My Feels for The Hunger Games Are REAL: My THG Reread & Mockingjay Part 2 Review

*Warning: Spoilers!*

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I’m really glad I decided to pick up this series again in preparation for the last movie (so sad!). When I read the trilogy for the first time in 2012, none of the movies had come out yet (though they had been cast). My only spoiler was that I had heard one of the male characters died, and I was so worried the whole time it was going to be Peeta (I realized later the reference was to Finnick). I adored him and wanted what was best for him, so I spent all of Mockingjay SO STRESSED. But this time, I was able to appreciate Katniss’ journey even more (though I liked her a lot in my first read too, obviously, since I named my blog after her)..

The first read of the series, for me, was all about the characters. This second time around, it was about the overall story, particularly its themes of war and PTSD.

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In my initial read, The Hunger Games was my favorite read of the trilogy. After rereading, I think Catching Fire might actually be my new favorite, but I will not deny that this is most likely influenced by the movie, as it is also my favorite of the movies (which I can say for certain now that I have seen Mockingjay Part Two). The nice thing about Catching Fire is that we already know the main characters and the world, but we get some new secondary characters and we delve deeper into what leads to the rebellion. Also, Katniss’s interactions with Peeta are more genuine.

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The first time I read Mockingjay, I pretty much hated it until the last page before the epilogue. The pacing seemed off and I was so concerned about poor Peeta’s state. This time, I was more relaxed and able to appreciate the book more, but at the end I was amazed that despite the fact that Katniss and Peeta end up together and even have a family, the whole thing still feels downright tragic. Not in a hopeless way, otherwise I wouldn’t care for these books the same way, but she loses her sister, her mother, her best friend, basically loses her mentor, and several others in her life – some through death and some due to purposeful distance (or in the case of Haymitch, he continues to lose himself to the bottle). No one comes out of this in good shape, and that’s scary. But sometimes, that’s real life. But we see that good can still come out of it.

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I know not everyone loved the first Mockingjay movie, but I have a deep appreciation for it, and my feelings are the same for the second one. They’re hard movies because we see Katniss struggling so much, see the dirty underbelly of war, see the horrors of manipulation and PTSD. And I appreciated some of the changes they made in the films, few as they were.

In the final Mockingjay installment, we get a little more closure with Effie. Haymitch seems to be in at least a slighter better state than he did in the book. And in the scene where Katniss asks Gale about the bombs, you know with certainty when she says, “Goodbye Gale,” she means goodbye forever. That hit me much harder than his sudden disappearance in the book.

And after everything has gone down and she returns to Twelve, we get the scene with Buttercup and then we see little flashes of her starting her life over again. I actually would have liked more of this, but the movie was already bordering on too long of an ending (due to staying faithful to the book in so many ways, I might add) so I forgive it. Katniss hunts, Peeta returns, and they start to spend time together. And at the very end they have apparently ended up in the same house, because she leaves her bed to come into his room to crawl into bed with him. I was a little sad we didn’t get one more kiss when she finally admits she loves him, but it was sweet nonetheless.

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Neither the books nor the movies pulled any punches, but I think that is a large reason why this is a story that will continue to endure. It carries themes and warnings that we can all take to heart.

What are your thoughts on the last Hunger Games movie, or the books and movies in general?

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Double Book & Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As you may recall, I am reading Harry Potter FOR THE FIRST TIME and then watching the corresponding movie after each book. So far, I really enjoyed books 1 & 3, thought 2 was decent but felt it suffered from being formulaic, and that I have not been overly thrilled with any of the movie adaptations, but the third has been my least favorite of those so far.

Now I have great news: So far, The Goblet of Fire is my favorite Harry Potter book AND movie!

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The Book

gr-goblet-of-fireThis is when the books start getting long, 700+ pages, and I can’t deny that it was intimidating (my longest read last year was 562 pages). However, I hoped with a longer book we would get a lot more details and action. I won’t say that 700+ pages delivered significantly more than the previous books with only 300ish pages in terms of how much happened (well, before the really intense stuff, obviously), but the pacing was usually on point (I did find it lagging or sort of odd in a few spots), and I did like the development. And just like Azkaban, those last few chapters were like OMGOMGOMG for me. I mean seriously, when a certain person met a certain fate and crap was going down I’m pretty sure I said something out loud, like WHAT, or ARE YOU SERIOUS, or who knows what, but the point is I was really into it. It was the point I feel I have been waiting for, that turning point in the series everyone talks about. The book has some flaws, but I really loved this story and just devoured that ending.

