Friday, November 27, 2015

The Good Dinosaur: A Good Western

It was Thanksgiving yesterday. (As if none of you know that. Wait, actually, according to my stats, many of you are in Europe and India and the Middle East, so you might not have known it. That said, we Americans tend to be pretty loud and obnoxious, so if you haven't learned to tune us out yet, you probably did know. Sorry.)

After stuffing ourselves to the gills in celebration of a historical event that didn't actually happen, my family and I decided to celebrate the rare chance to be together (we're actually out of state visiting my dad's side of the family--last seen by me three years ago due to a geographical distance of 1500 miles--as well as my parents and brother, whom I barely see because of college despite being only half an hour away by car).

We did this by shutting ourselves in a dark room and watching a screen for two hours without talking to each other. In other words, we went to the movies.

We decided on The Good Dinosaur, because we love Pixar, it's a family movie, and Victor Frankenstein sucks (according to Rotten Tomatoes, which is our movie god).

In terms of animated movies, it was great. True to Pixar, it made us laugh and cry. In terms of Pixar movies, it's in the lower rungs. Not at all on par with Inside Out or Finding Nemo.

Part of the reason I didn't like it so much is because it's a Western. It had the Western farm, storyline, accents, music, everything but the riding into the sunset with the damsel. So there were a lot of tropes and cliches that were true to the genre, but Pixar could've used better ways to tell the story.

Anyway, this totally counts towards RinnReads' Sci-Fi Month, because it's AU scifi. (Alternate universe, a "what if" in history that changes the present. What if the Nazis won WWII? What if Thomas Edison had never been born? What if the meteor never hit earth and so dinosaurs are still alive?)

Enjoy the spoilers! :)



Spoilers!



The star's name is Arlo (see? Western), and he's the runt of the litter. He's got a big burly brother and a smart sister, as well as tough-as-nails parents. Everyone's on the farm, and everyone's striving to "make their mark," in this case, literally. They have a corn cylo where they stash all their food, and when they've hit a big milestone, they mark it with a footprint (in the parents' case, it was building the farm itself; in the brother's, it was clearing the field; in the sister's, plowing the field).

Arlo's trying to make his mark, but he's a coward, scared of everything from storms to bugs. And who can blame him? Put a bug under a microscope; they're terrifying!

Arlo's dad decides the best way for Arlo to get brave is to have him kill something. (That always goes well.)

There's a "critter" who's been stealing their food. Arlo sets a trap and gets ready to kill it, but when he  sees it (it's the human boy, who certainly looks like a critter), he can't do it, and let's him go. The dad sees this, and the two of them chase after the boy.

In the confusion and rain, Arlo trips and hurts himself. The dad figures they've had enough and it's time to go home.

Cue the flood, and the standard Disney slaughter bus for parents.

Is it a spoiler that a parent dies in a Disney movie? No, I guess it's a spoiler if they don't die.

The family's struggling to harvest everything before winter. So it really doesn't help that the critter-human sneaks into the cyclo and has been chomping on their food. Arlo, furious and blaming the boy for his father's death, chases after him, and they fall into the river. The same river that killed his dad. This river is more dangerous to dinosaurs than meteors.

Arlo ends up stranded, and before long finds himself starving. But at least he knows how to get home: follow the river. The deadly, horrible river.

He sets up a shelter, where the boy finds him. The kid acts and moves a lot more like a dog than a human: howling, sniffing, going on all fours, all of it.

Caveboy offers Arlo (who's still angry at him) food. Unfortunately, the boy keeps offering meat, and  Arlo's a strict vegan. After a couple frustrating failures, the boy gives Arlo berries, then shows him where to find them. Then tries to stop Arlo from eating them. Arlo doesn't understand what's up until the snake (with weird little arms and legs, but only four, so it's a quadrupedal snake, I guess?) attacks him.

This is where we find out the boy's a friggin' BAMF. He takes on this venomous, scary, extremely quick snake and scares it off in the fight (while Arlo's cowering in the corner).

 

I would be Arlo 


The fight's seen by another dinosaur, a big one who's as afraid of the world as Arlo, except he collects various critters to protect him from everything. And I mean everything. Creatures, mosquitoes, unrealistic expectations, whatever. This other dino wants the boy, and determines that if he can name the boy, he'll get to keep him. Arlo and Even Weirder Dino get into a naming contest, until Arlo finds a name the boy actually responds to: Spot.

