Friday, 31 August 2012

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

About the book 
Fever is the second book in The Chemical Garden series by Lauren DeStefano. It was published by Harper Voyager on 16th February and the book is 352 pages long. 

For 17-year-old Rhine Ellery, a daring escape from a suffocating polygamous marriage is only the beginning... 

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness. The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine's twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can't seem to elude Rhine's father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the any means necessary. 

What I thought 
The first book in this series, Wither, is one of my favourites so far this year. The covers for this series of books are absolutely stunning and they also give little hints about what will happen although you can only really realise this after finishing the book. As soon as I had finished Wither, I wanted the sequel. 

Beginning exactly where Wither ended, Fever picks back up with Rhine and Gabriel who are on the run. Instead of being trapped in the mansion and her crazy marriage, Rhine now finds herself crossing a river in the hopes of getting to Manhattan, her former home. Instead, she and Gabriel find themselves trespassing in a really strange carnival which is run by prostitution. I really loved this setting as it was so very different from the mansion which is the focus of Wither. The carnival is not your average carnival at all and it is run by an extremely eccentric and insane woman. This place is full of interesting characters and events and there is no down time here. 

This book as a whole is much faster paced than Wither. Rhine and Gabriel never seem to stop, no matter where they are or what they're doing. As soon as Rhine and Gabriel find themselves at the carnival, they are always on the go. The leader here sees Rhine to be too special to be a prostitute so along with Gabriel, they become 'The Lovebirds', a feature that no one can buy. I liked the fact that the two characters got to stick together most of the time even though Gabriel was clearly out of place here. Both fought to stay together and I loved seeing their determination and commitment to one another. 

However, although they obviously don't want to be split up, their romance is extremely lacking. Gabriel ran away with Rhine when she asked him to but they have barely even kissed. I don't feel as though I really know Gabriel as a character even after two books and this was a real shame. I think there is so much more to him that we have been told and this doesn't help the relationship between him and Rhine. To risk everything for someone else, I think that there needs to be a much stronger relationship between two people and I don't feel this at all here. 

Lauren DeStefano's writing is just as beautiful and intense in Fever as it was in Wither, if not better in all aspects. One thing that I loved about Wither was the fact that very hard hitting topics are not shied away from and that is the case in this book as well. Where we got to learn about polygamous marriages before, here we get insight into the world of prostitution rings and what people would do in order to stay alive. The reading isn't always easy due to these harsh situations but it does tackle real issues in a fantasy setting and again, I really liked how this was done. There are tender moments in this book though and in unexpected placed but the contrast between hard and soft was done exceptionally well and they really complimented each other, making the book diverse and interesting. 

The ending to Fever was shocking and intense. I didn't expect the things that did happen in this book to appear and the same can be said for the ending. I think that Fever was left in a place that was extremely exciting and full of all kinds of possibilities for the third book in the series, Sever. There are many unanswered questions after the events of this book and I'm hoping a lot or all of them are tied up in Sever. The third book isn't out for ages but I will be getting my hands on it as soon as it gets released!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Author interview: C.J. Redwine

Today on the blog I have debut author, C.J. Redwine for an interview. Defiance is published by Atom as a paperback original and an eBook on the 6th September 2012, £6.99

Rachel’s world is confined to the protective walls around her city. Beyond them are violent wanderers, extreme terrain, and a danger straight out of legend: a beast called the Cursed One that devastates everything in its path.

When Rachel’s father goes missing, she is desperate to search for him. But her attempts to flee the city bring her to the attention of its overbearing ruler. His efforts to control her make the world within the walls seem as dangerous as that outside.

Her only chance at escape is Logan. Once her father’s apprentice, and now her only protector, he feels that helping her might mean losing her completely. But if he can put his feelings aside, they might be able to save more than Rachel’s father. They might be able to break down the walls, and set their people free.

Please describe your book in 5 words.
Swords, action, romance, monsters, and fire.

What kind of research did you need to do for Defiance?
The easy research involved determining what the world would look like fifty years after all infrastructure and major cities were destroyed. (Hint: Mother Nature says GIVE IT ALL TO ME) The hard research involved almost every single thing Logan does. :) He's an inventor, and I had to figure out what technology could survive the destruction of factories, electricity, and anything digital. I had to look up how to make batteries, bombs, and other weapons from scratch. I'm probably on any number of government watch lists just for those internet searches alone!

Were any of the characters or their traits inspired by people you know?
Not inspired by, but I certainly draw from what I've experienced and observed in both myself and in others when I write my characters.

Some authors do certain things while they write like listen to music etc. Do you have to do anything like this while you write?
I listen to a playlist I build for that specific book. After a few weeks, just listening to those songs in that particular order instantly puts me deep into the world of the story.

Which YA (human) character would you love to be and why?
Hermoine Granger. Girl has brains AND magic. What's not to love?

Which YA (non-human) character would you love to be and why?
I don't really want to be a non-human character. I want to be Batman. Can I be Batman? *crosses that off the bucket list*

What is your favourite book of all time and why?
Ohhhhh. I just made a sound that was somewhere between being stabbed in the heart and choking on a chicken nugget. I have to choose ONE??? *thinks hard* I'm going to say Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (even though my brain is busy throwing titles like Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and others at me!) because I read and re-read that book so much when I was younger that my copy literally fell to pieces.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
After I finished reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in second grade and realized that someone had to think of the story and write it down for me to be able to read it. I started writing stories and haven't looked back since.