5stars2Also, Hermione is still my favorite. She’s so much more reasonable than everyone else.

hermione-gobletoffireThe Movie

gobletoffireThank goodness, finally, the script didn’t feel strange! There were several added lines that were seriously funny, I liked the addition of more Neville, the omission of the house elves and their subplot, and the things that were changed or condensed actually made sense this time (except I think we could have used a few more minutes of The World Cup and The Dark Mark stuff at the beginning. I like that we skipped the Dursleys entirely though!).

You know what else didn’t feel strange? The directing! I think maybe only once I thought someone was staged awkwardly, and it was far less egregious than the previous movies.  I mean seriously, despite my production background, I only think about the direction of a movie/show if it truly stands out, either for being awful or for being great, and the Harry Potter movies have made me think way too much about directing in a not good way. Until now, finally. I know the director changes yet again so I hope I will be as happy with the last few films as I was with this one. At the very least, maybe the screenwriter is finally getting the hang of adapting the books to script.

I will say that this movie gets a 4 for being a worthy adaptation, but I feel I can’t give it higher since it can’t replace the book and I don’t know how many times I would rewatch it on its own.4stars2Alright, The Order of the Phoenix is next, about an extra 100 pages, and I know stuff is just going to keep going down. Bring on the action, the drama, and the teenage angst (seriously, these kids are starting to get moody)!

What are your thoughts on The Goblet of Fire (book and/or movie)?

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

In case you’ve been living underneath a trapdoor guarded by a 3-headed dog, or you know, are just new to my blog, you should know that before August I HAD NEVER READ A HARRY POTTER BOOK.

harry-potterWell, this has now been remedied and I can gladly say that I really enjoyed the first installment and look forward to reading more!

HARRY-POTTER-AND-THE-SORCERERS-STONEI knew that the first book of the series was going to feel a bit younger than my usual fare, and though I am glad I have these expectations, I think I would have been fine just expecting what I normally get from reading YA. Yes, it does feel younger, but there is so much richness in the story itself that helps you look over the more simplistic writing style. And simplistic writing generally does not bother me as long as I can get into the story. I was also told that the story doesn’t really pick up until book 3, but what I was hoping to see in this book was potential for the epicness everyone talks about when they talk about Harry Potter, and I did see that.

The World-Building

I think J.K. Rowling did a very good job of establishing how the world of wizardry works within the world we work, and everything unfolded very naturally as Harry is learning along with us. I really loved reading about Diagon Alley and the different shops there specifically for wizard things.

The Characters

I know how much everyone loves the characters of Harry Potter, (particularly Harry, Ron and Hermione) and while I didn’t connect with them on some amazing deep level, again, I definitely saw the potential of connecting with them more and more as the series goes on and they face new challenges and grow older. I mean, they’re 11 in this first book. It’s been a long time since I was 11. But I liked them and I look forward to experiencing this journey with them. And I could definitely relate to Hermione the perfectionist, though she’s even more anal than I was in school! hermione

Hogwarts

Hogwarts itself is a pretty awesome setting, and I know everything in the books won’t take place there, but I’m looking forward to spending more time there! More Quidditch matches, please; what an interesting sport!

The Story

In addition to an interesting world and likable characters, the story also kept me engaged. And I have to say, I was just surprised as Harry at the end when he realized what exactly was going on! I was always excited to pick up the book and dig deeper into the storyline.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone met all my expectations and did not disappoint me! It definitely felt like a beginning and it did not have quite the awe of a 5 star book, but I was extremely satisfied with my first time reading it and feel it deserves a solid 4.5 stars!

4-5stars-editTell me your favorite thing about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! Or share your experience with reading the book for the first time. Or if you haven’t read Harry Potter yet either, did I pique your interest? 

Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

(Note: I think it goes without saying that there will be Lizzie Bennet Diaries GIFs below…)

When I found out that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries web series was turning into a book, this was my reaction:

lizzie-partyBut I admit, I was also slightly skeptical, because can you really write a solid book based on a web series based on a classic novel. Well, I think The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet pulled it off pretty well.

There were a few things that prevented this from getting a 5-star rating from me, and I’ll list those up front.

collins-multiplepointsFirst: this feels like a companion to the web series. I don’t think you should really go into reading this without knowing The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or at the very least Pride and Prejudice (but even then… it’s better to know the series). I would have liked to have seen it stand on it’s own a little better. Also, I was disappointed in some character moments that weren’t in the web series that felt unnecessary in the book. I’m not going to go into details, but some of it just didn’t really ring true for me.

