Book Review || Carve the Mark

Hi folks! Hope y’all have been doing well!

Veronica Roth’s latest novel came out earlier this year so here’s my review for it! Nice to be writing these things again. 🙂

Also, I changed the look of this blog a bit! Goodness knows it needed a change. ❀


Synopsis

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

My Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Veronica Roth for a while now so hearing about her new book naturally got me excited, and I’m super happy to say that I was not disappointed with Carve the Mark! That being said, however, I did find a few issues with this book that I’ll also delve into in this review.

Right, so: the worldbuilding. Carve the Mark takes place in a Star Wars-esque universe (or galaxy, rather). I really liked the planets and Shotet culture and just the effort that went into creating this whole world for the characters. You learn so much about the cultures and religions of the societies and the way things are and I absolutely adore that sort of thing because I am a big nerd.

I loved the characters too! They’re all so raw and real and you get to learn a lot about their personal histories and get to know the way they think. Cyra is just so broken and beautiful and you feel so much for her. Akos is also really sympathetic character and really, the entire cast of characters is really intriguing and interesting and 3D which is exactly what I love! Seeing them together and the way their relationship develops was well-written and really good. And the plot, though it dragged at certain points, was winding and mostly fast paced and I found myself consistently excited for whatever was to come next. I mean, it’s set in space for goodness sake! You gotta love some good, exhilarating space action.crav the mark

Okay, now for the problematic part: you can definitely pick out some racist undertones in this book. Hear me out here. Cyra’s people, the Shotet, are portrayed as savages and warriors, whereas Akos and his people–Thuvians–are the kind, peace-loving counterpart. However, if you look closer, you’ll notice that Roth identifies the Shotet to be darker skinned (or mixed-race) and sets up their culture to be galactic indigenous people of sorts. Meanwhile, the Thuvians have paler skin and are basically colonizers of the planet the Shotet have always existed on. Furthermore, the Shotet language is described as “harsh and guttaral” versus the smoother, softer sounds of the Thuvhe language. Keeping this in mind with the way Cyra and Akos’s romance plays out, I couldn’t help but feel that Carve the Mark was playing on the trope of “angry person of color is civilized by kindly white person and they fall in love.” I am sure Roth did not mean for it to come out this way, but it does not change the fact that it still subconsciously plays into racist stereotypes. Big sigh.

All in all: If you can look beyond the whole racism issue, Carve the Mark would be amazing! The lack of YA sci-fi lately is pretty upsetting, and Carve the Mark was a great display of Roth’s skill and just how thrilling stories in space can be. But, yep, there’s that whole racism thing. (I would recommend this book because I genuinely enjoyed it, but be sure to read it keeping in mind that you’ll probably feel a prickle of ://// while reading.)

❀ Yasimone

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Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival

Hello friends!

So, let’s pretend I didn’t just disappear for two months. *laughs nervously*

I’m coming tomorrow with a full post complete with a very special book haul, but I just had a great evening at my local Barnes & Noble (shoutout to my favourite book store!) at their “B-Fest: Teen Book Festival,” which is a YA book fest that last throughout this weekend. It’s the first of its kind and I had a lot of fun only on the first night, so I would highly recommend paying a visit to a nearby B&N if you’d care to do so. There are author meetings and trivia contests and prize winning too!

Stay tuned for my book haul–which, by the way, is going to be an overview of the lovely bookish goodies I won in a trivia contest this evening–and I hope you all are having a great week!

❀ Yasimone

(who is finally back and here to stay)

Book Review || Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Publishing Company: Harper Collins

Release Year: 2015

Genre(s): YA, Dystopia, Fantasy

Series: Red Queen Series (Book One)


My Summary

Mare Barrow is a Red in a world divided by blood. Silvers are the upper-class, the royals, the ones with fantastic powers straight out of a fairytale. Reds, like Mare and the rest of her family, are the worker class, the regulars, the ones who watch in bitter awe at the Silvers’ strength and ruthless, wasteful ways. Mare and her family are just another one of the average Red families in their poverty-stricken village, the Stilts, between Mare’s pickpocketing and her sister Gisa’s embroidery skills, they make do. What little they have comes crashing down when palace guards show up at their house in the middle of the night and take Mare to work at the palace of the royal family of Norta. There, all too suddenly, in a strange twist of events, Mare discovers she has powers—controlling electricity—that leave even the Silvers reverent and is thrown full-force into the world of nobility as a pawn. red queen.jpgKing Tiberias and his snakelike wife, Queen Elara, declare her to be the long-lost daughter of a Silver and betroth her to the younger son Maven, despite her full Red blood. Everything is strange and foreign, and Mare must watch her every move; her life is at stake. It doesn’t help the situation that a war is being waged in the meantime and unrest is brewing in the nation’s Red population. Maven and Mare end up befriend each other and join a rebel group, the Scarlet Guard, trying to end the tyrannical Silver rule. As if hiding her identity and her allegiance from the Silvers is hard enough, she’s slowly falling in love the two princes, Maven and Cal, and doesn’t know which one to choose. Will Mare make it out of this mess alive, or will her secrets destroy her?

