Mini Movie Reviews: Frozen and The Book Thief

I’m still catching up on some movies from 2013, so recently I FINALLY saw Frozen and The Book Thief!

Frozen

frozen_poster2I’ll tell you, I only became interested in Frozen because everyone was raving about it. The trailer for the movie really did not do it justice. My husband and I thought it was a movie that centered on a silly snowman, but that turned out to not be the case at all. It’s a story about family and love and sacrifice, and Olaf the snowman was sweet and funny, not ridiculous as the trailer made him out to be. And the big twist in the story surprised me!

kristoff-surprise

I thought overall, the characters were pretty good. And I love that Disney is able to poke fun at itself and its usual formula when it comes to love at first sight and all that. Though the relationship in this story doesn’t have the chance to develop as well as Rapunzel and Flynn in Tangled, in my opinion, I still really liked what we got of it.

meltingI will admit I was also a little concerned going into this movie about the hype over the music. I had heard “Let It Go” several times before watching the movie, and I honestly didn’t get what the fuss was about and why it was “the song” of the movie. In the context of the movie, I did enjoy it more, and I liked the other songs as well. For some reason, overall, the music felt less forced than it did in Tangled, but maybe it was because I was expecting it from this movie. I think “Let It Go” could have been a bit grander, but still, it’s a nice song. I also really like the ice song at the beginning, which Lesley Marie and I conversed about on Twitter.

It was a fun, well-done film, but I would have liked it more if it could have been just a little longer to develop the story just a little more. I rate it four stars.

4stars2

The Book Thief

book_thiefWith The Book Thief, I was curious to see how everything would be adapted. I had heard pretty positive things so I was optimistic, but also aware that there is no way it could meet all my expectations. But overall, The Book Thief did a good job of hitting the highlights of the story and capturing the spirit of it. Though Death does not speak up much, he does narrate the film, and the movie ends with the same words as the book.

All the actors did a great job in their role: Sophie Nélisse as Liesel, Geoffrey Rush as Hans Hubermann, Emily Watson as Rosa Hubermann, Ben Schnetzer as Max, and Nico Liersch as Rudy… they were all pitch-perfect! Sophie and Nico especially, as Liesel and Rudy, respectively… well, just look at them!

The-Book-Thief-Liesel-Rudy-CROPThey were completely adorable, and I absolutely fell in love with little Rudy all over again. While watching the movie I didn’t think of it because they were doing so well that I was just completely into everything, but in hindsight, it’s amazing that these child actors were able to display the complexity of their characters and of emotions that they needed to, and I believe they truly held their own against the adult actors. And Geoffrey Rush? Just so perfect.

book-thief-fam

I only have a couple of small complaints. Obviously, it’s not a perfect adaptation because they couldn’t fit everything in, but I so wish they could have! But mostly, that they *SPOILER* changed Rudy’s death so that he survived the bombing for a short period of time before he died in front of Liesel (after he starts to say “I love you”) was not a good change in my opinion. First off, that meant he suffered a lot, and secondly, how traumatizing for Liesel! I mean, more so than already with everything she experiences. I just wish they hadn’t done that. *END SPOILER* My husband, who has not read the book, liked the movie, so I think it was a success in appealing to fans of the book as well as others.

4stars2What are your thoughts on Frozen and The Book Thief? 

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A Tale of Two Fails

Have you ever written a post you were so excited to share, only for something from it to end up becoming irrelevant just weeks later?

Yep, that happened to me just now. Twice.

Remember how excited I was to discover how I could download audiobooks to my phone (or Nook) without worrying about my data plan? I had a couple of free audiobooks I had acquired late last summer and finally figured how super easy it was to transfer them to a device with an Overdrive app, and that I could listen to them without an Internet connection! I transferred Sherlock Holmes over to my Nook successfully, but after that, NOTHING ELSE WORKED. I tried my other free audiobook as well as a library audiobook, and I tried transferring to both my phone and my Nook, but nothing happened. It seems Overdrive simply stopped transferring my stuff over after doing so ONE TIME.

I assume that this has something to do with the update Overdrive keeps telling me I need. But the problem is, anytime I try to update it, I can never get the update to come up! Just a browser window set on the default home screen comes up. I tried doing a search on their website about getting the update, but to no avail. I thought about downloading it all over again but chickened out, afraid it might mess something up. So alas, while I enjoyed listening to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (particularly because it’s basically just short stories, so you could listen to like one 30 minute story a day and feel satisfied), it seems that’s my only audiobook option until I can figure this mess out! If anyone has any ideas, please share!

