Sunday, 30 June 2013

Film Review: 21 & Over



About the film
21 & Over is a comedy film that was released at the cinema on 3rd May. The film has a run time of 93 minutes and is rated 15.

Plot
Casey, Miller and Jeff Chang have been best friends since high school. As Jeff Chang is turning 21, Casey and Miller decide to pay him a visit at college to celebrate properly – by getting extremely drunk and having a wild night. However, Jeff Chang has a very important interview the next morning thanks to his father who is a doctor. Jeff Chang is warned to be awake and ready by 7am but Miller doesn’t seem to care. The boys go out with the intent of having a few beers but things quickly begin to go wrong. Jeff Chang ends up getting way more drunk than he probably should have and the night goes from slightly wild to quite insane. Casey and Miller are going to have a hard time getting their friend back home and ready for his interview in the morning.

What I thought
The comedy films I have been to see at the cinema quite recently haven’t ended up being very funny at all, or not nearly as funny as they have been out to be (maybe with the exception of The Campaign and The Dictator). Before my Cineworld card ran out, I really wanted to see something funny and to have a good laugh with my flatmate and boyfriend. 21 & Over was the only thing that looked funny out at the time.

21 & Over is your typical teen comedy film that relies on cheap laughs and gross moments. Miller, played by Miles Teller (from the Footloose remake) truly believes that being 21 means having to celebrate with a massive night of drinking. He hasn’t seen friends Casey or Jeff Chang for a little while but thinks that 21st birthdays are something that they should all celebrate together. Miller is the typical oddball character and the one who doesn’t really take anything seriously and Teller plays the role well. He’s pretty daft and is clearly just wanting a good time in life.

Then there is Casey, who takes being at college quite seriously and when Jeff Chang says he has an interview the next day, he knows going out is a bad idea and suggests not going. He’s the sensible one of the group. Playing Casey is Skylar Astin who is best known for his recent role in Pitch Perfect. His character is a bit of a stiff in comparison to Miller and unfortunately, Astin’s acting ability is just as boring as his character. I liked Astin in Pitch Perfect and thought he was quite cute and funny but for some reason, here he just doesn’t have much personality.

The whole plot revolves around Jeff Chang, who has apparently wanted to be a doctor his whole life. He’s in a great college and studying what he loves the most. He doesn’t get to talk to his friends much but once they turn up, he realises he needs a bit of fun and excitement in his life after studying so hard. Jeff Chang is always referred to in this way, second name and all and I have no idea why. Playing this character is Justin Chon, best known for a small role in the Twilight Saga. Jeff Chang has somewhat of a split personality in this film, as one minute he doesn’t want to go out drinking and the next he is absolutely wasted. I really liked both Chon and his character in this film though. It was hilarious seeing the things he got up to while drinking and how much he was able to let go and have fun once he got into it.

While extremely predictable in regards to the end of the film, 21 & Over does provide plenty of laughs. All three of us were laughing so hard throughout the whole film, as was the rest of the cinema. The last time I laughed this much at a film was probably at The Campaign which was quite some time ago now. The problem is, this kind of comedy certainly won’t appeal to everyone. The comedy is provided in the way of gross out moments such as someone getting a dark through their cheek or being chased around by a pretty large and dangerous animal. Also, as we have a large drinking culture here, I’m sure people will be able to identify with getting up to some crazy and unexpected things on nights out with friends.

21 & Over also makes the most of American college culture and the types of things the students get up to. The film makes the most of fraternities and sororities and the closeness of those kinds of communities. It makes the most of getting into bars whilst underage and then being able to flash ID into the face of a bouncer. It makes the most out of being reckless and carefree as a teenager before becoming an adult and being serious about life. These kinds of things are something I can relate to myself as I had some pretty crazy times when I was younger and it made me think back to my teenage years.

While I found 21 & Over to be extremely funny, not everyone will. I really enjoyed watching this film but I probably wouldn’t buy it on DVD when it comes out. 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

No Books Allowed - June

Thanks to the wonderful Raimy for hosting this monthly feature. You can find her over at http://www.readaraptor.co.uk/.

A new job
At the very end of May (29th) I started my new job. Finishing university, losing my old job due to no transfer available and moving in with my fiancĂ© was a hell of a lot to do in one go without having the added pressure of finding work. I was so lucky to find something in only three weeks and for it to be a 10 minute walk away from home. 

I now work for a leisure company which has a gym, pool, kids play area and ten pin bowling and this is so different from what I used to do in a bookies. No longer do I have drunks, druggies and general mardy old men moaning at me. However, I do work in the kids bit/ bowling alley so there are generally quite a few screaming kids running around. This doesn't really bother me as much as I thought it would though and I can near enough block out the majority of the noise save for a few really loud shrieks every now and again.  

Although this job really has nothing to do with my degree, I have settled in really well. Everyone there is so friendly and I've really got on well with the whole team. Also, the woman who hired me, my manager is leaving and so I have decided to apply for her position. I have plenty of management experience and I know I can't work part time forever so this would be a great opportunity. At the time of writing this post, I got a call from my manager to schedule my interview for Wednesday! That came around quicker than I thought!

Wedding planning
A lot of you will know that I'm getting married at the end of September in Florida. This month, John and I finally decided on having an evening wedding reception the day that we get back (I will be exhausted, I know!). We got lucky in the fact that we were able to rent the function room where I work so we didn't really have to think about a venue. I am one of those people who lives for lists and pretty much cannot function without them. Now having a date and a place for the reception meant a lot of lists needed to be made. Guests, decorations, things to be, food plans... you get the idea. I have gone into planning overdrive with this mainly due to the fact that there won't be a lot of time on the day to do things. I am extremely thankful that Kirsty (http://www.overflowinglibrary.com/) will be helping out to decorate the room for us!

This is the room we'll be hiring!
This has been my first No Books Allowed post but I'm looking forward to taking part every month from now on!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols


About the book
Dirty Little Secret is a stand-alone young adult book by Jennifer Echols. It was published by MTV books on 16th July and it is 288 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review through Edelweiss.