My Thoughts

I’ll be straightforward with you all: I didn’t exactly expect to enjoy this novel. I began reading it just for the sake of reading and ended up finishing it pleasantly surprised and looking forward to the next book in the Red Queen series. If you’ve ever read my review of The Selection, you’ll know that novels which mix dystopian worlds and monarchy-style governments aren’t exactly my cup of tea. 😛 Red Queen challenged my views by providing a fresh, compelling fusion-genre book that I rather liked.

The writing itself is great. It’s descriptive and vivid and captivating, and much better than you would expect of a debut author. 🙂 A job well done on Victoria Aveyard’s part. I also liked that the plot had so many interesting twists and turns Some aspects of the plot were a bit too familiar—downtrodden poor, self-doubt, sudden major life change, love triangle, rebellion. I felt at times that it took a pinch of personality from multiple dystopian series, added in a smidgen of fantasy, and voilĂ ! Overall, though, it was fairly good. It drags a bit towards the end of the middle but picks up wonderfully at the conclusion. The extremely unexpected plot twist in the last few chapters is incredible. You will definitely want to have the next book, Glass Sword, just to find out what happens. (Glass Sword comes out in February of next year, by the way.)

Character-wise, Red Queen was nicely developed. Mare is a relatable, head-strong, clever heroine. It’s hard not to like her and her endearingly bold personality. The supporting characters (Maven, Cal,  Queen Elara, Mare’s childhood friend Kilorn, Cal’s betrothed Evangeline, Mare’s family,  and many more) are all unique and fun to dislike or root for. Their supernatural powers—or lack thereof—made them feel a bit too two-dimensional for my taste at times, but their interactions were generally believable and interesting. The one interaction between the characters I did not like much was the Mare-Maven-Cal love triangle. It felt rather weak and forced. :/

That being said, everything exceeded my expectations and left me wanting more. If you’re looking for a book with a captivating combination of genres and an exciting, suspenseful storyline, Red Queen is just the novel for you. 🙂

Happy December, by the way! How is the year over already? 😀

❀ Yasimone

Mockingjay Part II Movie Review

Hi all! I hope you are having a great November! 🙂 I know I am, and I can’t believe that the month is already nearly over!

Mockingjay Part II, the thrilling conclusion to Katniss Everdeen’s whirlwind revolution, has officially premiered today! I’m happy to say that I was able to attend an early double-feature showing of Mockingjay Part I—which came out last year—and II two days ago and follow Katniss in the last leg of her journey! 😀 It lasted about five hours, with an intermission break in between the two movies.

Here are the vital stats of Mockingjay Part II:

  • Release Date: November 20th, 2015
  • Genre: Science fiction film/Thriller (Dystopia)
  • Time: 137 minutes
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Past Movies: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part I
  • Main Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Julianne Moore (President Alma Coin)

And here’s the official synopsis:

Realizing the stakes are no longer just for survival, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick for the ultimate mission. Together, they leave District 13 to liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and assassinate President Snow, who’s obsessed with destroying Katniss. What lies ahead are mortal traps, dangerous enemies and moral choices that will ultimately determine the future of millions.

I will start off my review of Mockingjay Part II by saying that I was truly amazed by this film. It started exactly where Mockingjay Part I had left off the year before and did not disappoint in picking up action as quickly as possible.

Of course, this star-studded cast that we’ve all come to love and support were simply great. The dialogue and interaction between characters is so natural and real. Jennifer Lawrence, as always, did wonderfully in her role as Katniss—especially in this thrilling conclusion to the Hunger Games series.

