Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Book to Film Review: Catching Fire

About the film
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second film in The Hunger Games series. The film was released at cinemas on 21st November 2013 in the UK. Catching Fire has a run time of 146 minutes and is rated 12A due to language and violence.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are trying to get on with their lives after the hell they went through. But, they must also embark on the Victor’s Tour, visiting each and every district and speak to the people there. But, before they can go, President Snow pays Katniss a visit and warns her not to mess up or there could be terrible consequences for her family. Unfortunately, she does mess up though which causes him to bring back the Quarter Quell, a whole different kind of Hunger Games. Instead of two people from each district, this time it will be two victors from each district and Katniss and Peeta know what that means for them. In order to survive again, their best chance is to form an allegiance with other victors but who can keep them safe?

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee
Jeffrey Wright as Beetee Latier
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow
Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith
Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair

What I thought
I am such a big fan of The Hunger Games as books and really enjoyed the first film. Catching Fire was one of my most anticipated films of 2013.

In this film, victors Katniss and Peeta are trying to get on with their lives and are getting ready to go on the victors tour. Katniss really doesn’t want to do this as she knows she will have to face the families of those who died in order for her and Peeta to win. After President Snow threatens her family, and then orders a Quarter Quell Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are forced to go back into the nightmare they have already faced. This time though, they’ll be facing others who won their own Hunger Games and know what it takes to come out alive.

Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as protagonist Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence certainly seems to be the actress of the moment and has not done a bad film to date (in my opinion anyway). While Katniss comes across as a tough girl with an attitude, there is also a much softer side to her and Lawrence shows this really well. Although she is a hardened character, Lawrence makes her so likeable at the same time. You route for her, you don’t want her to fail and most importantly, you don’t want her to die. I really can’t imagine anyone else playing this role as Lawrence is pretty damn perfect in it.

Other cast members are just as good though so the show isn’t stolen by Lawrence completely. Josh Hutcherson plays one of the love interests, Peeta. In the first film he came across as too sweet and a bit too nice but Catching Fire sees his character progress quite a lot. He knows more of how the world works now and doesn’t want to be walked all over. I really liked how Hutcherson took Peeta’s character to the next level in this film. Also playing great roles is Donald Sutherland who plays President Snow. Although a pretty quiet character, he is creepy as hell and I would definitely be scared of him. Then there is Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. He is a character who you can’t help but love and to begin with, I was worried about who was playing him but now, I really like the choice.

Catching Fire does start off quite slowly but so does the book. There is quite a lot of catching up to do since Katniss and Peeta won the last Hunger Games. We learn of the beginnings of an uprising, President Snow acting out because of Katniss and the return of the Quarter Quell. There is a lot of story to cover before the film heads back into the Hunger Games again. However, once the action really begins, it doesn’t stop. This Hunger Games is so much worse than the first one and there are a whole load of new scary things going on. As with the first films, there is a lot of violence and a lot of killing so some parts are quite hard to watch but everything fits in to the film perfectly.

For those who haven’t already read the books, there will be a lot of surprises coming for you and I know you won’t be disappointed with the sequel.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

About the book
Racing Savannah is the fourth book in the young adult Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally. The book was published by Sourcefire Books on 13th December 2013 and it is 304 pages long. I received an ebook for review through NetGalley.

Savannah is forced to move to Tennessee with her father and pregnant stepmother. The only good part of the move is that her father will be working for a wealthy family and looking after their racehorses. Savannah has always loved to ride and quickly dreams of working with the horses herself, maybe even riding them.

When Savannah sets her sights on Jack, she knows he should be out of bounds as he’s the son of the estate. She’s had enough heartbreak in her sixteen years and doesn’t want anymore. Savannah not only wants happiness in her life but she wants a better life and thinks she deserves better than what’s been on offer in the past. Maybe Jack will be the one to help her realise her dreams.

What I thought
I’m going to begin by saying that although this is the fourth in a series of books, each is actually a stand-alone set within the same place. So, Racing Savannah can either be read as a part of the series or on its own.

Miranda Kenneally is an author who writes about girls I have been dying to read about for years. All of her female protagonists are strong, independent and basically fabulous characters. Savannah is no different. She’s a girl who has had heartbreak in the past due to the loss of her mother but she’s determined to make her proud. Savannah was exactly who she said she was which was another thing I liked about her. She didn’t pretend to be anyone else in order to impress them and she stuck to her guns about what she believed in.

Something else Kenneally manages to do in each of her books in this series is to incorporate some kind of sport. I have always liked this about her books because it puts a female characters right in the middle of that sport. I loved the fact that horseracing was used in this one as it was something I have never seen done before in any young adult book, or any other book for that matter. The idea was interesting and fun and made a really nice change to American football or baseball.

