Wednesday, August 27, 2014

45 Master Characters ~ book review

For those of you who aren't interested in writing, this review will probably be meaningless to you. For those of you who are, keep your ears and eyes and mind open.

This book uses mythical archetypes (based on Greek gods and goddesses) that will help a writer form strong characters who aren't stereotypical. The last section of the book focuses on the differences between a male and a female journey, which I found very helpful for plotting out one of my story ideas.

45 Master Characters is a very helpful book and I recommend it highly to anyone who dabbles in writing. One word of caution, though - this book is secular, and therefore sometimes mentions things like which character type would be most like to have an affair, etc.

Alyianna's review: 9 out of 10

Monday, August 25, 2014

Deep Breath - a Doctor Who episode review


You all should know by know that I am a huge Doctor Who fan... which means that I've been waiting for this episode for months very impatiently. The debut episode of the Peter Capaldi era is finally here! (For those of you who don't know Doctor Who, what I'm talking about is the very first episode of series eight, which is the start of the Twelfth Doctor's era.)

My Overall Thoughts
I was not disappointed with this first episode at all. "Deep Breath" was a great episode - from the classic chases to the Doctor's coping with his regeneration to the humor coming from Strax to the combined elements of DINOSAURS! IN VICTORIAN LONDON! WITH ROBOTS! 

Since I joined this fandom late and had a half-year period where I was just watching one Doctor Who episode after another, it wasn't until around February that I started experiencing how it was to be in the hiatus stage. This, as well as the reading of thoughts of other people on Doctor Who episodes, and that everything was going to be changed in this series, made me look on the entire show in a new light. I never realized how weird so many of the concepts in this show is. But it's brilliantly weird and just purely fun, and that's why Doctor Who is so great. It takes someone who likes sci-fi to get into the show, but once you're in, you're going to be on a wild (and emotional) ride.

I really loved that we got to see a different type of reaction to regeneration, one that forces out a lot more the question of what it really means for the Doctor to regenerate. While the Tenth Doctor was asleep most of the time, and Eleven got some spasms and had new taste buds, the Twelfth Doctor acts erratic and questions why he looks the way he does. There are a ton of nods to past Doctor Who when it comes to the Twelfth Doctor trying to figure out who he is - the Fourth Doctor's scarf, Amy, the Impossible Girl, and even Peter Capaldi being in Doctor Who before in "The Fires of Pompeii" ("I've seen this face before. Why did I choose this face?").

At first, I wasn't sure how I liked the idea that Clara didn't feel that the Twelfth Doctor was the Doctor (her being the Impossible Girl and having seen all his other regenerations and all), but in the end, it did work. This way, Moffat took us on a journey of figuring out whether we accepted this new and utterly different Doctor, instead of accepting him almost right away as with the previous Doctor. I know I liked the Doctor from the moment he opened the Tardis door and hoarsely whispered, "Shush", but I didn't fully accept him until that second-to-last scene.

And can I just say - the second-to-last scene? I had already heard rumours about this scene over a month ago, so the cameo appearance wasn't a surprise, but it was still just as beautiful as it would have been had I been surprised. I don't want this episode review to be too much of a spoiler, so I'm not going to say who it is, but... man. Moffat definitely knows how to squeeze out a scene until there are no feels left in it and you can move on.

Then that last scene? Well, let's just say I wasn't expecting that. But all I'm going to say is that I can't wait for Saturday!

There was one problem I had with this episode - and that problem revolved around Jenny and Madame Vastra. Anyone who has previously watched an episode with this pair will know exactly what I am talking about. Usually, I am glad when the Paternoster trio (Vastra, Jenny, and Strax) step in - mostly because the former two can definitely handle the bad guys, and the latter is there for comedy. However, this episode, Moffat went a little too far with the lesbian thing between Vastra and Jenny. After hearing some vague rumours on the Internet (I didn't check it out because I was trying to keep away from spoilers), what happened in the episode wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it was still pretty bad.

Alyianna's review: 8 out of 10

Pictures and Quotes Time!

"I hate being wrong in public. Everyone forget that happened."
(I know, right?)

"[...] I think you might be scared. And however scared you
are, Clara, the man you are with right now... The man
I hope you are with... Believe me, he is more
scared than anything you could imagine right
now. And he... he needs you."

