Veronica Roth’s Latest Makes Its Mark

Veronica Roth’s Latest Makes Its Mark

 

 

… Literally.

OK, I promised you guys some reviews of some of the new books and movies I’m going to be reading/seeing, and it’s high time I made good to you on those promises. I am a girl of my word.

carve-the-mark-book-trailer

So, predictably, this first review is about Roth’s latest work, “Carve the Mark.” As per usual, there will be a substantial amount of SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW, so do NOT READ THIS if you’ve NOT read the book, and do NOT want to be spoiled. You have been warned.

Overall, I think Roth set the bar a little TOO high with her debut trilogy, “The Divergent Trilogy,” because “Carve the Mark,” fell slightly short of, well, HITTING said mark (if you’ll excuse my punniness.). That is not to say that I did not enjoy the story; it’s just not as good as the Divergent trilogy, is all. The story’s atmosphere had a Star Wars-y touch to it, like futuristic tech, planet-hopping while scavenging for useful goods (cough… Rey and jawas… cough…), a cruel dictator who seems to be related to one of the protags, etc. They even have their own version of the Force (no, I am not pulling your chain), called “the current,” that many of the peoples in this universe seem to revere or even worship. All this I can easily appreciate, without acknowledging she might’ve swiped an idea (or two) from George Lucas or even from the author of Shatter Me (my fellow book reviewer and good friend said the two sound quite similar in concept). There was also a predestination theme I thought some of my more Calvinistic friends would be appreciative of; every person in the universe has a specific Fate. Some of the Fates are not as always as they might appear, but they, combined with the current-wielding characters, are ultimately the driving force behind the plot.

So, while I won’t be spoiling EVERYTHING by revealing the WHOLE plot (I’m assuming that you WANT to read this book, if you haven’t already, and don’t mind spoilers by this point), I will be giving insight into what I thought Roth did well/could be improved. Here we gooooo…

Cons/What could have been improved:

  1. Some of the explanations were a little vague, and hard to follow at times. Sometimes, I would not fully grasp things until a bit later. But maybe that’s just me. It IS, after all, the author’s job to SHOW, not tell. It’s just I think there is the occasional time where they need to be more apparent, more explicit, in their showing. Of course, there are times (such as suggestive scenes) where I am quite satisfied with being spared all the explicitness, and just have a general impression that “such and such” happened, without knowing details. But some things are vital to the story, like organs are to a person’s being. While it may be good to not reveal everything at once, and thus keep your reader reigned in with some sense of mystery and suspense, when a clue about the mystery is dropped, you don’t want to be so vague that it almost entirely goes over their heads (again, maybe I’m just that oblivious, as per usual. But hey, maybe I’m NOT the only one…). Some vagueness is good, as long as it’s not overdone.
  2. Who’s the real villain? A lot of the time, it’s very obviously shown to be Cyra’s dictatorial older brother, Ryzek. And for the most part, I would agree with that. However, about halfway through, up to the end of the novel, I would also call Sifa, Akos’s mom, pretty manipulative. And not always in a good way. She’s an oracle, and can see all these Fates, all these possible futures, similar to Seth in Ted Dekker’s In the Blink of an Eye. Like Seth, she is able to manipulate people and events by what she does, and what she tells them, to her liking, so whichever future she wants to happen will happen. It makes me wonder if she has an ulterior motive or two in mind, and if Roth is going to write a second book that details that….

ryzek

3. It moves pretty slowly throughout, with more of the action being placed at the beginning and ends of the book. Granted, this is how a LOT of books roll, so I can’t entirely criticize this; however, I will readily admit that much of the slowness of the plot, especially in the middle, along with some vagueness, genuinely made it tough to keep going, keep trudging through. Granted, now I am very glad I have, but a LOT of the plot twists and climatic point were kind of shoved together at the end, like several atomic bomb droppings that you really, really had no idea were coming, no implication of whatsoever. I mean, yes, you know a certain character *might* die. But that’s really, for the most part, the only real implication you actually get. If spread out slightly more evenly (naturally, you WANT the REALLY gripping stuff for last), it will keep people reading, and less tempted to give up siding in the quest alongside the protags. Keep it rolling, Roth, keep it rolling, and you’ll have us ALL in your snare. You are a talented writer. This is too important for super-slow middles.

akos

Pros/What was done well:

