Thursday, May 13, 2010

Movies seen - 2010

Up in the Air
Big Trouble in Little China
Margaret Cho's Beautiful
Nun of that
Art school confidential
Juno (re-watch) on TV

Books read - 2010

1. Jerk, California
2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
3. Skin Hunger
4. Hunger Games
5. Eon: Dragoneye reborn
6. Catching Fire
7. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
8. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
9. Before I fall by Lauren Oliver
10. Will Greyson, Will Greyson David Levithan and John Green
11. Everything on a waffle by Polly Horvath
12. Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle
13. Corps of the Bare-boned Plane by Polly Horvath
14. Wings by Aprilynne Pike
15. Loser by Jerry Spinnelli(sp)
16. Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
17. T-backs, T-shirts, Coat and Suit - E.L. Koingsberg

hiatus - ish

Not that many read this, HOWEVER, I am having a hiatus due to having no computer of my own. (roommate is being lovely about letting me use hers, but it's not quite the same.)

Anyhow, once I'm back in action in terms of owning my own computer, I hope to be more regular in reviewing, as I am still watching movies and reading books.

Monday, March 15, 2010

LIttle Fish Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves

Vital Stats:

Book: The Dead-Tossed Waves

Author: Carrie Ryan

Genre: YA

Sequel/companion book to Forest of Hands and Teeth

Book Jacket Blurb:

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known, and all she needs for happiness.

But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back.

Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling.

One night beyond the Barrier...

One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery...

One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned.

Gabry knows only one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past.

Review in long:

I audibly gasped in the bookstore when I saw this had come out, and there was no question I was going to buy it. I read it in one day.

And still, in looking back on it, all I can think is that… it was a sequel.

This one had tight writing, with the stakes being raised in pretty much every chapter, and MOST of the plot twists felt natural and realistic (MOST, mind you, not all, I’ll come back to that) and the character development felt natural – although maybe the love scenes felt a bit forced (similar to Forest)

The things that seemed to bug people (read in other reviews) like repetitive bringing up of character issues (“That fateful moment in the amusement park” “oh woe is me, I’m so scared and insecure and guilty”) were all there and noticeable, but not that irritating to me.

But the main thought running through my head was

“this book is such a sequel.” Nothing seemed QUITE as urgent as the first one. I didn’t quite care as much, either for the people or the plot. It was like both were good action movies, but the second one was just a good copy of the first, and by being a copy it simply wasn’t as good.

Specific nit-picks: The end. UGH! It ends on a “there’s obviously going to be another book” hook-end, which bugs me – probably because I wasn’t as thrilled with Waves as I was with Forest.

But the part that really bugs me about the end?

(spoilers! - highlight to read the white text)

The last big stakes-raising-tension-driving-OMG-plot-shifter moment was Elias accidentally stepping off a cliff. Really? Like… no one saw how the path just abruptly ended? Too lovesick to be aware of your physical surroundings, I guess? I hope that I was just reading too fast, and that somehow that cliff-fall was actually a bit more believable, but… really he just randomly steps off a cliff? Really? Because Alien abduction at that moment didn’t feel quite right? We went with cliff? Ok. I also had a hard time figuring out how, exactly, the bridge and fence were curving for the entire last chapter.

Forest of Hands and Teeth left me a bit haunted – it stuck with me for awhile, in a good way. At the end, you’re left to make your own conclusions about the meanings,

whereas Waves tried a bit harder to pound in the “this is what life means” bits. Forest hit tragedy/action just right, while Waves tried a bit too hard and didn’t stick the landing. Forest felt satisfying, Waves didn’t. Forest resonated with me, Waves didn’t. Something just wasn’t clicking.

Both had similar writing problems, that I could see: melodramatic writing, intense love interests going on with no real reason – and actually for both I was able to get over it in the first couple of chapters and go with it. Again, the writing is very good, and both are fun re

ads. I just... wanted to be haunted by Waves, and I wasn't.

Review in short:

I’m not sure which of my quibbles really sinks Waves, (probably the combination of all of them) but Waves just wasn’t as good as Forest. It’s worth the read, because it’s still “a good action movie” but it’s a sequel, and it’s not as good as the first.

As a stand alone it’s simply a good book, the way I feel solid action movies are “a good action movie”… so it’s still worth a read. But Forest of Hands and Teeth? Make sure you read that one.

Anything else?

