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Becs (244 KP) rated Stars Over Zephyr in Books

Apr 20, 2019  
Stars Over Zephyr
Stars Over Zephyr
Kathryn Lee Martin | 2019 | Dystopia, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
10.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
EVERYTHING - there seriously isn't anything wrong with it. It's amazing through and through (0 more)
AMAZING! This novel does not disappoint one bit!
You can also see this review on my blog:
I received Stars Over Zephyr to review for my honest opinion from The Parliament House. Stars Over Zephyr is the third book in The Snow Spark Saga by Kathryn Lee Martin and it does not disappoint one bit!

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Gore, Violence, Oppression, Death

Kathryn does an amazing job blowing the reader away with the development, the background, the plot, and the story-line. Stars Over Zephyr is very well written and the story instantly grabs your attention, keeping it held until the very last page. You will be left in a puddle of tears at the ending and wanting more, being unable to wait until the fourth book is published. I sure am!!

The story picks up right where it left off in book 2: Garden of Ashes. Stars Over Zephyr follows the main gang: Rags, Henny, Colton, Ethan, and Ali, and their journey (more like escape) from the Threshing Floor. Throughout the first half of this novel, the gang are trying to escape the wraith of Sahrobi, the Kingdom Corps, and Hyperion who are trying to capture them to torture and execute them.

The gang happens to stumble upon some Pre-Yellowstone ruins where they hide out to escape the wraith of the Kingdom and the harsh winter winds. They leave behind the shelter just before dawn to travel to what they believe is to be Solstice. Now Solstice isn’t the safest place and is actually where a lot of criminals head to seek refuge. So it spells trouble with a capitol T.

Once the crew arrives, they are reprimanded by a group of Supporters who are trying to take back the Kingdom. This is where the gang meets Meridian who gives them an ultimatum – choose to work as slaves or be executed and sent back to Hyperion and the Threshing Floor in pieces. Rags, Colton, and Henny choose the latter where they also decide to gain intel on the rebel group so they can take the Kingdom back themselves. Before they decide to take the offer of working as slaves, they ask only one thing – that Ethan and Ali get home to Lexicon safely.

Rags – our rugged MC who just wants to go home to her family. Still as realistic of a character as ever and seems to be cozying up with Henny and Colton at the same time (gurrlll choose already please *gets down on my knees and begs for Henny to gain her love*
Henny – still a smol angry cinnamonroll. Still as adorable as ever and has become very protective of our MC.
Colton – my little Irish boy *insert heart eyes here* He’s such a gentle boy and is honestly such an amazing friend to not only Henny, but to Rags as well. Seemed to replace Matthew as a brother but idk about that scene.. *glares at Rags for confusing me*
Ethan and Ali – these two little babes have gained so much background in this book. Ethan is still as annoyed as ever and Ali, oh my precious little Ali!
Lilian and Lotan – minor characters and don’t have a very important role. They are just kind of there in the story.
Meridian – the leader of the supporters and one bada** lady!! She plays a major role in the story and plot, and gains a ton of background. You tend to like her towards the end of the novel.
Hyperion – the wicked king that wants to be bowed too. He deserved what happened to him. (not saying cause spoilers)
Sahrobi – the evil devil child of Hyperion. She’s still hunting the gang and honestly she deserved full force what happened to her. (again not gonna say cause spoilers)

Reasons why I rated it 5 stars:
1. This novel was so well written and there were only a very few grammatical errors, but I’m not holding that against the author as the story made up for it!
2. There was so much development and background given in Stars Over Zephyr! I loved it so much.
3. The plot was AHMAZING!!!
4. The overall story has left me feeling some feels. I really can’t wait for book 4!
5. I am defiantly going to reread this very soon as I enjoyed it so much.

