Mini Reviews: Sci-Fi Edition

Loop by Karen Akins

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Loop is a fun story set in a future where some are known as Shifters, people who are genetically capable of time traveling to the past. Something that really struck me about the book was the rules of shifting (it’s impossible to change the past, you can’t go to the future, etc), the animosity between Shifters and non-Shifters,  and the world in general. Even though the genetic ability to time travel part felt impossible, how things unfolded with it being possible felt realistic, and I felt like the technology was a realistic progression.

There are SO many things going on in the story; I don’t know how Akins kept up with all the plot threads! I think everything tied together pretty well in the end, though there are still some unanswered questions that will clearly be dealt with in the next book.

While I really enjoyed the book overall and was impressed with the story, I never LOVED the characters. I do like them, but they’re not new favorites for me or anything.

The end left me ready to read the sequel, Twist, very soon, and looking forward to more Karen Akins projects in the future!

Rating: 4 stars

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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Of course, any addition to The Lunar Chronicles is a must in my book (and now there are going to be graphic novels what what!). I had always meant to get around to reading some of the stories in this collection before, like Glitches, The Queen’s Army, and The Little Android, but never did, so I was happy for them to be all together in print format! I enjoyed most of the stories, but was still feeling a little underwhelmed until we got to the wedding story.

I think part of this was because the stories were isolated incidents of each character’s life (except I noticed poor Jacin was the only one of the major 8 who didn’t get his own story) and I really prefer it when they are all together. Also, The Little Android, late in the collection, really brought me down. I don’t know how to explain why, but it really put a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think it’s poorly written, and even though the ending is sad I understand its purpose, but I just couldn’t come to care for it.

And then we had Something Borrowed. I won’t spoil any of the details but it was nice to see everyone come together again. I was enjoying but not loving the story though, but then in the last few pages the feels were strong. For me personally, the culmination of the entire series I had been waiting for actually came down to these last few pages of this short story for me. I know not everyone will agree with this sentiment, just because we are all looking for different things, but I enjoyed it more than the end of Winter, honestly.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read either of these? What are your thoughts? 

Don’t Let the Hype Get to You

I’ve been meaning to review Winter and Six of Crows, and then I watched the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, and I noticed I had a theme with all three of these stories: hype.

Let me go ahead and clarify: I ENJOYED ALL THREE OF THESE THINGS. This will not be about big disappointments. But there were some minor problems I had with all three.

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First, Winter. Though there was a lot of hype surrounding this one, it was just from everyone who loves The Lunar Chronicles, which includes myself, so a lot of the hype I had put on myself. Cress was hands-down, my favorite read last year. Every page was just like YES, this book is PERFECT. So I thought with 800+ page Winter, it could only get BETTER, right?! OK, maybe not.

Again, I REALLY liked this book. I gave it 4.5 stars and put it in my top 10 faves of the year. But I can’t lie, that book dragged for me a bit. I think Meyer could have cut at least 100 pages, possibly more. Before Winter, I thought I could have read a 400-book all about the Lunar Chronicles gang playing Scrabble and been thoroughly entertained, but maybe I was wrong. When the characters were just waiting for things to happen, I got restless. I wanted things to move forward, not stand still. And in case you think I’m ALL about the action, that’s not true either. I actually got confused quite a few times during the action sequences. Though I will admit, that’s the case with almost every action sequence in almost every book. And while everyone went through something in this book before they could get to their happy ending, I just didn’t feel quite as much emotional resonance as I wanted. Maybe that was my own fault. Brittany talked about how she possibly created distance between herself and this finale, and I think I might have done that too.

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Then Six of Crows. Again, there was hype, but a lot of it self-made because I LOVED the Grisha trilogy and I love Leigh Bardugo. I figured that Six of Crows had to be even better than the previous books, because that’s how it works, right? Writers only get better? I enjoyed the book. I gave it 4 stars. But it did not feel tight to me. Like Winter (though shorter), I felt there were pacing issues. I didn’t feel it was a very good set-up for the actual “heist,” and then the whole “heist” (honestly, it doesn’t feel like a real heist) itself felt kind of weak to me. Not gonna lie. This didn’t feel anything like Ocean’s Eleven to me. I mean, I have no problem with things not going perfectly, but everything felt way more half-hazard than I think it was supposed to.

