Top 10 Tuesday: In Another Time…

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Historical Settings You Love/ Ten Historical Settings You’d Love To See or Top Futuristic Books You Love/Ten Futuristic Societies I’d Love To Read in Books. I wanted to do a mix of historical settings and futuristic ones, so I wasn’t sure how best to sum this up in a catchy title. But here are ten settings I’d like to see from other periods of time in books… be it past or present. And if you know of something in said settings, please feel free to recommend them to me!

1. The 1950’s

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Thanks to a fifties dress up day at school once upon a time, I fell in love with poodle skirts and become obsessed with the 1950’s for a while. While my love for it isn’t quite as strong now, I still find it an interesting time period and would love to read a YA novel set in 1950’s America!

2. Future a la Gattaca

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There are two things I love about the movie Gattaca in terms of its futuristic setting. One, it’s about a time in which society only views those who have been genetically engineered as capable of taking on the larger roles of society, while those who have not been engineered are doomed to a life of servitude. It’s a fascinating concept and Gattaca only scratches the surface with it. The second is that it has such a classic, timeless feel to it even though it’s set in the future. It’s a mix of, ironically, a 1950’s classic style with the sort of sleek/steel looks we often associate with the future. I don’t want to see a book completely rip off Gattaca and I’m not looking for a novelization of it either, but something that draws inspiration from it would be interesting to see.

(FYI, if genetic engineering and its consequences fascinate you I would recommend the YA duology For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea. It’s set in a different world and the consequences are surprising!)

3. French Revolution

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I never had an interest in the French Revolution until I watched the movie Les Miserables. Something about watching Marius and these other young men and boys risking their lives for their cause in such a ragamuffin way was really interesting to me. Now I would love to see a YA book where the French Revolution served as the backdrop of the story.

4. Space Station/Spaceship Living

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I have read a couple of books with spaceship living, and my WIP actually has a space station setting for part of the book, but I want to see more YA books that feature families living in space.

5. World War II

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There are already a lot of WWII books out there, but it’s period in time that fascinates me. And with these three books above, they explore three very different experiences and there’s so much more to be told.

6. Alternate History of any Time

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The only alternate history I have read so far is the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld and it was interesting! It’s fun to explore “what if” scenarios when it comes to events in our past.

7. Spy Story 1960’s Style

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I presume because of the Cold War, spy stories were big in the 1960’s. Last year I randomly wanted to see/read some spy stuff a la the 1960’s, though I never got around to seeking it out (I would have probably watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but I wasn’t pleased with how it looked like the woman’s role was going to play out). I still would be intrigued to see something of this nature in YA format.

8. Clones

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I know there have been books with clones, but very few have actually appealed to me (though if you have any recs, please share). This is another interest I have had for a while in science fiction though and would love to see it well-done in the YA world, something probably akin to Orphan Black (though I haven’t actually watched the show so I can’t say for sure, but the idea seems right)!

9. American Revolutionary War

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Any other American Girl fans out there who remember Felicity? She lived during the Revolutionary War, and I think it would be interesting to see a YA novel set during the time period. There would also definitely be a forbidden romance between a Loyalist and a Patriot.

10. A Future of Technology Dependence

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This is a theme that has been explored before, and in this day and age I think it’s worth continued exploration. We live in a time where toddlers can operate smart phones. How will this affect them as they grow up? What will future generations glued to their screens mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology (clearly since I have a blog), but it’s important to consider the ramification of technology with moderation. Free to Fall did a pretty good job of this, and I’d be interested in more YA fiction with similar themes.

What time settings, past or future, would you like to read about?

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Am I Not Merciful? (Illuminae Review)

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Young Adult Science Fiction

Find on Goodreads

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Baa baa black sheep… OK, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this book. But wow, I don’t really understand the hype. I mean, yes, it’s a very unique book which gives it novelty and yes, there are some crazy plot twists I did not see coming. However, these two things do not a story make. So let me dissect this a bit…

The Characters

The number one thing that will make or break a story for me is the characters. So the characters in Illuminae were… OK? The main characters are Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, and you get a semi-decent feel for them. This book is told through documents, IM chats, interview transcripts, etc., so you definitely get a very good feel for how they talk, and thanks to Kady’s diary entries, a little of how they feel. However, I just never connected with them at all. I only kinda/sorta liked Kady and I barely tolerated Ezra. He could be kind of sweet but he was also kind of crude, especially when talking to McNulty (who I didn’t like AT ALL). And speaking of secondary characters like McNulty, I cared 0% about any of them.

*MILD spoilers in this paragraph* The most interesting character in this whole book is the AI, AIDEN, because he’s complex and we get a lot of his perspective in the latter part of the book. But as one who’s seen a few too many Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk literally talked a computer to death, I wasn’t sure about him. First off, no, he does not get talked to death (I really thought Kady was going to do this), but he was definitely extremely affected by humans. Way more than made sense to me. Now, I have seen a lot of other Star Trek episodes where I liked this sort of thing, particularly if we’re looking at Data in The Next Generation, but I didn’t feel this really worked. Especially when I started to get the vibe that AIDEN might be kind of into Kady romantically even though he claims he can’t feel that way? Eh. (In fact, it feels like all the guys who know Kady seem to freaking love her for reasons unknown to me.)