Thanks so much for stopping by C.J. Defiance sounds so exciting and I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson

Once I was a girl who was special.

Now I am extraordinary.

And they will never stop hunting me.

The compelling follow-up to the bestselling ULTRAVIOLET, this psychological thriller will take your breath away...

Publisher: Orchard
Released: 1st November

I know that the synopsis doesn't really say much about the plot but it still makes me excited. I loved the first book, Ultraviolet and love all of R.J. Anderson's books so I'll be reading this one for sure! 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Film Review: The Woman In Black

About the film
The Woman in Black is a 2012 film that is based on the book of the same name by Susan Hill. It was released at the cinema on 10th February and the film has a run time of 95 minutes. The Woman in Black is rated 12A due to scenes of horror and violence/ disturbing images.

The film opens with a very shocking scene of three young girls playing happily in an attic room when suddenly; they all get up and jump out of the window together, committing suicide. Nothing is explained or expanded upon.
The film then jumps to the Edwardian era where Arthur Kipps lives with his four year old son and his nanny. It soon becomes clear that Kipps’ wife died during child birth and that the family are now struggling to get by. Not being in a very good position at the solicitor’s firm he works at, Kipps is sent off to a town in the middle of nowhere to settle the estate (Eel Marsh House) of a recently deceased woman. As soon as Kipps arrives in town, he can tell something is wrong. The room he booked to stay at is now apparently taken, the locals are not friendly at all and all tell him to leave town as well as the local solicitor telling him to not go to Eel Marsh House. Not listening though, Kipps does go up to the house in the middle of the marshes to do the job he was assigned but it doesn’t take long for strange things to start happening. After seeing a strange woman in the marshes, children in town begin to die and the blame is put on Kipps. He must figure out what is happening before his own son comes to stay!
What I thought
I love anything creepy or scary and while I haven’t read the book or seen the play version, I knew The Woman in Black was supposed to be just like this so I was excited to watch the film. The film begins exactly how it means to go on – weird and creepy as hell. The opening really sets the scene for what is about to come and this got me even more excited. Instead of being drawn out and boring, leading into the story, this opening is shocking but amazing and what happens is something that stayed with me throughout the whole film.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young man struggling to cope with a young son after the death of his wife. As money is tight, Kipps has to agree to go on a pretty bad job for the law firm that he works for which involves travelling to a remote village to sort out the papers of a recently deceased woman which is creepy enough in itself. Throughout the Harry Potter films, I hated Radcliffe with a passion. I’ve always thought that he was a terrible actor and couldn’t really see him doing much else. As this film started though, I began to change my mind. Radcliffe is quite dark and brooding but with conviction. I could feel all kinds of emotion from him and I actually think he was really good in this role. However, he doesn’t really talk that much so maybe this is why he was so good.
When it comes to horror, it takes quite a lot to scare me normally. This film terrified me. The horror that The Woman in Black brings is a mix of all sorts really. Demonic looking toys are nothing new but the ones used here were especially freaky which was down to the way they looked, the sounds and actions they made as well as where they were placed. Noise is a big deal is this film and it makes me think of films like The Haunting (original version) where you don’t really see anything – you only hear it. The not being able to see what is going on is very scary indeed. Then there is the woman in black herself. All I’ll say about that is that she is definitely what nightmares are made of.
Being set in a small town in the middle of nowhere and focusing on a house even further away from civilisation gave this film a great atmospheric feel. You could tell that the people there were slightly different from those living in a city. You could tell that things were done differently there. The contrast between this and Kipps’ character was great because you could see just how out of place he was and that he had no idea about what was going on at all. As Kipps spends more time there and the plot unfolds, I got more and more scared, a bit nervous at the same time but also completely loved the film.
I was not expecting The Woman in Black to be this good and definitely not as scary as it was but I did really love it. I’m not quite sure how it managed to get away with only a 12A rating though when there were people screaming in the cinema.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

About the book 
Wither is the first book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano. It was published by Harper Voyager on 16th February and the book is 358 pages long. 

What if you knew you exactly when you would die? 

In our brave new future, DNA engineering has resulted in a terrible genetic flaw. Women die at the age of 20, men at 25. Young girls are being abducted and forced to breed in a desperate attempt to keep humanity ahead of the disease that threatens to eradicate it. 

16-year-old Rhine Ellery is kidnapped and sold as a bride to Linden, a rich young man with a dying wife. Even though he is kind to her, Rhine is desper-ate to escape her gilded cage - and Linden's cruel father. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in what little time she has left. 

What I thought 
I have to admit straight off that I pretty much only wanted this book because of the insanely gorgeous cover. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but with one like this, how could you not want it immediately, even without knowing what it is about. Still, I did read the synopsis on the back and it (thankfully) sounded like something I would love anyway. 

Wither starts off extremely strong with protagonist Rhine being taken away by men in grey coats. Taken to an unknown place, Rhine is locked up with many other girls in a dark, damp place awaiting her fate. That fate is being sold off into a polygamous marriage to Linden, a wealthy but broken man. The opening of this book is quite shocking because of how Rhine is taken away, where she is taken and then what she is forced to do. Although she doesn't want to die, she also doesn't want to be forced to marry someone she doesn't know and think that she will be turned into a baby making machine. 

Rhine is a strong character and while she does go along with this horrible future picked for her, she really doesn't have much other choice. She has already been kidnapped and taken away from her brother so what else can she do. While living at the mansion where Linden lives, Rhine reverts into her a shell a little bit. She doesn't want to give too much away about herself, she doesn't want to know Linden and she sure as hell doesn't want to be a proper wife to him. At the same time as showing strength and bravery, Rhine is also able to show compassion and friendship to Linden's first wife, Rose. 