Plot Synopsis
Once, Bailey was far from being the black sheep of the family. Brought up on the music scene, she used to play fiddle with her sister who sang and played the guitar. However, when Julie landed a record deal, everything changed. No one wanted to sign Bailey and the record company didn’t want anyone to acknowledge that Julie even had a sister. Bailey’s parents had no bother with agreeing to this, as along as Julie got her contract.

While Julie is off getting her career in order, Bailey has been left at home to live with her Grandad in Nashville. Even though Bailey isn’t supposed to draw attention to herself, her Grandad gets her a gig at the local mall, performing with tribute acts. Here, she meets Sam, a stunning guitarist who just happens to have his own band. With the music industry being so hard on Bailey, she isn’t sure whether she dare get into it again, let alone face the repercussions from her family. It looks as though the music industry isn’t the only one capable of breaking Bailey’s heart though…

What I thought
Jennifer Echols is one of my absolute favourite young adult authors and I can never wait to read anything she releases. I managed to read this one a few months before release and started it immediately, even though I had loads of books with closer release dates.

What I love about Echols’ books is that she manages to do something new and completely different each time. The last book had flying and aeroplanes while this one is set in the world of country music. Now, I don’t know much about country music but Echols uses references that most people will be able to understand such as Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. These characters come into play because of Bailey’s job at the mall. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book because it showed how much Bailey loved music and how much she missed playing.

I felt really sorry for Bailey from the very beginning of this book. Her sister is off with a recording contract while she is forced to stay at home with her Grandad and not have any fun whatsoever. I actually hated her parents because of how they treat her. However, Bailey also acts out towards her parents, explaining that she has done things which don’t make them happy – such as going to wild parties and cutting off her long, blonde hair and dying it black. Even though I didn’t like them, I could understand Bailey’s parents reasons for keeping her out of the way. They didn’t want Julie’s career being messed up.

When you just get to thinking that Bailey already has enough going on in her life, she meets Sam. He plays in the mall with his Dad as part of the Johnny Cash tribute and he’s one hell of a musician and gorgeous to boot. Bailey is warned that he’s a heartbreaker but she is far from prepared for how he makes her feel. He seems to be the one person who totally understands her love for music but he also comes with his own problems. Bailey and Sam challenge each other and they make each other face up to truths that they have been hiding from. While both characters can be seen to be a bit annoying and selfish within this aspect of the book, I liked the drama and baggage both of them had. It gave their characters depth and purpose and to make them more than the music.

Jennifer Echols gives us a wonderful, dramatic and intense plot with this book but softens it slightly in places with the theme of music. Both the plot and the music, especially the songs used within the book, are intertwined perfectly and there is just the right balance of each. Echols’ writing is passionate and deep while managing to keep the story fun and interesting. I really enjoyed how different this book was. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Delicate by Steph Campbell

About the book
Delicate is a spin off book in the Grounding Quinn (New Adult) series by Steph Campbell. It was published by Simon & Schuster on 9th May and the book is 208 pages long.

Plot Synopsis
According to everyone else, Sydney Pierce has everything. She has a fantastic gymnastics career, great grades and the loving boyfriend, Trevor. Underneath all of that though, Sydney’s life is a mess. She desperately wants to keep her secrets hidden from the world but taking part in a documentary about young athletes on the road to the Olympics puts a spanner in the works. Then, new boy Grant begins to pay Sydney a lot of attention that could get her into trouble but as their connection grows stronger, Trevor’s jealousy does also. Sydney has a chance of true happiness with Grant but that means letting him in and the world know that everything else isn’t quite as perfect as they think it is.

What I thought
I wasn’t a complete fan of the other Steph Campbell novel I have read, Grounding Quinn, but seeing as I had this one sitting around anyway, I was willing to give her another go.

In Delicate, we get the story of Sydney (who is best friends with Quinn of Grounding Quinn). She works hard to be the gymnast she is and it is pretty much her whole life. Still though, she manages to have time for a boyfriend and to get great grades. While her friends think she has the perfect life, Sydney think otherwise. She’s exhausted all of the time, feels the strain at school and has no idea how do deal with Trevor, her boyfriend at times. All of Sydney’s problems are hidden from the outside world though… until she takes part in a documentary showcasing young athletes.

Early on in this book (although not a long one) I could tell that I was going to like it more than Grounding Quinn. I liked Sydney a hell of a lot more than I did Quinn and the things that bugged me in the other book were not in this one at all. Sydney is a very strong and determined character who does her best all of the time. She works so hard to have her gymnastic career but then she also has to deal with going to school, homework and her friends/ boyfriend at the same time. That’s a lot for anyone to take on and to deal with well. Sydney is the sweetest of girls too because she always wants to make other people happy, probably why a lot of her life a secret behind closed doors.

When Sydney is paired up with the new guy Grant for a class project, Trevor is far from happy. He doesn’t want Sydney being friends with Grant or spending any time with him. Up until this point, Trevor seemed like a pretty okay guy but slowly, his aggressive and possessive sides begin to seep out. Sydney doesn’t have much of a choice about working with Grant but she also really likes him as a friend. He seems to get her and doesn’t judge at all when things begin to go wrong. Grant was a lovely character and he quite obviously cared a lot about Sydney and what was going on in her life.

Although quite a short book, Steph Campbell packs a lot into this one. Delicate tackles some pretty serious issues such as domestic abuse and I liked the way that it was done. Instead of being overdone, I got the point without it ever being too much. Delicate also has a sweet romance going on throughout which was a nice contrast to the more serious issues. In Grounding Quinn, I found the pacing to be extremely strange and all over the place but luckily, that wasn’t the case with this one. The whole plot flowed really nicely and it also managed to have some good character development in those short pages too.


After reading another Steph Campbell book, I would happily give a different series of hers a try. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Book to Film Review: The Social Network



About the film
The Social Network is a drama film that was released in 2010. The film has a run time of 120 minutes and a rating of 12A. The Social Network was adapted from the book The Accidental Millionaires by Ben Mezrich.