“Some of the hardest things in life, Ragamuffin, are knowing exactly when and where to keep your mouth shut and stay out of things.”
When the Men Were Gone
When the Men Were Gone
Marjorie Herrera Lewis | 2018 | Fiction & Poetry, History & Politics, Sport & Leisure
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
There was something about the synopsis of When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis that really reeled me in. Perhaps it's because this story takes place in Brownwood, Texas which is a place I've visited and loved. Perhaps it was because it was based on a true story and about a woman rising up to a challenge to take on a man's role back in the day when things like that were unheard of. Either way, I must say that I really enjoyed this book.

Tylene Wilson loves football. In fact, football is all she's ever really known since she was a very little girl thanks to her father. When both male football coaches for the high school she works at go off to war in the Autumn of 1944, she desperately tries to find another male coach to take the job. If she doesn't, the Brownwood Lions football season will be over before it even began, and all the senior boys will more than likely end up enlisted fighting in World War II. After struggling to find a suitable coach, Tylene decides to coach the football team herself. When word gets out that a woman will be coaching a football team, people in and around Brownwood let it be known that they are very opposed to the idea. Even Tylene's close friends snub their nose at the idea. People try to get the Brownood Lions' football season cancelled, but Tylene will not let that happen if she can help it. Will Tylene be able to convince everyone that a woman can coach football just as good as a man?

I found the plot for When the Men Were Gone to be solid. As I've stated previously, this book is based on a true story. I had never heard of Tylene Wilson until I read Marjorie Herrera Lewis' book. I found it extremely interesting to have a glimpse into what Tylene Wilson may have had to go through. Lewis does a fantastic job at imagining what Tylene's life was like and what life in the small town of Brownwood would have been like around 1944. I could not find any fault with the story telling. In fact, I felt like I was transported into the book and was amidst all the action watching the story unfold. I will admit that I did not understand most of the football jargon though, but that didn't really take too much away from the story. As with most historical fiction novels, there were no major plot twists, but all my questions were answered. There was not cliffhanger ending.

I enjoyed the character of Tylene. Lewis did an amazing job at making me feel as if I knew Tylene. At times, I felt like I was Tylene. I could feel how stressed she was at times and how much her students and football meant to her. Tylene was such a strong female character. I just loved her and her determination! Moose was another character I loved. I admired his loyalty even though he was aware of the backlash. Jimmy was another interesting character to read about. I was intrigued to read about his struggles to play football for a "lady coach." On one hand, he admired Tylene and knew that she knew her stuff when it came to football. On the other hand, he was still a teenage boy open to peer pressure living in a time when woman were doing the traditional roles.

The pacing for When the Men Were Gone starts out a bit slow. There were a bunch of character names thrown out in the first few chapters which left me feeling confused about who was who. However, I quickly caught on, and the pacing picked up decently.

Trigger warnings for When the Men Were Gone include sexism, bigotry, misogyny, drunkenness, and some war violence.

All in all, When the Men Were Gone is a short read that packs a huge punch! Based on a true story, this novel has a fantastically strong female lead and plenty of drama that will definitely keep its reader hooked. I would definitely recommend When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis to those aged 15+ who enjoy football and love a story with a very strong female lead. I would give this book a 4 out of 5.
(Thanks to the Marjorie Herrera Lewis for providing me with a paperback of When the Men Were Gone in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.)
Let The Dead Keep Their Secrets
Let The Dead Keep Their Secrets
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Let The DEAD Keep Their Secrets by Rosemary Simpson brings to life New York City during the 1880s in a historical mystery. It is rich in the culture of the time with a riveting Colombo type crime. Readers know who has done it and seek clues with the characters to find the proof.

The plot opens with New York opera singer Claire Buchanan calling on the investigative services of Prudence MacKenzie and her partner, Geoffrey Hunter. Claire shows up at their door begging them to find out exactly how her twin sister, Catherine, and newborn daughter died, believing it was not from natural causes. Catherine’s husband, Aaron Sorenson, is a scoundrel and appears to be marrying women, getting them pregnant, and then having baby and mother die in childbirth. Prudence and Geoffrey find that childbirth can be dangerous to one’s health as they realize that Sorenson’s current wife may also be in danger. His motive, both the late wife and the current wife would inherit a substantial estate, which will go to him upon their death. Sorensen seems to always be in need of money to pay mounting gambling debts. As the tension mounts the investigative team is putting themselves at risk in attempting to expose the murder-for-inheritance scheme.


