Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review: What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

This review is part of Melody's Summer Reading: Diversity Spotlight. Enjoy!

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult Sci-fi
ISBN: 978-0062114877
Source: Bought
Add it to Goodreads

I shouldn’t exist… But I do

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

What's Left of Me is one of the most daring novels in recent years that I'm sure was hard to nail down but clearly was so worth it and I can't wait to read the rest of this trilogy. I loved how we're introduced to this world in which two souls live in one body and the dominant soul lives while the other fades away and we get to see the fight that Eva and Addie hold up to both remain.

The concept is so intriguing and surprisingly really easy to follow. My issue actually just became keeping up with the names of each character as its really a two in one deal for most of the characters that we meet. Bravo to creating such a diverse cast of complex characters all fighting to survive in their own skin. Really great job, here. I also loved the character dynamics between parent and daughter, siblings, friends, doctor and patient, and so on. All of these relationships were challenged and that made for such an exciting story to follow.

In regards to the story, I was so moved by the fight Addie and Eva and many more fought for the rights to their own bodies and souls. I love that this is a story about accepting all of someone and not going against conforming to society to make society more at ease with the less complicated. We're human beings. We're complicated. That's never going away, that's the beauty in being human... and seeing a group of people try to suppress that, as great as their intentions may arguably be, wasn't exactly a fine walk in the park. This made for such great conflict! Ah! The tension in this book is so thick! Everyone thinks they're doing the right thing and everyone's going about getting there own their own path so...yeah. Lots of different attitudes in the air. I loved it.

The theme of trust played a huge part in the story as the main characters are minors held in an institution against their will and they're told to trust so many adults only to find out that many of those adults are deciding who among them is enough... and that frightening reality really kicks the story into an even higher gear! The lengths people will go to deceive others in the name of protection, to do the wrong thing for the right reason is mind boggling. And we get to see so much of this play out!

What's Left of Me is about not letting our minds and bodies be a prison or society be a poison and instead us recognizing the beauty in free will and the power we as individuals have with such a hearty weapon. It's about so much more and I could go on and on about how in awe I am of all of the themes touched upon here but I'll simply encourage you to read this yourself and let all of this mull over in your mind long after the final page because this book will stay you with for some time, as it should.

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang is available today.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Audiobook Review - Doctor Who: Tip Of The Tongue (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Short) by Patrick Ness

This review is part of Melody's Summer Reading: Diversity Spotlight. Enjoy!

Doctor Who: Tip Of The Tongue (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Short)
By Patrick Ness
Narrated By: Nicholas Pegg
Release Date: May 23, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books Limited
Genre: Science Fiction, Short Story
Running Time: Unabridged | 54 minutes
Source: Bought
Add it to Goodreads

In 1945, a strange new craze for Truth Tellers is sweeping the kids of small-town America. The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa soon arrive to investigate the phenomenon, only to discover that the actual truth behind the Truth Tellers is far more sinister than anyone could have imagined ...

Eleven Doctors, eleven months, eleven stories: a year-long celebration of Doctor Who! The most exciting names in children's fiction each create their own unique adventure about the time-travelling Time Lord.

Having enjoyed Malorie Blackman's Doctor Who short story so much, I decided to read one more from another diverse author, Patrick Ness and must say that I enjoyed the first one way more. I feel like in this short story, we got way more from the people of the town that this is set in than what we got from the Doctor and his companion. So. That was odd. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the setting and the diverse townspeople who really jumped off the page (Ness has a knack for creating such colorful characters) however there was an imbalance when it came to screen time so to speak.

Then there's the story. I was actually more intrigued by the concept of this story (Truth Tellers) before reading this than the concept of the last short story but as it turns out, I think we were given just enough for this concept to be satisfied and not much more. So, this short story fell short in more ways than one... Not enough screen time for the main characters and not as much complexity with the concept as I wanted.