Plot
Set in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg is a student at Harvard University. On the night he gets dumped by girlfriend Erica, he heads back to his dorm to drink and write bad things about her on his blog. Feeling down, he also creates a website called Facemash which pins female students against each other so other students can rate who is the best looking. Due to the website being such a popular hit with other students, and the fact that it crashed the Harvard network, Zuckerberg receives six months academic probation. However, this alerts Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss who wish to create their own website, The Harvard Connection. While Zuckerberg agrees to help, he gets ideas of his own and ends up creating The Facebook, a social networking website for Harvard students.

The film follows the success of Zuckerberg and the lawsuits filed which accuse him of intellectual theft (from the Winklevoss brothers) and for unfair share dilution (by partner and co-founder Eduardo Saverin). The Social Network follows how Facebook came to be, how Sean Parker was a part of its success and what happened with the lawsuits.  

What I thought
I had wanted to see this film ever since it came out but somehow I never got around to it. Now, with my recent unemployment, I have more time on my hands than I would like so I finally decided to activate my free 30 day Love Film trial. The Social Network was the first thing I watched.

Facebook was something I didn’t get into myself until very early 2008 when I lived in Canada. A few of my friends there already had it and I decided it was a great way to keep in touch with them all once I had moved back to the UK. Facebook was something that I had known about for a while but had little interest in. Now though, with my family in Grimsby and me living in Norfolk and having friends all over the place, I am on it constantly even if it is only to play silly games. The reason why I wanted to see this film so much was to learn a bit more about the idea behind such a popular and massive website, which has taken over the internet.

Now, to begin with I have to say that I know not all of this film is factual. The real Mark Zuckerberg states that the filmmakers did not get everything right but was impressed that they got his wardrobe perfect. However, Eduardo Saverin acknowledges that the film is supposed to have entertainment value with a slight look into history which is how I see it.

The Social Network has a much faster pace than I was expecting it to. The film is two hours long as I was expecting it to drag quite a bit as I couldn’t think of what could happen in that time. However, from the initial idea of Facemash from Zuckerberg to the popularisation of Facebook, there is a lot that happens in-between. Jesse Eisenberg portrays Zuckerberg wonderfully, as he comes across as a socially awkward student. He’s quick talking and quirky and extremely clever. Eisenberg is an actor who plays these kinds of roles extremely well and this one is no exception. Zuckerberg isn’t a likeable character though. He quite obviously does what he wants and doesn’t care too much about what happens in the meantime as long as he gets results.

There aren’t actually many likeable characters in this film, save for maybe Eduardo Saverin who is played by Andrew Garfield. Saverin is the guy who co-founded Facebook with Zuckerberg and was the money behind the operation. He genuinely seemed to want to do the best thing for everyone and during the time spent covering the lawsuit, he did seem like a really nice guy who showed his feelings well when he realised things weren’t going his way/ Zuckerberg had said some pretty bad things about him. Every time Saverin suggested something, Zuckerberg either ignored him or shot down his suggestions which made me dislike him even more.

Although another unlikeable character, I couldn’t help but love Justin Timberlake’s involvement in this film. Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the guy who founded Napster and changed how people downloaded music. He’s arrogant, selfish and completely full of himself but I love watching Timberlake on screen. He has played quite a few different roles and is able to pull each of them off well. In one film, he’s like likeable romantic lead, in another he’s a complete asshole and then in another, he’s a bit of an action man. Justin Timberlake is someone I would have never imagined to be such a good actor. Parker’s role in the story of Facebook is a large one. He has a big influence over Zuckerberg’s actions and decisions as he believes Parker has a lot more knowledge and experience than he does.

As social networking is such a large part of society now, the film shows both the positive and negative aspects of it. It shows how a site such as Facebook can connect people all over the world but also cause so many relationship problems. I’m sure Jeremy Kyle would agree with that part! The film also recognises how success can alter a friendship thought to be quite strong. Zuckerberg is so quick to dismiss and stab Saverin in the back once he thinks he has better advice from Parker. It was quiet sad to see two friends in such a bad situation and for how things ended between them. In the end, it all came down to money.

The Social Network is a fantastic film which sheds light on the success of social networking sites in today’s society.         

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

About the book
Sweethearts is a stand-alone young adult book by Sara Zarr. The book was published by Little Brown on 5th February 2009 and it is 224 pages long.

Plot Synopsis
Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick had two things in common as children. They were both social outcasts and the other’s only friend. Jennifer has come to depend on Cameron but when he disappears without a word, she thinks she has lost the only person who really understands her. Years later, Jennifer has transformed herself into Jenna, a girl who is popular, pretty and happy – everything that her former self wasn’t. However, she still thinks of her old best friend.

When Cameron suddenly reappears one day, both he and Jenna are forced to confront their pasts and the real reason why Cameron disappeared without telling anyone.

What I thought
Both the cover and the synopsis for this book are quite deceiving. The cover suggests this will be a nice romance story, with the big pink heart on the front cover. The synopsis is quite mysterious in the way that it doesn’t really reveal what the book is about at all apart from that Jennifer and Cameron were once friends and then he disappeared. There are no hints as to why or what went on in-between then and the time he comes back. I liked that I didn’t really know what I was getting into with this one.

At first, we get to see Jennifer and Cameron’s friendship through a series of flashbacks, explaining what their lives were like and how they didn’t fit in with anyone else. However, as we get to learn more about why the two are friends, we also get to see that it wasn’t just school lives that weren’t perfect. The flashbacks build up to one really important moment which changes everything and the real reason why Cameron left without a word. Not only did the flashbacks enable me to understand the friendship between Jennifer and Cameron but also to understand why Jennifer changed her name and herself.

After having such a bad childhood, I could completely understand why Jennifer would want to reinvent herself as soon as she moved and had the chance to be someone else. If that were me, having only the one friend, not being confident in myself and generally being picked on, I would have wanted to reinvent myself too. I was glad to see that although she was still missing Cameron, she had made a life for herself at a new school, had a great group of friends and had gotten herself a boyfriend.

When Cameron appears out of nowhere, the plot suddenly got extremely interesting. Cameron is extremely mysterious, letting barely anyone in except the Jenna, who he knows as Jennifer. He turns up without so much as an explanation as to why he disappeared without saying goodbye all those years ago but Jenna is determined to find out the truth. There are people who somehow know more than she does though and she isn’t happy that secrets have been kept from her for so long.


