Friday, 28 September 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins


About the book
Lola and the Boy Next Door is the second YA novel from Stephanie Perkins. The book was published by Dutton Books on 29th September 2011 and it is 384 pages long.

Plot
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighbourhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

What I thought
Stephanie Perkin’s first book, Anna and the French Kiss was one of my favourite books of last year and I’ve been dying to read this one ever since. I had high expectations for Lola and the Boy Next Door though before even opening the first page. I made the bad choice of deciding to read a couple of chapters before bed one night and that turned into staying up until gone 1am to finish it.

On first impressions, I loved Lola. She wasn’t afraid of making a statement with her clothes or rather, choice of costume for the day. I admired Lola for not caring what other people thought about the way she dressed as it showed a lot of strength. As a character, she is quirky and cool and very different to most female characters in YA books. However, I didn’t completely love her like I did with Anna in Anna and the French Kiss. Lola was always the center of attention and came across as a whiney teenager a lot of the time when she didn’t get her own way. Lola’s two dads are quite strict but Lola just seemed to disregard most of their rules… all of the time.

It wasn’t all bad though when it came to Lola. She had a very interesting home life and a great back story. Her birth mother is a complete wreck and her two dads struggle with disciplining Lola. Also, Lola has some great friends, especially Anna and St. Clair from the previous book. Then there is Lola’s boyfriend Max who is disapproved of greatly by the dads. There were many little things about Lola’s life that made the whole experience of her very enjoyable but without these, I’m not sure that I would have liked her much at all.

Then we have love interest Cricket, who, apart from the ridiculous name, I loved! He was insanely cute, had a love for inventions and science and had all kinds of other little things about him which I adored. Cricket had a habit of writing things down on the back of his hands and wearing rubber bands which would match his outfit. He was also incredibly sweet but lacked a bit of experience with girls which made him nervous and worried quite a lot. These aren’t bad qualities though as they are what I liked most about him. He was the perfect contrast to Lola’s boyfriend who was somewhat of a bad boy.

Lola and Cricket’s story was extremely sweet although I can’t agree with the way that Lola treat either of the boys at times. I really enjoyed getting to know why Lola was so scared about Cricket coming back to the neighbourhood and what had happened before with them. Their back story was great to read and it helped to make more sense of quite a few characters. The development in their relationship happened at realistic times and there was no sudden falling in love which is something that I hate in books.

While Lola and the Boy Next Door was a good read, it wasn’t as good as Anna and the French Kiss for me. Still, I can’t wait to read the final companion book in this series when it gets released next year.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Foretold by Jana Oliver


About the book
Foretold is the fourth and final book of The Demon Trappers series by Jana Oliver. It was published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 2nd August and the book is 416 pages long.

Plot
Riley Blackthorne has always known that Beck had a chequered history, but she’s not prepared for what it actually means to be in love with a guy with this many dark secrets. Now that he’s finally admitted to himself that he’s in love with her too, there’s no more hiding the truth about his past. And as it turns out, fending off a demon apocalypse is nothing compared to what’s to come...

What I thought
The Demon Trappers is probably my all-time favourite YA series. I’ve been so excited about the final book although also slightly worried that it would be a bit of a disappointment. As soon as I started reading Foretold though, I knew that it would not be the case. Foretold begins with the kick-ass action that I am now used to from Jana Oliver and I was happy to see Riley and Beck back in trapper action.

The story quickly changes though to pay more attention to Beck and his secretive past. I loved this part of the book as it made it possible to understand Beck and his actions so much more. Everything that I had questions about in regards to Beck over the course of the whole series are answered in this book and that is one of the main reasons why I wasn’t disappointed. So much is revealed about Beck’s past and I thought it was so interesting and exciting to read about. Because of this, Beck’s personality changes in Foretold as he is finally able to be himself and I loved the new him!

Riley will always be one of my favourite female characters in YA. She holds her own as a demon trapper, is tough as nails and full of witty comments. Riley also has a much more sensitive side though due to all of the bad things which have happened to her but she uses these things to fuel her drive and determination which I admired so much. In Foretold, Riley is the same amazing girl but so much better in every way… if that was even possible. The things that she experiences in this book make her a well-rounded character who people can relate to.

Although the characters are amazing, this wouldn’t have been so good without a solid plot to go with it. As I said before, quite a large amount of Foretold is spend on Beck’s past and this means him going back home. It was nice to have a location outside of Atlanta for a change, especially as it brought with it so many new and interesting characters. Back in Atlanta, the plot was just as good. The whole book is quite exciting and fast paced although things do slow down in places to let the reader catch their breath. These two different plot lines are very separate in the book and my only wish would be that they were intertwined a bit better as it made it feel like I was reading two different books at times.

Jana Oliver doesn’t leave any unanswered questions whatsoever so it was really nice for everything to be wrapped up for all characters involved. I enjoyed finding out what everyone ended up doing or what they were thinking and I think that this made a great end to the series. I was extremely pleased with the ending of Foretold and although I will really miss this series, I cannot wait to see what Jana Oliver comes up with next. 