As love interests go, Jack wasn’t my favourite out of all of the Kenneally books I have read so far (which is four). At times he was lovely and sweet towards Savannah but then he turned completely at times. There were times were he was like a completely different person and blanked Savannah completely or treat her like dirt which I didn’t like at all. However, there is quite a lot of chemistry between Jack and Savannah which was a redeeming quality for the book overall.

While Racing Savannah isn’t my favourite of the Hundred Oaks books, I still enjoyed it and it was different from the rest. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Popping The Cherry by Aurelia B. Rowl

About the book
Popping The Cherry is a young adult ebook by Aurelia B. Rowl. It was published by Harlequin UK on 19th September 2013 and the book is 250 pages long. I received an ebook for review though NetGalley.

Valentina (Lena) Bell thinks she’s a complete failure. She failed her driving test on the first try and she’s never had sex. Being a virgin makes her feel different from all of her friends, like an outsider. To help her out, Lena’s friends come up with Operation: Popping the Cherry. They come up with a list of eligible men and all Lena has to do is work through them to find the perfect guy for her first time.

But Lena has trouble finding the perfect guy. After dates with crazy musicians and in the closet friends, she thinks she is destined to be a virgin for a long time. Luckily for Lena though, she has Jake to lean on through hard times. Problem is, he’s her best friend’s brother and completely out of bounds.

What I thought
Author Aurelia B. Rowl has got British teenagers spot on in this young adult novel. Many young adult novels do not portray realistic teenagers and instead focus on unrealistic experiences and love.

Protagonist Lena Bell is desperate to lose her virginity. None of her friends are virgins anymore and she can’t quite connect with them in the same way anymore because of her not having had sex. I found the conversations and actions between Lena and her friends to be really realistic and I could really picture them all sitting around talking about Lena and her ‘situation’.

Not only does the book deal with the aspect of virginity in teenagers but also peer pressure which I thought was an important thing to address. Rowl shows that teenagers can feel forced to do something they’re unsure of due to their friend’s experiences but she also shows that teenagers should think for themselves rather than following the pack.

While I thought the idea for Popping the Cherry was a fun read, it wasn’t completely realistic. The time span of the book isn’t too long but so much happens to poor Lena. She encounters many situations which I doubt would ever happen in someone’s life let alone in such a short space of time. I also don’t think some of the situations needed to be as dramatic as they were and they could have been toned down a little bit and still worked.

Love interest Jake was a wonderful character. A little older than Lena, he had more experience with relationships and was there to make Lena feel more like herself, rather than feeling like she should be someone else. Jake really was the perfect gentleman, always being there for Lena when she needed him and he was sweet as hell as well. He was definitely one of my favourite aspects of this book.

Overall, Popping the Cherry is a fun, quick read but with a really important subject for teenagers. A great read. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian

About the book
Out of Nowhere is a young adult book by Maria Padian. The book was published on 12th February 2013 (10th February 2015 in the UK) and is 352 pages long. I received an ebook for review through NetGalley.

Tom Bouchard thinks he has the perfect life; he’s captain of the soccer team, has a gorgeous and popular girlfriend and is third in his class which means he will probably have the pick of any college he wants. In a small town in Maine that can mean everything but Tom’s life quickly gets turned around when Enniston becomes a “secondary migration” location for Somali refugees.

For the people trying to get a better life after their home was destroyed by war, Enniston is not perfect but it is the best they have. Tom never really paid any attention to the Somali students at his school, much like everyone else but things change when a few of them join the soccer team. One classmate, Saeed, is lightning on the field and even make it so the team finally wins some games. But, Saeed’s eligibility to play is questioned, Tom messes up big time with a culture he doesn’t understand and people unlike himself.

What I thought
Maria Padian is an author I had never heard of before requesting this book from NetGalley. I only did so because the synopsis made the book sound so different from anything I had ever read before and I was in the mood for different at the time.

Set in Enniston, Maine, Tom Bouchard is one of the most popular guys in school… unlike the Somali refugees who don’t even get a second look most days. Some of the Somali students barely know any English which makes getting to class hard enough, let alone having to sit through them without a clue about what is going on. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the idea for this book and it is one that I don’t think has been written about nearly enough.

A large theme throughout this book is racism and how the Somali people are treated by everyone, not just other students at the school. Tom, however, was not racist at all and didn’t care about colour of someone’s skin. When Saeed joins the soccer team, Tom welcomes him to the team with open arms. It was so nice to see Tom stand up for Saeed when people would put him down for being Somali. There were a lot of mean comments and actions towards Saeed and his friends so it was good to see that not everyone was racist.

What I liked most about this book was seeing the struggle that the Somali refugees went through. Not because I’m heartless and mean but because it was interesting to see what people had to deal with when moving to a completely new place and country and what it could be like for someone who barely speaks the language. I know I would struggle if I were put in the same kind of position.