Really, Pixar. Is it too much to ask for just a little more creativity?

Anyway, Arlo and Spot (grr...I wanted to call him Critter) keep traveling together, and they make the audience cry when they both explain--Spot nonverbally but beautifully--that they've both lost at least one parent (Spot's an orphan).

Then a storm happens and completely wipes out all the familiar landmarks, destroying any chance Arlo had to make it home.

That's when he finds the pterodactyls, who are searching the ruined area for survivors. They offer to help Arlo find his way home, in exchange for his help with the heavy lifting. Arlo's fine with this, and helps them uncover a small survivor (another critter, but not a human).

Then the pterodactyls eat the critter.

In a dino-free Western, these would be the crazy religious fanatics who kill anyone and everyone who doesn't believe as they do, or possibly the KKK. In a dino-Western, these guys worship storms, and scavenge in the carnage they leave behind. "The storm provides."

The pterodactyls find Spot, and he and Arlo run away.

Right into a pair of t-rexes.

But luckily the t-rexes are friendly (even though Arlo's species would probably be on their menu; maybe green dinosaurs are toxic to them, or something). They scare of the pterodactyls, and we learn that they're ranchers (complete with Texan accents). The dad shows up (and he's had his face bitten by an alligator; a friggin' alligator!), and refuses to help Arlo, because their herd has been stolen (by feathered velociraptors, which is one of the few scientifically accurate things in this movie; paleontologists are realizing that dinosaurs had feathers, not scales).



See? Feathers.

Arlo decides to help them. Well, actually he has Spot help them. Spot sniffs out the herd, and Arlo's forced to man up or get eaten by a pissed-off t-rex. He becomes bait for the raptors, and the t-rexes take them out.

And then we get the campfire, more herding, the inspirational speech from the new father figure, blah blah blah, tropes tropes tropes...Arlo finds the river again and he and Spot break away from the t-rexes.

But just as they're about to get to the farm, they see another human. An adult.

Seeing the other critter (er, human, but he's hairy enough to count as a critter), Arlo decides he's not going to let Spot go, essentially forcing him to return with him to the farm.

Booo! Bad dinosaur! Bad!

Then the pterodactyls come back and kidnap Spot, so Arlo's screwed either way.

Arlo ends up unconscious and stuck in a mess of vines, and has this creepy vision involving his dad freeing him. At first it looks like he's alive (and you think, "You dick! This was all just an elaborate scheme to get your kid to grow a pair? Your wife is being crushed under the burdens of being a single mother, mister!"). Then Arlo realizes his father is in fact not alive by the lack of footprints (and you either think, "So, he's high?" or "So, how exactly did he get out of the vines?")

Anyway, the vision serves to enforce Arlo's conviction to save his new friend. He wakes up, gets free of the vines, goes saves Spot, ends up in the river (again), saves Spot (again), and they head to the farm.

The adult human shows up again, but this time with his whole family. None of them appear to be related to Spot in any way, but Arlo decides it's best if he stays with this family of strangers instead of with him at the farm. So they have a bittersweet farewell that will also make you cry (but not as much as the "Yeah, we're both kinda orphans" conversation).

Arlo comes home safe and sound in time to see everything harvested. His family did all the work while he was away. The perfect ending for a teenager!

--

Know a good movie, show, or book?
Any questions or concerns?
(All criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful.)

Then PLEASE contact me.

Thanks for reading! :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Guest Post: Jorie's Top Ten SciFi Stories

This is a guest post! 

I asked fellow blogger Jorie from jorielovesastory.com (@joriestory) to do a Top Ten list of her favorite science fiction stories (in honor of RinnRead's Science Fiction Month). I'm so grateful she did this! I'll be doing a GP on her blog in December, after (hopefully) surviving the brutal gladiator ring of the ivory tower (i.e. finals).

She said I could "correct" her British-influenced spelling, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I find accents--spoken and written--so endearing and awesome. So if British spellings are a giant turn-off for you, don't read. 

Enjoy! :)

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I’ve had the loveliest opportunity as a book blogger to engage directly into the heart of emerging science fiction from new writers who create stories of joy for a sci-fi geek to read. Here is a brief outline of those writers and their stories of whom I personally became transfixed by and eagerly await reading more of their collective works!