The author noted, “Catherine was emotionally abused. Women during that time period did not have much choice. In the Gilded Age in New York women were still property of their husbands. They were very limited to what their husbands wanted.”


One of the important clues is a photograph of the late mother and child. Simpson weaves into the story a Victorian Era custom, post-mortem photography. During these scenes readers learn of the spiritualists who believe “about the possibility of capturing an image of the soul leaving a body at the moment of death.” It was during this time that Claire senses something from her twin sister. The author commented, “During my research, I read how twins separated by birth and raised by different families still have the same likes and dislikes and can sense how each other feels.”


Through the characters people learn of the Gilded Age era, with a fascinating description of the homes, the period clothing, and the city of New York. Unlike many women of the time, Prudence is very unconventional, desiring to take the bar exam and become a litigator. For now, she is content to be an amateur sleuth to her partner, ex-Pinkerton agent Geoffrey Hunter, as she learns on the job. “I wrote Prudence being raised by a widowed father who looked at her as a replacement for a son. He did not make an exception for her being a girl and made sure she had a very well developed sharp legal mind. She is determined to make her own way even though she inherited wealth. I read that the Pinkerton Agency hired a lady detective during the Civil War and knew I wanted to make my heroine an investigator who is constantly challenged by Geoffrey.”


The hero and heroine also have flaws. The author uses events that happened during the Gilded Age paralleling them with what is happening today. Simpson explained, “Geoffrey has left his southern roots, abandoning his culture and family. He has a lot of contradictions. Prudence must struggle with her addiction to the drug laudanum. She was given it by her family doctor to help her cope with her father’s passing and then her fiancé’s death. She overcame the reliance on laudanum but not without a terrible struggle and the knowledge that she would never be entirely free of it. I parallel it with the opioid epidemic today. People became accidental addicts because they were given the drugs legally to cope with physical and emotional pain.”


The antagonist, Simpson has no redeeming qualities. He is a cold and calculating thief, a swindler, and bigamist who victimizes rich women. “I wanted to write an absolute villain. He is unscrupulous, uncaring with no conscience. He had every vile habit known. I do not write cozy mysteries, but historical noirs. My bad guys are really, really bad who cause awful things to happen.”


The author definitely had done her homework. “I want to feel I live in this world for awhile and to get the reader to feel that also. I read the New York Times Archives and fall into the rhythm of the language used, how they spoke, wrote and thought. It puts me in the mindset of the character I am writing about.” With her detailed descriptions and gripping story Simpson has also drawn the reader into the time period through an exciting and action-packed mystery.
The Greatest Showman (2017)
The Greatest Showman (2017)
2017 | Drama, Musical
All the fun of the circus
Ah, the movie musical. Once the choice of matinee viewings and Saturday nights in front of the TV, they’ve evolved over the last decade into something completely mainstream. From the ridiculously good remake of Hairspray in 2007, to the vibrant Mamma Mia, which gets its very own sequel Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again this year, musicals have become the ultimate in escapism.

Following on from his exceptional role in the deeply depressing Les Miserables, everyone’s favourite Australian actor, Hugh Jackman returns to the genre with The Greatest Showman. But is it worth you warming up your vocal chords for?

Inspired (very loosely may I add) by the imagination of P. T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary (Jackman) who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. The story is simple as we follow Barnum and his family as they rise from the depths of debt to the glitzy world of fame and fortune.

However, looking deeper, this rather poignant tale has special resonance today. In this ever-divided world, it’s message of acceptance and equality is something the majority of us still strive for. Whether it be for those who have suffered from homophobic, racial or any other abuse for simply being ‘different’, The Greatest Showman will take on a new, more emotional meaning.