Padian not only tackles the subject from a teenage point of view but also on a larger scale. The whole town has a divided view on what is going on and how Somali refugees should be treated. It was quite appalling to see people with such power be so ignorant and insensitive to other people’s situations. It would be nice to think that racism, especially in educated adults, didn’t exist anymore but it does, which is a massive shame.

Out of Nowhere is a compelling but challenging read and I enjoyed every single page. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Film Review: Toy Story 3

About the film
Toy Story 3 is the third film in the Toy Story series by Disney. The film was released on 19th July 2010 and it has a run time of 103 minutes. As this is a Disney film, Toy Story 3 is rated U.

Andy is now 17 years old and getting ready to go off to college. He hasn’t played with his toys in years and Woody, Buzz and the gang are feeling left out. Andy only plans on taking Woody away with him and puts Buzz and most of the other toys in a bag ready to be stored in the attic. But, Andy’s mother mistakes the bag for rubbish and puts it out on the street. Now wanting to be thrown away Buzz gathers the toys together and they all hide in a box with Barbie, who is destined to go to Sunnyside Daycare. Woody follows and tries to explain the mix up but they won’t listen. The toys think that Andy didn’t want them anymore.

When the toys arrive at Sunnydale, they think that they’re going to be happy there. Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, Big Baby and Ken give the new toys a wonderful tour and everything seems great. Woody however, does not stay at Sunnydale and instead plans to go back and find Andy. While Woody is gone, Lotso shows his true nature. He runs Sunnyside and captures Buzz. After Mr Potato Head sees Andy (with the eye he lost at home) searching for the lost toys, he knows that Andy didn’t want to throw them out after all. The toys must rescue Buzz and escape from a hellish life at Sunnydale.

Tom Hanks as Woody
Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear
Joan Cusack as Jessie
Ned Beatty as Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear
John Morris as Andy
Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head
Blake Clark as Slinky Dog
Wallace Shawn as Rex
John Ratzenberger as Hamm
Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head
Michael Keaton as Ken
Jodi Benson as Barbie
Emily Hahn as Bonnie
Jeff Pidgeon as Aliens

What I thought
The Toy Story series of films are some of my favourite things to come from Disney. Until recently though, I hadn’t seen the third film even though my husband had bought me a Lotso bear the other year. He bought me the whole box set on DVD for Christmas and it didn’t take me long to finally see that third film.

In this film, Andy is all grown up and getting ready to go off to college. He doesn’t want to leave his toys behind as they brought him so much pleasure as a child but chooses to only take Woody with him. The beginning of the film was actually really sad, as the previous two films showed just how much Andy and the toys loved each other. However, it was nice to have a different setting and a whole new storyline going on.

Although Andy is gone for the majority of the film, the well-known and much loved characters from the first two films are back. Woody and Buzz are just too funny together but I also love the rest of the toys. Some of my favourites are Slinky Dog and Rex. I really enjoyed how the storyline took the toys to a daycare centre as this introduced a whole new range of characters as well though. Lotso is a super cute looking bear but is mean and old. There is a fabulous purple octopus and a super creepy baby doll. Then there is Ken, Barbie’s love interest and he was hilarious.

Toy Story 3 is a film that is suitable for both adults and children. However, there are a few scenes that children might find quite upsetting or disturbing and also a few scenes that adults might get emotional over. Due to there being a few scenes that aren’t completely child friendly, I would advise to let children watch this one with an adult present or close by. There were actually a couple of points where I didn’t want to watch as I was scared of what would happen and also a couple of points that made me well up.

The animation and voice acting in Toy Story 3 is absolutely spot on and I cannot fault it in any way. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen reprise their roles as Woody and Buzz respectively although Buzz gets a bit of a makeover during this film. One of the things that I dislike though about the voice acting in this film, and the series, is that you can mostly tell who the actors are playing each part. This makes it hard to think of the characters as cartoons. Children won’t feel this way though but it is something that always bugs me a little bit.

Overall though, Toy Story 3 is a wonderful film and a great addition to the series. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always by Jessica Sorensen

About the book
Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always is a new adult novella by Jessica Sorensen and is part of the The Secret series. The novella was published on Kindle on 24th December and is 87 pages long. I received and ebook for review through NetGalley.

Lila Summers and Ethan Gregory are having the time of their lives while road tripping across America. They used to be best friends and now that they’re more than than, Lila wants to know that it is forever. She can’t imagine her life without him anymore but as soon as she brings up the subject of forever with Ethan, something changes.

Ethan definitely doesn’t doubt his feelings for Lila and the idea of living without her scares him to death. He doesn’t want to lose her, that’s for sure, but he isn’t sure if he is ready to make the commitment of forever with the chance of losing everything.