Fail #1 goes to Overdrive.

camp-nano-headerFail #2 goes to Camp NaNoWriMo.

Remember how I was excited for this “camp” in April where I can set my own word goal and I was going to start working on a new story and I asked all my blogging friends who are also participating to let me know their username so I could request for them to be in my “cabin” and we could all cheer each other on as we wrote throughout the month?!

I requested whatever the max amount of friends was, like five or six, and I know some of them requested me too.

BUT NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM ENDED UP IN MY CABIN.

dramatic-chipmunkSeriously NaNoWriMo?! What was even the point if you were just going to assign me to whoever the heck you felt like anyway?!

I considered, briefly, staying with these strangers. Maybe it would be a good experience for me, yadda yadda yadda. But you know, it’s going to be stressful enough without feeling like I have to be accountable to people I don’t know. I only wanted to do a cabin so I could cheer on blogger friends. So I opted out of that cabin, and all cabins, completely. And I decided to take matters into my own hands.

So, if you’re a blogger friend who is participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month and are interested in being a part of a “group,” regardless of whether or not you’re in a cabin, I have set up a Google + Community for the occasion.  I set it as private because I didn’t want random people finding it and joining it, so either leave me a comment below or send me a Twitter DM with your e-mail address so I can send the invite to you directly. And as long as you’ve “spoken” to me at least one other time and are a blogger, I’ll send one to you. And we can cheer each other on our way, thankyouverymuchCampNaNo!

Have you experienced any “fails” lately? 

The Top 10 Things on my Bookish Bucket List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List. According to the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish, this may include things like meeting authors, reading x many books per year, finishing a daunting book, etc. This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. Meet Marissa Meyer

marissa-meyerThere are several authors I like and would enjoy meeting. But since Marissa Meyer is really becoming my favorite “current” author, I’d have to say she’s the author I’d definitely geek out/fangirl over the most if I had the chance to meet her, and I really hope to have the opportunity some day!

2. Visit a Hunger Games filming location

HenryRiver4When my husband and I went to Asheville last year, I looked into tours that took you around the District 12 village that was set up for The Hunger Games movie. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t going to work out for that trip, but since both the Asheville area (where they shot the first movie) and Atlanta (where they shot a lot of Catching Fire) are both very attainable drives for us, I hope I can visit some of these set locations sometime.

3. Finish Les Miserables… preferably this year

les-miserables-bookI started reading Les Miserables at the beginning of the year with the intention of reading small snippets at a time, hopefully finishing it by the end of the year. Well, I am reading it, and I do think it’s very good, but it’s hard to for me to read too many chapters in one sitting because of the way it’s written. And let’s just say at my current pace I am not set to finish by the end of the year. But maybe I can pick things up. Or maybe I’ll finish next year…

4. Read Harry Potter

harry-potter-seriesYes, I know. We’ve already discussed this. Let’s move on.

5. Read Lord of the Rings

LOTR111I’m crazy intimidated by this classic trilogy, but I want to read it.

6. Become a Published Author

snoopy-writerMy ULTIMATE bookish goal!

7. Take an archery lesson so I can feel like Katniss for a day

katniss-archerI think this is self-explanatory.

8. Read ALL of C.S. Lewis’ books

cslewisbooksSo I’d like to consider C.S. Lewis my favorite author of all time, but can I do that without having read all his books? So far I’ve read all of The Chronicles of Narnia and Till We Have Faces cover to cover, and I’ve read snippets of The Screwtape Letters and several of his nonfiction books. I own The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, and let’s not forget that Lewis also wrote a space trilogy. Needless to say, I have a long way to go, but everything I’ve read by him so far I have enjoyed.

9. Read to my future children

bedtime-story2This seems like a really simplistic thing to say, but I’m sure it’s harder to put into action. I would like to tuck my kids into bed every night possible, and again, whenever possible, I want to carve out the time to read to them/with them. I think instilling books into a child’s life is important, and of course it is a great way to spend quality time with your child. I hope I will put this into practice one day.

10. Read all 6 of Jane Austen’s novels

jane-austen-booksI’m already halfway through with this item, and plan to continue reading one Austen novel a year until I’m finished.

What’s on your bookish bucket list? 

Double Review: Time Between Us and Unremembered

I decided to review these books at once, because they both have light sci-fi themes, and they also both have similar issues for me in this regard.

