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Notes from Ghost Town
8
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
(This review will be found on my blog (<a href="http://themisadventuresofatwentysomething.blogspot.com/">The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl</a>) around the end of June).



I had been wanting to read this book since forever. I was thrilled when I found out that my local library had Notes From Ghost Town. I really liked this book.

Olivia is a 16 year old girl who has just realized that she's fallen in love with her best friend, Stern. On the day they share their first kiss, Olivia goes colorblind without knowing why. Soon after, Stern gets murdered. People are saying it was Olivia's mother as she was found with his body and because she's Schizophrenic. When Stern's ghost shows up telling Olivia to solve his murder because he doesn't believe it was her mother, Olivia must decide if she should help or if she's going crazy like her mother. Whatever she decides, she only has 9 days...

I like the title a lot. To me, it sounds kinda spooky which I like and which the book is not. I don't really understand why that title was picked since there isn't really any notes from Ghost Town unless they are musical.

The cover is alright. The girl is supposed to be the main character, Olivia. I guess she's hugging herself because Stern is gone, and she just thinks she's losing it completely. I would've had her against a back drop of Ghost Town and possibly with a ghostly Stern, but then again, I don't design covers.

I loved the world building, and the way in which Stern exists in the living world is your typical unfinished business thing. However, the world was written beautifully, and I felt as if I was a person existing in that world. Everything about this book felt real. The only thing that made the world building a little off was the fact that it's mentioned in the book that Stern's body was found all bloated and such because he'd been in the water for awhile. Yet, later in the book, it's said that he wasn't in the water for very long. Which one is it? I believe it's the latter, but the fact that both were written annoyed me a bit. Oh, and one other thing. Olivia mentions how much of an idiot Austin is, yet she hooks up with him and starts falling for him after he seems to be nice to her one time. In the real world, I seriously doubt this would happen. Jock boys that are mean to "weird" girls don't suddenly go sweet on them all of a sudden. I don't know. To me, it just didn't make sense.

The pacing starts out a bit slow, and I was worried that I had spent all my energy wanting this book for nothing. However, after a few chapters, the pacing picks up and stays that way throughout the book. In fact, I read most of this book in a day with the exception of about 60 pages. My husband wanted me to come to bed or else I would've finished it that night. Chapters flow into chapters and sentences into sentences. The pacing was brilliant after a slow start.

I enjoyed the plot even though it's been done before. Girl finally realizes she's in love with her best friend. Best friend dies right as something is getting started. Ghost haunts person due to unfinished business. However, the way the plot was written was fantastic. I felt it was a bit predictable, but I still enjoyed reading the book nonetheless. I didn't feel that there were any plot twists, but as I said, it's still an enjoyable read.

I loved the characters! I felt bad for Olivia becoming color blind since she was an up and coming artist. I loved how much she loved Stern yet she knew she had to keep on living (don't worry, that's not a spoiler). The only thing that annoyed me was how trusting she was during her investigation of who killed Stern. Also, I felt like she was just a tad bit naive because I felt it had become painfully obvious who is was. Perhaps she just wanted to see the good in everyone. I also enjoyed reading about Stern. I just wish I could've got a bit of back story on him so I would've been able to really feel for him. He dies within the first few chapters, so I never really got a chance to connect with him. While I loved reading about him, I just didn't feel for him. I absolutely loved Raina! I loved how much she wanted to help Olivia even though Olivia kept pushing her away. As for Austin, I didn't really know what to think of him. Olivia says he's mean (although she used other words for him), but throughout the book, he seemed really sweet.

The dialogue flowed freely and smoothly. Character interactions never once felt forced, and I felt that everyone spoke and acted appropriately for their age group. There is a lot of swearing in this book though, but I don't feel like it was put in just for the sake of having it in the book. The swearing felt natural, and fit right in with what the characters were going through. And let's be honest, most people would be hard pressed to find a teenager that didn't swear.

Overall, Notes From Ghost Town was a interesting and intriguing read. I loved the way Ellison incorporates a romantic ghost story in with a murder mystery. This makes for a fantastic read!

I'd recommend this book to those aged 16+ who are after an intriguing story that has a lot of different elements to read about.
  