Sweethearts is a story about childhood friendships and how sometimes, a special one can withstand anything. Both Jennifer and Cameron were great characters to read about, both together and separately. Their personalities are quite different but that also makes them extremely interesting. The plot was not at all what I was expecting and instead of a cute romance, I got something quite sad and heart-breaking. However, I still really enjoyed this one. 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Film Review: Blue Valentine



About the film
Blue Valentine is a 2010 romantic drama film. It has a run time of 112 minutes and a rating of 15 due to language, sex scenes and some violence.

Plot
Blue Valentine tells the story of Dean and Cindy, a couple who let their past experiences affect their relationship. The film uses flashbacks to explore their lived before marriage and during their marriage. Dean was a high school dropout, from a broken family and never saw himself as having a family and a wife of his own. Cindy also comes from a dysfunctional family although with a better background. When she and Dean meet, she’s in medical school. She has ambition but he doesn’t. He’s more than happy working in a job where he can have a beer anytime he wants.

As the film switches between their courtship and married life, it shows how their characters have changed and why. As married adults, Dean and Cindy have a young daughter, Cindy works as a nurse but Dean doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t have a job nor does he care to get one. This is a story of how either one large event or several small ones can affect more than one person’s life.

What I thought
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are two of my favourite actors so I was quite shocked with myself that it took me so long to watch this film. Both have a habit of taking roles in very different films compared to the average rom-com or action film which is why I like them so much.

In Blue Valentine, Gosling and Williams play Dean and Cindy, a couple who have been through a lot. To begin with we get to see how unhappy they are in their marriage. Cindy is a nurse working hard to support her family, along with young daughter Frankie. Dean, however, is a bit of a lowlife who has no job and doesn’t seem to care about much other than drinking and Frankie. It quickly becomes clear that there have been a number of things which have led to such an unhappy time. Throughout the film, there are flashbacks to before the couple have met and then, while they begin to date. The way of telling the story was fantastic because it meant that the audience get to see everything that happened between the couple.

At the beginning, Dean understands that he is never going to make much of his life, so he doesn’t aspire to. He’s quite happy working to support himself as best as possible. He doesn’t want a happy ever after, he doesn’t want a wife and he certainly doesn’t want children. Gosling is shown as quite a carefree and handsome young man who comes across as very likeable, even with his lack of passion for life. When the film flips back to the present day, he’s balding and very run down. This type of role, especially the look, is something very different for Gosling as most of his roles take full advantage of his good looks. As in all of his roles, Gosling takes this one to the max. He’s very charismatic as a young man but angry and upset as a married man. The contrast in his character’s personality was fascinating to watch as it could have been two completely different people.

Williams was just as good in her performance as Cindy. She comes from a dysfunctional family but is trying to make something of herself. She wants a better life and a better future but things get in the way. One bad experience after another leads her to Dean and even when she doesn’t want to know, he works his way into his life. Cindy’s character is just as raw and as full of emotion as Dean’s. Together, Gosling and Williams make a fantastic but emotional and broken couple. They both have so many problems and destroyed pasts which partly is what brings them together. With two great actors playing the lead roles, you know you are going to get passionate and heartfelt performances from them both.

As well as there being a great cast, albeit a very small one, the film is very stylish. The filmmakers have filmed this in such a way that makes you feel as though you are there with Dean and Cindy in every single scene. This, along with the plot, makes everything seem much more real. The setting of Blue Valentine is cold and quite dreary. It makes you believe that you are investing your time into two real people and a real relationship, rather than a Hollywood couple. This is certainly not a film that makes you feel warm and gooey inside but instead, makes you realise that people do have problems and that not all relationships have happy endings. This is a film that does not give you a false sense of hope not any illusions that it will all work out well in the end. Blue Valentine is a film that is extremely truthful, harsh but somehow beautiful at the same time.

Although for me, Gosling excels in everything he does, this is by far one of my favourite films from him and to have Williams co-star just makes it even better. I call this one a must see!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Clash by Nicole Williams

About the book
Clash is the second book in the new adult series ‘Crash’ by Nicole Williams. It was published by Simon & Schuster on 6th June and the book is 288 pages long.

Plot Synopsis
Lucy Larson and Jude Ryder’s relationship is definitely not easy. The only thing that is, is the fact that they love each other so much. Now they’re both at college, separate colleges, things are going to be even tougher. Jude’s temper gets the better of him while Lucy’s insane jealousy of other girls threatens to ruin their relationship. For Lucy, she begins to realise that having the bad boy of her dreams as well the dance career she’s always dreamed of might not be possible. She’s going to have to make a decision but it may mean losing the one thing most important to her forever.

What I thought
After loving the first book in this series so much, I just had to pick up Clash immediately after putting down Crash.

This book picks up slightly after where Crash left off, with Lucy and Jude both at the colleges of their choice which are a few hours apart. Their relationship is far from perfect due to revelations revealed in Crash but they are working on things and trying to get to be in a happy and loving place. That doesn’t last very long though and quickly Lucy and Jude are at each other’s throats again for one reason or another.

What I loved about this book is that is shows the importance of the work that needs to be put in to a relationship. Lucy and Jude have a hell of a lot of problems between them and while this does get in the way of their happiness throughout the book, it also teaches them that relationships are far from easy. There are some great lessons to be learned from some of the other characters in the book who teach both characters what it means to be in love and the sacrifices that must sometimes be made in order to have a happy relationship.

Although Jude is still the bad boy I had grown to love in Crash, he has come on a hell of a long way since then. Yes, he still has a terrible temper and will kick someone’s ass just for looking at Lucy but he has also become calmer and more mature in so many ways. He’s trying to change his life after Lucy helped him believe in himself. He’s trying to be a better person and to realise that the past doesn’t define who he is in the present. Jude is by no means perfect but that is still what I love about him. He realises when he is wrong, he knows he has flaws but he is trying to work through those things to be a happier and better person.