1.      Reap the Wild Wind by Julie E. Czerneda | My Review 


As soon as I began reading ‘Reap the Wild Wind’ I was in for such a curious treat as Ms Czerneda has created such a stimulating universe as to challenge her readers by the breadth of what she’s left for us to unravel one chapter at a time! It’s positively one of the most electrifying novels I’ve read within the framework of ‘traditional sci-fi’ wherein I could honestly gather the sense I would become wickedly addicted to this world: Cersi. The Clan and Cersi are inter-dependent upon each other, but more so than their natures, it’s how Czerneda painted this story alive and treated me to such a brilliantly conceived world with a back-story to match it’s dimensional heart is absolute fantastic!

Quote from my review:

Czerneda has taken us on a journey towards understanding the Clan from the inside-out, as a method of finding an approach that will give us more insight into how they established their communities. As the Yena live mostly between sky and land, I remembered how during my viewing of Avatar most of the community within that story lived above ground too. I appreciate writers who have such a clear vision for their worlds, that even if you’re a new reader of theirs, it only takes a few readings to dip inside that vision and reside with their characters.

I appreciated the breadth of how we were so intimately aware of Aryl’s struggle to find balance – between her duties as a Yena and her instincts as a gifted Om’ray. Her mother was not as strong as she is to accept the changes amongst their kind nor to admit her daughter was reaching towards a new future which might leave the old traditions behind them. It’s a struggle of acceptance and for walking that fine line between knowledge and hiding in plain sight from those who cannot handle the truth you’ve uncovered.


2.      The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo | MyReview


This is a ghost story which features parallel realities of which is quite a common feature within science fiction. The grace of how the story unfolds before you is a credit to Ms Choo as her knack for expressive details and convincing world-building within all aspects of this story truly illuminated the characters’ struggles and their earnest journeys through a novel that is anything but predictable! You simply had to hold onto the pages as you read each chapter and section; as your heart was right in line with where the character felt the most frustration, confusion and angst. It’s an adventure through life, death and time; one that you do not want to miss becoming part of!

Quote from my review:

The peripheral image seen on the cover art of the novel made exquisite sense to me as soon as I reached page 24, as it is a nodding gesture to the fact that Lim Tian Ching visits Lin Lan whilst she is asleep! There is a certain truth to the moment between our conscience and unconscious selves — an eclipse of time, place, and cognitive awareness. He is able to reach out and touch her on the fringes of her wakefulness and I had an inkling of an idea of how this connective thread was made between them as my senses were alerted to the true reason ‘Auntie’ Madam Lim wanted her hair ribbon! There are ways in which to manipulate connections and to create divergent synapses of time – as time itself can become contorted and bent against its will if you know of the darker arts and sciences to cull it.


3.      Uncovering Cobbogoth by Hannah L. Clark | My Review 


I seriously *fought!* to read this book for the blog tour it was being featured inside as I was one of the reviewers who had been dropped from the secondary tour. It led me to Ms Clark’s world where her spunky heroine rocked my readerly heart for how much gumption and fortitude she had to uncover the truth of her own heritage and past! This was a YA novel that took me completely unawares, dropped me inside of an adventure I was thrilled to take and left me dearly in need of a sequel! FYI: I am reading said sequel for Sci Fi November 2015: ‘The Lemorian Crest’, book No.2 of 7 in the Cobbogoth series!

Quote from my review:

Uncovering Cobbogoth is an adventure you know you can handle, but it keeps you suspended between the pages as much as the living story within its chapters is a suspension of time. Science was always a ready interest of mine growing up, as I had half a step inside the worlds of art and science within my childhood hours. I was drawn into the dimensional theories of Quantum Physics as I grew and examined different quantum realms on my own by my early twenties, because of the curiosity they engaged my mind inside. The theory of super-strings, hidden dimensions, black holes, and galaxies hidden within a space of a seed were an exciting read for me! I need to re-take up where I left off as I only just brushed the surface of what I wanted to study, but within that pursuit, I have noticed that the science within science fiction that enlightens my mind the most contains elements and theories woven around the concept of space-time dimensions and/or the continuum. This is not the first foray I have ventured on this year to read a story with time travel or the bending of time (as we see it peripherally) as its core center of scientific thought. The Skin Map uses the theory of ley lines whereas Cobbogoth is using the theory of hoption holes. In each of their own ways, they are breaking down a theory of how humans of any age can travel through ‘portals’ within the space-time vortex of dimensional space. And, I personally find that exciting!