TT
The Toymaker
6
6.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
As a kid who was into books with a dark, almost gothic feel to them when I picked this up at the age of thirteen I really loved it. What wasn't to like? Very creepy cover, exciting concepts, dark scenes and mortal peril - it had all of those boxes ticked. Yes, I can safely say that teenage me thought this book was excellent. So when I found this book under my bed a few weeks ago, I decided to give the book another read to see if it was as good as I remembered.

Sadly it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good book (although three stars it is the higher end) but reading it eight years on there are particular aspects of this book that my adult brain has picked out more than my teen one.

The characters are alright; I suppose, but they are incredibly simplistic with very little character development. Katta (a joint protagonist with Mathias) is the only character who feels like she could be more interesting and have a little more about her than the rest, but I was still very unsure about whether I liked her or not (and the way she speaks really annoyed me). I would also have liked to see some more complex relationships - especially between Koenig and Stefan and Katta and Stefan (whose relationship was a very simplistic 'I hate you because of X' but nothing beyond that so got quite boring after a while). However, this is a kid's/young teen's book and didn't bother me too much when I first read it so I guess I can cut it a little slack.

The atmosphere was the thing that I most remembered this book for (there still being a couple of chapters fixed in my mind for how creepy they were), and I'm glad to say that this really held up. The book is dark most of the way through, and the sections/chapters where de Quidt really sees how dark he can be are the best and most memorable parts of the book. Any chapter with Marguerite is brilliant and I absolutely loved the carnival sections. Any bit where it's just Katta on her own away from the rest of the group is really dark (a little seedy perhaps) and just great. The one thing that is perhaps a little too far for me personally is the very vivid and graphic descriptions of the injuries/wounds (and there are a lot) and how they feel which, for someone like me who is a bit squeamish, can be a bit much. It was really nice that the thing that I most remembered the book for is still as great as when I first read it.

For the most part, the writing style is good. There are, however, occasional moments when the wording/phrasing and punctuation are a bit off or clunky. This makes it quite confusing at times and is a little distracting but I think this might be a translation (maybe) so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. This is the only thing that I can really remember bugging me when I was thirteen.

The plot is pretty good for what it is (four people solving a mystery about a blank piece of paper while villains follow and try to stop them) but I felt like this was more a sort of vehicle for creating a creepy atmosphere, which is no bad thing really. I have to say that when I found the book after so many years, I honestly couldn't remember the plot and I daresay I'll have forgotten it again in a few months time.

The intrigue with which this book grips the reader is, in no small part, down to the atmosphere that is created. I am someone who gets distracted very quickly, especially when reading, but when I picked this book up, I would find myself not able to put it down unless I was called away from it or found that it was 1 am and I should probably get some sleep. This is an excellent sign in any book but especially one aimed at teenagers.

The logic in 'The Toymaker' is hit and miss at best. The characters are wounded for what seems like forever but they don't really succumb to them apart from getting a little paler and being in pain most of the time. There are also lots of things that are not explained or just flat out make no sense. Yes, there is a bit of magic in the story but there still has to be some kind of logic or explanation for it rather than it being used as a kind of jarring deus ex machina to quickly (and a bit clumsily and lazily) move the story along. I can't really say whether or not this bothered me when I read it eight years ago because it's all tied up with the plot and, like I said earlier, I didn't really remember much of it.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I enjoyed delving back into Jeremy de Quidt's dark and creepy world and it was great revisiting, what I call, a nostalgia read but I think that now it is time to give my copy to a charity shop so another younger teenager can find and enjoy it while it's space on my bookshelf can be given to a book that I will enjoy as an adult.


Characters: 5.5/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Writing Style: 7/10
Plot: 6/10
Intrigue: 8/10
Logic: 4.5/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
  
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
2008 | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
After 17 years away from the big screen, Indiana Jones has dusted off his trusty fedora and bullwhip in one of the most eagerly awaited returns to the screen in cinema history. Harrison Ford once again plays the rough and rugged archeologist who is as equally adept in the classroom as he is in the depths of an ancient trap laden chamber.

