Monday, 30 December 2013

Elect by Rachel Van Dyken

About the book
Elect is the second book in the Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken. The book was published on Kindle on 10th December. I received an ebook for review through NetGalley.

Nixon Abandonato made a choice that put him in charge of everything. You see, his family is a mafia family and his friends are all in on it too. After he fell in love with Tracey, it marked her as a target to all of Nixon’s enemies. He swears that he will do everything to protect her but the only way to do it is to convince the world that he isn’t really with her. In doing that, Nixon ends up pushing her towards his best friend but she isn’t quite ready to give everything up just yet.

When family secrets threaten everything that Nixon has been working for, it all comes down to a life for a life but who will it be?

What I thought
Before reading this book, I had no idea that it was the second in a series and I hadn’t even heard of the first, let alone read it. So, it’s safe to say I wasn’t quite with the plot to begin with when reading this one.

The plot for this book, and this series, is pretty unbelievable and not in a good way. The series focuses on mafia families and one that is now being run by a teenager. I’m not sure if protagonist Nixon was put into power in the last book or that was how everything started out. Either way, I just couldn’t get into the plot because of how ridiculous it was. Not only is he running a crazy business but he’s also going to school and trying to show that everything is normal. Say what?! I maybe would have bought into the idea more had it just been plain and simple. Why do mafia bosses need to go to school especially when they have so much money?!

Anyway, the characters were just as silly as the basic plot. Nixon is quite level headed for the most part and does come across as a normal teenager, especially during his scenes with girlfriend Tracey. However, at times he would just completely flip, beat someone up… or worse and act like the mafia boss he was supposed to be. I understand that this is part of the whole mafia world and threats and violence are what gets people into certain positions but his actions and his personality/ character just didn't fit.

Part of the plot focuses on Nixon and Tracey’s relationship and the danger she is put in. As Nixon obviously doesn’t want her to be killed, he puts best friend Chase in charge of looking after her. A teenage boy in charge of protecting someone… okay, that makes lots of sense. What I didn’t understand was how or why Nixon put him in charge of security when he had older, more capable, people working for him. Surely anyone else would have been better than a teenage boy filled with lustful feelings for the girl. Luckily though, Chase was the most likeable character in the book so that helped a little bit.

Another thing that was disappointing was the lack of excitement. While there are plenty of scenes that should have been very intense and thrilling, I didn’t find them to be. I think people who liked this book more than me would disagree but because I really disliked the plot and most of the characters, I just couldn’t connect much with the story. Fights, threats and tense conversations should have been so exciting to read about but I found it all to be too tame. I understand that this is a young adult book but the plot subject should have allowed for more.

As you can see, I did not enjoy this book at all. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Film Review: The Bling Ring

About the film
The Bling Ring is a black comedy/ crime film that was released in 2013. The film is based on actual events where a group on teenagers broke into and robbed celebrity’s homes. The Bling Ring is rated 15 and has a run time of 90 minutes.

Teenager Marc Hall is just starting out at a new school in California and quickly becomes friends with Rebecca Ahn. After going to a party together, they head out and begin checking cars for unlocked doors and taking whatever valuable goods they can get. When Marc mentions that he has a wealthy friend who is away, Rebecca instantly wants to go over there and see what they can get from the house. While Marc is uncomfortable about what they’re doing, he goes anyway because he doesn’t want to lose his new friend.

Rebecca’s other friends, Nicki, Chloe and Sam all hang out in a club where celebrities often visit. After briefly mentioning that Paris Hilton is out of town, they decide to try to get into her house to see what they can steal. This first visit to a celebrity’s home starts a whole range of robberies. The group use the internet to figure out a where a celebrity is and whether or not they’re home. The film follows the group as their addiction to stealing gets stronger and how their downfall happened.

*Names in brackets are the real people they represent*

Katie Chang as Rebecca Ahn (Rachel Lee)
Israel Broussard as Marc Hall (Nick Prugo)
Emma Watson as Nicki Moore (Alexis Neiers)
Claire Julien as Chloe Tainer (Courtney Ames)
Taissa Farmiga as Sam Moore (Tess Taylor)
Leslie Mann as Laurie Moore (Andrea Arlington-Dunn)
Georgia Rock as Emily Moore (Gabby Neiers)
Carlos Miranda as Rob (Roy Lopez, Jr.)
Gavin Rossdale as Ricky (Johnny "Dangerous" Ajar)

What I thought
The real life group that this film was based on are called Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, The Burglar Bunch, or the Hollywood Hills Burglars. The events took place from 2008 through to 2009 but it isn’t something I ever remember hearing about on the news. I’m sure it was a bigger story in the U.S.

It doesn’t take long for the film to get going, introducing main characters Marc and Rebecca quickly. Marc has only just started his new school and soon makes friends with Rebecca who introduces him to a different kind of life. She shows him how to check for open car doors, what to take and although he doesn’t feel quite right about what they’re doing, he doesn’t say anything. The group is then make bigger with friends Nicki, Chloe and Sam who all want a part of going to celebrity’s homes and seeing what they can take.

The film shows exactly how shallow and self-centred this group of teenagers are. The only things they ever care about is possessions and money and often covet what other people have. As the characters were shown in this way, it made it extremely hard to like any of them, even a little bit although I’m not sure you were supposed to anyway. None of the characters come from particularly bad places and none of them are especially broke. The film showed the characters as teenagers with little better to do.

While the plot was certainly interesting and different, it was quite bland and repetitive. There are so many scenes of the group drinking or getting high in a club and going to one particular home too many times. There was very little substance behind the basic plot and I wanted more. I wanted to know that there were better reasons behind robbing certain people but there wasn’t. There also wasn’t any really exciting scenes where the group may have gotten caught or come close to it. I think something like this, even if it was fictional, would have made the film a lot better.