Warning: mild spoilers ahead for both books

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

time-between-usLikes: Interesting concept, fairly likable characters, family presence, friendships

Dislikes: Romance felt rushed, Anna was sometimes frustrating, the time travel aspect ended up being more paranormal than sci-fi

I wanted this book to be about a guy who had a time machine, went back in time, and slowly fell in love with a girl from 1995.

doctor-whoInstead, I got a book about a guy who can magically and inexplicably travel anywhere at any point of time within his lifetime, shows up in 1995 to look for his sister that he lost around this time when they went to a concert, and then falls in love crazy fast.

As I explained in my post about buying into romances, the relationship between Anna and Bennett happened before I even had the chance to root for them to become a couple. They had known each other for a few weeks, yes, but they have not talked much before Anna decides she’s ready to kiss him and date him (when hours before he had just yelled at her, though he did apologize for this). It felt unnatural to me, and even if some people (and notably teens) “fall in love” in a time frame I consider fast, it should at least feel like the character is falling in love, and not just mildly curious about the person,which was how it felt for me about Anna when she’s apparently actually more than mildly curious. And they haven’t been dating very long when they get crazy serious and decide that the decade plus separating them WILL NOT STOP THEIR FOREVER LOVE.

facepalm-gifThose were my main frustrations. For the most part, I liked Anna and Bennett. There were good secondary characters, including Anna’s parents (YES! Parents in a YA story! And good, involved parents at that!) and her friends. But most of it felt like surface stuff that could have been really great if explored deeper. For instance, Bennett has a rule about not using his gift to change “the big stuff” because of potential consequences. Anna talks him into changing something anyway (which was annoying), and close to the end of the novel we see a small, minor possible consequence of the change, but it was no where near the level I think it should have been in order to  really get the message across to Anna. The romance could have been better developed, and I wish there had been more about how Bennett was able to find his sister and how he was able to get back to Anna in the end.

Final verdict: It was an interesting idea but somewhat lacking.

3stars2Content Advisory: Mild language, kissing/making out

*EDIT on May 8, 2014* I don’t normally make edits like this, but in case anyone runs across this later, I wanted to include a link to Debby @ Snuggly Oranges’ review of Time Between Us, because she articulated some of my problems with the book very well.

Unremembered

by Jessica Brody

unrememberedWhile Unremembered did a better job of delivering on what I would consider an actual sci-fi plot, the romance was even more undeveloped than that of Time Between Us and the characters were completely unmemorable. 

Likes: Really interesting concepts, Sera’s foster family

Dislikes: Everything else fell flat

cillian-murphyThe plot, the details of the world, the plot twists were all interesting and held so much potential. Maybe it was something about me and my mood while I was reading this (these two books did have the misfortune of following up my reading of Cress), but nothing surprised me or shocked me in the slightest. Not that I had figured out everything (though I had figured out more than I think Jessica Brody would have wanted me to), but when something happened it was just like, Yeah, makes sense. Or, like Cillian Murphy up there, Uh huh. It was just like, I didn’t care. I mean, I cared enough to keep reading but I felt ALMOST NO EMOTION ABOUT ANYTHING. Seriously.

I was trying to figure out WHY, and the only thing I can figure is because I had zero connection with Seraphina or Zen, and the reason why I felt no connection to them is because they are extremely two-dimensional. Heck, Zen was one-dimensional. And I couldn’t care that the two had a relationship because of this.

Things I know about Seraphina: She is genetically engineered to be incredibly gorgeous and smart. She loves Zen, though she doesn’t remember most of her past with him. And she likes Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Things I know about Zen: He loves Seraphina and will do anything for her. And he likes Shakespeare’s sonnets.

And that is literally it. After over 300 pages that’s all I know about the two main characters. The character I felt I related with the most with Seraphina’s foster mom. We also learn more about Sera’s foster brother Cody than we do about her or Zen. It was sad when Seraphina left the family, and even though suddenly all this action was happening it was like…

dontcareAgain, I cared enough to keep reading. I can’t complain about a single plot element, but I have virtually no motivation to continue the series because everything fell flat and I got closure. At the end of the book, Sera and Zen are poised to go where they want to be. I can assume the story ends there, that they lived happily ever after. I know there’s going to be more of the bad guys coming to look for them but eh, oh well.

Final verdict: It was an interesting idea but somewhat lacking. (Yep, the same exact verdict as Time Between Us).