Wednesday, 26 September 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.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor


Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

Release Date: 8th November
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Film Review: What’s Your Number


About the film
What’s Your Number is a romantic comedy film that was released on DVD on 30th January of this year. What’s Your Number is based on the book "Twenty Times a Lady" by Karyn Bosnak. It is rated 15 due to sexual content and bad language. The uncut version of the film has a run time of 112 minutes while the regular version is 106 minutes.

Plot
On her way home after losing her job, Ally Darling comes across a magazine article entitled "What's Your Number?", which asks the reader to calculate how many people she has slept with. Realizing that her number is double the average, Ally decides to track down all of her ex-boyfriends in the hope that one of them will have grown into the man she wants to marry, and therefore the number of men she has slept with will never have to increase. With the help of her womanizing neighbour Colin Shea, she manages to find all of her exes, but things do not quite work out the way she had expected.

What I thought
When it comes to romantic comedies, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been done before. It takes quite a lot to come up with something original nowadays and when I saw the trailer for this film, I thought that this could be it!

I actually really like Anna Faris and her having the lead role was a big reason for me wanting to watch this film. I know a lot of people don’t like her but I have loved her in everything I have seen of hers so far, especially The House Bunny. Here, Faris plays Ally who has a lot of relationship troubles. She’s always trying to be the perfect girl for whomever she is seeing but her ex’s are all losers. Faris is really perky and upbeat as Ally and the character was really likeable. Due to the plot and Ally having already slept with more than the American average, she turns a bad situation into something funny and something that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to.

Playing the leading man is Chris Evans. I have never seen in anything before, although I do know that he is Captain America. Evans is a great counterpart to Faris and the two have great chemistry together. He is funny and charming as Ally’s neighbour Colin and maybe a little bit sleazy at the same time. Overall though, I liked him as a character as you could tell there was a lot more to him than could be seen. Also, we get to see a whole lot of Evan’s amazing body so that obviously made me happy.

The dialogue throughout was cheesy and a bit predictable but it didn’t stop me from laughing for the most part. Faris is great at comedy and she does just as well in this film. Ally gets put into some crazy situation while she is on the hunt for her ex-boyfriends and this is where most of the comedy comes from. Yes, some of these things could have been done better or been more inventive but they weren’t bad at all. I would have liked to have seen more from the ex’s as most of them come and go in a couple of minutes. Some characters that could have been amazing are lacking screen time which was a shame.

The plot was something different and new for a romantic comedy and it made a lovely change. Instead of trying to find a husband the normal way, Ally works backwards through her ex’s and I know I have never seen this done before. While this was original about the film, it wasn’t overly amazing. The outcome was predictable and there weren’t enough major problems put in Ally’s way when there could have been. However, it was interesting to see what lengths she would go to and to find out what her ex’s were really like.

Overall, What’s Your Number is a good romantic comedy that is a bit different from others out there. It was funny but not hilarious with some nice romance.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles


About the book
Chain Reaction is the third book in the Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles. It was published by Simon and Schuster on 5th July and the book is 320 pages long. 

Plot
Like his brothers, Luis Fuentes is a risk taker; whether he's scaling the Rocky Mountains or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis is always looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by certain rules -, don't trust a boy who says "I love you", boys lie to get their own way and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Then she meets Luis at his brother Alex's wedding and suddenly she's tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to give him a chance is Luis's biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by the head of the gang that nearly destroyed his brothers' lives. Will Luis's feelings for Nikki be enough to stop him from entering a dark and violent world that could prove to be the ultimate risk?

What I thought
I had been waiting for this book for a really long time. For some reason, unlike the other two books, this one hadn’t been picked up in the UK and it took until this month for it to be published over here. I didn’t actually know about this though until I went over to a blogger friend’s house and raided her shelves.

As this is the third book, it follows Luis, the third and youngest Fuentes brother. I loved getting to know both Alex and Carlos in the previous two books and I couldn’t wait to hear Luis’ story. He’s a big risk taker just like his older brothers and an adrenaline junkie. However, unlike his brothers, Luis has goals and a plan for his life. He’s clever and he works hard for his grades and does all kinds of extra activities at school. These were things that set Luis apart from Alex and Carlos as they didn’t think their lives could go anywhere. I really liked the fact that although he was a true Fuentes brother in his sense of adventure, he had a lot more going for him and he wanted something better for himself.

Nikki was another fantastic character because she wasn’t like Brittany or Kiara from the other books. Where they were the total opposites of the boys, Nikki has Mexican heritage and her world isn’t too far away from Luis’ whereas this was the case in the previous two books. Although Nikki has Mexican heritage, she is far from being like other Mexican girls that Luis is used to. Nikki goes through quite a lot in this book and I could definitely sympathise with her which made me like her so much more. I could see why she was so torn about liking Luis and how she compared him to her ex-boyfriend.

Together, Luis and Nikki make for a smoking hot couple. There is plenty of tension between the two and the banter is entertaining and fun. I loved watching the two get to know each other better and to see their relationship develop. Chain Reaction sees Luis act in a completely different way than his brothers, knowing that not admitting your feelings won’t get you anywhere and I liked this change. The relationship dynamics are different in Chain Reaction than in Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction and it was nice to see that Simone Elkeles could change it up and still please her readers. Although generally, I knew where the story was heading, I enjoyed the adventure of getting to the end outcome.