What I thought
Jessica Sorensen is one of my absolute favourite new adult authors and I have loved every book I have read by her so far. I couldn’t click the request button quick enough when I saw this title on NetGalley not too long ago. As this is a novella and a sequel of sorts to The Temptation of Lila and Ethan, it can’t be read as a stand-alone book.

At the end of The Temptation of Lila and Ethan, the title characters were finally happy together and planning to go off with one another road tripping across America. This is where the novella is set. Lila and Ethan are spending their nights under the stars and bathing in lakes but one of them is enjoying it more than the other. Both characters also have a conflict of emotions when it comes to their future together. Lila wants a forever with Ethan but as soon as she mentions marriage, things change between them and he becomes distant whenever she brings up the subject.

As short stories go, this one was great. There is a lot packed into the 87 pages and Sorensen manages to cover all bases. As someone who had already read The Temptation of Lila and Ethan, I felt an instant connection with the characters but new readers will find things quite confusing. I liked how Lila and Ethan were on an adventure, not only across America but also on an adventure with their emotions. As this novella is told in dual narrative, it was nice to see how each character was feeling and what was bothering each of them.

Not only is there a great deal of emotion but so much passion between Lila and Ethan. I couldn’t get enough of the steamy scenes between the two, especially as there were some quite exciting situations they were in. The setting of the great outdoors was also something I loved in this novella. It was good to have a change from the seedy bar scene or that of a big city.

I really enjoyed reading this novella and it was a great addition to the series. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Lila and Ethan next. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Faking It by Cora Carmack

Faking It (Losing It, #2)About the book
Faking It is a new adult book by Cora Carmack. The book was published by Ebury Press on 6th June 2013 and it is 352 pages long.

Max Miller comes from a pretty straight laced family and when they surprise her with a visit, she has no idea what to do about her current boyfriend who is covered in tattoos, not to mention her own dyed hair, tattoos and piercings. Desperate, she grabs the nearest guy she can find who looks respectable and asks him to be her pretend boyfriend for a while.

Cade moved to Philadelphia to escape his problems and so he could act. He never expected to get a crazy request from a girl he didn’t know at all. When Cade agrees to play the role of Max’s perfect boyfriend, he had no idea he would be so good at it, or that he would enjoy being her fake boyfriend so much. Could a lie turn into something real?

What I thought
When it comes to new adult books I am getting really sick of reading about weak and virginal girls who are a bit too plain and boring. I wanted a book that was the opposite of that and this was one that was recommended to me.

Max loves her life in Philadelphia. She dyed her hair, got tattoos and piercings and has the boyfriend her parents would never let her have. They expect certain things of her but now that she doesn’t live with them, Max can do whatever she likes… until they turn up for a surprise visit. Her boyfriend isn’t suitable according to her parents and she needs to find someone else and fast. She takes a chance on someone she meets in a coffee shop and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for a while, just for appearances sake.

I really enjoyed the plot throughout Faking It. The whole idea of having a pretend boyfriend just to please parents was great as I know my mum hasn’t approved of many of my boyfriends over the years. She would always wish I was with some nice boy instead of the one I was with at the time. Luckily, I married a wonderful man and she’s now happy finally. Anyway, I could totally relate to Max’s situation but I would have never dared asked someone to do what she did.

Cade is that pretend boyfriend. The moment Max meets him, she knows her parents would like him because he is such a sweet guy. I have to admit that I loved Cade to bits. He willingly agreed to Max’s proposition but told her that he really is the perfect boyfriend and that she would find that out soon enough. Although not exactly a charmer, Cade was sweet as anything and a joy to read about. At the time of making the agreement, Cade is still hung up on a girl called Bliss (from Losing It) and he didn’t seem to be able to move on from that.

Although both Max and Cade have their problems, they get along so well together and their time as fake boyfriend and girlfriend is so fun. The chemistry between the two grew at a good pace and there was none of this love at first sight rubbish. The characters get to know each other slowly and gradually let each other in the more they do get to know about the other. This was one of the best, and funniest, relationships I have read about in a long time and it wasn’t even a real one!

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed Faking It and now have other books by Cora Carmack waiting to be read.  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Perfect Game by J. Sterling

About the book
The Perfect Game is the first book in the new adult series of the same name by J. Sterling. The book was published by Lake Union Publishing on 25th June 2013 and it is 310 pages long.

College junior and promising baseball player Jack Carter has a reputation and the girls know it. That’s why Cassie Andrews vows to stay as far away from him as possible. Jack has other ideas though and is determined to get Cassie to pay attention to him. He doesn’t do girlfriends but Cassie may be the one to change all of that… if Cassie can look past his player reputation long enough to give him a chance.

