mal and numerous Grisha girls, and Genya and the King. And, although Alina and the Dark One get pretty heated up, nothing happens between them.
What Do I Have to Say? I loved this book. Period. I really enjoyed the Russian elements of the tale. I feel like sometimes authors try to create something entirely new, and it doesn't work because it is so unfamiliar to the readers. Whenever a novel has a location basis it makes it easier for the readers to understand the story. By including the Russian elements to the story Bardugo created a basis for the magical land within her novel. The country of Ravka becomes less foreign because of it's connection with Imperial Russia.
                   *******WARNING SPOILERS********
               Alina and Mal:Mal is seemingly good at everything, he's attractive, smart and the best tracker in Ravka. He is also Alina's best friend. But is Alina his? She doesn't think so. He seems to prefer the company of his fellow trackers and beautiful girls to hers. Alina has been in love with Mal ever since they were children. He, however regards her as just another friend. When crossing the Shadow Fold, Alina is attacked by one of the Volcra, a monster of darkness, Mal saves her life, but in turn is also attacked. It is at this moment in the story that Alina shows just how much she loves Mal. It is at this moment that the light which Alina has kept bottled up inside of her for so long bursts forth. This is the power that she has been suppressing since a child in order to stay by Mal. And yet, as Mal lays dying in front of her, her fear of actually losing him outweighs her fear of the consequences of her power, and the beautiful light within her surrounds them. Alina next sees Mal in the Grisha tent. He testifies that she was the source of the light, and then does nothing as she is dragged away.
                       When Alina next sees Mal it is five months later at the Little Palace after the Winter Fete. He is changed. The carelessness and joy have left his face. He tells Alina that he has received none of her letters, and that for the past five months he had thought she was being tortured. He leaves by reminding her that she is not equals with the Darkling no matter what he may lead her to believe. In reality the Darkling owns them all.
                       After Alina discovers the Darkling's true plan for her powers she runs away, only to be chased by trackers. It is during her attempt at escape that she again runs into Mal. He has willingly deserted the army in order to be with her again. It is throughout their journey to find the Stag that Alina learns just what she means to Mal. He tells her of the empty void that has been in his life since she left. He tells her just how much she means to him, and she in turn tells him how she has thought of him everyday of her life. But, it is not enough. The Darkling finds them, kills the Stag and places the collar around Alina's neck. Mal will be sacrificed to the Volcras.
                       Alina watches in complete horror as Mal is thrown overboard by Ivan. She tries her best to resist as the Darkling commands her to leave Mal in the dark. She cannot disobey him. She listens with intense pain as Mal screams as the Volcra attack him. It is at this moment that she finally understands just what the death of the stag meant, he did not give his power to the darkling, but to her. It is at this moment that she can finally deflect the Darkling's commands and light explodes out of her saving Mal. She too leaps over the side of the craft and leaving the Darkling's company to be eaten by the Volcra, she leaves with Mal.
                 Genya and David: Genya is the tailor, a Grisha with a very specific skill set. She is by far the most beautiful woman at the Little Palace. David is the master fabricator, he seems completely oblivious to Genya. And yet, she is madly in love with him. Alina suspects it is because he is totally unaffected by her looks. However, I think it is because as a master herself she truly understand his power, as well as his limits. They are both encaged. Genya to the queen, and David to the needs of the Grisha and the Darkling. Neither of them can truly be who they want to.
                Alina and the Stag: When Alina and Mal finally discover the stag they do not kill it. Instead Alina shows it mercy, and is going to leave when the Darkling and his host appear. Immediately an arrow is shot into the stag's side. Alina battles the Darkling over the stag's body but desists the moment that Mal is grabbed by Ivan. The moment the other side has Mal she is powerless. She watches with horrible grief as the stag's throat is slit, and the bone antlers are placed around her neck. Now she is in the Darkling's power, unable to control her gift herself.
                           Each night after the stag's death Alina dreams of his large soft brown eyes and his bright blood spilling across the white snow. However, it is not until Mal is thrown overboard to the volcra that Alina realizes the meaning of the dreams. The power of the stag is not the Darkling's, but hers, because she showed him mercy. This is the moment when Alina is able to cast aside the darkling and truly use her power. saving her life, Mal's, and the world.
                The Darkling: The Darkling is incapable of showing mercy. It is because of this that he is not truly powerful. He instead operates on brute strength, immense power, and fear. He does not care to establish a feeling of love in his country. This is where he and Alina differ. Where he is dark she is light. If the Darkling had known the power of mercy, he would have had power over Alina, but because he instead choses the darkness, in the end he loses.