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The Pacing

Another big thing for me is pacing, and the pacing in this book was very strange for me. It started off pretty good, the novelty of the story format kept me hooked plus we pick up right after a big event happens. Then after a little while I got bored as there is just a lot of talking about things but nothing actually happening, and I was a little confused about everything transpiring anyway, but wasn’t interested enough to go back and figure things out. Then about the halfway mark things got crazy and intense and good, so I was again into it. But then it kind of slacked off a little again, which theoretically is fine because breaks are nice, but I got bored of Kady and AIDEN and all that. Then the very end was pretty good but not super strong. There are enough reveals and action elements to keep the story flowing, but at the end I definitely didn’t understand why we needed 599 pages for this story.

The Format/The Voice

So overall I appreciated the formatting of the book, and it was particularly effective when we had the pages that showed outer space and the text was sparse and it felt very appropriate. However, there were a lot of transcripts and things of that nature included and all of them had the same exact voice. They were all sarcastic, unprofessional, etc. and did not make sense to me in the context of what they were supposed to be. It made a little more sense in the end (I’ll elaborate more on that when I get to spoilers) but it really threw me out of the book multiple times. You would think with two authors it would be easier for everything and everyone in the book not sound so much the same.

There were some other added elements that were interesting, like an ad for a TV show, a PSA, etc. that added context to the world that I appreciated, and weren’t as tainted by the overall voice thankfully.

The Ending (This Portion Contains *Spoilers*)

So in the end, if I understood correctly, Kady collected these documents and sent them to Leanne, so presumably a lot of the commentary was her own, which would explain the voice issue I had. At least, sort of, because I feel some of those documents should not have been tainted by her own tone. And Kady is starting *something* to fight against Leanne, the true big bad, who is behind *something* that is… uh… bad. Probably the initial attacks and stuff. This was all very fuzzy for me. I don’t understand why anything in the story happened, happened. Why were there attacks? Why was there a mutating plague? (And why do all sci-fi plagues result in people acting like zombies?) Are there going to be repressions of that in the future (other than, obviously, the detrimental death toll)? Why was the Lincoln chasing after the other ships? Why is everything that is happening such a freaking big deal other than, once again, the obvious death tolls? (And unrelated but another question I had of this book: What’s happening on Earth?)

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Basically, I felt like this was all one giant set-up for something bigger coming down the road, but after this book I can’t help but wonder if it will actually result in a satisfactory pay-off. I had issues with some of the plotting and the ending of These Broken Stars as well, another book co-authored by Amie Kaufman. I like some of the sci-fi ideas she presents, but they end up playing out in ways that feel kind of hollow to me. For me, I want my sci-fi to explore the nature of humanity and confront big questions, but this is more weird conspiracies from big corporations who plot terrible, universal destruction, and I don’t feel much from the people or don’t feel myself (or the characters) grappling with big, societal issues.

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Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this book is a low 4 star read for me, probably more like 3.75 stars if I was going to get very particular. It had some good elements to it, but it didn’t quite live up to all I wanted it to be. Will I continue the series? Eh, maybe. I’ll probably wait until it’s finished to see if it sounds like the pay-off is truly worth it. As it stands right now, I’m not dying to know what happened next, even if the ending wasn’t completely satisfactory on its own.

Content advisory: Moderate language – strong language is marked out for document censorship but milder language and taking God’s name in vain (g–d—, etc) is not. Some violence, though not extremely graphic. Some sexual discussion that is more implied and innuendo rather than graphic, but could be crude. 

So what are your thoughts on Illuminae? Do you feel I missed the point? 

Mini Book Reviews: The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Edition

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Young Adult Sci-Fi/Contemporary

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I read several reviews for this book and knew of all the hype, but I still didn’t fully know what to expect from it. As you can see above, it blends genres, which I love. The book follows two timelines, a previous timeline that reads like a contemporary-turned-thriller, and a later timeline that reads like a sci-fi with just a taste of dystopia (but don’t let that scare your dystopia-weary soul, because I promise it’s not like another rehash of Divergent or anything). The plot was great, the characterization interesting, and I just loved seeing how everything weaved together. And the way time travel was handled in this book was well-done. I will say that while I thought the ending was really great and fitting, it made me raise my eyebrow a little like the Fringe finale, where I was questioning how exactly that could have happened that way, but I do forgive it because I think it was the right ending.

I really enjoyed this one and only had a few minor issues with it. However, for some reason this one doesn’t really stick to as a favorite that will stand the test of time, so it’s not quite a 5 star read, but it was definitely worthwhile.

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Young Adult Fantasy

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I really enjoyed The Winner’s Curse, and while I didn’t love this one as much, I still enjoyed it a good bit! I admit, I’m suffering a bit from book amnesia on this one since I have waited a while to review it, but I do remember the twisty mind games that I enjoyed in the first book continuing through this one, though it did play out a bit differently. It’s more of Kestrel trying to tiptoe around the emperor and not reveal her hand to him, rather than her manipulating situations.

