Across the Universe Review

8235178Across the Universe is one of those cleverly written YA novels that introduces science fiction to those teen girls who are somewhat averse to the over-complications of the sci-fi genre. It does this pretty well, but never well enough to be in the same league as series like The Hunger Games.

This much more the stuff of science fiction though: cryo chambers, a monoethnic race, spaceship life, hundreds of year in the future. And yet it never feels as heavy as so many novels with elements such as these tend to be, perhaps because it happens through the minds of a couple of teens.

Amy and her parents are put into cryo chambers to sleep for 300 years in anticipation for colonizing a new planet. These cryo chambers are occupied by military officials and other important individuals to help in this colonization. Except Amy, she’s non-essential. While they’re asleep a new race of people will run the ship as it makes its way to the new planet. When Amy is awakened about 100 years too early, she learns about the strange society that has taken root. One ruled by a man named Eldest and his strangely loyal subjects. Amy and the next in line to power, Elder, befriend each other and discover the great web of secrets about the ship.

The novel is told entirely in the first person, alternating between Amy and Elder each chapter. Now because I listened to this book via audiobook, I was able to hear the voice actors take on emotions and personality of each character. I don’t usually listen to audiobooks, and I think if I could have I would have preferred to read the novel. I felt a constant suspension of disbelief listening to the female actor for Amy, although I found my experience listening to the male actor voicing Elder to be far worse.

Amy sounded very teenish, which probably was true to the character, however I already knew I was reading a young adult novel. I would have preferred a less “in your face” portrayal of this. There are many times in which Amy mentions the short, clipped accents of the people aboard the ship. The voice actor for Elder didn’t have this accent so it removed me from the experience of this novel.

The Magicians: Book vs. Show

It’s rare that I say this, but it does happen occasionally. I liked the adaptation of the novel more than the actual novel. Yep, I said it.

Sometimes an author has a great idea, but it just wasn’t executed right and it took a different medium to get the story across in the right way. I think Syfy’s television adaptation of The Magicians, though carrying its own set of flaws, condenses the novel by Lev Grossman in all the right ways.

My issues with The Magicians novel can be placed into a few categories: pacing, word usage, and action.

The novel takes places over a span of four to five years, in which not much happens. This is changed drastically in the show’s first season, which takes place over the course of one year. The show consolidates the exciting elements of the first novel, as well as some from the sequel, to fill out an otherwise somewhat lacking storyline.

magiciansWhile I found the story intriguing, reminding me of the days in which I would pour over the Harry Potter series, it always felt as though something were missing from this plot. Grossman presents a magical world finally attainable for those who never received their Hogwarts acceptance letters on their eleventh birthdays as long as you’re under the age of eighteen. This magical college seems to promise adventure and the learning of witchcraft, but never quite feels all that magical.

The lack of magic and seeming lack of action in this novel seems to be one of the morals or takeaways though. That the world, even with magic, isn’t so magical. It’s a thought-provoking takeaway, but one that may be disappointing to those reading this book because it’s been labeled “an adult Harry Potter.” Grossman intends to leave readers with this existential dread that is commonly felt after, and often during, those precious college years. He applies it smartly to this story, which kind of makes up for the my feeling that nothing much happened in the book. Because nothing much was supposed to happen.

That thought-provoking existentiality seems mostly lost within the television adaptation though. But it was more entertaining. A little bit more of the gritty, adult Harry Potter and Narnia I had been craving even if that wasn’t the original intention of the author. It brings both of these to the forefront and truly enraptures you in the story, using stunning visual effects that I don’t always expect from Syfy TV shows. But alas, it’s a Syfy TV show and it feels like one. Maybe it’s the acting or writing, but it all just feels like a Syfy TV show if you know what I mean. Like when a good show on the CW network just can’t escape the fact that it just feels like a CW show. 

I can’t be sure how much of the series was incorporated in this first season after only having read the first book, but I like the story enough to want to read more. I just might stick with the show and cast the novels aside.

An Ode to Morning, Afternoon, Grocery Shopping, and Bar Hopping Commute

7916608184_0ecfb0087d_bMy recent move to New York City has caused a number of changes in my life. The sudden shock of living on your own and having to provide for yourself is arguably the greatest shift. In my day to day life, I am oh so aware of my reliance on public transit and its ability to transport me to a new world.

I knew that moving here meant giving up my car, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Don’t get me wrong I loved my years with my Prius, but mostly because it was my most sustainable option living in Miami. I dreamed about a day where I wouldn’t have to drive miles to that store or restaurant that I like. I couldn’t wait to skip the morning and afternoon rush hour to and from the office.

I hadn’t even thought about how this would impact my reading life.