Something that made me love this book was the fact that the whole Fuentes family are a large part of the story. Alex, Brittany, Carlos, Kiara and mother Fuentes all play a very large role in Luis’ story. These extra characters add a lot of fun to the situation and it was nice to finally see them all together. Not only did they add fun but they also show how important family is. What I wasn’t expecting was to see the girls of the story band together and be as close as they were. Obviously the Fuentes brothers are close but their girlfriends treat each other like family and that was good to see.

While Perfect Chemistry is still my favourite of the three books, Chain Reaction not far behind it. This book has everything that I loved about the first one – great male and female leads, funny dialogue, steamy scenes and an intense story. The whole Latino Blood gang aspect is brought back into this story and is nearly as harsh as it was in the first book but this was something that I found extremely interesting. The only reason why this didn’t beat Perfect Chemistry is due to Luis not being quite as amazing as Alex. A brilliant read and a highly recommended series. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake


About the book
Anna Dressed in Blood is the first book in the Anna series by Kendare Blake. The book was published by Orchard on 5th July and it is 384 pages long. This is a review of the UK ARC.

Synopsis
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
(Taken from Goodreads.com)

What I thought
I’d been looking forward to reading Anna Dressed in Blood for quite some time now but for whatever reason, I kept putting it off. Due to having some decent time off work for once, I went on a bit of a reading spree and this book was one of those that I read. When I finally did manage to sit down with this one, I planned on only reading a couple of chapters. This was at about 8pm and by midnight I was still going and not far from finishing.

Kendare Blake doesn’t waste any time in getting right into the story, explaining what protagonist Cas (Thesius Cassio) does. Even though Cas is a teenager, he kills ghosts. Yes, ghosts are already dead but Cas has a way to get rid of them once and for all to stop them from either haunting or causing insane amounts of trouble. With the use of a special knife, Cas is able to send the ghosts elsewhere, to wherever they actually belong, and rid the human world of them. I instantly loved the initial idea for this book as it was fresh, interesting and really exciting.

Cas goes on a pretty intense transformation throughout the book. Due to what he does, he and his mum move around a lot and this book sees him move to Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada. This made me insanely happy to see due to having been there myself. Anyway, Cas is quite the independent character who doesn’t like to rely on anyone else. He knows that his job is dangerous and tries to involve as few people as possible. As the plot expands, Cas realises that he cannot do everything on his own and opens up to more people around him.

What brings Cas and his mother to Thunder Bay is a ghost called Anna, aka Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna was murdered in 1958 on the way to her high school dance while she had a pure white dress on and that’s where she gets the name from. Anna has a massive reputation in Thunder Bay and with many teenagers going missing, she gets the blame. Anna is creepy as hell but I loved her! She’s an insanely strong ghost who can rip people in two with her hands and just the descriptions of her freaked me out. I didn’t think that a ghost like this could be such an amazing character but she was. I loved everything about Anna.

I wasn’t expecting for this book to have such a strong horror element, even though the name does kind of give it away. Anna Dressed in Blood reminds me of a mix between American Horror Story and the 1999 film, House on Haunted Hill – both of which are things that I love! Blake throws in so many twists and turns that the book was constantly exciting. I never knew what was going to happen next or who was going to have something bad happen to them. There is some serious gore in this book so it isn’t for the feint-hearted at all. I don’t mind a bit of gore at all but even I was shocked with how detailed some of these scenes are.

Anna Dressed in Blood is easily one of my favourite books of this year. It was so different from everything else in the YA genre and I was hooked from the very first page. There is a slight romance element to the book as well but this was very unconventional which made me love it even more. Anna Dressed in Blood is dark, thrilling and intense with a hint of romance and some amazing friendships. A must read.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Desert Angel by Charlie Price

About the book 
Desert Angel is a stand-alone YA novel by Charlie Price. It was published on 2nd February by Corgi Children's and the book is 240 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review. 

Plot 
Fourteen-year-old Angel wakes up one morning at her desert trailer home to discover her mother has been murdered by a lowlife named Scotty, who has vanished. Angel has no water, no weapon, but she knows that Scotty, an expert tracker and hunter, will surface soon in order to eliminate her as a witness. She has to run, to disappear, if she is to survive and tell the world what happened. Her flight takes her through a harsh landscape to places she never expected to be, forcing her to trust others for the first time and strengthening her in ways she doesn't even anticipate . . . until it's time to take a stand. 

What I thought 
When I read the synopsis for this book, I was quite excited. Although not the kind of thing I would normally read, Desert Angel sounded like a very intense thriller and it all seemed extremely exciting. However, that is not the story I actually got. 

As you can see from the synopsis, protagonist Angel's mother has been murdered by her scummy boyfriend, leaving Angel to fend for herself. This is where I thought the story was going to be really exciting. As their home is a trailer in the desert, I figured that Angel would be left here to survive and to hide from Scotty. Instead, the time spent in the desert is very little and soon, Angel finds herself on the run, trying to get as far away as possible. I was quite shocked that this part of the story ended so suddenly. As Scotty is an expert tracker and hunter, I was thinking this would be a real cat and mouse kind of chase with not many places for Angel to hide. Taking this away from the story was a real let down and pretty much ruined the rest of the book for me. 

