July 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd Like to Have With Me on a Deserted Island

 
The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic is an awesome one: characters you'd like to have with you if you were stranded on a deserted island!

1.) Daine from the Immortals series by Tamora Pierce — this one's kind of a no-brainer. She can communicate with animals (and even shapeshift into them). We wouldn't have to fear any wild boar attacks or whatever with Daine close at hand. Plus, she could probably transform into an eagle and scout out our surroundings. Very handy!


2.) Taran from the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander – the grown-up Taran of The High King, not the immature boy of The Book of Three. He's a thoughtful leader who listens to others' viewpoints, and he has some experience organizing troops and that sort of thing, so I think his skills would be a definite asset.

3.) Vidanric from Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – he's very clever and observant. If there was any strategizing needed (maybe the island turns out to be not quite as deserted as we think...?) he would be all over that.


4.) Tally from the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld — because she's just so gutsy and willing to take chances. Need someone to risk scaling a cliff face or navigating through a cave or whatnot? Tally's your girl. (Bonus points if it's Tally post-Specials, because then she has all these super Special abilities that make her pretty unbeatable in a fight.)


5.) Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter series — she could Transfigure any life-endangering obstacles into something harmless. Plus, she's snarky as anything. If anyone gets out of line, Professor McGonagall will certainly have something to say about it.



6.) and 7.) Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games series — because these two have loads of experience surviving in sub-optimal conditions. Not to mention, Katniss can hunt and Peeta can bake, so we'd have our bases covered in terms of breakfast, lunch and dinner.


8.) Gandalf from Lord of the Rings — he's an awesomely talented wizard, for one, but more importantly, he communicates with huge eagles that could fly all of us off the island. All we'd have to do is sit tight and wait. 




9.) Aragorn from Lord of the Rings — let's face facts: when it comes to a fight of any kind, there's probably no one it would be better to have at your back than Aragorn, son of Arathorn. He's just that good. Plus, as if that wasn't enough: he's got healing abilities, too. The man is multi-talented.



10.) Valek from Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder — because it would do no good for us to be saved by the eagles if we're all dying of poison from some bad berries we ate. Valek would know exactly which ones were safe to consume. Not to mention he's super stealthy, to boot. (Just crossing my fingers he'd have no orders to assassinate anyone else on our team, because if so...they wouldn't last long.)

What characters would you like to have along if you somehow ended up stranded on a deserted island?


July 20, 2014

The False Prince: A Close-Up Review

"THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.
" (from Goodreads)
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Characters:

Sage: he has an inviting, appealing sort of voice. He's clever and self-assured but not overly cocky, with a good sense of both justice and compassion. He doesn't like to kill people unnecessarily; he tends to show mercy rather than being vindictive. Ultimately, he's disarmingly likeable.

That said, one of my biggest gripes with this book is its use of the unreliable narrator technique. This is a technique that can easily rub me the wrong way, as I have said before. I have certainly seen it employed effectively, but all too often it just frustrates me unbelievably. Unfortunately, The False Prince falls into the latter category. I can certainly see from an objective standpoint why the author chose to use this technique, but it meant we were left not understanding a lot of what Sage was doing, even though Sage was the one telling the story. The implicit trust the reader has that they are receiving the true version of the story — or at least, the way the narrator sees it — is ruined when you find out that the narrator is keeping things from you. Major spoilers, highlight to read: Like that gold rock! It just came out of nowhere and really confused me. And the reason that Sage is sneaking out all the time. Not to mention stealing the sword. Oh, and the fact that HE IS THE LOST PRINCE. 

The villains: I didn't think any of the baddies were that bad in here, erring on the side of comic villains. A couple were despicable, but didn't scare me, and another was just pretty ridiculous. Hopefully in future books the villains will be nastier and more ruthless — villains to strike fear into your heart! In this book, it felt like Sage had the situation pretty much under control, and that nothing too terrible was going to happen.

Imogen: I wish Imogen had played a bigger role in helping/saving people. Mostly she just nurses Sage's wounds and gives him a shoulder to cry on, metaphorically speaking. I think there's more that could be done with her character. Her status as a young female servant in this setting makes her more vulnerable than some of the other characters, but I still think she came off a little too weak and passive. I'd like to be shown that she too is smart, and can fight for herself and what she wants.

Amarinda: I feel like we've only tapped the surface of her character in this book. I like that she, in contrast to Imogen, seems to better know what she wants. She's been brought up to think people will obey her, so she has more of a presence and commanding voice. Amarinda is so sure of herself, poised and calm — what she wants to get done is what happens. Of course, along with this she comes across as a bit conceited and snobby, too used to getting her own way — but hopefully this will change.

Premise/plot:

The False Prince is a good representation of traditional YA fantasy for younger readers. Many of the typical archetypes and familiar elements of the genre are present — a crown in danger, scheming lords, a competition...

I found the middle chunk of the book somewhat boring and repetitive; it could have used more action. Instead, similar conversations are had multiple times with different characters. None of the boys trust each other (hardly surprising, given they're being pitted against each other in a do-or-die situation) and there's plenty of backstabbing and showing off that goes on. A lot of the conversations are filled with empty threats, bluffing, and meaningless posturing that I feel could have been cut down or taken out, since it reads like filler. We don't actually see much of the training beyond a bit of sword practice and horse riding.