When Rhine is forced to live at the mansion, she knows she is not the only wife bought for Linden. Along with Rhine, two others, Jenna and Cecily are also made to be wives, making all three of them sisters. Next to Rhine, Jenna and Cecily are completely different girls. Jenna is 19, Cecily is only 13 and they were all picked for Linden for completely different reasons. Although Rhine is obviously the main character of this books, the two other girls feature a lot due to them being in quite a confined space for most of the time. The way that these three girls are forced together made their interaction and friendship really interesting because at times, it was unsure what one felt towards the other while at other times, this was so clear. 

For many YA books, romance is the main point. Not in this book, even though the synopsis makes it sound as though it will be. Although Linden is technically Rhine's husband, she doesn't want him to be so this is not a story of instant love or romance. Linden is not the hero of the book and at times I really didn't even like him very much. That being said though, he was a great and well written character with a lot of depth. I loved getting to know Linden more over the course of the story and having my opinion changed about him many times. 

The real hero is Gabriel, a servant. Rhine and Gabriel become friends quite quickly because of her not wanting to be a 'real' wife to Linden. The two characters have a lot in common because of how they came to be in the mansion and their experiences as they grew up. Gabriel was wonderful but I wish he had been in the story a lot more. The main plotline of Rhine wanting to escape and the time spent with her sisters takes up a lot of page space and this doesn't leave too much room for Rhine and Gabriel. I would have liked to have seen their friendship develop 

Wither's villain was truly scary. Housemaster Vaughn is Linden's father but also a scientist/ doctor trying to find a cure for the deadly virus that is killing off the newer generation. Instead of going about this in a normal, civilised way, Housemaster Vaughn seems to have no morals at all. He isn't against killing or dissecting etc. to find his cure and it really seems as though he will go to any length to reach his end goal. Due to this, he comes across as creepy and devious throughout the whole book. I never really trusted him from the beginning but DeStefano makes you question what he is actually doing, putting doubts in your head. 

As you can see from Housemaster Vaughn's antics, this book isn't light reading at some point. In fact, many of the themes and issues addressed are dark but real at the same time. Not only is the cure for the virus a big issue but also is child trafficking, prostitution, teen pregnancy - and that is only a few things. While these topics should bring the tone of the book to being something depressing and hard to read, it doesn't. Each aspect only adds intensity to the story and each is written so well that it makes the story better. These things made me open my eyes a little bit to the way that the world works, the one we are in now and also got me thinking about what the world could be like one day. 

The majority of this book is either set in the mansion, over the space of one floor or the grounds surrounding it. I thought that because of this, the pacing would be extremely slow but it wasn't. A lot happens during Rhine's time here with all of the characters involved and there was always something going on, whether it be exciting or interesting. As this is the first book in the trilogy, it explains a lot about the world in which it is set and the things that have happened previously and what is happening now. The whole main idea for this book was great and something I have never seen done before, not even anything close to this. 

Something that I really liked about this book was the ending. While it does leave the story on somewhat of a cliff-hanger due to this being a trilogy, it is also concluded quite well. Although there are obvious questions left in the air, it would be possible to finish this book and be satisfied that the end really is the end, if you didn't want to carry on with the series. There aren't many series/ trilogies that can pull this off but DeStefano does extremely well. Now, I am not saying don't carry on with this one, because I will be for sure! 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass + UK ARC giveaway

About the book
Throne of Glass is the debut novel by Sarah J. Mass. It was published by Bloomsbury on 2nd August and the book is 432 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

What I thought
Even though I was still on my blogging break when this was released, I had still managed to hear about it over Twitter. Throne of Glass sounded exactly like the kind of book I would love so I couldn’t wait to read it.

I loved protagonist Calaena. She has spent most of her life being an assassin… until the day she was caught, captured and sent to a slave mine. Being an assassin, it became quite clear that Calaena was someone not to mess with. I instantly loved how quick witted and clever she was and that she wasn’t afraid to say what she really meant. As the book went on, I only grew to like her more and more. The tournament she has been entered in meant getting to know that she kicked ass with all different kinds of weapons and was as tough as steel. At the same time though, Calaena manages to show her feminine side which was a nice touch.

While at the castle, Calaena grips the attention of two men; Prince Dorian and Chaol. I have my personal favourite of the two but I could see the attraction with both men. Dorian, to begin with came across as selfish and annoying but he grew on me throughout the book. As he spends time with Calaena, his personality comes through more and more and I could see that he was actually a really nice guy. However, Chaol was the one who did it for me. He was sweet and caring, even though he tried to hide that at all times. He doesn’t underestimate Calaena and in fact, he knows exactly what she is capable of and that scares him. I wish that I had gotten to see more of Chaol though outside of the training etc.

Secondary characters help to make this story even more interesting. As Calaena is taking part in a tournament, there are other competitors, some of which we get to know better and some that we don’t. Princess Nehemia provides some great scenes with Calaena and also getting to know more about her was fascinating. As she was from a different part of the world that Sarah J. Mass created, not much is known about her but some things are revealed throughout the story. There is also the King who again, not much is known about. I wanted to know more about him and why Calaena hates him so much but I think that this is something to come in the next book.