  1. The romance. As we all know, there has to be a certain degree of romance for me in a good novel that SUPPOSEDLY has a bit of everything in it– what I like to call, “a buffet novel”. Too hot on the romance, and I start to feel sick-ish, like I ate a truckload of Peeps, and feel the need to immediately stop the story and close the novel, to lose the attention the author’s worked so hard to gain. Too cold, too distant, makes me think the romance unbelievable and inauthentic, and just not cut out for the story– in fact, the story, in this instance, may just be better off if the romance WERE cut out, period (and I have a high tolerance for non-romantic stories too, especially if they’re adventure/fantasy.). I have a special, happy medium, sweet-spot that few authors have succeeded in hitting with me. Roth, in this novel, has actually succeeded in hitting that mark, almost exactly. Akos and Cyra meet due to his being captured, and, since his Fate is to serve the family of Noavek (which, now that I think about it, makes for an even BIGGER possible plot twist at the end… #futurebetrayal?), he ends up having to be a servant to her. Now, hear me out, it’s a bit like “Beauty and the Beast”: Cyra’s the kind of cruel captor, and her currentgift is to cause herself and others (when she touches them) pain, via thingies called “currentshadows”. Her brother uses this ability to torture his enemies, etc, but the fact that his sister is incapacitated by it herself (rendering her essentially useless to him) he uses Akos’s currentgift, the ability to stop the flow of current/others’ currentgifts via physical touch, he gives Akos to Cyra as a servant. No, they do not do things together; initially, he is just for pain relief, but since he’s literally the only person she can touch without hurting (as well as her newfound friend and sometimes confidant), their relationship soon blossoms. It’s beautiful, but subtle. And it’s truly remarkable how they work together, how they would do almost anything for each other. Yet, their romance is NOT the main point of the book; it does NOT take it over. This is the one thing CTM does well, in where Divergent failed. Roth is getting better at this part of the writing game. 🙂

cyra

2. The currentgifts, and almost anything current-related. Basically half the stuff in this world (spaceships/shuttles included) run on the current. Special talents and powers are gifted through the current; what is interesting is that not all are beneficial. It’s interesting because normally when we think “superpower” we DO think, “beneficial,” like, “Oh, it’d be cool to fly or turn invisible, or have super strength!” We don’t think of the consequences of those powers, such as perhaps setting everything we touch on fire if we’re pyrokinetic, or, in Cyra’s case, causing her and everyone she touches excruciating pain. Roth develops a fascinating idea here. When you give a sculptor clay, they take it, and mold it into something beautiful after playing with it a while. When you give a word artist words and an idea, who knows where they’ll take it.

3. The plot twists. OH MY FREAKING,FLIPPING GOSH, ALL THE PLOT TWISTS AND CONSPIRACIES. Namely at the end, it leaves you drooling for more. Why and how did Lazmet Noavek survive, and if so, why is he no longer on the Noavek throne? What of Cyra’s heritage? Akos’s future loyalties? What does Sifa intend to gain by manipulating the future? Is Isae truly the real chancellor of Thuvhe? What was Orieve Benesit’s currentgift? All these questions, mostly burning in me due to the ending, are causing me to strongly suppose there will be a second installment, and this will not, repeat, will NOT be a standalone story. There is more here than meets the eye.

My rating: Overall, I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Needs a bit of work, but with possible improvements, it could truly be morphed into something great.

cyragif

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Image Credits:

http://www.pinterest.com (for “Carve the Mark”)

http://sassynicos.tumblr.com/ (warning: inappropriate content; this is just where I found Ryzek’s pic when on Google Images)

http://www.thefandom.net/books/watch-striking-book-trailer-veronica-roths-carve-mark/

 

http://www.epicreads.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-carve-the-mark/

Review: Into The Jungle

Review: Into The Jungle

Hi, everyone!

So, tonight I’m going to be reviewing Disney’s newest rendition of “The Jungle Book,” which I just finished watching on Netflix (because I’m too cheap to keep going to a theater. LOL.). As an overall Disney fan, I loved it. The scenery and screenplay was awesome, and the little tidbits they added to make the story more interesting was both fascinating and mostly beneficial.

The filmmakers did an amazing job of choosing the setting, and how they shot the film. The cameras were in all the right places at all the right times; you felt as if, at times, you were actually Mowgli– whether it was tumbling down a wet, mud-slicked ravine to get away from Shere Khan, darting past trees, gazing into Kaa’s ominously mesmerizing eyes, or staring down Shere Khan.

Speaking of Kaa, I’m right glad that she (?) made only one appearance. (I totally called when she was going to make her (?) cue, even before the snakeskin discovery.), although I was genuinely surprised they decided to switch his gender to female. I suppose it was an effort to give Kaa a more seductive, more alluring sort of feel, with her (?) being all mesmerizing and “I’m-gonna-swallow-you-alive-and-whole,” sorta business. Still, the fact that hypnotism overall mortally terrifies me, and that I generally don’t like or trust snakes (the animals or the people) made me relieved that she (?) only made one appearance, rather than 2-3, as the original film portrayed.

The actor who played Mowgli did marvelous. Not only did he look like the original, but he acted like the original. I like how the directors played into Mowgli’s creativity even more at the end; this led to one of the few differences between the endings of the original Disney film and the live-action: Khan actually perishes in the fire, in the latter.

The story was excellent, as well, with a few tweaks. Aside from Khan’s death and Kaa making only one appearance (thank goodness), we have the watering hole truce (a nice story play-off, if I do say so myself), the monkeys kidnapping Mowgli at a slightly different time, King Louie being a Gigantopithecus (instead of an orangutan– most likely to emphasize his kingship, power and influence), Baloo using Mowgli to get down honeycomb rather than bananas, Khan trying to sway wolf pups to his side rather than their mother’s, the cut-out of Mowgli with the vultures when he’s down, the alteration of when Mowgli tries to join the elephants (he instead shows them a deep respect by bowing at different points in the story, and at one point uses an invention– rope– to help rescue a little elephant), and the fact that ultimately, Mowgli decides to stay in the jungle with his friends, since the threat of Khan has been eliminated. There is now no need for the man village, for the young girl to make her flirtatious entrance into Mowgli’s  life. This, above all else, was one of the major storyline differences– and one of the few I’m not entirely sure I actually agree with. After all, if the man village is introduced, then forgotten, it is simply a red herring– a “rabbit trail” to make us go down with hope that it might, just might, be like the original film. There is no real point to having introduced it into the story if they are not going to do anything with it, unless they wanted to reference both Kipling’s book and the original, or wanted to use it as reference to Mowgli’s past. That aside, it serves no real purpose, since Mowgli remains in the jungle at the end, Bagheera content, and the main antagonist thwarted (but…. KAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

