Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: Winter

by  Marissa Meyer
Date Read:  12/23/15
Rating: ★ ★ 
★ ★  ★ 

Thank goodness that the string of horrible YA series finales have ended. Thank you, Marissa Meyer. Thank you.  For this reason, even though I will explain one thing about the book I didn’t like, I’m still giving it 5 stars. In all reality, it would be 4.5 stars – but since I can’t give half stars, I definitely have to lean to the 5 star side.

This was an incredibly long book. 824 pages to be exact.  Most of that was because the characters were almost always separated. In order to tell the full story, Meyer had to tell what was going on for each of the characters – which means several chapters were all about the same time period.  I wish that it was a little shorter (so I wouldn’t have had to pay a $0.20 late fee to the library to finish it) but there really weren’t any points looking back that I felt like could have been completely removed.  However, their plans never worked out. While I don’t like stories where their master plans work 100%, I felt that some of it should have gone a little more to plan than it did.

This leads me in to what I didn’t like about this book: everyone was captured or kidnapped at some point in the book.  It was ridiculous. Toward the end, it was actually getting hard to remember who was captured, who was still following the plan, and who was with who.

The only other thing that gave me a bit of a twinge was Cress and Winter’s constant “does he love me?” / “he doesn’t love me” scenes.  Since we as the reader knew their actual feelings, it just got a little overdone I think. In the scenarios that they were facing, I felt like they had more important things to worry about than whether the guy they like likes them back.

Cress is my least favorite character I think…which is disappointing because Rapunzel is one of my favorite princesses.  I just felt she was very annoying with her low self-esteem – while it seems reasonable in her life, I just wish she had gained more self-esteem by the end of the series. I’m glad she did get a little braver though. I loved her techy mind though – I just wish she had a little more a kick-butt attitude like Felicity Smoak (Green Arrow comic and tv show).

Cinder and Scarlet were by far my favorite characters throughout the series and that maintained through to the end.  Cinder had a good transformation in this series. It is actually hard to think back to the very first book where she felt degraded and was trying to save her step-sister’s life.  Scarlet was just a fun character who had such a fun attitude. I also liked their boyfriends. 

Winter was a little hard for me to attach to. While she was sweet, her crazy episodes would get confusing sometimes – but maybe that was the point. She became an interesting character about 25% of the way in to this story, when the Snow White story really took hold.

I thought Marissa Meyer did a great job with this story.  While I enjoyed Scarlet and Cress (Red Riding Hood and Rapuznel), I thought she had done the best job with Cinder (Cinderella).  But now I think it’s a toss up with her Snow White story. The main plot points matched up with the Snow White story so well, but never felt forced. The “huntsman” letting her go was done very well.  And the whole “poison apple” part was just evil. I thought it was genius. 

The best part is the ending.  Once the battle got going, it moved really fast.   I felt the ending was very satisfying. We got a pretty decent amount of wrap up too, which I really appreciated.  But it’s a bit bittersweet, because now the series is over. I’ve fallen in love with Meyer’s characters and world, and now it’s just over. While I will miss those characters, I’m looking forward to what Meyer will write next – and you can be sure I will read it.  This is a must read series, and I will be owning all the books – I haven’t bought a book series in many years – I think since I started the Mortal Instruments Series (and I’ve bought all subsequent books) – so that’s been several years.

Thank you Marissa Meyer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

STAR WARS!!!!  Can you believe there is a new Star Wars movie out? And one that didn’t suck?!  Actually, when Episodes 1-3 were released a long time ago, I actually sort of enjoyed them just because they were updated and episodes released in my lifetime. Though, when I look back at it now that I’m 30, I realize that they are not good. They’re pretty bad actually. JarJar, while funny at the time, is super obnoxious to me now.

But have no fear Star Wars fans!  This movie is amazing!  While the story seemed to follow the same sort of path as episodes 4-6, it was still compelling. I’m hoping it changes in episodes 8 and 9, and that this was more a nostalgic story but takes it’s own turn.

I really liked the acting in it. The girl, Rey (played by actress Daisy Ridley), was amazing. There were times where I thought she looked just like Kiera Knightly. I’ve heard she hates it, but I’d just go with it…at least they’re comparing her to someone who is beautiful!  Her story was good and she held her own.  Going in to this, I’d heard that “mothers need to take their daughters to see this movie”…so I was worried it was going to have some statement about Girl Empowerment.  But if that statement was there, it wasn’t obvious in your face. She was just another person fighting the bad guys and holding her own. I thought it was really well done.

I loved all the other characters too.  I found myself very attached to BB-8, the little droid. It always amazes me how someone can create such a compelling character when it never talks – think WALLE.

Of course there are scenes where our old friends from episodes 4-6 appear!  They’ve all aged, but I think Harrison Ford has probably aged the best out of all of them.   Though their delivery isn’t as good as it once was, the nostalgia forgives that.

There was humor in this – and not the stupid Comic Relief humor of Jar Jar Binks. This was more like XMen and Pirates of the Caribbean – a tense plot where the characters just say funny things or funny situations arise. It was really well done.

There were a couple shock moments. I actually liked that you find out who the bad guy is pretty early on in the movie.  That is a big difference from the original trilogy where you don’t find out until much later.  It gives more to the plot and it makes you go back and forth on whether you feel sympathy for him. I think it was done really well.

The ending left a lot open. Obviously we know it’s going to be a trilogy, but I still wanted more at the end. It still felt a little TOO undone for me.  The end scene connects with something stated earlier in the movie and might lend to what may happen later in the series.

I’m really excited about this and that my daughter will get to grow up seeing Star Wars movies also.  She’ll definitely be old enough to see the finale in the theater which will be really cool for us, and for my brother, her Uncle, who is a die hard Star Wars fan.
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