Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Favorite New Shows of 2019

Another year, another new streaming service to contend with. Yes, Disney+ entered the scene this year, but did any of its original shows make my list of annual favorites for 2019? You'll just have to read on to find out! Except that there aren't that many, because dang it's just tough to keep up.

I mean seriously, there is a LOT of content around nowadays that it's impossible for one person to watch everything, so these just happen to be what I got around to. Also, I want to give a shout out to a show that I did not watch when it first aired (and hence it does not appear on the list for the year where it should be), but have since watched almost all seasons: Outlander. Man I am INTO it.

Watchmen

Typically this type of show wouldn't necessarily be my jam, just because it's so smart and sometimes that annoys me. But honestly by the end of the season (or series?), I was hooked and looked forward to each episode. Some of that may have just been the mystery of it all - like what the heck was really going on, and how did it all connect. But connect it all did, in awesome ways. 

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

I fully did not expect to like this show. The original TV movies are super cheesy, like Cheese McCheeserson. But, I mean, they did introduce all of us to Zac Efron, so there's that. But this show is totally in on the fact that the old movies were cheesy. It has a lot of humor while also mixing in the music in a much more realistic way. To be fair, I haven't finished the entire first season yet, but it's a lot of fun and I don't expect my opinion will change much after a couple more episodes.

The Imagineering Story

It's super interesting to see how Disneyland came to be and how things developed over the years. What Walt's vision was, versus what those who followed him ended up doing. The hits and misses, looking into the development of the various different theme parks over the years.... the show is actually pretty honest when things didn't work, which is nice since this is a Disney production after all. Definitely worth watching if you're into Disney stuff.

Want to Watch but Haven't Had a Chance Yet: The Witcher, Chernobyl 

I Wanted to Love You, But...: The Mandalorian (baby Yoda or The Child or whatever you may call it is frickin' cute and kept me watching, but the rest just didn't quite grip me like I hoped it would).

Any new shows you loved that I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

Past Years:
20182017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

Friday, January 3, 2020

Favorite Books of 2019

Oh my goodness, I completely forgot to write this up before the end of 2019! My December was extremely busy, so it just slipped my mind. But, I did have favorite books of the year. What's interesting is that while I rated some other books higher at the time of reviewing them, two of them I wouldn't call favorites now that I'm here. What a world!


Dark Age by Pierce Brown


Synopsis: For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place? Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury. But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance. On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him? Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies. Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption. As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

Why it made the list: Well. My goodness. I've been a fan of the Red Rising series from the beginning, but none of the sequels has quite lived up to the original for me. But Dark Age comes close. It's a brutal page-turner that has you wanting to switch back and forth between the different characters to find out what's going on with them. If you like this series and haven't read this year, what are you waiting for? And if you haven't read the series and are a scifi fan, then get on it!

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson


Synopsis: Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place" he said, "where learning is a game." Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Why it made the list: I feel like I just blazed through reading this book. It's got an intriguing mystery at its core while also focusing on the relationships of the main characters. Now, I did also read the sequel in the past year, and while it was still good, it didn't quite hook me like this original, so I'm leaving it off the favorites. I'm looking forward to the third one and the conclusion to the ongoing mystery, for sure. 

The War that Saved my Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

 

Synopsis of The War That Saved My Life: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars. Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother? This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

Why it made the list: I always seem to put off reading historical fiction, thinking I'm not going to enjoy it, but lo and behold, I almost always do. And this series was no exception. The story is moving, emotional, and ends in such a satisfying way. I didn't think it necessarily called for a sequel, but the sequel lived up to expectations. Definitely a recommend!  

Other books I enjoyed this year, but wouldn't call my favorites: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus, Circe by Madeline Miller

You can check out all of the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page, but let me know if you’ve had any favorites from this year that I should check out!

Past Years:
2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Book Review: Rebel (Legend #4) by Marie Lu

Book Review of Rebel (Legend #4) by Marie Lu, by freshfromthe.com.
Rebel by Marie Lu

Published: October 1, 2019

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 384

Synopsis: Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own...

Thoughts: I am a big fan of the original Legend trilogy, first and foremost. So I was both a little nervous and also excited about this continuation of the series. Because what if it didn't live up to the original? But what if it did?