In “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, audience are re-introduced to Jones, who is by now an older, and wiser man who spent the years of WWII as a special operative which earned him not only the rank of Colonel, but numerous medals and citations.

The film opens with a group of bad guys forcing Indiana to locate an object from a gigantic storage area in the infamous Area 51. Since Jones was part of a team that examined said object nearly a decade earlier, his services are greatly desired, and he is forced to play along with his captors.

Of course Indiana Jones is still a man of action, and soon turns the tables on his captors in a daring and humor filled action sequence that quickly answers those that doubted Ford could pull off his charismatic character in his 60’s.

The events of the situation do not go unnoticed by the U.S. government who suspect Jones of collaborating with the enemy, and in the Red Scare America of the 1950’s Jones soon finds himself suspended from his teaching position and looking to head overseas.

As Indy’s train heads out of town, he is approached by a motorcycle riding messenger who says his name is Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), and he has been sent to find Indy by a former college of Indy’s Professor Oxle (John Hurt). Intrigued, Jones listens to the tale Mutt tells him that people have kidnapped Oxley and his mother, and he shows him a letter that Oxley instructed him to pass along to Indy should anything happen to him.

Before Indy can dig further into the mystery, he and Mutt are accosted by thugs and after a daring race through traffic on Mutt’s motorcycle, find themselves on a plane to South America in search of Oxley and Mutt’s mother as well as the fabled Crystal Skull that legend says will grant amazing powers to anyone who returns it to the fabled Golden City.

Thinking that his old friend Oxley may have succeeded where Indy was unable to many years earlier, Jones takes up the cause of locating the fabled artifact and the city as he believes that they are also the keys to locating his missing friend. The film really slows down here and devotes a good amount of time to advancing the story and characters and thanks to the amazingly detailed sets and enjoyable characters; you may find yourself not minding the change of pace.

Of course there are plenty of bad guys to add to the mix, including the evil Irinia Spalko (Cate Blanchett), who is leading a team of Russian soldiers who also have designs on the skull, as it would give them the power to read and control the minds of the leaders the world over, amongst other powers that would be used for their aggressive agendas.

What follows is an effects-laden adventure leading to a grand finale that is not as spectacular as past films in the series, but enjoyable nonetheless. When the action comes it is solid, and while some of it seems to be a retread of some of the classic moments of the series, it does deliver enough thrills to keep fans happy. There are some very welcome moments in the film such as a nice tribute to Sean Connery and the Late Denholm Elliot as well as a cleverly placed cameo early in the film during the warehouse fight.

Shia LaBeouf is an interesting addition to the series and his scenes with Ford are very enjoyable. They have a natural chemistry and do not seem forced like the Short Round character from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. I was also very happy to see Karen Allen return to the series as Marion Ravenwood. She has truly proven to be the only love interest in the series that truly measures up to Indy, and her fiery temper with a girl next door charm is the perfect foil for Jones.

The effects in the film are not groundbreaking, but solid, however some may find that the films plot is a bit to complex and takes too long to setup. There were funny moments in the film to go along with the action and viewers who pay close attention will catch some very subtle nods to other moments in the series.

I was pleased with the sets in the film as Director Steven Speilberg and Producer George Lucas clearly paid attention to details in the look of the film. The tombs and exotic chambers depicted in the film had a very immersive nature to them much the same way that classic Disneyland rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion place guests right in the middle of the spooky and exotic locales. From cobwebs, skeletons, and insects and well as treasures galore, it was like being in on the adventure with Indy.
The series does have some life in it and while the film does not measure up with the first film in the series, I would say it is on par with “Temple of Doom” and was for me, more enjoyable than “The Last Crusade.” The film leaves the door open for yet another adventure, and if comments from Speilberg and Lucas are to be taken seriously, we may see the beloved archeologist back on the big screen in the not too distant future.
  
The World&#039;s End (2013)
The World's End (2013)
2013 | Comedy, Sci-Fi
9
7.4 (27 Ratings)
Movie Rating
This summer’s movie lineup has been crammed full of sophisticated robots, vampires and even a recently passed billionaire genius. And then you have The World’s End (“TWE”), which might simply be the best and most creative of the bunch. Having a much smaller budget than these bigger movies, and being set in England, Edgar Wright shows that it’s not all about money and tropics in this hilarious romp.