4.      The Last Gatekeeper by Katy Haye | MyReview


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I sat down to read ‘The Last Gatekeeper’ but the layering of Haye’s vision for her novel and the scope of her story emerging inside a wonderfully conceived back-story of origin and species; whilst giving us the sci-fi bits we’d hope to find inside the clever premise, I honestly can say, I was treated to such a wicked surprise! I was dearly curious, but it’s through this curiosity that I kept my mind open and by doing so, I was led inside a story that truly had a depth of heart.

Quote from my review:

Whilst keeping the emotional tides of youth and angst of coming of age fully center point, Haye has written a beautiful science fiction narrative that is counter-balanced with a checking on morality and ethical grounds. She allows the reader to take the journey alongside Zan, but in so doing, the reader tends to follow suit in where Zan’s own rationalization on the events which are happening at lightning speed lead us to follow. There is a lot happening all at once, but within those quick-paced jaunts, there is a stillness of thought and a contemplation on the greater whole of what it all means. In this, Haye has given a story that holds it’s salt whilst entertaining you at the same time. You want to stay in this world, because you’ve become keenly invested in Zan and how she’s evolving into the woman she never knew she’d become.


5.      Blonde Eskimo by Kristen Hunt | MyReview 


I personally love mythology and folklore now that I’m older, as when I was in the middle grades, I must confess, mythology was a bit of a difficulty to understand as readily as I find myself devouring it now! Most of my sci-fi readings have a tendency of crossing over into fantasy; even with the emergence of ‘Sci-Fantasy’ as a sub-genre, I have noted my heart is duly spilt between both genre designations, so much so I’ve read quite a heap of fantasy even moreso than sci-fi! Thus, imagine my happy discovery in finding this story is rooted in biographical heritage origins, folklore and the beauty of an imagined world captured just out of visual range from our own eyes! I delighted in the mirth of where Ms Hunt took us and am on pins for the sequel she’s now penning!

Quote from my review:

The journey Neiva is taking is fraught with desperate intentions by dark forces who are seeking to dismantle her sanity. Her friendships and her family are put in the greatest risk because of who she is to the Spirit World but what was most surprising to me – is how parallel the story ran to The Clan Chronicles as there is one golden similarity: power and the greed that is evoked out of it’s pursuit. Peace is a tender balance at the best of times but I felt at the heart centre of this novel is a bit of uncertainty still even as we end on a bit of a happier ending than a traditional cliffhanger – part of me questioned if all is truly right within this world.


6.      Moonflower by EDC Johnson | My Review


The truest joy for me in reading this YA novel is how it made cross-connections through historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy; it gave me such a wonderful slice of how you can take elements out of each genre and develop a story that is set wholly inside it’s own universe which can bend itself around a new sub-genre all of it’s own making.

Quote from my review:

The beautiful words and eloquence of their world brought to life by a writer who knows how to gain traction of their vision into the heart of a reader, lifted the story of Moonflower into a niche of beloved reads. The insightful way of conveying a layer of depth out of the title of the story and using poetry to garnish a hidden secret of the transcending power of love was a beauty of it’s own to have found. Lucius, Donovan, and Josie exist in a place that is not too far off from our own timescape, dealing with the issues our own world has the tendency to face and are grounded in the belief that everything that you pursue in your life with passion will be rewarded through dedicated hard work. The experiences Josie has in Terravipol strengthen her awareness of how the lessons of living are meant to endeavor her growth as much as bolster her sensibility to adapt.

This is the part of the series where we are introduced to the key players of who will surely be making appearances in the forthcoming installments, as there is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of Moonflower. The same type of cliffhanger I mentioned after having read the short story Extra-Ordinary by B.C. Brown; an opening gesture to alert your senses to drink in this fantastical realm that is lovingly created and whose dimensions of depth are only just becoming known. I cannot wait to hear about the next exploits of Josie’s life evolving as time clicks forward inasmuch as I have a light of dashingly keen interest to know what becomes of Lucius! I found myself attached a bit more to Lucius than Donovan, not that Donovan will not draw a kinship of his own, but there is something about Lucius that was altogether alluring and pulsing with intrigue!


