Book Review: Shades of Grey

The first book of Jasper Fforde’s that I read was The Eyre Affair the first novel in his Thursday Next series which I have loved. I found the book very witty and full of adventure that really tugged at the heart strings of a bibliophile. I read the description for his novel Shades of Grey and thought that I absolutely NEEDED to read it.

Shades of Grey is a dystopian novel taking place in taking place in a world called Chromatacia where the people’s place in social hierarchy has to do with the amount of color they can see and specifically which colors they can see. It follows the main character Edward Russett who is a Red and is expected to be able to see an exceptional amount of red. He is trying to move up the social hierarchy by marrying the right girl with the right color and gets sent to another city as punishment where he meets a girl named Jane who changes his life and perception of his society.

I really wanted to love this book and forced myself to read it all the way through. The concept was great, and parts of it were very witty, but I found myself struggling to actually finish it. I couldn’t get into the plot development and perhaps it was just a little too British for an American girl because there was a lot of parts that just went right over my head. As dystopian novels go, it is not the most action packed until the very end, although the world building is very interesting. Till the very end of the book I was not sure if this is a completely make believe world (due to references to Oz – which actually would make sense since it was one of the first movies with color and there is that whole play on black and white and color viewing) or if it was our world after some terrible catastrophe that caused this separation of people based on color blindness.

While it is probably very well-written, there is a possibility I am not intelligent enough to pick up on the details in the plot and this left me very confused through most of the book. Perhaps if I had read it the way I would read a textbook, and maybe researched some of the references I may have been able to understand it better, but since I was just reading it for fun, it really missed the mark for me.

The novel ends on a note where the story could be continued, but this came out in 2012 and there have been no sequels yet. It received high praise on Amazon and Goodreads but I have to give this book a low rating because it just didn’t click with me.

All in all, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Almost anything can be improved with the addition of bacon.

I didn’t set out to discover a truth. I was actually sent to the Outer Fringes to conduct a chair census and learn some humility. But the truth inevitably found me, as important truths often do, like a lost thought in need of a mind.

“Love isn’t sensible, Red. I think that’s the point.”

2.5.03.02.005: Generally speaking, if you fiddle with something, it will break. Don’t.

The best plans are always the simplest.

“The best lies to tell,” said Jane, “are the ones people want to believe.”

Never underestimate the capacity for romance, no matter what the circumstance.

6.6.19.61.247: Vulgar mispronunciations of everyday words will not be tolerated.

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Why I decided to join the Y

Since moving to South Carolina and starting a relationship three years ago, I have steadily been gaining weight. Now, I am not overweight by any means, but I have had to buy new clothes every year and that can get expensive. Plus, I am worried that if I continue this trend, eventually I will become overweight and that is just not an option for me. I am not vain, but my body image does have a direct correlation with my self-esteem and confidence.

After purging my closet and drawers of all the clothes that did not fit me anymore, I got a little depressed and pissed off at myself. I have always been one of those people who could eat whatever they wanted and exercise sporadically if I wanted and be just fine weight-wise, but it seems that the older you get, the less that is possible, especially when you have a desk job that leaves you pretty inactive all day. So, my current health goals include maintaining my current weight by exercising more often and making better choices when it comes to eating.

I decided that, in order for me to meet my health goals, we needed to get active this year. We have been trying, but being active on just the weekends isn’t enough. Especially when the weather makes it impossible for us to get out of the house and actually do active things like hiking or biking.

I tried working out with workout videos at home, but I just have a hard time staying motivated when nobody is doing it with me. And I mean like right next to me. I crave a social situation in order to work out. So, I finally took a look at the gyms in my area.

I have never been good at going to the gym. I am not good at independently working out, and I haven’t been able to find a gym buddy. Also, I usually feel really out of place in the gym. I always feel like people are watching me and judging me.

One of my friends recommended that I get Jason to work out with me, but that just wouldn’t work for me. He work out completely different than I do because his needs are different than mine. I need people with like-minded health goals and interests to work out with. Some of the gyms closest to where I live didn’t offer any kind of group exercise classes. Others were just so far outside of my price range (I am on a budget here after all)!

After a lot of searching I finally decided on the YMCA close to my job. I had been there before when I first moved here. I went with my aunt to a Zumba class and had a lot of fun. I like the atmosphere there; it doesn’t feel as much like a meat market like some of the other gyms I have been to. Also, the locker rooms are nothing fancy, in fact they remind me of the P.E. locker rooms in my high school! I figured it is the most comfortable I am going to feel. It’s in the mid-range for prices I was willing to pay for a gym, they offer classes, and have a pool to exercise in. Plus they waived my joining fee!

