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Some time has passed after the end of The Hunger Games and Katniss and Peeta have not spoken to each other at all since returning to District 12. Catching Fire opens on the day of the 'Victory Tour' around the country. Later, it is announced that for the 75th Hunger Games, the third Quarter Quell, there will be a twist and the volunteers will be picked from the pool of previous victors. Katniss and Peetasoon find themselves back in the arena and things are even more brutal before.
Catching Fire has you gripping the edge of your seat from the very beginning. Now I know that sounds like a massive cliché, but it is actually true! There is such a tense atmosphere in this film as rebellion seems to be brewing and no one knows who to trust. This film is highly exciting and much flashier than The Hunger Games but this is definitely a good thing. The special effects are much better and highly impressive, as is the setting and the costumes.
Although this is quite an action packed film, there were also many very emotional scenes in which I was on the point of tears in. This plot is actually quite moving as a lot of people are wronged and killed unjustly throughout the series and I'm glad that this more melancholic tone was able to shine through as well. That said, there are also several funny parts so it's not too depressing.
In Catching Fire we see the relationship between Katniss and Peeta develop some more and we see more of Katniss' sensitive side which is interesting. Jennifer Lawrence continues to portray Katniss as a very real and raw character and seems to get it just right.
I was a little disappointed by Peeta's part in this film as I felt that he didn't have a substantial role. Although he was often being talked about or seen on screen, he doesn't do a great deal of talking and his presence wasn't felt very strongly in my opinion. There were lots of sweet moments from Peeta but apart from these Peeta/Katniss moments, I don't think he was given much attention. I got the impression that Peeta doesn't really exist without Katniss which I did not get from the books.
Catching Fire is a really great film that's actually even better than the first film in this trilogy. The plot is a lot more intricate in this instalment with many twists and turns that keep you on your toes. This is a must see film, though I would highly recommend watching the first film first so that you truly understand what they are fighting for in part two. It also ends on a massive cliffhanger so you absolutely must see it before watching the next instalment, Mockingjay.
I was under the impression that The Importance of Being Earnest was a serious piece of work for some reason but I couldn't have been more wrong. This play, written by Oscar Wilde, is incredibly funny farcical comedy that was written in the late 19th century. It follows the story of two men, John and Algernon who both have separate identities for when they are in town and when they are in the country. When John is in town, he goes by the name Ernest and claims to be in love with a young lady named Gwendolen, whom he wishes to marry. The problem is that the name Ernest is of great importance to Gwendolen, but of course, it isn't his real name. Algernon usually resides in town but upon hearing that his friend John has a young ward by the name of Cecily in the country, he takes on the persona of John's fake brother 'Ernest', and goes to visit John's house in the country. As you can imagine, numerous funny incidences occur as there is more than one man named 'Ernest' and people are not who they say they are.
This play is rather short and I managed to read the entire play in about an hour. There are very few stage directions in The Importance of Being Earnest, but this play is all about what people are saying, rather than what they are doing. Everything the characters say is either nonsense or completely backwards which is very funny for the reader. I must admit that even I got a little confused with all the identity switches but this short and sharp play keeps you entertained the entire way through and laugh-out-loud funny. Reading this play was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I would imagine that seeing this played out on stage would be even better. I haven't read any of Wilde's other plays but I can't imagine them getting much better, or funnier, than this.
Of course, whilst it is incredibly funny, if you read between the lines this is a satire of society and social commentary with Wilde making remarks on love affairs and marriage in the 19th century as well as the vanity of the upper classes. Of course everything the characters say is quite ridiculous and you absolutely cannot take them seriously and yet I suppose the idea of these characters being real people is not funny at all.
All in all, Wilde is a master and The Importance of Being Earnest is a must read/watch for all. Having read the play, I am now desperate to see it performed on stage which will no doubt be down right hilarious. This play is very short and easy to read so there are absolutely no excuses. Although written over a century ago, this witty play is a timeless classic that even modern readers will appreciate.
Half Bad follows the story of Nathan Byrn, a half White, half Black witch. White witches are good. Black witches are bad. That's what he's been told anyways. Nathan is the son of the most powerful and most feared Black witch of all time - Marcus - and because of this, the Council, made up of White Witches, have been keeping a very close eye on him for his entire life. Nobody will give Nathan the answers about his past that he is looking for so only one solution remains - find his father. The most powerful and dangerous Black witch of all time.
I must admit that Half Bad was nowhere near as good as I was expecting it to be. Although I found it to be an interesting read, I wouldn't describe it as particularly exciting. The plot isn't chronological and the book begins in the middle of the story. The first 50 pages are very exciting and are full of suspense so at the beginning stages, this book was un-put-down-able; however, after this point, the plot moved back to the present and slowed down considerably. A lot of the middle section describes Nathan's home life and how he grew up which is great for setting the scene, however, I wouldn't say that all that much happens in these parts.
I think one of the main reasons that I didn't enjoy this book all that much is because although you emphathise with the protagonist, Nathan is not a particularly likable character. You certainly feel sorry for him as he is treated incredibly badly and you're willing him on because you want him to find out more about himself, mostly so you can understand what's going on, but you don't really end up 'liking' him.
One of the best aspects of this book is the character development, both that of Nathan, and all the other characters. We see Nathan as he ages through his teenage years which are the most interesting years and the discrimination he faces as a half-black, half-white witch is comparable to modern day racism which is fascinating.
There is a slight romance aspect to this novel but it very much takes a backseat compared to the theme of discrimination. This is not your typical young adult novel in the slightest, it is a lot darker and some quite deep themes are discussed. There are some unpleasant scenes in which Nathan is basically tortured, so this is definitely an upper young adult novel and I'm sure adults will be able to enjoy this story too.
All in all, I think Half Bad did a really good job of introducing the protagonist of the Half Life trilogy, Nathan, and setting the scene for the rest of the books. Although I wasn't completely taken with Half Bad, I think that there is the potential for the next two books to be really great.