My only problem with this book was the pacing. At times, it felt like nothing at all was happening. Calaena spends a lot of time sitting around reading (that could never be truly bad) but it was quite boring to read about at times. I think that the time could have been put to better use by having Calaena spend more time with Chaol or if more had been explained about the world that she lives in. There were some quite exciting moments in there too though so it wasn’t all bad in regards to pacing. The plot was interesting and different though and I really enjoyed discovering this new world that had been created.

Throne of Glass is a fantastic debut novel and now I can’t wait to read the next instalment.

If you haven't read this one yet, I'm giving away a UK ARC. The giveaway is international but you must be a follower of the blog to enter. All information will only be used by me to contact the winner and will be deleted when the giveaway ends. A winner will be picked at random on 7th September and they will have 48 hours to reply before a different winner is chosen. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

About the book 
The Book of Lost Things is a stand-alone novel by John Connolly. It was published in 2007 by Hodder and Stoughton and it is 512 pages long. 

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things. 

What I thought 
Randomly picked as the first book to use as research for my dissertation, I had no idea what I was about to read with The Book of Lost Things. My sister had previously read it though and assured me that I would like it regardless of it being research. 

All good things come to those who wait... 
The story starts off quite slow, building up a background of child protagonist David and the life that he leads. With his mother being ill, close to dying, and the country at war, David is having a very hard time of things. He loves his mother very much and although he knows that she will die, he does everything he possibly can from stopping this from happening. However, when his mother does eventually die, David is distraught and unsure about how to go on with life with results in strange black outs. It isn't long before David's father meets someone else and with a new baby on the way, David and his father move in with Rose. 

This is the point where the story really gets going. David has always loved stories, as they were something that he shared with his mother and his new bedroom is filled with books. Along with David's strange black-outs, he can also hear the books talk to him. In his dreams he sees a Crooked Man, scary and strange. With his father always away at work, David is stuck in a house with a little step-brother he doesn't like and a step-mother he likes even less. When David is sent to his room one night, he escapes into the sunken garden and manages to move into a different world. 

Although the beginning of the story is really slow, I liked how it built up to something bigger and a lot more exciting. This build up also helped to understand David completely. While he is only 12 years old, David has a strong personality and is very sure of himself and what he believes in. The beginning of the book sets David up as a character that you want to cheer on, even though you don't know what is going to happen to him yet. His life has been hard in such a short amount of time and I personally wanted something good to happen to and for him. 

It doesn't take long for the other world to come to life completely. Upon entering this other world, David is left standing in some strange woods and he knows he could be in danger. The wolves descend and David is saved by The Woodsman. This is where fairy tales come into this story. As The Woodsman explains how this strange world works, he adds in some tales about things that have passed. Although this book is not a fairy tale retelling, John Connolly adds in some specific fairy tales in order to enhance his own tale. 

On David's journey he encounters a great many strange characters which include Snow White and the seven dwarves and Rumpelstiltskin as well as hearing tales about others like Little Red Riding Hood. These fairy tale characters alter and change David's journey in some way or another and in very different ways. Even though David doesn't actually meet them all, and only hears of some of them in stories, their actions effect what David thinks and does. Connolly works in these fairy tales while still changing some aspects from the originals and this is something that I loved and why this could be classed as a retelling in some ways. Even though some aspects are changed, the feeling of the fairy tales stays true to their originals. The stories are gruesome and dramatic and also don't have the kind of happy endings that we are used to nowadays. I respected Connolly very much for staying true to how fairy tales were originally written. 

The world that Connolly created for David to be in was fabulous and extremely interesting. At each different milestone, I could never tell what would happen next to David or what danger he might come across. The Book of Lost Things has a great many twists and turns as well as secrets. Also, as a great many fairy tales are used in this book, I could never be sure which were going to crop up and what kinds of characters David would meet. For me, this is one of the most interesting things about this book but maybe because I have such a strong interesting in it in general. Connolly's writing is magical, which represents the world he has created well. Everything about his writing has an air of fantasy and mystery about it which fits in with the theme of the story. 

Back to reality... 
While this book does have strong themes from past fairy tales, there is also something very real in it as well. As explained in the notes at the back of the book, Connolly took his own feelings of loss and put them into this story. Although not a biographical story, it does have truthful aspects to it and this helped to make characters very real, even if they were something from lore and legend. David and his family especially were interesting because of the time that they lived in. During a time as hard as war, David doesn't really realise that his problems are only small in comparison to other things that are happening in the world. I loved the fact that David was a 12 year old boy through and through and this never really changed. Along his journey in the other world, his experiences do change his perception of the world but it never changes his personality. David does grow during the story because of these events and in turn, character development is strong. 

In the end... 
Overall, I really did love this book. Far from being a fairy tale for children, this book is scary, intense and full of all the magical things that I love about books. Connolly is an exceptionally talented writer and pours life into his characters. I am so happy this was my first book for research as it has given me a whole lot to think about.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs

Tempest Maguire is happy with her decision to embrace her mermaid nature and live among her mother's clan within the ocean's depths. Even though training to one day ascend the throne for the aging mermaid queen is rigorous, she finds refuge in the arms of Kona, the selkie who first opened her up to her mermaid side. But when word comes that one of her brothers has been gravely injured on land, Tempest immediately rushes to his side-which also brings her back to her old flame, Mark. And in her absence, a deadly battle begins raging at the hands of Tempest's old nemesis, the sea witch Tiamat. As the dangerous war erupts, Tempest's two loves-Kona and Mark, sea and land-will collide for the first time, both to protect her and to force her to choose.