"You can't see me, can you? You look at me, and you 
can't see me. Have you any idea what that's like? 
I'm not on the phone, I'm right here. Standing in 
front of you. Please, just... just see me."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Danielle Bradbery ~ album review

Danielle Bradbery released her debut album after winning first place in the fourth series of The Voice. That's a big thing... my dad and I believe that The Voice has the talent and The X-Factor doesn't.

I really love this country album. Danielle has a great voice that reminds me of Carrie Underwood, and almost every single song on her debut album sounds like a hit single. (And believe me, it's not often that I like every single song on an album that much.) I look forward to hearing more from this talented young singer - I believe she has a great career before her.

Best Song on the Album: "The Heart of Dixie". Without question.
Alyianna's Rating: 10 out of 10

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shake It Off ~ a Taylor Swift Review

So I'm sure all of my fellow Swifties (Taylor Swift fans) have heard Taylor's new single for her upcoming album 1989... and watched the music video. Time for a review? Why not? :)

The Song
"Shake It Off" is definitely more... upbeat than I usually like with songs. Two years ago, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" shocked me. I had the same reaction with this song, just not quite as much because I've been expecting Taylor to go even more pop. So the end result is that I like the song, but I don't love it. That may very well change after a few more dozen listens (because that is usually what happens with me and songs). But the message is great. :) To quote a good friend of mine, authoress Gina Marinello-Sweeney:

Taylor Swift has admitted to her vulnerability as an artist and how she has been hurt by the rude comments that people have made about her. Nevertheless, she has found a powerful antidote: "People can say whatever they want about us at any time, and we cannot control that," she said. "The only thing we can control is our reaction to that."

Alyianna's rating: 8 out of 10

Taylor takes a tumble while attempting to curtsey

The Music Video
I prefer the music videos in which Taylor tells the story, but I do like the idea of this music video - Taylor dancing among professional dancers, not having a clue what's going on, but still making her own way and having a great time. I just wish I could have seen more of the ballet dancers. ;)

There is one problem with the music video, though, and that revolves around the dancing itself. One of the groups of dancers is a group of (I'm guessing) belly dancers. These dancers are dressed inappropriately and the camera zooms up on some...well, parts that they shouldn't have. While I don't believe Taylor is glorifying these certain types of dancing, I don't think they should have been in the video.

Alyianna's rating: 7 out of 10

Taylor is blinded by a veil, but she doesn't care

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Hunger Games ~ movie review

For those of who have followed my blog near the beginning, you may remember my post against a book called The Hunger Games. I had read a few reviews that pointed out several issues of morality in it, and, in addition to hearing these reviews, I also have a disdain for almost all popular books because they usually turn out to be stupid or immoral (in my opinion). However, I have always been intrigued by anything in the dystopian genre, and The Hunger Games did sound like my kind of "thing". I also want to be able to post honest reviews of something I was unsure about...because if it isn't appropriate, I want to be able to warn people, but not by using someone else's review. And so...I finally watched the movie.

If you're wondering what is the reason for this's just to let you all know that I don't want this review to be another of those "The Hunger Games is so awesome and there could be nothing ever wrong with it!" posts. I am not one to take any immorality in movies lightly.

In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket

I was shocked when I saw The Hunger a good way. The movie was quite good and definitely plays on the emotions, down to the little things like Katniss' little sister, Prim, tucking in the back of her shirt even when she's walking towards pretty certain death. There's also the big things, like Katniss sacrificing herself for her sister, or giving Rue a burial after her death (most beautiful scene in the entire movie). However, it was not so much the story itself, but really the elements surrounding the story that blew me away... A society that has reverted back in morality to the days of the gladiator, glorifying death. The rich show their immaturity in dress and in the way they act in the stands. The immoral thirst for bloodshed. The entertainment shows complete with a ridiculous host, laugh track, and the show itself being just wrong. The fictional world of Panem felt so real, and chillingly close to the way our world is now.

the rich in stands
But it was one of the last scenes that really hit home. Let me provide some back story to explain (as spoiler free as possible).