While on the run, Angel actually finds herself surrounded by people willing or trying to help her. This is not the adventure I was expecting. As soon as Angel finds these people and begins to let them in a little bit, the story got quite boring and tame. Scotty is still lurking around in the shadows at this point but there is never a real sense of danger or that Angel could be in serious trouble. The fact that she ends up with somewhere pretty safe to stay and being surrounded by people took away a lot of the mystery and intensity that this book should have had. The characters introduced to help Angel though were great and it was nice to see that people were willing to help a complete strange who was in so much trouble and this made me remember again that Angel was only fourteen. The way that Angel acts and talks made me forget about her age a lot of the time and I think this was mainly due to her harsh upbringing and having to deal with a lot. Still, I would have liked to have seen her vulnerable side a bit more and for her to show her age. 

Scotty was quite possibly the best character in Desert Angel although he wasn't used nearly enough. There is very little interaction with Scotty and this was disappointing. He is creepy as hell and I think, insane to go with it. The first scenes where we get to see Scotty in action, chasing Angel were disturbing and scary and I wished there had been more of this. Throughout the book, we know that Scotty is still hunting Angel but mostly from her point of view, not his. We barely see or hear from him apart from knowing that he is actually there. His absence took away most of the mystery and again, danger. I didn't feel that Angel was actually in danger for the most part and this was such a big aspect of the story. 

The ending to Desert Angel was also disappointing. After the struggles that Angel had been through in this book, everything ended quite abruptly and there were a lot of unanswered questions. The ending was far too short and could have been drawn out much more for added impact. Angel had been through quite a lot, both physically and emotionally but this was never concentrated on. As a reader, I wanted to know how Angel was dealing with all of the craziness that had been happening around her for so long but I got none of this. All I got was a conclusion of the story without anything really being explained. 

I had quite high hopes for this book but it wasn't for me at all and I struggled to even finish it.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn


About the book
The Viscount Who Loved Me is the 2nd book in the Bridgerton series and it follows the story of Anthony, the eldest male. The book was published by Piatkus on 8th June 2006 and it is 384 pages long.

Plot
Viscount Bridgerton died when Anthony was only 18, aged 39. The father and son had always had a very close relationship, even when his other siblings came. Anthony didn't think there could ever be a better man than his father in every way possible and he knew that he would never surpass his greatness. When his father died, he knew that he would also never surpass him in age. Being the head of the family now, Anthony knew that he had a duty to provide an heir and look after his family but he swore he would never marry for love. All he wants is an intelligent woman who will be a good mother and wife. Edwina Sheffield is the belle of the season and while he finds her attractive, he knows he could never fall in love with her, so he decides that she is the one he will marry. 

Kate Sheffield and her family had never been extremely wealthy and she knew that her younger sister, Edwina (the beautiful one), was going to have to marry someone with money to keep their family going. When Anthony Bridgerton shows a slight interest in her, Mary (Edwina's mother and Kate's step mother) is delighted. Anthony has a bad reputation as a rake though and Kate makes it clear that she will never allow him to marry Edwina. 

Anthony has his mind set on Edwina and Kate has made it perfectly clear that she doesn't like him at all. The only way that he is going to be able to marry Edwina is if he gets Kate's approval but that isn't an easy task. As he tries to prove to her that he isn't as bad as everyone makes out but as he tries to impress her, he can’t help but feel connected to her in some way. Surely he can’t be falling for the other sister, the one who is the most dangerous woman of all to him? 

What I thought 
Anthony plays quite a large part in most of the books in this series because he is the head of the family and I was looking forward to reading his story (I didn't read these books in order). The introduction really helps Anthony's character development and although I couldn't personally relate to him, it did make him easier to understand and to like even though he came across as quite hard and without feeling at times. 

The worry and fear from both characters is one of the main themes throughout the story although because of different reasons for each character. Anthony's background runs very deep and the beginning of the book is extremely serious and sad. Even though this was the case, I liked the build up to the main story. Quinn also gives the audience some insight into Kate's past but we don't get to her real story until quite a way through the book. To have the two main characters share a traumatic experience, although in different ways, made them the perfect couple because they were able to help each other to work through their problems. 

Kate is strong, independent and outspoken at times and the ideal match for Anthony is every way. She is the exact opposite of what he would want in a wife because she has far too much opinion and feeling, everything that he isn't looking for. Kate was outstanding when she told Anthony exactly what she thought of him and his reputation and I really wanted to applaud her out loud. It would have taken a lot of courage for her to stand up for herself and risk ruining getting everything that her family needed but she couldn't stand for her sister to marry someone that wasn't right for her. 

Third brother Colin makes quite a few appearances throughout this book and I loved his parts just as much as the main story. He is a very comical character and in each book leading up to his own, his character develops just that little bit more, keeping you hooked to the series because you want to know more about him. 

The romance aspect to this story didn't happen as quickly as it normally would but that is due to the nature of the story. Many times I would think 'awww' throughout the story as there are many small things/ times where either Anthony or Kate show some affection towards the other even though they don't mean to. You can see that they will end up caring for each other greatly even when they don't see it themselves. 