One of the strongest parts of The Greatest Showman is its cast. Alongside Jackman, we have musical expert Zac Efron, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) and Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World). Every single one of them is outstanding, emoting beautifully over the course of the film but this very much Jackman’s baby (it took nearly 7 years to get the idea to screen) and his performance is one of the best of his career.

I’m going to dedicate this paragraph to Efron, as I feel he’s been given a bit of a rough ride by me and Movie Metropolis in general. With his recent roles in Dirty Grandpa and Baywatch, he was becoming better at taking his shirt off than acting in any great capacity, but he proves in The Greatest Showman that he still has that acting prowess that made him so popular with the High School Musical crowd.

Thankfully The Greatest Showman has some of the best pieces of music in the genre
Barnum is a complex character portrayed with a warmth by Jackman that many of his peers would’ve struggled to emulate. Elsewhere, Keala Settle wows as bearded lady, Lettie. It appears her efforts here haven’t gone unnoticed as her powerful ballad This is Me has been nominated for an Oscar at this year’s awards – and it’s well-deserving of taking the crown. She is absolutely astounding.

The brings us nicely onto the songs. A musical, as its name suggests, lives or dies on the basis of its songs and score, and thankfully The Greatest Showman has some of the best pieces of music in the genre. There isn’t a single dud in the track listing with Rewrite the Stars, performed by Zac Efron and Zendaya, and the aforementioned This is Me, sang by Keala Settle being highlights. It’s fair to say that you’ll be clapping and singing along in no time.

Pacing is also one of the film’s strongest suits. Zipping along at only 105 minutes, The Greatest Showman doesn’t mess about in throwing song after song at the audience and this is more than welcome. First-time director Michael Gracey’s shot choices are rudimentary but colour leaps off the screen throughout and the cinematography really benefits from his more static filming style.

It’s testament to the talents of Hugh Jackman and this phenomenal cast that nearly two months after the film’s theatrical release, people are still flocking to see The Greatest Showman in cinemas across the globe. And it’s easy to see why. From start to finish, it is an absolute joy to watch. With a cracking set of songs, created by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and stunning performances by each member of the cast, it’s an absolute treat for the whole family to enjoy and my first five-star film of 2018.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
2016 | Action, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
The 2nd best star wars film
The Star Wars universe just got a whole lot bigger. When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was announced by Disney a couple of years ago, diehard fans of the sci-fi saga met the news with a huge dose of scepticism.

After all, the prequel trilogy was an unmitigated disaster, doing all it could to destroy not only the greatest villain in the history of film, but the series itself. Then Gareth Edwards was announced as director, whose film credits include the brilliant Monsters and Godzilla, which was critically praised but received a lukewarm reception publically.

THEN Disney announced the film was undergoing “heavy” reshoots to its first cut, reportedly due to executives being unhappy with the finished product’s tone.

So it’s clear that it’s not been plain sailing for Rogue One, but that headline isn’t a misprint – the finished article is just that damn good. But why?

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

If you cast your minds back to 1977 and the release of A New Hope, Rogue One takes place just before those events, acting as a stop-gap between the ending of Revenge of the Sith and the film that started it all.

A cast that includes Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn and Mads Mikkelsen all gel together incredibly well to form one of the most coherent ensemble groups the galaxy has ever seen. Not since the introduction of Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia has the Star Wars franchise been so superbly kept afloat. Jones in particular is excellent and adds yet another leading lady to a franchise that loves putting women at the forefront, and rightly so.

Elsewhere, the cinematography is sublime. Director Gareth Edwards is renowned for his stunning shot choices and Rogue One is no exception. The intense variety of planets created from photo-realistic CGI and real landscapes adds an immersive quality that it has to be said, was lacking somewhat in The Force Awakens.

Then there is the much publicised return of Lord Vader. The aforementioned villain has been playing heavy on the minds of Star Wars fans for years after he was ridiculously robbed of any street cred at the climax of Revenge of the Sith. Mercifully, Edwards keeps his appearances to but a few, though he does loom heavy throughout the course of the film’s 133 minute running time, and returns to the dark presence he once was – it’s also nice to see James Earl Jones returning to the series.

