Book Review: Carve the Mark

imageDetails:
Title: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 438

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, Aks is desperate to get this brother out alive—no matter what the cost. Then 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 First Thoughts:

I was really excited to hear that Veronica Roth had written a new book, because I absolutely loved the Divergent series. However, I’ve been hearing awful things about the book, not about the plot, but about the characters and racial relations. I walked into this series trying to have an open mind, but also trying to be aware of the criticisms that I had heard.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I’m unsure about those criticisms that I heard… I find it hard to whitewash or portray a negative bias toward characters whose physical descriptions consist of “can see his veins through his skin,” and “has dark shadows crisscrossing over her body,” or “large and lean,” and “small and fast.” Also, everything in this book takes places on a planet that is not Earth, they aren’t even referred to as humans at any point, so I feel like that is also a point against the criticisms that I had been hurting.
That’s not to say that racism and classism are not heavily explored themes in the book. There are two primary races featured in the book, the Thuvhe and the Shotet.

The Thuvhe are a race that exists on a frozen planet and believes in peace and love and the power of the the current, while the Shotet are a race looked down upon by the entire space system as violent scavengers due to their traditions and practices. Much of the book is spent with the main characters, Cyra and Akos, learning the truth about each other’s culture and seeing the beauty in the cultures that are not their own.

This book was a little more on the “Space Opera” side of science fiction than hard science fiction that has a lot of scientific explanation, which is awesome because that is more of what I am interested in and enjoy. I don’t need to know how it works in too much detail, I just need to understand that it does. I was drawn in by the characters of the series, captivated by the elements of the world, and I never felt stunted by the plot of the book. This book is 438 pages and has a standard sized font and I finished it in just a couple days.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a cool story, I thought the cultures were diverse and fleshed out, there was no point where I felt anyone was one-dimensional, and I never felt like I was being told everything going on. It was a cool story that pulled at my heart strings several times and kept me engaged throughout.

Rating(s):

4/5

I really did enjoy this book. I would recommend it to anyone who has a budding interest in science fiction, or simply is interested in a “where two worlds collide” type of story. I am excited to read the next installation of this story.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

 

Book Review: Binti

 

Synopsis:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been meaning to find and read this book for a while and I can’t remember exactly how I was introduced to it. I haven’t found a whole lot of afrofuturism in literature and I wanted to read more about the genre and to broaden not only myself but my library. So when I saw this book the other day I snatched it up and tried reading it as soon as possible.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story was very interesting to read and it presented some topics and ideas that will take me some time to fully digest and absorb. Binti was not quite what I had expected when I first discovered it.

The beginning of the story was definitely the strongest part of the novella. This is when you are not only introduced to Binti, but you’re also introduced to her people and her culture. You learn that the Himba are the best at creating futuristic astrolabes and that they’re taken advantage of and mistreated by the Khoush. This narrative, to me, seemed to be a commentary on possibly the history or relationship between African and European people. The Himba and the Khoush aren’t at war with each other, but they’re not necessarily on good terms either.

As the story progresses the story begins to lose its strength. Major events happen to progress the story forward, events that should’ve had a devastating effect on the readers and Binti. However, one of the major events seemed to fall emotionally short. I understand that with a novella that you have limited time to convey a story, but I felt that not enough time was given to developing emotional attachments between the readers and the characters and the other characters to Binti. If done correctly, emotionally important scenes could’ve been told in just a few sentences or even a single paragraph that would’ve added so much to the pathos of the story.

This was an interesting coming of age story because it tackles the question of who is Binti. From the beginning she questions her decisions and what kind of person would they make her. As she continues on her journey she wonders who she is without her people, who she is as a Himba and not. Then by the end she still doesn’t quite know who she is but she accepts that she is more than just her people’s traditions. This was an interesting journey because of the added element of her people. The Himba are very traditional, something that I haven’t seen in a lot of coming of age fiction, so the traditions and the conflicts associated with them made the story more unique.

