Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The movie doesn't wait long to introduce its new batch of heroes, and they come together in a manner that suggests the Force is still pulling strings behind the scenes. It's easy to argue that Rey is the main hero of the bunch, and newcomer Daisy Ridley shines in the role. A scavenger living on the planet of Jakku, she gets pulled along on a space adventure she had only dreamed of.

John Boyega's Finn and Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron both play key roles in the movie and bring humor and swagger to The Force Awakens. Those characters help bring back the witty banter that was weaved throughout the original trilogy, and it's through their eyes that the audience sees the new warring groups of the villainous First Order and the heroic Resistance.

For every new hero, there is a new villain: Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux, Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma and Andy Serkis's Supreme Leader Snoke. They're explored to varying degrees, with some like Kylo Ren at the forefront of the plot and others clearly being saved for future Star Wars sequels. To a certain extent, those underdeveloped characters are frustrating; there has been such an intense level of secrecy around these roles for so long that to see some of them get short-changed feels anti-climactic.

Fortunately, the things that work about The Force Awakens really work. Like Ridley as Rey, Driver is spectacular as Kylo Ren. His performance adds great depth to a character who could have come off as one-dimensional, and the implications of his arc leave a viewer with plenty to think about after they leave the theater.

Of course, the real star of the movie is BB-8, the lovable new droid featured so prominently in The Force Awakens' marketing campaign. Not only does he have a key role to play in the film, but he's also just as adorable and clever as the promotion for the movie promises. The ability for him to emote so clearly is incredible, and the fact that he is a practical character makes the accomplishments with BB-8 even more remarkable.

Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher all reprise their roles as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, respectively. Solo plays a major role throughout the movie, and Ford's take on a more aged version of the beloved character plays true to what fans know about him. It's a great thrill to see what Han Solo is up to decades after Return of the Jedi, and Ford manages to recapture what makes the character so special. To say anything about Hamill's turn as Luke Skywalker would give away too much. As for Fisher, her appearance as General Leia was met with resounding cheers throughout the theater.

Several decades have passed between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and that is woven throughout the core of the new film. Like one-off lines about previous adventures in the original trilogy inspired fans' minds for generations, so there are introductions of main characters' "old friends" who viewers have never heard of before that continues to blow out the scale of the Star Wars universe.

That is just one way that The Force Awakens is clearly inspired by the beloved Star Wars films that came before, and that's a through-line throughout the entire adventure. Part of that is director J.J. Abrams using a familiar play set from the original trilogy, but structurally The Force Awakens follows a familiar pattern from what came before. On both a macro and micro level, this movie wants to pay its respects to its predecessors, but when the new elements of The Force Awakens are the most engaging, it leaves you excited for the next movie when those shackles to what came before have been removed and the franchise can fully play in this new world.

The Force Awakens asks its audience to come along for the ride as chance encounters bring characters together, and because of that there's a certain whimsy to the movie's journey. While that is a joy when first reentering this world, seeing new planets and meeting new characters, the plot is fairly thin as Abrams seeks to envelope his audience in this world and suggest that fate is what's moving the characters' adventure along. It is thrilling to come along for that ride, but even though The Force Awakens leaves you with an anticipation to find out what comes next, it's also unclear where this new series is heading.


I can not wait to watch the next film!

Wolf By Wolf by: Ryan Graudin

Ryan Graudin. This author literally blew my mind away. Before I dive into the review let me ask you all something. Who thought Ryan Graudin was a guy? 
*raises hand slowly and looks around*
What! Don't judge me. 

Ryan Graudin created such a beautifully written and wonderfully driven novel. Wolf By Wolf is about a girl named Yael, who escaped from a death camp, who has one goal in mind: win the Axis Tours, an annual motorcycle race hosted by Hitler and Emperor Hirohito to commemorate their great victory over Great Britain and Russia across the conjoined continents where the winner is awarded an audience with Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball, and kill Hitler. Set in 1956, where the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world, Yael, a survivor of human experimentation and skinshifter, must complete her mission by disguising herself as Adele Wolf, last year's only female victor. However, as the lie begins to get more extravagant, Yael begins to find it difficult to hold up the deception. Especially when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as the race goes on, can Yael become as ruthless as she needs to be after getting to know all of her competitors? 

