Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Roundup: Gotta love books that mess with your head

My hiatus from video games continues, which means I've been doing a lot of reading. So, without further ado, here is what I've been devouring over the last couple of weeks:

Books


I'd heard a lot about this book and had it on my to-read list for a while, so I was happy when it became the selection for my book club as it finally propelled the book to the front of my list. My mind was absolutely blown by it.

I love books with unreliable narrators, so Gone Girl drew me in right from the first pages. I didn't trust Nick and was openly suspicious of a lot of what he did, but there was something about Amy's disappearance that just didn't sit right with me, so the last half of the book made me gasp out loud.

Since I only heard some vague things about the book based on the buzz, I had no idea about the plot twists, and it's something I wouldn't want to spoil for anyone else. Instead, I'll just stop at saying this book ended in a way that was so unexpected and so messed up that I kind of stared in disbelief at the last words. If you like psychological suspense, this is the book for you.


I try to spend quality time on my elliptical at least five days a week, and I read while I'm going to town on it. My elliptical is in my basement, and this is an important detail because of the setting of this book. My basement is finished, so that helps cut down on the creep factor of it but, if you're like me and have ever lived in a house with an unfinished basement, you know how creepy they can be. Don't read this book in your basement.

This is a work of YA Gothic horror that revolves around a group of teenagers and one young girl who are trapped in the "Dollhouse", a creepy underground prison. The setting of the book is so ominous. It dragged me right down into it. Allyn sets her scenes so vividly I could see them in my head.

While I like the characters in this book--particularly Sophronia, who intrigued me--I was more drawn into the plot and the setting. Though there is a definite ending to this book, it still leaves some big questions unanswered, setting up the sequel perfectly. I'm sure it comes as no surprise when I say I'm now trucking away on the elliptical in my basement while creeping myself out with Paper Dolls, the second book in the series.


I've come to realize that I'm more a fan of sci-fi than I thought. While I love Star Wars, Star Trek the Next Generation, and games like Mass Effect, I don't typically like to read space operas. Instead, I tend more toward dystopic fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, or sci-fi that explores things like alternate universes or advanced technology. I found False Memory so satisfying because it contains a lot of the high tech, plot-driven themes that I love.

From start to finish, this book is pretty much non-stop action. Centering on a group of teenagers who seem to have been raised to become some sort of weapon, the story is still very human. There are a lot of action scenes, but they all felt feasible to me and none of the characters has that annoying habit of seeming so uber that they can't be touched. In fact, at times I was surprised by how difficult the characters had it--and that was a good thing.

The other big plus of this book for me was Miranda, the lead character. I love YA fiction that features strong, pro-active female characters, and that was Miranda to a T. She's capable but still vulnerable, and I really felt for her as she struggled to make sense of who she was and what was happening to her. I'm really looking forward to the next installment in the series. 

Television

My hubby and I are still working our way through Bones on Netflix, and last night we watched the season six finale.

I give Bones huge props for handling characters downfalls in a way that is heartbreaking and compelling. The second to last episode of season six made me cry in a way I haven't cried since the subplot surrounding Zach. The characters on Bones are really quirky and sometimes downright annoying, but the writers do such a great job of making them human beings with whom the viewer can relate, that it's hard not to be affected by some of the great tragic events that happen in the series.

However, I wasn't all that thrilled about the season finale cliffhanger. That one just felt too cliché for me, and I wonder how it'll affect season seven, as well as how it's affecting season eight.

Movies

On Monday, I enjoyed a fabulously lazy movie day with my kiddos. The features included Up and Ratatouille, two movies I haven't watched in quite some time.


Up does something that I think is amazing, with a skill that I envy: in the space of a few minutes, the opening montage tells a compelling, heartbreaking story with barely any spoken words. We see the young Mr. Fredericksen meeting his wife as a child, then the music begins and we get to see what their life together was like. I find this opening sequence so touching because it perfectly portrays the everyday joys and tragedies of life. When the Fredericksens find out they can't have children, it's heart-wrenching. When they have to constantly delay their trip to Paradise Falls because life gets in the way, it's so moving. And, when Ellie Fredericksen dies, you love the couple and their life together so much that it makes you weep. This is a textbook example of how to do a love story and do it well.

I enjoy Ratatouille for other reasons. While I like Rémy and the story of his struggle for acceptance with his family, and I think using a rat is a good way of symbolically showing what a struggle it can be to do the thing you love when society is set up in such a way that the doors are barred to you, what I really enjoy about that movie is the food. Every time I see it, I want to go to Paris and eat at a fancy restaurant. Since I'm going to Paris this summer, I just might get that chance! If you love food and/or cooking, I don't see how Ratatouille can't tap into that passion you feel for the subject.

However, I can't sum that movie up without pointing out something else I love about it: the subtle feminist message. I love Colette's direct talk about how difficult it is for a woman to break into the world of fine cuisine, and that she addresses the hard work and struggle she's faced to get where she's at. One of the things I really like about Pixar movies is how they tackle some pretty complicated themes in a very straight-forward, non-preachy way.

So there are my pop culture highlights for the week. Any good books or video games you'd like to recommend? I'm particularly interested in good RPGs or strategy games.