7.      Silver Tongue by AshleyRose Sullivan | MyReview 


Ms Sullivan likes to write genre-benders, and although I sort of focused on how this novel was writ with an undertone of alternative historical in the forefront of its focus. The truth is, this is a novel with strong ties to science fiction. As part of its appeal, is how much Sullivan could stitch inside this story that equaled a bit of a showcasing of various science fiction familiarities. I had wanted dearly to re-read this novel in time for Sci Fi November, but I feel it’s more realistic to say I will be re-reading this in January for the Sci Fi Experience. As I do, I want to take more notes about the supporting cast of characters, as one of them was a spin on the Frankenstein legend. Sullivan definitely knew how to keep her reader invested and curious about what lay ahead for her characters!

Quote from my review:

The foundation of Sullivan’s novel is so apt and accurate to its own voice of authenticity, I had to remind myself it was an ‘alternative’ historical novel! From the moment I first picked up the novel itself, I had this quickening as I started to read the opening chapters – I was both drawn by my newfound fascination of this hidden niche of a genre, but also more to the point – curious how Sullivan would tackle this genre in exchange for the one I had already found to love by her. The accuracy of the back-story being shared about Claire’s mother and grand-mother felt quite realistic – almost as if they were taken from the pages of a family history journal, rather than Ms Sullivan’s imagination.


8.      Romancing the Soul by Sarah Tranter | MyReview 


Blessedly this comedic novel with sci-fi elements woven inside its heart of a back-story towards how two people can suddenly meet and find themselves already familiar with each other arrived at just the right moment where I needed to read this story! Books have a way of finding us at a point in time where their stories and characters will resonate a strong gathering of place and time; to effectively keep us within their realms and allow us to nearly grieve the loss of their experience. This was one of my first choices in seeking out the sci-fi this side of Rom from ChocLitUK and was clearly treated to a novel that left me full of smiles and a heap of bookish joy to consume!

Quote from my review:

Susie and George have this magnetically charged attraction which is as illogical as the Bermuda Triangle! They are irrevocably entwined into each other’s soul’s and the orientation of where their individual happiness lies is clearly becoming dependent on the choices they each will start to make as they move forward. What was such a unique take on this story-line is how the past lives and the present lives started to bleed into each other as far as who they were and who they are now. George you see, is Cassie’s brother both in the past and in the present, and the wild ride starts to ensue when Cassie realizes that this mission of hers to unearth the debunking of past life regressionists is not truly her sole motivation anymore. It is to have a more clearer understanding of how George is being directly affected by welcoming back a past soul mate into his present! I loved how the sections were written as far as to express how two past lives come back into connection with each other: clearly they are as explosively charged and combustive as any chemical reaction in chemistry; to the brink of not even fully understanding why they cannot remain separated. In science this would be considered a binary coupling, as they are innately auto associative.


9.      The Untied Kingdom by Kate Johnson | MyReview 


This particular novel came to my attention through a series of recommendations, the kind of recommendations I wasn’t as keen to know if the novel would be my cuppa or not. I am not one who gravitates towards ‘alternative realities or alternative histories’ within fiction. Yet what gave me the belief that I could soak inside this story is how those who were telling me of its heart, spoke to the spirit of where Johnson wanted us to traverse whilst we were reading its chapters. To me, if you can make a ready connection to the heart of a story, even if it’s outside your comfort zone, you’ve broached your mind and heart to re-define what is plausible. I choose to read daringly and push myself to read stories that will challenge me. The fact this encompasses such a cleverly conceived method of time travelling is icing on the cupcake!

Quote from my review:

Johnson doesn’t slowly build the reader’s interest into her world but rather drops them so unceremoniously into the commotion of what is happening to her characters, as to make the reader feel quite at home despite the frenzy of what is about to breach onto the page! Her world-building is lightweight and easily able to transition from the present day to the past; or rather into this ‘alternative historical’ arm of where the present could have gone in a different time reality than our own. It’s a curious prospect of quantum physics – how many realities and time variables are there per each generation of life known in our own historical past? How many times does time bend against it’s own continuum to create the vortex of differences?

Rather than bolting down the specifics of how and why Eve Carpenter made her time slip into this new reality, Johnson focuses on the importance of how this intrusion on Harker’s reality upsets the cart of balance in his time era. This is definitely a book which would appeal to science fiction readers who happen to enjoy reading a bit of Rom where the focus is on what to do once you’ve re-positioned yourself ‘elsewhere’ without the benefit of proof of ‘where’ you’ve come.


10.  Intangible by C.A. Gray | My Review


I personally get a kick out of reading stories about Quantum Physics, both in fiction and non-fiction alike; as to me, non-fiction books are stories set to a different pace and interaction than fiction, but their stories all the same! Seeing where science can merge itself into fantasy is a new wicked joy of mine, and Ms Gray truly exploded my mind with possibilities that I was more than eager to devour!