The cover was so not as awesome as Forest of Hands and Teeth, although the title was pretty good. For some reason the font on Waves bugs me a lot.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Little Fish Review: Jerk, California

Vital stats:

Title: Jerk, California
Written by: Jonathan Friesen
Genre: YA
Pub stats: Speak, 2004


(taken from Booklist, by way of
In rural Wisconsin, Sam, a high-school student with Tourette syndrome, is alienated from his peers and rejected by his stepfather, and he has trouble getting close to lovely, kind Naomi. After graduation, his stepfather kicks him out of the house, and he accepts a job and lodging from another outcast, who knew Sam’s late father and dispels some of Sam’s misconceptions about his dad. Then, after more shake-ups at home, Sam embarks on a road trip with Naomi to California, hunting windmills and answers left by Sam’s dad along the way. Sam and his story are quixotic in the best possible way: he is a good-hearted dreamer trying to do right by his dulcinea. Debut author Friesen has Tourette syndrome, and he brings complexity and nuance to Sam’s struggle for understanding and self-acceptance. The pacing is leisurely, but like any good road story, there are enough corners and bends to keep readers eagerly anticipating what lies ahead at the journey’s end. Grades 10-12. --Heather Booth

Review in long:

This was a book that caught my eye from the shelf several times. It's bright orange and has a quirky title that includes the name of my home state. I finally bought it when I read the first few pages and the voice really grabbed me.

Sam, our main man, is wonderfully written. The way he talks to himself, the way his Tourettes affects him, all of it. He was unique and awesome, and I really loved getting to know him. The writing in general is very good. It has some lovely telling details, and, again, voice is spot on.

Plot-wise, the beginning of the book is quirky and funny enough. Things are set up to be interesting - weird old guy and road trip? rockin', I'm so into this. The people they met on the roadtrip? hilarious and heartwarming in all the right ways.

I liked everything up until two thirds of the way in.

A few things happened at that time to turn me off.

1. I started to dislike Naomi. She was just so irritating sometimes. like in how she misunderstood things. Looking at stuff from Sam's perspective, you could see how/why he misunderstood, but it felt like Naomi was just kind of dense and moody. Also, I just did NOT understand where she was coming from. After her big secret is revealed, it doesn't really give that flash of insight into her character that makes you like her. it just kind of sits there and you go "oh." and then move on.

2. The ending surprises. Kind of anti-climactic in some ways, and it was just so sudden and easy the way Sam suddenly becomes this whole new confident dude. I don't know. I felt like I needed a bit more, or maybe a bit more subtlety?

3. The happily ever after ending. ugh, really? and I'm not talking "everyone is happy in the end" I'm talking "the bad get punished, the good rewarded and all living together in harmony with little birds tweeting around them" happy ending, which felt so flippin' sappy to me. I like my realism, dammit.

Review in short:

I wanted to like this book better then I did. Man character is a gem to read, but the ending just made it "meh" for me. Maybe get this one from the library.

Anything else?

Aw, according to my brief search on Google maps, Jerk, California does not exist. That makes me frowny. It would've been so much cooler if there was an actual town called Jerk.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Little Fish Review: Skin Hunger

Vital Stats:

Book: Skin Hunger
Author: Kathleen Duey
Genre: YA fantasy

Review in long:
(contains a bit o' basic plot spoiling, but no details)

Maz, my co-worker and kindred spirit in YA reading, lent this one to me. I read the back of the book and it was a jumble. It starts out with two different main characters and each one, Sadima and Hahp, alternate chapters. Hahp is first person, Sadima is third person. It's a bit jarring, but the effect is good: it makes the book interesting enough to keep on reading. Which is what the first quarter of the book needs.

While Hahp's beginnings are pretty interesting (shipped off to a terrible wizarding school) Sadima's are pretty flippin' boring. Honestly, even with Hahp's interesting predicament, after I left the book a quarter of the way in, I didn't get back to it for a couple of days. It wasn't screaming to be read.

And then tonight I picked it up again. And read. and then KEPT READING, because the book gets so dark and twisted that you can't stop. It's not like gruesome things suddenly start happen, it's just that the book works its way into the world and the story deeper and deeper.

Character-wise I'm not super attached to either Sadima or Hahp, but their problems are so serious that I need to know what happens next.

Which is a shame, because the book completely DROPS at the end, as it is the first in a trilogy. EEP!

The second book is out, but she's still writing the third. I fully intend to get the second, and I can't wait to find out how much darker the story can get.

As Maz pointed out, it's a nice change in the world of magic. Most YA fantasies are not this dark, and even though evil people are about and bad things happen, the idea of whatever magic exists is still kind of "normal" and "happy." Skin Hunger is a bit more ... well, again, dark and twisted. Morbid?