 

I cannot honestly think of a better way to wrap up the Cornetto Trilogy then the story told in TWE. For those that don’t know there’s a joke behind the Cornetto name, in that a report brought up that a Cornetto ice cream wrapper was featured in each of the first two movies. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz make up the first two movies, and TWE rounds out what eventually became the Cornetto Trilogy. Ice cream Easter egg aside, all the films in the trilogy share the same cast and crew. They star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, written by Pegg and Wright, and directed by Wright. The films are chock full of inside jokes that go back as far as this incredible groups humble beginnings with the TV show Spaced. Beyond these connections, though, each films stands on its own as a unique story.

 

While Shaun of the Dead was the group’s take on zombie films, and Hot Fuzz visited the buddy cop genre, TWE is a comedic riff on films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If you have somehow made it this far without having the full plot spoiled for you, do try and keep it that way. The key things you need to know is that there are robots, creepy “YOLO” kids, and the story centers on Gary King, a man who never quite grew up.

 

Gary (Pegg) is a disaster of an adult male. He’s wild, rambunctious, trying to constantly relive his youth, and irresponsible to boot. This demeanor has not done any good for him as an adult on the far side of 40, but he’s delusional and is not aware that he has not succeeded in life. This actually adds to his charm.

 

Gary gets a bug up his you know what, and wants to relive one of his last greatest days of his youth. A day when he and his four best friends decided to celebrate finishing school by tackling the town-famous golden mile. Newton Haven has 12 pubs spread along a mile path that Gary manages to convince his friends Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and former best friend Andrew (Frost) to attempt again just like they did all those years ago. The pub crawl concludes at the film’s namesake: The World’s End.

 

As the evening goes on, and the beers start going down, the five begin to discover that something is off. Between rounds and pubs, the group starts to discuss whether or not the town has changed, or they have. This leads to a fight with the creepy “YOLO” kids that is reminiscent of Chinese Kung Fu movies the likes of Jackie Chan would be found in. As the mates progress from pub to pub, more and more of the mystery of Newton Haven begins to unravel.

 

The film starts in a deceiving way and hides its true nature underneath a veil of middle-aged men trying to reconcile their present with their past. Gary very much represents the past as he still dresses the way he did when he was 18, still drives the same car, complete with the same cassette tape of music given to him more than 20 years ago by Steven. Gary is a loser, but thinks he is the hero of every story, which causes a love/hate relationship with the group of friends. Then it all changes! Wright and company manage to do a complete 180 and combine a very believable mid-life crisis film with a robot invasion. And it works!

 

Pegg absolutely nails the role of Gary, from his movements to his banter with the others in the film. There is an air of desperation hidden under his free spirit persona. But surprisingly, it is Frost that steals the movie this time around. Andrew is the most well-rounded character he has portrayed, even through his transformation from a stiff professional into the atomic elbow dropping fighter he needs to become.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the fight scenes are very reminiscent Chinese Kung Fu movies. The choreography is amazing and the actors have no problem keeping up with the action and bringing the air of humor that the Kung Fu films bring as well. It is impressive watching Frost, a small man by no means, nimbly dispatch several foes. Meanwhile, Pegg is constantly thwarted by enemies as he unsuccessfully attempt to enjoy a pint. For a film billed as comedy, the few fight scenes are among the best of the summer.

 

As good and Pegg and Frost are though, it all comes back to the man behind the camera… Wright. He has a style that is distinctive and unique. He has shown his range over the years with shows like Spaced and films like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. And his attention to detail is bar-none. Nothing is included in a shot if it doesn’t have some sort of meaning. Wright is a master film maker in his own right.

 

TWE is steeped in originality and creativity, which is sorely lacking in many films that are released these days. Wright is a master of deconstructing a genre film to honor it and make fun of it at the same time. Pegg and Frost have an uncanny knack for translating Wright’s visions to the silver screen. The World’s End is another example of their shining chemistry, and also one of the best films of the summer.
  