So, I think it's pretty clear that I liked it. I really enjoyed how Bardugo incorporated the theme of mercy in her book. Will I read the rest of the series? Definitely.



Saturday, November 2, 2013

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

Title: Perelandra (Space Trilogy #2)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Series: Space Trilogy
Original Publication Date: December 1943
Source: BYU Bookstore

What Goodreads has to say:
The second book in C. S. Lewis's acclaimed Space Trilogy, which also includes Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength, Perelandra continues the adventures of the extraordinary Dr. Ransom. Pitted against the most destructive of human weaknesses, temptation, the great man must battle evil on a new planet -- Perelandra -- when it is invaded by a dark force. Will Perelandra succumb to this malevolent being, who strives to create a new world order and who must destroy an old and beautiful civilization to do so? Or will it throw off the yoke of corruption and achieve a spiritual perfection as yet unknown to man? The outcome of Dr. Ransom's mighty struggle alone will determine the fate of this peace-loving planet.
What I have to say:
I feel that I am not qualified to say anything about this book. It was so amazingly wonderful that anything I can say about it would be of little worth and far below the truth. I cannot express in words what I felt while reading this book. However, with the knowledge that, “about this time tomorrow you will have done the impossible,” I now proceed.

This is the second book in C.S. Lewis' space trilogy, but it can be read on its own without any
knowledge of the other two books. In fact, Lewis makes this point in the preface. I myself have not read either of the other books, though I did start Out of the Silent Planet and never finished it (I still hope to one day). Unlike Out of the Silent Planet, which was good but which I had a little trouble getting into, Perelandra had me riveted from the first chapter, and as it went on, I found myself enjoying it more and more and becoming more and more involved in the characters and plot.

Ransom, the hero of the book, is a very strong character: brave, determined, intelligent, and entertaining, while still remaining extremely human and relate-able. He is not perfect, and he has his flaws; he's a middle-aged Cambridge professor who has been called upon to help save a world, so of course he has his moments of weakness and doubt. But what makes his character truly admirable is that he overcomes his doubts and presses forward despite his weaknesses. Called upon to do what he believes to be impossible, he devotes his whole heart and soul to the mission. Chapter 11, which details the struggle Ransom goes through as he first tries to shrug off an assignment which he regards as impossible, then eventually accepts his role and realizes that, no matter how hard the task is, he has the capacity to do it, was for me the most compelling and moving section of the novel. (Did I mention that Ransom is supposedly based on Lewis' friend J.R.R. Tolkien? Yet another reason to read the book.)

But that's not to say that Chapter 11 was the only part of the book which I enjoyed, or even that it was the best part. The whole novel is filled with wonderful parts. For example, the descriptions of Perelandra (the planet on which the story takes place) were beautiful and imaginatively provocative, and the descriptions of the primary villain of the novel, the Un-man, were deliciously terrifying. But it gets better. Perelandra is not simply a well-written sci-fi novel complete with beautiful descriptions, or a thrilling story complete with suspense and horror; it is an account of the struggle, between good and evil, for a world, and it contains passages, relevant to everyone who has ever lived, that will make you catch your breath in wonder and understanding. For a sampling, consider this line from Chapter 6: “Every joy is beyond all others. The fruit we are eating is always the best fruit of all,” or this one from Chapter 9: “Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.”

In short, if you want a beautiful, well-written novel which is also a terrifying sci-fi thriller and which ends in a way that will cause you to see everything in a whole new light, try Perelandra. After all, C.S. Lewis himself regarded it as his finest book for a long time (at least until he wrote “Till We Have Faces,” but that's a review for another day).