Friday, January 30, 2015

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) : Review

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Rating: ★★★★½
In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
I read Scarlet, the second book in The Lunar Chronicles, some time last year and was in no rush to continue the series. I liked Scarlet but I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with Cinder which itself wasn't exactly a blow-my-mind kind of book. The main appeal of this series, for me at least, is the fact that each story is a retelling of a classic fairy tale that most of us are probably familiar with. I loved the idea of reading a retelling of Cinderella which takes place in the future and in which Cinderella is a cyborg. It just seemed so cool and unique and Cinder did not disappoint. Maybe by lack of excitement for Scarlet has something to do with the fact that Little Red Riding Hood is one of the more boring fairy tales compared to others or maybe it had something to do with there not being as much Cinder and Kai in the second installment. Either way, I waited to read Cress which I finally picked up earlier this month and I'm so glad that I did. Adding Rapunzel into the mix meant even less page time for Cinder and Kai (they are definitely my favorite couple in the series) but that didn't real become an issue because the story and the characters were so much better.

Let me back up a little. The new addition in this installment is Cress (the Lunar Chronicles version of Rapunzel) who is a Lunar and has been essentially imprisoned in a satellite that orbits Earth where she spends her time watching Earthen videos, listening to opera and completely the many tasks Mistress Sybil assigns to her. Cress, by the way, is a hacker and she's been a secret weapon for the Lunars. Cinder plans to rescue Cress which is when everything gets turned upside down, literally and figuratively. The team that was coming together to start this inevitable rebellion against Queen Levana is now scattered and Cress ends up in a desert with Captain Thorne.

At this point the story splits up into four different settings and through each of these four perspectives we get to see what is happening with all the different characters in their own separate situations. I liked this split perspective much more than the one in Scarlet because none of them were boring. There were points in Scarlet where I didn't want to read the Scarlet perspectives because I was much more interested in Cinder but in Cress, there was never a dull moment.

Toward the end of the book we are introduced to Princess Winter of Luna I won't go into detail about her but let's just say that I am now every more excited about reading Winter than I would have been without that introduction... and I think I would've been pretty excited anyway.

On a bit of a side note, reading this made me realize that maybe I don't know the Rapunzel fairy tale as well as I thought I did. I knew that Cress' "prince" was going to be Thorne and I assumed that Marissa Meyer was doing her take on the Disney version of Rapunzel because Thorne resembles Flynn Rider in many ways (and I always thought the original story involved an actual prince). The beginning of Cress is also more reminiscent of Tangled than the Rapunzel story I remembered. Then we get to the desert part of the story at which point I really started questioning my knowledge of this fairy tale because the quote from the fairy tale that was included just before that part started referenced a desert. So am I just completely confused about the Rapunzel fairy tale or is it really the retelling of the Disney addition?

The story overall was a roller coaster ride full of action and unexpected twists and turns. The Lunar Chronicles is proving to be one of those series that actually gets better as it goes and aren't those the best kind? I can't wait to read Winter when it comes out later this year and am looking forward to seeing how Marissa Meyer brings everything to a close. There has got to be a happily ever after, right? It can't really be a fairy tale without the happily ever after. Here's hoping.

Also, shout-out and kudos to lostie815 on deviantart for making this beauty:

Top: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress
Bottom: Kai, Wolf, Thorne

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Let's Talk : The Duff (Movie)

I did something that I don't normally do. I watched a movie before reading the book. Yeah, I know. How could I? Right? This is probably one of the most scandalous things you could do as an avid reader but I did it anyway. I don't always read the book but if it's a YA book then I either read it or at least try  to read it (The Maze Runner) before watching the movie. I haven't watched The Book Thief yet because I still have to read the book, I haven't even seen the trailer. I averted my eyes and covered my ears every time The Fault in Our Stars trailer came on before I read the book. But I had an opportunity to go to an advanced screening and I took it and that is how I ended up watching The Duff movie before reading a single word from the book.

All I knew about this movie was what I saw from the trailer. I was expecting a regular old high school movie that was super predictable but a good way to waste time when you don't have anything better to do. It was predictable but I didn't mind that because the movie had so much more to offer. First of all, it was fun. I was laughing and aww-ing and feeling lots of feels. Secondly, Mae Whitman, who plays Bianca, was such a refreshing actress to see on screen. This is the first thing I've seen with her but I want to see so much more. I love her acting! Third, The Duff managed to entertain while also spreading an important message about bullying and cyber-bullying. I really liked the movie. There were a lot of Mean Girls sort of vibes and I feel like this could become one of those movies that people will watch over and over again. I definitely wanted to watch it again as soon as it was done.

The only thing I would pick on is the portrayal of high school teenagers. I understand that it's meant to be comedic and for that cause a lot of stereotypes are emphasized but I felt like they focused way too much on certain things that just seemed so unrealistic and fake. For example, there's a scene where Bianca gets in a fight with her friends and they proceed to unfriend and unfollow each other from pretty much every single social media platform known to man. It was just too much and I might have internally groaned during that scene. Aside from very specific moments though, I felt the movie, overall, was a great watch.