Unfortunately, Lucy’s character development was pretty weak in this instalment. In comparison to the first book, where she didn’t trust Jude at all or believe anything he told her, she hasn’t come very far at all. Considering all of the mayhem caused by her lack of trust, I would have thought that now she would be able to listen to Jude and believe what he told her, instead of jumping to conclusions again – which is exactly what she did again in Clash. It seemed as though Lucy blamed Jude for an awful lot when it really wasn’t his fault. I wish that Lucy could have grown and learned from the mistakes make previously but she didn’t really.

I was a little disappointed with the plot in Clash as it just seemed to go over a lot of old ground. While the moral lesson of working hard to make a relationship work was great, I felt that there were just too many arguments and characters running away when things got rough… which was often. I would have loved for there to have been one bigger problem maybe rather than so many small ones. Even so, with the ending of this book, it makes me want to read the third book which is out in July so luckily not too long to wait.


Although a good book, it wasn’t quite as good as the first. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Book to Film Review: Oblivion



About the film
Oblivion is a 2013 science fiction film that is based on an unpublished graphic novel of the same name. The film has a rating of 12A and a run time of 124 minutes.

Plot
Set in the year 2077, the Earth was nearly destroyed 60 years earlier due to the destruction of the moon and an invasion by aliens known as Scavs. Tech 49 Jack Harper is one of the last drone repairmen on Earth and is stationed in Tower 49 with his partner Victoria. As a team, they must send any remaining resources to a space station called Tet and keep the drones active. Jack and Victoria believe that their mission is nearly over and soon they’ll be able to leave Earth, joining all fellow survivors in a colony on Titan.

Before their mission began, Jack and Victoria had their memories wiped but Jack is having flashbacks of the Empire State Building and a woman he is there with before the war ever happened. On a recon and repair mission, Jack comes across a falling vessel and is surprised to find humans inside; humans who include the woman of his dreams. The woman’s appearance makes Jack question everything he has been told about his mission.

What I thought
There have been a lot of good films released already this year, and a stellar looking line up still to come. Oblivion was one of those films that I wasn’t too sure about to begin with. I wanted to see it but wasn’t holding out much hope about how good it was going to be.

The premise of Oblivion was good if not at all that original. Jack and Victoria are seemingly the only humans left on Earth and they’re in charge of making sure the drones protecting it are in working order and nothing goes wrong. Jack and Victoria are in a romantic relationship which doesn’t often show too much emotion. The characters are much like drones themselves, doing what their superior, Sally, tells them to. The relationship between Jack and Victoria was a strange one because there were questions for me about how real it was. The plot goes on to show Jack’s flashbacks to another woman and New York before the war. Later, the unknown woman turns up in a ship that crashed and everything goes a little crazy after that, with Jack realising his life isn’t quite what he thought it was.

Tom Cruise is really back on top form in Oblivion. While some of his more recent roles have been questionable, I really think that this was a good role for Cruise. Maybe this was because there isn’t a lot needed for the role other than for him to be the action hero. I don’t think Cruise does too well in roles that require a whole lot of emotion as he is pretty stiff and mechanical. However, he does do the action hero role well, as proven in Mission Impossible etc. Cruise gets to run around a deserted New York, shoot loads of guns and look like, well, a hero. The small amount of emotion needed for this role Cruise carries off well though. He is thoughtful and inquisitive and also shocked when things take a strange turn. I have been a big fan of Cruise in the past (mostly his 90s films) and I think as long as he doesn’t take roles which ask for too much, he does just fine.

The rest of the cast was a strange mix. Victoria is played by Andrea Riseborough. The character doesn’t appear to have a mind of her own and likes to follow rules. Because of this, the character comes across as quite bland and boring. Even her clothes make her blend in far too much, so much so that I wondered why she was in the film to begin with. Character number three in this strange love triangle is Julia who is played by Olga Kurylenko. Luckily, she does make the film a whole lot more interesting. Julia is someone from Jack’s past who he is not supposed to remember. She helps to bring out a more emotional side of Jack and also does very well herself.

One cast member I was extremely disappointed with however was Morgan Freeman. By having a supporting role, his talents are incredibly wasted. While his character, survivor Malcolm Beech is one that adds depth and interest to the plot, he isn’t around long enough and he doesn’t do enough. The reasons for his being around are explained well although again, not used to the full. This aspect of the film could have been done in a much better way if time had been taken away from Cruise riding around on a motorbike or flying a funky looking ship type thing. I wanted character depth and development but Freeman gets neither of these things. Instead, he is a good idea that was wasted.

The setting of this film is visually stunning though. The tower in which Jack and Victoria live is where New York used to be. Instead of the busy and bustling streets, there is a wasteland where nothing grows. These scenes contrast greatly from the flashbacks which Jack has of New York. The world during 2077 is a wasteland made up of large deserts and ruins without much actually growing there. There are scenes of dark, abandoned buildings with the small remains of human life showing through  but in contrast, there are also wonderful lakes and forests which are thought to have been destroyed. The dark colours compared to the bright and colourful greens and blue are wonderful to see and it really shows how different some places are.

As much as I seem to have slated to cast and characters, I did really enjoy this film. The plot was interesting even though it wasn’t anything new. The whole film was pretty exciting and interesting, as new things are discovered over the course of the film. Oblivion has a mysterious element to it where you are never quite sure where the plot is going to go. Although the big twist was a big shock to me, many others did think it was quite obvious. I thought the plot could have gone in a number of directions but I did like the one that was chosen.

All in all, this isn’t the greatest film ever made but it was certainly entertaining to me. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Grounding Quinn by Steph Campbell

About the book
Grounding Quinn is the first book in the new adult series of the same name by Steph Campbell. The book was published on 9th May by Simon & Schuster and it is 240 pages long.

Plot Synopsis
Quinn MacPherson has a very dysfunctional family. Her father is cold-hearted, her mother is mentally unstable and is forever taking a concoction of pills. Quinn’s greatest fear is turning out to be like her family.

