3.21.2012

Weaksauce Wednesday: Illness

Dear friends, a virus infected me last Friday and sometime over this weekend I infected Krispy.  I am still valiantly battling my way toward health while Krispy may or may not yet succumb to zombiehood.  Only the future will tell.


Between imminent death (not good), watching copious amounts of Rome (very good), and reading Incarnate (not good), we didn't have a blog post prepped for today.  And given our schedules and general sickness and schneizeleffort we have decided to take a brief blogging break for the rest of March.

We return you to your regularly scheduled madness on April 1st, which in fact is not regularly scheduled because it's a Sunday, but we have something very special to share with you all and hope you will join us in celebration of a revelation unlike any other occasion!

Until then, my friends, good health to you all.  And remember: Always shoot zombies in the head.

3.16.2012

Randomosity on Fridays: TV/Movies We're Excited About!

It's that most happy of weekdays again, Friday! It's predicted to rain all weekend hereabouts, which means it'll be a great time for me to catch up on reading, writing, and my 50/50 challenge!

In the mean time, I'm RIDIC excited for the following 5 things!

1. Game of Thrones Season 2 starts in April! SO EXCITED. I'm endeavoring to get Alz caught up before it starts, but I probably made a misstep when I got her hooked on an older HBO show, ROME. Game of Thrones S2 trailer below; it goes without saying, beware possible spoilers.




2. The air date for THE LEGEND OF KORRA, a sequel series of sorts to Avatar: The Last Airbender, was FINALLY announced! Totally badass woman of color fighting crime in an Asian influenced steampunk-esque metropolis? YES PLEASE.

This gif is relevant to how I feel (appropriately from the original Avatar: The Last Airbender):


Check out Korra Nation for the trailer, and help possibly move the premiere air date from APRIL 14th to MARCH 24th!


3. Speaking of kickass women, we're also RIDIC excited for Pixar's BRAVE. Summer can't come soon enough!




4. Oh, and we can't forget THE AVENGERS movie out in May. Not gonna lie, we're mostly excited to see more of our favorite trickster, Loki!




5. AND this needs no introduction, but of course, we couldn't help but get a little swept up in all the hype for this little movie, opening this coming week.



So, what upcoming shows/movies are YOU excited for?


P.S. Also, I've started a new Tumblr with two of my high school friends. It's called CUPS AHOY! We're sharing our love of cups and mugs, and if you love them too, we hope you stop by! :)

3.14.2012

Trio Mini Book Review: Divergent, Shatter Me, Under the Never Sky

With all our talk of dystopians, here are our brief impressions of 3 of them.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Pros: Interesting exploration of virtues in society, amazing and realistic character development, great culmination of themes interwoven into Tris's character arc.

Cons: Insufficient world-building, laughable pseudo-science, implausible societal structure, WTF-MAKES-NO-SENSE climax.


Krispy's Take: You may recall that I was skeptical after reading the first 100 pages (the ones up for preview). My main issue with Divergent's world was the virtue-based society. While this set-up is itself interesting, the fact that it was supposed to be derived from our society was what tripped me up. It's because the society is so rigid, dictating every aspect of the characters' lives, that I found it difficult to see how our society became that one. But past that first 100 pages, once Tris has made her choice, the story really picks up.

While I don't love or even particularly like Tris, I found her incredibly engaging. She was strong and selfish, insecure and compassionate. She had contradictory traits but a consistent personality - like a real person. She felt authentic, and so I thoroughly enjoyed her character development. The romance is also done quite well, not at all insta-love. Basically, I ended up enjoying Divergent a lot because of strong character development and interesting exploration of overarching themes (i.e. the virtues, choice, identity).

Intellectual Rating: 6/7 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: B


Alz's Mini-Take: The concept of a virtue-based society is interesting, although the absolute rigidity of the society and the fact that it's supposed to be future-our-world bothered me the way Harry and Ron bother Snape.

On the plus side, Tris's character feels very real. She has issues and a conscience and mixed feelings, friends and enemies, weaknesses and determination. The themes of family and bravery and the explorations and interpretations of both are wonderfully thought-provoking without being preachy.  Also, for once the romance is actually developed romance! Not insta-lust at first sight. The relationship that develops is based on character, history, and integrity.