3stars2Content advisory: A couple of cuss words, some violence, some kissing

I liked both of these stories enough to give them 3 stars, but they both fell short of their potential for me. Overall I liked Time Between Us more, but I think Unremembered was actually a lot more interesting idea that just did nothing for me for whatever reason. Maybe I just should have read something in a completely different genre after Cress, I don’t know. I read these books because I thought about going to an event with these authors coming up, but now I don’t think I’m going to, largely because it’ll be inconvenient and I don’t have the incentive to buy hardbacks for either of these follow-ups to get signed (since I bought both of these as e-books).

What are your thoughts on Time Between Us and/or Unremembered? Did you like them more than I did? 

Re-watch Review: Star Wars, Episodes I-VI

My husband and I took a few weekends to re-watch all the Star Wars movies, and it was quite overdue for us to do so. The last time I remember re-watching any of the Star Wars films was when they re-released Episode I in 3D for the theater a couple of years ago. Yikes! I had kept putting it off when my husband suggested it because he wanted to watch them in story order, not filmed order, and I wasn’t exactly excited to see Jar Jar Binks. But I decided it had to be done and we finally got through them all.

darth-vader-and-son-toy-crop

By Jeffrey Brown

This re-watch really renewed my love for the original trilogy. I grew up watching the first three movies but  couldn’t keep much of it straight as far as what happened when, except I could remember the Ewoks made their appearance in the last movie. When Episode I released I was 12 years old, which was the perfect time for it to be released and for me to love it. I didn’t even hate Jar Jar. And that epic light saber battle with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul! I was so into it. Episode II: Attack of the Whiny Anakin Clones came out three years later, and then I was a senior in high school when they released Episode III, and I went to the midnight showing with my then-boyfriend-now-husband and a couple of others. By that point, I think my original love for Episode I had diminished some as my taste refined, but I just had to see what could very well be the last Star Wars movie ever at midnight.

There are some things I still like about the prequels, but overall, they definitely lack the charm of the original trilogy. The prequels often times get overshadowed by flashy effects (that aren’t really all that better than the original effects), lame dialogue, and stiff acting. And no one in the prequels has the charm of Han Solo.

hansolo-smileI’ve always liked Han Solo, but this re-watch made me like him a lot more. I think Carswell Thorne from Cress has something to do with this… but his quips! His expressions! Spot on every time! I liked Luke and Leia a lot more than I remembered as well.

In story order, my rating and mini review of each film… (BTW, there are spoilers, but if you haven’t watched Star Wars yet, what are you waiting for?!)

Episode I: The Phantom Menace: 3 stars

starwars-episodeII still have a bit of affinity for this one, I think because it was the first one that I got to see released to the theater (for its first time anyway) and I was just the right age when it released. I think Amidela is a strong and interesting character, and I also like Obi-Wan quite a bit.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones: 2.5 stars

starwars-episodeIII fell asleep during our rewatch of this one, and I didn’t care, because it’s my least favorite. The love story between Anakin and Padme is just so BLEH. Actually, it’s kind of icky. And Anakin is so annoying in it. The other story line with Obi-Wan was fine but yeah, this one just doesn’t offer much to me. Unfortunatley, I was asleep during the best part, when Yoda has his awesome light saber dual with Count Dooku.

Episode III: The Return of the Sith: 3.5 stars

starwars-episodeIIIEpisode III is definitely the strongest of the prequels, and I would have given it four stars if the acting in this one wasn’t so wooden. Seriously, it’s like they suddenly forgot how to. But this installment is a pretty powerful one. Just as Anakin starts becoming likable, he gets mixed in with Palpatine and he turns to the dark side. It’s heart-breaking. But Padme dying due to a lack of will to live… really? Having twins isn’t good enough of a reason to live?

Episode IV: A New Hope: 4 stars

star-wars-episode-ivA New Hope is a lot of fun, but it’s serious too. Luke loses the only family he has ever known, and this is what moves him to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi. The movie has its flaws, but I think it’s really, really good it is for its time. And there are so many great lines in this one, especially from Han!

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: 3.5 stars

star-wars-episode-vI do enjoy The Empire Strikes Back quite a bit, but it does feel just slightly transitional as the second movie in a trilogy. Still though, I can’t complain about much here. It’s still fun but serious and a good story all in one!

Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi: 4.5 stars

star-wars-episode-viThe Return of the Jedi is my long-time and all-time favorite. I’m not sure if it’s the Ewoks or the fact that it’s the happy conclusion or what, but I’ve always enjoyed this one the most. This time around I came to appreciate Luke’s overall story arc and how he stands up to Darth Vader in this one, but he also still recognizes the fact that he’s his father. I really wish he had chopped off Darth Sidious’ head, though watching Darth Vader throw him down was also pretty satisfying. Did I mention the Ewoks?