In Crow's Revenge, we meet Charlie Keeper, a young teenage girl who has lost her parents and lives with her grandma in a big shabby house. One day, Charlie finds a strange creature in her home, Jensen the treman. Of course, Charlie has no idea what a treman is but after going through several doors and corridors she has never explored before in her house, she discovers herself in Bellania, a whole new world, that she has entered via a portal in her house. She learns that she is a Keeper of the Realms which means that it is her duty to guard the portal between the human world and Bellania where magic exists. Trouble is brewing in Bellania though as Bane, an evil spirit, tries to capture Charlie and the pendant which is so precious to her. Just as Charlie was starting to think her life in London was really dull, she is thrust into a whole new world with new responsibilities.
The plot is really well thought out and there are several major twists along the way. I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next and begging for someone to explain how things worked in Bellania. My only complaint would be that I think the plot could've been condensed and the end of the book could have been reached a lot sooner. There were a few parts that I thought were unnecessary that didn't progress the plot in any way and I think I would've enjoyed the book a bit more had these extra parts been removed.
The characters were all really likeable, those you were supposed to like anyhow, which made me really root for these characters and their cause. Charlie is an admirable character and I felt like I'd gotten to know her character really well quite soon on in the novel which made me feel closer to her. She's not a perfect character as she has her strops and can be a little selfish at times but she's a young teenage girl so it seems justified.
Marcus Alexander needs to be commended for his excellent use of description. The world of Bellania is so vividly described that you can visualise every last detail of this new setting. There are also a few pictures along the way in this book which gives you even greater clarity as to what the different beasts and species are supposed to look like.
I imagine that a 14 year old would find this to be an incredibly interesting and stimulating read, however, in my opinion, this book is largely inaccessible to those that have progressed beyond their teen years.
All in all, Crow's Revenge is a great read that has perhaps passed a little under the radar and should definitely be picked up by those interesting in fantasy in their teen years. Crow's Revenge ends on a cliffhanger and there is clearly much more to come which I am rather excited for.
Food, Inc. is about how your food is made and how it makes it onto the supermarket shelves and then into your meals. The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than it has in the last 10,000 and Food, Inc. reveals just how this has affected the American consumer.
I've heard of and watched a few videos on what really happens in the food industry in terms of animal cruelty etc. but Food, Inc shows you how the food industry in America is closely tied to the government which seems to care little about the what its citizens are putting in their bodies. With problems such as obesity and diabetes on the rise in numerous countries, not just the US, it is time to make a change and watching Food, Inc. is a step in the right direction. That said, there are also some pretty shocking clips about how the animals are treated that are likely to be found distressing by many. At numerous times during this documentary, I found myself with my mouth agape in horror as I watched the treatment of some animals.
Food, Inc is brilliantly narrated and gives the viewer a detailed insight into the food industry without overloading you with boring facts and statistics. Of course, there are lots of statistics included, most of which are utterly shocking; however, this documentary seems to be an appeal to human nature rather than a report. This documentary subtly urges you to think about what it is that you're eating everyday whilst also promoting healthy eating. They use a wide variety of case studies to demonstrate what's going on and numerous products are discussed, though quite a lot of this documentary is focussed on the meat industry in particular. There are interviews with real life farmers and consumers who have had to deal with the rise of the massive corporations that currently dominate the American food industry.
All in all, Food Inc. is a shocking look at the reality of the American food industry and if you're currently living in America then you need to see this to understand what is really going on around you. Humans eat, on average, three meals a day, so that's three times a day you're filling your body with food, and yet I'm willing to bet that the majority of you don't know where your food really comes from. Food, Inc. will help you to understand the disastrous effects that this corrupt industry could have on both the environment and the health of those that consume it. The poor ethics of the transnational companies governing the US food industry are revealed and this documentary has definitely made a big impact on me and the way I will view food in the future. This is a rare gem that has probably changed my life for the better. It is informative and moving and I would urge everyone, particularly US citizens, to watch this as soon as possible.
Of Love and Other Wars attracted me because of its vibrant cover and the high praise from critics plastered all over the book jacket. I have to admit that it wasn't what I was expecting really as the quoted passage on the back of the book cover does not wholly reflect what this book is all about, despite being one of the most poignant passages from within so in this case, I really wouldn't judge this book solely by its cover. Of Love and Other Wars is made up of three parts, spanning between 1937 and 1945, the time of the Second World War. Whilst the main characters are said to be Paul and Charlie Lamb, I'd say that this book actually has at least six main characters, Paul, Charlie, Miriam, Esther, Max, Grace. The story is written in the third person, however, it alternates between three plot lines, that of Paul, Charlie and Miriam; Esther and Max; and Esther. All of these story lines overlap but at it's most basic level you could split it into three parts in this way. The main theme of Of Love and Other Wars is conscientious objection during World War II which is the refusal to bear arms or to serve in the armed forces during a period of military conflict on moral or religious grounds.
I absolutely flew through Of Love and Other Wars, and not just because it's a great read, there's something about it that makes it very 'readable', which is curious because the language is not simplistic, nor is the plot or the themes discussed. Throughout the first few passages of this book, I actually found myself looking up several words in the dictionary as they were related to either Quakers or diamond cutting, neither of which are topics that I'm particularly familiar with, so this book really is a learning experience right from the beginning to the end. The majority of the book seems more about exploring ideas rather than an unfolding plot, however, everything starts to come together at the end with lots of twists and turns that had me tearing through to the finale. This book isn't what I would call 'exciting', however, it is most certainly gripping and I found myself really connecting with the characters.
What's great about this book is that so many different view points are discussed. Sophie Hardach doesn't impose her own views upon the reader, she merely presents the views of her characters and allows the reader to decide for his or herself at the end of the novel. This book really makes you think about the issues concerning war, but from an angle that not many have explored before. I didn't particularly like all of the characters but seeing their ways of thinking develop throughout the novel as they experience various different things related to growing up and the war around them was still truly fascinating. Were these characters real, I'm not altogether sure that I would friends with many of them, however, I mostly certainly would respect them and their viewpoints a great deal.