Rebel Rose (The Queen&#039;s Council #1)
Rebel Rose (The Queen's Council #1)
Emma Theriault | 2020 | Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)
7
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Contains spoilers, click to show
Set against the backdrop of revolutionary France, ‘Rebel Rose’ continues the story of Beauty and the Beast after the curse is broken. Belle and her Prince now have to find a way to navigate married life, rank, politics and explain a 10-year absence from the French Court of Versailles.

Controversially, Emma Theriault baits the hardcore Disney fans straight out of the gates by naming her Prince Lio (Lio, Lion, beast, gettit?) rather than Adam. In the grand scheme of things this can easily be forgiven but it still seems a strange choice. Maybe Adam was too English for a French Prince?

However, the use of first person perspective ensures that our protagonist remains firmly in Belle. Belle has refused the title of Princess upon marriage in order to stay true to her roots but is constantly hiding her true self: even referring to a trip around Europe as “one last adventure before the walls of the castle close around her”. When Belle witnesses the revolutionary sparks within the city this divides her further: how can she be part of the nobility these people rally against and an avid “commoner” at the same time?

In truth, Belle as a character divided me as well. Belle has always been my favourite Disney Princess (possibly to do with that massive library) and, in the most part, I feel Theriault wrote her well and stayed true to the character. However, in the early pages Belle felt very spoilt and selfish to me: preferring to disguise herself and explore Paris rather than support Lio in explaining his decade-long disappearing act to King Louis.

I was intrigued to know what my fellow reviewers thought and was unsurprised to see a LOT of criticism of our heroine, her shunning of the title of Princess and her lack of enthusiasm to be a leader. However, I almost felt that this made the story more realistic. Just because she broke a curse and married a Prince doesn’t mean she can automatically feel ready and comfortable leading a kingdom! Maybe she just has a fondness for hairy men?

Belle’s reluctance and tentativeness to lead also fed very nicely into her passion to improve the lives of the residents of the kingdom of Aveyon. This is common sense to her and therefore doesn’t feel like ruling. Indeed, it is not seen by any of the main characters as ruling but in the end it saves them all from a revolution of their own.

I would have liked Lio to be a little bit more developed than he was. The fact that he harboured an element of PTSD from the curse was really interesting but not explored any further than his nightmares and aversion towards roses. There was undoubtedly chemistry between him and Belle but it was just a bit lacklustre in my opinion. This may be due to his absence for a lot of the book but I felt the reader could have loved him a lot more than we did.

Lio’s cousin Bastien is the slimy villain of the tale and I would have liked a bit more mystery and suspense within his character. I appreciated that Belle didn’t like him initially as he was a powdered, wig wearing noble who was close to King Louis, basically as far away from Belle as possible. Bastien is also quite snobby towards Belle in his earliest chapters so you can’t blame her for disliking him.

  However, by using language to plainly show that Belle distrusts her husband’s cousin, Theriault instantly creates a flashing neon “villain” sign above his head. This would have been fine in a middle-grade book but within YA I think the reader could have been afforded to be misled a couple of times before uncovering Bastien’s real intentions.

**This section contains spoilers**
I also believe that Bastien’s eventual story arc was a tad unbelievable. At first I thought his revolutionary sympathies and further plots with various goons was a ruse in order to gain the throne for himself, particularly once he had established himself firmly with the advisory. Emma Theriault’s decision to keep Bastien true to the revolution seemed rushed, and a bit odd to be honest. This is a noble who lives in the lap of luxury and attends to King Louis himself but who then turns on his own kind after basically forcing the kingdom of Aveyon to break away from France? It didn’t seem plausible to me.


Rebel Rose is an easy to read continuation of one of our favourite Disney tales. It reintroduces us to old favourites such as Mrs Potts and Lumiere as well as introducing new characters such as Marguerite and Bastien. Belle’s journey to staying true to herself and following her gut is one anyone can empathise with and her discovery that she does not have to appease to outsider’s expectations will never cease to be important.

