Saturday, November 24, 2012

Persy -- Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen

Chloe's life wasn't bad at all until a tragic accident on the farm leaves her with ugly emotional and physical scars. Her relationship with her father becomes strained, at best, and her mother's old movie theater, named after her great-grandfather, isn't doing well. Her only comfort lies in Grandpa Salvador, who spends his time painting and repainting his trailer.
Then a new boy moves into town, a blind boy named Nick. Neither take a shine to each other, but in time they grow to accept each other into a peculiar partnership. Nick is working on a script, and he finally allows Chloe to help him with the details.
But then it all goes crazy when they fall through the movie screen at Aldo's Movie Palace and find themselves in Nick's script! But it's neither his version nor Chloe's of their fictional land of Retinya, and they soon discover that the land is in dire need of help. But will Chloe be able to keep Nick on her side?
I was pretty excited going into this because the publishers of Replication sent it to me (I felt so special), and the whole story is really easy to fall into. Buuuuut there are so many things that aren't quite right with this poor little fantasy adventure... let's start with the characters.
Chloe started out interesting. She had the whole scarred thing going for her and a cool granda and works at an old movie theater. But let's face it, not only is she rather 2D, the one layer she has is pretty annoying. She will not listen and plunges straight ahead no matter what any of the wiser and more experienced characters say. She's ridiculously stubborn.
And then we come to Nick. You'd think he'd be a main character, but no, not really. He's only in the book for like, five minutes, and does absolutely nothing. Starts out mean and annoying, disappears for the middle of the book, and then comes back with...well, he's certainly not the same Nick. But there's a difference between character growth and character inconsistency.
Scout and Nob are okay. Quite flat, like everyone else, but certainly more interesting (and intelligent) than the others. Grandpa Salvador is easily the best, but, naturally, he doesn't get to do much at all. And then the villain...hardly exists. There's just not much going on there. His only purpose is so that there is a villain somewhere in the story to keep things going.
The world of Retinya is actually pretty cool. We just don't get to spend much time there or see many sights. The majority of our time is spent getting through the adventure as fast as we can, an adventure that makes less sense the more you think about it.
I mean, they make it work. But oftentimes it's hard to tell how the characters got where they are and why they're doing whatever they're doing.
But let me also say that the memory scenes were pretty cool. If you read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about.
To summarize, it's not a bad book, but it's far from good. It's just kind of...a book. A quick and easy read, though, so you probably won't feel like you've wasted a bunch of time reading it. But I can think of better quick-and-easy reads.
You might like this if you: want a quick-and-easy fantasy read; enjoy fantasy stories with modern characters in strange worlds; don't care so much about character depth but like creative fantasy worlds; or if you have a horrific scar and a blind friend and wonder what adventures are in store for you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Arty -- Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I am so late again.  I apologize. 

Cinder.  Another one of those 'you have to read it, it's so good' books I keep hearing about. 

And you have to admit, the idea is pretty awesome.  A cyborg Cinderella in futuristic Beijing (New Beijing, to be precise)?  Definitely cool.  But surely such a great idea that was popular to boot couldn't be that good.

It could.

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.  She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness.  But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction.  Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.

I'm going to start with the best and most impressive thing: the book wasn't about Cinder and Kai.  It was about Cinder.

It was about Cinder being a mechanic, and about Cinder's different relationships with her family (unfriendly with her stepmother and older stepsister, loving to her younger stepsister, Peony), and about Cinder trying to make sense of what she's found herself in, and about Cinder trying to help Kai, and then, sparsely, about Cinder falling in love with Kai.

It's about Cinder and how she works (no pun on the cyborg nature), not about Cinder falling in love with her Prince Charming.  It's ridiculously refreshing.

Kai and the other characters were well fleshed-out, too.  I actually love Kai.  Not a fangirl, ooh-I-love-him-so-much kind of love, but he's a really cool character with his own identity apart from Cinder, too.  His balance of insecurity and intelligence was interesting to watch. 

Queen Levana was a sincerely creepy villainess.  I mean... really creepy.  The whole idea of her - I won't spoil it - and of the Lunar race is oddly believable and at the same time just really creepy.  Which made a few of the plot twists even more horrible.

Meyer has a great writing style - very crisp and precise, not flowery or overdone or very fairytale-ish at all.  It actually felt a lot like Cinder - a brilliant mechanic, picking exactly the right words for exactly the right effect.  It wasn't a pretty style, like - say - Markus Zusak or Diana Wynne Jones - but it really worked.

Oh.  And the way she incorporated the Cinderella story details into this was just brilliant.  The car, and her baby cyborg foot, and the missing slipper... brilliant.  Did I say brilliant?

The cons of Cinder... there aren't many.

The afore-mentioned plot twists were... sort of predictable.  I don't try to figure out anything ahead of time, usually, but this time it was easy to see where Meyer was going.  Not all the time, but on a few of the key points.  Though I hate to say it, Cinder's and Kai's relationship does sometimes smack of insta-love.  (But love is rarely the focal point of their dealings with each other and it's overall more tastefully handled than in most cases.)  And it ends on a dreadful cliffhanger, and the next book, Scarlet, doesn't come out 'til February.

Small complaints from me.  In my humble opinion, it's a must-read for fans of fairytale retellings, sci-fi lite, or even just really well characterized YA.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- October Review!

Happy Halloween! Okay, so maybe I'm a bit late, but hear me out... my poor computer, Kal, picked a very inconvenient time to crash (is any time convenient?) so we're a bit late on our monthly review. I'd like to claim the blame (ha! I'm so poetic) on the missing book reviews as well, but that would be Arty's fault, not mine.
So yeah, Persy here, finally. How was your October? I actually did okay, with 14 books read, 3 of them manga, and a total of 4295 pages, which is actually pretty good for me. I'm surprised because I have very little time to read these days. For instance, 7 of my October books were actually for school. Yikes.
Best October Book: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I can't believe it's taken me this long to read such an amazing classic. Same goes for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Honorable Mention: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Plus Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne and Deletion, Vol. 10 of Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
Worst October Book: I suppose Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock. Honestly, there weren't many duds this month, so I wouldn't really label this book as a bad book.
Dishonorable Mention: ...I guess there isn't one. Wowza.
November's not looking too shabby! Hoping to keep it up!

Arty here.  Yeah, yeah, I let you guys down.  I'm sorreh.  Busy weekends.

Anyway... October has been a really, really bad month for me.  I read a paltry 11 books.  Excuse me while I go cry in the corner.

Best October Book: Hard to tell.  Probably Bunnicula, by James Howe, which has been a favorite of mine for ages.  I read it for Halloween.

Honorable Mention: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, a Peter Pan retelling, was terrifically dark.  And then there was The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland (who can write a Norse myth even if he can't write Arthurian legend), and Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, and Runt the Brave by Daniel Schwabauer. (Who has a terrific Adventure Novel writing curriculum that everyone should go out and buy right now.  Kthxbai.)

Worst October Book: Probably The Vindico by Wesley King.  It wasn't bad, per se, but it just wasn't particularly gripping.  Just a lite read.

Dishonorable Mention: ...Well, like Persy, I liked all my others too much for them to be here.  So huzzah.

At least they were all pretty good, even if I didn't read much.  Oh well.  Here's to November being better.