Release Date: 13th September
Publisher: Walker (US)

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Film Review: I Am Number Four

About the film
I Am Number Four is a 2011 science fiction film based on the young adult novel of the same name by Jobie Hughes and James Frey. The film was produced by Michael Bay who also did Transformers and it had a budget of between $50 and $60 million. The film has a run time of 114 minutes and is rated 12. The DVD is released on 20th June 2011. 

Sent to Earth as a child in order to protect him, an alien from the planet Lorien must constantly move towns and construct new identities to remain safe…and alive. A total of nine Lorien children were sent to Earth in order to protect their special abilities and the legacy that they hold together. Mogadorian commanders (another alien race) are on a mission to hunt down an destroy the nine Lorien children, knowing what they are capable of and have been successful with the first three. This film follows Number Four.

After seeing the death of Number Three, along with his guardian Henri, Number Four needs to move town…again. Paradise, Ohio is their new home and as Henri warns that they must stay undetected, Number Four just wants to live a normal life. Taking on a new identity as John Smith, he heads off to high school against recommendations and his life only gets more complicated. Human friendships and romance could get in the way of his mission on Earth and threaten to destroy everything he and Henri have worked so hard to save. 

What I thought
I Am Number Four was a book that caused quite a large amount of hype after its release but it is also one that I still haven’t read. Having not read the book, I had no idea what to expect from the film version. I don’t read reviews of books I haven’t read yet that I want to in order to not ruin anything so I hadn’t even read a review of the book before seeing the film. 

For the most part of the film, nothing seems to really happen. A lot of time is spent on getting to know John and how he adapts to a new life each time. While I do think this was necessary, for the audience to like him, it needn’t have been this long. I understand that this is going to be a series/ is a series of books so it looks like this first film was more of a story set up than anything else. The first hour of the film is quite slow paced and I was honestly beginning to get a bit bored by this point. The last 30 minutes or so are by far the best of the whole film. The action was fantastic though. Instead of spending so much time on building up the story, I would have preferred for more action scenes and more excitement throughout. The ending of the film was everything that I had been waiting for but it just wasn’t long enough.

The main problem with the plot was the fact that so much was left unanswered. Due to being a series, certain aspects were left open ready to be explained and explored further at a later date but there was just too many things unanswered. I didn’t really understand why the Mogadorians wanted to destroy the earth or why they had to kill the nine legacies before they could. Looking at their power to blow things up, I’m quite sure the Mogadorians could have just blown the planet up had they wanted to. Also, why do the nine legacies have to be killed in a particular order? Does it have an impact on their abilities or do the lesser numbered legacies have the least amount of powers? I really don’t know and I hope that all of this will be explained during the future films in the series. 

Alex Pettyfer seems to be one of the next big things in teen films but I don’t totally get it. I did really enjoy him in Wild Child with his floppy blonde hair and cute smile as he was very charming. Compared to Wild Child, it is clear that Pettyfer has grown up. While he is extremely good looking (I wasn’t complaining about having to look at him) with a fantastic body, Pettyfer’s performance was so-so. Nothing about him amazed me and anyone else could have probably played the role of John/ Number Four to the same ability. His character was quite bland to begin with and this was mainly due to the script but some more effort could have been put in to the performance to at least try to give this character a little something more about him. He didn’t up his game right until the very end and by then, for me, it was too late to impress me.

Dianna Agron, best known for her role as Quinn in the hit show Glee, plays love interest Sarah. Her character was quite interesting and not your average girl character in a film like this. Very much into photography, Sarah stands out compared to other high school girls and this gave her more depth than I was expecting her to have. That being said, she isn’t the best actress and while she does an ok job, she was far from amazing. To be fair to Agron though, her script wasn’t great and she didn’t have too much to go on. Really, she is just there as a love interest for John and to stop the film being all about aliens and the war between them. If/ when she pops up in the other films in the series, I hope that Sarah’s character gets to do a lot more and is more involved in everything that is actually happening, rather than being in the background.

At their best, Pettyfer and Agron were only ok and together, they weren’t any better. There is a serious lack of chemistry between characters John and Sarah. I could understand the attraction from both sides but it wasn’t even close to what it could have been. Teen films have shown that there can be extremely good chemistry and tension between love interests if done properly and although I hate to use it as an example, Twilight is one of the best for this. There was really no excuse for this relationship to have been so plain and boring compared to what was happening around the characters. 

One aspect of this film which I really liked was the make-up effects on the Mogadorians. Looking like a mix between crazy aliens and the vampires from 30 Days of Night, I loved their look. Aliens of this variety should have been extremely creepy and quite scary and this is exactly what I thought they were. Each Mogadorian had different strange facial features and I loved that they were all so unique and individual instead of looking like an army of the same thing. I remember one Mogadorian having gills on his face and when trying to pass as a human, having to cover this up. The idea around these villains was fantastic and I loved most things about them.

Coming to the action scenes, the effects were not was great. I could tell that most of this was done with a green screen and actors either doing very little or none of their own stunts. The explosions were large but didn’t fit in very well with everything else that was happening. The effects during action scenes would have been good if they had fit in better with the scenes themselves. Instead, it felt like explosions were going to fix everything and hide flaws that the film had in other areas. 