The magic contained within this novel is a perfect springboard for the rest of the novels within the Queen’s Council series: the next one is based on Mulan and will be written by Livia Blackburne before Jasmine’s story by Alexandra Monir follows in 2022. The majority of the action within this novel does take place towards the end so it can be a little slow paced and politics focused but I enjoyed seeing Belle and Lio break free of their fairytale life and become a little more real.

Although this isn’t my favourite Disney novel, I do appreciate the break away from the retelling genre and the move towards bringing these well-known characters into the real world. For a debut novel I think Emma Theriault should be immensely proud: the research for the historical context alone must have been a mission!
  
Midsommar (2019)
Midsommar (2019)
2019 | Drama, Horror, Mystery
In 2017 the stale market of “horror” thrillers got a royal shake-up when Jordan Peele made Get Out. All of a sudden it seemed possible again to use the tired genre, that had been relying on gore and jump shocks alone for at least two decades, as a palette for intelligent social commentary and some seriously artistic flourishes. The following year, Ari Aster came out of nowhere with a debut feature that impressed everyone for it’s originality and bravado in this new “art-horror” model – the devisive yet always interesting Hereditary, a film that confused me on first watch, but gave me faith that I could be unnerved again, it’s secret being that you couldn’t compare it to anything since the golden days of the 70s.

So, when I saw the trailer for Midsommar in 2019 and realised it was the same director, it went straight to the top of my must see list. Add to the appeal the significant lure of the lead actress and main character, the extremely promising Florence Pugh, who blew me away for her raw ability in Lady Macbeth, and beguiled me even more in every minute of Chan-Wook Park’s superlative espionage mini-series The Little Drummer Girl, and I knew this was something I didn’t want to miss. Sometimes it only takes two projects on a CV to elevate a future star from obscurity to A-list potential. In Pugh I had already seen enough range, charisma and depth to suspect she was one of those special few. By the end of Midsommar I was convinced of it!

Plot wise, all you need to know going in cold is that Dani (Pugh) racked with grief following early scenes is dragged to Sweden to participate in the Midsommar celebrations of a small isolated community, as her relationship with boyfriend Christian is very much on the rocks and she is in need of some catharsis and release. At first the Idyllic setting, bathed in sunlight you can almost feel, seems refreshing and clean. The whites, yellows and blues of the images are so crisp you can imagine every smell and texture, and you find yourself smiling, despite the fact a creeping unease and sinister secret is already infiltrating the calm in wonderfully subtle ways.

Needless to say it goes to some very dark and strange places. So much so I gasped out loud twice and stood up from my seat involuntarily on one particularly disturbing moment. To try and explain how that unfolds and comes to be is both impossible and would need some big time spoilers, so I won’t do that. It’s enough to say that where you are emotionally at the end of this filmic experience is very, very far from where you started. Much in the same way as Hereditary, you feel you have been dragged by the hair on a very uncomfortable journey that is both strangely unsatisfying, confusing and upsetting; you can’t say you “liked” either film as much as admitting you can’t stop thinking about them and need to see them again to absorb the detail, if indeed you can bear that.

As of writing this I haven’t gone back and watched this again – I’m genuinely wary of putting myself through it a second time! But, I have gone back to Hereditary and appreciated it much more knowing the ending already, and seeing the detail that is there from the beginning, that makes it all make sense in a way it doesn’t first time around. Midsommar, I sense, is the same, in that there has been so much attention to the build up and background that you will see and hear relevant clues to the mystery much more the more times you watch it. What they are wearing, images on walls and seemingly insignificant things the camera picks up on create a tapestry of loose threads that can be woven together into deeper meaning if that is what you want to do.

Without doing that it may seem like a bewildering entity, deliberately odd for the sake of it, and as such it could put anyone off. At 2 hours and 28 minutes it is a bit of a stretch, and the last half hour, once it descends into the complete madness suggested earlier, perhaps doesn’t live up to the promises it makes. Also, despite Pugh being a mesmeric presence from start to finish, the supporting cast can’t quite go with her on the same level. Even the talented Will Poulter seems burdened by a less than three dimensional character, underwritten as are many in a script that focuses so much on Dani that everything else suffers.