She just brings a sort of emotional intensity that Katniss also shows in the trilogy, and I doubt that anyone would be able to do it as well. Another actor I would like to recognize is Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow; I am always in awe at how he portrays this character with such ease and keeps him grounded and believable.

mockingjay pin.jpg
The pin and lanyard I got at the double feature. Definitely not taking it off for the next week or so.

The special effects were, as per the norm for The Hunger Games films, spectacular and very realistic. The war scenes are gritty and intense—and I think another thing that I loved particularly about Mockingjay Part II is that there is no straightforward “villain-hero” relationship in this installment. It is full-blown war, and in war, anything is possible.

One thing I really enjoyed was how faithful the film remained to the book; very little was changed and the movie had the same aesthetic and feel as the novel itself did—dark, epic, and action-packed. While Mockingjay was written by Suzanne Collins as one novel, I do believe that the movies worked quite nicely as two parts—the second part was definitely more brutal and heart wrenching than the first, and it made sense, because the end of the book is like that as well. I did end up shedding a couple tears, especially at the conclusion of the movie. (Hunger Games fans will understand!) đŸ˜„

And now a little bit about my experience at the double feature showing itself: This is actually the first double feature I’ve ever attended, and I am super glad that I went. part 2.jpg.pngIt was just such a great atmosphere and watching the two movies back to back was very enjoyable as well. Everyone who attended received a lanyard with a special pin and a holographic card that switches between two versions of the Mockingjay pin symbol. Another one of the highlights was when we had finished watching the first movie and during the intermission break, a mini-trivia game was held, and prizes were being given out to anyone who answered a question correctly! I actually ended up answering a question and winning a Blu-ray disc of Mockingjay Part I!

This was the perfect conclusion, in my opinion, to one of the best dystopian film adaptation franchises ever. And while we won’t have the pleasure of being able to anticipate any new movies, rereading the books and rewatching the movies will never get old! 😉

Mockingjay Part II won’t disappoint! I suggest you go see it as soon as possible! 😀

❀ Yasimone

Book Review || Bruiser

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publishing Company: Harper Teen

Release Year: 2010

My Summary

BrontĂ« and Tennyson are average teenagers. Tennyson is athletic, popular, and maybe a tad over-confident. BrontĂ«, his twin, is kind-hearted, self-assured, and happy with being herself. Bruiser, a boy who attends their high school, is… different. He doesn’t have friends, doesn’t have parents, and doesn’t talk much. Rumors about him are abundant around the high school he attends. BrontĂ« and Tennyson, like the rest of their classmates, don’t pay much attention to Bruiser. That is, until one day, when BrontĂ« announces that she’s decided to give Bruiser, whose real name is Brewster, a chance and go on a date with him. From the start, Tennyson despises Brewster and is overprotective of his sister. As the two get to know each other, however, they befriend each other. But then, strange things start happening. bruiser.jpgCuts on Tennyson’s knuckles from playing lacrosse disappear. BrontĂ« sprains her foot, and it immediately heals. They notice that Bruiser suddenly has scrapes on his knuckles, that he begins walking with a limp on the same foot BrontĂ« hurt. Before long, the twins put two and two together and realize that Brewster has a gift— a gift, yet also a curse. Brewster must guard his heart, for whoever he feels compassion towards, he can take away all their pain: his little brother Cody, BrontĂ« and Tennyson, and even his abusive uncle Hoyt. Brewster can’t afford to befriend everyone, because healing comes with a price. As BrontĂ« and Tennyson unwittingly draw Brewster into their family and social circles, life becomes more dangerous for Brewster. Will Brewster be able to withstand all that emotional and physical pain?

My Thoughts

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was all very well-thought out— the characters, the plot, the idea behind the words.

Bruiser is actually narrated by four characters with four distinct voices: Tennyson, BrontĂ«, Brewster (who narrates in free-verse poetry), and Brewster’s brother Cody. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of multiple points-of-view in some books, but not so in Bruiser. All four narrators read as different people. Each of them have their own opinions, their own troubles, and their own flaws. Though the book is a mix of everything— a little bit of romance here, a pinchful of action there, and just a smidgen of supernatural as well— none of it comes off as unrealistic or overdramatic. It’s an intense book, and you won’t be able to put it down until the last page.

I’m not really sure what else to say. Bruiser is a book that to fully understand, you must read it. What I do know, however, is that this is a book that addresses love, death, health, familial troubles, bullying, abuse, friendship, pain, and the power of an average person all in one in a sincere, straightforward way without being too overwhelming. I definitely recommend to everyone. 🙂

❀ Yasimone