In my usual planning fashion, I grabbed the group exercise schedules and color coded classes I was interested in in three categories: completely available, available for lunch break, and not available unless it is a holiday. I figure that this way I will know what my options are each week and I can pick at least three classes to go to each week. I love that there are so many options and I can switch up the type of exercise I’m doing so that I can stay excited about it.

I went to my first class this morning. A Sunrise Yoga that started at 6:00 a.m. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it, because I have a hard time getting up to an alarm clock in the mornings, but I made sure I went to bed extra early. I also think my excitement helped urge me to wake up to.

For an early morning yoga class, it was a lot more intense than I expected it to be, which is probably a good thing. If it had been more relaxing, I might have fallen right back asleep, which I almost did when we got to the Savasana portion of the session. I am almost positive my arms and butt will be sore tomorrow with all the planking and chairs we were doing!

I felt such a sense of accomplishment actually showing up to a class so early in the morning and making it through without falling asleep!

Now I have no excuses to not work out because my gym is right on my way to and from work every weekday. Also, when the weather is crappy I have no excuse to not stay active because I can hop in my car and go take a weekend class instead. I am 100% determined to make regular exercise a routine in my life.

Do you have any tips to help me get the most out of my YMCA membership?

Book Review: The Passage

I recently finished reading the book The Passage by Justin Cronin. It is the first book in a a three book dystopian/post-apocalyptic series about a virus developed by the military that turns people into vampiric creatures that are incredibly strong, live forever, and don’t even resemble humans anymore. After explaining how the virus is developed and why the world is where it is, the story takes you 95 years into the future where a colony of survivors is living in California. With the help of Amy, a girl who the government infected with the virus but somehow does not have the same side effects as the others but has managed to stay a young girl, and a few of the colonists they set off to Colorado, where the outbreak first manifested, to see if there is a way to save humankind and beat the “virals” (that’s what they call the vampires, but let’s be honest, they are vampires).

Interestingly enough, Justin Cronin’s previous books were romance and contemporary fiction. Completely different from this horror/sci-fi genre he seems to have done pretty well in. This book has fantastic reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon and was personally recommended to me by a family member, so I had some pretty high hopes.

There were several things I liked about this book and very few things I didn’t. Mainly, this book reminded me a lot of the show The Walking Dead. So, if you were also a fan of this show, this might be the book for you. It’s a post-apocalyptic story-line, with humans trying to survive human-turned-monster creatures that are difficult to kill and have taken over the whole world. There are the heroes who are determined to win the war against them. There are love interests that change and evolve between the characters. And finally, there is plenty of action and suspense. The book really did read like a really great binge watching show. In fact, if it had not been so long, I probably would have binge read it.

That brings me to another thing I really liked about it. It was really, pretty long. The print length is listed on Amazon as 897 pages. Quite the epic. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. If the story is good, it means there is more to read, which is what any book lover wants, but if the story is bad, you just want to kill yourself because you feel like you will never reach the end. In this case, it was really great. Because it was so long, I got to savor the story for longer, which is really hard for me to do. I have a hard time pacing myself with books and usually overindulge and end up starting and finishing a book within a day or two. That just was not possible with this book, and also made it feel like it was a TV show, rather than just a book.

Finally, I really liked the writing style the author used. There are several literary mechanisms he used such as diary entries, log books, as well as general narrative, which really allowed you to see the story from different viewpoints.

While, there were many things I did like about the book, there were a couple of things that I thought could have been done better. In several parts of the book, my inner Grammar Nazi kicked in. There were several spoken phrases missing quotation marks right next to spoken words that were in quotations. It did not seem like a stylistic choice, but rather an error that the editor did not catch. However it was not something that ruined the story in any way.

Another stylistic change I would make is the use of some vernacular. The author chose to replace a certain four letter swear word with the word “Flyers” (I guess after the virals, who can jump so high and such great distances that they seem to fly), however in other parts of the book, reverts back to the regular four letter F-word we all love to use today. I just feel like you should keep some consistency with that kind of thing.

Finally – this isn’t something I really disliked, just something that I know many people might not – there are a lot of characters to keep up with. With a book this long and spanning so large a time period it is bound to happen. It can be difficult sometimes to keep track of all the different characters that are mentioned that might pop up again for something else. I did not feel like any of the characters were really extraneous though; they all served their purpose and helped to build the story-line and character development for the more main characters. Most of the best selling fantasy and sci-fi novels do have a large character list: Game of Thrones, Outlanderthe Lord of the Rings, etc.