Quote from my review:

By the time I read ‘superstrings’ and theoretical research by page 11, I not only sat up straighter but I was trying to sort out how I had the blessing of being able to read such a wickedly delightful novel! I seriously did not remember if I had let on how much I love quantum physics, and surely I don’t remember mentioning (as of yet) my curiosity for superstrings, although I might have mentioned something about it come to think on it, as didn’t I blog about how I started my collection of quantum physics books last year during Sci Fi November?! Hmm,… wells, let’s just say, I plunged so heartedly into the text a hurricane could knock on the window and I would have been completely oblivious!

I had the fortunate grace to have read Uncovering Cobbogoth earlier this year, which foretold of the Elementalists and paved the way for my imagination to jettison itself into a realm where elemental matter can be manipulated and bent towards what a individual mind can develop into their living reality inasmuch as affect aspects of parallel time portals and realms. With my mind alighting inside Cobbogoth ahead of the Piercing the Veil series, I am finding my wings to fly with a freedom of transcendence and a realism of placing myself fully into the shoes of Peter and Lily; in such a way that I might not have had if I hadn’t read the beauty inside Hannah L. Clark’s debut novel! (also the first of a series!) I hadn’t thought about it previously, but Cobbogoth is sci-fantasy as much as Intangible!


In closing I want to thank Christina "DZA" Marie for inviting me to conjure up a Guest Post Feature to run on her blog during #RRSciFiMonth! The honour was surely mine as I took her up on the challenge to compile a ‘Top Ten List’ revolving around science fiction. This list grew organically out of my deep appreciation for the worlds within their pages held my heart and imagination in rapt attention. The depth of the character’s journey, the heart of the writer’s who gave these stories life, and the lifeblood of memories my own mind is in full remembrance of is truly a blessed gift to reflect back upon whilst hoping to inspire new readers to take a chance on reading them.

Each novel I’ve highlighted evoked a different experience to settle over my mind’s eye, and to engage me directly inside the joy the pen of its writer had in creating the space between literature and imaginative time travel. For each of us time travelling through literature and space each time we pick up a novel. It’s a beauty of inter-dimensional exploration that is only one ‘next read’ away from enchanting our minds to a new level of insight and incredible clarity of ‘place’.

I welcome visitors to this guest feature to visit with me, by clicking through to the original reviews of the titles I’ve highlighted. Let me know if something within those reviews or this Top Ten List whets your thirst of appetite for a story you only learnt about through this guest feature. If you’ve had the happiness of reading one of these stories previously, I welcome your notes on behalf of what your individual experience was within those realms. Let us continue to inspire each other!

Sincerely, Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story

19th November 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shadows of Sherwood (Book Review)

This is the post I meant to put up last week but had an epic fail in that endeavor due to school and work. We're now starting a poetry unit in my creative writing class (blech), which means I probably won't have any backup plans in the event of me realizing on Thursday, "Oh, sh!t, I have to blog this week!" So I'll be extra motivated to keep the reviews and demonology stories up-to-date.

Anyway, here's the overdue blog post. As usual, the first half has no spoilers, the second half has all the spoilers (you will be warned before approaching the second half).

If you have any idea for future posts or know someone who'd be willing to do a guest post on this blog, please contact me.

Enjoy! :)

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You can get this for dirt cheap on Amazon. Click here for details.

In honor of RinnRead's SciFi Month (co-hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow), I read Kekla Magoon's Shadows of Sherwood, a science fiction twist on the classic Robin Hood adventures. It's set in the near future in Nott City with holograms, credit cards embedded in the hands of the rich, and hackers.

It's also got a magical realism feel to it. There's a lot about prophecies and what's called "moon lore," which Magoon doesn't really go in depth about (as this is only the first book of a series, right Ms. Magoon? Right???), but which drives the beliefs of several core characters.

It's a very fast read, even for a YA novel. Robyn Loxley's life goes from rich and awesome to orphaned fugitive in one night, and the whole book only covers about a week of her life on the run. The chapters are extremely short, and it's designed for teens/kids who may have heard of the Robin Hood tale but never actually read it.

"Christina, why did you read this? You're an adult. You're obsessed with Game of Thrones and watch American Horror Story. You have a skeptical realist's view of the world and like seeing that in books and shows. Why are you reading a kids' book?"