On to antagonists other than Kaa, Shere Khan was pure malignity. Note, not motiveless malignity, but malignity. He had motive– he was burned and scarred for life by his arch-nemesis’s dad. He had a goal– eliminate any human in the jungle, regardless of gender or age. He was not even a Machiavellian villain, but at the same time that was something that kind of worked in favor of making you love to hate him more– he not only wanted to kill Mowgli personally, but wanted to propagate the rest of the jungle into believing HIM– starting with the wolf pups Mowgli had grown up with. When he opened his mouth, I somehow expected a different voice from him, however– something more, I don’t know, suave, cool and yet deadly. The actor’s voice almost sounded a bit too upbeat for the job, IMO, but I guess it’s a challenge to voice a character like him.

One of my favorite characters was Bagheera. His no-nonsensical way of looking at life, dedication and loyalty to his friends, as well as his subtly dry sense of humor, reminded me immensely of Obi-Wan. ….Apologies, “Star Wars” fangirl in me just kicked in.

Anyways, I overall rate this film a 4.5 out of 5 stars, and would recommend any Disney, or even non-Disney, fans to watch it. You won’t be let down, and you can count on the “bare necessities” of the film to leave you on the edge of your seat, hankering for more.

 

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Image Credit: http://www.readthespirit.com/visual-parables/the-jungle-book-2016/

The Grisha Trilogy– A Review

The Grisha Trilogy– A Review

Having a frequent craving for fantasy, action and adventure stories (with just a TOUCH of romance), I was looking forward to reading something new and gripping this summer, and consulted my one dear college friend, regular book reviewer, extremely avid reader, fellow fangirl, vlogger and overall wonderful person, Macy, on which series I should tackle next; she suggested the Grisha Trilogy, which is filled with climatic scenes, fantasy, nearly-magical, matter-manipulating Grisha, and of course more frequent– cough– “shippers’ scenes” (as I so affectionately call them.).

While the series had more romance-y bits than I had anticipated, I still for the most part enjoyed the series, with a few personal annoyance hitches once every so often, and even got two of my besties back home hooked. While I had serious doubts about the series initially (WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER ZONE UP AHEAD!!!!), it mostly evened out towards the end, and gave at least a partially satisfactory conclusion.

When I first started the series, unlike most (average) readers, I could not sit still. I was genuinely anxious, because I felt like I was constantly comparing her works, published and popular and usually GOOD, to my own, which are still a work in progress. But once I was able to sit back and relax a bit, I found myself enjoying the actual story, while not liking other parts as much. Here’s what I thought, overall, about the Trilogy:

Cons (I make it always a habit to get these outta the way, so they don’t ruin the good):

  1. Portrayal of faith.  Ms. Bardugo, the author, has a curious way of superstitiously objectifying faith, hope, and even love in ways I find to be at least fairly despicable. God is not mentioned at all, only people praying to/idolizing “Saints,” people who may not have even been believers in Him at all but simply miracle-workers who were killed in some gory manner JUST because they performed miracles– and some of those miracles may have even been considered “abominations” (cough… Morozova… cough…), even by the book’s standards. Faith, especially in book 3, “Ruin and Rising,” is often displayed in cult-like fanaticism, which isn’t true to ACTUAL faith at ALL. Bardugo herself stated that although she was born in Jerusalem, she considers herself superstitious in some ways; this makes me wonder what her religious beliefs are (if she has any at all), and if these beliefs could very possibly be affecting her writing. We shall see what she says, if I ever get the chance to ask her that….
  2. Acceptance of immoral lifestyles. Although there’s nothing TOO explicit (I’d wring her sorry neck if it was otherwise), there are many, many references to sleeping around (i.e., the Darkling and female Grisha, Mal and several pretty young women), homosexuality (in “Ruin and Rising” only), blending some good and some bad together and calling it fine (granted, I both agree and disagree with her decision to avidly write good and bad in her protags; she states that no one is wholly good or wholly evil, which is something I’ve obvious mixed feelings on…), etc. What gets my goat is that both Mal and the Darkling get annoyed/ angry with Alina, the protag, for falling for the other or Nikolai, but still see absolutely NOTHING wrong with sleeping around like prostitutes themselves…. and then Alina proceeds to be the only one who seemingly feels guilty about having even remote feels for the other guy. Ugh, MEN. *heaves big, frustrated sigh* ( OK, minor rant over, LOL.) The homosexuality and her sneaking in highly leftist propagandistic themes (most LGBT ones) are the primary reason I will NOT be reading one of her more recent books, “The Six of Crows”, which is said to have even more of “sexual orientations” in it.
  3. The bad guy being SUPER obvious at the beginning of the story.  Really, Ms. Bardugo? You expect us NOT to believe, at the very beginning, that a character legitimately titled, “the Darkling,” who can summon darkness, can slice a live man in two without batting an eyelash, and kidnaps a young woman seemingly for “the good of the country,” ISN’T up to something?? Up your game, girl.
  4. Often gets you to root for the LAST said guy you SHOULD be rooting for… ^ I actually kinda wrote an entire article sort of about this, a while back. While I give Ms. Bardugo kudos for making him detailed, multi-layered (in a way), with an enigmatic personality that keeps you guessing at times, it makes you really think, “Does she actually WANT me rooting for the bad guy? I mean, we see all the horrible things the Darkling’s done, all the people he’s brutally murdered, tortured, etc, and we STILL want him to basically take over Ravka and win over Alina?” We’re aware that she confessed in an interview with her editor that in fact she wanted to make him a cold, ruthless dictator that simply oozed charisma and seduction, stating that she wished to make a villain you couldn’t just dismiss; however, she admitted she was genuinely surprised to hear even one person say that all the Darkling’s actions were perfectly defensive, despite all he’d done, because his motives were at least somewhat good and he loved Ravka. Bardugo confessed that even with those as semi-motives (power-hungry motives aside), he shouldn’t get a free pass on murder and torture because of it. And yet, looking back on her creation, and how/why she created him, I can’t help shaking my head and thinking, “You brought this on yourself, sista.” 