There are Star Wars easter eggs abound, some only noticeable to diehards, whilst others smack you in the face with their lack of subtlety – though each and every one is placed at a point where the film feels better because of it. I’m not going to mention any by name, but a couple of old faces received cheers from the audience.

Any negatives? Well, Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera fails to make a lasting impact and feels a little too much like executives wanted to shoehorn the Clone Wars television series into the film, and as much as it pains me to say, Michael Giacchino’s bombastic score, whilst brimming with nostalgia, doesn’t hit the right notes 100% of the time – with some musical elements feeling a little out of place with what is occurring on the screen.

Then there’s the dreaded reshoots. Well, they’re not noticeable… unless you’ve been watching the trailers, from which there are numerous scenes that aren’t included in the final cut. That’s a shame, though they’ll feature on the extended edition that will no doubt follow when the film is released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Overall, Rogue One is better than anyone could have hoped. 2016 has been one of the worst years in decades for disappointing blockbusters and as it nears its end, we have one of the best yet. Smartly written with a heartfelt and engaging story, it adds a new and exciting layer to the Star Wars saga, and what’s even more impressive is its ability to make A New Hope a better film because of its existence.
The A Plate (2012)
The A Plate (2012)
2012 | Comedy, Romance
5.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Story: The A Plate starts by introducing us to Jay Roth (Jacobsen) a car salesman working for Stevens Motors, Jay sees himself as one of the best in the business and uses his position to pick up woman but what he really wants it to be the manager which is currently filled by Dick Stevens (McMurray). When Dick gets cheating on his wife Candice (Barnes) she wants divorce which includes taking the dealership.

Jay sees this as a chance to take over the dealership by playing both sides of the divorce to put everything into place to become a partner. Jay takes a turn when he meets the Stevens’ daughter Andrea (Emery) who he gets told is off limits. As we know Jay won’t say no to a lady leading him to continue chase Andrea before getting involved in a relationship that will put his dealership dreams in threat.

The A Plate is a romantic comedy that is filled with hugely unlikable characters. We have an owner of car dealership going through a divorce which seems to end up getting pushed to the back while an awkward painfully romantic angle where the girl still falls for the guys crap even though she knows what car dealers are meant to be like. I don’t think the storylines mix together enough to have an impact upon each other and as soon as the romantic angle starts the whole business idea gets forgotten. We do have funny moments but I just never got into the idea of this being realistic story because of the characters. (4/10)



Actor Review


Shane Jacobsen: Jay Roth is the slick car salesman who uses all his skills on selling cars to get woman into bed. Jay wants to becoming the dealer but to do so he must play both sides of the owners into making them agree with them. All his plans get put at risk when he starts dating his boss’ daughter. Shane does a solid job even if his character is hugely unlikable. (6/10)


Sam McMurray: Dick Stevens is the owner of the dealership who is going to lose everything after getting caught cheating. He has to try and work out a way to make sure he keeps the dealership. Sam does a solid job but seems to over try and make each scene seem important. (5/10)


Julie Ann Emery: Andrea Stevens is the daughter of the boss who has caught the eye of Jay who even after being told to keep away goes after her as she returns home to help with the parents’ divorce. Julie does a solid job but never really has enough chemistry with Shane. (5/10)


Priscilla Barnes: Candice Stevens is the wife of Dick’s who wants everything after she catches him cheating and working with Jay tries to get the dealership. Priscilla does a solid job with her limited scenes. (6/10)


Support Cast: The A Plate has a supporting characters that are mainly used to add comedy to the film, we have Jay’s grandfather who steals the scenes.