Rating:

3/5

This story was very unique and interesting to read. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read soft sci-fi literature, afrofuturism, or just wants to read something different. Overall, Binti was entertaining and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the concept of the Meduse, which were pretty much Space Jellyfish, but I also felt that they weren’t really developed. In the story they’re seen as ruthless killers and then suddenly they’re described as honorable with no real reason, at least not a memorable one. The science in Binti is very limited, not much is really explained and you just have to accept that it’s real, which makes this a soft or lukewarm sci-fi. I think this story would have been stronger if it were longer, and not considerably longer either. A lot of emotion was lost that could have been saved with a few well-placed sentences. Other than that, the coming of age story was unique because of the added traditional background of the Himba, making Binti’s journey different from similar stories. I’m curious what happens in the rest of the series, so I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Binti’s journey.

Details:

Title: Binti

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor.com

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Science fiction, Afrofuturism, Coming of Age

Pages: 90

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Comic Book Review: FCBD Lady Mechanika

Synopsis:

Introduce new readers to this steampunk bestseller, which has been remarkably successful with female readers as well as fans of the popular steampunk genre, with this FCBD special that includes the original 14-page one-shot introducing Lady Mechanika, a young woman in Victorian England with mechanical limbs and no memory of how she got them, searching desperately for the secrets to her past, plus excerpts from the Lady Mechanika trades and comics!

What I First Thought:

I got this comic from the local store during Free Comic Book Day 2017. I’ve seen Lady Mechanika floating around at the various comic book stores that I’ve been into and I’ve been interested in reading about her for a while. So when I saw this edition I decided to finally take the plunge and see if this dark, steampunk lady would suit my fancy!

Ratings:

Art: 4/5

I really liked the art. Everything was well drawn and detailed. You could see the detailing in her outfit real well, specifically on her vest. The patterns on the vest were faint so that it didn’t distract from the overall scene, but you could see it well enough to give her clothing a distinctive and authentic feel. The action scenes weren’t too congested with unnecessary lines, sounds, etc. that would draw you away from what was happening. Some of the facial expressions were a bit too dramatic but overall the people looked decently designed. My one complaint it that Lady Mechanika looks to have Barbie’s proportions. I understand how corsets work, they make the wait look thinner and the boobs stand out more, but her body just doesn’t look right. Overall the designs, detailing, and the colors are fantastic.

Story: 4/5

I really enjoyed the intro to the character, it was enough to a good glimpse at her personality and what drives but still leaves you wanting more. And boy do I want to read more about this dark, mysterious heroine! The other two previews to the later volumes were interesting, they were shorter than the excerpt from the prologue. I think I would have enjoyed the other two more if I knew more about the story and they were just too short. I’m really curious as to what happens in those volumes now, but I wish there was a little more to let me know what to expect. Either way, I’m interested in reading more from this series!

Overall: 4/5

Details:

Title: Lady Mechanika

Issue: Free Comic Book Day edition

Publisher: Benitez Productions

Writer: Joe Benitez

Art: Joe Benitez

Colors: Peter Steigerwald

Lettering: Josh Reed

Released Date: May 5th, 2016

Pages: 28

Genre: Mystery, Science-fiction, Teen, Action, Steampunk

Comic Book Review: Steven Universe (2017-) #3

Synopsis:

When the local business owners in Beach City start to feel the economic pinch during the tourist off-season, Mayor Dewey and Buck come up with a solution: food trucks!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

Story: 5/5

Overall: 5

This issue was centered more on Mayor Dewey and his son, Buck, rather than Steven and the Gems. I really liked that the story was more on the town itself; don’t get me wrong, I love Steven and the Gems, but I also like the towns folk and I want to see more of them too!

In this story the town is trying to solve a problem of many beach towns during the off-season, drawing in customers. Buck comes up with the idea of bringing in food trucks on the weekends to help bring in more people for the local businesses. Things go off without a hitch…except the local businesses suffer. However, together Mayor Dewey and Buck find a way to both draw in people and help their local businesses, also highlighting the importance of local shops and how just bringing in new people won’t always help.

The story was really simple and you see some sweet moments between Mayor Dewey and his son. While they’re not main or major characters, I thought it was still nice to see more of their relationship together. It was also nice to see that while yes, Dewey is a politician, but he also really cares about the city he watches over.

I think that the artwork has improved a lot since the first issue. The first issue of this run had great art, don’t get me wrong, but it still didn’t feel quite like Steven Universe. However, I feel like the artist has really captured that in this volume while still having their own style. I also loved some of the sight gags in this issue, one that I was not expecting but won’t ruin for anyone else!