Emma Watson, best known for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, honestly shows what a fantastic actress she is in this film. After being a part of such a successful franchise, Watson has been carefully selecting the films she is a part of instead of taking any job just to keep going. In this film Watson plays Nicki Moore, one of the girls in ‘The Bling Ring’. Watson takes on the shallow persona extremely well and fully immerses herself into the character. It has been said that she watched a lot of reality television to get into character. Whatever she did, it worked.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re nothing special really. As mentioned before, the characters are shallow and annoying and yes, the actors do show this well. But, there is nothing stand-out about any of their performances. There is no one I remember more than Emma Watson and none of the actors really drew my attention to them. Again though, I think this was more down to characterisation rather than the actors themselves. It looks as though they did the best with what they had but there wasn’t much more they could do other than that.

While it may sound like I disliked this film, I actually didn’t. Overall, I just wanted more and I think the film could have been much better in some places. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Film Review: Runner, Runner

About the film
Runner, Runner is a 2013 thriller film. It has a run time of 91 minutes and is rated 15. The film was produced by many people, one of which was Leonardo DiCaprio.

Richie Furst is struggling to pay his way through Princeton after crashing out in his former job. When he attempts to win his tuition fees on an online gambling website, he believes that he’s been swindled when he loses all of his money. With nothing left to lose, Richie heads to Costa Rica to confront the owner of the website, Ivan Block. Instead of just getting his money back, Ivan offers Richie a job and promises great wealth. To begin with Richie is having the time of his life and loves what he’s doing but he soon realises that there is a lot more to Ivan and his business than meets the eye. Richie is right in the middle of Ivan’s dirty dealings and it looks like he will take the fall for everything.

Justin Timberlake as Richie Furst
Gemma Arterton as Rebecca Shafran
Anthony Mackie as Agent Shavers
Ben Affleck as Ivan Block
David Costabile as Professor Hornstein
Sam Palladio as Shecky
Oliver Cooper as Andrew Cronin
Ben Schwartz as Craig

What I thought
I didn’t know much about this film before going to see it apart from the fact that it starred Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake but those were good enough reasons for me to go and see it.

The plot surrounds Richie Furst who used to have a great job on Wall Street. Unfortunately, that ended and Richie goes back to college to complete his post grad. However, due to his past employment, he cannot get any help with tuition so he has to pay it all himself. Richie’s character is extremely intelligent and figures that he can get sign ups to an online gambling website and receive a cut of everyone who signs up. But, the dean of Princeton threatens to expel him if he keeps it up. I liked how the beginning of the film set up the explanations of online gambling and the way that people chase money on there. But, after that, it all got a bit too crazy and unrealistic.

You see, Furst runs off to Costa Rica to confront the owner of the website face to face. He knows Ivan Block in incredibly hard to get to but figures it’s worth a try anyway because he’s desperate. Even though it’s stated that Ivan Block is hard to get to, Richie seems to manage it with very little trouble at all. Playing Ivan Block is Ben Affleck who has had a bit of a bad run of acting jobs in the past few years. However, I quite liked him in this role for the most part. He plays a character that is quite smarmy and slick, who knows that he can do pretty much whatever he wants. Affleck acts cool, calm and collected for the most part but is also able to lose his temper and show the meaner, more devious side to him when he needs to. Even though he did a good job, there are loads of actors who could probably have done better.

Justin Timberlake hasn’t had that many roles since hitting the film business but he does always manage to switch it up a little bit. In Runner, Runner Timberlake plays main character Richie Furst. I found Timberlake to be absolutely fantastic in this film. At the beginning he is confident, clever and doesn’t see that he’s doing anything wrong. It’s only when he loses all of his money gambling online that he begins to change. He makes the change from Princeton student to wealthy and stylish very quickly which goes to show what money can buy you… a nice suit! Anyhow, Timberlake manages the transition pretty damn well and became more likeable as the film went on due to what was happening to him. However, I would have liked to have seen Timberlake lose it a little more towards the end of the film as he was too calm for what was happening around him.

Runner, Runner doesn’t have the most complicated or exciting plot because basically, it’s been done before. This is a film that doesn’t really offer anything new which was quite disappointing. While this may not be an original film, it is still very entertaining. There is plenty going on throughout, even with a slow start, and there are little clues being dropped everywhere. I enjoyed watching Richie get to grips with his new life and to figure out exactly who he could trust around him.

There are also a few things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Richie is supposed to be incredibly intelligent but he doesn’t see what’s going on around him until quite near the end of the film. He also should have been able to outsmart Ivan with ease or at least do more about what was happening. Not only that, but if he was so clever, he should have probably known that Ivan’s offer was far too good to be true. Things like that just don’t happen. It’s a shame that such little issues let this film down.

While I did enjoy Runner, Runner, it could have been such a better film. The plot was quite standard and there were problems throughout. One to buy on DVD when it’s cheap though. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Shadowplay by Laura Lam

About the book
Shadowplay is the second book in the Pantomime series by Laura Lam. The book was published by Strange Chemistry on 2nd January and it is 400 pages long. I received an ebook for review through NetGalley.

The horrors of time spent in the Circus are now behind Micah Grey and he is now on the run with the white clown, Drystan. With very few places to go, they take refuge with the once great magician, Jasper Maske. As they’ll be staying with him for a while, Maske agrees to teach both Micah and Drystan his trade. Maske has his own secrets though and they turn into a dual between Micah and Drystan and his rival.

People are also hunting Micah and who he was before, the daughter of a noble family. Even with the magic he’s learning, Micah is having trouble staying hidden. He’s also learning that there is a lot more out there to learn than fancy card tricks.

What I thought
Pantomime was one of my favourite books of 2013 and I couldn’t wait to read the second instalment. Pantomime was full of interesting ideas and had a pretty magical setting.

Shadowplay begins where Pantomime left off, with Micah and Drystan on the run. They encountered some pretty bad things while being in the circus and they’re being hunted, especially Micah. Something I truly missed in this book was the circus setting, even though it was replaced with something just as exciting and mysterious. Shadowplay enters the world of magic and illusion which I absolutely loved. Laura Lam puts in so much description of events and places and I could feel as though I was really there with Micah experiencing what he was.

New characters in this book help to make it as good as it is. We have magician Maske who is extremely mysterious but also funny in his ways and we have Cyan, a stranger who also seeks refuge at Maske’s house. I really couldn’t get enough of Cyan. From the moment she arrived, it was clear that she too was keeping secrets and I couldn’t wait to find out who she was and why she was staying with Maske. Her character is complex and interesting and I really enjoyed seeing Micah getting to know her more and deciding whether or not she could be trusted.

