Oathbringer Review

Oathbringer

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oathbringer is huge. It took me months to get through. And part of the reason is that the middle dragged on and probably could have been cut down, which is why this book only gets 4 out of 5 stars. Other than that, it was great. I’m still trying to process everything, although my lingering question is how Brandon Sanderson plans to have seven more books in the series. Like the first two, this book culminates in a big battle, so I assume that the rest will have something like that as well at each climax, but can he keep making each book feel fresh? If each book is the equivalent of a trilogy, then the rest of the series is about 21 books long. That’s a lot.
But as to this book, it was good. I liked how the world building grew and we found out what led to the Recreance, although it wasn’t quite as earth shattering as promised, although I’m not sure it ever could have lived up to it. It was also interesting to see Dalinar’s past and how much he has changed, as well as how it came back to haunt him. Odium’s presence was different than I expected, but made more interesting than a pure evil being.
Brandon Sanderson has so many interesting ideas for world building, it’s hard not to feel jealous of him, but it is easy to enjoy his books. I remain a fan.

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Ready Player One Review

Ready Player One

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is written well enough to be keep me wanting to get to the end, but it does have some issues. The biggest is the sheer amount of exposition. The whole beginning sets up the global and environmental situation and timeline, the nature of the Oasis, Cline’s views on religion, the Halliday quest, and an overview of the 80’s in general, before getting into the actual story. It’s interesting enough, but is a bit much. Then Wade spends plenty of time throughout the book gushing over some aspect of the 80’s and launches into even more exposition. I get that he likes it (although the whole quest seems to have halted all cultural progression within his world), but come on, he could be a little more discerning. Not everything about the 80’s was perfect.

The setting of Ready Player One is interesting, but the book is a little predictable. The characters are black and white: his friends are good, the corporation is evil. The premise is fun unless you think about it. How does knowing 80’s trivia and getting good at arcade games prove you’re worthy to take control of the biggest corporation (which happens not to be evil) in the world? Then at the end (view spoiler) I was born in the late 80’s, so I grew up in the 90’s and don’t get all the references, but it’s fun enough to learn about them. Just not enough for me to actually check them out. The upcoming movie doesn’t seem quite so 80’s-centric (someone uses Tracer from Overwatch). I’m interested in seeing how Spielberg handles it. We’ll see. This book is overall good, but far from great.

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Age of Myth Book Review

Age of Myth

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1)

Age of Myth

by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading any of Michael J. Sullivan’s books. I tried this book, Age of Myth, and while it is passable, it fits generic fantasy. I actually have very little to say about it. The premise was slightly intriguing, although nothing too original. Humans rebel against the faster, smarter, deadlier, long lived elves. They consider the elves gods, until someone proves they aren’t.

But even with this premise there were issues. The magic, at least in this book, seems way too powerful. I don’t know what the limits are, as they command the weather, reroute a river, and other things like light fires, all without seeming to have limitations. And the elves do very little to maintain their stature as gods, especially when one is killed and they go around trumpeting that fact. Sure, they take revenge, but by doing that, they confirm to the humans they are mortal. At no time in the book am I in awe of the elves, except maybe in the first few paragraphs.

The characters are fine, but not too memorable. Persephone was probably the most interesting, and possible Suri, but seemed to follow primitive human/noble savage tropes. The plot went predictably. Even the red herring was obvious as such. The races had no depth with the standard humans, elves, and dwarves. But worse, the author threw in giants and goblins, each with one minor character representing them, serving almost no purpose. I don’t know if they’ll come up again later, but the goblin was there to try and fail to counter magic, and the giant was there to…I don’t know why. 

I’ve started reading Theft of Swords and it at least seems a little more interesting, if still in the same generic world. I don’t know if I’ll read any sequels to Age of Myth.

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Beauty and the Beast Review

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast – The New One

So I finally went to see Beauty and the Beast, despite some reluctance. I was having a hard time with Hermione, a know-it-all girl I saw growing up into a know-it-all woman, as Belle. Although the effect wasn’t as bad as I feared, I never quite got over that.  I was also having a hard time getting over the fact that Disney was telling the exact same story as the animated feature, instead of taking a deeper look at the source material like they did with The Jungle Book. Aside from a few forgettable song additions and a more robust backstory, this is almost scene for scene the same movie, just brought to “life” (even though half the movie is still animated, just with computer graphics). 