I don't know, all I can say is I really liked how I got pulled in, and I really want to be pulled in even more.

Review in short:

a YA fantasy that appeals to me because it's dark. It's slow start and possible distant protagonists are made up for by having the twisted world it has. The duel stories help move the book along, and I can't wait to see how many more connections are made between the two.
Recommended, although that could change depending how the ending of the series goes.

Anything else?

Damn. I don't have Maz's phone number and she's not on Facebook. How the heck will she know I need her to bring me the second book?

Little Fish Review: Avatar

Vital Stats:

Movie: Avatar
Directed by: James Cameron
Featuring the acting talents of: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, and Computer Technology

Review in long:
(Contains spoilers, but do you really care?)

Jake Sully is our hero in Avatar, and his backstory is he had a brother who died, lost the use of his legs, blah blah blah “I’m a depressed yet smart-alec ex marine.”

Big evil villains want to take over beautiful planet Pandora, because it has a big supply of a really awesome mineral called “unobtainium.” I’m assuming Big Evil Company had already depleted the copious amounts of “reallyhardtogetium” from that last planet they invaded, and so needed a new mineral to set their evil sights on. Big Evil Company hires Jake to go help them find a diplomatic way to get rid the the native people of Pandora. He gets hooked up to an avatar, which lets him wander around as if he is one of the native people called the Na'vi.

The Na'vi are Native American cat-Smurfs who came to Pandora by way of Jamaica. (Ostensibly to engage in 24 hour raves, as the majority of the planet is made of or derived from glowsticks)

Jake gets stuck on the planet and is found by a particularly foxy cat-smurf named something I can't remember. She teaches him the ways of her people, and he becomes a warrior and blah blah blah you know the plot. Even if you haven’t heard the plot, you know the plot.

Jake falls in love with cat-smurf lady, he realizes Big Evil Company is evil, and the Na’vi are magical and awesome and should be saved. Big fight happens. Good prevails.

The point of Avatar isn’t the plot. It’s the visuals. And I must say, the visuals are quite stunning. Somewhere between reality and video game graphics are the Na’vi and their ravetastic forests, and it’s actually really fun to watch. You even got some emotion coming through on the computer-generated eyeballs. That’s a pretty big achievement, considering the creepy soulless computer-eyes have been criticized in films like the Polar Express and Beowulf

I’m generally pretty big on story, and I assumed I would hate the film because the plot was so generic. I actually found myself enjoying the film, and it only had a handful of groan-worthy moments.

Those moments include:

-The “baby, sure, it started out as an assignment, but it’s different NOW! I love you!” speech that breaks him and the girl up for that extra tension before the film wraps up. So cliche.

-The jarring narration that came back in after about an hour of no narration that included the phrase “I would have to take this to a whole other level.” Really? A whole other level? Was it off the hook as well?

-The generic tribal/racial stereotypes. After you saw them you got used to them and didn’t care, but each time one came on the screen I felt kind of racist. Like “oh, I get it, they braid their hair in cornrows- like black people! Ew, racist me, racist me.”

-I was also really bugged by how the Na'vi accentified “jakesully” even though they seemed to have enough of a grasp on non-accented English to get it right.

Review in short:

I was surprisingly not irritated by Avatar. In fact, I was honestly entertained. Definitely worth seeing. Not only do you get pretty pretty visuals that actually entertain throughout, you get solid storytelling (even if you’ve heard it before) and the good old thrill of cheering for the underdog in the climactic fight at the end.

Anything else?

* There are lots of theories about the racism present or not present in Avatar. A good link to start you off is here, which discusses one person’s opinion of Avatar and white guilt fantasies, as well as gives a nice overview of plot. Or you could just Google “Racism in Avatar” and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of hits. I did. I haven't come to my conclusions about the element of race in Avatar, but I certainly think the conversation is an interesting one.

* Papyrus (the font) writes a letter to Avatar - hee hee hee

*Apparently, people are really upset about how the movie Avatar isn't real. Seriously?

*And Lastly, it's been confirmed that there will be a sequel to Avatar. I'm thinking it's either "little cat-smurfs on the prairie" where the Na'vi struggle to rebuild their home/find a new home OR it takes place years later, Jake's child finds a human to fall in love with, and we go with a "The Little Mermaid" theme. Either way, I'm sure James Cameron will go all technology crazy and mess up his own work, and we'll all hate the sequels, just like we all hate the Star Wars prequels. (Damn you, George Lucas)