When she meets Ben, all she wants is a quick fling with a guy with a smoking hot body. That isn’t quite what she gets though. Ben understands Quinn, with her crazy life and mood swings. She wasn’t expecting someone to love her for who she truly is so when Ben says those three little words, she runs away. She’s scared and she ends up breaking Ben’s heart but he isn’t prepared to let her go that easily. Ben sees something special in Quinn even if she can’t see it herself. Before their relationship can be saved, Quinn needs to accept who she is and begin to open up or she risks losing Ben for good.

What I thought
Steph Campbell isn’t an author I had heard of before but I’ll gladly take new authors in the new adult genre and give anything a go. This one came from Kirsty at http://www.overflowinglibrary.com/.  

At the beginning of the book, Quinn is just about to start summer school after not doing so well in Math. While signing up for her classes, she runs into Ben in the school office. Immediately, she can’t take her eyes off of him and quickly they begin to be friends. The pair have a great chemistry from the get go and I could see why they were attracted to each other. However, the plot synopsis on the back of the book states that all Quinn wanted was a summer fling but this is not how the plot goes at all. Not only does this never get said in the book, it also isn’t really set in the summer either.

The pacing of the book really annoyed me. I was expecting a summer fling that turned into something more. What I got was a tiny bit of summer (maybe a couple of days) and then really uneven pacing and a messed up timeline. In 83 pages ‘a couple of months’ had gone by already so considering the synopsis, I was a bit confused. This really put me off from the beginning and even with hope that it got better, I was disappointed. The strange pacing continued throughout the whole book.

Although the pacing was confusing and strange, the characters were pretty good. Quinn is a bit of a broken mess, something that she confesses to in the very first pages. Her family is a complete nightmare with her mother taking a million pills and her dad just not seeming to care. Quinn appears to be the trouble maker in the family no matter what she does or doesn’t do and that gets to her. She doesn’t understand why her family are the way they are and she wants a better life. I really enjoyed the dynamic of Quinn’s family and the problems that it provides for the plot but Quinn just got on my damn nerves most of the time.

Ben, however, I loved. It makes a change for there to be such a nice guy in a new adult book. Most of the male characters that I have read about so far have been possessive, arrogant and arseholes (to put it bluntly) so Ben was a very welcome change. He was the sweetest of characters, caring about Quinn in every way from the very beginning. Small gestures showed how much he cared as well as saying it outright. I think as Ben was so nice, it made me even more annoyed with Quinn because she just treated him like crap most of the time.

In regards to the plot, I found it to be just ok – I didn’t love it at all. Quinn and Ben’s relationship moves quickly (due to the pacing) but I felt that it was just too quick. Quinn and Ben’s relationship is never defined which I felt was a big thing to be missing, considering they spent near enough all of their time together. There were also too many problems going on for me. If it wasn’t Quinn being a bitch in one way or another, it was her mum or dad, or it was something going on with her friends etc. As there was so much going on, I felt that it really made character development weak and it could have been so much better.


This book had some good aspects but it just wasn’t good enough. There were too many things that annoyed me throughout unfortunately. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen



About the film
Olympus Has Fallen is a 2013 action/ thriller film. The film has a run time of 120 minutes and is rated 15.

Plot
After a terrible accident involving the President and the First Lady, Mike Banning becomes a disgraced member of the Secret Service. When the White House is captured by terrorists and the President is kidnapped, Mike finds himself jumping in to the situation. His knowledge of the White House could be the key to saving the President. With the national security team struggling to even breach the front door, the situation is left solely in the hands of Mike and he has one hell of a mission on his hands if he is to save the President and the White House.

What I thought
With so many good looking films coming out at the cinema recently, it was hard deciding which to see before I left Nottingham (I no longer have my Cineworld Unlimited card). On a night where I had nothing else to do, my flatmate and I decided to go and see this one, as I had heard such good things about it.

Mike Banning is a member of the secret service, protecting the President. On one terribly icy night, he is put in a situation where he can only save one person and of course, he saves the President instead of the First Lady. After this, he becomes disgraced and no longer a member of the team. He is forced into a job he hates and wants back on the President’s detail. Playing Banning is Gerard Butler and what a good job he does too. To begin with, he gives the character a cool and collected personality, which is definitely needed due to his job. After the accident, he becomes a bit more broken down but still determined to get his life back on track.

When the White House is overtaken by terrorists while President Asher is meeting with South Korean Prime Minister, Lee Tae-Woo, Washington is thrown into chaos. The armed forces and national security are unable to handle the situation and quickly they have a bloodbath on their hands. Rushing into the situation is Banning, knowing that he could do something to really help. Here, Butler comes across as extremely brave but his character is stupid at the same time. The White House is overrun by Korean terrorists, shooting the hell out of anyone who gets in their way, and Banning just runs in through the front door. However, Butler is good as the action hero, with his quick and witty lines along with shooting a gun really well.

Not only does this film have a great leading actor in Butler but there is also a fantastic supporting cast as well. Morgan Freeman plays Speaker Allan Trumbull who, as always, excels in supporting roles. He has an air of arrogance about him but also a care for what is happening and he shows he wants to do the best thing, even if others don’t agree with him. Next up is villain Kang, played by Rick Yune. Yune plays evil exceptionally well, as is seen in roles from Ninja Assassin and The Fast and the Furious. However, here he plays a terrorist mastermind who has the intention of bringing the U.S to its knees. I truly believed that this man was capable of some incredibly awful things and he had menacing writing all over his face throughout his performance.

While the film has a fantastic cast, with even more great names than I have mentioned, the plot is even better. At a time when North Korea is in the news a fair bit, this film is quite controversial and I was a little shocked at the subject matter. However, Olympus Has Fallen makes it more than clear who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Kang and his gang have the President held as a hostage, along with some other White House personnel. He intends to torture them until he has 3 particular codes which will pretty much let him destroy America. At the same time, the U.S. defence are being wiped out and no one knows what to do. I was quite shocked for this film to show such a hard time for the U.S. forces and for the North Korean terrorists to have the upper hand in such a big way.