Director Review: Terre Weisman – Terre creates a standard romantic comedy that will not go down as ground breaking. (5/10)


Comedy: The A Plate has its moments but never makes you laugh out loud. (5/10)

Romance: The A Plate has what looks like an awkward romantic angle where both sides should know better and still get involved. (5/10)

Chemistry: The A Plate struggles to create enough chemistry between the two leads. (4/10)

Settings: The A Plate has standard group of settings but none of which will make you remember anything in the film. (5/10)

Suggestion: The A Plate is one for the romantic comedy fans to try but I didn’t find it one of the good ones. (Rom Com Fans Try)


Best Part: Whip cream moments.

Worst Part: The stories don’t work well enough together.

Funniest Scene: Second whip cream moment.


Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No


Awards: Won 3 Awards in small festivals including Boston International and Hoboken International.

Oscar Chances: No

Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Release Date: 2nd June 2015 on VOD


Overall: Rom Coms have to do a lot to make me interested, this didn’t do enough.

Bob Mann (459 KP) rated Little Women (2019) in Movies

Jan 3, 2020 (Updated Jan 3, 2020)  
Little Women (2019)
Little Women (2019)
2019 | Drama
Saoirse Ronan - just mesmeric. What screen presence! (2 more)
Great supporting cast.
Alexandre Desplat soundtrack.
"God hasn't met my will yet"
Greta Gerwig's follow up to her Oscar-praised "Lady Bird" from 2017 looks set to repeat the job this year. For it's nothing short of a masterpiece of cinema.

Louisa M. Alcott's semi-autobiographical novel has been filmed before (in 1949 and 1994, together with a number of other TV versions). I've not seen any of these previous versions and (as a literary philistine) I've never read the book either. So the story was new to me and drew me in perfectly.

The March sisters - Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and the youngest Beth (Eliza Scanlen) - are being brought up by their mother (Laura Dern) and Aunt (Meryl Streep) while their father (Bob Odenkirk) is away fighting in the Civil War. Also providing a helping hand is the rich neighbour Mr Lawrence (Chris Cooper), whose good-looking but indolent son 'Laurie' (Timothée Chalamet) has had the hots for tom-boy Jo for many years.

Each of the girls has a talent: for Jo it's writing, with her struggling to get her work past the grumpy publisher Mr Dashwood (Tracy Letts, from "Le Mans '66"); for Meg it's acting; for Amy it's painting; and for Beth it's music.

The film follows the lives, loves, successes and misfortunes of the sisters over two periods, split 7 years apart. It's a bumpy ride for some.

It struck me, as the big green BBFC certificate flashed onto the screen, how rare it is to find a "U - Suitable for all" (UK) certificate on a film these days. This is a film that the whole family *could* go and see. My only reservation here would be the way the film zips in and out of the two time periods at will. This might confuse the hell out of younger children. The subject matter of one part of the story may also disturb sensitive kids.

It's a really old-fashioned film - full of melodrama, love, unrequited love, death, charity, ambition and kindness - that builds to a feel-good ending that was totally corny but felt perfect in every way. We need more of this in our lives.

Wow. Just wow. The Oscar Best Actress categories are going to be a bloodied battlefield this year! There have been some GREAT roles for women on screen in the last year, and the Academy will have a job on their hands to narrow the long-list to the short-list this year. I would have tentatively forecast that Renée Zellweger might have had the Best Actor Oscar wrapped up for "Judy". But then here comes Saoirse Ronan. With phenomenal screen presence, she lights up every single scene she's in. Emma Watson and Florence Pugh are great actresses (and both here stand a stab at the Supporting Actress category), but your gaze always falls straight back to Ronan's reaction.

It's also a wonderful performance for newcomer Eliza Scanlen as the youngster Beth: I heard director Greta Gerwig comment (on Edith Bowman's excellent Soundtracking podcast) that Eliza needed less lighting than anyone else on set as she was "naturally luminous"!

Again lodging a cracking performance is the versatile Timothée Chalomet.... does the young chap make a bad film?

When you get to the end of the "cast bit", and you haven't mentioned Meryl Streep and Laura Dern yet, that says a lot!