Pros:

  1. The DETAIL. The biggest thing that impressed me was the detail in her books; the descriptions were all so deep and VIVID– especially physical descriptions, character descriptions, and even animal descriptions, but emotional ones, too. She set the scene in a land similar to tsarist Russia, and, for the most part, I think she out-did herself describing it all.
  2. Detailed, often multi-layered, unforgettable characters. Speaking mostly protags and antags, Bardugo’s got the gift for this too, I’ll admit. The Darkling has easily become one of my favorite-of-all-time antags, having an obvious love-hate thing for him (it got to the point where I caved in to buying a body soap that smells like him and a poster with his symbol on it off of Etsy. I think I’ve gone off the deep end. Officially.). I can really, really relate to Alina a good bit, despite belief differences, especially the parts where she feels insecure about herself and her powers, when she feels different from others, and how she feels towards the Darkling is similar to my own feelings, on some different levels (although I wanted to crack her across her head for naively falling for his game so soon, so early in the very first book. You do not get into big, black carriage and go with Mr. Creepy to the Little Palace. You do not become his little political pawn of a princess that he can dress up, parade, and use to whatever his liking. You do not– Oh, why am I bothering when she does it anyways? 😛 ), namely in “Siege and Storm” (book 2). I like Genya a lot, too (she and David are so cute, being potential opposites:3 ). I also am a big fan of Nikolai; I positively ADORE his charmingly scheming demeanor, his bantering with Alina and/or Mal, and all of his wonderfully quotable moments. I love his two powerful, yet moving personas: Pirate (or, as he prefers to be known as, “privateer” 😉 ) and prince, as well as the sporadic and oh-so-charming way he proposed to Alina in “Siege and Storm” and the comical conversation that follows shortly afterwards. I think he’s my other, secondary G.T. crush. Ms. Bardugo herself called him one of her favorite characters to write, along with the ever-bratty, stuck-up Zoya. A well-picked favorite, if I do say so myself.
  3. Plenty of action, adventure, and climatic scenes. The ones that got me are when (more spoilers!) Alina protected the stag in “Shadow and Bone;” the scene and confrontation in the chapel at the end of “Siege and Storm,” and the hunt for the firebird/realization what/who the real third amplifier is. The series is also not lacking in comical scenes, from Nikolai to Alina and Mal’s bantering.
  4. THE GRISHA. Think similar concept to ATLA benders, only… different. The Grisha are magicians of sorts; they can manipulate matter that’s already there whilst making it LOOK like magic (It’s called, “The Small Science”.). For instance, an Inferni can’t be like a firebender and summon a flame, they need combustible gases in the air, along with a flint to strike a spark. There are three orders: Corporalki (Healers and Heartrenders, who normally wear red kefta– special coats only Grisha are permitted to wear), Etherealki (Summoners– Tidemakers, Squallers, and Inferni. They all wear blue kefta. The Darkling and the Sun Summoner, Alina, also fall under this category because they can summon darkness or light, but are also in a different category all their own; the Darkling of course wears a black kefta, whereas Alina’s kefta color varies.), and Materialki (aka Fabrikators, separated into two groups: Durasts and Alkemis. Purple kefta.). Healers can heal wounds together almost seamlessly, Heartrenders can mess with people’s hearts– literally– and slow their heartbeats to put them to sleep or squeeze until it stops beating altogether (scary, I know.). Tidemakers, Squallers, and Inferni can all summon and manipulate the elements around them to their advantage, respectively ( water, wind, and fire). Durasts can manipulate solids, such as steel, rock, etc, while Alkemi specialize in poisons and liquids. Genya is a Tailor, a special type of Grisha who’s a cross between a Corporalki and a Fabrikator, but instead of making clothes, she can literally REMAKE your face (nifty for disguises), such as erasing freckles/acne/wrinkles, making your eyes a brighter/darker color, or changing your hair color. (Hence the reason she’s kind of vain.) Me? I’d love to be a Squaller… give myself “air boosts” when I run, to make myself feel like flying… air cushions beneath me in case I fall or something… blow-dry my hair quicker…. :3 #perksofbeingaSqualler

 

Welp, those are my thoughts overall on the series. 🙂 Feel free to comment and discuss if you’re a fan or if you’ve read the G.T. too, and let me know what you think! 😉

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Image Credit: http://lifeofabookwormbyninaeudora.blogspot.com/2015/09/review-grisha-trilogy-leigh-bardugo.html

To Suppress Or To Cave In?