Still, I liked the original enough to give this one a try. For the most part, I liked this. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it does a good job. But remaking a classic animation invites comparisons and I’m going to do just that.

Criticisms of the Original

If you’ve seen any film theory videos on the original Beauty and the Beast, you’ll find two main criticisms, both of which are nitpicky, in my opinion.

The first criticism is that Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. That is where a kidnapped person identifies and sides with their captor. This new film doesn’t really address that issue, although Hermione did in interviews. But Belle voluntarily became a prisoner to free her father. The Beast didn’t kidnap her. And he eventually makes an effort to court her and treat her as a guest. So I don’t think this one holds.

This film directly addresses the second criticism, the muddled timeline. In the original, the Beast will remain cursed if he doesn’t find true love before his 21st birthday. Lumiere, in the song “Be Our Guest,” tells Belle that they have been rusting for 10 years now. So that implies the Beast received his curse when he was 11 years old. This would make his refusal of the enchantress more understandable, as he was just a bratty boy. But the original also had a painting of him as an adult human, so the curse couldn’t have taken place in his boyhood. In the end, it doesn’t make much sense either way.

This new one makes clear the enchantress cursed him as an adult. It also avoids any mention of a time span. Another thing this version does is mention how the nearby villagers forgot about the castle and its inhabitants. 

New Problems

While this new version of Beauty and the Beast addresses those issues, it introduces a few new ones. The biggest one, in my opinion, is a book that lets the two of them travel outside the castle. If the magic mirror wasn’t enough, the Beast has this new magic power. But its use is confusing.

Belle travels to her home in Paris. Spoiler alert: her mom is dead. She died from the plague. Belle goes to a home that appears recently abandoned, as there are still drawings of her as a baby there. So did she travel in time? The film also makes clear it is real, not just in their minds, as Belle takes a rose pen thing from the home and later shows it to her father. But in the flashback, Belle’s mother, sick with the plague, kisses it. So does Belle contract the plague as well? And if she can travel in time, could she save her mother? This device just adds new complications.

Technical issues

It is pretty clear they live in France (there is a song about people saying Bonjour). But Hermione has an English accent, while Obi Wan Kenobi hams up his French accent. It doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of Obi Wan Kenobi, who plays Lumiere, he steals the show, but I still think I prefer the original one. The singing worked better and I liked his animation better in the original Beauty and the Beast. Gandalf, playing Cogsworth, just sounds like an old man, not as fun as the original. The Hobbit’s Bard did a great job as manly man Gaston. And Olaf added depth to LeFou, while keeping the gay character controversy low key.

There were a few issues with the Beast. Although usually good, there were a few times the animation wasn’t smooth. And he looked more like a satyr than the buffalo hulk monster in the original Beauty and the Beast. His bad manners make no sense, since he was a prince before. And he tells Gaston in the end that he is no beast, while Belle calls him Beast just a moment later. 

One technical issue I saw was the scene transitions. Some scenes feel rushed. It is as if the director is saying, “You already saw this in the original and know what they’re thinking, so let’s just cut to the chase.” It was a bit jarring. The scenes didn’t flow into each other as well. Their falling in love scenes especially suffered from that, although I did enjoy seeing Hermione clocked in the face with a giant snowball. 

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast, but I don’t think it tops the original animated version, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. This one won’t get that. The original flowed better, the servants fit in an animated world better, and Belle didn’t annoy me like Hermione occasionally did. But it was nice to see things imagined realistically. 

 

Gone Girl Book Review

Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was frustrating to read. There are some interesting things about the unreliable narration, especially in the first half, but the book convinces you to hate both characters so much that the ending was not very satisfying. It is good in that it constantly makes you reevaluate what you’ve thought before. The problems I had were more toward the end of the book, although the whole time Nick is making stupid choices that make things worse for him, which annoyed me. 
(view spoiler)
Listening to the book on disc, I didn’t really enjoy the language, probably worse than if I had read it. But the actors did do a good job with their voices. I’m just glad I’m done with this. And that my wife isn’t that crazy.

