Tag Archives: science fiction

Review: Can’t Buy Forever

51rhw10ql4l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Recap: Odessa is a young girl living in a boarding house run by a widowed aunt. She has lived there for years after her father died and has made a life for herself there and gotten to know the others who live there as well. It’s a house full of miners, and though they’re all older, young Odessa falls for Nicholas. Dessa and Nicholas seem destined to be together, but one of the boys at school wants Dessa for himself. This age-old tale of two men fighting over a beautiful girl starts off reasonably enough but quickly enters dangerous territory, consisting of kidnapping, fighting and abandonment. Dessa is left in despair. Nicholas saves her. The two get married the night of Dessa’s prom.

But somewhere along the way, the truth comes out about Nicholas: he’s not actually just your average man. He’s an immortal gypsy. About halfway to two-thirds of the way into the book, the story takes a sci-fi turn and flees into the depths of a cross-country chase, several lifetimes lived by Nicholas and his family members and those who Dessa has known for most of her life also being connected to Nicholas’s gypsy family in some way.

Analysis: I was on board with the story for the first act. The romance between Nicholas and Dessa was satisfying and lovely. The two needed each other, and I liked it. But the sci-fi/fantasy aspects of the story seemed to come out of left field. It certainly took the book in a different direction, but a weird one, and as the deep details about Nicholas and his family continued to come, the story became more and more confusing. It was hard for me to follow, and by the end I wasn’t entirely sure that Nicholas was even Nicholas anymore. I powered through the book since it was short, but by the end, it lost all the greatness of the first half.

MVP: Dessa. Her character is taken on a journey — albeit a crazy, hard-to-follow, roller coaster of a journey, but a journey nonetheless. She offered the sweetness and innocence that the book needed to try and make the story work.

You can buy Can’t Buy Forever in paperback now for $2.97.

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Movie vs. Book: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It’s a book I loved so much that I not only read it, I also listened to it to re-read it in preparation for the release of the movie version. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a YA novel that doesn’t read as particularly YA — a story about a boy who, grappling with the death of his grandfather, takes a trip to the small town in the UK where his grandpa grew up, only to find that his grandfather lived in a special home with a magical nanny and peculiar children who all have their own special power or gift. The boy goes on to battle the evil creatures who set out to attack these peculiars, especially after learning that not only was his grandfather a peculiar, but so is he. The fantastical setup of the novel is something that stimulates the mind and fills it with magical imagery and hope that good and weird will prevail over evil.

The movie version of Miss Peregrine starts off the same way but by the end, it takes the story so far off course, it’s practically out of reach. The movie speeds up much of the exposition of the novel, quickly getting to the boy taking his trip overseas. Likewise, not much time is really focused on the home, Miss Peregrine or the peculiars. It feels like the movie is more or less going through the motions, speeding up the story to squeeze it all in.

There are a few odd changes that don’t seem to serve a purpose. For instance, the powers of two of the peculiars are switched. The way the boy enters the world of the peculiars is also a little different from the way it happens in the book. He’s also told outright why certain things are happening, rather than him putting two and two together and figuring it out himself like he does in the book. As these changes happened, they stood out to me. But in retrospect, they are nothing compared to the end of the movie.

In the novel, Miss Peregrine is taken captive by the evil Wight named Barron, but in the movie she more or less turns herself in as a way to sacrifice herself for the children. The novel ends on this cliffhanger as the boy decides to stay with the peculiars, fight Barron and help save Miss Peregrine.

But the movie keeps going for probably another half an hour of additional plot that never existed in the book. I have not yet read Miss Peregrine’s sequel, Hollow City, so I’m not sure what, if any, of the end of the movie may come from that book, but the end of the movie includes a crazy fight scene between the peculiars and Wights, all happening in public with cotton candy and carnivals techno music pumping in the background. The scene feels like it’s jumped in from a different movie. Not only this, but everything — yes, everything — is solved at the end. No cliffhanger. Nowhere to go from here.

There’s little to no room for a movie sequel. Maybe the producers never planned to make one, so they packed it all into this one movie. But as someone who’s only read Miss Peregrine and plans to read the sequels that follow it, it was completely disheartening to see the entire story wrapped up in a tiny bow. The magic of the book is lost in the movie, and there’s nothing peculiar about that. It happens. But it doesn’t make it any less sad.

Get Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in paperback for $7.20.

Or get it on your Kindle for $10.99.

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New Duology Coming from Veronica Roth

carvethemarkNow that the Divergent series has concluded and the movies are almost complete, bestselling author Veronica Roth is set to release a new series.

According to Entertainment Weekly, this one is a duology. Carve the Mark is due to be released January 17, 2017. The first book in the duology, Carve centers around a galaxy where “some are favored by fate [and] everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future.” Sound familiar? Yes, it sounds very similar to the faction system of the Divergent books. Especially the further explanation that the two main characters’ gifts “make them vulnerable to others’ control.”