What comes across more than anything else is just how apt this story is today to the 'girl power' times that we are currently living through. Jo in particular is the rebel of her day, fighting against the conformity of what it was in the time to be an independent woman, and specifically an independent working woman. Some of Alcott's words from the book could even today act as a rallying cry to those looking for greater change.

My reviewing year has certainly got off to a bang with this one. It's a glorious movie, utterly absorbing with ravishing cinematography by Yorick Le Saux and a brilliant soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat: both I suspect likely to feature in Oscar nominations. It's also likely to be nominated in other technical categories including Production Design, Costume and Hair & Makeup.

And I predict that this is inevitably going to be a Christmas favourite to match "The Sound of Music" and "It's a Wonderful Life" in future years.

Comes with a highly recommended tag from me.

(For the full graphical review, please visit the One Mann's Movies site here - Thanks.)
Harriet (2019)
Harriet (2019)
2019 | Biography, Drama, History
Cynthia Erivo - mesmerising (2 more)
Great ensemble cast.
Truly uplifting story
A Crime has been committed
I'm not talking here about the criminal act of Edward Brodess (Mike Marunde) at the start of the film, tearing up perfectly legal documents that prove that slave 'Minty' (Cynthia Erivo) should be released from servitude. No. I'm talking about the 2020 Academy Awards selection.

This was just about the one and only mainstream film that I didn't get to see before this year's awards, and on catching up with it now I feel positively cross with the Academy. Were they looking for an excuse NOT to pour praise on a black-heavy film? Surely not! And yet here we have a standout performance from Cynthia Erivo, that should have been (imho) a more prominent challenger to Renée Zellweger; together with a superb supporting actor performance by Leslie Odom Jr. as her underground railway "Fat Controller" in Philadelphia.

And don't get me started on how or why Erivo didn't get the Oscar for best song with "Stand Up"! (And as both Erivo and Elton John are British, I'm not being partisan here). But did you HEAR and compare those two songs on the night?

The story is based (many would say 'very loosely based') on the amazing life story of Harriet Tubman, who in the run-up to the American Civil War made it her mission to free slaves. Illegally trapped herself on the Brodess farm in Maryland, 'Minty' plans to flee north leaving behind her husband John Tubman (Zackary Momoh), her father (an excellent Clarke Peters), her mother (Vanessa Bell Calloway) and four of her six siblings. It's a perilous pursuit, since being caught by the posse and their hunting dogs will mean severe beatings if not worse.

Fortunately, Minty has an ally.... God. For since a skull fracture, handed out by Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn, on great form), at the age of 13, Minty has had seizures where God has shown her flashes of future events.

"Be Free or Die" are the options. Which way will the dice fall for Minty, now reborn as Harriet, as she embarks on ever more perilous missions?

I just loved this movie. I thought Cynthia Erivo was mesmerising as the woman of great substance (you might say, 'True Brit'). There's not been a single Erivo film yet shown that I haven't been impressed with, with "Bad Times at the El Royale" being a particular favourite.

And what a fabulous ensemble cast! Aside from the folks mentioned above, other key performances come from Vondie Curtis-Hall as the Reverend Green (no, not "in the conservatory, with the lead piping") who delivers some fabulous gospel singing, Janelle Monáe (of "Hidden Figures" fame) as the kindly (but fictional) Marie Buchanon who is a friend in need, and Henry Hunter Hall who we first meet as the tricksy bounty hunter Walter.

Also praiseworthy is the score by Terence Blanchard, which seems to completely fit the mood of the movie, and the slightly blue-washed landscape cinematography of John Toll.

Kasi Lemmons - a lady whose previous work I'm not familiar with - directs with style, and (although I appreciate that the Best Director Oscar category only has five names in it) she must have been disappointed not to have been nominated for this. Lemmons also contributed to the story/script from Gregory Allen Howard ("Remember the Titans").

Why the hate on IMDB for this? The user reviews seem to be full of hateful 1* reviews, complaining of perverting the historical record. I can only conclude that this cohort is composed of a) black people genuinely upset about the portrayal of Tubman (which I can respect) and b) racists who are deadly opposed to the message the film portrays and looking for an excuse to bring it down.