It does take some time to wrap your head around all the different characters, plot lines, viewpoints etc but by about a third of the way through, you find yourself settled into the world that the author has created and it's only upwards from there. I did struggle a fair bit in the first few chapters and I couldn't place certain characters as some of them seem to be set in different cities or time periods but as I said, it just takes some getting used to. As the events in this novel almost span over a decade, there are some time jumps in this novel, but miraculously, these are barely noticeable. The author goes into immense amount of detail over seemingly small events that, upon greater reflection, turn out to be rather large events and thus time is not linear, and does not need to be, in this story.
If I could think of one word to describe this novel, difficult though that may be, I'd probably choose the word 'poignant'. Not all passages of this book were that impressive in terms of writing style and prose but every so often, I'd come across some of the most beautiful passages I have ever read. I wouldn't necessarily call this a romance novel despite the fact that a lot of the relationships between characters are of a romantic nature as Hardach manages to talk about love in way that isn't soppy in the slightest, but rather the sort of love that creeps up on, so as a reader you're not even really conscious of it until you're right in the middle of it.
I have to admit that I didn't know that conscientious objection was even a thing before I read this novel. In the back of my edition of this book there was a short interview with the author who stated that one of the reasons that she wrote this novel is because she was fascinated by this idea, one that does not exist in Germany, where she comes from and I think that in itself proves that this is something that *everyone* should read. Although many serious and thought-provoking issues are discussed, this book isn't too heavy so don't shy away from it.
All in all, I'd highly recommend Of Love and Other Wars to everyone. I firmly believe that this is a must-read as it is thought-provoking and moving novel that makes the reader really consider and explore his or her own ideas about war, an important issue at any time, in every country. You don't really feel the full impact of this novel until you've read the very last sentence and you take a second to reflect upon what the author has written. If you'd asked me what I thought of this novel as I was reading, I would've probably given it an average review but upon finishing it, I realised just how special this story is. Hardach mixes a gripping plot with beautiful writing to create a real modern masterpiece and if you haven't already read this book then I would urge you to as soon as possible!
So I'm a little late to the party on this one but The Desolation of Smaug was just released on Netflix so I thought I'd better watch it. Although An Unexpected Journey was a very impressive film, I still firmly believe that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is much better, despite the fact that it was made over ten years prior to The Hobbit and with the release of the second instalment of The Hobbit, I still stand by that. Although perhaps more visually impressive, the use of computer generated effects is also much more obvious and things are less 'real' than in Lord of the Rings. What I do love about this, however, is the vibrancy that these effects bring to the film. Both The Desolation of Smaug and An Unexpected Journey are such colourful and vibrant films and this really stands out to me. Whether the scenes are full of dark magic, Smaug's orange fire or the green Shire the picture on screen always looks incredible. It's so nice to see familiar places from The Lord of the Rings trilogy made even more impressive by the use of modern technology, in addition to the fact that The Hobbit is set before LoTR thus these places are much 'younger' in this story anyway.
In term's of plot, being the middle instalment I feel that this film was much more developed that An Unexpected Journey which did much for setting up the world of The Hobbit but not much for developing the plot. Of course, the big plot point that is introduced in this film is Smaug himself, a fearsome dragon who sleeps on a bed of Dwarf gold. The voice of Smaug is absolutely perfect, giving off an incredibly dangerous and evil feel and every time Smaug spoke it sent shivers down my spine. Benedict Cumberbatch has proved that even when you can't see him on screen, he's still incredibly talented. There are a few different plot strands running through this film but they all fit together nicely meaning that there's very little room for confusion and it's always quite clear what is going on. Although I have read the book, it was a very long time ago and I'm glad to see that it's still easy to keep up with the plot even if you don't have any prior knowledge of Middle Earth or Tolkein's world. That said, you will almost certainly have to watch this film after having seen An Unexpected Journey otherwise the full impact of the quest that Bilbo is on will not be realised. Despite the fact that there's nothing explicitly 'funny' in this trilogy, there are numerous humorous elements throughout which help to stop this film from becoming a horribly, dark tale.
The cast in this trilogy is very strong with numerous famous names and a few familiar faces from Lord of the Rings, most notably Legolas. Although Legolas is supposed to be younger in The Hobbit, somehow the effects make him look like he has aged instead which is disappointing. I've found that Legolas' character seems to be rather different in The Hobbit, almost more cold than his later self in LoTR and I don't know whether this was intentional or not. It is a shame that we don't see more of either Gandalf or Legolas in this film as it is these subtle ties to the original LoTR trilogy that make these films all the better for existing Tolkein fans. Ian McKellen's Gandalf is much the same as he is in LoTR so obviously he is a superb character the little screen time that he has in this film still makes a mark.
Martin Freeman continues to play Bilbo Baggins and he does so just as well as he did in the first film. He makes an excellent Bilbo managing to be both a bumbling idiot and an incredibly intelligent hobbit both at the same time. His character is brings both humour and humility to this film the audience really roots for him. Of course, this trilogy is all about Bilbo's adventure and Jackson has managed to perfectly balance the film between focusing on Bilbo himself and the rest of his comrades, who are also incredibly important. The entire group of Dwarfs are also made up of very good actors, though it is difficult to distinguish between different Dwarfs but as a collection you can't help but love them. It is particularly nice to see Stephen Fry in this film who only has a few short minutes of screen time but he also makes a lasting impression.
The action sequences are not just made up of mind-numbing fights but highly exciting and dramatic scenes. During a particularly stressful fight between some orcs and elves I was literally sat with my hands covering my mouth, with my heart pounding for the safety of the elves. I found myself incredibly drawn into this film, much more than I thought I would be and the whole process of watching this trilogy is quite an experience.
This film is very, very, very long. Almost three hours long, in fact. It is a little slow to get started, but once you've made it through the first 45 minutes or so, you stop noticing time passing as it's just action packed amazingness for the next two hours. There are action scenes, romantic scenes, humorous scenes, adventurous scenes, fight scenes - everything that you could wish for in a Tolkein adaptation. There wasn't a single moment in the second half of this film that I was bored in and I was very disappointed when this film came to a close. The way that this story has been cut into three pieces is absolutely perfect for giving audiences enough of a story per film, but leaving them excited enough about the next instalment to ensure that they return to the cinema for the next part. I cannot wait for the third, and final, film in this trilogy to be released as these films are moving from strength to strength and I'm sure that the finale will be stupendous. If you haven't watched The Desolation of Smaug yet then you absolutely must. It is a fantastic film that spreads across so many different genres that it's impossible not to enjoy or be drawn in by it. All in all, I'd highly recommend this film (and trilogy) as it's an excellent example what great acting and special effects can offer audiences.