Why do I have to wait so long between releases?!? Until next time!

Details:

Title: Steven Universe (2017- )

Issue: 3

Publisher: kaboom!

Creator: Rebecca Sugar

Writer: Melanie Gillman

Illustrator: Katy Farina

Colors: Whitney Cogar

Letters: Mike Fiorentino

Released Date: April 24, 2017

Pages: 26

Genre: Science Fiction, Slice of Life

Comic Book Review: Empress #1

Synopsis:

Imagine you’re married to the worst bad guy from your favorite sci-fi movie. An alien dictator feared throughout the universe, who will kill you if you leave — but you need to escape for the sake of your three children. All you have are your wits, your bodyguard, and three guns.

What I First Thought:

I found this comic one day when I went with my boyfriend and his family to their local comic book store. They had the first four issues and it looked interesting enough, so I grabbed it. I’m still new to comic books, I still haven’t quite figured out how to judge whether or not I’ll like it before buying it. This time I went with my gut, so hopefully that was enough!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I loved Stuart Immonen’s art! Not going to lie, but at first I was a little leery about the heroine’s character design because from the cover it looked like she would be an unrealistic “space babe”. After seeing the artwork, time and again Emporia was portrayed with realistic body proportions that weren’t too over the top. I think what I liked most about the artwork is that it already appears pretty smooth, some of the past comics I’ve read were a little rough in the beginning. Every line has a purpose, the scenes aren’t cluttered with too much detail, there’s just enough to give the readers all the information they need. The action sequences weren’t overcrowded or overpowered, just enough explosions when needed.

Story: 4/5

This was a pretty good beginning to the series. I’m really intrigued with the setting of this story. The story is set 65 million years ago with dinosaurs, aliens, and space travel; to date I don’t think I’ve ever read a story (outside of watching those few episodes of Doctor Who) in which those three are combined. I’m excited to see where Millar will do with this setting. Already I’ve seen a T-Rex fighting in an arena and a ship having to avoid a flock (?) of pterodactyls, but will there be more to it and will the dinosaurs actually play some sort of role in the story.

This story had just enough information to keep me from getting lost, but still left me with questions. I would’ve liked for a little more background, but I think that’s more my speed. I’m still curious to see what happens next!

Overall: 4.5

Details:

Title: Empress

Issue: 1

Publisher: Icon

Writer: Mark Millar

Illustrator: Stuart Immonen

Colors: Ive Svorcina

Letters: Peter Doherty

Released Date: April 6, 2016

Pages: 32

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Book Review: The Senator’s Youngest Daughter

32073917**The views of this book do not reflect our political views or ideals. This book was provided in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: The Senator’s Youngest Daughter

Author: Kelley Rose Waller

Publisher: Versive Press

Release Date: October 1, 2016

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia

Pages: 313

Synopsis:

Senator A.C. McFerren has been missing for more than six months. The obvious prime suspect in his disappearance is the homegrown terrorist group known as the Army of Social Justice.

Searching for her kidnapped father leads Brenna McFerren Jefferson to the terrorists’ elusive “Death of Government” headquarters, known as The Doghouse. But nosing around where the federal government won’t investigate puts a target on her family and sets in motion a rebellion she isn’t prepared to lead.

Dreams of liberty cause the Senator’s daughter to disguise herself for undercover recon, recruit a high-ranking defector, and partner with a subversive news agency that combats government propaganda. As Brenna’s strength and family ties are tested, she unites a political party that commands the power to transform the United States.

My First Thoughts:

I was so excited to read this book. Dystopia is probably my favorite genre, and I especially love really political, espionage-y ones. From the synopsis, this book sounded like it was right up my alley.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

It’s taken me a long time to write this review; I couldn’t figure out what to write about it. I don’t really know if I enjoyed it or not. I found that the writing was fine. It was easy to follow and clear. The characters were developed, if a little lacking in dimension.