Ignore them! If you change the name of the lead character to a fictional one and ignore the "based on a true story" angle, this is a genuinely uplifting and inspiring film. I was sat on a crowded plane, but I genuinely teared up at the finale (and particularly the very final shot) of this movie. It really spoke to me.

Recommended..... dig it out on a streaming service near you and make your own mind up.

(For the full graphical review, please check out the One Mann's Movies review here - Thanks).
Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1)
Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1)
Katherine Arden | 2018 | Children, Horror, Science Fiction/Fantasy
8.7 (3 Ratings)
Book Rating
I love creepy books, so when I came across Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, it immediately caught my attention. I don't normally read middle grade fiction, but I do make an exception for middle grade horror, and I'm really glad I had the chance to read Small Spaces.

Olivia, or Ollie as she prefers, is in middle school. She loves reading and books, so when she comes across a sobbing lady getting ready to throw a book in a river, she steals it before the woman has a chance to do so. Ollie thinks the book she stole is just a creepy ghost story, but she soon realizes it is anything but fiction! When her class goes on a field trip to a farm, Ollie realizes just how true the book is. When the field trip bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Ollie and two friends decided to leave the bus fearing that they may be in even worse danger if they stay on the bus. With the help of her broken watch from her deceased mother, Ollie must be very careful if she wants to return home unscathed.

I did enjoy the plot of Small Spaces. I felt like I was reading a R.L. Stine novel! Katherine Arden did such a fantastic job with this story in keeping it interesting. There were a few times were the story felt a little disjointed with what was going on as it sometimes seemed as if Small Spaces wanted to be more of a ghost story other than what it actually was. However, it was still a great plot! There was one plot twist I didn't see coming which I thought was great considering I'm an adult, and this is a middle grade story. Usually I can figure out the plot twists, but not this time! One thing that got me wondering is how all these 11 and 12 year old kids each had their own cell phone. I know it's not impossible for a whole class of junior high children to have a cell phone, but it just seems improbable. While most of my questions were answered, I was left pondering over the ending as to why more questions weren't asked by the police or the parents. Another question I had, I won't go into detail because of spoilers, but it pertained to the kids and the water. I'll just leave it at that. Although Small Spaces is a series, it can be read as a standalone as there is no cliff hanger ending.

The pacing for Small Spaces starts out a bit slow, but it picks up quickly to a fantastic pace a few chapters in. It stays at a decent pace for the majority of the book until it slows a little bit towards the ending. I wouldn't say the pacing lets the book down in any way though.

I felt all the characters in Small Spaces were written very well especially as the main characters were written as middle schoolers. I felt every character was solid. I didn't really care for Ollie's personality though. For the first half of the book, especially, she came across as a bully. As this book is aimed towards kids that are impressionable, it kind of irked me that the main character was a little mean to others. I liked Brian. I thought he seemed like he'd be a great kid in real life. I admire how he wasn't ashamed to show his emotions at certain times. My favorite character was Coco. Coco had just moved from the city to Ollie's middle school. She seemed really vulnerable, yet Ollie was mean to her a lot of the time. I just wanted to hug and protect Coco. She was such a sweet girl to everyone unlike Ollie. Coco came across as a happy go lucky girl.

Trigger warnings in Small Spaces besides being a scary story include death, minor violence, a minor profanity (one of the characters says hell), ghosts, and bullying.

All in all, Small Spaces is a fantastic scary read despite some minor flaws. It's got such a great spooky plot and characters that feel realistic. I would definitely recommend Small Spaces by Katherine Arden to everyone aged 10+ who love to be spooked! R.L. Stine better watch out; Katherine Arden could give him a run for his money judging by this book! Even though Small Spaces can stand on its own, I will definitely be reading the next book in the Small Spaces series.
(Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an eBook of Small Spaces by Katherine Arden in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.)