Archive for March, 2013

Book Review: Flash by Sean C. Sousa

Release Date: October 1st 2012
Publisher: Epical Media
Series: The Forever Saga (#1)
Pages: 385

Flash

From the book jacket:

Long ago, the first reign of Grigori Geist nearly destroyed the Earth.

Returned from exile, Geist is secretly rebuilding his kingdom beneath Antarctica, assembling his robotic Vaucan race to war against mankind. Only one obstacle remains: the war hero known as Brian Renney.

Yet Brian is losing a battle against his fears. Scars of heart and mind linger from his days in Vietnam, fueling his failures as husband and father. This embitters his youngest son, Jason – a star athlete torn between pursuing the love of his life, and meeting the demands of a father who is far from the storied army captain he once was.

And all the while, Geist is coming for them.

In this dark hour, Brian and Jason encounter a war to end all others… and an unexpected ally who, once meant for evil, shall forever be a force for good

Plot:

There are times when a book blurb really adequately outlines the plot of the novel.  This is one of them.  There is very little I could add here that wouldn’t give away too much of the story.

Overall Thoughts:

This book is a slow starter; it took me a few chapters to really get into it.  Once I started to get into the story, though, I enjoyed it.  For most of the story,  I did find the chapters about Brian, his past, and his family more interesting than the chapters about the Vaucans, but when the two stories began to intertwine, I became just as wrapped up in the plight of Regnum Aeturnam and the Vaucans.  The first few chapters jumped around between a hard sci-fi plot and the story of a family slowly falling apart, with little in the way of connecting the two.  I felt like I was reading two different books.  Having read other reviews of the book, however, I knew to be patient.  That’s, perhaps, my biggest complaint with this book.  Had I not been warned that the book was slow to start, I might have given up and missed out on the great story that comes later on.   It’s a bit jarring when the stories collide, but after that everything picks up.  All the seemingly unimportant or unrelated details from earlier in the book have their place and form a rich, intricate plot.

Characters:

There are so many characters in this book, that it would be hard to devote the appropriate discussion for each of them.  Instead, I’ll focus on Jason and Brian Renney, since they are ultimately the two protagonists.

Brian is a great character.  I really appreciated the fact that the hero of the book was a 60 year old war veteran with PTSD and failing health.  In the beginning, there was nothing about this man that would in any way suggest he would be the savior of the world.  He’s a complicated man who fears that he has failed himself, his family, and – in the flashbacks to the Vietnam war – his country.  There are parts of his story that really break my heart, but that makes his redemption all the better.

I did not hold as favorable a view of Jason at the beginning.  He came off as a spoiled, arrogant child who was upset he wasn’t getting everything he wanted.   He does grow up quite a bit throughout the story, though, and I’m interested to see where he’ll go in the rest of the series.  The relationship between him and Brian is a great representation of a father-son relationship that has gone wrong.  Their pain, resentment, and love are so very believable.  Even though they are apart for much of the book, Jason’s story is as much about how he relates to his father and his world as anything else.

Setting:

This book takes place in two very different settings – America, primarily Michigan, and the world of Regnum Aeturnam, existing beneath Antarctica.  These are two wildly different locations and are the part of the novel that actually benefit from the bouncing juxtaposition of the first few chapters.   The almost alien feeling of Regnum Aeturnam compared to the normalcy of the Renneys’ home and Jason’s school make it seem all the more ominous.

Writing Style:

Sousa is a very descriptive writer.  It was so easy to picture each setting, each piece of action.  His descriptions of both the Renney home in Michigan and Regnum Aeturnum are equally compelling.  Where Sousa really shines, though, are the sections with Brian’s Vietnam flashbacks. You could feel the heat, hear the bullets, and see everything that Brian was seeing.  I felt myself tensing up because I was so into the action.

Where Sousa’s writing is lacking, however, is in the dialogue.  Each sentence a character spoke was well-constructed, grammatically correct, and often very proper.  While this style of speaking would have been appropriate for the robotic characters, it felt unnatural for the humans.  People often don’t speak in complete sentences or monologues that sound like prepared speeches.  This is a minor complaint that many readers probably wouldn’t notice, but I would have appreciated some dialogue that sounded more like actual people speaking to each other.

Extras:

This book was surprisingly religious, but in a pleasant way.  It enhanced the story, rather than becoming overly “preachy.”

Favorite Line:

Technology always has the capacity to do good.  It’s the people that misuse it and make it worse than it is.

Read This If You Like:

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

He, She, and It by Marge Piercy

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

 

 Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review.  I did not receive any compensation for this review.  All opinions here are my own.

Find Sean C. Sousa online:  Goodreads  //  Website  //  Facebook

Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

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Release Date: February 14 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 124 minutes
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Based On: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I so wanted to like this movie.  I loved the book and the previews really made it seem like they had captured its essence, even with the character changes they made.  However, unfortunately, aside from some pretty visuals, I don’t have many good things to say about it.  It was so bad it was almost laughable.

The movie is a poor interpretation of the book.  Unnecessary changes were made; these changes were beyond the usual needed to convert a book to a movie.  They were gratuitous and, unlike others where the changes improve the story, they made it discordant, confusing, and generic.  They even went so far as changing the ending to the point that it changed the entire theme and message of the story.  In my opinion, that is one of the most egregious errors that can be made when turning a book into a movie.  If you change the basic message, especially in a negative way, you destroy the essence of that story.

The problems with the movie went beyond the simply poor translation, however.  The accents were atrocious.  I found myself laughing at how incredibly bad they actually were.  Much of the dialogue given to Ethan would have been more appropriate for a 40 year old rather than a 16 year old.  The time jumped forward so quickly it was difficult to find the connection between Lena and Ethan believable, especially since they weren’t shown to be as close or reliant on each other as in the book.  The story was very choppy and hard to follow, at times.  Events occurred that really made no sense in the context in which they were presented.