Seneca Crane is the master of games, under the cruel President Snow. By a "mistake" at the end of this year's games, he is quickly moved out of the President's favour. Requested for an audience with the President, Seneca enters an empty room. No President here... only a glassful of poisonous berries. The message is very clear - not only what the berries mean to Seneca, but also to the whole system. Relationships are very unstable here. It is those who are highest up in power and favour that are the
Cinna wishing Katniss good luck
closest to death. One false move, and you're out. It's just like you might read about in a historical fiction with a cruel king. Or, as Suzanne Collins points out... just like in our society today.

The friendship within the movie is really nice, too. Cinna, the guy who designs costumes for the tributes, is the first person in Panem is to be really and truly kind to Katniss. Haymitch, who appears gruff and insociable on the outside, sends Katniss ointment for her injury and soup for a sick Peeta during the games.

Katniss isn't the most likeable character. And while Mrs. Everdeen is portrayed as a weak woman, although she definitely loves and cares for her daughters, Katniss' behaviour towards her just before the games is inexcusable. I know that she is worried for her sister, but it seems like she doesn't care for her mother at all. First, Katniss acts as if her mother barely exists, and then she angrily tells her that she has to take care of Prim because Katniss isn't there to do it for her anymore.

Katniss Everdeen
I hated all the killing, but who likes seeing the worst of humanity? I like that Katniss never kills anyone, except to defend herself. However, there is one quick scene with her that I didn't like. Katniss and her friend Peeta are the last children standing (literally and figuratively). There is one more young boy who is being attacked by digital dogs. He is being tortured and he screams for mercy. Katniss raises her bow and "mercifully" kills the boy. I don't agree with this because we are not in control of who lives or dies. God is - and only Him because only He is wise and good enough to be in charge of this. The boy did try to kill Katniss and Peeta earlier, but he wasn't trying to kill them now, so the kill wasn't in self-defence and was, therefore, unacceptable.

The whole thing with the eating-poisonous-berries-together-because-we're-not-going-to-kill-each-other at the end was a nice thought, but it's really similar to the problem above. Katniss probably guessed that the game makers would make sure to stop her and Peeta because they need a winner...but if not, she and Peeta would have committed suicide. That's not all right.

And, finally, there's the problem with the Careers (the gang of kids from Districts 1 & 2). These kids have supposedly been training for the Hunger Games all their lives. So how come they can't climb trees and every arrow they shoot in Katniss' way misses? The Careers are obviously stupid, as well because they only make three attempts to kill Katniss and then they go to sleep beneath the tree... without setting a watch. That's called lazy writing, folks.

Seneca... why do you think we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained.
- President Snow

Besides a few things here and there, this movie is surprisingly quite good.

Alyianna's reviews: 8 out of 10

Katniss buries her friend Rue

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Merlin Series 3 & 4 ~ TV review

Merlin's epic quest to save either King Arthur or Camelot (or both) in every single episode continues. The episodes are beginning to get a little dull as the show seems to be doing the same things over and over again in just a slightly different way. Series 4 has a new title, "The New Adventures of Merlin", and new opening credits, but that's the biggest change-up. The episodes are fun, but not all that great. I'm starting to understand why BBC cancelled the show after its fifth season. However, there are still brilliant episodes every now and again.

Favourite Episodes (more or less in order)
The Sword in the Stone (S4 Finale) - After seeing the teaser trailer, I thought, "Oh no....not again. This is just going to be a rewrite of the Series 3 finale." But it turned out that it wasn't... and it was done quite brilliantly, even better than latter finale. However, there are some parts I was a little frustrated with - like how the myth of the sword in the stone is completely downplayed to where it wasn't special at all, and how Tristan and Isolde are smugglers (and pretty much the only reason that they are in this story is to be a foil to Arthur and someone for Guinevere to be jealous of, respectively).

A Servant of Two Masters (S4E6) - Merlin has become Morgana's weapon against Arthur and Guinevere renders Merlin unconscious...a few times.

The Changeling (S3E6) - Arthur is expected to marry the awkward and very unladylike Princess Elena, who is possessed by a creature whose kind want to take over Camelot. Very delightful (the episode, I mean).

The Secret Sharer (S4E7) - Morgana teams up with a wizard in order to defeat her one foe, Emrys.

Queen of Hearts (S3E10) - Morgana decides to split up Gwen and Arthur to make sure that Guinevere never sits on "her" throne, so Merlin uses an aging spell to thwart her. (Old Merlin is the best character in this entire show...just saying.)