Now some of you might be thinking, Aren’t you this big self-proclaimed Trekkie?! Why yes I am, and who says you can’t love Star Trek and Star Wars? They’re very different. To me, Star Trek is a TV series that had some OK movies (I say OK to average out the range from truly awful to pretty awesome movies they have) that focuses on questions of humanity in our ever-changing times. Star Wars is a film franchise that tells the story of a family, of Jedis, of good versus evil. They are different and they are both good at what they do. Star Trek is my favorite, if I have to choose, because of the incredibly rich story arcs the shows offer me. I think the Star Wars films tell an overall great story, and I do think they are better movies than the Star Trek movies. And now, I’m really excited about Episode VII coming next year! I do hope J.J. does a better job with Star Wars than he did with Star Trek, but I think he will. He’s more of a Star Wars fanboy anyway. And I doubt he’ll do worse than Episode II.

patrick-stewart

Funny if you’re a geek. 🙂

What are your thoughts on Star Wars? Which movie is your favorite? Who’s your favorite character?

The Top Ten Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List. Is it just me, or is spring the shortest season ever? It technically starts in March and ends in June, but in Tennessee spring is basically a few random days in March, all of April, and the beginning of May. Then the summer heat comes and stays until usually October. Which believe me, I am not complaining about. I’ll take the heat over the cold any day. Anyhow, all that to say, I doubt I’ll read ten books this spring, and I doubt I’ll read all of these, as everything is always subject to change. But here are the next ten books I am at least aiming to read (list in order of when I will hypothetically read these books)…

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-oneDoes it count if it’s my current read? Well, I just started it. And it’s easier for me if I do, OK?

2. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

distant-hoursThis was loaned to me a couple of months ago and I have no interest in it, but I feel I just need to read it and return it. Who knows, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I hope so.

3. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheart-sandersonBecause I seriously need to read Brandon Sanderson and this has been patiently waiting in my Nook.

4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

statistical-probabilityI won this one almost a year ago and still haven’t read it. But I will read it this spring.

5. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

the-5th-waveI got this one for my birthday last year and still haven’t read it. And no, I didn’t make it #5 just to be funny.

6. Split Second by Kasie West

split-secondI don’t have this one in my possession yet, but I want to get it and read it soon!

7. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

screwtape-lettersBecause after a long kick of YA it’ll be good to delve into something completely different, and though I just got it for Christmas (thanks husband!), I’ve been meaning to read it FOREVER.

8. The Partials by Dan Wells

the-partialsI got this one for my birthday last year, and since the whole series is out now, there’s really no reason to wait any longer to read it!

9. & 10. Wildcard Possibilities…

possiblespringbooks

springTBRThis is a total cheat, but there are a number of books that I have been thinking about checking out from the library, and these are among them, so it’s very possible I might read two of any of these books. Or something completely different, you know.

What’s on your spring TBR list? 

Review: Almost Human, Season One

In a not-so-distant future, human cops and androids partner up to protect and serve. – from IMDB

almost-human1Almost Human is a sci-fi show that just finished up its first season on Fox with a 13 episode run, and I am hoping and crossing all my fingers and toes that it won’t be the last season, but with it being on the bubble, I am aware of the unfortunate possibility. I just want MORE! More of these great characters, more of this interesting world with its developing technology, and more of the hinted at story arcs. Why did Valerie, a genetically engineered “Chrome” decide to become a cop? What makes Dorian so much more special than all the other DRN models that Captain Maldonado reactivated him for duty to work with Kennex? What happened with Anna and why is she listening in on Kennex? And what in the world is on the other side of The Wall?! Why is it there in the first place? I need to know!

If I had to describe Almost Human in my own words, I would say it’s a detective bromance set in a future where crimes evolve with the technology and the lines between man and android are sometimes blurred. Karl Urban, starring as the main character John Kennex, is perfect in his role. If you love Dr. McCoy from the new Star Trek movies (and seriously, who doesn’t?!)…

vulcan-mindThen you’ll love Kennex…

cat-issuesAnd Michael Ealy is perfectly paired with Urban as his android partner who has been programmed with “synthetic soul,” which makes him more human than the more generic models of androids. He is always delivering perfectly-timed quips and enjoys giving Kennex a hard time, and he also has more serious moments when he reflects on humanity in ways that Kennex cannot.

I enjoyed the rest of the main cast as well, and in 13 episodes, we definitely did not get enough of them. I want to learn more about each of their characters, and all the actors/actresses, in addition to the great writing, are responsible for that.