I've taken my time with getting to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth because I was afraid of all the hype surrounding it but boy do I regret it. I have just finished reading this book and I can't believe that I put it off for so long! This book isn't quite what I expected but it's certainly action-packed and I never knew what was going to happen next.
Divergent follows the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior in a new dystopian world. In an attempt to proven the outbreak of war, humankind broke into five different 'factions': Erudite, for the clever, Amity, for the peaceful, Candor, for the honest, Abnegation, for the selfless and Dauntless, for the brave. Children grow up in whichever faction their parents belong to, but at the age of 16, they go through an aptitude test to show them which faction they belong in and the following day, at the Choosing Ceremony, they must decide the path for the rest of their lives. Tris knows that she doesn't belong in Abnegation like the rest of her family and so she makes the difficult decision to leave her family behind and join a new faction, Dauntless. A tough initiation process follows - one that not everyone will survive. As Tris tries to fit in among the Dauntless she struggles to figure out who she is and who her real friends are. As if finding herself in a new faction wasn't difficult enough, Tris has a secret that she learned about herself during the aptitude test. A secret that she has been warned to never tell lest it destroy her.
What I love about this story is that it doesn't seem fantastical in the slightest. The characters and the setting all felt very real to me that's all down to Roth's genius. Each character is flawed, some more than others, and this made it easy to relate to them as a reader and I found that I actually cared about what happened to the characters. When they felt sad, I felt sad; when they felt pain, I felt pain and when they felt [happy], I felt [happy]. It is rare that you find a book in which you can truly share your emotions with the characters but Divergent is one of those gems. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of Tris herself. She often finds herself torn between what she thinks she should do and what she actually wants to do and isn't afraid to admit that she is sometimes selfish. I really loved this about her because, let's be honest, very few of us can say that we don't often have selfish thoughts no matter how hard we try to be moral people. Tris isn't afraid to admit it when she's afraid or weak but she's also strong-willed and determined not to be beaten. She is well aware of what her short comings are and that she hasn't been blessed with the best physique for a member of Dauntless, but she tries her hardest and at the end of the day, that's all that matters right?
The character of Four was also really interesting because his emotions were always undercover and you could never really tell what he was thinking. Four isn't a difficult character to love but because he doesn't show his true emotions very often, you're also sort of frightened and unsure of him for a large part of the novel. I guess this is perfect because that's pretty much how Tris feels about him for a large part of the story too so the reader and Tris really are as one on this adventure. I love that Roth didn't make him the stereotypical 'bad boy' (I guess that's what he is) but made him a real character that has much more to him than meets the eye. He does what he wants and he isn't easily influenced by the opinions of others.
Sometimes I felt like the characters seemed a little deadpan but I suppose that's all part of the 'dauntless' act and it made the moments when the characters were happy and laughing all the more special. This certainly isn't a happy story and it isn't one that suddenly retreats in a world filled with fluffy clouds. There is a darkness lining this book that is ever-present, even when the story takes a more positive turn. It is evident that there is more going on in this story than meets the eye but Roth has carefully staged this story so that the reader has absolutely no idea what's going on until it hits you in the face. The reader is on a level with Tris throughout the story - what she knows, we know, what she doesn't know, we don't know. At least, that will be the case if you have been completely unexposed to the spoilers that are just about all over the internet. I knew very little about Divergent prior to reading the story so I found all the twists and turns to be incredibly shocking and exciting.
There's no insta-love in this story! I think this book deserves a big fat hooray just for that. It's hard to find YA books that aren't centred on romance that still get the romance perfect but I think Veronica Roth may have done it. The chemistry between Tris and Four takes a backseat in this story, but it's always there lurking in the background. There aren't any PDAs or sexual scenes, in fact, the romance is rather chaste which I guess can be put down to the factions in which the characters were brought up in and the ones they currently reside in.
The story doesn't exactly end on a cliffhanger so you could almost read Divergent as a standalone novel and be satisfied at the end. That said, this almost certainly won't be the case because you'll want to find out more about this phenomenally interesting world. I did find the ending to be a tad abrupt as I turned the page on my kindle expecting to find more story when, in fact, it was already over. There were no clues whatsoever as to how this story will continue so you really are in the dark and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Insurgent! This is, I think, one of the keys to this story's success. This book wasn't predictable in the slightest and never knowing what was coming next made me desperate to keep reading.
All in all, Divergent is a fantastic and captivating read that I would highly recommend to all fans of dystopian novels. The combination of very real characters and an original plot make this an absolute must read and I understand now why there is so much hype surrounding this series. If you're looking for a YA book that stands out from the rest, then this is your book.
NB. This review may contain spoilers for those that have not read the previous five books in this series.
It's finally here. The finale to the Gallagher Girls series and I'm very sad to see it go. Each book in this series has been better than the last so I expected big things from United We Spy and Ally Carter did not disappoint. To briefly summarise what has happened in this series already: Cammie Morgan and her friends attend Gallagher Academy, an elite school for teenage, female spies. They are the best of the best, the creme de la creme, and despite the fact that they're 'just children', they've managed to outsmart Interpol, the CIA, the FBI etc. countless times during their story. Cammie, this story's protagonist, finds out that the Circle of Cavan, an ancient terrorist organisation is after her because when she was a young girl, her father (who was also a spy), gave her a list of all the names of the leaders of the 'inner circle' of this organisation to keep safe. Being so young at the time, Cammie has absolutely no recollection of this list or the names on it but this doesn't stop the Circle. Cammie decides to leave Gallagher Acamedy to protect her friends and family but she gets caught by Catherine, the psychotic mother of her boyfriend, Zach, who tortures her for an entire summer trying to get the names on that list out of Cammie so that she herself can hunt down the members of the circle and kill them. Catherine is unsuccessful and Cammie manages to escape from her grasp; however, by the time she is rescued and brought back to Gallagher Academy, she has forgotten everything that happened to her that summer. As Cammie and her friends try to retrace her steps that summer, things become clearer and clearer and then it becomes a race to beat Catherine to the secret hiding place where the list really is. Unfortunately, they don't arrive in time and Catherine manages to get hold of the list. The only good thing about this is that The Circle no longer want Cammie dead and she's not technically a threat to them anymore. This is when book six begins. Cammie returns for her final semester at Gallagher Academy but things still aren't right with the world. The Circle is planning something. Something big. As the Circle have moles everywhere, Cammie doesn't trust the CIA, the FBI or Interpol to do their job and track down the circle members so she and her friends go on the run and try to figure out what the Circle is planning and how to stop them. The stakes are much higher on this mission, not just for themselves, but for the rest of the world.