My biggest complaint about the book is that I wanted more of the emperor’s son, who I actually really liked and would have liked to have seen more friendship between him and Kestrel. I was also very sad about how things turned out with Jessi and Ronan, but I’m not saying Rutkoski made the wrong choices about them because sadly, I don’t think she did. I just liked them in the first book and hated to see how they acted in the second.

I think I found the romance between Kestrel and Arin a little more interesting this time around, but I’m actually still not a super hard shipper for them. But the ending definitely left me intrigued for the last book and to see how it all plays out.

Rating: 4 stars

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

High Fantasy

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I don’t know what I can say about this book. There is so much heartache, so many surprises, an adorable and perfect dance scene with Vin and Elend, and the ending is just… WOW. I think Brandon Sanderson is a master when it comes to endings (well, writing in general really). I was so floored by how it all played out, how it simultaneously ripped my heart out and crushed me and made me kind of angry to being so perfect and what it needed to be. I mean seriously, how does that happen?! Also, I think every question I had about this world and the characters was answered. So yeah, if you have any interest in these books, read them.

Rating: 5 stars

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Science Fiction

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I enjoy the movie adaptation of this book, but I did not expect for the book to actually line up with so much of the movie! There are a few things I like better about the book, and a few things I like better about the movie, but overall this book is a fun romp through the galaxy that makes you think of improbable possibilities. I will say that the book ends much more abruptly than the movie, without a really nice wrap-up, and is clear you are supposed to continue on with the next book, which I imagine I will do one day!

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Note: This movie seems to suffering from a title identity crisis, because in some places I’ve seen it’s called Live. Die. Repeat., which to my knowledge, is/was the tagline. I like the name Edge of Tomorrow better, and that’s the title the movie was originally presented to me as, and what it was titled as in the credits, so that is what I am calling it. 

sfm_banner_02b (1)Between my disappoint with Tom Cruise’s sci-fi flick Oblivion and not hearing too much (positive or negative) about this movie, I went in with somewhat low expectations, but hoping I would enjoy it. Thankfully, Edge of Tomorrow proved to be a well-told (not tiring) loop story with fascinating science fiction elements, featured in a world I wanted to learn more about, and with two protagonists I cared about.

edge_of_tomorrowAt the opening we see that the world is at war with aliens who have come here and invaded us. The focus isn’t on the aliens, though they are the reason the loop occurs. I won’t give away all the details with that plot element, but Rita acquired the ability to loop from a previous battle with the aliens, and then Cage acquires it this time around. And with this looping comes the objective to completely dismantle the aliens to where they lose the war and, hopefully, Cage nor anyone else will have to relive the bloody slaughtering over and over again.

Cage is not the most sympathetic character at first, which is intentional, but he certainly becomes one as he is forced to relive this battle over and over again, and then is finally able to train with and talk to Rita and they get further into their mission. Of course everything we see is abbreviated, but based on what we hear, I think it’s safe to say that Cage has to go through these couple of days for at least a year’s worth of time. Can you imagine how tiring that would be? Thankfully, they portrayed that as well. Cage is not a born hero. Rita isn’t either. They have been put in circumstances in which they are forced to survive and hopefully save the world.

I appreciated that the repeated content never grew stale, but Catge’s different choices and reactions helped make it always feel new. This can definitely be a problem with loop stories, and luckily this one was well-handled.

I don’t have any real complaints,  though my initial reaction to the ending made me go, “What?! That’s it?!” because it was quite abrupt. But really, what would have been the point of dragging it out at that point? Did I want this movie to turn into The Return of the King or something? Overall, the movie was definitely worth a watch, and I found it enjoyable and thought-provoking.

4stars2Have you seen Edge of Tomorrow? What are your thoughts?

 

Review: Interstellar

If you know me, you know how much I love Christopher Nolan. Inception has been my favorite movie probably since the day I first saw it in the theater, I loved what he did with Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy, and I loved the twisty-turny mind games of The Prestige. I am happy to report that Nolan is still at the top of his game with Interstellar. In one word, I would describe this movie as profound. In a few, I’d say it’s a deeply moving look at humanity. It both does and does not feel like a typical Nolan film; in many ways it looked and felt different, but the themes of love and tragedy and triumph and humanity that are present in all his films certainly resounded in Interstellar.

sfm_banner_02b (1)I went into this movie virtually blind. Everything I knew was from the trailers, and there is a lot missing from the trailers, including some of the casting that ended up totally surprising me when they showed up on screen. And since I’ve mentioned the casting, it was incredibly perfect. I am not a Matthew McConaughey fan by nature. I blame it on the movie The Wedding Planner and the fact that he is just very hyped and if I don’t love someone who is hyped I sometimes end up disliking them. That’s terrible, I know, but anyways, he really delivered in this film, along with everyone else.

interstellar2I want you to go into this movie mostly blind too, so I don’t want to give away too much. What I will say is that the future that Nolan created was scary, and not in some dystopia way, we’re talking in a the-Earth-is-dying way. There is this certain mysterious element going on, and to my surprise, I actually figured it out (the generalities, not the specifics) really early in the movie. However, it did not hinder my enjoyment of the film, and my husband did not figure it out. For those of you who have seen it, I will be curious to hear if you knew what was going on before the reveal. Despite having an idea of what was happening, the getting there and the how was still quite the ride.