I liked the book all the way up to the climax. There was a dramatic plot device that made no sense, had only the barest minimum of foreshadowing, and the antagonists involved were so incredibly ridiculously Moustache-Twirling Evil in their actions that I started Tweeting furiously at Krispy all my displeasure and criticism as I read.

But if you take what happens for granted and/or are deeply engrossed in the story, you might not even realize the implausibility and absurdity of what is happening. In which case you'd probably enjoy Divergent and probably have no inkling of what I'm talking about.

Intellectual Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: B-

~*~*~*~*~
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Pros: Unique hyperbolic writing style; engaging voice; successfully conveys intense emotions.

Cons: This isn't X-Men; Juliette accomplishes practically nothing; the dystopian world is a standard unremarkable backdrop.


Krispy's Mini-Take: The standout feature of Shatter Me is undoubtedly Tahereh Mafi's hyperbolic, lyrical writing. It's a brave move in a YA dystopian because I think people will either love it or hate it. Luckily, I loved it, even if it got a little excessive at later points. The style is solid enough though, and I'm excited to see Mafi's style develop and improve. I also appreciated the focus on Juliette's inner development and I liked seeing the shift in her inner self. However, I have to agree with Alz that Juliette's role is very reactive - and while that can fly (e.g. Katniss is a very reactive character) - it's a little disappointing that she's kind of weirdly passive in what is supposed to be a story about her gaining strength and self-initiative. I never felt like she really took control of her life; she was always fighting her way out of a corner or otherwise being saved. It's worth noting though that this didn't cross my mind as I was reading because I was very engaged. Another con was that the X-Men-ish connection was a little much for me, so I have iffy feelings about that. Also, while it didn't bother me, the dystopian back-drop is very much just that - a back-drop. There's not a lot given in terms of world-building.

Finally, I have to note that I have an inappropriate crush on the villain, Warner. He's shady and well-dressed and I was never sure what his motives were. Characters that keep me on my toes tend to attract my attention.

Intellectual Rating: 5 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: B+


Alz's Mini-Take: You'll either love Shatter Me's hyperbolic writing style or you'll want to gouge your eyes out with a spork. I happened to love it, although it took a while to get used to it and even then I'd have to count to three every time Juliette's organs fell out onto the floor or her eyebrows hit the ceiling. That girl seriously needs to learn some control over her body parts.

Plotwise, there isn't much to say because there isn't much—it's a character-driven story. It was all right until the end when it suddenly turned into full-fledged X-Men complete with brightly-colored bodysuits.  I was going to rate the book higher until that happened, along with the realization that I'd just read 300+ pages of Juliette having all the resilience and spine of damp tissue.  Most of the book is her angsting and being repeatedly and respectively rescued and poked at by Adam and Warner.

Oh yeah, Warner. I found it hard to take him seriously since he's a 19-year-old dictator. Also, all the reviews were all wow Warner is SO EVIL and I thought he'd be really evil and then in the beginning when Warner is like, "Oh? You like Adam? Hmm. Here, Adam, take these gloves so you can touch her," and then he gives Adam this order that I thought meant he was ordering Adam to rape Juliette I was like OMFG HE IS EVIL but it was really just Warner ordering Adam to take Juliette outside so she could taste freedom.

Ahem.

Overall, though, I'd recommend Shatter Me. Overall I enjoyed it—it just didn't quite survive my Post-Book Critical Phase entirely intact.

Intellectual Rating: 3 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: C

~*~*~*~*~*~
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Pros: Different from other YA dystopians! Practically two dystopians for the price of one, Pod-dwellers and Outsiders! Some interesting Outsider politics!

Cons: Not enough explanation or world-building! Crappy plot twists! Too Much Random Capitalization of Names!


Krispy's Mini-Take: I just finished this and I've heard all the hype. Firstly, it was an enjoyable reading experience overall and I'm curious about the sequel. I can see why so many people love it. The world is unique, and I loved the Aether storms. I also liked that the Outsiders had a culture that felt like it had substance, and I liked that Aria and Perry don't have an insta-love relationship. I liked that they had different goals and are forced to work together.