AH-secondarycast

Minka Kelly/ Mackenzie Crook/ Lili Taylor

I can see the reasons why Almost Human may not have gained popularity, despite how much I truly enjoyed it. For starters, it can’t seem to decide if it wants to episodic or serial, which can be frustrating for people who prefer one sort of show over the other. Each week there is a new case, but there are also several mentions sprinkled in that hint at an overall storyline or, even more frustratingly, seem super important and make you think it will be addressed in the next episode, but then it’s not. Because of this, audiences who learned not to rely on these supposed important plot points may not make an effort to tune in every week, and then those who prefer the episodic nature might still do the same, because they’re not looking for a week-to-week story arc.

What was also super frustrating was that Fox decided to air the episodes out of order, so one week Kennex and Dorian would be buddy-buddy, and the next week Kennex would be ready to throw Dorian out of the window from frustration. The development of the characters and the story did not make much sense in the order the episodes were shown.

There’s also the fact that it was just not given enough time for word to properly get around about the show. Those who love Fringe (which by the way, I think spent its first season with some of the same struggles as Almost Human, but then found its feet and improved) and similar shows would really enjoy Almost Human, and they just may not have discovered it yet. Perhaps it is a niche target audience, but I think there are people who would like it who might not think to seek it out. Words like “sci-fi” and “androids” may make the show seem heady or out there, but the show really is about being human. And can’t we all relate to that?

One of my favorite episodes, “Perception,” was ultimately about a teen girl trying to live up to her mother’s potential, and how far someone is willing to go for the vindication of someone they love. There might be talk of genetically engineered humans and printed drugs in the process, but ultimately, the story is about people.

The season finale was not dramatic, it did not raise many more questions, and there was not a cliffhanger. They left the Kennex-Dorian relationship in a satisfying place, I think in case that if this was it, at least their relationship would have closure. But there is still so much left to be explored.

I really believe in the potential of this show. I hope Fox will too. I want more Almost Human!

Did you watch the first season of Almost Human? What were your thoughts on it? 

Buying Into Romances

I don’t know if I’m picky or cynical or have just been reading too many YA books, but lately I’ve had trouble buying into some romances presented to me in books. I feel like President Snow as I read, saying…

convince-meHere’s what I’ve noticed generally doesn’t work for me…

Instalove or insta-attraction that becomes too serious too quickly.

shortstoryaboutloveIn my latest read Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, the characters are attracted to each other pretty instantly. OK, I’m fine with that. But they very quickly go from “attracted to each other but have barely talked” to “I LOVE YOU FOREVER!” I didn’t even have time to root for them to become a couple before they were one, much less before they started declaring undying love to one another. I’ll go into more details in a forthcoming review, but this bugged me a little and while I didn’t dislike the romance, I didn’t invest in it or care about it the way I believe the author wanted me to.

The characters are just unlikable.

I think this is pretty self-explanatory. If I don’t care about one or both characters, I’m not going to care about the romance.

Badly done love triangles.

bones-throw-upWhat’s worse than a love triangle? A love triangle that ends badly, especially evident when the character chooses the wrong romantic interest. Boo hiss.

Examples: the Matched trilogy and The Maze Runner trilogy.

There is zero tension between the two leading up to a moment.

This sort of goes back to my first reason. There is not what feels like a proper build-up to “The Moment,” be it a kiss, a declaration, whatever. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel earned.

Example: Cia and Tomas in The Testing. “Oh, hey friend! Oh, you like me? Oh, OK, I guess I like you too…”

fauxlivia-uncertainThe couple just seems like an odd match.

You know when couples just don’t seem to completely “fit” together? Then it’s hard to buy their romance.

Their thoughts and actions just don’t seem to add up to love. 

Of course, I think this is the base of most unbelievable romances. Saying you love someone doesn’t mean you love them, especially if it’s clear you don’t respect them or care about them more than you care about yourself.

Grumpy-cat-no1Some other examples of romances I found to be just okay due to a variety of these reasons…

– Lilac and Tarver from These Broken Stars. I know this is an extremely unpopular opinion, and I didn’t dislike their relationship entirely. But (1) I had no problem believing they were quickly attracted to each other but (2) they seemed to have nothing in common even (3) after they went through a dangerous situation together, though I could believe in some sort of relationship but they (4) quickly jumped into that I’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US NO ONE CAN STOP ME talk. I just didn’t buy it. They were in stressful circumstances that lead to these sudden intense feelings and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they broke up sometime after the book. I wasn’t excited about them getting together because I just didn’t see it panning out. It probably helped I didn’t love either of the characters entirely.