To Suppress Or To Cave In?

Lately, I’ve almost been having what you might call a “Me Crisis”. Not quite there, but almost. It’s one of those fights that you fight with yourself, with half of you wanting to do something, really wanting to do it, and the other half obstinately resisting that desire.

The fight is almost like those little characters in the Disney-Pixar movie Inside Out, only, instead of being named after individual emotions, they are named for my particular personality traits, or rather, they encompass certain aspects of myself. If something conflicting, confusing, or desirable comes up, they basically play tug-of-war until someone wins. Allow me to introduce the key players that are now permanently stuck inside my brain, being the way I’ve coped with the world since I couldn’t write/vent as much as I used to be able to:

Emoti, aka Emotional Side of Me. She is my ditz. My impulsive ditz. My impulsive, romantic, immature, irrational, loud-mouthed and often bratty ditz. She is my high-functioning autism on steroids, and I often have a challenge in controlling her; however, she is also responsible for any joy, excitement, and passion I feel (cough… fangirling… cough…), so she isn’t a TOTAL brat 100% of the time. (This is probably why she hasn’t been locked up, like a certain someone else inside my head… but I’ll get to that one later.)I often picture her as a smaller, giddier, more excitable, entirely blossom pink version of me inside there.

Sensi, aka Sensible Side of Me. She is my conscience, my mother hen when my folks aren’t around, whatever you wanna call her. She’s the one who usually prevents me from doing stupid things, or berates me when I do do them, and also keeps a tight leash on both Emoti and the other certain someone inside my noggin. She is my intelligence, my logic, my maturity (yes, when I try I can be mature thanks to her), my realism, my common sense (when I choose to use it), my big, caring heart (and any selflessness I might have within me), my altruism, and sometimes, my courage. She is more the embodiment of my Christian beliefs and virtues than the other two. I picture her as me with a ponytail, a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, calmer and more collected, and with a golden-ish yellow hue around her.

Certain Someone Else Inside My Head– aka My Subconscious. Probably the most dangerous part of me, this part is always kept under lock and key, and strict surveillance, by Sensi. She is basically Emoti’s worst qualities times 10, is inconsiderate, selfish, immoral, lustful, cruel, has no control over herself whatsoever, etc, etc, etc. I don’t wanna say it, but she’s kinda pretty much the “deeper, evil, sinful” part of me, aside from Emoti, who only embodies it on a smaller scale. Minus the horns and the pitchfork. (LOL) She has wild hair, leery eyes, and a emerald-greenish hue around her, and is almost always locked inside my small mental cage, and buried deep, deep within the recesses of my brain, where I hope and pray with all my might that she never, ever escapes. Unfortunately, sometimes her influence will seep out and either a., affect Emoti and tempt her to unleash Subconscious, or b., affect me directly and tempt me to do something completely out of line, whether it be immoral, weird, cruel, or something you would not at all do in a social situation. To my knowledge, there are only two known ways of unlocking her, and I’m really not big on either idea (but, knowing MY luck, there’re probably MORE ways…). Think of her as Yakumo Kurama from Naruto’s  “Ido,” if you will. Not the best influence, and someone you definitely want to steer clear of.

…. Now, you’re probably wondering, why am I bringing all this up? Well, recently I’ve been reading a semi-popular fictional series known as “The Grisha Trilogy” by Leigh Bardugo– just finished the first installment, “Shadow and Bone,” in fact. (Spoiler Alert, if you haven’t read it yet– if you don’t want to be spoiled, then turn and run away while you still can!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!) One of this story’s main theme’s, other than literal darkness, to my surprise, was that the protagonist, Alina, was like me. Not just in persona, but in have inward struggles with her own version of MY Subconscious. And, not gonna lie here, it was SCARY similar.