So here's the weird part: the world-building is both a pro and con for me. Above, I already gave you the pros of the world-building. I take issue with other parts of the world-building because some of it is too vague - just enough to kind of annoy me. Then one of the more detailed world-building and important plot reveals was, well, factually incorrect. This doesn't sit well with me, and while this factual flaw didn't ruin the book for me, I'm still trying to decide how much this incorrect thing bothers me. Lastly, one of the turning points with Perry and Aria happens because of a physical change, and well, it's fine but a little weird/squicky.

Intellectual Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: C/C+

Alz's Mini-Take: As I told Krispy, I never before read a book that tried so hard to fail its own potential—and succeeded. The world is indeed very different from other YA dystopians out there, and the separate worlds with the Pod-dwelling insiders and the Savage outsiders are interesting. 

But Under the Never Sky still doesn't have nearly enough world-building. If you're curious about what Aria's life is like in the Pods, prepare to be disappointed. If you're wondering how our world became this way, prepare to be disappointed. If you want to know exactly why etc. has so much random technology, prepare to be disappointed. If you want to read about a burgeoning love that is based on the fact that the boy can smell when the girl gets her period and decides she's suddenly hot, it's your lucky day!

Yeah. I just. I can't. No.

There were too many things in this book that didn't add up for me, and the plot twists just went  nine kinds of ridiculous in the end.  Not to mention the fact that one the crucial scientific/medical plot points is factually flawed and incorrect.  Mind you, most of these plot twists and points make surface sense, so if you're reading quickly you might not realize there's something fundamentally wrong.

For all that, though, the book did read quickly, and it is different. But if you look beneath that shiny new differentness, the book is a pile of plot devices and plot twists that don't make sense. I can see the appeal and why people like it, but Under the Never Sky is not for me.

Intellectual Rating: 2.75 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: D

~*~*~*~*~*~
We've been reading a lot of dystopia lately, some more successful and/or less annoying than others.  Got any dystopian recs for us?

Also, Happy Pi Day!

3.09.2012

Choose Your Own Dystopia: Part 2

This Friday, we'd like to present to you the dystopia we chose.


***
THE LAST MANATEE
A city named Heaven is Hell on Earth


In a post-apocalyptic fantasy world, the utopian city of Heaven is ruled by the benevolent council known as the Alza. Legends and myths are carefully documented and interpreted as metaphors for life and the rule of the Alza; to speak of them in an unauthorized manner is punishable by death, for everyone knows that unicorns, dragons, and manatees are symbolic imaginary creatures and not real beasts.

Until the day that Krispin, a naive young boy who believes in the millennia-old Alza, discovers a forbidden manatee. Intrigue and disaster ensue with the death of Krispin's parents and the disappearance of his best friend Sophael--and the arrival of an unusual young man named Julien who speaks of manatees as if they were his people.

Krispin's world becomes a nightmare of malevolent Alzans, mysterious manatees, and the increasingly attractive Julien. Krispin's latent magical powers burst into full pineapple-flavored bloom as he aids the Resistabellvolutionaissance--the R, for short--in their attempt to overthrow the Alza once and for all.

Even Krispin cannot imagine the destiny that awaits him, the passion and heartbreak that will arise from betrayals and hardships, and the loss of the one who is too precious for this world. Filled with rage and hunger, Krispin's story has only just begun.

***


Moon Stock from wyldraven
Manatee from Wikipedia

***


Q4U: Want to take a shot at building a dystopia OR do you want to guess how this story goes?

Happy Friday (and happy building)!

3.07.2012

Choose Your Own Dystopia!

We've been reading a number of dystopians in YA lately, and thus talking a lot about what they do and don't have in common. While we may have a more serious discussion of dystopians with you in the future, we thought it'd be more fun to present you with our findings...in a sort-of quiz form.

It's not really a quiz though. It's more of a framework for helping you build your own dystopian!