– Kate and Sean from The Scorpio Races. I don’t dislike their romance at all, it might be my favorite among these examples, but what was supposed to be a slow burn felt more like “hey we’re hardly talking” to “hey we’ve talked a couple of times” to “oh hey, let’s kiss” to “we’re a work in progress.” I would like to have seen 3 and 4 reversed here. I like that their relationship isn’t fast and passionate, but I don’t feel there’s enough tension leading up to the first kiss. It’s like the author decided, “Oh characters kiss when they’re into each other so I should insert it here instead of waiting about five more chapters when it feels earned.”

– Lynn and Eli in Not a Drop to Drink. Lynn meets Eli, and there’s an attraction between them, and very quickly they’re flirting (though Lynn knows like nothing about flirting) and then they’re spooning and right then was when it stopped feeling like a natural progression of a relationship. It also doesn’t help that Lynn is kind of unlikable and I can never get a real read for her emotions.

– Tris and Tobias in the Divergent trilogy. They’re instantly attracted to each other. OK. They start a relationship, and it moves a little quickly. I still managed to be somewhat on board until the end of Divergent. Everything unraveled for me and their relationship in Insurgent and Allegiant. They are prime examples of their actions not matching up with their declarations of love. They lie to each other, they don’t trust each other, and they don’t fully respect each other. No, no, no. Bad romance. (And I don’t mean Lady Gaga).

Alright Picky Amy, then what do you want?

let-me-love-you– A slow buildup with tension (it can be negative or positive tension). Example: Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice

– A couple that is clearly good for each other and can trust one another. Example: Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games

– A focus on character and personality as basis of attraction and love over attraction based solely on looks. Example: Addie and Trevor in Pivot Point

– Believable moments that bring the couple together. Example: Anne and Wentworth in Persuasion, Elliot and Kai in For Darkness Shows the Stars

– Two very likable characters. Example: Thorne and Scarlet in Cress, Persis and Justen in Across a Star-Swept Sea

What does it take to convince you of a romance in a story? What are the ones you buy the most and which do you not buy at all?

Review: I Spy, Season Two

See my review for I Spy, Season One here. I Spy is an action-adventure TV series from the 196os that focuses on Alexander “Scotty” Scott (played by Bill Cosby) and Kelly Robinson (played by Robert Culp), who pose as a tennis player and his trainer, but are actually secret agents for the U.S. government.

i-spy-season2What I love about season two of the show is that the characters are already established, as well as their friendship, so we dive right into new stories with the two. I felt there was a more diverse range of locations this season, from Italy to California to Spain. Kelly’s still picking up women left and right, but he’s also smoking a lot more, and Scotty’s about as straight-laced as ever, though he gets to loosen up some this season. I also found the season to be overall more political, espousing American ideals and speaking out against Communism quite a bit. There is a blend of serious episodes with more fun, romp-like episodes, and while I have a lot of appreciation for the serious ones (minus the ones that the late Robert Culp wrote, because with all due respect to him, they weren’t that great), I generally preferred the fun ones (unless they were trying to be fun and then weren’t, particularly an episode involving an Italian boy named Gino…).

scott&kelly

Episode Stand-Outs

The first episode I enjoyed a lot was “One of Our Bombs Is Missing,” in which Kelly and Scotty have to recover an A-bomb from an American military aircraft that crashed in Italy. There was a colorful cast of side characters that made this one enjoyable, including a man trying to hook Kelly up with his daughter (who he insists is a very good cook) and a priest.

oneofourbombsOne episode where I found the premise intriguing and would like to see done in a more modern way was “Father Abraham.” A very young rocket scientist has volunteered to be tortured and give false information to some bad guys (probably Russian Communists, but I don’t remember for certain) all to win the approval of his father. Part of me found it far-fetched, and yet, it really was intriguing because the character himself was an enigma to me, and I don’t know how to explain why. I suppose because he seemed so young, early to mid-twenties, and was a fairly attractive guy who could probably find a lady to settle down with and live a normal life, but he chose this whole other, dangerous path. I think it could be a great movie or book, and that it could expound so much more than this episode could.

fatherabraham“Child Out of Time” was interesting in that is focuses on an extremely bright girl who ends up an orphan. With this episode, I found her character more interesting than the actual story. She kept these secrets that her mother had memorized, valuable information that many people wanted, but once that’s given away, there’s nothing left for her except to go live with some nuns. She was the sort of character that I wanted to know more about (like the guy from the aforementioned episode), and it would be interesting to find out how she was doing ten years later. She formed a sweet friendship with Scotty, and I really hope he kept in touch with her.