To understand all this, I’ll give you a brief summary of the plot (hence, the major spoiler warning beforehand): Alina Starkov and her friend/ childhood crush Mal are orphans and are drafted into their country’s military, Mal as a soldier for the King’s First Army, and Alina, as a cartographer. They attempt to cross the Fold, aka the Unsea, created by the Black Heretic many, many years ago to separate them from the regular sea and is filled with horrific monsters called volcra. They are attempting to cross the Unsea for resources on the other side while aided by the mysterious Grisha, magicians of sorts that can manipulate matter to their will while making it look like magic. They are attacked viciously by volcra, and, in an attempt to save Mal, Alina unintentionally wards off a volcra by using a power unknown to her: she can summon and create light. When she wakes up she is taken to the Darkling, the leader of the Grisha/ Second Army (which, his name should puh-ritty much divulge ALL you need to know about the guy… Mark my words, NEVER trust someone w/ an obviously dark title/name, a pretty boy face, and chock-full of power.); the latter investigates to see what she really is, and, upon provocation, manages to force her into exposing herself by cutting her, the light coming out as a defense mechanism. She is then taken to the Little Palace, where the Grisha stay in the kingdom of Ravka, and is trained in the way of the Grisha Summoners, since she is a special and unique Sun Summoner, of the likes that no one else has ever seen. The Darkling in particular pays special attention to her on at least a couple different occasions (much to some of the other female Grishas’ jealousy), telling her his supposed goals and wishes for the future, strongly desiring her to help him achieve such goals. On two of these conversations, he kisses her, and very nearly manages to seduce her in the second. Shortly after the second, she is confronted by Baghra, the Darkling’s mother and Alina’s personal tutor, who is heavy-set on Alina fleeing due to the Darkling being the Black Heretic and lying to Alina all this time, only wanting her power for his own selfish gain– to take over the country.

….Imma stop there before I give too much else away, and because I stopped close to making my point. When the Darkling seduced Alina, while a part of her was confused about she wanted and mildly resisted, a part of her also strongly desired it (thankfully, the description the author gave didn’t go past almost- intimate caressing or I would’ve a REAL bone to pick with her… If you’ll excuse the pun.). And I’m pretty sure you can guess which part of me was secretly dancing and even swooning for the ever-good-looking-yet-lying-and-manipulative Darkling all that time.

Later on, Alina, like me, realizes that though that desire is a part of her, choosing to resist and rebel against it and against the Darkling’s future advances in the first book (much to Subconscious’s disappointment and Sensi’s relief.) is the wiser, better option. But the book opened my eyes to something: how our Subconsciouses, our “Ids,” as Wikipedia calls them, can manipulate dangerous, sinful desires of our fallen hearts into actuality if we aren’t careful. And though, thankfully, I’ve NEVER experienced what Alina experienced with Mr. Creepy (I instantly got an “Orochimaru/Chase Young” vibe when I first read about him, I’ll put it that way. And that, no matter HOW many people swoon over the dude and wish him and Alina in a relationship, his actions speak infinitely louder than his words– cutting a man in half in front of Alina’s eyes, slitting a beautiful stag’s throat without hesitation or remorse, oh yeah, and when he’s not caressing, cooing to and making out with Alina he’s threatening to kill her and Mal. Yeeeeeppp, sounds like a real lover-boy… Not. More like lust-boy.), it’s good to know my struggles aren’t just mine, and I can and will resist those wicked, subconscious desires buried deep within me.

I’ll close with a quote from both Mother Gothel from “Tangled” and the Darkling himself (they’re amazingly similar.):

“You want me to be the bad guy?  FINE! Now I’m the bad guy!”– Mother Gothel to Rapunzel, “Tangled”

“Fine, make me your villain.”– The Darkling to Alina, after she thoroughly resists him.

Yes, you are the villains. Glad we’ve made that clear to everyone.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Romans 7: 15-24, NIV

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21, NIV

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/142637513175976173/

 

Naruto–My Take On One Popular Anime

Naruto–My Take On One Popular Anime

When I was a kid, I used to watch bits and pieces of Naruto– not the whole thing, understand, just whatever happened to be on Cartoon Network at the time. Today, I’m right glad that I didn’t stick with it, because… cough… Orochimaru…. cough… would’ve freaked me out and given me nightmares for sure, as a kid (trust me, I almost had nightmares about bloodbending after seeing that “Puppetmaster” ep of ATLA. ). But a couple of my closest, anime-nutty friends recently got hooked on the series, and I decided, why not do the same, since most or all of Season 1 was on Netflix? So I restarted watching, and boy, did the memories come rolling back to me (I specifically remember Gaara when he was a mega-Creep and had the basic serial killer mindset, him transforming and threatening to suffocate Sakura, and also the sparring match between Hinata– love that name, BTW– and Neji Hyuga.). I noticed a lot of things I don’t think I would’ve easily picked up on as a child, as far as the series goes:

  1. The Music. “Naruto” is special in the fact that it conveys a large range of different themes for different scenes. There’s training music, the ever determined, “I can do it!” music, the laid-back and chill music, the creepy music (usually used with bad guy scenes, or with something/someone creepy. Made with wind chimes and a few other instruments.), and the villain’s (Orochimaru’s) personal theme (which is a creepily played organ, somewhat similar to the music in “Revenge of the Sith,” when Yoda and Darth Hideous– sorry, Sideous– are battling in the Senate room.). It is impressive and gives you all the right vibes.
  2. The Characters. These characters are all portrayed realistically, personality-wise (aside from all that junk about Chakra, powers, etc.). There is genuine character growth, and while some confrontations are shiver-inducing or nail-biting, others make me literally LOL, or, in the cases of Sakura and Sasuke, or Shikamaru and Temari, squeal softly, “I ship it!”
  3. Me Talking aloud to characters on-screen. No, I am not crazy. It takes a lot for me to become like one of my kid brothers, talking, yapping, scolding, and squealing at the screen. “Naruto” is one of the rarities that has actually succeeded in getting me to do it. I cheer characters on when they fight opponents/baddies, softly yell and want to wring their sorry necks when they do something really stupid (‘I’m sorry, Sasuke, I really, really don’t think it’s a good idea to go looking for the same sadistically evil snake guy who tried killing you and your teammates, who now vampirized you in a way and wants to take over your body. ‘*Sasuke goes anyways* ‘Annnnndddd, he’s officially lost it, ladies and gents.’), get slightly choked up if something really, really sad happens, squeal if there’s an obvious shipping scene, and, the rarest reaction of them all, the “I CALLED IT!” reaction (when you knew something good/important was gonna happen, i.e., Sakura feeling like a burden because she’s not a good fighter, so she seeks to become a medical ninja instead. Totally called it.).
  4. The Villians. Other than yelping, “CREEPER ALERT!” when Orochimaru, the primary antagonist, enters the scene, I recently noticed something about him(aside from the fact that he’s genuinely very creepy, likes mocking and using people, and generally should be avoided at all costs.). He has a lot– I mean a LOT– in common with both Voldemort from “Harry Potter” and Satan himself: They all have some kind of fondness/connection to snakes; all mark their followers with some sinister mark; both Voldemort and Orochimaru are white-skinned and have snake-like eyes; both Voldemort and Orochimaru go by “lord” in their inner circles (Satan probably does too, BUT since his henchgoons are also selfish, some of em probably use it somewhat sarcastically. LOL); the list goes on. They are all very fond of just using people for their own devious, nefarious purposes, even if that means lying with a persuasive tongue, and think nothing of killing of letting their most loyal followers be killed if it means fruition of their goals or if said followers become a “hindrance” somehow; Orochimaru and Satan openly applaud the latter behavior in others as well, in fact. Also, I learned how much it really, really gets on my nerves if a villain calls a female protagonist, “honey,” sweetie,” “sweetheart,” or any other “pet names”. Especially “my dear” (which, might I add, Orochimaru said to Sakura openly not once but thrice in the dub, while mocking her and talking about his right-hand man “putting her out of her misery”– ironically, when she told him to wait as he turned to go– so she could ask about Sasuke– he got that LOOK in his eye, the same look that he had when Sasuke came to call, the look that goes like, “Oh goody, we may just have a volunteer for a new baddie.” *gags and shivers simultaneously*). I am not YOUR anything, ya creep, and if you so much as come within a 200 mile radius of me, I will kick your sorry heinie so fast you’ll think you were in a time warp!!!! (Thank you, “Calvin and Hobbes”) …. It might be worth mentioning that pet names by random, real-life strangers also creep me out, and should be avoided at all costs. You are not my boyfriend. Deal with it.
  5. A Too-Neat Blend of Godly Virtues and Morals, and Less Than Godly Virtues. They’re sometimes a bit subtle, but if you pay attention, you’ll know which ones don’t “feel” right, the ones God would probably stamp an “X” on. An example would be Rock Lee trying to achieve it all simply through hard work, which breaks my heart. Of course, I keep in mind that it’s a secular anime, but still. Hard work, without God, can only get you so far, as Lee realizes repeatedly (while he’s very powerful, he often ends up looking to friends for additional help, or gets his rear badly whooped.). On the other hand, it also emphasizes some Godly virtues, such as loving others and befriending/looking out for those who have no one(“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.” Exodus 22:22-23, NIV.), as well as going all-out to save your friends, even at the risk of your own life (“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13, NIV.). Shikamaru even states, at the beginning of their Sasuke Retrieval Mission, that although he didn’t really care for Sasuke as a person, he is still a comrade, nonetheless, and Shikmaru will gladly lay his life down for him– another Biblical virtue. However, the anime still carelessly approaches topics such as fate, predestination, free will, etc, and I personally feel Christians should not turn their brains completely off while watching animes like this, and should use good discernment while viewing.

All this being said, if you can withstand some parts (Jiraiya’s “research,” some blood and violence, ungodly virtues, technical demon possession– keep in mind to the makers of “Naruto” and other animes that the term, “demon” is different from our definition, unfortunately; to them it’s more like “spirit”–and creepy bad guys with persuasive tongues) and use good judgement, I think it’s a very good anime. I can’t wait to see Naruto and Hinata’s, Sakura and Sasuke’s, and even Orochimaru’s kids in a future season (ironically, I’m told from the Naruto Wiki that Mitsuki, Orochimaru’s “kid” and Boruto, Naruto and Hinata’s kid, are BFFs How’s that for a paradox?).

Have you watched “Naruto” yet? What did you make of it? 

 

Image credit: http://www.somethingtostream.com

Getting Under Your “Skin”– a Review

Getting Under Your “Skin”– a Review

Hey, guys!!! Sorry it’s been ages– been partly working, partly laziness and procrastination on my part. I promise to at least try to make it up to you guys in some way, shape, or form, OK? In the meantime, let’s get back down to business.