My overall impression of it as a film is that it falls short of greatness by a narrow margin, but comes very close at times to genuine genius. It is the promise of Aster as a filmmaker that excites me most, even if this is not the film it could have been with a little more experience, maturity and, perhaps, budget. It is his Bottle Rocket, or Hard Eight, when you suspect he will have a Grand Budapest Hotel, or a There Will Be Blood in him at some point down the line.

In conclusion, I can’t emphasise enough how much I was drawn to every moment of what Florence Pugh was doing. Be wary of the film if a casual viewing experience is what you want, because it may infuriate you, and compel you even to switch it off, if you are not totally ready to meet it where it wants to take you. But, watch it for Pugh and see what a rare talent she is bringing to cinema into the 2020s. A very exciting prospect indeed.
  
40x40

Kara Skinner (332 KP) rated Chained in Books

Sep 10, 2019  
Chained
Chained
7
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
As acting high lord of the house of Toustain, it’s Lady Gwendolyn’s job to manage affairs of Dinasdale, and that includes managing her new unruly prisoner, Caden Maignart. Unfortunately it looks like the only way she’ll be able to manage him is to have him chained up in her bedchamber.

After thirty years of peace, tensions are mounting between Daleria and Dinasdale again. After receiving reports of Dalerians massacring a Dinasdale village and Gwen’s brothers vanishing after being attacked, Gwen won’t take any chances with the Dalerian intruders found on Dinasdalian land. But she quickly realizes just throwing them into the dungeon won’t work, not when one of them is willing to stir up as much trouble as he possibly can to be freed. Chaining him up in her bedchamber keeps him secure, but it causes a whole new set of problems. Like how she can’t hide her thoughts and feelings from him. Not to mention the growing attraction she feels towards him, despite him being the enemy and her being engaged to another.

I will say this: Elise Marion can world-build. Like damn! Not only did she bring two completely different cultures to life, but she also wrote intricate histories for both of them. And it is definitely amazing. I love both Dinasdale and Daleria equally even though I think I’d rather live in Daleria. It’s all woods and mountains and women can become knights instead of just marrying for status. And honestly, I like red meat, not fish, which is the main food in Dinasdale. Yeah. Marion can world-build. These feel like real regions instead of fictional ones.

Unfortunately, the world-building choked the story a little bit at the beginning. In the prologue, when the three kings met, I was having trouble just trying to remember who belonged to which country, let alone keeping the reason for their conflict straight. I reread entire passages three times or so before I gave up on matching the names to the countries and points of contentions. Luckily as the story goes on, I could figure it out better.

Another thing that was frustrating was how much this plot relied on slow communication. I mean, if this world had email then not nearly as many people would have been killed. I’m reading the second book now, and that is still the main plot device, which makes me impatient for the characters to get caught up to speed on what’s happening. But hey, it works, right? The dramatic irony was killing me.

Mostly, I really love this story. I mean as soon as I finished the first one I bought the second, which is very rare for me. But I love it a lot. In addition to the seriously realistic world-building, there is also a really great plot full of political corruption and mystery. Even though I don’t think Rowan’s character is at all realistic, I like the story. There’s a lot going on at once. My summary up top doesn’t really do the plot of the book justice, honestly. It’s very hard to explain how intricate the plot really is, so I highly recommend you read it.

And yes, the love story between Caden and Gwen is fantastic. Caden is a really decent guy, even to Gwen despite the fact that he’s chained to her bedroom wall. Despite being the high lord heir for Daleria he’s very just and noble, which is way more than what can be said for King Rowan or Prince Gawain. I mean, I just get angry when I think about those two. And Gwen is a perfect match for him. She’s as headstrong and clever as you can get, not to mention beautiful (and can I just say that I love that she’s not caucasian? Too often romances like these are very monocolored unless it’s really relevant to the plot. The different races is only mentioned as an identifying trait between Dalerian and Dinasdale, but not a point of contention between them. It’s incredibly refreshing).

She is definitely wasted as Gawain’s fiancee. She holds her own really well and unlike other “strong” female heroines I see sometimes in books like these, she’s actually really smart and fierce instead of being just sassy. I mean, she killed three men in the first scene. She rocks. Her family makes me angry, though. How can they expect her to just be married off to Gawain? Her mother is delusional and selfish, so I understand why she wants her daughter to act all ladylike, but her brothers should know better and so should her uncle! It’s really frustrating to see how they want to coddle her and get her out of the way all the time.