United We Spy got off to a bit of a slow start, but once it did get going, man, it was explosive. The plot for this book was really interesting and everything in it was somehow connected to something that we'd found out in the previous books which was fascinating. I didn't think that the mission itself that the girls went on was as good as it could've been but the thought and planning behind it and different plot strands that fed into was really interesting. It's almost impossible to tell what's going to happen next in this novel and there were several plot twists along the way.
The great thing about the Gallagher Girl books is that even though it's a book about teenagers, for teenagers, the characters don't seem like teenagers so you never question the fact that they're teenage spies who are much smarter than the average adult. This book doesn't feature so many gadgets or fancy technology which was great because it meant that so much more of this book was about really clever thinking which is much more interesting to read about.
The great thing about this book is that pretty much every character that we've met in the previous books is included in this novel and is somehow part of the plot. Although some characters play much bigger roles than others, no one is forgotten and it was nice just to see a name that hadn't perhaps cropped up in a while. What makes me feel kinda sad is how much Cammie has changed over the course of this series. She has been dragged through hell and back but that same fire is still raging inside of her. I love Cammie because she's still a very real character. She still gets scared, I mean, who wouldn't be if the most powerful terrorist organisation was after you, but she is brave and self-sacrificing; she's the best friend you'd want to have in real life.
Of course, there was some Zach and Cammie action which brought a smile to my face. The good thing about the romance in this series is that it talked about so much that it overpowers the main plot. This story gets darker and more serious with each book but little snippets of Zach and Cammie's romance stops the book from becoming too heavy. I was glad that there was still an element of humour in this novel as well, something that we'd seen less and less of as the series went on but the flashes of romance and humour helps to keep this book grounded in the YA category and stops it from becoming a complete action/thriller/spy novel.
My one criticism of this book would be that I felt like occasionally the plot would jump forwards in time, be it ten minutes, an hour, or a day, without little indication that it had done so meaning that my brain had to a bit more work than usual in order to fill in the gaps. This was a little confusing at times, though, I would prefer this, than having to read lots of useless waffle.
If you're a fan of the Gallagher Girls series then you need to get your hands on this book. This is a brilliant finale to a brilliant series with each and every lose end tied up leaving you completely satisfied, a feeling I rarely get at the end of a series. This book doesn't really wind down in any way (that's not the Gallagher way), it's fast paced right until the end and I guarantee you'll be flipping pages like crazy.
This story centers on two teenagers in the 80s, one half Korean boy who lives a fairly cushy life, and a slightly overweight girl living with her highly dysfunctional family in a small and run down home with little money. These two do not seem like the type to get along, but a gradual relationship develops between the two as they sit together on the bus each morning. There isn't a trace of insta-love in this novel and the relationship between Eleanor and Park develops very slowly but you savour each and every moment.
I think what's great about this book is that it isn't your typical high school romance. This isn't a story about "opposites attract", but rather the interesting development of a relationship between two very different characters that somehow complement each other. These characters are not perfect, they are flawed individually and as a couple; they argue lots and sometimes Eleanor/Park really annoyed me (REALLY annoyed me), but I liked this about Eleanor & Park because it made the characters seem more real and alive. This novel isn't sappy in the slightest, and if it is, then a character acknowledges the sappiness of the situation, which again, makes these characters seem real; they are definitely not characters living in a world of make believe. It is probably Eleanor's difficult home life which keeps this story grounded as she comes from a difficult background. She has a large family and is often picked on at school but her attitude towards these things seem more realistic as she is sometimes brave, but not always, she is sometimes selfish, but recognises this, though acknowledges that guilt doesn't make her feel any different. There is just something so raw and truthful about the everything that goes through these two teenagers mind.
What I found rather strange and hard to get my head around was the fact that this book was written in a dual narrative but in the third person. This was a fascinating way of getting right into Eleanor and Park's head, but also giving the reader enough distance so that there was an air of mystery around what each character was thinking at every second. It was especially fascinating reading the different POVs of these two characters as they are wildly different, and yet at one. You can see that there are vast differences in the way that these characters think and feel and it's sort of like the reader is keeping secrets for both Eleanor and Park which you cannot reveal to the other person. I was rather touched by this novel on a personal level even though I can't really relate to any of the content, simply because the narrative is so full of real emotions which seem truthful and heartfelt.
I have to say that I don't think I was quite as enamored by this book as the rest of it's readers. Sure, Eleanor & Park is a fantastic novel and it is awfully cute/heartbreaking but I wouldn't peg it as a five star read as many before me have. I think the thing that bothered me the most about this book is the lack of plot. Although this was a very nice snippet from the teenage years of Eleanor and Park, I felt that perhaps this snippet was directionless and didn't really have a plot that built up. I would say that this book simply follows the relationship of Eleanor and Park from the very beginning, but everything is a bit up in the air at the end, which may appeal to some, but for me it just seemed like the story was missing another chapter. I'd say that this story is much more about the thoughts and feelings of these two characters and not on any sort of event that happens in either one of their lives.