Lastly, while it felt mostly consistent with the web series, it didn’t ALWAYS. There’s at least one instance that became really obvious when I decided to watch one of the episodes (I watched a few as I read the book, just to see how they played out in both and because I felt like it :)), in which Lizzie got her new phone. In the book, it’s emphasized that her phone started acting up after it was dropped on the marina pier on her day with Darcy and Gigi, but in the web series it sounded like her phone had been acting up for a while and she finally got a new one when her contract came up for renewal. Maybe it shouldn’t have bothered me so much, but considering that in the Q&A in the back the authors emphasized the importance of consistency between the two, I found that to be a little too inconsistent.

lizzie-researchHowever, I hate that that bothered me so much because the day where she hung out with Darcy and Gigi in the book (and was not described in the web series) was so cute and left me wanting more of those interactions! But then, of course, things got crazy with the whole Lydia thing. And thankfully, “the Lydia instance” felt a lot more balanced in the book. In the web series I think they dragged it out for weeks, which felt really disproportionate to other plot points in the series, so I appreciated less emphasis on it, yet still making the important points of what everyone learned from it.

lydia-lizzieThis book made me chuckle out loud a lot, which is also a definite high point for any book. (Though there wasn’t enough Lydia-isms or Fitz for me!) I think Lizzie venting about Catherine de Bourgh amused me the most.

fitz-lizzie-debourghAnd of course anything that showed more of Darcy was a plus, like the aforementioned day out with him and Gigi, as well as his letter to Lizzie. I do wish we had gotten more than just a couple of video transcripts about Lizzie and Darcy’s big moments on camera, and got more of her elaboration on them, though.

darcy-lizzie-touchI did feel like there was some additional insight and characterization to Lizzie, which I liked. I learned that she prefers a classic wardrobe over trends (which I think is obvious in the videos), that she drives a Honda Civic (me too!), that she majored in English for her undergraduate degree, and why she chose new media communications as her course of study for graduate school. Of course, I related to a lot of this which was largely why I liked these new tidbits! 🙂

Though both the web series and the novel have a couple of low points for me, overall, the novel is just as totes adorbs as the series overall! If you’re a fan, it’s definitely worth checking out!

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4stars2Content advisory: A few instances of mild/moderate language, and mentions of sex but nothing graphic and no sex scenes. 

What are your thoughts of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet? 

Review: Seraphina

Seraphina is like a YA sleeper hit. You don’t see a lot of blog buzz and hype about it, probably mostly because it was published in 2012. But if you look on Goodreads, you’re going to see that your friends who have read it most likely love it.

When I finished Parallel, and I found myself in the surprising situation of not having an idea of what I wanted to read next. (I always know what I want to read next.) I was trying to be a good girl and consider something on my shelves, but I also searched the library’s website for e-books and see if there were any that caught my interest and were available immediately without a wait (which is pretty rare, but happens sometimes). When I saw that Seraphina was available, I thought I ought to go for it. Shadow and Bone had really piqued my interest and I was ready to explore more fantasy (especially after a contemporary, even if it did have sci-fi in it), so I downloaded it.

The fact that right after I finished I wished that I owned a copy and that I could re-read it right then means it was pretty special.

GR-seraphinaBut I do have a couple of small complaints, so I want to get those out of the way…

What’s My Motivation?

Actually, the real question is: what was Seraphina’s motivation? About 100 pages in I realized I had no idea what Seraphina’s goal for the story was, thus I had no idea where the story needed to go. She was trying to blend in and not stick out too much, and then Orma was trying to find out about his father/her grandfather, but it wasn’t real clear-cut to me exactly what the plot was. That made it just a little off for me and made the beginning seem slowish (not too much so because I was engaged the whole time, but I felt like I was waiting to find out what the book was about).

toothlessSo Many People, Places, Terms…

So I realized once I finished the book (which again, was an e-book) that there was a cast of characters and a glossary in the back. That would have been useful to use throughout since I ended up confused many times about who a minor character was exactly again (they don’t have the easiest names) or what a certain term meant. I did read it after the fact and that helped some, but if I read it again (and in paperback!) I will definitely utilize these tools to help me appreciate the story even more!

But here’s what I loved

You Get Thrown Right Into the World

Wait, dragons can become people? Uh, okay, awesome! For the most part, you can figure things out as the story unfolds and there is really only added backstory/narrative occasionally, which I really appreciated.

Seraphina and Kiggs!

I loved them individually! I loved their friendship! I loved their *wanting more*!

astrid&hiccupThe Ending

It felt right, and it left me wanting more without leaving me at a cliffhanger. And good news, another Seraphina book is expected to come out next year so I’ll get the more that I want! Yay!