I didn't love this book the first time I read it but each time I read it now, I love it more and more. I notice more of the little things each time I read it and that is why it gets better each time. If you are a fan of the author and haven't read this one yet, I would advise you to read it before you read Romancing Mr Bridgerton (Colin's story). 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Waiting on Wednesdsay



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

Echo by Alyson Noel



Daire Santos has already saved her grandmother’s life – and her soul. But at a cost: the Richter family has been let loose in the Lowerworld. Daire and her boyfriend Dace Richter must work together to find them before chaos ensues and the balance between good and evil is destroyed. As their relationship deepens, Dace’s evil brother Cade grows stronger than ever, building his power and forcing Daire and Dace to confront the horrifying prophecy that has brought them all together. It will leave Daire no choice but to claim her true destiny as Seeker, but only by making an unthinkable sacrifice.

Released: 22nd November
Publisher: Macmillan

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Film Review: Water For Elephants


About the film
Water For Elephants is a 2011 romantic drama film that was based on the novel of the same name, written by Sara Gruen. The film is 120 minutes long and is rated 12A due to scenes of intense violence and a sexual nature. It was distributed by 20th Century Fox and after having a budget of $38 million, it has gone on to make over $117 million at the box office. 
Plot
During the Great Depression, Jacob Jankowski's parents are killed during his final exam where he was training to be a vet. After being told of his father's massive debts, the house is sold and Jacob is left with nothing and no longer feels like he wants to carry on with his education. While trying to find himself a new life, Jacob happens to jump on the train of the Benzini Brothers Circus where he meets performer Marlena and her husband, head of the circus, August. After saying that he has studied veterinary science at Cornell, Jacob is hired as the circus' vet.
As he spends more time with Marlena and the circus, he realises that everything is not as it should be. August is not a nice man and treats both animals and people with disrespect, something that Jacob doesn't agree with at all. It's all on him to save the woman he loves and the circus from a terrible fate. 
What I thought
Outside of Twilight, Robert Pattinson is actually a pretty decent actor. Who would have thought it possible? Certainly not me. However, I did quite like him in Remember Me as well. Pattinson plays the role of Jacob, a man who loses everything and has to start over. Immediately I felt sorry for Jacob and wanted him to find his feet again. I really enjoyed how his story began as it showed him as an old man, wanting to get back the feeling of his youth. Pattinson brings a youthful cockiness to someone that I think would have been pretty timid otherwise. At the same time though, Jacob comes across as quite innocent but charming. Jacob is maybe a little naive but only due to his lack of life experience at the beginning of the film. Pattinson manages to mix all of these personality traits together really well and makes his character likeable because of them.

Reese Witherspoon plays love interest and an act in the circus, Marlena. She seems to be an actress who can pull off any role and hers in Water For Elephants is no different. Playing Marlena meant that Witherspoon had to do stunts that involved some of the animals. I have no idea when/ if she changed with a stunt double but the scenes of this nature were extremely impressive. Marlena was a character that I could immediately connect with, considering she was in a relationship she couldn't get away from. The characters that Witherspoon normally plays are likeable and that is no exception here. I couldn't help but feel sorry for her and wish for a good outcome.
Playing Marlena's husband August is Christopher Waltz. As villains go, he could have been much better. While he does a good job of being an arsehole, he isn't amazing at it either. I didn't like his character but I didn't completely hate him either and I should have. August is a character who thinks he is right at all times and doesn't like to be proved wrong so his arrogance showed through all of the time. There were times during the film where you could see there was a lot more to him than meets the eye but this wasn't shown nearly enough. I would have loved to have found out what was really going on in his head but I guess this wasn't done so that the audience didn't end up liking him at all.
So what else is there in this film apart from the amazing cast? A lot actually. As the plot surrounds the Benzini Brothers Circus, the majority of scenes are from here. For me, the circus has always been a really exciting and interesting event to go to and I wondered how this one would be shown. Director Francis Lawrence does an amazing job and the film is visually stunning in every way possible. The scenes at the circus are truly exceptional, showing both what happens in the tent and out of it. The actual acts at the circus aren't shown very much at all and when they are, the scenes focus more on Marlena and what she can do. That being said, what glimpses I did get to see were impressive. Here, I have to mention the animals. There are some scenes which can be disturbing concerning animal cruelty in circuses during the time period but I think they were done in the right context and obviously, no animals would have actually been hurt during filming.
The costume and set design are really what make this film so special though. In contrast to the workers at the circus, who wear earthy colours and look very drab, the main characters look wonderful. As the ring leader, August is dressed in wonderful stiff shirts, clean and classic trousers along with more extravagant items like smoking jackets and of course, his circus outfit. Marlena gets two different looks really – her performance outfits which consist of next to nothing leotards covered in glitter and sparkle but also her non work outfits. For this, she gets to wear some amazing clothes making her look smart, sophisticated but also a kept woman at times.
While there is so much about this film that is wonderful, it also has things that are bad. As I said earlier, the film begins with Jacob as an old man and here is where I had a problem. Yes, I know it is the beginning of the film but here is why: Jacob explains what he wants and why and then certain things are said which pretty much gives away the whole plot. Within the first five minutes, my hopes had been shattered and I figured out a lot of what was going to happen. Had this not have happened so early on, I wouldn't have minded. After this, the plot wasn't a surprise t me at all which was very unfortunate.
Without the terrible opening, Water for Elephants is a great film.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

About the book 
Hallowed is the second book in the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand. It was published on 2nd January by Electric Monkey. The book is 448 pages long. (This review will contain minor spoilers for the first book in the series). 