What I thought
One thing that I really like about new adult novels is that they’re mostly set in college or focus on older teenagers. Most of the time, I can connect with the characters more than I can in young adult books but unfortunately, this book did not have characters who I could connect to.

To start with, I did really like Cassie. While other girls were throwing themselves at Jack, she wasn’t having any of it. She was determined to stay away from him and called him out for being a player. She seemed strong and tough and with a mind of her own. She also tells him that she will not stand for cheating and if that happens, she’s gone. It all went quickly downhill though.

Jack has a very split personality. One minute he’s trying to be a completely gentleman to impress Cassie but then next he is the biggest arsehole ever imaginable. He openly admits to never sleeping with the same girl twice; not dating the same girl twice, sleeping with. What a horrible thing to do and admit to. There were times when Jack was really nice towards Cassie but then he did something utterly stupid to mess it all up. I won’t go into specifics so I don’t ruin the book for anyone who wants to read it but this guy needs a hard smack to the head for being so stupid.

Not too long into the book, it becomes clear that Cassie actually isn’t tough and she really doesn’t have a mind of her own. She falls for Jack’s charm and lies for too easily and quickly hangs off of every word he says. Then, when he messes up completely, several times, she takes him back and forgives him. She goes back on her word several times and simple put, is a mug. If my husband did even one of the things that Jack did, he would be out of the door in a second.

Due to the character’s silly attitudes and juvenile actions, I couldn’t really get into the plot. The beginning was okay but the rest of the book wound me up far too much. The characters became extremely unlikable and the plot just really wasn’t exciting or interesting. I had quite high hopes for this book but it is mostly about bad relationships and people that should never have gotten together in the first place.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Changing reading habits and preferred genres

*Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Grammerly, an automated online proofreader that finds and explains grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes in all kinds of writing.

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because even though I have an English degree, I get incredibly confused between colons, semi-colons and all other kinds of grammar and punctuation type things. Having an English degree does not make me a grammar queen!*

When I first started blogging, I was very interested in young adult fantasy romance novels such as Twilight. Now that I have been blogging for a good few years, my tastes in books and also my reading habits have changed a lot. 

I remember starting my own blog back in June 2010, the summer before heading off to university and looking back, my reviews were so different to what they are now. Maybe not in regards to the way in which they're written but definitely what they're written about. My first ever review was of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. It has been a long time since I've read anything like that though. 

During the time of having my first blog, and also the second which I shared with another blogger, I was easily reading 7 books a week. Somehow, while I was at university, I was able to read the most I ever have done in a week. Maybe that was partly due to having a job where I could read during my shifts a lot of the time, especially when I worked night times. Now, I'm lucky if I read 1 book a week. I work full time now and have other commitments at home and online. I'm also now a married woman and no longer have all of my time to myself. The last time I read more than 7 books in a short space of time was while I was on my honeymoon in Florida relaxing by a pool. Who knows when I can do that again! 

Not only do I no longer have the time to read as much as I used to but my preference in books has changed quite a lot. Over the years, I have gone from liking young adult fantasy and paranormal novels to young adult romance/ contemporary novels and now to the new adult genre. Maybe this is due to me getting older and wanting something different from a book. I do still go back to new adult contemporary quite often but it is very rare that I read something that isn't contemporary any more. I have fantasy/ paranormal books sitting on my to be read pile and they've been there for month. They will probably stay there for quite some time to come as well. 

I've been a blogger on and off for 3 and a half years now and I imagine in another 3 and a half years, my reading habits will have changed again. I wonder what I'll like reading in 2017. 

Do you find your reading habits change over time? How have they changed since you first started blogging?

I'd love to know your thoughts!

*After checking this post with Grammarly, I scored 64 out of 100! I ended up with 15 critical writing issues which included 5 style issues, 4 punctuation issues and 3 grammar issues. Ooops! *

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Book to Film Review: The Great Gatsby

About the film
The Great Gatsby is a 2013 film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel of the same name and it was directed by Baz Luhrmanm. The film has a run time of 142 minutes and is rated  

Nick Carraway is looking back on his life while spending time in a rehab centre. His doctor is encouraging him to talk about what got him to that place. After saying that he once wrote a book, Nick’s doctor wants him to write about a memory to help him to write again and so begins the tale of how he met Jay Gatsby.

The year is 1922 and Nick has just moved to New York to work on Wall Street. The house he finds to rent in Long Island is small but just what he needs. The house next door however is massive and Nick soon learns that the famous Gatsby lives there. His house is famous for the huge and elaborate parties that are held there every week. Nick eventually receives a personal invitation to one party and hopes that he can finally meet the man he’s heard so much, and so little, about. Once at the party though, Nick realises that no one seems to know Gatsby but they’re just there anyway. But, Gatsby finds Nick and introduces himself and the two instantly hit it off.

Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan also lives in New York and it turns out, she’s one of the few people who actual know, or knew, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is asking a massive favour from Nick and it’s no coincidence that he invited him to that one party…

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby
Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway
Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan
Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan
Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker
Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson
Jason Clarke as George Wilson
Amitabh Bachchan as Meyer Wolfshiem
Jack Thompson as Dr. Walter Perkins

What I thought
Although a classic novel, I have never read, nor watched another film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann directed this version and so far, I haven’t been disappointed with any of his films.

The film begins with introducing Nick as a main character. He’s clearly in some form of rehab facility and not looking too well. Nick once wanted to be a writer but wasn’t successful. His doctor encourages him to write down a memory in order to be able to write again. His memory is of Gatsby. The beginning of the film really focuses on the mystery surrounding Gatsby. Everyone knows where his house is and his parties are very well-known but no one really knows who he is or where he comes from. There are rumours flying about all over the place but nothing is concrete information. I really enjoyed the anticipation that the beginning of the film gave. Never did you know what you could believe about Gatsby. At times, you didn’t even know whether or not he truly existed as no one knew anything about him. Obviously, I knew that he did and who was playing the part but it didn’t take anything away from the mystery in the plot.

The Great Gatsby is said to be a love story but I’m not sure that I completely agree with that. Gatsby himself has known Nick’s cousin Daisy before 1922 and is absolutely in love with her. He enlists Nick’s help to be able to see Daisy once again and from here, things get quite dark and twisted. Gatsby is driven by his need to see Daisy again and to be the man he thinks she would want him to be, hence the massive parties and splashing around of money. Instead of being about love, I see The Great Gatsby to be more about pure need and the desire to make something better of yourself, no matter what the consequences are.

The casting in this film is absolutely fabulous. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Gatsby and does so with such flair and elegance at the same time. He, along with his background, has an air of mystery surrounding him at all times. He’s also quite the strange character, going from one mood to another in a matter of seconds. DiCaprio was easily the perfect choice for Gatsby. His character is a hard one to play due to the many inner demons that he has and DiCaprio shows the troubled thoughts extremely well.

Toby Maguire on the other hand was a bit of a let-down. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of his anyway but I didn’t like him or his character at all. Maguire plays Nick who is a pretty whiney and annoying kind of man. He’s trying to make it in New York after a failed career as a writer and generally comes across as interfering and he didn’t help much in any situation. Actually, Maguire played whiney and annoying really well but I’m not sure that’s how his character was supposed to be portrayed.

Another issue I had with the film was the soundtrack. Luhrmann is known for taking a classic and putting a modern twist on it but I felt as though this one was pushed too far. Jay-Z was the album's executive producer and worked closely with Luhrmann on the whole soundtrack to mix contemporary, hip hop and music from the 20s. However, the soundtrack was far too modern for my liking and I don’t think that it captured the feel of the 20s well enough. With songs like Black to Black and Crazy in Love on the soundtrack, I just couldn’t get away from the modern feel. However, if I were to listen to the soundtrack on its own, I would like it. It just didn’t go perfectly with the film.

Overall, The Great Gatsby is a wonderful film with a few small flaws. The film is entertaining and exciting with a near perfect cast though. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Falling Harder by W.H.Vega

About the book
Falling Harder is a new adult book by W.H.Vega and part of the Hearts Collective. The book was published on 6th October by the Hearts Collective and the book is 513 pages long.

Nadia Faber is a survivor. Her parents both died in a car accident when she was only 12 years old and was then thrust into the harsh foster system. Nadia never felt like she belonged until she moved in with one particular family. While the parents were monsters, the other foster kids there were her saviours.

Now all grown up, Nadia has made something of herself. But, she can’t forget her past and the love she lost. In order to save Nadia, Trace was arrested and taken away from her. Nadia spends all of her time helping people in similar situations to her past but she never expects for Trace to turn up on her doorstep one day…

What I thought
Falling Harder starts off with a pretty devastating blow to protagonist Nadia Faber. Her parents are both killed and with no other family anywhere, she is forced to go into the foster system, moving from home to home. She has a terrible time in her new ‘homes’ but when she moves once more, she thinks this may finally be her chance for a proper family. But, she soon realises that her new ‘parents’ are drunks and abusive. The other children there though take Nadia under their wings and keep her out of the way as much as possible.

This is a book that doesn’t shy away from the harsh conditions that can be seen within the foster system. Nadia is put through some terrible things but she finds peace in her new family, Conway, Garrick and Trace. The more time she spends with Trace, the closer she gets to him. He’s her constant rock in a broken home. But, when the foster parents get too much, and try to take advantage, Trace steps in to protect both Nadia and Conway. Obviously, not all foster homes are like this but W.H.Vega focuses on some of the worst situations possible and is very graphic in their descriptions. While some things were pretty hard to read, it all felt incredibly real and also made me feel so much for the characters involved.