I think I have made this film sound quite terrible because of the mix of cast, effects and plot but I actually quite enjoyed it. Not everything is bad and I think it was a great set up for future films which I will definitely be watching now. Hopefully, now that Pettyfer has a bit more acting experience, his performances will get better over time and more believable. I am also curious as to how close this film stays to the book version which I now want to read.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

Top Ten Favourite Books You've Read During The Lifespan Of Your Blog

This is the first time I have ever participated in Top Ten Tuesday although I have seen it around for ages now. I'm going to have to cheat a little bit here though. Many people know that I used to blog at Heaven, Hell and Purgatory but that blog is no longer active. I've been blogging a couple of years so my Top Ten is going to come from my whole time blogging. 

  1. Pushing The Limits by Kate McGarry
  2. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
  3. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  4. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  5. Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder 
  6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
  7. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
  8. Forsaken (and all of the Demon Trappers books) by Jana Oliver
  9. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
These aren't in any particular order. I don't think I could pick one top favourite book since I've been blogging. I am quite surprised at how many contemporary novels I picked though. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

About the book 
Insurgent is the second book in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. It was published on 1st May by Harper Collins and the book is 288 pages long. 

One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. 

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. 

What I thought 
When I read the first book in this series, Divergent, I wasn't the biggest fan of dystopian books. I didn't even really want to read it to be honest but with so much hyper, I didn't want to be missing out on anything amazing. Divergent made me change my mind about dystopian books and I didn't think that the sequel could be anywhere as good. I was wrong. 

Veronica Roth's writing is both complex and clever and she carries this on in Insurgent. Unless you have read Divergent, you have no chance in hell of being able to follow what is going on in this book. It had been so long since I read Divergent that I had actually forgotten what was happening and it took me a little while to get caught back up with the world and characters that Roth has created. Insurgent puts focus on not only Tris this time but the whole Society in which she lives. This Society is in pieces after the events in Divergent and the different factions; Dauntless, Erudite, Abnegation, Amity and Candor, must decide where they stand. I loved how although each faction was separate, some were forced to work together otherwise they weren't going to get anywhere. 

As the factions are focussed on more than they were in Divergent, we get to find out a whole lot more about them. Each is run in completely different ways and each one stands for different things and ideas. The range of characters and interactions between the factions was one of the best things about this book for me and it made it a lot more interesting overall. What was fascinating to read about was the internal politics of each faction and how this could and would clash with any of the other factions. Each part of this world that Roth has created is extremely detailed but not hard to follow. 

What I love the most about Roth's writing is how she says exactly what she wants to and she isn't afraid to add in some very gritty and hard hitting scenes. Things are far from easy for the characters in Insurgent, especially Tris and Roth never shies away from this. Tris goes through so much in this book and is filled with guilt from previous events. After being forced to kill one of her own friends, Tris has no idea how to cope with the guilt of keeping this secret from everyone. I hated to see Tris so torn and I hated to see her put herself under such intense pressure. She is always quite broken after the events in Divergent, not being able to function properly anymore and this puts strain on her relationship with Four (Tobias). He doesn't understand why she isn't ok and she can't explain it to him without having to give away all of her secrets. 

The relationship between Tris and Tobias was fantastic. Even though they still clearly love each other and want the best for themselves and their faction, both characters have a hard time being completely honest. The strain and tension in their relationship was so wonderfully written and believable at all times. While I wanted to favour Tris and her decisions, I could see where Tobias was coming from also and it was hard for me to pick sides. I didn't want to have to. I just wanted them both to be on the same side and neither of them to be forced into making such hard decisions. Both characters grew on their own and together in different ways but I don't think this was always for the best. Both Tris and Tobias have secrets throughout this book and although it would have changed the plot, I did want them to trust each other more. 

Due to the nature of the plot, some of the scenes were quite hard to read. In terms of violence and action, Insurgent has a hell of a lot of it. People who like The Hunger Games because of how brutal it was will probably like this series just as much. Although it could have been too much, I think that each terrible event was more than justified and fit the story extremely well. All the way through the book I was hoping and praying that nothing bad would happen to my favourite characters but with Roth, you never really know what will happen. There are twists and turns all over the place due to so many characters being deceiving and secretive and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading. 

I really didn't think that Insurgent could be better than Divergent but it was in so many ways. I can't wait for the next book now.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Fated by Alyson Noel

About the book 
Fated is the first book in a new series by Alyson Noel. It was published by Macmillan Children's Books on 24th May and the book is 464 pages long. 

Lately strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, and glowing people appear out of nowhere. Worried that Daire is having a nervous breakdown, her mother packs her off to stay in the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico with a grandmother she's never met. 

There she crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes who she's encountered before...but only in her dreams. And she'll get to know her grandmother--a woman who recognizes Daire's bizarre episodes for what they are. A call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, one who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her grandmother immediately begins teaching her to harness her powers--but it's an art that must be mastered quickly. Because Dace's brother is an evil shape-shifter who's out to steal her powers. Now Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and find out if Dace is one guy she's meant to be with...or if he's allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy. 

What I thought 
Having read all of Alyson Noel's 'The Immortals' series, I was looking forward to reading something new and exciting from her. Fated is the first book in Noel's new series, 'The Soul Seekers'. 

What makes this book different from any other that I have read in the YA genre is the Native American setting. From the back of the book and knowing more about the plot, I couldn't wait to see what could be done with spirit animals, shamans and visions. The beginning of the book shows protagonist Daire experiencing some problems. Due to seeing things that she shouldn't and doctors now knowing what is wrong, Daire is sent away to live with her Grandmother (who she has never met before) in Enchantment, New Mexico. This is where Daire's new life and adventure begins. 