First of all, it's not a "kids' book." It's a young adult novel (and boy, does that sound pretentious; but it's true). At the very least, it's geared towards preteens.

Secondly, I'm a college student. That means I spend the majority of my time reading textbooks, analyzing letters and family trees from hundreds of years ago, and writing academic papers with big words I can barely understand so my professors think I'm smart and give me at least a B-. Without YA novels and television to cool my head, I would die from spontaneous brain implosion. Don't judge the friggin' teens' book.

That being said, it does have a lot of the tropes of a typical YA novel. Orphaned kids and evil adults (so the good adults can't swoop in and help out), Chosen One, cryptic clues that are gained with as much effort as pulling teeth, some corny and mostly unnecessary scenes from the bad guy's POV (those are few and far between), the typical emotional blowup that causes hard feelings, the resulting betrayal from the shady guy we don't know much about, etc.

But even so, it's a very good book. Well-written, engaging plot, a good mystery...

Also, Robyn's a girl. So many YA action/adventure main characters are boys. When it is a girl she tends to need rescuing from the male lead, whom she usually falls in love with. Not the case with Robyn.

Which reminds me: NO ROMANTIC SUBPLOT! Just for that, I need to give Magoon a hug. Robyn meets at least three bachelors without even a hint of, "He's so dreamy" or "He's so cute." None of that shallow sh!t. Thank you Kekla Magoon.

While the book points out the class tensions normally present in Robin Hood stories (that is, after all, the whole point), it goes a step further by pointing out the racial tensions. Robyn herself is half Black (her father is described as dark-skinned, her mother as fair-skinned, and Robyn has "light-brown skin"), and Magoon points out the racial privilege in society with Robyn noticing the majority of the powerful political figures being White and an awful lot of Black people not having any of that power. She doesn't cram it down our throats like a lot of stories tend to do, but it's a nice little, "Hey, you know how some people say racism is totally over and done with? Actually..."

So on a scale of one to ten, I give it a 7.5. The missing points are mostly because of my bias for hard-core adult stories with major character deaths and twisty, unpredictable plots. But given the fact that I just came out of midterms, I need to thank Kekla Magoon for keeping my head from imploding.



All The Spoilers 



It opens with the Night of Shadows, where Governor Ignomus Crowne sends a bunch of black ops guys to the homes of his political rivals (including Robyn's parents) to vanish them (i.e. kidnap them and put them in prison). It was one of the few things about this book I didn't like, because even though all the black ops guys have "sharp knives that are perfect for slitting throats," no throat-slitting actually takes place. So instead of permanently eliminating all of his political threats and rivals, Crowne decides to just imprison them and lie about where they are.

Whatever. It's a preteen book.

Robyn goes from princess status to street urchin/fugitive in minutes. She escapes the Night of Shadows but still ends up arrested. Meets a girl named Laurel in juvie. They escape. (Later they bust back in to do a whole jailbreak of all the other prisoners, because apparently it's really easy to break out of prison in the future.)

Robyn and Laurel meet several other people and form a ragtag group of friends: an older teen named Key (who would usually be the romantic interest in stories like this, but thankfully that never happens), a nerd named Tucker, a hacker named Scarlet, and an old classmate of Robyn's named Merryan (who, unlike Robyn, willingly chooses to give up her life of luxury to break the unjust laws and help the poor; she's Crowne's niece and really doesn't appreciate the crap her uncle's pulling).

Robyn spends the majority of the book trying to piece together all the clues her father left her in order to find her parents and put a stop to Crowne, and also figure out all the moon lore stuff which plays into all this. Throughout the story she finds various tidbits and tokens he left behind and understandably grows more and more frustrated as the pieces refuse to fit.

"But...didn't he, I don't know, sit his daughter down before all of this and say, 'Hey, your mother and I might be vanished by the government. If that happens, here's exactly what you should do and what the moon lore means'? You know, a clear-cut answer?"

He did. He put it all in a hologram that he gave her only to use in the case of an extreme emergency. But it broke during Robyn's escape. And when she finally fixed it, the bad guys took it (d'oh!).

Anyway, Robyn learns how to steal and survive from Laurel and Key, then starts giving the majority of what she steals back to the poor, who are being oppressed and destroyed by Crowne and his military police. This leads to tensions between her and Key, who thinks she's being selfish because she keeps jeopardizing their thefts to run off and find more clues (and doesn't tell him anything about herself or her parents because they don't really trust each other).