All in all, this a great novel, though perhaps a little more style than substance. The writing is superb and highly addictive so you will no doubt be drawn in and unable to put this book down; however, don't bother waiting for some sort of major event to 'happen' because it's not going to. That's probably the only downside to this book as it really is very well written and a pleasure to read.
This film is about a girl, Molly, who is a private investigator that specialises in uncovering and taking photos of infidelity. She lives with her father who is an ex-FBI agent and a heavy gambler who has racked up $17,000 worth of debts. Molly is then approached by a FBI agent who offers her money to go undercover in a sorority house to protect a girl, Alex, who is a target by many because her father is a key witness in a trial and uncover any dangerous people that may be undercover around campus. Although reluctant at first, she decides to take the job in order to pay off her father's debts. Molly is a bad-ass, motorcycle riding girl who answers to nobody and is suddenly transformed into a high heel, skirt wearing soririty girl who says 'totes' and 'amazeballs'. Quite the transformation. Things are a lot harder than she thought they would be at the sorority house, and to make matters worse, she's been instructed to do some digging about Nicholas, the guy that she's kind of into, but not sure about. There are a few twists and turns later with lots of people who are 'so undercover' and you don't know who's a good guy and who's a bad guy. The plot was actually quite good in that respect, as I had no idea who to trust and who not to trust. That's about the only good thing though. Everything about this film just screamed 'high school' and 'amateur'. Even Miley Cyrus' camera (see above), is a titchy little thing, not what I'd expect an experienced PI to have. Her character also speaks into her collar a lot, and I've watched enough spy movies to know that speaking into your collar or your sleeve is going to get you caught. There are lots of holes in the plot and I think that perhaps the movie tried to jam too much into too little time. The ending is awfully sweet and predictable, but the teenage girl in me still loved it.
Cyrus' acting left a lot to be desired but I thought that everyone else's seemed to be pretty decent. At least, they fulfilled the roles they were supposed to be playing, which, in most cases, were Blonde and superficial sorority girls, so I'm not sure that much talent went into those roles anyway. I don't think that Miley Cyrus was really the best person for this role as she just looks too 'high school' and either gets it really right, or really wrong. Unfortunately, she got it really wrong in this film and her character did the oddest things that just isn't how a normal human being would react to these situations (though I suppose, that's not Cyrus' fault so much as the script writer's). Kelley Osbourne has a small role in this film though she doesn't really add anything to this film at all, in fact, I'm not really sure what her character's purpose was at all. Also, Kelley Osbourne's British accent was awful, which is strange, because she is British! As I stated before, my main reason for watching this film was because Josh Bowman stars in it and although he wasn't on screen for much, the moments that he was made this film worth watching. I don't think his acting was too sappy or over the top, despite the fact that there were cheesy moments.
I feel that perhaps the director tried to give this film a 'deeper' level by including more 'action' when in fact this sort of film is marketed towards teenage girls who love nothing better than a sappy romance. If the romance had been a more prominent part of this film I think it would've been much better than what it was, or maybe this is just the disappointed Bowman fan girl talking. What little 'romance' that there was was also rather rushed and deep attachments were formed in something like ten minutes, which is the total amount of romantic scenes in this film.
All in all, I'm not surprised that I hadn't heard of this film before now, nor am I surprised that it's being released straight to DVD in the US. There's nothing really special or good about this film so if you're not a Cyrus/Bowman fan then there's really no point in you watching this. I can't say that I thought it was awful because these films speak to the cheesy teenage girl inside of me and make it impossible to hate them, but it's pretty bad. I wouldn't recommend wasting one and half hours of your life watching this film.
As expected, this season of Gossip Girl was filled with feuds, money, shopping, secrets, love-affairs, friendships, hidden identities, hidden objectives, handsome men, beautiful women- I could go on, but you know the drill.
Here's just a quick overview of the plot without giving too much away. For those of you who watched season 3 you will remember that last season finale we were left with a massive cliff hanger after Chuck had been shot and left on the streets bleeding. Firstly, we see how the rest of this story panned out and also Blair and Serena's adventures in Paris. The first half of the season is very much focussed on the arrival of the character 'Juliet'. No one can quite figure out what her motives are but she has a grim determination to wreak havoc with Serena's life. She also manages to rope in two other prominent characters to help her with her plans. Who is she and what does want? After this, the plot moves over to focus more on Chuck and his life's struggles. To be (with Blair) or not to be (with Blair)? That is the question. (Literally.) Chuck has many life choices to make regarding himself, his business and his relationship with Blair. What will come first, work or love? For the last couple of episodes we see the arrival of Charlie, Serena's cousin who has been raised far away from all the glitz and the glam of the Upper East Side. At first everything seems normal, but suddenly Charlie's behaviour becomes suspect to Serena. What is she hiding and what does she want?
Some have said that they believe this to be this to be the best season yet and I can see why. This season does a good job of meshing all the characters together for once. In previous seasons we have seen the characters in Brooklyn and the characters living in the Upper East Side lead very separate lives with only a couple of characters coming into contact with each other (namely Dan and Serena). However, season 4 sees all of the characters coming together with new relationships forming and old relationships falling apart. After the marriage of Lily and Rufus, Dan has become a much bigger player in the Upper East Side and people are starting to see him less as 'Brooklyn boy' and more as Daniel Humprey, love interest of the Serena Van Der Woodsen and friend of Nathaniel Archibald (and later, Blair Waldorf - shocker). I think the marriage of the two parents was a wise move and it really cemented the bridge between Brooklyn and the Upper East Side allowing more character interactions.
Expect to see some familiar faces from the past popping up to cause trouble again, but don't expect this to be the last time you see them, they may just appear when you least expect it. There are also some new characters who add weight and mystery to the drama. Be wary of these new characters, they may not be who they appear to be, then again, people rarely are in Gossip Girl.
Since a picture of Blair and Chuck together is on the front cover of the DVD set, one would assume that the producers think that they are the focal point of this season. I know that the relationship between Chuck and Blair has most viewers hooked, especially since they've got this whole Romeo and Juliet/Lizzie and Darcy thing going on and you'll be pleased to hear that there is a hell of a Chuck/Blair roller coaster waiting for you. Chuck and Blair do finally figure out how they truly feel about each other at the end of this so there probably won't be that much Chuck/Blair drama in season 5. Suck it up while you can! I was extremely shocked by the way the Chuck/Blair drama panned out in this season, I was caught completely off-guard and didn't expect a thing. I'm not going to spoil it for you and tell you what happened, but boy oh boy this is an exciting jaw dropper.