Daire has had an interesting life in her 16 short years but this is what makes her such a good character. Up until the point where she goes to live with her Grandmother, Daire has moved around between film sets with her make-up artist mother but because of this, she has never known a normal, stable family life. Fitting in is hard for Daire in Enchantment but this shows the great qualities that her character has. I really loved exploring Daire's life as she went through so many changes and experiences new and different ways of living. 

Daire's Grandmother Paloma is actually the person to explain everything about Daire's gift. Being able to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead is something that runs in their family. The explanations regarding this were by far my favourite aspects of this book. The world that Noel has created is extremely intricate and complex but it is also so magical and exciting at the same time. Fated is so far from what Noel created in 'The Immortals' but in the best possible way, 

Of course, in the middle of Daire finding out who she really is and what she can do, there is a love interest. For months, Daire has been dreaming about a particular boy and it turns out that he lives in Enchantment. The boy from her dream has a twin though and one of them is good while the other is evil. The dreams warned Daire against some bad things happening but because of this, she constantly has her guard up and is unsure of who she can trust. Romance isn't the most important thing in this book so it takes a back seat to other things. However, what romance we did get was sweet, well-written and believable. I really liked Dace (the good twin) and I can't wait to see what will happen with him and Daire next. I have a feeling that their romance and being together will have a massive impact on the rest of the series. 

Fated is so much better than 'The Immortals' series in so many ways. Noel's writing has improved and thankfully, the protagonist isn't an idiot. Just from this first book I can see that this is going to be a favourite series of mine and I desperately want the second instalment already.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

About the book
The Duke and I is the first book in the Bridgerton series, although it follows Daphne and not Anthony, the eldest as I first thought it would do. The Bridgerton siblings are all named in alphabetical order: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory and Hyacinth. The Duke and I was published by Piatkus on 8th June 2008 and the book is 352 pages long.

Daphne Bridgerton has already had two seasons in London but still hasn't found herself a husband. Although she would rather have a love match like her own mother, Daphne has come to accept that the best she can hope for is to at least get on well and like her husband, which is more than can be said for some marriages in the ton. The trouble is, no one really sees her in a romantic light, they all see her only as a friend.

Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, had a terrible childhood and an awful relationship with his father. All his father ever wanted was a perfect heir, a replica of himself but when Simon was obviously troubled and never spoke, he practically disowned his only son. Simon had a stutter as a child, one of the main reasons for the bad relationship with his father, and tried his very hardest to be everything that his father had wanted him to be. Rather than be treated badly, Simon headed off to travel the world but when he returned to London as the new Duke, he wasn't expecting such troubles. Every single mother with a daughter of a marrying age is determined to make their impressions on Simon.

Daphne also doesn't want her mother bothering her anymore to get married and when she and Simon strike up a friendship, they devise a plan to fool everyone by pretending he is interested in her. Daphne will get a lot more male attention and hopefully a husband and Simon will get his peace and quiet back. The problem is Daphne's older brother Anthony. He knows what a rake that Simon has been in the past and he wants him nowhere near his little sister, whether they are pretending or not.

What I thought
What I love about Julia Quinn's book is that she always manages to make them different from any of the others. It never seems like something I have read before which has been the case with some other authors in the past. Daphne and Simon didn't get along at all to begin with and I really enjoyed watching their friendship blossom and grow. It was a very creative idea for the pair to get together to try to fool to ton so they both got what they thought they wanted

I think out of all of the books in this series, Simon is the male character that I have felt the most sorry for. His father was truly horrible towards him and I could totally understand why he didn't want to ever get married or have children. He was too scared that he would be the same as his father or they would have the same problems as he did as a child. Simon instantly feels desire for Daphne when he sees her the first time but when he finds out who she is, his feelings change. He knows he can never have her because he is best friends with her eldest brother, Anthony. I don't think he was the most intelligent hero because with his idea to pretend that he and Daphne are involved, he put himself in a bad position. He lusted after Daphne from the start so I'm not sure how he thought he was going to cope with spending a lot of time with her.

Daphne was also a welcome change for a heroine. Unlike Simon, she didn't feel anything for him when they first met. She actually quite disliked him to begin with and she wasn't afraid to tell him how she felt. Daphne knew exactly what she wanted and she wasn't afraid to go for it once she had figured it out. Throughout the story, she desperately tried to break Simon down when it came to talking about his past and why he believed certain things but it took her a long time and effort. The thing that I liked most about Daphne was how brave she was. Many women in the ton seemed to be very 'girly' and didn't have their own voice. She knows that she cannot let Simon and her brother duel so she enlists the help of brother Colin and charges off on a horse to save the man she loves. More women in these kind of books should have her bravery.

One of the things that I really like about all of Quinn's books is that she doesn't solely concentrate on the two main characters. The Bridgerton family is quite large and all of the members are supposed to be utterly devoted to each other and the way the author brings in different family members each time really makes me believe it. While you get the feeling that they are really love each other, they are like any other family that bicker and fight from time to time and this brings in some humour every time.

The humour and romance in this book is perfectly mixed. While Simon and Daphne's relationship evolves quite slowly, there is always something happening in the background to keep you entertained. One you read this book, you will be hooked and dying to read the rest of the series. A fantastic introduction to the Bridgerton family.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Enter the Carnival.