I felt as though Micah didn’t go through quite as much in this book as he did in Pantomime but instead he grew surer of himself and more aware of the world around him. Now out of the circus and on the run again, Micah has more people knowing about who and what he really is and he has to come to terms with trusting those around him which is hard when he knows he is being hunted. There are times in Shadowplay where I was thinking ‘Go Micah’ and I was hoping for some things to happen for him at a quicker pace. However, the slowness of some events kept the anticipation alive.

Shadowplay isn’t exciting in the way that Pantomime was but there is still so much going on. Not only do we have a dual between Maske and his rival magician but the new characters shed light into the world that Lam has created. Lam also tackles issues such as sexuality, politics and discrimination and they are all written about wonderfully. The plot is incredibly unique and one that had me hooked. I couldn’t stop reading this book and now that I’ve finished it, I want even more.

If you liked Pantomime, you will not be disappointed with the sequel. Micah is one hell of a character and leads such an interesting but dangerous life. I cannot wait to see what happens to him next.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

About the book
Christmas at Carrington’s is the follow up book to Cupcakes at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown. The book was published by Harper on 5th December and it is 384 pages long. I received and ebook for review through NetGalley.

Georgie Hart runs the Women’s Accessory section in Carrington’s department store in Mulberry-On-Sea. She’s your average woman, a size 14 with a brunette bob and she absolutely loves Christmas. She’s also kind of secretly seeing the boss, Mr Tom Carrington himself. Life couldn’t be better for Georgie.

When Georgie finds out about Tom’s surprise though, she is not happy. Carrington’s is going to be part of a nationwide television show featuring retail guru Kelly Cooper who promises to revitalise the Carrington name. Georgie isn’t impressed with being on television without her permission, especially as she made a fool out of herself. Not only that but Kelly’s daughter seems to want Tom for herself and Georgie knows she can’t complete with someone like her.

Will Christmas at Carrington’s be a disaster or will there be some magical surprises along the way?

What I thought
I have to start by saying that I haven’t read the first book in this series but both can be read as stand-alone books.

Carrington’s is a large department store in Mulberry-On-Sea and the series focuses on different people working in that store. The whole idea of Carrington’s reminded me of a not so expensive Harrods but with the dreams to be as big as somewhere like that. This book focuses on Georgie Hart who works in women’s accessories. I gather from some things that happen in this book that she was also in the first as well. The staff there seem to have a really nice family feeling going on and everyone gets along well... to begin with.

You see, big boss Mr Carrington secretly makes a deal to have Carrington’s take part in a reality TV show where the store will get a massive make over by Kelly Cooper. Georgie doesn’t know anything about it even though she’s seeing Tom and is mortified when she sees herself on television for the first time. She wants nothing to do with the show until she’s talked into it with the promise of extra money per show and the opportunity for a make-over and the chance to write in a magazine. As shallow as it sounds, Georgie figures she’s going to be forced into it anyway so why not make something out of it.

I absolutely loved Georgie. Not only is she a real woman at size 14 but she’s absolutely fine with who she is. It was so refreshing to read about someone who wasn’t stick thin and who liked to eat. She’s also such a lovely character and genuinely appeared to be a kind, friendly and caring woman. What I loved so much about Georgie is that she was someone I would have loved to have been friends with. She’s put in some pretty awkward situations but she manages to bounce back every single time and she’s also hilarious while she tries.

The whole television show aspect of Christmas at Carrington’s was fantastic. The plot was something of a mix between The Hotel Inspector and that show where the woman helps out shops (cannot remember the name of it for the life of me)! It was fun to see what problems Kelly thought the store had and what she was doing to attempt to fix those things. The television show also put the characters in really funny situations such as trying to figure out who were real customers and who weren’t.

The one thing that was lacking in this book for me was the romance. I didn’t really feel the lust and attraction between Georgie and Tom. Maybe this was something I had missed out on by not reading the first book. I could see the attraction from her but he really didn’t seem that bothered during any point in the book. If there isn’t going to at least be some good chemistry, I don’t see the point in having a relationship in a book such as this. If those missing elements had been there, this would have easily been a five star book for me.

Overall though, Christmas at Carrington’s is a really good and enjoyable read.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

About the book
Stealing Parker is a young adult novel by Miranda Kenneally and part of the Hundred Oaks series. The book was published by Sourcebooks Fire on 25th October and it is 256 pages long.

Parker Shelton once had a perfect life. She was well on her way to becoming valedictorian, played on the softball team and was pretty popular. But then her mother’s scandal ruins everything, including Parker’s name.

Parker reinvents herself by losing weight, quitting softball and making sure everyone in school knows that she’s into boys even if it means kissing quite a few. Only it’s not just boys that she’s interested in. The new coach of the boy’s football team draws her attention and while she knows it’s wrong, Parker can’t help herself.

Parker keeps on changing from the girl she used to be but will she take it too far?

What I thought
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Catching Jordan and really wanted more from this author. This book can be read as a stand-alone as well as in sequence with the series.

Unlike the protagonist in Catching Jordan, I found Parker not nearly as easy to like. It is clear from the beginning of the book that she’s had a bit of a rough time at home and school due to things that her mother did. The way in which the community reacted to Parker was absolutely disgusting so no wonder she wanted to change who she was. Parker lives in quite a religious community and goes to church herself but they aren’t one who accept lesbians and Parker’s mother ran away to be with another woman. I felt for Parker because of her situation but she really didn’t make the best decisions at times.

Although Parker gives up playing for the softball team herself, she ends up helping out with the boys’ team due to, well, all of the boys. It’s the new coach that catches her eye though and eventually, the two become quite good friends who talk all the time out of school hours. One thing leads to another and Parker and Brian (the coach) become more than just friends even though it could end Brian’s career. I honestly hated Brian. He took full advantage of Parker and treated her like dirt pretty much.