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Fire Emblem: Awakening Review

Fire Emblem

 My First Fire Emblem

After years of wondering who the heck Marth was in Super Smash Bros, I finally decided to buy a Fire Emblem game. (Kind of. I gave my wife four 3DS game options for my birthday: Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Fates, Super Mario 3D Land, and A Link Between Worlds. She gave me Awakening.) I know, it’s been out for a long time, but I haven’t had a 3DS, ahem, 2DS, that long. I have finally beat the game,  so I have the right to play as Robin and Lucina on Smash Bros.

While Final Fantasy Tactics had more, well, tactics, I liked this game for the relationship aspect. I liked it when characters married and had kids. In fact, that’s what I spent most of my time doing. From my female Robin and Chrom hooking up to create the most powerful royal family ever to Sumia and Fredrick, Miriel and Kellum, Nowi and Lonqu, Henry and Cordelia, and other interesting couples, I had more fun shipping characters than fighting with them.

Gameplay and Story

Fire Emblem
My female Robin Character

The story was not anything special but had some interesting time travel elements. Due to the option to have perma-death (a masochistic option at best, due to how easily a character can die), most of the characterization for the large cast only comes through the optional character conversations and sidequests. Having the future generation take part is interesting but there isn’t much point to recruiting them, storywise. And to grind them all to an acceptable level takes plenty of time. Probably too much time, honestly. The options for replayability are there, but for now, I don’t really want to take the time to go through the game again. I do admit curiosity as to how things would change, though. 

If you have a 3DS, this is a good game, but don’t expect Final Fantasy levels of story telling. There’s also a Free to Play mobile game out there with a lot of returning characters. I haven’t tried it out yet, but maybe someday.

The Girl on the Train Review

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was just Ok. The mystery was mildly intriguing, although I guessed the murderer half way through. But the characters…sure, they’re not perfect, but did you have to make them this terrible? I hated every single one of them. They all make horrible choices, and some that made little sense (Rachel worming her way into everything even when she had no excuse other than plot to do so). And the ending situation especially stretched credibility. Plus, the supposed revelation that other people’s lives are not perfect…that should be pretty obvious, even if you don’t read the book. Maybe Facebook and Instagram have made us actually believe that myth, so the book might be a little refreshing if that applies to you, but otherwise, you know that ‘Jason’ and ‘Jess’ aren’t nearly as perfect as Rachel makes them out to be. Anyway, if you’ve done some bad things, this book might make you feel better about yourself, reading about people doing even worse things. I didn’t care much about the victim dying because I didn’t care about the character, nor did I care about the other characters. So that is the main issue with the book. There’s really little reason to care enough to read it. While I don’t want this review to be completely negative, this book isn’t for everyone and only mildly hooked me. There were so many moments when character choices defied all reason that I just said, “Come on, really?” when I got to them. I only picked it up because I saw they were going to make a movie with this, but I doubt that beautiful Hollywood will cast a Rachel that resembles the description. This review will probably be the last time I touch anything that has to do with this book.

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City of Stairs Book Review

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Review

I have some mixed feelings on this book. For the most part I liked it, but some things didn’t work so well for me. So I’m going to do a pro vs con list for my review.

Pros

The setting is different from most fantasies. Set in a semi modern analogue to Russia, conquered by an analogue to India, it makes things a bit more diverse, especially when the heroine is a little brown girl with big glasses.
It has an air of mystery and wonder to it throughout the whole novel, juxtaposed to the aforementioned setting.
It has a rich mythology.

Cons

Shara, the heroine, feels like a Mary Sue. She seems just a little too smart. Her companion, Sigrud, is a Gary Stu when it comes to fighting. Between them, there isn’t much suspense when they get to the action.
There are some parts that go deep into exposition, especially one part where Shara explains everything while cooking. While there was a lot of stuff to explain, some of it should have been parsed out more.
Along with telling too much, there was some showing too much. One time when a monster attacks, we see several viewpoints telling us basically the same thing, just how powerful it was. After the second or third, I was like, “I get it already.”
Some of the mythology seems to be a critique on organized religion, especially religions like Catholicism and Judaism. It seemed like the message was, “You don’t need God, nor should you follow any rules religions proscribed.” It kind of rubbed me wrong.

I see that this is book number one of The Divine Cities, but the ending pretty much wrapped itself up, so I don’t know where any other books would go with it. Not that I wouldn’t mind returning, but the way it ended, I don’t know how much more there is to explore. We’ll see.

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