And then there were 6 main characters, and I actually liked about 3 of them. The other 3 were fine, but I could have lived without them. Really, the book could have been all about Inej and Kaz and that would have been good for me. They were the only ship that even made sense to me. And speaking of things not making sense, I could not keep any of the nationalities or any other cultural details straight, which seemed strange since I have read the other books and I don’t recall being confused with them.

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And lastly, Star Wars. Most of the movie was pretty solid. I loved how it felt like the original series, except updated, and it was going really well. I liked the characters, the pacing was good, etc. Then at some point kind of close to the end, it’s like… I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint the moment it stopped working for me. But by the end of the movie, I realize that I had a pretty good time but nothing impacted me the way I thought it should have. I’ll talk spoilers in white in the next couple paragraphs; highlight to see…

One thing that took me out of the movie relatively early on was when Han & Leia’s kid who’s the bad guy (I honestly don’t remember his name) took off his mask the first time. I was immediately like you are not their kid, I don’t believe it. He just didn’t look like their kid to me or feel like him to me. And he seemed to behave completely differently without his mask. The character in general felt a little inconsistent. And we never really get to know him, so when we get to that moment between him and Han, I don’t care if he wants to go home with Han and be redeemed (of course, it was pretty obvious to me that he didn’t). I don’t feel betrayed when he kills his dad. It just doesn’t click for me.

And then the “climax” happened, and I put it in quotes because it wasn’t all that exciting. Han and Chewie getting on the Millennium Falcon? That was exciting! Blowing up this massively destructive weapon planet? Eh, who cares? I mean, you know the good guys are going to win and they didn’t even bother to make you feel tense about it ever at any point. I guess Han’s death was supposed to make things feel hopeless but it didn’t. And after the “climax,” Rey goes off to find Luke (no explanation why it’s her), and they just stand there and stare at each other as she holds out his lightsaber and… the end. That’s the end of the freaking movie. I was waiting for the big reveal that Rey is Luke’s daughter (she has to be, right? Is anyone with me on this?) or at least something and I mean, Luke doesn’t utter one single syllable in this movie. It just ends, period. (Actually, if this was going to be the way it ended, it didn’t cut soon enough. My husband and I had the conversation that it would have been better if we see Luke, and then cut, as opposed to the ten seconds of him and Rey staring at each other that we get.)

Look, I know no story can actually be perfect. But I also look for emotional resonance, for great character growth, and I look at story pacing. All three of these stories are part of larger stories that I adore, and when I don’t get all three of those things lined up the way I expect them to, I can’t help but be a little disappointed.

Moral of the story? Have lower expectations, I guess. Though I think that’s nearly impossible when you’re dealing with franchises you already love. But it’s not always going to bigger and better the next time. Professional storytellers are not flawless storytellers, and I know this. At the end of Winter, the characters were where I wanted them to be. At the end of Six of Crows, I can tell that Kaz’s upcoming arc is one I’m going to want to stay tuned for. At the end of Episode VI, I saw my old “friends” and am hopeful of what is to come with the new ones. I may want a little more, but what I got was still good.

How do you deal with hype? Were you mildly (or maybe even majorly) disappointed in anything you were highly anticipated lately?

Review: Cress

Warning: Lots of fangirling and some spoilers ahead!

RapunzelI want to apologize to Alice in Readerland, because I decided to write a review with Tangled and Star Wars GIFs before remembering she did this as well. But it’s hard to avoid! Hope you don’t mind the similarities, Alice! Now on to the review…

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I really enjoyed Cinder and Scarlet, but they were both 4 star books for me ultimately. I preferred Cinder to Scarlet because I connected with the characters and romance more, but knocked off a star for how crazy predictable it was. Well, Marissa Meyer has proven herself to be growing as a writer as she managed to surprise me multiple times throughout Cress. I do most of my reading at work during lunch and sometimes breaks, and I rarely react out loud to my reading, but at lunch one day while reading I actually said, “Oh no…!” out loud in complete shock that Dr. Erland is Cress’ father! What?! Did not see that coming! And that was just one of several surprising twists!