Also, I took my brother along and of course he acted like he had better things to do but I think he actually enjoyed the movie too. He hasn't said so in so many words but he has made several references to the movie since so I think that means he liked it. And the fact that Mae Whitman was on Arrested Development also helps.

My review of this movie comes from the perspective of someone who hasn't read the book and has nothing to compare it to (I am planning on reading the book before the movie is released and maybe I'll add an update to this post) but, as a non-reader of this book, I enjoyed the movie. It's a simple story, one we've heard a million times before but for whatever reason we like hearing it over and over again with whatever new combination of characteristics.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Let's Talk : Mockingjay (Part 1)

When I found out that they were going to split Mockingjay into two movies, I was a bit disappointed. It seems like every finale in a book-turned-movie franchise gets turned into two movies and I don't like the idea of having to go the movie theater twice to see a story that I got out of one book. Having said that, I do really enjoy watching the movies for the books I read and so the upside to having a book split into two films is that we get more visuals.

I was a bit skeptical going into Mockingjay Part 1  but also super excited because, let's be honest, the Hunger Games is a prime example of when a book turning into a movie goes well. The movies are really good and they don't disappoint the fans of the book while simultaneously drawing a crowd of new fans who've never read the books but love the story. This installment was no exception. The movie was great and true to the book, for the most part, and any variations were completely excusable because the story overall flowed really well. I liked that we got to see the raid in the capital because we don't get that in the book. I loved Jennifer Lawrence's acting (no surprise there) as well as Josh Hutcherson's, who did an amazing job depicting the slow deterioration of Peeta (I know the physical change was CGI but the emotional change was all acting on Josh's part). The scene at the very end when Peeta sees Katniss for the first time after (spoiler alert) being saved from the capital was 100% perfect! It was just how I imagined it to be and it was almost terrifying and heart-breaking to watch. I also really appreciated the way the story treated the ending or coming to an end of any possibility of a 'Kayle' romance and how the series never emphasized the love triangle too much (there was some of that happening when the first movie came out but this book isn't about a love triangle, there isn't really much of a love triangle there and I like that they didn't emphasize that). Plus, we got to see so much Gayle in this movie and people who haven't read the books can finally gain more of an appreciation for him.

Overall, I was happy with this movie. I don't mind that there are two parts to Mockingjay. Well, actually, I do mind that I have to wait another year before seeing the next half (I saw it in November and I'm just writing this late) but I can be okay with that because I know that the movie is going to be good and completely worth it. The Hunger Games movies haven't disappointed so far and I don't expect them to start now. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014!

I know, we're more than a week into 2015 and I'm only now doing my favorites of 2014. Where have I been? What have I been up to? More importantly, why have I been so lazy with this blog? Well, I've got an answer for that and I think it's a good one. The truth is, I've been reading. A lot. I can't believe how many really great books I've managed to read recently, it's amazing.

Before I get into my favorite books, though, I want to talk a little about my reading year overall. The first half of the year started out pretty good (I'm going to pretend that Requiem never happened). I marathoned the first 3 books in the Lux series which is so unusual for me because I don't normally read books in the same series back to back like that. Aside than a few stand-outs (Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Eleanor and Park),  the first half of the year was a pretty average reading year for me. The second half was an entirely different story (no pun intended?). In August, I read Throne of Glass and just happened across Crown of Midnight a few weeks later and absolutely, head-over-heels fell in love with it. I, of course, desperately needed to get my hands on the Heir of Fire, which, thankfully, had already come out by this point. As soon as I got my hands on it, I started reading and pulled my first official all-nighter. It was a truly momentous occasion for me. Not only because it was a first or because HoF turned out to be such an amazing book but because Sarah J. Maas herself tweeted me back!!!!!!

Yup. That actually happened!

While 2013 will forever be remembered as a year of bad series finales, 2014 was a year of fantastic endings, exciting new beginnings and fantasy, lots and lots of fantasy. I let go of some series that I adored and yet it wasn't too bad because they got the ending/conclusion they deserved (Evertrue, Ruin and Rising, Falling Kingdoms) and I also discovered new series (The Winner's Curse, The Young Elites, The Raven Boys) that are equally good, if not better, to fill the holes left behind by my ex-ongoing series.

Here it is. My list of my favorite books read in 2014.

10. The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Am I surprised that this book turned out to be good despite the super hyped up expectations I had for it? Yes. Because when you say "Assassin's Creed 2 meets X-Men" my expectation level goes from 0 to 1000 in a nanosecond.

9. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Feels and feels and cuteness. Also, they bond over comic books!

8. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
The kickoff to  my year of great and satisfying sequels. Even if things didn't turn out how I wanted them to...

7. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Look! I actually started reading a series before everyone else did! 

6. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Mara's story kept me on edge the entire read but in the best way possible. There were a million question marks floating around my head when I read this. They might still be there because I have yet to figure what is going on with Mara Dyer.

5. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Belly is one of the most relatable characters I've ever read. The feels!

4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I love love love love love Maggie's writing style. Love.

3. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
I've heard people talk about what a great conclusion this was and now I know why.

2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
Another great conclusion to a series. Karou and Akiva forever!

1. Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
I can't choose. Please don't make me choose.

For clarification, the top 4 are in definite order and after that it all sort of gets hazy.