This story is narrated by the main character, Brenna, and I found that the narration did match her dialogue, which I appreciated. However, as a fellow teacher, I did find her hard to connect with at times. She mentions often how all she wanted was to be a kindergarten or first grade teacher, but she left because of how government restrictions were affecting the education system. Now, there are many teachers who are frustrated and feel restricted by what we currently deal with in education and there are many teachers who leave because of it. However, the teachers that talk like Brenna talks throughout the story are never the ones who do, because they know they need to be there for the students. They work with and around restrictions; they don’t normally just give up. As someone who had to fight tooth and nail to get where I am in my career, Brenna’s thoughts about teaching are almost infuriating.

Here’s the part that has been killing me about writing this review: This book reads like a republican’s nightmare about socialism. That’s not to say that I am in favor of socialism, because I’m not. When I took my “What is your political alignment” test in my government class, I was almost in the exact center. While I can see how aspects of socialism have had positive impacts in several countries, I believe there are fundamental differences between the US and those countries that make it so it probably wouldn’t work here. However, this book seems to ignore the fact that it has worked other places and that there are positive ideas in this. It also runs off of several misconceptions about socialism, portraying a more communist society than a socialist society. Politics and society are difficult and complex, but the viewpoint of this book is very simplistic and fear based, rather than a critique based on research.

Final Thoughts:

In conclusion, my feelings about this book are mixed. I was ok with the writing, characters, and overall story; this is a genre I really enjoy. However, the political situation and climate is so one sided and filled with the fearful ideas I hear constantly in the conservative place I live I found it jarring. It was hard to read, not because it was bad, but because it hit close to home.

Rating(s):

2/5

I would recommend this book to people who don’t understand why some people cannot see “How socialism would be a benefit to society.” I think it is a very good perspective into the thought processes of people who are fearful of socialism. It is also a fine political drama, but one that I did find was so extreme it would pull me out of the story and turn me off reading it for a while.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Comic Book Review: Steven Universe (2017-) #1

steven-universe-1Details:

Title: Steven Universe (2017- )

Issue: 1

Publisher: kaboom!

Creator: Rebecca Sugar

Writer: Melanie Gillman

Illustrator: Katy Farina

Colors: Whitney Cogar

Letters: Mike Fiorentino

Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Slice of Life

Released Date: February 8, 2016

kaboom_stevenuniverse2017_001_b_subscriptionSynopsis:

(As read on Goodreads)

Writer Melanie Gillman (As the Crow Flies) and artist Katy Farina (The Amazing World of Gumball) are teaming up for the start of a new series of adventures for the entire gang. Based on Cartoon Network’s Emmy Award-nominated animated series created by Rebecca Sugar about a boy with magical powers who goes on adventures with The Crystal Gems, a team of beings who safeguard the universe. The show is approaching its fourth season and has earned millions of fans of all ages worldwide. In this kickoff issue, Steven, Lapis, and Peridot rescue a baby songbird on the ground outside the barn and work together to reunite it with its mother.

First Thought:

I was brought onto the Steven Universe ban wagon by my best friend our freshman year of college. While our roommates were out partying we watched Steven Universe while indulging ourselves on campus pizzas and smoothies. Since then, I have also dragged my boyfriend into the fray and he was the one to tell me about the new comic coming out, saying that it looked pretty good. I was a little cautious because I have seen the other comics and they just didn’t grab me, and their art bothered me. However, when we went to the local comic book store to find this issue I was instantly attracted to the beautiful covers and I knew I wanted to read this series! I ended up buying both of the covers that the store had on hand because I honestly couldn’t just pick one…

Ratings:

Art: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Overall: 5

I really liked the art in this issue. I believe that Katy Farina did a fantastic job with the characters and the world around them. The art wasn’t 100% like the show, which is totally fine with me, but it felt enough like the Steven Universe I got used to to not distract me from the story. This issue just felt like another episode of Steven Universe with a cute little story and message to go with. Melanie Gillman did a wonderful job with writing such a short story, like many of the episodes within the show, and creating a simple one issue plot. There’s nothing bigger, nothing grand, just Steven spending time with Lapis and Peridot building their characters and their friendship.

This first issue really is just a cute little read, one that will help cheer you up when you’re down and a nice little fix for the pauses between new episodes. If you like Steven Universe, want to try out comics (or new comics), or need some cheering up, then go to your local comic bookstore and pick up this issue. Do it, I promise you won’t regret it when you get wrapped up in the cuteness of Steven and the baby songbird!