Olympus Has Fallen is a fantastic action film, with fights, explosions and shootings a plenty. There was never a dull moment in this film, whether it be Butler running around the White House trying to find the President, or Kang brushing up on his torture techniques. There are also plenty of scenes concentrating on the U.S. military and White House personnel attempting to figure out what to do, which was quite exciting in itself. I cannot express just how much I enjoyed this film. It has everything going for it and I did not move once in my seat while watching. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

About the book
The Moon and More is a young adult book by Sarah Dessen and part of her Colby series of books. It was published by Penguin on 4th June and the book is 448 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Plot Synopsis
After the summer Emaline is heading off to college and leaving her beach home town of Colby. Right now, everything is the same. Working for her bossy sister drives Emaline crazy but then she has her gorgeous (and usually topless) boyfriend Luke to help save her. This summer is going to be like no other though. When New York filmmaker Theo and his boss come to Colby for the summer, they change everything for Emaline.

What I thought
Having never read a Sarah Dessen book before I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard such good things about her novels but have just never gotten round to any of them.

From what I understand, many of her books are set in Colby, where this one is also set. I really liked the beach town setting as it was quite laid back and relaxed. There is a certain way of life here where everyone knows everybody else and they look after their own. The tourists who come every summer to rent the beach houses are the outsiders who come and invade the town every year but also those who keep it going. I could get a really good feel for what life was like in this place and it also gave the book a nice, summery feel to it.

Emaline was a character who I really liked. It became clear early on what a hard worker she was even with having a very unconventional life. She is made to work for the family business and runs around like crazy, even though it is her last summer before college. Emaline seems to do whatever anyone asks of her and save for a few grumbles, she doesn’t seem to mind doing it either. Even with being so busy, she has a great group of friends around her and her family and it was great to see her interacting with everyone.

A large chunk of the plot revolves around Emaline’s family life. At home she has a loving mum and dad as well as sisters but she also has a father. Emaline separates her dad and father as the one who brought her up and the one who didn’t. She and her father have a broken relationship and it is one she doesn’t understand. For Emaline, she wants a relationship with her father as he is part of her family but even with her mum’s explanations, she is so confused about his actions and why he isn’t as close to her as he could be. I really liked this aspect of the story and found it much more interesting than the filmmaker character’s parts.

I was expecting The Moon and More to be more of a romance story. While I didn’t mind too much that there wasn’t more romance, it would have been a nice addition. Yes, there were moments but just not enough for me. Emaline has boyfriend Luke around but he isn’t in the book even nearly enough. At the beginning, it seemed as though they had a great relationship but we never really got to see enough of it. Then there is second love interest Theo, who I absolutely hated. He was pretentious and annoying and I couldn’t really see the attraction to him at all.


While this was an okay book, I didn’t love it. The plot was pretty standard but nothing spectacular and I think a hotter summer romance could have made it much more entertaining. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Last Echo by Kimberley Derting

About the book
The Last Echo is the third book in The Body Finder series by Kimberley Derting. It was published by Headline on 29th March 2012 and the book is 368 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Plot Synopsis
Violet Ambrose as the unique ability to locate the dead due to the echoes they give off. To begin with, she only told her parents and loyal boyfriend Jay but now, more people are involved. By working with a secret team, Violet finally has the chance to really help save lives and find murderers before they can hurt more people. Working with the team puts Violet in much more danger than anyone is happy with but when she finds a body left by ‘the collector’, she is determined to solve the case before anyone else dies. What Violet doesn’t realise is that the killer wants to add to his collection and Violet is right in his sights.

What I thought
It has been so long since I read the first two books in this series and I was a little worried I wouldn’t remember what the hell was going on. However, once I got stuck in to The Last Echo, it all came flooding back quite quickly.

Protagonist Violet has the ability to find the dead, more importantly, those who have been murdered. The bodies give off a unique echo which leads Violet to their body. It also matches up with an echo from the murderer, meaning Violet can help to catch them. In the first books, Violet was really secretive about what she can do and only her parents and boyfriend Jay knew about it. In this book, Violet is working with a secret, psychic team who all have unique abilities. It was quite strange to see Violet’s ability so out in the open and for others like her to be working on the same team. However, this also brought in some really interesting characters who could do some really interesting things.

The Last Echo’s plot revolves around ‘the collector’, a serial killer who targets female students. As well as the book being told by Violet’s point of view, there are also chapters told from the killer’s perspective, which gives insight into his character and his actions. This way of telling the story is something that Kimberley Derting has done in each book so far and something I hope that continues. These books have so much mystery and excitement in them and I think this one has had the most so far. Also, the chapters from the killer are incredibly creepy and really made my skin crawl at times.

Due to the nature of the plot, and certain events that happen, this book shows what a kick ass protagonist Violet is. Not only does she have such a unique ability but she is also brave, courageous and determined. She completely throws herself into each new situation, wanting to make sure that anyone who is in danger doesn’t end up in a body bag. However, what she doesn’t think of is herself. Violet has little care for her own safety and doesn’t think things through. In this book, Violet ends up in some quite sticky situations due to her not thinking but this also provided a hell of a lot of action and excitement.

While I loved the majority of this book, I was very sad to see that Violet’s boyfriend Jay wasn’t around very much. Jay was a character who I loved a lot in the first two books and it was a real shame that he wasn’t around more in this one. Without his presence, there was also a severe lack of romance. The scenes between Violet and Jay are always great to read and while there was a couple, there definitely wasn’t enough. Also, he’s been a rock for Violet up until this point and it felt as though she was throwing him away a little bit now that she has people like her to talk to and be around.


The Last Echo was the best in the series so far in regards to action and mystery and I cannot wait to see what will happen to Violet next, especially after the shocking ending that we are left with here.a 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Book to Film Review: Anna Karenina



About the film
Anna Karenina is a 2012 film adaptation of the book of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. The film has a run time of 129 minutes and a classification of 12A.

Plot
Set in late nineteenth century Imperial Russia, aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina sets off on a mission to save her brother, Prince Oblonsky’s marriage after having an affair with his housemaid. During her travels, Anna meets a cavalry officer, Count Vronsky whom she has an instant attraction to. Anna is married herself but in a cold and unloving relationship with her husband. At first Anna wants nothing to do with Vronsky but soon enough cannot hide her attraction to him. The pair embarks on an affair which becomes both life altering and devastating.