There are also two other boys to add into the mix. Drew is Parker’s best friend and an absolute sweetheart and Will (Corndog) is a newish friend to Parker. I really enjoyed reading about these two characters because both has such special qualities about them. Drew was there to cheer Parker up and to watch Harry Potter with her and Corndog was hilarious. He never does what people expect of him and he is exactly the kind of person that Parker should be around.

While Parker annoyed me at times because she couldn’t see how stupid she was being, I really enjoyed this book. The characters were fantastic I just wish that the plot had been a little better. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

About the book
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler was published by Bloomsbury Reader on 12th September and the book is 352 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

British Esme Garland now lives in New York studying art history. She is completely in love with the city, her apartment and her boyfriend. However, he doesn’t seem to feel quite the same as she does and when she finds out she’s pregnant things go horribly wrong. Esme’s boyfriend comes from old money and is expected to live his life a certain way. Just when she’s about to tell Mitchell about the baby, he dumps her, leaving her all alone in a country where she won’t get any help with the baby.

On the Upper West Side is a small, shabby second-hand bookstore called The Owl. Esme finds instant pleasure in spending time there and soon has a part time job there. The Owl is filled with interesting characters, dusty old books and a saving grace for Esme.

What I thought
When I saw this one on NetGalley I thought it would be the perfect book for me. As a lover of books and quirky old book shops, I was instantly interested in finding out more about one set in New York. This was a really strange book from beginning to end. At points, I really struggled to keep going and was tempted to put it down but the strangeness is what kept me going. I wanted to find out how much more ridiculous it could get.

I just could not get my head around how stupid protagonist Esme was. Somehow she’s supporting herself through studying in New York. She has a super-rich boyfriend who is an absolute arse to her but she’s determined to stay with him because she just can’t see what an idiot he is. When he does find out about the baby, he tries to get her to have an abortion, acts like an arse once again and then at some point, proposes in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Honestly, who would have stayed with a man like that. Esme, that’s who.

So, after Esme finds out that she’s pregnant, she talks her way into having a part time job at The Owl, a pretty run down second-hand book shop which is pretty much filled with crazy people. I have no idea why anyone would have taken Esme on considering she only has a student visa and she’s pregnant. Surely that would never happen. Not only that, but the book shop has nice enough staff but seems to become a second home to homeless guys and drunks. Not the safest place for a pregnant lady to be hanging out now is it? There are plenty of situations and events that happen while Esme is at work and I just didn’t understand what was going on. She’s often alone with one of the homeless guys who then tells her to go get something to eat five blocks away and to leave the shop with him. Who would do that?!

So, with a mix of insane characters you would think that this book would have an amazing plot to make up for that… but it doesn’t. The plot pretty much is just about Esme making bad decisions in regards to her pregnancy and her future with Mitchell. There is nothing funny or even remotely exciting about The Bookstore and instead, it was just weird. I can’t really recommend this one because even though I finished it, I didn’t really enjoy it. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Headfirst Falling by Melissa Guinn

About the book
Headfirst Falling is a new adult novel by Melissa Guinn. It was published by Carina Press on 23rd September and the book is 262 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Charlie Day had fallen in love with Jackson Stiles a long time ago but it never seemed to work out between them. Then, Jackson and Charlie’s brother enlisted and was sent off to Iraq. Jackson came back different though and Charlie’s brother didn’t come back at all.

Now leading a civilian life, Jackson takes a job with Charlie’s father and soon discovers that the spark he once had with Charlie is still there. Going to war has changed Jackson and he struggles to cope with his new life and Charlie struggles with the fact that he came back and her brother did not. Will Charlie and Jackson be able to get over the changes in their life in order to find their love again?

What I thought
While I like new adult novels, the same romances over and over again get boring and repetitive. I couldn’t wait to read this one as it seemed as though it would tackle some really important and current issues.

The book begins with Jackson’s point of view, with him and Adam (Charlie’s brother) being away in Iraq and making promised to each other in case anything ever happens. Jackson constantly carries around a picture of Charlie and is the one thing he can’t stop thinking about. Jackson and Adam are best friends so when Adam makes Jackson promise to look after Charlie, he can’t refuse. Jackson instantly comes across as such a sweet guy, confession that he didn’t know what he had when he was at home and going across the world to fight a war made him realise his mistakes.

When Jackson arrives back home without Adam, he has no idea what to do with himself. He knows he’s going to have to speak to and see Charlie but he just isn’t ready to deal with that. He can’t forgive himself for not being able to save Adam and feels as though Charlie won’t be able to see past that either. Charlie doesn’t want to have to deal with Jackson. She imagines hating him on first sight and resenting him but she’s surprised when all she wants to do is run into his arms.

While Jackson was a likeable character, Charlie drove me insane. She did not deal with any of her problems well at all and tended to drown her problems with alcohol. She also completely ignored problems with family members because she was so self-obsessed. Charlie acted extremely childish at times and while I understood she was struggling with the loss of her brother, I just wanted to slap some sense into her at times. Due to all of this, I found it really hard to like Charlie for the most part of the book.

Even though I disliked Charlie somewhat, I did really enjoy reading this book. Jackson’s story and watching him come out of Iraq was extremely interesting to read about. I have friends in the forces and can only imagine how they must feel after tours of Iraq or Afghanistan. However, I would have liked to have seen more about PTSD. It is clear that Jackson has problems being back in society but I wanted more about his struggles deep down and the horrors he would have been thinking about. While the initial idea of the book was good, it could have been made to be fantastic.

Even with its problems, Headfirst Falling is a good new adult novel that is different from everything else I’ve read so far. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Guiding the Fall by Chrisy Hayes

About the book
Guiding the Fall is the second book in the Golden Rule Outfitters series by Christy Hayes. The book was published on 29th April and it is 306 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Jack Forrester has never needed anything or anyone, even when he suffered a massive blow to his personal and professional life. He’s recently moved to Hailey, Colorado to work with a biographer who will be writing about his life and career. Then he meets Olivia Golden, the woman who everyone in town seems to know but for the wrong reasons.