childoutoftime

The last one I really enjoyed was “Night Train to Madrid,” a story that feels like an Agatha Christie novel, yet is almost light-hearted in some ways. It was definitely a good murder mystery story, and it almost entirely takes place on a night train ride.

nighttraintomadrid

Groundbreaking For Its Time

As I mentioned in my season one review, this series was groundbreaking for the time, with some really great on-location shots, political commentary, and a black man and a white man working together as equals on screen (and that black man, Bill Cosby, won 3 Emmy awards for his 3 years on the show). I have to say that this show and Star Trek both did a lot for 1960s television.

But Not Perfect…

Unfortunately, women were a bit objectified at times in the series, especially in the two episodes Culp wrote for the season. I don’t even consider myself a feminist, but most of the girls were air-headed and willing to abandon everything for a man, or pig-headed but still willing to abandon everything for a man who completely disagrees with their philosophy. Thankfully, they weren’t all that way and some were actually very capable and not annoying.

Also, sometimes I am amazed by how incompetent Kelly and Scotty can be, getting captured, people figure out who they really are, or them not being armed when really, they should be at all times. But there are also times they are completely competent and get the job done!

And Speaking of Star Trek (as I was, uh, a paragraph ago)…

There are several Star Trek actors that made an appearance in this season of I Spy, from Walter Koenig (you may know him as Chekov) to Ricardo Montalban (who you may as the original KHAN!!!!) to Salmone Jens (who was an awesome character in I Spy, but less so as the Female Changeling in Deep Space Nine). There are others (mostly people who played much smaller roles in Star Trek), and it was always fun to discover someone from Star Trek on I Spy. Oh, and Opie Taylor made an appearance too!

i_spy_vera_ricardo_montalban

ron-howard-ispy-cropOverall, it was good, and though there were a few clunkers, it was a stronger season than the first. My husband and I hope to be able to get a hold of season three sometime, but unfortunately for some reason it’s a bit pricier than the other two. I’d give I Spy season two 3.5 stars.

3.5starsIt’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of spy stuff and/or Bill Cosby.

Anyone else a fan of I Spy? 

New Writing Goals!

As many of you know, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time this past November. It was hard, but such a worthwhile experience. I exceeded the 50,000 word goal and even completed the first draft of a brand new novel ALL IN ONE MONTH. Considering that the first novel I wrote took, uh, years, I was floored I was even capable of that, even if a lot of what I wrote needed to be reworked, revised, rewritten, or flat out deleted. But at only 51K, I knew my story was still a little underdeveloped and I would need to beef it up. I stepped away from my story in December but finally came back to it in January, though I didn’t add much until these past few weeks.

Now this is where I’m at:

end-word-count-earthboundIt feels good to have 10,000 more words that my November goal, and to feel my story has some more of the development it needed. It still needs work, and I am very aware of this. I have decided to spend the rest of March writing and revising as much as I can stand, and deciding who the very first beta readers are going to be that I will send it to, the ones I trust will read through the crap and see the good stuff and tell me where to expound on the good and get rid of the bad.

Then for April I have decided I will reset my sights to something new…

camp-nanoCamp NaNoWriMo is run by the same folks who run the November event, but it’s done in either April or July, and you set your own word count goal ranging from 10,000 – 999,999 (for the record, pretty sure I’ll never be able to do the latter for one story! Especially in one month!). You can’t tell from my profile page here, but I have decided to set a goal of 20,000 words, which after what I did in November is extremely doable, but is also more than I generally do in a month. It averages to 5,000 words a week, which helps break it down into smaller, even more doable goals.

As you can see, the title is “TBD,” meaning I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet. I do know it will be one of my older ideas that I’ve started but not gotten very far with, and I think I know which one I’m leaning towards, but I can also change my mind over the next few weeks.

After April, hopefully my 2-3 beta readers will have suggestions to help me dive back into revising Earthbound (my project from November), and I’ll probably rework that and go through more beta readers again before I get back to what I write in April. But after what NaNoWriMo did for me, I can’t ignore that setting these goals for myself and having the chance to mark these milestones really works for me, much more than when I’m just trying to write willy-nilly, and so I want to do it again to get the ball rolling on another story.

If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo in April, let me know! I was thinking about doing the cabin thing but want  to request cabin mates I know!