So, I haven't mentioned very much of the other characters but of course, Serena does play a very large role in this season; however, her problems seem to be very much family-orientated and not boy-related. In fact, she doesn't really have any particularly major going on in the boyfriend department, or nothing that's particularly gripping. Nate finds himself a new girlfriend but now he is torn. How can he choose between his best friend and his girlfriend? Trouble ensues. We see Dan become a bigger part of the Upper East Side and he becomes much more accustomed to their ways and manners and is less condescending of them. Some parts of his previous relationship with Serena is reactivated by other characters as he tries to form new relationships which is very exciting. Jenny and Vanessa are of course still skulking around in the background appearing every now and again to cause trouble. Lily Van Der Woodsen plays a much more prominent role in this season than she has in any other as issues from Serena's past crop up again, meaning Lily has to deal with the aftermath.
The season finale is definitely the best episode of the season and it not only wraps up loose ends but it also creates many more which will no doubt be sorted out in season 5. Some plot lines from earlier in the season that you thought had be put to sleep will rise again to slap you in the face. It really was one of the best season finales of any show that I've ever seen that has got the exact balance between coming-to-an-end and leaving-you-begging-for-more that makes this a great conclusion for season 4 whilst leaving enough juice to keep you hanging on to see what happens in season 5.
If you missed Gossip Girl whilst it was aired on television then I highly recommend you buy this on DVD or rent it from your local video store because it is definitely worth it. This is the best season of Gossip Girl yet which the most drama, action, tension, mystery and suspense yet! There are some very big twists and turns in this season and just when you think you've got it all figured out something comes along and changes everything. I was hooked to Gossip Girl from episode one and the drama is so much more intense in this season with each and every episode leaving you begging for more.
Earth Star begins straight after the events of Earth Girl with Jarra being awarded the Artemis, the highest military honour, for her self-sacrificing help during a military rescue. Jarra is an 'ape', 'handicapped' because she cannot portal to other planets in the universe like the rest of the 'norms'. She is confined to Earth and many 'norms' are prejudiced against 'apes', believing them to be stupid and inferior. Jarra proved in Earth Girl that the handicapped are just as capable as norms but even though she's reached her own goals, things haven't settled down. A mysterious sphere has appeared in the Earth's atmosphere and it's intentions are unknown. It is clearly something alien, but whether hostile or friendly, noone knows. Jarra and her 'twoing' partner (i.e. boyfriend) Fian have been drafted into the military to use their knowledge of history to try and figure out where this sphere has come from, who sent it and what it wants but things aren't plain sailing because of Jarra's 'ape' status.
I was hoping that after the immense amount of time and detail dedicated to setting up this series in book one, that book two would have a much faster plot with a lot more things going on; however, this was not the case. An alien sphere is introduced at the beginning of the story and I expected many exciting things to happen but by the end of the book we still hadn't really found out anything about the sphere which was disappointing. Like in Earth Girl, there is a sort of continuous plot strand throughout the book but it moves at a steady, slow pace with no dips or bumps along the way. Small events were described in masses of detail that was really unnecessary, whilst major events were merely glanced over. The plot had much potential but unfortunately I don't think it really fulfilled it and I can't help but feel that this story could've been told with half the amount of the words.
Fian and Jarra's relationship doesn't particularly develop at all in Earth Star. The pair signed up for a 'twoing' contract in Earth Girl so I expected more romance in Earth Star, but really the pair just acted like an old married couple and I really fail to see the 'spark' in their relationship. I still don't really identify with the main character, Jarra, because her personality is hidden behind the fact that she doesn't 'do' emotions, but consequently this meant that I couldn't see in her what all the characters in the book could. Her narrative is quite interesting, but I don't particularly like her as a character or a narrator so I felt a little detached whilst reading this. Jarra was a lot sassier in Earth Girl and I quite enjoyed her snarky bitterness, but I don't think that part of her personality came with her to Earth Star which was a great shame.
The general setting of the book and the universe that these events take place in is fascinating. Janet Edwards has created a completely new world that still has some vague similarities to Earth as we know it, but there are also many differences. A great deal of detail is spent describing the planets, their customs, the tools that are being used, the different social rankings etc. which is all very interesting to read and learn about. Although portalling between planets isn't something new to the sci-fi genre, having 'handicapped' characters who are tied to planet Earth, is. In addition, these characters communicate with a whole new language and I felt a lot like an old lady trying to understand teenage slang when I first started reading this but by the end of this book I was basically fluent in it. I really love the world that Janet Edwards has created for Jarra and all the other characters and the framework that supports this novel is soso good, but unfortunately the plot let the book down.
Although you don't need to read Earth Girl to understand what's going on in Earth Star, I would certainly recommend it. Earth Girl sets up the backdrop for this series with lots of details about the new universe that Janet Edwards has created and there's a lot of new terms which you have to get to grips with in order to understand how the characters speak and act. Any references made to people or events from Earth Girl are thoroughly explained in Earth Star which does slow down the book considerably for those that have already read the first book, but if you're diving in at book two then this will do you fine.
All in all, Earth Star was a bit of a disappointment but it's still a fairly intriguing read. The world that Janet Edwards has created is absolutely superb and I've spent so much time reading her two books over the last few days that I've even adopted some of the new language used in her book, e.g. nardlebrain, but I don't think there's enough of a plot to really bring this world to life. I still have high hopes for the third book in this series which I'm praying will have a plot with a much faster pace with a lot more excitement but we'll just have to wait and see!