I have to give credit to the author, though, for clever plotting — small, seemingly insignificant details thrown in casually during the beginning and middle sections become more important towards the end. Sometimes authors seem to forget about thoughtful plotting and just pull a rabbit out of a hat to tie things up, so I always appreciate when it's clear the author has planned the storyline carefully. Given the unreliable narrator factor, I suspect this is one of those books that makes more sense when you read it a second time.

Writing style:

It's very readable and engaging, not weighed down with dense prose. There's quite a bit of dialogue (some which could have been cut, as I mentioned before). 

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. This first book really just seems to set up the rest of the series. It was enjoyable enough, but I don't think it has the "wow" factor that some readers think it has.


July 15, 2014

Top Ten Book-Related TV Shows/Movies

 
The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic is favourite movies and TV shows, and I'm picking ones that are based on books in some way.

TV shows:

1.) Once Upon A Time – this is one of the shows I'm most obsessed with at the moment. In a nutshell, its premise is "fairy tales meet the real world." The show has taken some weird turns lately (with Peter Pan and the Wicked Witch of the West) and some of the plotting is pretty sloppy, but I still keep on watching, lol. Partly because a lot of the exterior scenes in "Storybrooke" are actually filmed in the town of Steveston (Richmond, BC), so it's sort of in my own backyard. 
 

2.) Murdoch Mysteries — based on the series by Maureen Jennings. I haven't read any of the books, but I love the TV show. It's a wonderful mix of mystery, science, history, comedy, and romance — and it's Canadian, to boot! Yannick Bisson does a fabulous job of embodying the character of William Murdoch. (Has anyone read the books? How do they compare to the show?)
 

3.) Bones — based on the series by Kathy Reichs, another one I have not read. I've been following Bones for years now. In general all the characters are enjoyable and well fleshed-out (love the pairing of Booth and Bones!), and the murder mystery aspect is balanced well by the emotional/relationship side of things.
 
4.) Lark Rise to Candleford — this show is over now, but it was a BBC period drama series loosely based on Flora Thompson's novels. This was one of those sweet, old-fashioned shows full of heart, with something for everyone. A bit of comedy, a bit of drama, distinctive characters, romance, family...what's not to love? (Just the fact that it ended too soon!)
 
 
5.) Little Mosque on the Prairie — okay, the only connection that this show has to a book is in its title (obviously a shout-out to Little House on the Prairie). But I'm throwing it in here anyway. This show was both educational and humorous, shedding light on Islamic culture (and what happens when it crosses paths with Western culture) without getting preachy about it. Plus, again, Canadian! :D
 

Movies: 
 
Okay, I could put a bunch down here that I have listed on previous Top Ten Tuesdays (like any number of Jane Austen movies, for starters), but I am going to try to pick some that I haven't highlighted before.

6.) My Fair Lady — based on the play Pygmalion. I loved this musical so much when I was younger. I suspect I'll love it even more now that I'm in the field of speech-language pathology! 
 
 
7.) Ever After — a retelling of Cinderella. This one's a pick-me-up feel-good sort of movie, sweet and romantic with some funny one-liners.
 

8.) Bringing Up Baby — a bit of a stretch, but it is based on a short story by Hagar Wilde. This is a classic example of a screwball comedy, and it is just hilarious. One of my favourite movies starring Katharine Hepburn, and of course Cary Grant delivers a fantastic performance as well. (By the way, this cover may be in colour, but the original film was in black-and-white.)


9.) 10 Things I Hate About You — a modern version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. I've watched this so many times and it's still entertaining! Snappy dialogue, enjoyable characters, and Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger carried off the leads with aplomb. 
 
10.) Stardust — based on the book by Neil Gaiman. I think I ended up skimming most of the book, and from what I've heard this is actually one of those rare cases where most people think the film is better than the book in any case. The movie is really pure escapism in the best, almost campy sense; it's full of humour and swashbuckling and magic and scheming and, of course, a good dollop of romance.

What movies/TV shows made it onto your Top Ten list?


July 14, 2014

Cruel Beauty: Get It... or Forget It?

This is a new feature I'm starting up, because as book bloggers we all know that there are too many books to read, and not enough time. I need to know which books are must-reads and which ones I can just plain ignore.

For which I turn to you, my readers! I'll pick a book each week that I'm wondering about, and you can tell me if I should GET IT...or just FORGET IT.
This week: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


I'm a big fan of fairy tales, and one of my favourites is Beauty and the Beast, so this one has certainly been on my radar. However, I know some readers have been a bit disappointed by Cruel Beauty. So I leave it to you guys: what do you think? Get it, or forget it?

Vote, and then tell me why in the comments!

July 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: A Wicked Thing

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's pick:

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas


Goodreads' description:

"A spinning wheel. A prick of a finger. A terrible curse.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairytale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. Everyone expects Aurora to marry her betrothed and restore magic and peace to the kingdom before revolution tears it apart. But after a lifetime spent locked in a tower for her own safety, Aurora longs for the freedom to make her own choices. When she meets a handsome rebel, he tempts her to abandon everything for a different kind of life.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her.

With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.
"

Love the sound of this fairytale retelling! It'll be interesting to really get inside Aurora's head after she's awoken from the sleeping curse. I'm not crazy about the cover — the girls-lying-down-in-pretty-dresses has been done so often — but I do like the gritty backdrop of a castle fallen into disuse.

What books are you waiting for?


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