Olivia knows she’s gorgeous and has always enjoyed being the centre of attention. But, she wants something more out of life and is near the end of her student teacher job and will soon be qualified. That is until something threatens her whole career. Olivia thinks she can get out of the mess all on her own but Jack makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

As the two spend more time together, neither can fight the attraction each of them feels. Jack has always been a man relying only on himself but can he let Olivia in enough to gain something extremely special?

What I thought
I really enjoyed the first book in this series even though it did have a couple of problems, so I was looking forward to reading the next instalment. Even though this is the second book, it can be read as a stand-alone. Characters from book one are included though so there may be a tiny bit of confusion at times.

Olivia Golden not only works for her brother but is also training to become a teacher. Early on in the book, Olivia meets Jack over the phone and they have an instant connection. Olivia is curious about the man on the phone with the sexy voice and playful personality but thinks nothing of it as he’s only on the phone… even if he does say he’ll meet her soon (not in a scary, stalker way). I really liked Olivia from the previous book so I was glad to see her get her own story.

Now Jack is a man with many secrets. He’s openly wealthy, travels with his sister and isn’t one to shy away from the women especially when he finds one he really likes. Olivia piques his interest immediately. I really enjoyed discovering Jack’s secrets and finding out more about him, his life and what he’s been through. He’s incredibly smooth but also has a wonderful personality and was a character I warmed to immediately.

There is quite a lot going on in this book plot wise. Olivia has problems with her teacher training, Jack is trying to sort his life out and is having a book written about him and then there are secondary characters Lyle (Olivia’s friend) and Erica (Jack’s sister). These two characters have their own sub plot going on which I really liked although I would also like to see them get their own book at some point as their story wasn’t really finished.

Guiding the Fall carries on nicely from Mending the Line and was a fabulous addition to the series. There is plenty of chemistry, romance and great characters along with a wonderful plot. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Book to Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

About the film
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a 2013 film adaptation from the book of the same name by Cassandra Clare. The film has a run time of 130 minutes and is rated 12A.

In New York, Clary Fray is going about her everyday life when she sees someone and something she shouldn’t have in a club. Problem is, no one else around her can see what is going on. Clary is the descendant of a Shadowhunter, a group of half angel warriors who fight to destroy demons. After her mother disappears without warning, Clary is forced to ask for the help of other Shadowhunters as they may be the only ones who can help her. She is thrown into a new life filled with demons, vampires and werewolves, amongst other things, and must quickly learn to accept what she thought could never be possible.
Lily Collins as Clary Fray
Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland
Robert Sheehan as Simon Lewis
Kevin Zegers as Alec Lightwood
Lena Headey as Jocelyn Fray
Kevin Durand as Emil Pangborn
Aidan Turner as Luke Garroway
Jemima West as Isabelle Lightwood
Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane
C. C. H. Pounder as Madame Dorothea
Jared Harris as Hodge Starkweather
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine Morgenstern

What I thought
The Mortal Instruments is a series of books that I absolutely love so when I heard about the film being made, I was a little wary about it. I had never heard of the girl playing the lead and the actor playing the male lead just didn’t sit right with me. I had also heard bad things from others who love the books just as much as me.

City of Bones has quite a quick beginning. It doesn’t take long for protagonist Clary to be introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters. While out in a club with her best friend Simon, she thinks she witnesses a murder than no one else can see but learns that the now dead man was actually a demon. Here, she meets Jace (a Shadowhunter) and he explains what is really going on although he is surprised she can actually see him. While I was thankful that the beginning of the film wasn’t dragged out, I do think that Clary became all too okay with the changes in her life too quickly. I remember in the book that she took a while to get used to everything that was going on around her.

Speaking of Clary, Lily Collins plays the character and I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by her performance. Collins makes the character likeable while still being able to show strength and bravery. There are a few times where she comes across as a bit whiney but not overly and I was thankful for that. As someone I hadn’t previously heard of, I was unsure about how well she’d be able to portray the role but she did a good job. Collins shows emotion well throughout the whole film and considering how much the character has to go through, she needed to show quite a lot. I think that Collins also dealt really well with the action scenes which I wasn’t expecting.

As with the beginning of the film, the plot moves along at a quick pace. There is a lot going on in this film and it is pretty non-stop all the way through. As soon as Clary learns of the Shadowhunters and what they do, her life is filled with secrets, lies and demons. The fight scenes were pretty impressive and well done by all involved. There are quite a few characters in the film, not all of which are Shadowhunters. There are allies and enemies between different kinds of creature and I really enjoyed how this was explored. There is a whole host of supernatural creatures to get to know in City of Bones and it was interesting to see how they worked (or didn’t) together to get things done.

As this is a film adaptation of a book, there are certainly things missing that I think should have been put in. People who have read the book might be a little disappointed to see some quite important parts missing but obviously, the film can only be so long so things needed to be cut. However, while I would have liked to have seen some things, I was still happy with the film overall. Author Cassandra Clare had a hand in writing the screenplay and watched over production so I guess if she was happy, then book fans should be as well. For me, casting was most of the problem rather than the plot and bits missing.

One thing that did get talked about a lot was the portrayal of Jace Wayland, Clary’s love interest. Playing Jace is Jamie Campbell Bower. Now, for those who haven’t read the book, I’m sure you will all find him to be great in the role. Jace is a character who is full of himself, cocky and very witty. Campbell Bower manages to get this part of the role absolutely perfect and he comes across as arrogant and as someone who loves himself. His acting skills are not to be frowned at and I do think he did a really good job. However, he still isn’t the Jace I imagined. In my eyes, Jace was a bigger guy with a lot more muscle and Campbell Bower is quite slim although he did bulk up a bit for the role. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him though, he just wasn’t perfect.

Overall, City of Bones wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. The plot moves at a fast pace and is exciting the whole way through. Even without my perfect choices in the casting, this is a really entertaining film and I can’t wait for the sequel to come out. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Out of the Blue by Opal Mellon

About the book
Out of the Blue is the second book in the new adult Sunset Series (can be read as a stand-alone) by Opal Mellon. The book was published by 30th April and it is 204 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Molly and Justin meet in college, realising they’re two very different people. Justin is beautiful and an instant hit with the rest of his class while Molly is awkward and shy. However, with a love of computers, the two form a strange friendship that quickly dissolves when Justin disappears without a word after a terrible day that Molly just wants to forget.