Earth Girl is set in a world in which those that live on Earth, or rather, confined to Earth, are viewed as 'handicapped', whilst the 'exos' of the world are able to portal freely inbetween different planets. Jarra was born 'handicapped', but she's determined to prove that this doesn't make her any less of a person than the 'exos'. In order to do this, she secretly applies to the University of Asgard to study history, a University that typically only accepts exos, though there's nothing actually stopping a handicapped student from applying. Jarra is delighted when she is accepted and embarks on a journey to prove that there's nothing 'handicapped' about her. She adopts a new identity and fools her classmates into believing that she, too, is an exo, but things get very complicated very quickly.
The premise of Earth Girl is excellent. Janet Edwards has created a completely new world with new concepts, new planets and a new language which are all described in phenomenal amounts of detail. There is no sort of 'explanation' at the start of this book as to where the story is set or any help in understanding this new Universe and how it works; you are thrust right into the heart of a story and forced to get your head around new words and new ideas very quickly. I loved this about Earth Girl because you, as a reader, are completely absorbed in this story and you start to believe that this is the natural order of the world, though of course, it is far from the world we currently live in. Although portalling to other planets isn't a new concept in the world of sci-fi, the idea that certain human beings might be deemed 'handicapped' and confined to Earth because their immune systems cannot survive on other planets, is. Really, this isn't a sci-fi story, it's a story about a girl looking for acceptance and if you stripped away sci-fi elements of this story you could imagine this as the story of a teenager fighting the unjustified discrimination that exists in every society.
Although Earth Girl started out with brilliant amounts of detail, these details started to grate on me as the story went on. I felt like there was too much time spent describing pretty irrelevant events, which although added to the general 'atmosphere' of the book and gave you a further insight into this new universe, were just a little boring. I didn't feel like there was enough of a plot or a story line in this novel to really support the fantastic new setting created by Janet Edwards. Sure, things 'happen', but I don't feel that whatever climax the story was reaching for was clear or ever really reached. There was nothing hugely climatic or dramatic about this novel but instead a steady stream of a story that passed without any bumps from beginning to end. Not only that, but some of the plot strands seemed to repeat themselves at intervals, with each one getting slightly more dramatic with each re-write. I felt like I had been reading the same story for a decade before I finally reached the end of this book and there wasn't even a particularly great finale.
There is an element of romance to this story, but it didn't touch me at all. There was little connection between the characters Jarra and Fian and there wasn't anything about them that made them especially compatible. There was no 'spark' in their relationship and they didn't do very many couple-y things before they became rather serious so I got the impression that their relationship was based on nothing. They're not exactly a 'bad' couple, there's just nothing special about them and I had little interest in reading about the development of their relationship. This romance isn't a particularly important part of the plot either, it just sort of runs alongside other things happen, again as a steady stream with no bumps.
The story is written from the first person perspective of the main character, Jarra. Her narrative is snarky and witty with a hint of bitterness and it's really interesting to read. That said, she's the sort of character that I imagine annoying a lot of people as time goes on. Imagine a frigid teenage girl who's brave and has big dreams, she's quite 'real' but probably not someone you'd get on all that well with in real life. The narrative is great, the narrator, not so much. Had this book been condensed and the waffle cut then Jarra's narrative would've been perfect, but because of the sheer amount of detail the author goes into, I felt like there was a Jarra-overload.
For a debut novel this is absolutely fantastic; however, the brilliant beginning of Earth Girl was not followed by a brilliant ending (or a brilliant middle) which was hugely disappointing. The world that Janet Edwards has created is painted with vivid details which is the novel's strong point, but the flaccid plot and lack of character connection leaves you weeping for the story that could've been.
The 100 is set in a distant future where the entire human race lives on spaceship floating above the Earth. The Earth is inhabitable after a nuclear war but with resources running thin on the spaceship, the governing body are looking to return to Earth as soon as possible. Unsure whether or not Earth is still dangerously radioactive, the Chancellor decides to send 100 teenage delinquents to Earth, each with a monitoring bracelet attached to them, to see if they survive.
This story is told from the alternating perspective of four teenagers: Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass. Clarke and Glass are both delinquents and so are automatically part of the group to be sent to Earth. Wells, the son of the Chancellor, is in love with Clarke and upon hearing that she will be sent to Earth, he deliberately commits a crime giving him the status of 'delinquent' as well. Bellamy on the other hand, isn't a deliquent, but his sister is. Determined to protect her, he manages to jump into the pod leaving for Earth just moments before it departs. Taking advantage of the commotion caused by Bellamy, Glass manages to escape from the pod and remains on the spaceship.
I usually hate stories that have too many alternating perspectives because there usually isn't enough depth or connection between characters but because these four stories are subtly intertwined, the story rolls seamlessly on through all four perspectives. I have to say I didn't like all of the characters in this novel but I loved reading about each and every one of them. Each character has a different personality and as you learn more and more about their pasts and what shaped them, you understand each character's decisions. There's no sort of introduction to any of the characters or the history of Earth, the reader is thrown in at the deep end and you've just gotta learn to swim. In just about every chapter there's a flashback to some past moment that helps to explain the present and although this means quite a lot of jumping back and forth, both the past and the present are woven together seamlessly so that this is barely noticeable.
I can see why The CW has created a TV adaption based on this book because there are just so many things that you could do with this story. This is not just a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi novel, but also a story of romance, friendship, family, action and humanity. This book held my attention for its entirety but for the most part I was thinking 'this is book is good, but not great'. Then, I got to the closing few chapters where I met plot twist after plot twist and it turns out that each and every character has a secret and the stories of all four characters are intrinsically linked. There are a few clues along the way which hint at the ending but there's no way that you could predict how all these little snippets and these four stories come together. There is also an even bigger plot twist which doesn't relate directly to the four characters but it has consequences for the entire human race and it changes pretty much everything about this mission to Earth and I simply cannot wait to see what happens next!
This novel is perhaps a little slow at getting started, but when it does, it is brilliant. It is the ending of this book that you will really remember as it is fast-paced and there are new plot twists being thrown at you left, right and centre. This was a great introductory novel that has paved the way for a brilliant new series with interesting characters, plot and setting. This is also quite a short read, but so much has been packed into this novel. I would highly recommend reading this book prior to watching the television series (due to air late 2013) because I don't think its plotline will stick to that of the book very well. All in all, I highly recommend this book!!