I also really enjoyed the developing romance between Nadia and Trace. She’s never been a girly girl and hasn’t had boyfriends before. Compared with Trace who has been there and done it all, Nadia is such an innocent. However, she’s not annoying with it and I really liked watching her grow up with him. The romance between these two characters was sweet and careful, because of their situation, but I was routing for them both all of the time. The chemistry between them was great but it was also never over the top at any point.

While I really enjoyed the first half of the book, I wasn’t as much of a fan of the second half. After Trace goes to prison, Nadia doesn’t see him again, nor does she have any contact with him even though she thinks of him constantly. Nadia is now a successful lawyer and does her best to help out kids in situations similar to hers as a child. One day though, Trace comes knocking on her door and she can’t believe her eyes. The second part of the book was extremely rushed and I no longer felt the connection between Nadia and Trace. I felt as though too much had happened in between them seeing each other again and not enough time getting to know this. They just jumped back into things without much talking or anything and this bugged me.

I wish this book had been split into two and more time taken in the reunion of Nadia and Trace. The first part of the book was so believable and real that it was ruined by the second half a little bit. However, it was still mostly a good read. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Hopeless For You by Hayden Hill

About the book
Hopeless For You is a New Adult novel by Hayden Hill. The book was published on 23rd September and it is 215 pages long. I received an ebook for review through NetGalley.

Ash Jensen is just beginning her journey of becoming a doctor at the University of Tennessee. Her fiancĂ© was killed in a car accident only a year and a half ago and she’s struggling to move on. She swore she would never love anyone again. But, when her best friend convinces her to work as an intern on a Canadian conservation for the summer, Ash gets a lot more than she bargained for.

Kade Gyllenhahl has tattoos, a rebellious attitude but a face and body to die for. Ash knows as soon as she meets Kade at the conservation that he’s the wrong man for her but she can’t help sneaking a glance at him. Lucky for Ash, Kade doesn’t have time for someone like her; an unreadable girl who lives by someone else’s rules. Plus, Kade knows the rules. No sleeping with other staff.

Ash and Kade manage to be paired up together for the summer but a routine field trip turns into something else entirely.

What I thought
I really liked the sound of Hopeless For You as soon as I read the synopsis. What makes this book so different from other New and Young Adult books is the setting, which was fantastic. Protagonist Ash and her best friend Gina head off to Vancouver, Canada to be interns at a conservation. The woodland setting was fantastic and certainly interesting. It also provided quite a few exciting but dangerous situations for the characters.

Hopeless For You is told in alternating chapters from both Ash and Kade’s point of view. Ash suffered the loss of her fiancĂ© only a year and a half ago and hasn’t really been herself since. Kade has a past and is known for being a player and a bit of a bad boy back at home and he does not want a girlfriend at all. Both characters were great to get to know mainly because they had such complicated pasts. Neither character was exactly who I thought they’d be and I really enjoyed seeing more of their true personalities come out over the course of the book.

Although both have their secrets and feel as though they don’t really fit anywhere, they manage to find that in common with one another and sparks fly. Also, neither wants a relationship of any kind so the attraction to each other is certainly unexpected. The actual romance of this book is pretty predictable, but then it wouldn’t be a romance book otherwise really would it? The predictability with Ash and Kade didn’t really bother me too much not only because I was expecting it but the plot had enough excitement going on at the same time.

As the book is set around a conservation setting, a lot of the plot takes place out in the woods where Ash and Kade, along with two others, are on the lookout for hawks there. But, some bad and unexpected things happen along the way and Ash and Kade find themselves cut off from their travel companions. This is where the plot really gets exciting. Ash and Kade are stranded in the middle of the woods with few ways to get back and food running out very quickly. I couldn’t believe some of the things that happened in this book and I held my breath so many times.

While this book is predictable, it is also a really good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Crash Into You by Katie McGarry and Giveaway!

About the book
Crash Into You is the third book in the Pushing the Limits series by Katie McGarry. The book was published by Mira Ink on 26th November and the book is 384 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Rachel Young does exactly as she’s expected. She gets straight As, wears the designer clothes that she’s supposed to and does whatever her mother says. But, Rachel is keeping secrets from both her parents and her protective brothers. The first secret involves her love of cars and the second involves a seventeen year old boy she has no business even knowing.

Isaiah Walker comes from the foster system and has no idea what a normal family looks like. The only things he knows are his best friends who are always there if he needs them. Isaiah is everything that Rachel’s parents would tell her to stay away from; he has tattoos and is constantly in trouble but he has the most amazing grey eyes that she cannot ignore.