I have heard a few murmurs about this film possibly getting Oscar nods, and I really, really hope it does. I don’t watch many Oscar contender movies, which I’m sure some people would say makes my taste in movies unrefined, but anyway, I could tell this movie was more of an Oscar-esque movie than most of the other movies I watch. There were several gratuitous space shots and other beautiful shots that really deserve recognition in addition to the great story and acting.

My biggest complaint against Nolan in the past has been his underdeveloped female protagonists, or at least me failing to connect with them. I did like Ariadne a good bit in Inception, and I thought Mal was a good character too, but otherwise, I have always been underwhelmed with the ladies in his movies. That is totally not the case with this movie. I LOVED Murphy, and I also liked Anne Hathway’s character Dr. Brand.

As I mentioned before, I had an idea of what generally might be happening, but before/during that reveal came some elements that, as my husband put it, were on the edge of going off the “deep end.” Yes, it’s science fiction, but it also seemed they were trying to make it pretty close to real science, and some of it started to feel like it might be a little hard to swallow. But thankfully I felt the “line” wasn’t crossed. I know that threshold is different for everyone, and heck, this whole paragraph might not even make sense to you, but I thought it was worth noting because it factors into my rating.

Lastly, I’ll vaguely mention the ending. The Prestige and Inception have the make-you-gasp, not-what-I-really-wanted-but-wow, open-ended sort of endings. The Dark Knight Rises ended so beautifully perfect (minus a certain someone in a cafe but I won’t go there now…). This is closer to a Prestige/Inception ending, but it plays out a little slower and doesn’t feel as shocking, if that makes sense. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t his strongest ending.

This is a really fantastic story, and I am so pleased Nolan shared it with us. And of course, I am already eagerly anticipating what’s next from him. (Not Superman vs. Batman, which he is just producing, not writing/directing. Doesn’t count.) Not a perfect film, and not my favorite of his, but still very noteworthy. And it is definitely an experience in the theater, so go and watch it ASAP!

4-5stars-editHave you seen Interstellar? What are your thoughts on it?

Book Talk: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Since I am lazy lame, I did not prepare well for Sci-Fi Month and forwent an intro post. If you want to learn more about me and my history with sci-fi, check out my intro post from last yearsfm_banner_02b (1)I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? about three months ago, but I thought I would wait to review it for Sci-Fi November. What I really intended to do was to write the review before but schedule to post it in November. That’s not what happened. I don’t feel like the book is fresh enough in my mind for me to give it a proper review, however, I want to talk about what I do remember (with some help from Wikipedia since I only remembered one character’s name from this book).

gr-doandroidsdreamI know it started off a little slow for me. The main character, Rick Deckard, is hooked up to a mood machine and wakes up happy. His wife, not so much. She seems to enjoy being crabby. Then there’s all this stuff about how they have an electrical sheep, which isn’t as good as having a real sheep, because animals are status symbols. I found the ideas semi-interesting but wasn’t really hooked, and I didn’t care much for the characters so far.

Then Rick goes to work (we might have gotten some John Isidore stuff before Rick’s work, I can’t remember, but we’ll get back to him) and we find out he bounty hunts androids, and androids can blend in with humans pretty well. But their big flaw is that they lack the empathy that humans do. I found this a lot more interesting.

We also learn about John Isidore, who I was confused about for a while because I thought he might be an android, but apparently he was just a not-so-bright human. He ends up helping some androids who take refuge in his apartment building as Rick attempts to track them down.

Most of Rick’s bounty hunting stuff was interesting, and there was one particular part I really got into where he was dealing with another “bounty hunter” that he had never heard of, and I won’t spoil anything there, but I was expecting quite a plot twist there, and was kind of disappointed when I didn’t get one. And unfortunately, after the non-plot twist, the story kind of went downhill for me. The John Isidore stuff was less interesting, and I felt so bad for him the whole time.

Then the ending was especially strange for me. Throughout the story there is talk of this guy named Mercer, and of his philosophy, which is known as Mercerism. I never really understood what the point of this man’s philosophies were, or why people cared about them, and I really don’t know why the novel ended with a strong emphasis on it. There were so many interesting aspects of the story, like colonization in space, the decaying of Earth, androids that pass as humans, and then it all ends with this dumb Mercer/electric animal subplot that I never actually understood in the first place. For all the things I have heard about this book and about Blade Runner, I was really disappointed by how flat it all felt in the end. I felt like I missed the point, because this is regarded as one of THE stories of science fiction. Afterwards I also felt no desire to watch Blade Runner, which I have heard so much about and thought I might want to watch after reading the book.