What I thought
Anna Karenina is one of those films that instantly looked beautiful from the trailer which is why I wanted to see it. However, once watching the film, it soon became apparent that I wasn’t about to watch what I was expecting. This film has a very strange way of telling the story and it appears to be a play within a play at times. We see characters changing out of costumes, set changes and props being moved around. The whole production makes the film seem as though we are sat at the theatre, or watching the cast trying to prepare for their roles. The set changes are always quick and often at the beginning of the film, going from the Karenin home one minute to a massive ballroom or workplace in the next. The stylisation of Anna Karenina is not for everyone and I found it very distracting and confusing at times, especially as within the second half of the film, it is used more sparingly.

However strange some of the style may be, the sets within this film are quite stunning. Set during Imperial Russia, there are fabulous views of frozen lakes while contrasting with the lush and extravagant ballrooms of the aristocracy. Much of the fabulous scenery within the film was in fact constructed on the stage, instead of using external locations. I found it fascinating that making a film could be done in such a way and for it to still look amazing. Ok, it may have looked even better had authentic and real locations been used instead but the style and originality is definitely there within this film.

Kiera Knightley plays the leading lady Anna Karenina. She is in a loveless marriage but has managed to gain a son she loves very much out of it. Acting ability aside, Knightley looks absolutely stunning in this film as she does in any other period drama. Karenina is seen in lavish and expensive gowns which Knightley does not let overpower her. Playing the role of a woman searching for something more in life, Knightley does a really good job. She plays the role of confused and unsure socialite with perfection but then, she is known for these kinds of roles now as she has done a fair few. As Karenina meets love interest Count Vronsky, she is torn between her life at home with her husband and son and a life of excitement and true love. Knightley manages to let her character convey emotions with the smallest of glances. Never does she completely give anything away but there is always a look her in eye saying there is something more going on inside her head.

Supporting cast members include those such as Jude Law as Anna’s husband, Alexei Karenin, and Matthew Macfadyen as Anna’s brother. Each secondary character has their own plots going on throughout the film but each is obviously overpowered by the main story between Anna and Count Vronsky. Law does exceptionally well as Anna’s unloving and seemingly uncaring husband. He is extremely cold towards her and doesn’t show emotion at all. No wonder Anna wanted something more out of life than a convenient marriage. While I don’t normally like Law, I am beginning to warm to him more and more with each film I see him in recently. Although he plays an unlikeable character in this film, I strangely did end up liking him. Macfadyen provides some humour in his role as Stepan, which is a huge contrast to Karenin and the dramatics of Anna and Vronsky’s relationship.

However, while some secondary characters were great, others were not given enough time to develop. The story of Anna Karenina and the subplots within it is a lot to fit into a two hour film so there had to be a bit of leeway somewhere. For me, the richness and diversity of other characters helped to make this film more interesting than it could have been. I would have loved to have seen other plotlines developed more and for other characters to have received more development and screen time. While the story of Anna and Vronsky was obviously the most important aspect of the film, I think that it could have cut down on the time spent with the two in order to make time for other things.

Anna Karenina is one of the classic love stories and within this adaptation, it sees a bit of reinvention. I’m not overly sold on the way in which it was done however and the styling definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. However, the story is a good one and well-acted throughout. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Getting the Girl by Markus Zusak

About the book
Getting the Girl is the third book in the Wolfe Brothers series by Markus Zusak. It was reprinted by Definitions on 4th April and the book is 240 pages long.  

Plot Synopsis
Cameron and Ruben Wolfe have always been loyal brothers. Ruben always gets the girls though, not that he’s ever loved any of them. He uses them and throws them away when he’s ready for someone else. Cameron has never really cared for any of Ruben’s girlfriends, until he falls for one of them himself. Octavia isn’t like the others. She could be the kind of girl to really understand Cameron but would she really be the kind of girl to go for someone like him?

What I thought
Somehow, I read this book before the others in the series which should probably have made it confusing. However, even without having read the previous two books I feel as though this one stands quite well on its own.

The beginning of the book sees Cameron (Cam), Ruben and Octavia together with Cameron narrating. Cam has such a strong voice and one which is really enjoyable to read. Out of him and his brother, Cam is the one to be seen as the weaker of the two. He definitely doesn’t have the success with the girls that Ruben does. It was easy to feel sorry for him as a character, even without having read the other two books, as he is so down on himself. From the very first page, I was routing for Cam and wanted him to get his happy ending.

What I loved about Cam though is that he knows who he is, even if that isn’t accepted very much. He knows that he has to work hard and fight for what he wants, as he states in the opening pages. Cam is also open and honest about who he is and what he wants. While that is sometimes a better life or acceptance, it is also about girls and being a regular teenager. At times, Cam seems older than this though due to the beautiful way in which he narrates. He’s wise beyond his years, he has a way of saying what he wants and what he is feeling in such a wonderful and mature way and I think this helps to really set him aside from his brother.

As I hadn’t read the previous books, I was yet to learn of the relationship between Cam and Ruben and how different they were. Ruben is the complete opposite of Cam. He’s a bit arrogant, a womaniser and not nearly as thoughtful and emotional as Cam. I hated to see him put Cam down on such a regular basis. Ruben really does think that he’s better than others and especially better than his brother, which is largely due to his success with the girls. It was a shame to see that girls were the biggest thing in Ruben’s life and most of what he cared about.  

The plot mainly follows Cam and his quest to get the girl, as the title would suggest. Seeing Cam fight for something he wanted, no matter the consequences was very heart-warming. It became clear that he had never really had anything he wanted so much before, nor ever been the first choice. However, the book also follows the whole Wolfe family and shows how their reactions/ decisions affect Cam’s life and the way he thinks of things himself. I really enjoyed getting to see him in a bigger, more social environment as he definitely wasn’t the most outgoing of characters. Being around his family gives Cam the chance to show how different they make him feel and also how much better everyone else thinks they are in comparison.


Overall, even though the last in the series and with me reading in the wrong order, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters and lives that Zusak has created are extremely real and the story wonderful to read.