The carnival pulsed in the centre of The City – a swirl of masked pleasure and violence. Music played constantly as the dancers demonstrated their flexibility. At times it was a glorious cacophony. Jugglers and fire-twirlers showed their skills in time to the music. All around the carnival, transactions of varying degrees of legality and ethical questionability were happening. The City wasn't a world that seemed beautiful to everyone. It was their world, though…

Release Date: 4th September
Publisher: Harper Collins

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games

About the film
The Hunger Games is a 2012 dystopian/ action film that is based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It was released at the cinema on 23rd March and has a run time of 142 minutes. The Hunger Games is rated 12A due to scenes of a violent nature. The film also holds the number three spot for films making the most money at the box office during opening weekend, coming behind The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.
What I thought
As a massive fan of The Hunger Games book series, one of my favourites that I read last year, the film was one of my most anticipated of this year. I do have a bit of a problem with film adaptations that take a lot out in comparison with the book so I was a little nervous about seeing this one as well.
For the most part, the film stays pretty true to the book. Obviously, time is not unlimited so some changes did have to be made and some parts of the book did have to be cut out. I’m not so picky to think that every single little detail should have been included but there were also some pretty major changes. For instance, Katniss and her mockingjay pin have a completely different meaning in the book. The way that Katniss acquires the pin does not happen the same way at all and events leading up to these parts are missed out completely, even cutting out characters at the same time. While this doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, the mockingjay pin is pretty significant in the book and it doesn’t seem to have the same effect in the film.
To begin with, I wasn’t very sure with Jennifer Lawrence as lead girl, Katniss. I hadn’t seen her in too much beforehand so I had no idea if she could pull off such a role. From the very beginning though, I loved her. Even though Katniss is a teenager, the opening scenes show that she has a hard family life in a district that isn’t doing too well, meaning she has had to grow up pretty fast. Lawrence brings a strength and maturity to the role that shadows the character in the book perfectly. At the same time, Lawrence is also able to show emotion and passion extremely well, especially in on screen scenes with little sister Primrose. After Katniss volunteers, her character really begins to shine. Lawrence shows that Katniss isn’t happy at all about the games in general but is also prepared to do what it takes to win and go home to her family. Overall, I was very pleased with Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss and I think that she will just keep on getting better as we get to see the other films in the series.
As soon as I saw who was cast as Peeta, I was not happy at all. No offence meant to Josh Hutcherson who plays the character but he just isn’t pretty or good looking enough. I know that this is really shallow but I have my reasons. For those who have read the books, you will know that there is a choice to be made eventually and Peeta would not be my choice at all if it were Josh Hutcherson. Still, Hutcherson does ok in his role as Peeta. While he isn’t as demanding on screen compared with Lawrence, he does give the character the traits that he is supposed to have. He’s sweet and caring and very thoughtful but you don’t get to see enough of this. While the story is mostly about Katniss, the budding romance between the two is a really big deal and I don’t think that this was explored enough. Katniss goes from barely knowing or caring about Peeta to kisses and cuddles. If their friendship/ time together had been explained properly, like it is in the book, it would have been a lot more believable. Instead, it wasn’t very believable at all because they didn’t get enough time together on screen.
The secondary characters are sadly far more amazing than both of the leading roles. Stanley Tucci as TV personality Caesar Flickerman was genius casting and I loved him completely. He is eccentric and crazy but he also obviously cares a lot about the ‘games’ and the tributes. Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow was also a great choice. Although he isn’t around too much, I could see how amazing he is going to be in later films. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was one of my favourite casting choices. Being in charge of Katniss’ appearance and costume design, he has a big part in her time before the games and in the person that she finally becomes. Kravitz is sweet and caring as Cinna and everything I wanted him to be. Woody Harrelson was my absolute favourite though as Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta’s mentor. He’s a drunk and he doesn’t care too much but Harrelson is beyond great. Harrelson seems to be an actor who can play absolutely any role given to him and I think he was one of the best in the whole film.
In regards to casting, there has been a lot of racism, mainly due to Cinna and Rue’s casting. Now, to me, this is small mindedness more than anything and people not actually reading the books before seeing the film. Cinna’s skin colour is never described but Rue is described in the book as having ‘dark skin’. Many people have said that they expected Rue to be some blonde haired, blue eyed sweet little thing and were disgusted with the fact that she wasn’t. For me, Rue was perfectly cast and I hate to think that people wouldn’t like the actress or the character because of the colour of her skin. It’s 2012 for God’s sake!!
One thing I was really worried about with this film was the levels of violence. Not that there would be too much but instead, that it would have been not nearly enough. As The Hunger Games was classified as a 12A, it was quickly apparent to me that this would not be a film as violent and gory as it should be. Still, the book is young adult so I guess the film has to be suitable for this kind of audience at the same time. The camera angles and shots used during some of the killings in the arena were choppy and fast, making it so the brutality level wasn’t quite as harsh as it could have been. While this was a good thing in a way, some of the killings were quite important in the book and this way of showing them took a lot away from that. Luckily though, there are a couple of parts where the violence level is as bad as it should have been so the compromise between the two was quite good for me.
Probably the most spectacular thing about this film is the costume design. Coming from a mining district that struggles to keep its people alive, Katniss and Peeta are dressed in quite drab clothes and do not look extravagant at all. As soon as we see the Capitol, there is such a big difference in the way that people dress. Here, people have painted faced, massive fake eye lashes and insanely designed clothes. The costume design was rich looking, different and very futuristic. I can’t remember loving this aspect of a film this much since the likes of The Fifth Element. The different choices of clothes, make-up and hair were all things I could have spent hours looking at.
So overall, while The Hunger Games does have flaws, it was amazing. I can see people picking it to death, comparing it with the book but I think it really was a job well done and I really loved it. It’s probably going to be one of my favourite films this year.