There was one part of the book that I just never really understood and don’t know why the author went this route in the story.

*SPOILER ALERT!!!*
There is one character who I feel was made into an important character, and really shouldn’t have been. The nun, Lacey. She takes in Amy when her mother abandons her and goes after her when the FBI abduct her, but you could already tell he wanted her to be something special because her story-line included her being able to hear the actual voice of God, and then it never comes up again. In fact, you think she dies until you get to the end of the book and find out that she was saved by the scientist who infected all the original twelve virals to begin with by using the same virus he used on Amy. So, she has been alive this whole time, but she broke her vows and married the asshole scientist who created these monsters, and outlived him just so she could tell Amy that she is the savior, which everyone had already figured anyway because she can kind of control the damn things.
I feel like the author could have easily found a different character or way to explain Amy’s role in the whole story-line and left this weird nun out of it. Her character was great until she came back to life. I would have preferred if she had died sacrificing herself for the child and Agent Wolgast to make it out.  The scientist could have left some kind of computer message that the engineer kid, Michael, could have deciphered. Or Amy could have just turned a viral back to normal and figured it out herself in some dramatic suspenseful scene where her friends almost die until she saves them. Or Wolgast could have survived and been changed into whatever she is too, so he can explain it to her, since he was more of a parental figure in her life than the nun was.

OK rant over, and that was really the only part of the book that I didn’t like or agree with.

Other than that, I really liked the book and am excited to read the second. I managed to get it while the e-book was on sale on Amazon, so I am hoping I can wait for the second one to go on sale also. It seems that they are also trying to develop this book series into a TV show, which would make a lot of sense with the style of the book and the success that shows like The Walking Dead have had.

I would definitely recommend this book to other post-apocalyptic/dystopian book lovers and those into sci-fi/horror as well. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to see what they do with the TV show.

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

We found another winner for both me and Jason! I have always been a huge fan of the Marvel movies. Actually all of the superhero movies, really. I don’t like the graphic novels, but the movies have everything I love in a movie: action, drama, a bit of fantasy, and usually a dash of romance. Jason has a harder time being convinced that they are great. However, the last few movies that have come out he has really enjoyed.

Lately the Marvel movies have been taking on a more comical tone. We noticed it in the last couple of movies that came out: Guardians of the Galaxy and The Amazing Spiderman. Well, it seems that they have decided to continue this with the rest of their movies because we could not stop laughing the whole time we were watching the newest Thor movie.

In the first movie, there was a bit of comedy involved too, but it was inherently more serious. This second movie was comedic the whole way through and brought back some of our favorite characters like Bruce Banner/The Hulk and Loki.

In this second movie, Thor and Loki’s older sister, Hela the goddess of death, comes back to Asgard after being banished by Odin years before Thor was even born. She wants to use their power to take over other realms besides the nine they already control, but when the Asgardians rebel against her, she tries to destroy Asgard.  Loki and Thor are thrown onto another planet in one of the nine realms where Thor is enslaved as a fighter for entertainment and Loki manages to get in good with the corrupt ruler of that world. Thor tries to gather some people from this world to head back to Asgard to save his people from his evil sister.

We loved the playful repartee between the characters, the action scenes, and even the juicy family drama. Throw in a super hunky Chris Hemsworth and you have yourself a winner of a Marvel movie!

Interested to see more? Click here to view the trailer!

Movie Review: La La Land (2016)

I am very late to the party that is loving on La La Land. Obviously there was a lot of hype about it since it won awards, but I finally got around to watching it and it totally lived up to the hype.

It used to be that a movie was not complete without a musical number, but those days have long since died. La La Land felt like an homage to those times when great films included whole scenes being sung and a whole city breaking out into song and dance. Movies like Oklahoma, Sound of Music, and Singing in the Rain. Classics that will forever touch the high school Thespian in me. The mix of musical and jazz was amazing and I was completely surprised by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s singing and dancing abilities. This movie was a true exhibition of their many talents.

Another great thing about this movie was the actual way it was filmed. It really reminded you of one of those old, classic musicals that will forever be great, but it takes place in modern times and they really focused on the colors throughout the whole film. Each scene is filled with eye catching pops of color that are obviously well thought out to coordinate and create basically a work of art! Definitely a feast for the eyes; it is no wonder that it won awards for its cinematography.

Finally, the actual storyline. The movie was about an actress and a musician who are trying to get their careers off the ground in Los Angeles. The keep bumping into each other and soon form a romance where they provide each other with the confidence they each need to make their artistic dreams a reality.