I wanted to focus largely on the characters, because really and truly, this is Meyer’s greatest strength. How in the world can all these characters be so perfectly unique from each other and well-rounded and likable?! OK, maybe it’s not too terribly unbelievable because I have seen it done before, but very rarely to this scale of a cast of characters or this well. Though I was one of the few who didn’t care for Wolf much in Scarlet (because I never fully trusted him), he really redeemed himself for me in Cress.

Scarlet doesn’t get a lot of  “screen time” in this book, which I can see would be frustrating for big fans of her, but I feel her part of the story was important and don’t feel any moments with her were wasted. Cinder continues to grow as she comes to accept more responsibilities, and I was always happy to see what Kai thought of his impending marriage and the whole situation. We are also introduced to Jacin, who is a little prickly but has some potential, and Winter, who seems a little whacked-out, but the fact that it’s because she’s not using her powers is very interesting to me.

Now let’s talk about Cress and Thorne.

So I loved Cress as a character. She’s a lot like Rapunzel in Tangled, which of course makes sense, and I loved seeing how her range of emotions was very similar to Rapunzel’s as she discovered the excitement and dangers of life on Earth.

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tangled-hidingI thought it was so cute how she was quirky and had fantasies about how she and Thorne would fall in love at first sight and go on epic adventures together. She was also quirky enough for someone who had been cooped up in a satellite for so long but not so much that she was completely unrelatable.

And then the interactions with Cress and Thorne. SO CUTE. He really seized the opportunity to be just oh-so-Thorne around her, but he was also very mindful of how naive Cress was. Really, the two really needed each other in the desert and through everything they went through, because they could help each other in different ways. And of course they had some great exchanges.

“Captain?”
“Yeah?”
“Do you think it was destiny that brought us together?”
He squinted and, after a thoughtful moment, shook his head. “No. I’m pretty sure it was Cinder.”

tangled-fatedestinyhorseNow THORNE. I already loved Thorne from Scarlet, and I was thrilled by just how much of him we got in Cress! And of all the hardships I’ve seen characters go through, something about Meyer making Thorne go blind just really hit me. I just kept thinking, This is essential for his character growth. It’s perfect that he’s dealing with blindness. I think it teaches him to rely on others, as well as his instincts and other strengths. But I’m also really looking forward to his sight (hopefully) being restored so he can look Cress in the eyes again, with a whole new meaning. 🙂 All in all, Thorne is as charming as ever, but he also grows a lot.

hansolo-winkSide note: My husband and I just re-watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and I literally laughed out loud while we were watching the catina scene, and explained to my husband it was because Han Solo was SO MUCH LIKE THORNE. Really, Thorne is…

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hansolo-smileI am definitely a member of the Thorne fan club.

cress-quoteBut let us not forget our other couples! Wolf proved to me in this book that he really does love Scarlet, as I alluded to before. And Cinder and Kai, finally! I really only have two complaints about this book, and one of them is why didn’t Cinder tell Kai who she was as soon as she entered his room?! She kept saying, “Trust me, trust me!” and then on the ship he had to drag it out of her. JUST TELL HIM YOU’RE PRINCESS SELENE! He didn’t seem to have a problem believing her, once he decided to believe that she was not using her powers on him, so she should have saved him from being tranquilized! And she really lucked out that Torin was as trusting and accommodating as he was.

My other minor complaint may have been a result of how I read it, though it happened more than once so I’m not sure, but I had a problem following the action sequences at times. I would be confused about what exactly was happening and where everyone was placed. But I do seem to struggle with this, so it might have been entirely my lack of comprehension. I was just reading so fast because I wanted to know what happened next!

Lastly, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Iko, who literally made me laugh out loud, once again in public, more than once. She is fabulous. And Dr. Erland! My heart hurt for him so much!

Meyer managed to craft a third book in a series that flowed seamlessly, never grew boring, and with an amazing cast of characters that I adore so much! I wish I could read Winter now! There’s nothing I could give this book other than…

5stars2Content Advisory: Some violence. Otherwise, squeaky clean! 

What was your favorite thing about Cress? Who’s your favorite character of the series so far?