Since the final book in the Divergent series (Allegiant) is often regarded as the worst of the series, I wonder if Roth’s writing of a similarly themed series might be her way of redeeming herself, since here, she’d be able to write a more satisfying ending than that of the Divergent series.

Either way, it’s sure to be a hit, since her first YA series clearly put her on the map, and writing a two-story series may work in her favor, considering how rundown the YA scope is with trilogies.

 

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Movie vs. Book: Allegiant

allegiant-by-veronica-roth**Spoiler Alert: this is your warning that if you have not read the actual book, you might not want to read the following review. Spoilers are included. 

Let me start by saying this: Before seeing Allegiant in theaters, I was not aware that producers decided to split final book in the Divergent series into two movies. So naturally, I was shocked at the state in which the movie ended — clearly setting it up for a fourth movie. That said, the movie adaptation of the final novel in the Divergent series was terrible.

Allegiant is one hell of a book. I was skeptical when I started reading it since I was told by many that the third book in the series was the worst because of something Tris does. Her self-sacrifice in the novel’s third act was a bold move by author Veronica Roth, no doubt. So it’s understandable that readers — especially YA readers that the book targets — would be upset by the dark, sad ending. But I found her actions to be brave and powerful — those of a true tragic hero, sacrificing herself for the greater good, despite the dangers that lie in her wake.

In addition to that, the multiple rebellions and serums in the novel make Allegiant sometimes confusing, but mostly exciting and overwhelming in the best way. For the first time, parts of the novel are told through Four/Tobias’s voice instead of solely Tris’s, and he faces his own dark plot line. Both their stories move with power.

While the Insurgent movie changed some things from the book, the Allegiant movie changed almost everything. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it an adaptation, but rather a movie “loosely based” on the novel by Veronica Roth.

To start, characters Cara and Uriah are cut from the movie, which thereby means the entire “Four accidentally putting Uriah in a coma because of the explosion he helped plan against the bureau” storyline is cut from the movie. That is a huge part of the novel, so it was extremely disappointing to see it  left out of the movie. The movie also made the bureau headquarters much more futuristic than the raggedy image that’s portrayed in the book. The movie also makes it seem like it was Tris’s idea to form the Allegiant, when it’s actually Johanna’s idea — a device to make Tris even more heroic, I imagine.

The movie also adds things the book doesn’t include. For instance: Tobias’s father receiving the memory serum; Four participating in a group that helps bring children from the fringe back to the bureau; a head council to which David must report; and the characters having jobs and duties within the bureau. Some of these changes may seem minor, but because of them, other plot lines and character motivations in the movie had to be adapted, and suddenly it was hard to tell where the story was going since it veered so off course from the novel.

It’s a shame the Divergent movies have increasingly gotten worse and are now out of touch with the great novels upon which they’re based. But if this weekend’s poor ticket sales are any indication, maybe producers won’t make Allegiant Part Two after all and save us the disappointment.

Get Allegiant in paperback for $7.92. 

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Review: Armada

armada_novel_coverRecap: Zack Lightman is about to graduate from high school, but his ambitions of going to college are slim; he’s more focused on video games. His mother understands. She and Zack’s father were video game junkies themselves when they were his age. But Zack’s father, who had a seemingly insane theory about world and government officials secretly training children for war through video games, died when Zack was just a baby.

Zack’s dreams and worst nightmares come true all at once when the video game he’s been playing for years, Armada, becomes his reality. He has been recruited to join the real Earth Defense Alliance (EDA) and use what he’s learned through the video game to fight in actual combat against an alien invasion the EDA is likely to lose.

As one of the best Armada video game players in the world, Lightman has a respectable title and has been sent to the moon to fight alongside the game’s other top players. But what was already an overwhelming battle becomes even more overwhelming when a secret from Zack’s past comes to haunt his present.

Analysis: Like in his debut novel, best-selling author Ernest Cline (Ready Player Oneincorporates 80’s pop culture references from sci-fi movies and games into a novel about video games. The difference here is that while Ready Player One is multi-layered and consists of both the teen boy and his avatar as two separate characters, Armada makes that teen boy and “avatar” one and the same. And while Armada doesn’t achieve the near-perfection of Cline’s first novel, it’s certainly still enjoyable.

The foreshadowing is overstated, so much of the story reads predictably. The pop culture references are a little overused, but one could argue it’s that aspect of Cline’s writing that made Ready Player One so enjoyable, so of course he used the technique again. And while the concept of being brought into a the life of a video game isn’t wholly original, the adventure along the way is fun, nonetheless. It’s the kind of story fanboys dream of — battling aliens! video games! hot girls who are suddenly attracted to nerdy guys!

In the simplest terms, one could argue that Armada is “a bit much.” But I would argue isn’t any sci-fi novel with adventure and heart exactly that?