Plot 
For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn't prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought. 

Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning. 

What I thought 
For me, the first book in this series, Unearthly, was a five star book. I loved everything about it so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. My lovely best friend bought it for me as a birthday present this month and I picked it up the very same day. 

As it had been a while since reading Unearthly, I couldn't exactly remember what had happened and where the story was left. That all soon came back to me though as Hallowed starts off quickly, making you remember what has already happened. Carrying on from the aftermath of the big fire, Clara is left unsure of what is going on in her life. The decision she made during the fire altered many things for Clara and now, she has no idea what the consequences of those actions are. It was clear to see how torn Clara was because of what she did and she really had no idea whether or not this was truly the right thing to do. Clara's feelings about this issue are described perfectly and Cynthia Hand's writing made me believe that she was so cut up about what had happened. 

Due to past events, I think that Clara's personality (which I loved) takes a bit of a hit in this book. The feistiness that I loved about her has simmered down but I guess that is to be expected if you think about all that she has been through up until this point. I do wish that she had stayed true to how she was in Unearthly though. Although that fire inside of her disappeared somewhat, Clara is still an extremely strong character and that is only shown more this time around. One of the major plotlines shows that Clara can deal with absolutely anything and keep it together as much as possible and I was glad to see this. I love a strong, tough main female character and Clara definitely is that. 

Clara made a clear choice between Tucker and Christian in the first book but it was obvious from the start that there was always going to be problems. This time, Clara tended to lean on Christian more than her boyfriend Tucker which I didn't like at all. I adore Tucker and think that he's a wonderful character. Tucker is put in a pretty difficult place by knowing that Clara is part angel - something that he shouldn't know at all. He deals so well with the situation and tries his best to be there for Clara no matter what happens and considering that he doesn't understand what is going on half of the time, this is a pretty big thing to do. I felt like Clara was just throwing a lot of that back in Tucker's face especially as he had obviously already shown that he was trustworthy. 

I wasn't sure where the story would be heading after the first book and Hallowed was not what I was expecting at all when it came to this. Running alongside the aftermath of the fire is something that I would never have seen coming in a million years. Unearthly explained a lot about the angel lore in this world but not everything and there are some really big, important things explained this time around. It was very interesting how this was mixed in with a part of the story that was so sad and unexpected and I enjoyed figuring out how everything fit together. Obviously, as this is such a big part of the plot, I won't say more than that because it will ruin a big chunk of the surprises. 

The pacing of Hallowed is quite strange. Sometimes, it felt like nothing at all was happening and that it was more about explanations rather than actions. Then, sometimes it felt like everything was happening far too quickly and I wanted these parts drawn out a bit more. Cynthia Hand mixes pacing a lot throughout this book but I do think that it helped to put me in a frame of mind where my emotions were all over the place, much like Clara's were throughout the book. While I do think it was a good thing in places, I would have liked for this book to have been a bit more like the last, where the parts that were supposed to be slow were and the faster parts were more exciting and tense. 

Hallowed is a really good second book in a series although it didn't quite live up to my expectations. It does, however, set the scene extremely well for something big to happen in the third book and I can't wait to find out what will happen next.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Burn Mark by Laura Powell


About the book
Burn Mark is a YA novel by British author Laura Powell. It was published by Bloomsbury on 7th June and the book is 416 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Plot
Glory is from a family of witches and lives beyond the law. She is desperate to develop her powers and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition—the witches’ mortal enemy—and his privileged life is very different to the forbidden world that he lives alongside.

And then on the same day, it hits them both. Glory and Lucas develop the Fae—the mark of the witch. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not . . .

What I thought
I was so, so excited to read this book when it arrived. The idea of witches in a modern day London sounded excellent and something that was really new and different. The world Laura Powell has created is full of gangster style characters, witches and a whole different way of living. The world was quite political with the likes of the Inquisition, who generally rule what witches can and cannot do and that includes the whole burning at the stake thing. While this book is set in a modern world, it does also explain what happened in the past in regards to this and how the Inquisition have tried to make things more humane (if burning anyone can ever be humane).

While I did find this new world really interesting, reading about it was quite hard going. The first section of the book is quite drawn out, explaining who is who and how everything works. Burn Mark had an extremely slow start for me and it was really hard for me to get into the story. It is also told in a third person narrative which I find quite hard to get on with at the best of times. I found myself getting quite confused about who everyone was as the story kept jumping from one person to another in the middle of chapters. However, the idea was still interesting and I liked how witches were underprivileged and of a lower class compared to the Inquisition who are basically witch hunters.

Glory was a hard character to connect with. From the very beginning, it was clear that she wanted power for herself and was quite selfish. At each opportunity that she had, Glory didn’t change and I could see that she didn’t really want to either. As a witch, I think she should have been more concerned about the bigger picture in regards to witches in general and her covern, rather than what the outcome for her would be.

Lucas on the other hand, I quite liked. To begin with he seems like quite a stuck-up character due to the family that he comes from but that isn’t so. He’s very selfless who wants to do something good with his newfound gift and really just wants to be accepted by his family. I enjoyed Lucas’ whole attitude to life and found him to be a complete contrast to Glory which was definitely a good thing. When you only like one of the main characters it makes it pretty difficult to really get into a book.