Proceed to our Dystopian World-Builder:

1) You live in a dark dangerous ______ world.

a. post-apocalyptic far future
b. post-apocalyptic near future
c. post-apocalyptic fantasy
d. post-apocalyptic fantasy far future
e. post-apocalyptic fantasy near future


2) It's a terrible place ruled by a ______ government.

a. utopian
b. militaristic
c. tyrannical
d. religious
e. all of the above

3) ______ is forbidden!

a. love
b. mutation
c. technology
d. the manatee
e. free thought

4) You are a naive young ______--

a. girl
b. girl
c. girl
d. boy
e. girl


5) --who believes in ______--

a. the obviously evil government
b. truth, beauty, freedom and love
c. destiny
d. Star Trek
e. the inferiority of "other" people



6) --until ______ changes your mind about everything.

a. the death of your parent(s)
b. the disappearance of your annoyingly boy-crazy bff
c. the appearance of a mysterious hot young man
d. the appearance of two mysterious hot young men
e. all of the above (which means three mysterious hot young men)


7) After the aforementioned life-changing event, you discover that you have ______ powers!

a. mutant
b. magical
c. divine
d. genetically engineered
e. pineapple-flavored 

8) With these newly discovered abilities, you will help ______ overthrow the government.

a. the Resistance
b. the Rebellion
c. the Revolution
d. the Reconaissance
e. the Resistabellvolutionaissance


9) Tragically, your ______ dies in the process--

a. tofu love interest
b. bff
c. mentor-figure
d. sibling
e. forbidden manatee

10) --in what is surely the most ______ of all.

a. noble sacrifice
b. senseless death
c. deserving death
d. consummate metaphor for this dystopian world
e. badass scene

11) After all, s/he was ______.

a. too precious for this world
b. a traitor
c. annoying
d. too badass to continue living without threatening to overshadow you/the protagonist.
e. all of the above

12) You are filled with _______.

a. rage
b. hope
c. regret
d. determination
e. hunger

And now your story truly begins...


We hope this worldbuilder has helped you create a truly terrifying future for your imaginary victims friends. Tell us what your future dystopia is like in the comments!

On Friday, we will share our bleak vision of the future with you. Until then, do tell us, did we forget any pertinent dystopian concepts/events/tropes?

3.02.2012

Randomosity on Fridays: Picture Edition

First off, the answers to Wednesday's Name That Book Post!


1. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi



2. Entwined by Heather Dixon



3. The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff



4. Wither by Lauren DeStefano


The most unidentified doodle was The Space Between while the most identified was Wither.  Good job in general though, folks!

Now for our Randomosity: Krispy and I were all out of ideas ill-prepared lazy inspired to take pictures of random things for our weekly randomosity.  As such, behold!  A masterpiece of blurry photography and poor lighting!  I was photographer and Krispy was poser.  Not that kind of poser.  Or is she?*


Left:  Buffatee rests in Krispy's sister's cup that is, indeed, pink inside and half a rabbit outside. For some reason I find this gruesome. The cup, I mean, not Buffatee wallowing inside the lower part of a chopped-in-half rabbit.  (Mustacheatee says HI in the background.)

Right:  Kitty shows off Krispy's Kindle's new Kitty-matching cover!



Left:  Krispy's current favorite shoes are in fact her sister's. I too like these shoes because they are black as my heart and spiky.

Right:  Genuine butter beer!  Cauldron-brewed and -approved!



Last but not least:  Sheepy, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Lord Sheepy of Sheeperton, Resident Round Ball of Fluff and Fatness.  Currently he holds a grudge against me for giving him a gentle relaxing massage the other month, while both he and Krispy claim I beat him.  I say I kneaded him as one kneads bread-dough and as masseuses massage and are paid copious amounts to do; they say I punched him all over.  I say I was but merely attempting to re-fluff him; they say I savaged him savagely.

Last of all, a question for you: Sheepy VS Kitty: Who would win in a battle of wits and who would win in a battle of war?  (Sheepy says he knows where you live so you better know for whom to cast your vote.  Kitty says he likes going to Disneyland.)

* Making good on my 2012 resolution to bully Krispy more.