Five years later, Molly still isn’t a people person and puts everything into her job. But, she now needs a date for her high school reunion and can’t think of a single person that she can ask. When a friend introduces her to Club Blue, and escort agency, Molly is forced to confront her past. Justin, her former best friend, is now an escort and one of the best. She’s desperate to know where he went to and what happened to him but asking certain questions could put her into danger.

What I thought
Out of the Blue had such an interesting start that I was hoping that it would turn into a book I would love but sadly, it didn’t. I found there to be quite a lot wrong (in my opinion) with this book so I ended up not liking it very much at all.

Protagonists Molly and Justin start off in their late teens as they’re in college but then as the book jumps to five years later, I guess they’re supposed to be roughly 24/25 or so. Unfortunately, both characters (Molly more so) come across as extremely juvenile throughout the book. Neither are especially mature for their ages and act like a couple of teenagers a lot of the time. The dialogue used also didn’t fit in with the ages of the characters which was a shame. These things made it really hard to connect with either character.

This book shouldn’t really be classed as a romance because there isn’t much of that in the plot. The majority of the plot focuses on the problems that both Molly and Justin have had over the course of their lives and what happens when they come back together. Molly and Justin share a kiss but nothing more ever really happens. I would class Out of the Blue as more of a mystery than anything else because there are loads of twists and turns that keep you guessing.

My main problem with this book is that some things just did not add up. Molly is supposed to be super intelligent and has a job working with computers. But, when she starts receiving strange emails, she claims she has no idea where to start to trace where it came from. I just didn’t understand how the character could be written in such a confusing way. It was like the author had forgotten what job she’d given Molly and what she’d done at college.

Some of the plot did slightly redeem the book a little bit though. Justin has an extremely interesting past and his job during the current setting. As a male escort, he’s a very social person which puts him in the opposite position to Molly. The two characters are very different as adults although they were very much the same in college. While some of the plot concentrates on Molly and Justin getting to know each other once again, there is a lot surrounding Justin’s past and the things he has experienced. Out of the Blue turns into quite a shocking read that I wasn’t expecting at all. It certainly isn’t for the feint hearted.

As I said before, I wanted to love this book but I didn’t.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Deeper by Blue Ashcroft

About the book
Deeper is a new adult novel by Blue Ashcroft. The book was published on 31st July and it is 226 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Rain Wilson swore to herself that she would never love again after her boyfriend dies in a water park accident. Although she can never forget what happened, Rain needs to move on with her life and finds herself as a senior lifeguard in a new town and at a new waterpark.

Rain believes that she can get through the summer just fine as long as everyone stays safe. But, before the season starts, she meets a mysterious guy in the water and can’t stop thinking about it. It turns out that the guy is Knight Mcallister, her co-supervisor.

Rain and Knight both have pasts to hide and each’s problems begin to affect their ability to do the job, let alone their attraction to one another. They must learn to trust each other and push their pasts aside in order to carry on with life and to do the job that they’re there to do!

What I thought
I can’t say that I have ever read a book set in a water park before and that was partly what attracted me to this one. I also wanted a summery read for while I was on holiday in Orlando.

Deeper begins with a prequel which explains how Rain and Knight met in the first place. The prequel really sets the scene well and it gives glimpses of both of the main characters. We learn that Rain has secrets, although not what they are, and that her feelings towards the stranger she meets in the water are far from normal for her.

When the two characters meet properly for the first time, each is shocked to find out they’ll actually be working together. Rain is only 19 and this is her first time in a senior role as a lifeguard as a water park. Knight is concerned about Rain’s age and how she will be able to cope with all of the hormone filled boys around the park. Both characters quickly establish the fact that they have something to fight for and reasons for being the way they are.

As plots go, this one was pretty good. I really enjoyed the water park setting as it was something different and exciting. The setting provided a whole host of problems and situations that I hadn’t read about before. However, while the book had a new setting to me, there were also aspects of the plot that I had read about before. Blue Ashcroft manages to blend new and ‘done before’ really well, giving the reader familiar situations while putting them in a new setting.

Unfortunately though, I didn’t exactly love Rain. She puts a lot of pressure on herself in her new job due to events that happened previously. Many times throughout the book, she refers to the boy that died as her boyfriend but he had only asked her out on a date that day (although he had tried many times before). This was the one and only time that she said yes to him and to me, that does not make him her boyfriend. I could understand the pain she felt in regards to his death but she made the guy out to be more to her than he actually was. Because of this, she bugged me a bit throughout the book but she wasn’t all bad really.

Knight, however, was wonderful. His pain was definitely justified after what he had gone through. He is pretty tough a and hard on himself and feels that he could have done more to stop what happened in the past. Whereas I didn’t like Rain for how hard on herself she was, I could understand why Knight felt this way. He was extremely protective of people around him and with good reason. Knight is a caring and thoughtful guy and I really enjoyed getting to know him more.

Deeper was a bit of a mixed bag for me but overall, I did like it. I would have liked it a lot more if Rain had been a bit different though. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wait For You by J. Lynn

About the book
Wait For You is a new adult book by J. Lynn (aka Jennifer L. Armentrout). The book was published by Harper on 15th August and the book is 416 pages long.

Avery Morgansten is desperate to escape her past and the events that occurred five years ago. The only way she thinks she can do that is to move away from everything she’s ever known. Instead of moving into the dorms like most new students, Avery gets a small place of her own and plans to make it to all classes in time and most importantly, hide the past.

When she accidentally bumps into the gorgeous Cam on her first day, she’s shocked at what she feels. Her plans only involved making a few new friends, not meeting someone she could actually be interested in. After their first meeting, Cam is everywhere and even though she knows she should, Avery just can’t keep away from him. When Cam begins to ask her out over and over again, she can do nothing but reject him constantly. However, it seems as though Cam is around for the long haul and as their friendship blossoms, Avery begins to think she might not be as broken as she once thought.