As I mentioned, I think there are certainly interesting aspects of the novel, and I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, which still feels right to me as a book with potential but didn’t quite work for me personally.

So for those who have read it, I would love your thoughts on what really stands out to you about this novel. Did you get more from the ending than I did? 

My Top 5 Favorite TV Shows & Top 5 Favorite Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten Favorite Movies or TV Shows, so I decided to do my Top 5 of each. These are kind of in order, starting with my absolute favorite, though sometimes the numbers can be shuffled a little bit depending on my mood!

My Top 5 Favorite TV Shows

1. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

deep_space_nine_crewWhen I first started watching Deep Space Nine, I had just come off of the best of times for The Next Generation, and starting all over again with a new Star Trek series definitely had its growing pains. But THEN… the multiple episode story arcs, the obstacles the characters had to overcome, how dark the overall tone of the show became and yet how it actually thrived in humor as well (minus those Ferengi episodes… but no show is perfect…)… simply put, I fell in love with it. The characters, their struggles and stories, the station… and then the ending was satisfying and yet left me wanting more. Just thinking about it makes me want to binge it watch it all NOW.

2. Babylon 5

babylon-5Simply put, Babylon 5 blew me away and I was not expecting it. There are many similarities between it and Deep Space Nine, yet the production budget was clearly lower. But the characters, their story arcs, the overall story arc for the show… while Deep Space Nine did an extraordinary job in very similar ways, in some ways, Babylon 5 honestly outshines it (until its last season… but we won’t talk about that…). The writer/creator of the show actually had the story planned out in advance, as well as contingencies for characters leaving the show, and the thoughtfulness of it really shows (again, until… well, you know…). If you love science fiction or simply amazing storytelling, give this one a chance. (And it’s not too similar to DS9, I promise.)

3. Star Trek: Enterprise

Star-Trek-enterpriseEnterprise doesn’t get a ton of love from the Star Trek community, and it’s too bad. I can understand in some ways… the first season had more misses than hits, some of the characters had vanilla personalities and static arcs, and it didn’t move forward with the Trek timeline. But seasons three and four (er… minus the-finale-that-shall-not-be-named) were so strong. The show got Deep Space Nine level dark and heavy fast and I ate it all up. I also enjoyed seeing the rough stuff that had to happen before Star Fleet could become what it did.

4. Star Trek: The Next Generation

star-trek-the-next-generationThe Next Generation was seven years of hits and misses and everything in-between, but I have got to say, there is something about this particular group of characters that will stay with you always. Apparently the cast all got along really well in real life (and still do when they’re together for conventions!) and I think that helps their dynamics. Plus, there are some really fabulous episodes of Star Trek in the show that explore humanity, love, and make you think a lot.

5. Fringe

fringe-castIf you have read my blog for a while, then you were probably here for my journey through watching Fringe seasons 1-5 (you can read my general recap for the show here). It had some low points, but overall it was really strong and intriguing, and I don’t think I ever felt so deeply invested in a show before. I was listening to episode recap podcasts (The Fringe Podcast by Golden Spiral Media, in case you’re curious) nearly every day, my husband and I were deciphering the glyphs given between the commercial breaks of each episode with the glyph app, we would exchange theories at the dinner table, and simply put I was completely into it. I loved the main characters so much and the storylines were just so interesting.

My Top 5 Favorite Movies

1. Inception

inception (1)Inception is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite movie. Every time I watch it I have new questions, feel so wrapped up in Cobb’s mind, and am amazed by how these complex strands are tied together at the end. It blows me away every single time and I feel like it is the standard for its genre of film (however you would even classify it, because I sure don’t know). It challenges my view of the world and inspires me to create. Simply put, I love it.

2. Pride and Prejudice

pride&prejudice-2005Pride and Prejudice (2005) was my very first exposure to Jane Austen, and how thankful I am to have discovered it. The film is beautiful visually, and watching Matthew Macfayden and Keira Knightley as Darcy and Elizabeth is just perfection to me. It gets to me every time. I used to watch this movie so much I almost got tired of it for a while, but after a break I am back to loving it just as much as I did before.

3. While You Were Sleeping

while-sleepingWhile You Were Sleeping may be a 90’s rom-com, but I have loved this movie for well over a decade now, and it will always be near and dear to my heart. I actually don’t care for most romantic comedies, but While You Were Sleeping feels pitch-perfect to me every time. It’s witty, charming, and interesting, and even if the look is aged, the story doesn’t feel aged. I will always adore it.

4. The Dark Knight

the-dark-knightI love what Nolan did with Batman, and the second film in his Dark Knight trilogy was, in my opinion, the strongest and most intriguing. When I watched The Dark Knight for the first time I was in college and minoring in psychology, and I was so blown away by how much a superhero story captured the psyche of mankind. Every time I see it I am struck by how dark, challenging, and bone-chilling it is. And Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker? Quite possibly the best villain to grace the big screen EVER.

5. The Phantom of the Opera

phantom-of-the-operaThe Phantom of The Opera was the first musical I truly came to love. I think it is a gorgeous movie and I love the music and the story. Every time I watch it or listen to the soundtrack I get caught up in it all over again.