I did love the attention to detail and imagery though, it was very easy to imagine everything and insert myself into this world. I only wish we got to dig deeper with this. I listened to the audiobook of this short story and enjoyed the narration. That aside, this audiobook being about an hour long, I wish that this had actually been an episode of the show with a longtime Doctor Who writer on board to really take this to the level that I was expecting it to be at. So overall, this was a solid story but the lack of the Doctor and knowing that this had potential to be so much more doesn't exactly make this a title I'll be running out to recommend. There are eleven Doctor Who 50th Anniversary short stories in all though and they all can't be winners so I'll keep reading the rest and see how all fairs out in the end!

Doctor Who: Tip Of The Tongue (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Short) by Patrick Ness is available today.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

DVD Review: Strangerland

Release Date: August 18, 2015
Rating: R
Running Time: 112 Minutes

Newly arrived to a remote desert town, Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) are tormented by suspicion when their two teenage children mysteriously vanish into a dust storm that leaves only cryptic incriminations and family secrets in its wake.

I was intrigued by Strangerland for two reasons. One. Nicole Kidman. I think she is one of the most under-appreciated actors out there and I love her so much so watching this was a no brainer. Two. The story, following two parents after the disappearance of their children drew me in because who doesn't want to root for parents in this terrible situation every step of the way? With this, I put Strangerland into the DVD player and began watching.

The movie starts off with promise and is captivating as we meet the newly relocated Parker family and see how this family's world is slowly but surely turned upside down yet again. Kidman's performance (her first Australian indie since 1980) gripped me in my seat as did the tension in all of the characters and their longing to hold onto familiarity of peace in the never ending conflicts that life presents. I also loved the dialogue, I thought was so great but in the end, the overall pacing of the story really brought everything down.

I did like and appreciate the tone of the movie but I think that played a huge part in the pacing of the story as the heart of the story was there but it got caught up and lost in the dust storm along with the children, slowing down the story in a way I think hurt this film more than it helped. There are just so many subplots and themes here when it comes to loss but none of it is explored as deeply as it could have been and that's the film's downfall. So while I won't necessarily recommend this film, beautiful as it is visually, I do appreciate its efforts and do think that it has its strengths, enough of them to not completely disregard this piece.

Bonus Features:

Cast Featurette (8 minutes) - In this feaurette, the crew talks about casting the film and the cast talks about what it was like working with each other, which, if you've seen any feature like this before on any movie or TV DVD/blu-ray, they're all pretty much the same.

Appearing in this Feature:
Cast Members, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Nicole Kidman, Lisa Flanagan
Director, Kim Farrant
Producers, Macdara Kelleher, Naomi Wenck

Story Featurette (5 minutes) - In this featurette, the cast and crew talk about the story behind Strangerland and working with first time director, Kim Farrant. It's always lovely seeing first time directors hone their element and seeing Kim here was quite special but aside from that, this feature is also one you can skip.

Appearing in this Feature:
Director of Photography, P.J. Dillon
Director, Kim Farrant
Cast Members, Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan
Producer, Naomi Wenck

Own Strangerland on Blu-ray and DVD today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Ripple Effect (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Short) by Malorie Blackman

This review is part of Melody's Summer Reading: Diversity Spotlight. Enjoy!

The Ripple Effect (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Short)
By Malorie Blackman
Narrated By: Malorie Blackman
Release Date: November 20, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books Limited
Genre: Science Fiction, Short Story
Running Time: Unabridged | 1 hour and 13 minutes
Source: Bought
Add it to Goodreads

When the TARDIS lands on Skaro, the Seventh Doctor and Ace are shocked to discover the planet has become the universal centre of learning, populated by a race of peace-loving Daleks. Ever suspicious of his archenemies' motives, the Doctor learns of a threat that could literally tear the universe apart...

Eleven Doctors, eleven months, eleven stories: a year-long celebration of Doctor Who! The most exciting names in children's fiction each create their own unique adventure about the time-travelling Time Lord.

As a Doctor Who fan, I was really excited when it was announced that short fiction was going to be released by various authors in celebration of the 590th Anniversary though I have no idea why I've waited to so long to read them. This short story is from diverse author, Malorie Blackman who has done such a fabulous job with a time travel adventure that will captivate you from the very beginning.