What I thought
I haven’t read any books by this author before and I’m not quite sure why she writes under multiple names, especially as it’s advertised on the front of the book. Anyway, I bought this one (a signed first edition) at the airport on the way back from Orlando just for something to read on the plane. However, I didn’t actually end up reading it until way after we’d gotten back.

As soon as the book starts, protagonist Avery comes across as a bit of a control freak but don’t get me wrong, it was a good thing for me. She likes to live her life a certain way and doesn’t like anything that can make her panic in any way, shape or form. Avery comes across as a very controlled girl who has trouble letting things go… she sounded very much like me. In the same way, she likes to have a handle on everything around her and kind of loses it when something unexpected happens.

Cam makes his appearance only pages in and definitely makes an impact. He’s a 6ft something insanely hot guy who takes an instant like to Avery but he’s a bit put off when she keeps turning him down. He doesn’t understand why she keeps telling him no when it’s obvious that she likes him. The thing about Cam is that although he’s a bit full of himself at times he does it in a joking manner so he doesn’t come across as an asshole.

A large portion of the book is spent watching Avery and Cam becoming really good friends. He goes over every Sunday to make Avery breakfast and they sit around watching films and chatting about all sorts. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about both characters and seeing more about them revealed as I turned the pages. Avery and Cam have a really playful banter between them which was a joy to read. The fact that these two characters spend a lot of time building a friendship meant that there was a lot more to them than just your average romance.

My only slight niggle with this book was that Avery took quite a while to open up to Cam about her problems and her past, even though he had been quite open with her. While the plot does generally revolve around their friendship, it could have been better if other issues had been brought up earlier. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth in some parts instead of them being slightly brushed over.

Overall though, Wait For You was a great book and I can’t wait to read more from this author. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Star Struck by Amber Garza

About the book
Star Struck is a new adult novel by Amber Garza. It was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on 27th June and the book is 308 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Plot Synopsis
Star definitely does not go for rockers or bad boys and she doesn’t believe in love at first sight… until she meets Beckett. He’s the one guy she knows she should probably stay away from but he’s also the one guy she can’t keep away from. Problem is, he wants absolutely nothing to do with Star. What will it take to make him take a risk on her?

What I thought
Bad boys and rockers are a bit of a weakness of mine in books so this was one that obviously appealed to me.

Protagonist Star is a lovely, sweet girl who has just moved away to college with her best friend. Loving to sing, Star takes part in an open mic night where someone asks her to join his band. She’s a nervous kind of girl and isn’t sure what to think of this guy’s proposition but figures she might as well give it a try, considering how much she loves music. However, when she arrives at practice, the band’s leader doesn’t take a shine to her, makes her audition and then says no. Lead singer Beckett definitely doesn’t want Star in the band but deep down he knows just how good she is.

Opposite Star, Beckett is completely different. He’s hard, doesn’t share his emotions and he wants to get his own way all of the time. Beckett takes an instant dislike to Star but he has his reasons, which he isn’t willing to share. I really enjoyed how Star challenged Beckett in this book. She forces her way into his life because she really does want to be a part of his band. She shares his love for singing and is especially drawn to his voice, which she can’t get enough of.

This is a much that really revolves around the music. While that aspect of the book was great, with some wonderful lyrics being shared, I feel that it wouldn’t have stuck together without it. If the music aspect hadn’t have been there, Star and Beckett wouldn’t have had much at all. The music is a way for both characters to share how they’re feeling and for them to express themselves. It is also what both characters have in common.

There are some really great secondary characters in this book in the form of Ryker and Lola although I don’t feel as though either were used in the best way. I wanted to know more about each of these characters and I wanted them to be more at the forefront of the story. I would absolutely love to read another book about either of these characters. At times, they were the characters who made everything happen and held the story together so it was a shame they weren’t around as much as they could have been.

Star Struck is a good book with a lot of emotion written into the pages so it was a shame a few things let it down.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Love is a Thief by Claire Garber

About the book
Love is a Thief is a contemporary novel by Claire Garber. The book was published by Mira Books on 5th July and it is 448 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Plot Synopsis
After having a bit of a break down after a break up, Kate Winters begins her mission to take back what love stole from her!

Kate has been extremely unlucky in love. She’s the girl without a boyfriend, without children and it’s looking as though she won’t get her happily ever after. Now that she isn’t constantly thinking about a man, Kate wants to get to know herself again, finding out what it is she actually likes. She wants to do the things she never got a chance to do because she fell in love! Kate not only takes on the mission herself but extends it to women around the country.

What I thought
Recently I have been taking a bit of a gamble on books requested on NetGalley. While I love reading in the young adult genre, I sometimes need something different and this is where chick-lit comes in.

The idea behind Love is a Thief was fantastic. How many times have I given something up because of being with a certain boyfriend… I could absolutely relate to protagonist Kate. She moved to France and lived with her ski instruction (who she thought was her soul mate) there only to break up and be forced to move back home. Kate felt as though she had wasted so much time being who her boyfriend wanted her to be instead of doing things for herself. The worst thing is, she works for a magazine called True Love; how much of a bummer must that be when you’ve got a broken heart?

So, she writes an article without permission about what love stole from her and what she wanted to do about that. The response she gets from women all over the country is phenomenal and even though the magazine aren’t happy about what Kate has done, they can’t ignore what their readers want. Not only does the book follow Kate and her lost dreams, but also those of people around her and those of others. I really enjoyed reading about the range of things that people thought love had stolen from them and how they intended to go about fixing that.

The characters in this book were very varied and provided quite a lot of comedy; this was mainly due to the fact that there were a fair few large and loud personalities. What made the characters so great in this book though is that they were so real. The objectives planned by women throughout the book are more than reasonable and I could certainly relate to what some of them wanted to do. It also showed just how different people are and the things that people tend to miss out on in life.

Unfortunately, the romance is quite lacking in Love is a Thief. There is a love interest for Kate in the form of Peter Parker (no, not like Spiderman). While there was so much that could have been done with this pairing, it always fell quite short. Just when I thought something was going to happen, it didn’t. The two have a bit of a history as they were friends when they were children and then something happened to make Peter move away without a word. This was the most interesting thing about Kate and Peter and without this, there wouldn’t really have been much point to Peter’s character.