Last year I was in a bit of a reading slump, as I have been during many periods in my life and I know many of my friends have been as well. My senior year of college involved studying hard, figuring out what the next step in my life would be, and getting my last fill of all of the wonderful people I got to know at university. So my reading fell by the wayside to make room for what I considered priorities at the time.

Even moving to New York and getting work in my career field of choice (yay!) didn’t catapult me into picking up various novels I had begun over the past year. My new life as a self-reliant adult had me pretty brain busy and I relied mostly on watching television for entertainment rather than reading. Especially after Netflix introduced their offline viewing and I realized I could fit a bite-size sitcom episode into my subway commute.

I finished watching all of Cheers and decided to pick up a book for my subway commute. It began with Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. It fit easily into my purse and because of its size and length I got through it pretty quickly. I started downloading longer form novels onto my Kindle and that really set a course for change. When I started joining a coworker for a quick 30 minute workout during lunch, I realized I could set the font size up and get some more reading in then too. And my trip to the grocery or meeting a friend in the city for drinks? Well my Kindle is already in my purse so might as well read then too. I just couldn’t put down the stories.

That’s one of the things I find about great stories. Even if you haven’t read for months or years, they can really set you back on a good groove of daily reading. Reading so often during those in-between times of my day influenced me to continue those stories at home and revive this blog and my love for book discussion. And just cause I’m reading more doesn’t mean I’m not watching Netflix. I still watch Netflix a ton, but I love indulging in all forms of media so Netflix will never really find its way out of my life. I’ve just found the ways to balance TV, film, books, art, and all the ways I bring outside knowledge to my life.

Goth Girl Review

Goth-Girl-illustration-by-006

One love that David and I share (David may take ownership over it a bit more than I) is Neil Gaiman’s books. His stories have heart and magic in the best possible ways and I’m always excited to read (or watch) his next story. Gaiman’s partnered with Chris Riddell a few times on his children’s stories, where Riddell provides a number of illustrations to accompany the writing. I had no idea Riddell wrote too, until I came across a recommendation of his children’s series Goth Girl by a British booktuber.

Upon hearing the name I knew I had to read it, fancying myself a bit of a goth at times. Not really, but I have an affinity for wearing black, a bit like Neil Gaiman. Hmm, coincidence? I didn’t get around to reading even just the first book in the series for a couple years as I found it incredibly difficult to get a hold of in the states. But when I got my hands on a copy I was surprised to find that Ada, our child protagonist, is not a goth at all. Goth is simply her surname, though a number of gothic things do seem to occur at her father’s estate.

It is refreshing that Riddell treats his (child) readers respectfully, not condescending but rather rewarding the intelligence and preciousness found in young readers. The book is filled to the brim with silly asides, hilarious puns, and more literary references than you could shake an umbrella at. In addition, his prose builds, with deliciously unnecessary adjectives, a dark playground of a world. Riddell’s playful, absurd illustrations compliment these playful, absurd descriptions of Ada Goth’s life, from the tiny illustrations at the beginning of the chapter to the unexpectedly intricate two page spreads. His spidery lines string together adorable ghostly mice and ghastly indoor gamekeepers into something quite, well, gothic.

Underneath all the references and gothic elements, the reader is left with a message that is wholly modern and dare I say slightly political. When exotic creatures start showing up in captivity for a lordly hunt to take place on the estate, you know one girl and some of her friends will find that its up to them to save them from certain death. For a children’s book that hits all the marks for adults just as well as kids, feast your eyes on this literary and artistic story (if you can find it).

P.S. Check out the tiny book in the back after you finish. The mouse-sized poetry is the cherry on atop this adorable cake.

Get to Know Us

We’re new to the blogging thing so we thought you might want to get a sense of who we are before you commit to reading our stuff and being our friends. There should totally be screening processes before you start friendships right?

Let us know if we have the same favorites in the comments!

Diana’s Favorites

5 Films

  1. American Beauty
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. The Usual Suspects
  4. Before Sunrise
  5. The One I Love

5 Books

  1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  2. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  3. Dawn by Octavia Butler
  4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

5 TV Shows

  1. Gilmore Girls
  2. Twin Peaks
  3. Doctor Who
  4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  5. Twilight Zone

5 Places

  1. Barcelona, Spain
  2. Canterbury, England
  3. Boston, Massachusetts
  4. Oxford, England
  5. Seattle, Washington

David’s Favorites

5 TV Shows

  1. Firefly
  2. Pushing Daisies
  3. Community
  4. ATLA
  5. Doctor Who

5 Board Games

  1. Cosmic Encounters
  2. Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  3. Ticket to Ride
  4. Sushi Go
  5. Love Letter

5 Webcomics

  1. Gunnerkrigg Court
  2. Stand Still Stay Silent
  3. Johnny Wander
  4. xkcd
  5. Bad Machinery

5 Books

  1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  4. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  5. Sabriel by Garth Nix