Alyiana's rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heist Society ~ book review

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help. For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

A book whose main characters are professional thieves? Sounds pretty interesting. However, I had a couple of problems with this book.

The main problem was the story itself. Yes, it immerses the reader into the world of thieves quite well by having a character who had left the life for a time and was just being re-introduced back into it. However, everything is just too easy. When Kat and her cousins decide to steal five paintings from the Henley (in order to give them back to their owner in order to save Kat's dad), the idea is described as an extremely difficult thing to do. In fact, Kat's uncle tells her that it is impossible and that she should just leave the matter alone. And yet their little gang accomplishes the task very easily.

That's just one example. And while I understand that the characters are good at what they do, it would be nice for the reader to know a little bit more about how they do it. Then the readers could start making their own plans along with the characters and will therefore empathize more with them. That would have been a great way to do this book.

Then there's the main characters. The problem with Kat is the lack of description surrounding how she thinks and feels. For example, there is a complete lack of description about how she reacts to one of the minor characters, Nick, kissing her for a distraction. We aren't told whether Kat kisses him back or even how she feels about the kiss. All is said is that "things are different between them" and Kat's cousins and her best friend Hale describe Nick as Kat's "boyfriend" (though he isn't in any way that). And I genuinely liked Hale... until Kat's cousin gives her a skimpy, tight dress to wear and Hale suddenly notices that Kat has breasts.

All in all, Heist Society was a very entertaining read. But it wasn't good enough to make me want to read any of the sequels.

Alyianna's rating: 7 out of 10

Monday, August 11, 2014

Angels in the Dust ~ book review

I picked up this book because it is my mother's all-time favourite historical fiction. Angels in the Dust is amazing because not only is it an engaging read about the First Crusade, but it also portrays the events and people like they really well - from the horrible sins of the Crusaders themselves to the piety of the Archbishop and the Pope. Therefore, the book is very much historically accurate. The character's decisions, which caused me either start loving or despising them, definitely kept me on my (mental) feet. The descriptions of the people's superstitions were very amusing, as well.  This book is a great historical fiction, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes this genre, as well as people who like high-quality literature (like the classics).

Alyianna's reviews: 10 out of 10
Audience: Definitely not children...I probably wouldn't give it to a young teenager, either.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Surrender the Heart ~ book review

On the brink of the War of 1812, Marianne Denton must marry to unlock her inheritance. Without the money, her mother can't receive medical care and her sister will be destitute. But Noah Brenin needs to sail his cargo to England before the war commences in order to prove his worth to his father and make enough money so he won't have to marry at all.

Defying his father's wishes, Noah loathes the idea of marrying a woman he finds plain and pompous. Marianne wants nothing to do with the rogue who taunted her as a child, yet she must convince him otherwise or her mother will die. 

But when Noah walks out on their engagement party, Marianne chases him down and ends up on his merchantman out at sea. The situation worsens when Noah's ship encounters a British man-of-war and the couple are impressed into the British navy. While a young lad's prophecy of destiny looms over them both, Marianne and Noah are forced to face their darkest fears as they desperately try to find a way to escape and fulfill their destinies-destinies that could change the course of the war and history forever.

This book began really well, but I soon became really annoyed with the first half of this book. The two main characters of this book, Marianne and Noah, have hated each other since childhood... and yet they start falling for each other really quickly at the beginning of the story. Marianne would do things such as noticing how attractive Noah looks without a shirt on (in a situation that was very much contrived, I might add), making me roll my eyes and feeling like it might be a good time to throw the book across the room.

Thankfully, the real story finally did kick in and I started to enjoy the book by the start of the second half. The love/hate relationship between Marianne and Noah became less cliché; the heightened action and introduction of more Christianity into the story definitely helped matters. However, the ending did feel a little abrupt and not quite as conclusive as I would have liked.

Alyianna's rating: 7 out of 10

Sunday, August 3, 2014

55 Book-Related Questions: Day 5

45. Most disappointing film adapation?
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. And I've heard the Percy Jackson film adaptations are horrible.