I’m unsure whether or not this is a first in a series or a standalone as there is no information as of yet about more books. If this is the first in a series, it does a really good job of throwing in a load of information about the world so that it doesn’t need to be done again in a second book. However, if it is a standalone then I feel like almost half the book was overfilled with unnecessary information.

I was hoping to love this book but I didn’t. It was ok but not for me. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

About the book 
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was published by Virago on 5th January 2012 and the book is 400 pages long. 

Plot 
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness--until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group--the fabled "Lost Generation"--that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. 

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage--a deception that will lead to the unravelling of everything they've fought so hard for. 

What I thought 
Having a massive thing about books set in Paris or about Paris, when I saw this one at the train station I just knew I had to have it although having not heard of it before so I didn't know quite what to expect. 

The Paris Wife is pretty much a fictionalised retelling of Hemingway's life with his first wife, Hadley. The book begins in Chicago in the '20s where the couple meet and is told from Hadley's perspective. She was a strange character to me to begin with as her personality is a bit mixed. Although she comes across as strong and independent, due to things happening beforehand, she also seems very timid and not altogether sure of herself. Meeting Hemingway brings out a different side to her and I saw her character change really quickly. As the book goes on, she changes more and more, becomes quite the doormat. I think her backbone went missing somewhere in-between Chicago and Paris. 

Obviously, as a book about Hemingway's first wife, he does feature a lot throughout the book. I'm not altogether sure whether or not this was the author's intent but I actually quite hated him. Yes, he was nice to begin with in the relationship but it didn't take long for me to see him for the arse of a man that he was. In this depiction of their life, Hemingway is rude, insensitive and extremely selfish. While these traits were written exceptionally, deep down I was hoping for him to have some nice qualities hidden in there somewhere but that just didn't happen. 

I'll be honest and admit that I did only really get this book because of the title and I was disappointed when I realised how much of the book is not set in Paris. It takes a long time for Hadley and Ernest to make the move but once they did, it was quite something. McLain is obviously passionate about Paris herself and puts a lot of effort and detail into describing the city which was something I was extremely thankful for. Paris is a big a part of the story at certain points as the characters themselves and it was wonderful to see it intertwined with the plot so well. 

The plot moves effortlessly over the life of Hadley and Ernest with the addition of some wonderful characters that break up the monotony of their boring life together. Characters like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound make the story a lot more interesting than if it had been solely about the Hemmingway's. Each of these fantastic characters make the book a lot more interesting and exciting and throw in some much needed distractions from what would have been quite a plain and boring story otherwise. It was great to see other writers interact with Hemingway and to see how they all saw each other and what they may have thought of each other's works. 

While I did really enjoy this book, I don't think it is for everyone. I loved reading about different parts of the world and people from the past but I wanted to slap both Hadley and Ernest for making such stupid decision and for being such annoying people. The Paris Wife is a bit of a mixed bag for me overall.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

About the book 
The Shadow of the Wind is the first book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was first published in 2001 and the book is 528 pages long. 

Plot 
Barcelona, 1945-just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiralling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly. 

What I thought 
The Shadow of the Wind is one of my boyfriend's favourite books - he likes it so much that he has multiple copies of it. As he loves it so much, I was curious to know why so he got me my own copy and I began to read it straight away. 

It didn't take long for this book to take a hold of me and not let go. The opening to this story is completely magical and mysterious and I loved each word that I was reading. As a young boy, main character Daniel is taken to Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his father. This is a place for forgotten books of the world just waiting for someone to care for them again and the idea of this is what initially got me hooked. If it's possible, I felt sorry for all of the books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and wanted to go and get them all new homes. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books itself was a bit like a dream to me but somewhere I would have definitely wanted to be able to visit myself. What young Daniel doesn't know at the time of picking his one book here, is that he has just determined the rest of his life with this choice. 

As a young boy, Daniel was extremely naive and didn't know much about the world at all but I liked that about him. He had a very sweet innocence about him and it made me look forward to finding out how he would eventually grow up and what kind of a man he would turn in to. As the story begins to unfold, we get to learn of the book Daniel picked, The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. The book itself brings Daniel instant problems as he is confronted by a strange man seemingly willing to do anything to get his hands on this particular book. The character in question here was extremely creepy and you could just tell that you didn't want him to turn up again. At this point, it was so clear just how young Daniel was because of his actions but he also stuck to what he believed in and I respected him for that. 

Finding out more about why this book was so important was what I was desperate for. The Shadow of the Wind not only explores the life of Daniel and what he goes through, the relationships he forms and things he experiences but it also has flashbacks from other characters. As well as following Daniel's life in Barcelona, we follow the mysterious life of author Carax, trying to figure out if he is even alive or where he could possibly be. I really enjoyed how both worlds were intertwined, which was partly helped by Daniel's constant need to know more about the book and the author. His passion for the subject shone through and so did his determination. Due to his mission of finding out more about Carax, Daniel changes as a character. He meets many interesting characters along the way, each of which have some kind of impact on his life and the way he views things. The way that these people could have such a big impression on Daniel quite impressed me because it wasn't as though any of them were anything spectacular. 