I did, however, like the casting.  I felt that they did an excellent job finding actors that really fit the characters they were portraying.  It’s just unfortunate that they were given such little to work with.

All in all, it really wasn’t worth seeing in the theater.  I’m not sure it’s even worth paying the $1 at Redbox.  Save your money and see something else.

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly post hosted by Breaking the Spine where bloggers can highlight upcoming books they’re excited to read. My choice for this week is:

 

Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm

Light

Janet Malcolm’s In the Freud Archives and The Journalist and the Murderer, as well as her biographies of Sylvia Plath and Gertrude Stein, are canonical in the realm of nonfiction. As is the title essay of this collection, with its forty-one “false starts,” or serial attempts to capture the essence of the painter David Salle, which become a dazzling portrait of an artist. “She is among the most intellectually provocative of authors,” writes David Lehman in The Boston Globe, “able to turn epiphanies of perception into explosions of insight.”
Forty-one False Starts brings together for the first time essays published over the course of several decades (many from The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books) that reflect Malcolm’s preoccupation with artists and their work. Her subjects are painters, photographers, writers, and critics. She explores the “dominating passion” of Bloomsbury to create things visual and literary, the “passionate collaborations” behind Edward Weston’s nudes, and the psyche of the German photographer Thomas Struth. She delves beneath the “onyx surface” of Edith Wharton’s fiction, appreciates the black comedy of the Gossip Girl novels, and confronts the false starts of her own autobiography. As Ian Frazier writes in the introduction, “Over and over Malcolm has demonstrated that an article in a magazine—something we see every day—can rise to the highest level of literature.”

Expected publication: May 7th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Why I’m Waiting

Janet Malcolm has written some truly beautiful  pieces about artists and writers.  She’s covered some fascinating people, across genres and mediums.  This collection sounds like an really neat portrait of her and those about whom she’s written.

Favorite Retellings

I just finished reading Meg Cabot’s Abandon series, which is great meta-retelling of the Persephone myth.  I love a good retelling or re-imagining of a familiar story, especially when the author puts a creative new twist on here.  Here are some of my favorites (including two that are re-imaginings of an actual person’s life).
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Retelling of: Faust

The only thing that makes St. Teresa’s Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane’s suddenly alone—and very confused.

Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity—to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa’s! Now it’s up to Jane to put it all on the line to save her friend from this ponytail-wearing, cupcakenibbling demon . . . without losing her own soul in the process.

 

 

 

 

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Retelling of: Alice in Wonderland

When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

 

 

 

The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler
Retelling of: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Zita is not an ordinary servant girl–she’s the thirteenth daughter of a king who wanted only sons. When she was born, Zita’s father banished her to the servants’ quarters to work in the kitchens, where she can only communicate with her royal sisters in secret.

Then, after Zita’s twelfth birthday, the princesses all fall mysteriously ill. The only clue is their strangely worn and tattered shoes. With the help of her friends–Breckin the stable boy, Babette the witch, and Milek the soldier–Zita follows her bewitched sisters into a magical world of endless dancing and dreams. But something more sinister is afoot–and unless Zita and her friends can break the curse, the twelve princesses will surely dance to their deaths.

 

 

 

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Retelling of: The Island of Dr. Moreau

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

 

 

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Retelling of: Hamlet

Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong friend and ally. Edgar seems poised to carry on his family’s traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he finds his once-peaceful home engulfed in turmoil.

Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the Sawtelle farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who accompany him, until the day he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.

 

 

Ophelia by David Wroblewski
Retelling of: Hamlet

He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.

In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia’s happiness is shattered. Ultimately, she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever . . . with one very dangerous secret.
 

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Retelling of: The Biblical story of Dinah

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

 

 

 

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Retelling of: The life of Jesus

The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work “reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more — except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala — and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

 

 

My Father Had a Daughter: Judith Shakespeare’s Tale by Grace Tiffany
Retelling of: The life of Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith

William Shakespeare was father to three children: Susanna, his oldest, and twins Judith and Hamnet. This is Judith’s tale… In this wonderfully inventive novel, Grace Tiffany weaves fact with fiction to bring Judith Shakespeare to vibrant life. After a family tragedy, Judith discovers a copy of her father’s new play, which seems to make light of her grief. Furious, she follows him to London, intent on sabotaging the performance–but instead, she discovers that she and her father have more in common than she imagined… Through Judith’s eyes, we glimpse the world of her famous playwright father–his work, his family, and his inspiration–in a richly atmospheric tale from a bright new literary star.

 

 

 

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Retelling of: The life of Alice Liddell Hargreaves

Part love story, part literary mystery, Melanie Benjamin’s spellbinding historical novel leads readers on an unforgettable journey down the rabbit hole, to tell the story of a woman whose own life became the stuff of legend. Her name is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, but to the world she’ll always be known simply as “Alice,” the girl who followed the White Rabbit into a wonderland of Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats. Now, nearing her eighty-first birthday, she looks back on a life of intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. First as a young woman, then as a wife, mother, and widow, she’ll experience adventures the likes of which not even her fictional counterpart could have imagined. Yet from glittering balls and royal romances to a world plunged into war, she’ll always be the same determined, undaunted Alice who, at ten years old, urged a shy, stuttering Oxford professor to write down one of his fanciful stories, thus changing her life forever.

Guest Post at Call Her Happy

I had the awesome opportunity to write a guest post for the blog Call Her Happy. I’m really excited about my first guest blogging experience and glad that Jenna made it such a great one.  So, head over to Call Her Happy to check out my post  8 Great Young Adult Novels That Adults Will Love Too.   While you’re there, give her blog a read, too.  She posts on a bunch of topics, including book reviews.