What are your favorite TV shows and movies? Let me know if you’re a fan of any of my favorites! 

Review: These Broken Stars

Overall, I liked These Broken Stars, but I’m afraid the hype monster got me on this one. I expected it to be truly epic, but… it fell a little short for me.

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What I really enjoyed from this book…

– I loved the Icarus and I really wish we could have had more time there! It sounded so interesting, and I would have loved to learn more about the in’s and out’s of the ship, seen more parties and experienced the observation deck. It all sounded so neat! I liked what details we got of the ship.

– I also liked any details we got of this world, and the world itself is honestly what makes me most interested in reading the next book Spooner and Kaufman produce from this universe. I’m curious to know more about the war (which I think the next book is focusing on) and how we discovered all these other planets. (And are there aliens? It didn’t seem like there were.)

– The sci-fi aspect that comes up on the planet was intriguing and felt like something that could be on an episode of Star Trek (pretty much always a good thing!).

garak-jazzhandsWhat I did not enjoy as much…

– I never felt a deep connection with Lilac and Tarver. I thought Lilac was annoying at first, but as she came to accept her situation, I grew to like to her more. But even so, I liked both Lilac and Tarver both just enough to care enough to keep reading. I never felt truly emotionally invested in them.

– While I believed in Lilac and Tarver’s attraction and affections for one another, I did not believe in the depth of their supposed epic love. They went from not standing one another (but being attracted to each other) to admitting feelings, which made sense, but they were willing to completely abandon their families to stay together forever on the God-forsaken planet. Of course, I guess hormones are to blame for that.

urban-bones-poetic– As they started their trek across the planet and Lilac was being whiny, I thought, Oh no, it’s Under the Never Sky all over again… 

bashir-sleepyBut I liked the characters slightly more so I decided to stick with it. But that being said, I don’t think I’m a huge fan of survivalist stories. All this walking around a barren or foreboding place with so little to do or say doesn’t really suit me unless I LOVE the characters.

What I wish we could have seen… 

(These are vague inclinations about the ending here… I don’t think it’s too spoilery, but none of this will really make sense if you haven’t read the book yet)

– I wish the book had ended with Lilac and Tarver going to Tarver’s parents’ house. The ending as it was was interesting, but I think this would have been a nice final scene. I’m also upset we didn’t get to learn more about the planet, but I understand why the mystery is left as it is at the end.

– I wish we could have gotten more insight into Lilac’s medical test results.

– I wish there had been an explanation as to why people avoided Lilac at the beginning of the book. Did I miss something? Was it JUST because of who her dad was? No one knew what had happened with Simon except her and her dad. And why does she need Anna as a bodyguard? I never felt like these things were fully explained.

Overall…

There were moments that I was engaged and interested, and moments where I was slightly annoyed. I liked Lilac and Tarver fine, enough to care for their well-being, but I don’t care too much about what happens to them beyond the story and I don’t care about their relationship too much. I wish there had been more of the science fiction elements and the ship, less of the boring trekking across the planet (though I understand the realistic nature of how long that could take), and that the relationship had developed more naturally.

3.5stars

Content Advisory: One off-screen sex scene and moderate language.

What were your thoughts on These Broken Stars? 

Fringe Series Overview

After watching all five seasons Fringe starting last summer and going through December, I can say without a doubt I am a fan. I was evangelizing the show even when I was only in the first season, believing so much in the potential it showed. And it met most of that potential. I will have to say that despite how much I love this show overall, that other than the absolutely perfect emotional closure I got in the series finale, the show never quite gave me everything I wanted from it. But it did give me a lot. Since the show is so unique, I wanted to focus on some on the aspects of the show that really stood out, as well as favorite characters and episodes.

There are spoilers sprinkled throughout, SO what you will see is SPOILER the spoiler written in white that you can highlight if you’ve seen all of the show and then END SPOILER. Everything else is CLEAR to read!

Favorite Episodes by Season

Season One

While watching the series, my favorite episode of Season One hands-down was “Bad Dreams.” I just found the story fascinating, I loved meeting another Cortexiphan kid, and it would definitely still have to be my favorite case-of-the-week episode from the first season. But if I look back at the series as a whole, it would probably be one of the more mythological episodes, but I won’t know for sure until I re-watch. But here are some possibilities/runner-up favorites: “The Arrival,” “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones,” “The Equation,” “Ability,” “Inner Child,” and “There’s More than One of Everything.” Overall, even though I did not give season 1 one of my two 4.5 star rankings (I mostly gave it 4 stars because I didn’t think the John Scott storyline was handled well after the pilot), I think I would consider it my second favorite season.

fringe-baddreams

Season Two

When I looked back at all the episodes from Season Two, it was clear to me it was my favorite season of the series. I think season two was the closest to being exactly what I wanted Fringe to be. My absolute favorite is “White Tulip” for all its wonderful symbolism, but I have several other episodes I love a lot too: “Dream Logic,” “August,” “Jacksonville,” “Peter,” “Northwest Passage.” and “Over There (Part Two).” Also extremely noteworthy: “A New Day in the Old Town” and “Brown Betty.”