Basically, I don’t know what to say. The story is interesting and I just fell in love with the world and the people, and I especially loved Seraphina and Kiggs, and want more of them. This are no adequate words for this review. I had a couple issues (one that could easily have been resolved, so really just one) but overall, it was just great. Just read it.

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4-5stars-edit

Content advisory: Some mild language, most of which was the correct usage of the word b-stard. 

Have you read Seraphina? What are your thoughts? If not, what are you waiting for?!

Review: Ready Player One

Things I knew about Ready Player One before I started reading it…

– It takes place in the future

– Something about video games or something

– 80’s references

– Everyone loves it

I was very curious to see how all these things would play out together.

synopsisIn the year 2044, the real world is in a dire place, but many people escape via OASIS, the basically free virtual reality simulation. One of the creators of OASIS, James Halliday, died a few years before our story begins, and in his will he degrees that his fortunes shall be left with whoever is able to find the “Easter egg” he embedded within his creation. After years of searching though, no one has even been able to uncover the first of the three keys that are essential in finding the egg. When down-on-his-luck Wade Watts finds the first key, everything changes.

thoughts2This really was a very interesting read. The world-building was great, though we were occasionally given big info dumps, they were still more fascinating than annoying. I really felt like I understood the world of OASIS as well as I could, and I could see the appeal of OASIS, but also its pitfalls. I also found the idea of subcultures within OASIS interesting, but we pretty much only see that of the gunters, those on hunt for Halliday’s egg, like our MC Wade Watts.

Wade was not the most likable character, which was a little difficult for me at times since being a character-driven reader. I was able to sympathize with him, as he had a cruddy home life and he was loyal to his friends (all two of them), but he and I would definitely never be friends. His worldview is so vastly different from mine and early on in the book, when Wade went on a tagent I thought the book as a whole would suffer for it (at least for me personally) because I was afraid it was part of an agenda by the author. But it never felt that way again throughout the book, and Wade grew on me somewhat… though I still would not be his friend. And besides, he grew up in a vastly different way than I did, and idolized everything James Halliday did. I can’t expect him to think or act like me.

I liked some of the secondary characters better, especially Art3mis, who was definitely my favorite. Though she certainly wasn’t perfect either. I liked Aech fairly well too, and it was really fun meeting Ogden.

quotes-readyplayeroneEven though I am not a gamer, I did find all the gaming aspects of the book interesting and fun (though tiring to think about! I could never get into it to the extent that Wade did). All the sci-fi and 80’s references in OASIS (which are there because Halliday incorporated them) were fun too, even if I didn’t understand all of them completely.

There were a lot of good twists in the story as well; I was frequently surprised. When I thought the story was going one direction it would suddenly turn and go somewhere else, so it always felt fresh. I really appreciated that.

The world within OASIS and outside of it felt largely realistic (though the outside world was sadly quite grim and I really hope it’s not so bad by 2044), though the timeline quickly feels outdated with OASIS said to be announced in 2014, AKA this year. I was shocked to read that, considering this book was just published in 2011. Still, I could see something like OASIS existing in the not too distant future.

GR-readyplayeroneOverall this book has such an interesting premise and story, and I would definitely recommend it, but I do have one very big complaint, and that is some of the content, primarily language. I generally try to stay away from books with strong language, so this book had more f-bombs than I was bargaining for. The absolute worst was when Wade told someone to go f a duck, which is not even remotely funny if you’ve read Unbroken, and I’ll just leave it at that. For most people though, it probably won’t be too bad, at least the words were fairly spread out, and thankfully not too many of these words were being strung together in one sentence. Also, Wade spends a brief amount of time talking about masturbation, and while it doesn’t get graphic, it’s still uncomfortable and really quite unnecessary.

I had to consider the content factor and the less likable main character in my rating, but overall the story was so original and intriguing, and the book had a great closing line, so giving it 4 stars feels just right to me.

4stars2What are your thoughts on Ready Player One? Was there a particular reference you were happy to see? (Star Trek references for the win for me!) 