This leads to a typical teen blowup where Robyn basically says they all suck and don't understand what it's like to be an orphan...even though they're all orphans.

Cue Key doing the predictably shady man's betrayal and telling Crowne how to get the hoodlum Robyn who's been giving the military police so much trouble. This involves sacking the poorest parts of the Nott City and arresting everyone until Robyn turns herself in.

Instead of turning herself in (because that would be a crappy Robin Hood book if it ended that way), Robyn and her friends pull a stunt involving holograms as a distraction and turn the mob against the military police. She also saves Key, not knowing he betrayed her. It's unclear whether he rejoins her as a friend or as a spy.

The story ends with Robyn learning a critical piece of the moon lore. Earth was created when the powers of Light and Dark fell in love, but the forces of the universe tore them apart because they believed Light and Dark were only meant to fight. Apparently they were sorta right. When humans were created, they were divided into two camps (Light and Dark) and immediately set about trying to kill each other. The fighting didn't stop even when regular humans were born and not divided into those camps. The moon is supposed to be a beacon of sorts, a symbol to remind the humans that they're supposed to get along. Sometimes a chosen one shows up and gets everyone to play nice for a while.

Robyn is (obviously) the next chosen one. Not only is she literally a child of light and dark with her racial heritage, but apparently her mother is descended from the Light and her father descended from the Dark. Their love and relationship is a reflection of the earth's parents.

Robyn ultimately decides that, for now, she's just going to steal stuff from Crowne and help the people she may or may not be destined to lead, and try to find and rescue her parents. It basically comes down to: "Screw destiny. I'm just gonna live my life and hope for the best."

--

Know a good movie, TV show, or book?
Do you have any questions or comments?
(All criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful.)
Then PLEASE contact me.

Shadows of Sherwood is for sale on Amazon.
Thanks for reading! :)

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Worst Time to Get a Crush is During the Zombie Apocalypse and Here's Why

So...I'll bet you're all wondering what snarky post I've got this week. What show or book did I review or what demon did I research? Especially now that it's Science Fiction Month (a month-long blogging event hosted by RinnReads and Over the Effing Rainbow; some of you may have seen the #RRSciFiMonth decorating my social media posts lately).

Surely I'm responsible enough to manage my time and prepare a proper post, right? 

Um... 

Hey, look! A microfiction I did for my creative writing class featuring zombies. Enjoy! 

--

"Okay," Erin huffed, packing her shotgun like a pro action hero. "Ready, Mike?"

I stared at her, the axe heavy in my hand. "Seriously? There's, like, eighty zombies out there."   

"That's why we're doing this instead of any of the others; we're the track race champions." 

"Two years ago!" 

"And since then we've had ample opportunity to practice those running skills," Erin cheered. "Zombies suck, but they're great for exercise." 

I looked out the window. There was a man with a broken ankle and a hole in his chest limping down the street to a rotted corpse, which was already being chomped on by a woman with half a jaw, one arm, and a really ugly green hat. 

There were others. Lots of others. Lurking in abandoned buildings and stumbling through shadows, unseen until they were gnawing on your intestines. The city was crawling with them. 

"There's got to be a better way to get food," I protested. 

"Well, I suppose we could resort to cannibalism, but then what's the point of fighting zombies of we're just gonna act like 'em?" Erin smacked my shoulder. "Come on. Think of how impressed Lindsey will be if you survive." 

"Oh, no!" I snarled. "No, we are not going through this again!" 

Erin gave me a mock pouty face. "Aw, is Mikey too afwaid of his feelings for pwetty wittle Windsey? Too afwaid of the wittle stumbling zombies?" 

"I've kicked the ass of every zombie that's tried to take a bite out of me, and if any others try it I'll shoot 'em right between the friggin' eyes!" I snapped. 

Erin beamed and opened the door. "Perfect! We're ready!" 

"Wait, wha--"

Erin grabbed my arm and dragged me outside. 

 --

Seriously guys, I'm so sorry. I thought I'd have enough time to read this week (well, read something that wasn't for history class). I'll be sure to have a "real" post next week. 

 --

Know a good show, movie, or book? 
Do you have an idea for a future blog post? 
Any questions or complaints? (all criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful) 

Then PLEASE contact me!
(Social media also on that page)

Thanks for reading! :)