This novel truly left me breathless.

Never reading any of Graudin's novels before, I was heading into this with low expectations but was astound when I finished the novel. How could I not have read any of Graudin's novels before this?! From page one to the acknowledgements at the very end, I have been soley focused on reading this novel. To be truthful, I finished reading this novel on the 21st and have only now begun to write the review because of how shocked I was by it all. 

This was such a truly amazing read! As I was reading Yael's every move, and ultimately her own story of how she became to be who she is today, it left me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what is going to happen next. Graudin not only made me feel for Yael, which only certain authors have ever succeeded in doing, but she also made me view this whole novel in a different light. 

The only thing I have to say now is buy it and read it today.


I am so going to read the sequel! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Illuminae by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The story begins with an invasion and people fleeing for their lives thanks to 2 rival mega corporations that both want ownership of the planet Kerenza. Kady and Ezra are among the lucky who escape but once in space they’re faced with a deadly mutating plague, and all of this on the heels of their break up that morning. The characters drive this plot as much as the events do. Kady… I don’t even have words to describe her. She’s absolutely fantastic: resilient, stealthy, fiercely intelligent and loyal, and despite her seemingly hard shell, she’s caring and she never, ever gives up. 

Ezra was every bit as wonderful as Kady but in a different way, a little heart-on-his-sleeve, white knight kind of way. But above everything else—the plague, the destruction of their planet, fleeing for their lives, losing the people they love—this book has heart. I loved the bond between Kady and Ezra, loved watching it change, seeing Kady open up and Ezra let go. It really brought an emotional balance to the turmoil going on around them. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention AIDAN, the artificial intelligence system on the ship which was really almost a main character in this story. 

I thought it was really well done. It tied together the human relationships and circumstances with the war going on around them. I desperately wish I had better words to more accurately describe how deep and intricate this plot was, how smart it was, how amazing it was to watch the characters work through what was going on. It was fascinating in that oh-my-god-that-blew-my-mind kind of way. The writing is absolutely phenomenal. My hat is off to both Kristoff and Kaufman.

Simply put, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. Don’t wait. And I hope you love it as much as I did.


Ebook of the Month

C.L. Stone's novel Theif, book one in The Scarab Beetle series. The novel is centred around a poor girl named Kayli who is forced to parent a drunken father and a teenage brother, who she is trying to keep in school, and bring back (i.e. to the hotel, also known as home) money so they may be able to afford their stay there and the food they so desperately need. However, the only way to make money is to steal. No matter how her life turned out, Kayli still has a moral code in which she follows: no children and no older ladies. 

Thinking that she is under the radar, undetectable, Kayli has no idea that The Academy has been watching and noticing her. Now the team needs her help and the offer is so big of risk not to take. Slowly the boys reveal that they can be trusted. Marc, the straight man, Raven, the bad-boy Russian, Corey and Brandon the twins as different as night and day, and Axel their stoic leader. There is a lot Kayli can learn about living on the edge of the law, if she can stay on the good side instead of the bad.  

This novel will keep you on your toes throughout the novel due to its twisted turns and ever more intriguing plot. I have to say, I do love some love triangles but having five, to sometimes even seven, love interests makes it hard to wrap my head around the concept itself. However, I pushed that aside and continued on reading, which in the end was totally worth it. C.L. Stone brought these characters to life and made me feel for most of them and root for others. Totally worth checking out. 


Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by: Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses

I was thinking I was going to rate it 3 stars. It was good, really good but not mind-blowing like I was expecting. Actually it was mostly a love story that felt a bit forced and I felt like only the two main characters and Lucien were developed. We didn't get to see other Fae nor the world around, it was really focused on them. So I began to have complaints about those little things and I was going to put them in my review. But then like if the author heard me, all those little things that bothered me were erased as the author fulfilled all my requests (Can Sarah read reader's mind and know exactly what they want ?).