fringe-whitetulip

Season Three

Season Three is a strong season for the mythology of the show and for the character development, but it stressed me out and aggravated me SO FREAKING MUCH! Because of this, it was a little harder for me to determine a favorite episode, but I think I’ll go with the finale, “The Day We Died,” because it was so intriguing. Some other episodes I liked: “The Abducted,” “Entrada,” “Subject 13,” and “Bloodline.”

fringe-thedaywedied

Season  Four

This season was another frustrating one for me that I honestly think I could only bear because of my unbounding love for Lincoln Lee. Every other character was just acting so frustrating with the SPOILER timeline reset affecting them END SPOILER! Overall, it might be my least favorite season, despite Lincoln Lee. My favorite episode is probably either “Everything in its Right Place” or “Letters of Transit,” and a couple others I liked pretty well were “Wallflower” and “Back to Where You’ve Never Been” (the former mostly because of MILD SPOILER cute Olivia-Lincoln moments). END MILD SPOILER

fringe-wallflower

Season Five

Season Five was feeling pretty grim until the last five episodes, which I love all so much I just have to consider them a collective favorite: “Black Blotter,” “Anomaly XB-6783746,” “The Boy Must Live,” “Liberty,” and “An Enemy of Fate.” They finally delivered on what I had been waiting the entire season for!

fringe-finale

Favorite Characters by Season

Season One: Peter

Season Two: Peter

Season Three: Olivia

Season Four: Lincoln

Season Five: SPOILER September/Donald END SPOILER

I loved me some Peter in the first two seasons, but he got really frustrating in season three. In hindsight, I also have to give some love to Charlie in the first season. In season three, with so much crap hitting the fan, I found the one person I was most concerned about and rooting for was Olivia, and she completely won me over as a favorite. In season four, all bets were off when Lincoln Lee arrived in his good guy glory. At that point, I wanted to stop watching regular Fringe and watch a Lincoln Lee spin-off show instead! And then in season five, as mentioned before was not a favorite season of mine, and so when we finally get to what I consider “the good stuff” and finally figure out the mystery with SPOILER where September is and that he is actually this mysterious guy Donald they have been looking for and that he has humanified and is now even more awesome than ever before!!! I was just so excited!!! END SPOILER.

When I look at the series as a whole, I think Walter definitely has to be the most intriguing character with the strongest arc, and John Noble did a crazy amazing job playing like 50 versions of the character (OK, maybe not 50, but I did lose count!) with just little nuances to separate them.

Characters that were definitely underutilized: Astrid sadly never really got to rise to the occasion, which I hated so much because Jasicka did a great job and she deserved more screen time. But the relationship between her and Walter, I loved. Their scene together in the finale made me cry.

red-vines

I definitely would have liked more Charlie. And Gene the cow… duh. We always need more Gene.

gene-takeout

The Glyphs

You know those symbols that come up for each commercial break (and are also sprinkled throughout the show as Easter eggs)? They’re there for a reason! If you’re a die-hard fan you already know, but for the uninitiated, these glyphs are part of a code. Each one stands for a letter, depending on both the symbol and the placement of the the yellow orb around it, and when you put the glyphs together for each episode, they spell out a word pertaining to either the current episode or foreshadowing something for the next episode. Sometimes they’re vague, sometimes they’re obvious, but they’re fun! If you’re going through the series, you can download the Fringe glyph add for iPhone or Android to crack the code every episode. I think this was a really unique twist to the show that just adds another layer of intrigue to it.

fringe-glyphs

The Title Sequences

You know how most shows just have one basic title sequence that looks the same week after week, year after year? Not Fringe! They had several! Since everything after the initial blue sequence contains spoilers for plot points in the show, I made all of those white.

Blue Sequence: This is the first title sequence we get, which lists a plethora of fringe sciences, many of which would be included in the show.

Retro Sequence: For the two episodes set in 1985, “Peter” and “Subject 13,” where we learn more about Walter discovering the alternate universe and the immediate consequences, a retro-looking version of the Fringe title sequence rolled out the fringe sciences of yesteryear, many of which are now a reality. 

Red Sequence: The red title sequence represents an episode that prominently takes place in the alternate universe, AKA the Redverse. In “Entrada,” we see a mix of the blue and red sequences as the two universes got more equal episode time. This sequence also includes what is considered fringe sciences in the Redverse. 

fringe-titlesequence

Gray Sequence: The gray sequence was for the season 3 finale episode “The Day We Died,” in which we see a possible future where the Redverse has been destroyed and the Blueverse is on the brink of going down the same path. This sequence includes what is considered fringe sciences in this possible future timeline. 

Amber Sequence: This was for season four, to indicate an altered timeline where Peter actually died as a boy. Most of the fringe sciences listed are not too unlike those from the initial sequence, though they are new words. 

Future Sequence: This is the sequence for “Letters of Transit” and all of season 5, set in the future where the Observers have taken over. It’s scary to think that things like “private thought” are considered fringe in this future. 