A slight problem with these other characters is that there are so many of them and if you're not careful, you could lose sight of who is who and what they are doing. If you picked up this book and put it down again for some time, you would quite easily forget everything you have previously read. That aside, some of these characters were more entertaining and special than both Daniel and Carax. One of my favourites was Fermin Romero De Torres, a beggar that Daniel meets on the street one day. He soon becomes quite a big role in Daniel and Carax's story but he also brings in some much needed humour. As a bit of a broken man, Fermin is not quite all there which is why he is so funny. He comes out with all kinds of strange things that don't always make sense but this is what makes him so different compared with everyone else in this book. 

When it comes to the plot, it was not quite what I was expecting, although I'm not sure what that was either really. This book was a complete surprise for me, a big part of that is due to it being an adult book. I have spent so long reading YA that this is completely different from my normal read but I loved it completely. The plot is complicated, as I'm sure you could guess from the amount of characters, but it never gets too confusing. Each different thing is kind of put into its own little section then forgotten about again once you find out everything that you need to know. This makes the pacing quite strange and not extremely fast but it does make for a very interesting read. Shadow of the Wind is not only a mystery though and I found myself feeling all kinds of emotions while I read it. I felt love, excitement, anger and I also cried at one point when I didn't think that this was that kind of book. 

I can now see why my boyfriend loves this book so much and now I will treasure my own copy.

 

Wednesday, 12 September 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.

Blink Once by Cylin Busby


West is a high school senior who has everything going for him – until an accident leaves him paralysed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, moving in and out of consciousness, West is isolated and alone. Until he meets Olivia.

Olivia is the girl next door – though not the typical girl next door. She is in the hospital room next to his, and before long, she’s sneaking into his room to talk with him. Only Olivia seems to know what he’s thinking, and even dreaming about. Yet certain questions haunt him: Why is Olivia in the hospital? And how is she connected to the terrible dreams he’s been having? But the biggest shock of all comes when West must face the possibility that the girl he’s fallen in love with – and who’s done more to aid his recovery than anyone else – may not even be alive.


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: 11th October

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Film Review: What To Expect When You're Expecting


About the film
What To Expect When You’re Expecting is a 2012 comedy film. It was released on 18th May and it is rated 12A due to language, crude and sexual content and thematic elements. This film has a run time of 110 minutes. This film is based on the book of the same name. 

Plot
Baby-crazy author and advocate Wendy gets a taste of her own militant mommy advice when pregnancy hormones ravage her body; while Wendy's husband, Gary, struggles not to be outdone by his competitive alpha-Dad, who's expecting twins with his much younger trophy wife, Skyler. Photographer Holly is prepared to travel the globe to adopt a child, but her husband Alex isn't so sure, and tries to quiet his panic by attending a "dudes" support group...

What To Expect When You’re Expecting follows the lives of a variety of people and couples as they embark on the adventure that is parenthood. Each person goes through different situations and experiences pregnancy in different ways. 

What I thought
Before I even begin this review I have to confess that I hate babies. That being said, I have no idea why I went to see this film nor why I actually picked to go and see it in the first place. I think I must have been having a slightly insane day when it happened.

The film starts off introducing each of the different couples that the film will be following. The main cast for What to expect… is pretty impressive. Many films that follow this format have been done before now but the problem that they seem to have is too many characters. However, although this film does have more main characters than normal, it isn’t too many. Unlike in other films, I never got bored of watching one character or wondered who the hell was who. The characters in this film are extremely easy to follow as most of them come in pairs.

Out of the main cast, Cameron Diaz was one of my favourites. Playing Jules, a fitness expert, the role is something quite different for Diaz. Although comedy is her genre, I don’t think that she has ever played a role like this before. She does a great job though and really puts her all into the character and the portrayal of a pregnant woman trying to keep up a job. Opposite Diaz is Matthew Morrison who is best known for being in Glee. Unfortunately, although he was good, he wasn’t fantastic. However, he was a calming counterpart on Diaz’s character but I was a little disappointed with his performance.

Most impressive performances for me go to Anna Kendrick who plays Rosie and Chace Crawford who plays Marco. These two are probably the lesser known of the cast with Kendrick having roles in The Twilight Saga and Crawford known for his role in Gossip Girl. I think that these two also had the most interesting and different storyline compared with others in the film. Both Kendrick and Crawford were able to show a range of emotions and overall came across as likeable. These are characters that many people will be able to relate to and I really wasn’t expecting either of them to be as good as they were.

My absolute favourite thing about this film though has to be the Dad group. Lead by Vic (Chris Rock), this group of Dads are hilarious. They don’t do things as they should do, probably don’t treat their kids in the right way and one of them even calls his son by a different name. Every single time this group was on screen, I couldn’t stop laughing. I knew from the trailer that I would like this though. Chris Rock is his hilarious self and is only made better by some great supporting cast.

Now we come to the plot. I know I may be a bit wrong in saying this but there were far too many pregnant stomachs for me. They really gross me out and I should have known I would feel this way before seeing the film. I have no idea why I would put myself through this kind of hell. However, there were enough funny parts to distract me at times which I was extremely thankful for. I did like the way in which different aspects of pregnancy are covered though and it shows that no one woman experiences the same things.

While I didn’t hate this film, it grossed me out a bit too much to love it. With the pregnant stomachs on show and the birthing scenes, it was just too much for me. Thank God for Chris Rock saving me!!