Overall, Love is a Thief is a pretty good book. There could have been more romance but the actual plot and subject of the story was really captivating.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Film Review: Wind Chill

About the film
Wind Chill is a 2007 horror film. It has a run time of 97 minutes and is rated 15.

Struggling to find a ride home for Christmas, an unknown girl trawls the ‘ride board’ looking for someone going her way. She’s in luck when an unknown guy is heading to Delaware as well and they agree to share the ride. The girl knows literally nothing about the guy although he seems to know quite a lot about her. While on the journey, he takes a scenic short cut where they get into an accident and break down. A weather report on the radio lets them know about an incoming storm and temperatures below 30 degrees but it looks as though the pair are going nowhere and the stretch of road they’re stuck on has a terrible history.

Emily Blunt ... Girl
Ashton Holmes … Guy
Martin Donovan ... Highway Patrolman
Ned Bellamy … Snowplow Driver
Ian A. Wallace ... Priest (as Ian Wallace)
Donny James Lucas ... Stranger (as Donny Lucas)
Chelan Simmons ... Blonde Girl
Darren Moore ... Clerk        
Linden Banks … Proctor

What I thought
Around Halloween there are always plenty of random horror films on late at night. I had never even heard of this one before but seeing as there wasn’t much else on at the time, I decided to give it a go.

Emily Blunt stars as the unnamed girl, known only as Girl in the credits. It’s the day before Christmas Eve and she doesn’t have a ride back to her home in Delaware so she finds someone else who is going that way to help her out. She has no idea who the guy is (played by Ashton Holmes and known as Guy in the credits). A large chunk of the film is spent getting to know both characters and this is when we find out that the guy knows much more about the girl than he initially let on. The girl gets really creeped out by this and when he takes a detour, she begs him to get back on the highway but he doesn’t. This results in them getting lost, being in an accident and ending up stranded with the temperature dropping quickly.

The girl comes across as pretty mean and self-centred while the boy really doesn’t have much going for him at all. Put that together with the fact that neither character has a name, it makes each of them quite unlikeable and I certainly struggled to connect with either of them. By the time they are in the car crash, I really didn’t care about what happened to them and really, this is when the film gets going. Both characters fail to show much emotion until near the end of the film and by this point, they could have died an awful, painful death and I still wouldn’t have cared.

However, while the characters in this film were a complete let down, the plot does make things slightly better, although not completely. The whole film had a pretty creepy feeling to it from beginning to end which I really liked. Getting into a car for a long drive without someone you don’t know would definitely make me feel quite uncomfortable and the girl also feels like this as the journey goes on. Then, the weather, the snow, makes for a quite strange looking film as there is so much white around all of the time. I have always found long stretches of white road to be pretty eerie. I liked the whole road trip aspect of the film but then this was let down by the fact that there isn’t much character development.

It is only when the couple are in a car accident that the horror really kicks in. Not only are they lost but they have no food and are stranded on a long stretch of snowy road. It’s extremely cold and there is no way of getting back to the nearest town without the use of their car. Wind Chill is very much a ghost story but it is more creepy than scary which was unfortunate. There were moments that could have ended up being quite terrifying but they fell short in my opinion. From here, while the plot did take quite a dark turn, it wasn’t executed well enough in my opinion. There wasn’t enough background story, the characters weren’t scared enough and the things that should have been really scary, weren’t.

So, overall, I found Wind Chill to be quite bland as horror films go although it could have been a whole lot better. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Keeping Secrets in Seattle by Brooke Moss

About the book
Keeping Secrets in Seattle is a contemporary novel by Brooke Moss. The book was published by Entangled: Edge on 25th February and the book is 204 pages long. I received an e-book for review through NetGalley.

Plot Synopsis
Violet and Gabe have been best friends their whole lives and Violet has spent most of that pining after him. But, now that Gabe has decided to settle down with someone else, Violet is heartbroken. If that wasn’t bad enough, Gabe has asked Violet to be his best man. Violet’s roommates urge her to move on, to find someone else and stop pining for a man she can’t have. She meets Landon in a club and he isn’t at all fazed by her funky style or attitude. He likes her exactly as she is.

If only it was only that easy though. Violet is able to see through Gabe’s fiancé’s façade and she’s desperate to let him know exactly what he’s getting himself into. Violet has secrets of her own too and with wedding plans in full swing, they threaten to break out and ruin everything. Will two life-long best friends be able to see past the lies and get what they both deserve?

What I thought
Oh how much I loved this book! This was another random book that I requested on NetGalley so I didn’t know much about the author or the title before reading it.

I absolutely loved the best friend aspect of this book. Violet and Gabe have known each other since they were kids and now all grown up, are still the best of friends. Violet has had a thing for Gabe for so long though and secretly hopes that one day he will realise that he loves her back and they can live happily ever after together. However, I’m not sure that I would have personally waited around for so many years for someone like Violet did.

After Gabe announces his engagement to someone else, Violet finally attempts to move on. I also really liked that although it was clear that Violet wasn’t over Gabe, she did try with a seriously hot guy called Landon. He understood Violet, liked her for exactly who she was and he was so open with her. Landon may have had lots of tattoos and a motorbike, coming across as the tough guy, but he was super sweet, sensitive and romantic as well. Compared to Gabe, who was pretty insensitive and mean at times, Landon was definitely a good option to have.

The plot is very much the case of ‘will she get the guy’ and along with that comes some very predictable moments. However, Brooke Moss throws in some great twists and turns over the course of the book. Nothing is quite as simple as it first seems and there is the big issue of ‘that night’ to address at some point or another. I really liked that this wasn’t just your average best friends falling for one another book and that there was a whole host of interesting characters causing mischief along with Violet and Gabe.

Speaking of Violet, I adored her. She was certainly different compared to the girls in some books that I’ve read. She’s content with who she is, what she looks like and isn’t afraid to make a statement. Violet has a such a strong personality, strong character and is funny as hell. I can’t remember the last time I liked a female protagonist as much as I liked Violet. As I said before though, she has secrets and there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.

Keeping Secrets in Seattle was funny, emotional and such a joy to read. A must read in my opinion.