Recently, I just finished Ted Dekker’s book “Skin,” where the tagline is, “Don’t trust your eyes.” Now, for those who know zip, zilch, nada, about Mr. Dekker’s works, allow me to explain his unique genre of writing. His writing is an intricate blend of thrills, chills, suspense, action, some mystery, some romance, usually climatic battles over something/someone, and a spiritual Humanities lesson (yes, he is a Christian author. One that I would practically to kill to have as my Humanities professor. LOL). Half his books are crime thrillers; “Boneman’s Daughters,” and “The Bride Collector” in particular remind me heavily of the TV series, “Criminal Minds” (no joke, he not only portrays the FBI side accurately, he also delves into the killer’s mind/motive deeply, and sometimes gives a rather… graphic description of the killings. I kinda have to skip that tiny, grisly lil part.). The other half are unique; some are centered in this world, others… in a future world. Where Roush (fluffy white bats) are angels, Shakaiti (ugly, black, vermin-infested bats) are demons, and Teeleh and Elyon are code-words for Satan and God, respectively.

What is unique about “The Circle” series, “The Lost Books of History” series,  the “Paradise” series, “Skin,” and even a slight nod at the notorious, “House,” is that in all the books the characters, actions, etc are somehow related to one another, or affect one another– hence, it coming, “full Circle.”

For instance, in the first three series, a huge component are these large history books, filled with blank paper. You can literally write actual HISTORY into them, which is what young, impulsive Billy from a seclusive monastery does, writing that a man named Thomas Hunter would fall and hit his head. And guess what? In a city, in “Black” (first book of the Circle), sure enough, a man named Thomas Hunter does indeed fall, hits his head… and wakes up in another world. A different world. OUR FUTURE WORLD. Believers are called “forest-dwellers,” dwelling in the safety of Elyon’s forests and bathing daily in special water to keep a certain skin disease away– one that the non-believing, Teeleh-worshiping Horde has.

Now, you might be be wondering, “OK, but how does that all relate to THIS book? The one you’re reviewing?” Patience, grasshopper. I will be getting to that in just a moment…

WARNING: SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!! (Don’t worry, I won’t give away TOO too much)

At first glance, “Skin,” might seem a lot like one of Dekker’s previous crime novels: “Three,” “The Bride Collector,” etc: a vindictive killer is on the loose in a little in Nevada called Summerville, just when a few freak tornadoes touch down (charming, eh?). The fun part was trying to figure out killer Sterling Red’s real I.D., but eventually I did (before all the other characters, too… haha. Spoiler: Innocuous secondary character.). But his motive for the killings, aside from being spiritual, tied directly in with the other books. Turns out Red, as a kid, was adopted from the same monastery as Billy (Project Showdown) by a scientist specifically for the purpose of a special virtual reality video game. A game so real only those with frontal lobe epilepsy could play and respond to certain stimuli, so he was forced to have frontal lobe epilepsy too, something all the other players, the people he was out to kill, already had. The other people didn’t even KNOW they were actually playing a game til the end… and the virtual reality is so real that, if you die in-game, you’re dead in the “real world,” too, as two characters whose ugliness goes deeper than skin (part of Red’s point) discover the hard way.

But wait– I haven’t gotten to the most mind-blowing part yet.

The most mind-blowing part was something even the scientists were completely clueless to.

You see, they weren’t always in a game. That’s right, they were in THE FUTURE world, at least partly. The same world Thomas Hunter went to. Proof, you ask? They admit to fighting the Horde; all while under the impression it was a game; Colt sees Johnis from “The Lost Books” series briefly while they’re in the desert; Colt wakes up wearing a “Forest Guard” tee (the Forest Guard is the guard that protects the Forest Dwellers from attacking Horde); not only that, but Billos (Billy’s alternate-world counterpart),from “Renegade” of “The Lost Books,” unintentionally stumbles upon the the virtual reality device, which is what takes him to the town of Paradise (enter: full Circle). I didn’t see many ties to the “Paradise” books as I did “The Circle” and “The Lost Books,” but the connection to Billos and Paradise, Red being from the monastery, plus the fact that Red directly quotes notoriously sinister, book-created Marsuvees Black when he says, “Wanna trip, baby?” This is all evidence of their connection (reminds me of how Black admitted to creating another killing monstrosity, Barsidious White, the killer in “House,” although Red wasn’t written into existence like the formers were. I’m almost surprised Dekker hasn’t created a killer called, “Green” yet, but perhaps that’s because “Green” is the “purest” book in the “Circle” series?… Man, all these killers with the same names as several “Pokemon Adventures” characters… MY sense of reality is gonna start getting warped!).

Mind blown quite yet? Or at least trying to sort everything out?

Don’t worry if you don’t “get” everything. The best part about the whole Circle is that you can start anywhere in it (save for in the middle of a series, maybe), and you won’t really get lost, as long as you (eventually) read the others, too. Then, everything starts to click. Then, your reaction becomes nearly identical to mine, when I found all that out after reading, “Skin,”: bugged eyes, gaping mouth, squealing noises. Not joking.

Overall, as a book, I would rate this at least 4.5 out of five stars (simply because I don’t like gore and horror. IK, I’m biased…). If you are not a scary book person, Ted Dekker may not be for you, BUT, if you’re like me, and can stomach/skim the scary parts, you’ll find much deeper, richer spiritual meanings to ALL the stories, including “Skin,” that he writes. And that is why I love him so much.

Have you read “Skin” yet? If so, what did you think? Do you like Dekker as an author? Be sure to sound off! =)