46. Most money I've spent in a bookstore at one time.
Probably $30-40. But it was mostly with a gift card, so I suppose it's cheating a little bit. ;)

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?
If it's so inappropriate that I can't stand reading it anymore. Or if it's super boring...but I think I've always dropped a book waaaaay earlier if it's boring.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I only organize my favourite books. Other books just go wherever they fit in my shelf...and if they don't, they go in piles in front of the books on the bookshelf.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once they’ve been read?
I've never given away a book...unless it's to my sister.

51. Are there any books that you’ve been avoiding?
I've already said Jane Eyre. Umm...besides that, I can't think of any at the moment.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle. It made me feel like anyone male was utter scum.

53. A book I didn't expect to like but did.
Toward the Gleam. The cover didn't look particularly interesting (yes, I judge a book by its cover, I'm sorry to say), but the story was great. And I avoided reading The Hobbit for at least a year for the same reason...oh, what a huge mistake that was!

54. A book I expected to like but didn't.
See #52. I'm reading Surrender the Heart at the moment and it's annoying me. But maybe it'll get better...I like to give books a chance. And if I get halfway and still don't like it, I'll probably still finish it so I can review it.

55. Favourite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading?
One word. 


Did you like these types of posts? What other "special posts" would you like me to do in the future?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

55 Book-Related Questions: Day 4

34. Most intimidating book I'm too nervous to begin
I tried reading Jane Eyre many years ago, and found it tedious. I'm planning to try it again sometime, but after my earlier experience, I'm a little nervous to do so.

35. Favourite poet
Stephen Vincent Benét. His poems are really fun.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out from the library at any given time?
For actual "reading" books, probably about 5. (But then I get more when I go to the library the next time when I haven't returned the others yet and they kind of build up...)

37. How often do you return library books to the library unread?
Usually 1/3 to 1/2 of them are unread. Usually. Sometimes, on great, shining weeks, I am able to read through them all.

38. Favourite fictional character
A few years ago, I would have said Frodo Baggins. I may still go with that... however, I've read/watched a lot of new stuff, and I don't think I can go with just one. So here are some off the top of my head...

Frodo Baggins (from The Lord of the Rings). Leo Valdez (from Heroes of Olympus series). The Doctor  and Rory Williams (from Doctor Who).

39. Favourite fictional villain.

Smaug from The Hobbit, Scar from The Lion King, the Master from Doctor Who, and Moriarty from Sherlock. In ascending order.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation.
I like to bring something easier on vacation for some reason... so YA, or adult Christian.

41. The longest I've gone without reading.
Last year, I had barely any time to read with the amount of schoolwork I had. So ignoring the novel and novella I had to read for English class, six months. Okay, well that's not quite true because I did manage to fit one book in that period of time. So four months.

42. Name a book you could/would not finish.
Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle because I just couldn't stand it anymore.

43. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
Loud talking or music. Or someone looking over my shoulder. I can't stand that because I feel like the person is judging what I'm reading. It happens to me on tests, too (are you looking at my answers thinking how stupid they are, teacher?!).

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel.
Anne of Green Gables, hands down. No question about it. The casting and acting and the amount of sticking to book were just perfection.

Friday, August 1, 2014

55 Book-Related Questions: Day 3

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Classics - from Little Women to Hamlet to The Iliad.

24. Favourite biography?
I actually have never read a biography. *cue gasps of shock and dismay*

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Do books of instruction on how to knit or play the piano count?

26. Favourite cookbook?
Any that have instructions on how to make something delicious I can put in my mouth.

27. Most inspirational book you've read this year (can be fiction or non-fiction)?
Simple and Pure because it made me feel like I can help change the world for the better.

28. Favourite reading snack?
I almost never eat while reading. Food can be a dangerous substance if it gets on a book!

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience...
So far, never. TV shows are another matter, though. (My love/hate relationship with Pinterest.)

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
It depends on what I thought about the book. If I loved it, I'll gush along with the critics. If I hated it or thought a book just to be "okay", then I'm probably not going to be agreeing with the critics.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I usually revel in slamming something I hate. Unless I know the author is going to read the review... then I feel bad for saying anything negative about the book. Usually.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
French because that would mean that I would have finally mastered the language. That's going to take quite some time, however. Right now, I'm spending most of my time agonizing over grammar with close to no help from my "teacher".

33. Most intimidating book I've read.
Les Miserables. Those sections that deviate from the story almost lost me. But it was so worth it in the end! #favouritebooks