So... did it? Well, mostly. The biggest difference between this book and the original series is that it focuses on Day/Daniel's younger brother Eden instead of June as the second first person POV character. And I have to say, I missed June. I get the point of shifting focus to Eden, because the story was really about what happens to families after these big stories. Because often, that's where the story ends. The revolution ends, and supposedly everything is good. But is it, really?

I just didn't find Eden's side of things as interesting as Daniel's in this case, probably simply because I loved Day so much in the original series. I was just more into his story than Eden's story overall. Okay let's be honest, I was most interested in Daniel and June together and how they were interacting with each other.

It's a quick read, things start happening quickly to get you into this new story. You do need to have read the previous books to appreciate it, though, because there is just so much history there. And the ending was very satisfying as well!

Rating: 3.5/5

What I'm Reading Next: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Book Review: Dark Age (Red Rising #5) by Pierce Brown

Dark Age by Pierce Brown

Published: July 30, 2019

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 704

Synopsis:  The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Morning Star returns to the Red Rising universe with the thrilling sequel to Iron Gold.

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?

Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.

Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

Thoughts: Well. Where to begin! This book, you guys. It took me over a month to read, but that's only because the thing is so dang long. Yet I didn't want it to end, so I didn't mind the length one bit, ha! I think this is my favorite in the Red Rising series since the debut book itself, honestly. So, you're like, this review is fairly glowing so far, why aren't you giving it a full five stars?

The only reason for the 4.5 is because the beginning, say, 20% was hard to get through, because it was pretty much just one long battle. At one point, I was beginning to wonder if the whole book was just going to be this one long battle. Thankfully, that was not the case, because I'm just not a huge big battle fan (which is probably why I lose interest in some of these types of series over time because they tend to end up in battles). Once that first section was through, I couldn't put the thing down.

I mean, it's a tough book. Like, don't expect to feel happy reading it, because a lot goes down. But do expect to feel engaged and compelled to keep reading. That is, if you've already read the rest of the series. Because if not, what are you even doing here? And also if not, please do. If you're not a fan of science fiction, I think you would still enjoy this series as it's more about the relationships and the weight of the world on peoples' shoulders, and just, you know, lots of twists and turns and gasps.

I can't wait to read the next one, which is supposedly the last, so hopefully it doesn't take Pierce Brown too long to write, because bloodydamn, man, I want to find out what happens! Although I am a bit like oh damn, what's going to happen, because he's not afraid to kick you where it hurts.

Rating: 4.5/5

What I'm Reading Next: Rebel by Marie Lu

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Book Review: The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson

Book Review: The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson by freshfromthe.com
The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

Published: January 22, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Contemporary

Hardcover Pages: 384

Synopsis: All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Thoughts: The main question coming in to any sequel is almost always - did you like it as much as the first one? And while I did still enjoy this sequel a lot, and am thirstily waiting for the next one, I have to say that I enjoyed the first book more. But, I think part of the reason for that may have been that I thought it was a single book going in, rather than knowing ahead of time it probably wasn't going to necessarily have a satisfying conclusion. Well, that's not entirely true - both books have a conclusion, but also leave more up in the air.

Anyway, the point is, I still enjoyed this book and read it quickly, but did feel it wasn't quite as engaging as the first one. It picks up right where the action last left off, with Stevie back at home and wishing she was still at Ellingham. If I'm being honest, as a reader I was also wishing for her to be back at Ellingham so things could get interesting again. Luckily, she doesn't spend too much time at home, so the action picks up very quickly.

The other thing I enjoy about this series are the various characters and their relationships with each other. In particular, I have liked the romance, or sometimes the lack thereof, between Stevie and David. David is definitely an intriguing character, one of those rakish dudes that you probably shouldn't like but inevitably do because he's so damaged and you know he has a good heart at his core, blah blah blah. Typical teenage romance stuff, but I dig it nonetheless.

I'm definitely looking forward to where this one will ultimately end, as it has been confirmed that the next book is a conclusion. But it doesn't come out until January, so I'll have to wait a few months before I get it!

Rating: 3.5/5

What I'm Reading Next: Dark Age by Pierce Brown