The Storylines & The Message

There were so many… where does one begin?! I will now get my biggest gripe about Fringe out there now, and that is that I think it had the tendency to bite off more than it could chew. Sometimes it tried to set something up, only for the “answer” to feel weak and incomplete (First People, Sam Weiss, Mr. X, John Scott, ZFT, etc.) or to not be followed through at all (Olivia’s stepfather, Big Eddie, Rachel and Ella, Etta on invasion day, etc.). And then there were things that they tried to build up as really epic (SPOILER Peter is completely erased from the timeline! END SPOILER) but then it turns out to not be nearly as big as we thought (SPOILER Well not so much erased but more like he died when he was a boy after all so you guys never knew him, but he’ll come back because love conquers all… END SPOILER). As much as I loved so many of the intriguing story arcs throughout the series, most of them honestly did not deliver as fully as I would have liked. In fact, entire seasons were dedicated to many of these plot points, and while they all ended on pretty high and mostly satisfactory notes, I was still left with more questions than answers.

But this series is very much about one thing, and it’s good to know this if you haven’t started watching yet: it’s about LOVE.

The love between a father and son. Between friends. Between lovers. Between a mother and  daughter. It’s about how far you would go to save someone you love, or to be with them.

And it’s about humanity. This is something you’ll especially see as you get to the end of season five, that the show is asking questions about what makes us human. And that’s why it’s good sci-fi, a good show, and worth investing your time in it.

The characters are wonderfully flawed and quirky and intelligent and caring. And when the show’s over, you honestly feel like you’ve become disconnected from an amazing group of friends.

But don’t just take my word for it. Take Walter’s word for it. Watch Fringe…

because-its-coolAnd I still feel like I have only scratched the surface here! What about Massive Dynamic and Nina and Broyles and William Bell and Brandon and the shapeshifters and LSD and the Observers and everything else?! There’s just so much!!!

May I also recommend The Fringe Podcast as a supplement to your watching? It’s wonderfully fun, informative, and insightful. My experience would not have been the same without it.

Also see: Fringe reviews for seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Are you a future Fringe fan or a current one? (There are no other options, BTW.) Tell me what you love about the show or what about it has piqued your interest! 

The Growing Sci-Fi Trend in YA

In case you haven’t noticed, and for the majority of you who read this blog and keep with YA books you probably have, the growing trend in YA now seems to be science fiction. And just coming off Sci-Fi Month in November, some books I heard about during the month are fresh on my mind!

YA-scifi-released

A very small sampling of YA sci-fi released in the last two years

Time Between Us/ All Our Yesterdays/ Relativity

While there have been YA titles dealing with space or aliens (Across the Universe trilogy, The 5th Wave), most of these sci-fi books seem to be dealing with time travel (like Time Between Us and All Our Yesterdays) and alternate realities (Reativity and Dissonance) or technology (Elusion and Free to Fall).

YA-scifi-upcoming

A very small sampling of 2014 YA sci-fi releases.

Dissonance/ Elusion/ Free to Fall

I’m not sure what started this trend, other than perhaps it seems like a natural progression to come from the dystopia genre (which is also still going fairly strong, and of course sci-fi and dystopia often go hand in hand), which might explain why more of these stories seemed focused on what I consider “earth-bound” science fiction, rather than focusing on what’s in space. And personally, there are several reasons I am excited to see this trend grow…

Sci-fi arouses our curiosity. I think one of the best things about science fiction is all the “what if” questions it poses. I recently started watching the new Fox show Almost Human, which raises the question: What if android (“synthetic”) cops were paired with human cops?

almost-human

If you like thinking about the possibilities of the future, you should watch this show. And Karl Urban and Michael Ealy are fantastic in it.

Or with a YA book I read this year, Pivot Point, what if one could see the different futures that await her when she has a decision to make? Really, the what-if questions we could ask in science fiction are endless!

It awakens creativity and scientific interest at the same time. I have to admit, I have never been interested in science. Ever. It’s always been my weakest subject and I have never cared to understand it. But in college I suddenly developed an interest in learning about genetic engineering. So while I will probably never have an interest in all sciences, there are now at least a couple of areas that I do find interesting, I think largely thanks to science fiction. It also really awakens my creative juices as I think through all those “what-if” scenarios. And I think both creativity and science are important!

It can be a gateway into more science fiction! Let’s face it, I’m sure the actual sci-fi content in most of these YA books is pretty light. I personally don’t have a problem with that, in fact it can be helpful when you’re as science-deficit as I am, but others might see this new trend as just watered-down science fiction. And there’s probably some truth to that, as the dystopia genre has been watered down, but lighter science fiction can be a gateway that leads to Ender’s Game, Star Trek, or more hardcore stuff that I myself have not checked out yet! Presenting a story with some science fiction, even if it also has a contemporary feel or a romantic subplot, can be just what some people need to get their feet wet and realize just how much they might enjoy other science fiction!

What do you think about the rising trend of science fiction in YA literature? Do you have a favorite sci-fi YA book?