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Since I saw the first Captain America movie, I knew Captain America was going to be my favorite of the Avengers. I mean, he’s such a gentleman! And he hails from the 1940’s, one of my favorite time periods in history! And Peggy Carter! Oh, I adored her too! But then, spoiler if you haven’t seen the first movie, when Steve crashes and he ends up asleep in ice for decades, of course this separates him and Peggy. SO sad! We saw him adjust to his new life in The Avengers, but we see more in The Winter Soldier.

winter-soldierFirst, my shorter, non-spoliery thoughts on the movie. I will always love the period feel of the first Captain America movie, but I do believe this was a better film. There is some great character development, the stakes are high, and there was a lot added to the overarching storyline of SHIELD. Steve has a bit of an identity crisis, but he works through and continues to act on what he knows is right, and there was never a heavy-handed *STEVE HAS FOUND HIMSELF* moment, but I think he did find his place in the end. This is a great movie for secondary characters as well with Nick Fury, Natasha/Black Widow, and Sam Wilson/The Falcon (a new character) all getting good screen time and moments in the film. If you’re a fan of the Marvel universe, I think you’ll really enjoy this latest installment.

4-5stars-editNow for the longer review, complete with spoilers…

So first off, the TV show Agents of SHIELD has clearly been setting up for what happened in this movie, and if you haven’t been watching it, I can only imagine that Fury showing Steve the message “SHIELD has been compromised” had to take you for an absolute loop. But on the show, we’ve been catching wind of something amiss. Now the exacts of it were definitely still surprising, to find out that SHIELD has been infiltrated by Hydra for decades reminded me of the movie Salt and was really surprising to me. Also, Agents of SHIELD has featured Agent Sitwell from time to time, so to find out in this movie that he’s with Hydra was a big deal, whereas it wouldn’t have been had I not been watching the show. So for the folks who gave up on the show or never gave it a chance, it’s gotten better, and now it’s clearly tying in with the movies. WATCH IT!

captain-america-hospitalI liked that Nick Fury and Black Widow had larger roles in this movie. I was curious to see how Steve and Natasha would work as a team since they’re so different, but they worked well together. I loved how Steve actually took Fury’s advice to trust no one and was skeptical of Natasha until she proved herself. And I love that they team up with Sam Wilson, a military veteran who Steve meets turns out to be quite skilled in his own way.

Captain-America-2-The-FalconI think most Marvel fans knew going into the movie that The Winter Soldier is, in fact, Steve’s old friend Bucky Barnes, who was experimented on (Steve rescues him from an operating table in the first movie, in case you have forgotten), and somehow was able to survive his nasty fall and then be turned into this villain of The Winter Soldier. I did hear one moviegoer in the theater with me audibly gasp once we finally get a good luck at Bucky’s face, and I could tell Steve certainly felt a gut punch in that moment as he realized it too. He tries to reason with his old friend, though it’s clear he does know who Steve is, but then at the very end, when he’s trying to figure it out… wow. I wonder if that’ll come back up. Marvel doesn’t seem to have arbitrary scenes in their movies though, so I’m thinking it must be important. That’ll be interesting.

winter-soldier-buckyNow, let’s talk about Peggy Carter. SHE’S IN THE MOVIE! (Hopefully you already knew that, if you’re down here reading the spoilery stuff.) We find out that she did marry a few years after Steve “died,” which is understandable, and we also find out that Steve has reconnected with her, and she is now of course elderly and living in some sort of assisted living or nursing home. At first it was really sweet as we watched the two of  them talk like old friends, and I was so happy for some kind of closure with her and Steve, but then suddenly she got confused and was like, “Steve! You’re alive!” and oh my heart broke. Dementia. Uh it was so sad! Hasn’t poor Steve suffered enough?! And then we never got to see the two of them together again after that scene. It doesn’t detract too much from the movie, really, I just wish we could have ended on a better note with the two of them. But kudos to whoever did the makeup job on Haley Atwell because WOW, it looked so real.

Also speaking of Peggy, it’s clear Steve still cares for her, but he knows he needs to be open to meeting 21st century girls. But when Natasha asks Steve if she’s his first kiss since 1945 and he says no, I’m like, seriously?! He’s spent the whole movie acting like he has not been socializing with ladies and then suddenly he’s been kissing them? I don’t buy it. I’m just pretending that line doesn’t exist, or that he was being so sarcastic I couldn’t tell, because it didn’t feel in character. Maybe I care too much about my belief that Steve was a true, chivalrous romantic, but yeah, that line about the kissing is definitely not in my personal head canon.

captain-america-black-widowNeedless to say, I really enjoyed a lot about this movie and thought it was very solid. And I’m really curious to see the next Agents of SHIELD episode (which I am about 99% positive is going to be aftermath of this movie) on Tuesday, as well as see what’s in store for this ever-changing universe.

What are your thoughts on Captain America: The Winter Soldier? 

 

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.

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Funny if you’re a geek. 🙂

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

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?