MVP: Zack. He’s a bit of a lost soul, but that’s to be expected from a boy who grew up without a father. The intelligence and bravery he displays despite everything make him someone his father could be proud of.

Buy Armada in hardcover for $16.50.

Or get it on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Review: The Ocean At the End of the Lane

ocean_at_the_end_of_the_lane_us_coverRecap: A man has returned to his hometown for a funeral, but somehow something pulls him away from the funeral to an old neighbor’s home. He finds himself there, chatting with the familiar women who live there, but Lettie, the little girl he once knew who used to live there is no longer there. He can’t remember where she is or what ever happened to her. But as he sits by the pond behind her home, it all comes back to him.

The story turns into a long flashback to the man’s childhood. He recalls several captivating nights that are hard to believe he could ever forget. It starts with the memory of a man who killed himself in his father’s car parked at the end of his street. The man had gambled away all his friend’s money. This opens the world of the supernatural to the world of the natural, and suddenly strange things happen to the boy: a coin lodges in his throat; a worm is stuck in his foot; and his family hires a new babysitter. The babysitter turns out to be a personification of all the bad and of the supernatural infiltrating its way into the boy’s life. Her name is Ursula, and the boy is horrified.

He escapes as often as he can to his neighbors’ house, where Lettie lives. Lettie, her mother and grandmother have magical powers that allow them to manage the supernatural making its way into their world. But as his world falls apart thanks to Ursula, the boy isn’t so sure he, his family or Lettie and her family will ever be safe.

Analysis: The magic and fantasy of this novel threw me off initially. At first, I thought the author was writing in metaphors, but somewhere along the way, I realized everything was meant to be taken literally. Fantastical stories like this aren’t typically my favorite, but this one was intriguing. I didn’t know where it was going and I was interested enough to keep reading and find out. The ending turned out to be much sadder than I expected for not only the main character, but also for his magical friend Lettie.

I appreciated the end — however sad it may have been — for its acknowledgement of things coming full circle and the notion that childhood events have a lasting impact on one’s adult life. The book’s final moments are fairly open-ended, but because of the mystery of the story and the inherent enchantment that that mystery brings, it works. Ocean left me feeling wistful for answers and childhood — wistful in a good way.

MVP: Lettie. She’s a young girl with an old soul. Without giving anything away, we later find out why. But she is strong, and just the kind of person to give the story’s main character all the confidence he can muster.

Get The Ocean at the End of the Lane in paperback for $8.51.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Mockingjay (Part 2)

41k66tfc43l**Spoiler Alert: Considering five years having passed since Mockingjay was published, this is your warning that if you have not read the actual book, you might not want to read the following review. Spoilers are included. 

It was the ending we’d all been waiting for — the final defeat of the Capitol, of President Snow, of all that was wrong with the country of Panem. And Katniss was the one to accomplish it all, a true heroine assisted by her fellow rebels. The movie Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where the first one ended, with Katniss recovering from an attack by Peeta, after he left the Capitol. As Katniss emotionally tries to come to grips with the new Peeta, who isn’t really Peeta anymore at all, she also works to further the rebellion and take down the Capitol.

But Coin, in charge of the rebellion, forces Katniss to remain the face of the rebellion and not one of its foremost warriors. Ultimately Katniss becomes one anyway, working with her team including Gale, Peeta, Bogs, Cressida, Finnick and others to break in to District 2 and the Capitol, so Katniss to fulfill her goal of killing President Snow herself. All that is accomplished and then some, when Katniss ultimately kills Coin as well, realizing after the death of her sister that Coin’s thirst for power was just as, if not more, dangerous and deadly than Snow’s.

The movie does a great job of closely following the book. There are the regular film changes with which fans have become familiar — including new, additional scenes with Snow and his advisors or with Coin and Plutarch, broadening the story and filling in the novel’s gaps that inevitably come from  Katniss’s first-person perspective formatting.

The biggest changes come at the movie’s end. In the novel, Katniss is misunderstood when she kills Coin. Because no one but President Snow really knew Coin’s evil, no one understands why Katniss commits such a heinous crime as murder. She is put on trial and acquitted by reason of insanity. She goes on to seemingly live a life of freedom yet sadness, married to Peeta, without any more of a relationship to Haymitch.

In the movie, however, there is no trial. There is a relationship with Haymitch. Katniss is commended by Plutarch. She is understood, and so are her actions, by the people of Panem. She is not deemed insane; she is a deemed a hero. She and Peeta are portrayed as truly in love and truly happy. The movie’s end is the storybook ending that the storybook never gave us. Of course, it’s different, and it might anger die-hard fans of the books. But after all Katniss has been through — and all we’ve been through three books and four movies later — it’s satisfying to have an ending that’s full and not one that leaves us, well, hungry.

Buy Mockingjay in paperback for $7.39.

Or on your Kindle for $4.99.

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