I found The Ripple Effect to be humorous and the emotional resonance to be just as chilling as it is on screen. Blackman nails the voice of the characters (love the sass of the characters who are so distinctly strong) and tone of the world and the imagery jumps off the page. The universe is in big trouble and doesn't even know it, thanks to the Doctor who is hard at work saving the day... the guardian angel of the universe and following him save the day once more here was so much fun.

Malorie does such a fantastic job narrating the audiobook herself, which lasted just over an hour, about the same length of an episode of Doctor Who. I don't think that I can just read the other short e-shorts now, I need to consume them in audiobook for, it was so much fun! So if you are a Whovian and for some reason have yet to read these e-shorts, start today and maybe start with Malorie's!

The Ripple Effect (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Short) by Malorie Blackman is available today.

TV Talk: Face Off Episode 9.05 "The Gatekeepers" Review

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/Syfy

Note: Last Week's Recap

This week on Face Off, host McKenzie Westmore met the artists at the lab to give them their foundation challenge based on the classic Rorschach inkblot test! OoOoOoooooo!!!! The guest judge was Emmy Award winning makeup artist, Eryn Krueger Mekash (Scream Queens, American Horror Story, Glee) who would choose a winner that would earn immunity for the week. I loved that this challenge has so much to do with what we see... with perspective. It was probably the closest we've gotten to with an interpretation of perspective in a challenge in all nine seasons. My favorite looks were Stevie, Evan, Nora, Jasmine, Meg, Libby, and Jordan and of those, Mekash chose Jasmine and Meg as her favorites, with Meg winning the challenge. Meg has had quite a stressful journey on the show so far, so it was good to see her get immunity aka one less worry for her this week.

As for the spotlight challenge, the artists had to pull out a key from a bag Westmore held to choose their random partner as they would be working in teams for this challenge. The goal? Use an otherworldly dimension to inspire a gatekeeper and whatever it is he's keeping at bay. So, two creatures needed to be created. The keys unlocked their partner as well as their dimension for inspiration and the pairs were - Nora and Jasmine, Meg and Libby, Stevie and Evan, Ben and Jordan, Jason and Ricky, & Kevon and Scott.

In the lab, Libby dropped her cowell and while Meg was safe from elimination this week, her partner, Libby was not so she needed to figure out a way to resolve this issue in time for the reveal stage or she'd definitely be going home. It wouldn't be her first time in the bottom and she is talented though she hasn't exactly given anyone to be be blown away by her work, so this elimination would certainly be warranted. However, Jason and Ricky were quite behind in the lab so based on what we saw in the lab, time wasn't on their side. But can we just take a moment to fangirl over how amazing it is seeing the models get all done up in the lab? This part is always my favorite, seeing it come together right before my eyes. So. Beautiful.

On the reveal stage, my favorite looks were hands down Nora and Jasmine & Stevie and Evan with notable mentions to Ben and Jordan & Kevon and Scott. The judges' top looks were Nora and Jasmine & Ben and Jordan and while I was rooting for Jasmine and Nora to take the win with Jasmine coming out on top, the cohesiveness of Ben and Jordan's look was beyond phenomenal and Jordan's look in itself defined perfection so it's no surprise Ben and Jordan won this and Jordan came out on top. Well deserved! Congrats!!!!

The judges' bottom looks were Jason and Ricky & Meg and Libby and the way this week went, it really was a toss up. It could have been Jason leaving just as easily as it could have been Libby leaving. But Libby was eliminated and it was like a huge weight was lifted when I heard her name called because she just seemed like she was drowning in this competition. I'm so happy they put her out of her misery. She wasn't ready for this competition. She just wasn't ready. One day, she could win be the next big award winning makeup designer but for now, she's still got a ton more learning to do. So. Good luck, Libby! And congrats, Jordan! Can't wait to see what next week's challenge is!

Elimination Recap
Eliminated This Week: Libby
Total Eliminations: Brittany, Jasmine, Libby, Meg, Melissa, Nora, Stevie, Ben, Evan, Jason, Jordan, Kevon, Omar, Ricky, Scott, Sidney

Face Off airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Syfy.