So that's when the story began interesting for me. A certain night everything change AND we are introduced to a new characters and it changed the whole story for me. We came from a love story to something much more threatening with a real plot, twist and awesome characterization. While I was reading I became so invested with the story and characters, I couldn't put the book down for a since minute without wanting to read more. What a ride this novel has been. 

The plot was really amazing. Like I said, I first thought the plot was poor in the beginning but it was underestimating Sarah's power of telling an awesome story. When everything began to interlock together OMG, this was amazing. All the twists and things at stake and all the evilness of the Fae world, it was just mind blowing, you could feel the tension and I was scared for the character's fate at some point almost screaming at them not to die on me then take a run in my empty house to calm my nerves (Yes I really did it and more than twice).

The only negative thing I want to say is not even a bad anymore because finally I'm glad the author gave us these moments of happiness and calmness since the last part of the book was much more tragic and tensed. But if I had to find only one thing, it's probably the pacing. I wished the pacing would have been a bit more like the 150 last pages. I mean action and characterization at the same time interlined. The first part was a bit slow but as I said now I understand why the author choose to do this, it needed to be done for the story to really come together in the end.


Pick up your copy of A Court of Thorns And Roses if you have not done so by now :)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Movie Review: Brooklyn

Brooklyn was such a beautiful novel to read and watching it made it even more amazing. The way that Saoirse Ronan portrayed Eilis Lacey will such emotion made it (1) believable and (2) absolutely heartfelt. I truly have never felt so happy to say that I am going to the movie theatre before today. 

John Crowley’s filmmaking offers no great flourishes, but the performances and writing are strong enough without such details that his mannered style serves the story well. Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel is more in line with the “About a Boy” author’s exemplary “An Education,” notably the two films’ engage in domestic conversations.
The first of these — a spot to which the filmmakers sagely return on a semi-regular basis — are amusing dining room table scenes spearheaded by boarding house operator Mrs. Kehoe (Julie Walters), who’s quick to keep the gossipy Patty (Emily Bett Rickards), Diana (Eve Macklin) and Sheila (Nora-Jane Noone) in line.
The lack of camaraderie in this new abode feeds into Eilis’ homesickness — the lone antidote to which is her time with Father Flood (an underused yet, as always, welcome Jim Broadbent) — but once she meets kindhearted Italian plumber Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), the bounce returns to her step.
Their budding romance is one of great delight and blessedly minimal drama and yields further memorable suppertime chatter when Eilis meets Tony’s sizable family, among them mouthy preteen scene-stealer Frankie (James DiGiacomo). Who, by the way, is absolutely adorable. 
When conflict returns to “Brooklyn,” it’s through contrivance-free means that bring Eilis to Ireland for a family visit and the poignant tension that sprouts before departure and organically blooms upon arrival.
Confronted with a far more appealing life than the one she left the year before, including a matrimonial prospect in form of well-matched gentleman Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), sumptuous emotional suspense abounds as loyalty to Tony and her self-made New York existence battle with the complicated ties to her homeland. In the end, this adaptation of Brooklyn has to be one of the best films of 2015. 

Overall Grade: A- 

Be sure to check out my book review of Brooklyn:

Quote of the Month

"I love books. 
I love that moment when you open one and sink into it
you can escape from the world, 
into a story that's way more interesting than yours 
will ever be."

Elizabeth  Scott

Decembers Reading List

Wolf By Wolf by: Ryan Graudin
Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by: Sarah J. Maas
When nineteen-year old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin - one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. 

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin - and his world - forever. 

Illuminae by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Classical tale of girl meets boy, girl loses boy, then parents, and planet, ends up on a crippled spaceship with a mad computer, a deadly virus outbreak, and in the middle of an interstellar war.