Rachel and Isaiah have more in common than they could have imagined but could being from two different worlds keep them apart?

What I thought
I have absolutely loved the books in the Pushing the Limits series so far and Isaiah has been a character who has made me curious in previous books. I was so happy to see him get his own book and I couldn’t wait to see what he got up to.

The whole series follows a group of young people trying to survive the foster system and families with many problems. Isaiah is no exception. In this book, he isn’t really sure about where he is living but he does know that he wants to be a mechanic. He’s always had a massive love of cars and can’t imagine anything better than working with what he loves. Although Isaiah has a tough exterior with his tattoos, he is such a sweetheart deep down. It is clear that he cares about his friends more than anything and will do anything for those he loves.

Rachel, even though she comes from a wealthy family, has a terrible home life. She’s stuck living in the shadow of her dead sister and can’t seem to escape that. Her mother wants her to be a certain type of person but Rachel actually loves cars and has to keep it a secret mostly. When she takes part in a drag race, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into or who she is going to meet along the way.

Isaiah and Rachel were a fantastic couple. Although both characters come from different backgrounds, they have so much in common with their family problems. Isaiah and Rachel understand each other and they also have such a passion for cars. Isaiah can’t believe his luck when he meets Rachel. However, he knows that she’s way out of his league and should keep away… but he can’t. I really enjoyed watching the chemistry grow between these two characters but also watching them get to know one another better. The romance in this third Pushing the Limits novel was amazing.

I also really loved the plot. You can’t get much better than fast cars, racing and shady deals along the way. I found the plot to be extremely exciting throughout and there was a great mix between the street racing world and Rachel’s rich family and friends. Stereotypes are broken down and the characters surprised me many times.

While Crash Into You is pretty predictable, I didn’t mind one little bit. I quite liked knowing that the guy would get his girl but there is so much going on along the way to make the book more exciting.

The wonderful people at Mira kindly sent me and extra copy of Crash Into You to give away to my lovely readers. All you need to do is enter the form below. Giveaway is open to UK entrants only. Giveaway winner will be picked on 16th January and will have 48 hours to reply or another winner will be picked. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

Love Struck by Amber Garza

About the book
Love Struck is the second book in the new adult ‘Star Struck’ series by Amber Garza. The book was published on 1st October and it is 288 pages long.

Lola’s life had always been planned out for her. She was always supposed to choose certain things and marry the right kind of man. When she meets sexy musician Ryker, everything she knows is thrown into chaos. She wasn’t supposed to fall for someone like him but he’s different than he seems on the outside. Ryker seems to ‘get’ Lola but neither is prepared for secrets to come out and how to deal with them. The secrets between Lola and Ryker could ruin everything they have ever wanted.

What I thought
I really enjoyed reading about the hot musician Beckett in the first book in this series but it was really another character who caught my eye. Love Struck tells the story of Ryker, a member of Beckett’s band. The good thing about these books is that even though they’re a series, they can easily be read as stand-alone books.

Ryker couldn’t believe his luck when Lola showed up to one of his band’s shows one night. He had never seen a more beautiful girl and couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He knew she was way out of his league but he also knew that he had to take a chance on her. Ryker doesn’t ‘do’ love though and only his hidden secret can reveal why. Ryker was such a lovely character. Although he has a bad boy exterior, he cares so much for the people around him and works hard. He’s a musician and also goes to school first class to study business. He wants to make something of his life but the only thing he thinks he can’t have is love. Ryker melted my heart a little bit throughout this book but I’ll get to why in a little bit.

Lola comes across as the spoiled rich girl with a bit of an attitude. However, it was clear that as she spent more time with Ryker, there was so much more to her than meets the eye. Just like Ryker, Lola feels instantly attracted to him but she knows she shouldn’t let him in. Her mother certainly wouldn’t approve. Lola has a bewitching effect on Ryker but their relationship is far from perfect. Both character have their own issues which obviously causes tension on them as a couple.

Love Struck has a more exciting plot than I was expecting. Although a lot of the book focuses on Ryker and Lola’s relationship and the feelings between them, there is also so much more going on. Ryker has a secret that he never shares with anyone and Lola, well, she’s a mess pretty much. Her family have an overwhelming control over Lola and how she lives her life and she feels as though she cannot be herself around them. This puts so much pressure on Lola and how she acts in life and the result is a certainly damaging lifestyle. Ryker begins to see glimpses of Lola’s problems and although he tries to help her, she pushes him away.

When I started to read this book, I thought it would be extremely predictable and I thought I knew exactly how things would go. I was wrong. Amber Garza throws in so many surprises and shocks throughout the book and I never knew whether I was coming or going. Love Struck is so much better than the first in this series and I can’t wait to read more from this author now.