**SPOILER ALERT**

While working towards their goals and dreams, they begin to drift apart, recognizing that they need to go their own ways if they want their dreams to come true, but never because they stop loving each other. At the end of the movie, once they have achieved their dreams, the future has led them away form each other, but they never forget each other. Even though they do not end up with each other in the end, they still recognize the wonderful influence they each were on their lives. There is a wonderful scene where Ryan Gosling’s character plays a song on the piano and they both imagine a future where they did end up together because they loved each other, but in the end she walks away with her husband with just a backwards glance and small smile at him, home to her child and real future.

It has a truly bittersweet ending that you cannot hate, and I love the message that was there. You can have a truly great love that is meaningful and affects your life so completely without it being your future. Sometimes people come into your life for very specific reasons, and when it is time to let them go, you must. Achieving your dreams is possible as long as you believe in yourself, surround yourself with people who believe in you, and take some risks.

I loved this movie so much and am already itching to watch it again and memorize all the lyrics to the songs so I can sing along!

Interested in seeing this movie? Click here to view the trailer!

Movie Review: Downsizing

As one of the vertically challenged, I have always felt that my size has been an advantage in life (for the most part). In fact, I often refer to myself as “fun-sized” and have never lacked self-esteem because of this. Actually I like small things better, and let’s be honest, most people do. We like babies and puppies, and think things like baby shoes are cuter than normal-sized shoes, because bigger is not better. Small is king!

We recently watched a movie called Downsizing. Released in 2017, it was a comedy about a society where humans, and their overpopulation are killing the world and if scientists don’t find a way to stop it, the earth will die (hmmm). Well a group of New Zealand scientists finally think they have found a solution. They find a way to shrink people so that they take up less space.

The effects of this scientific breakthrough are, ironically, enormous! Most of all, people who choose to downsize have a huge effect on the economy because the cost of living as a tiny person only a couple of inches tall is much less than to live as a full-sized human.

The movie follows the story of a man named Paul played by Ben Affleck who, after having many financial hardships, decide to downsize with his wife and leave the normal-sized human world behind for a luxurious tiny world.

Paul’s transition into tiny life is not easy, and he encounters several setbacks, but ultimately he finds out who he truly is through his experience of being tiny and what he has to offer the world no matter how big or small he is.

The movie got lots of negative feedback. I guess people were expecting more either from the comedy side of things or from the social warrior aspect of it. I personally like a movie that has subtle humor and a message that pushes through, but isn’t so strong I feel like I’m at a political debate. I like to enjoy the entertainment of my movie experience. Not everything has to be a political diatribe. I did kind of think the movie was going to go a certain route and then it completely changed. I assumed everything wouldn’t be absolutely perfect in the new tiny world, because nothing in life ever is, regardless of how tall you are. However, they took it in a completely different direction which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think they were pretty honest about how things would go, and did not cater to a fantasy world or an overly dramatic world.

The subject matter of the movie really got me thinking about whether I would go tiny if I had the choice. I always wanted to live in a tiny house and have a better impact on the world around me, I think I would totally be OK with downsizing, especially with the financial gains I would make from doing it. It is almost a no brainer. Not sure Jason was convinced, so I would have to talk him into it, but I am sure I could find a way to persuade him.

Interested in this movie? Check out the trailer!

Would you downsize? Why or why not?

 

Movie Review: Kills on Wheels

This past weekend, me and Jason watched a movie, and I feel compelled to tell people about it because it was so different than a lot of the other movies I have seen lately and I really enjoyed it.

Kills on Wheels is an award winning Hungarian film written and directed by Atilla Till that was released in 2016. Forewarning for those who hate captions, this film is foreign-language, but totally worth turning on your captions.

It is about two comic-book obsessed, severely disabled teens who befriend a wheelchair-bound hit man. They begin to use the hit man as inspiration for a comic book, which leads to their involvement in his jobs. He takes them under his wing to show them that they can be bad asses too. Together they are a dynamic trio who make the movie action-packed and darkly humorous. Nothing like the threat of death and constant self hatred to make a person cynically hilarious.

I think the movie does an excellent job of portraying the fear handicapped people have of being incapable of doing things or seen as useless, as well as touching on how hard it is for the people who have disabled family members and how it affects them. My favorite part of the movie though was the way it ended. I don’t believe in giving spoilers, but I will say that there is a twist and it is extremely well done. I actually love the way it brings the whole movie together.

If you are interested in watching an action-comedy that is on the dark side, and something that is totally different from all the movies that I have seen released recently, this movie is definitely for you. I highly recommend it and would give it 5 stars!

Click here to view a trailer!