Gwen and Caden are fantastic together. I love the chemistry between them and how sweet Caden is to Gwen. The gods know she needs it after her rough handling from Gawain. One thing I didn’t like, however, is how Caden was reluctant to be with Gwen because of her engagement to Gawain. Yeah, I admire the need for loyalty, but when Gwen didn’t want to marry Gawain in the first place, Gawain tried to rape her, and he probably caused the rift between Daleria and Dinasdale, the value of an engagement should probably be meaningless. It’s also frustrating that he kept saying that she belonged to someone else. Like her family, he sees her a little bit like a possession, which was really annoying. I know that probably has nothing to do with her sex. He would probably say the same thing about a guy engaged. But that didn’t stop me from disliking him a little bit.
  
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
2021 | Action, Adventure
Exceptional Fight Choreography (0 more)
Didn't get too detailed in the lore (0 more)
Superhero Epic With Emotional Family Drama And Gravity-Defying Martial Arts
In the past, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi's father, used the Ten Rings, mystical weapons granting him immortality and power, to amass an army of warriors and topple kingdoms and governments alike. In the present Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is just a regular guy working a dead end job as a valet with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) and enjoying life. When he and Katy are attacked by the mysterious Ten Rings Organization, Shang-Chi must confront the past of his former life. A life he thought he left behind.

 This movie was really great! I'm so glad I went to go watch it in theaters and on the first day before anybody spoiled anything for me. I hate people who do that. Anyways, this movie was an excellent addition to the MCU and I like the way it went about being it's own thing. It felt like they didn't have to try and adhere to being part of a shared universe and making things fit but at the same time there were plenty of Easter eggs and surprises sprinkled throughout. The film also managed to check a lot of boxes without feeling like they were forced. It had drama, really great action, killer fight scenes, and some comedy mixed in there. The movie felt a lot like the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, especially in how it balanced the seriousness and lightness throughout the film. I liked the chemistry between the characters and thought the casting was perfect. The bus scene was one of my favorite parts of the movie and all the action that went on. If I had to say that there was a biggest flaw in the film it would probably be that they didn't really go too far into some of the lore involved but ultimately that didn't detract from it enough to be something major.

 I liked the way the director chose to portray the events in the story and how it was a pretty cohesive plot and not all over the place. The pacing was done well and there was good use of flashbacks in certain scenes to move the plot. I felt like it was done well without turning into "info dumping" with character dialogue. The cinematography was great and seemed naturalistic and heightened. They definitely took advantage of filming on location in San Francisco with some scenes filmed in famous places such as Russian Hill, Noe Valley, Nob Hill and Fisherman's Wharf. The fight choreography in the movie is phenomenal. It's probably the best that there has ever been in a Marvel film and it shows. They got Brad Allen who had worked with Jackie Chan before, as the supervising stunt coordinator and he brought that physical comedy to the scenes where setups and stakes keep rising as do the payoffs. The tone of the movie was light but definitely had it's moments were it got darker however it never left it's core of being about family. The music was more contemporary and modern but with some musical score in the scenes where it fit really well but there was nothing that really stuck out as unique or compelling. The acting was pretty good with even Awkwafina showing a little bit of range with some dramatic scenes and not just comedy. Simu Liu was very convincing as Shang-Chi, both versions, the "average Joe" and the warrior. His father played by Tony Leung was also very good in his scenes from the ones showing the past to his interactions with Shang-Chi. You could really feel the tension between them. And of course Michelle Yeoh was just awesome!

 The writing was good and dialogue never felt like somebody said something that was out of character or didn't fit right. The plot was never weak or boring. Although you could tell where it was going it had a little bit of mystery to it. The editing was done very proper and there were some good cuts of action scenes particularly the bus scene. I liked the one transition in the beginning from the tale of the past to the alarm clock. The costume designs were something that you usually don't remember in some films but this one had some really iconic ones that stuck out. For example that one masked blue ninja's outfit, as well as the other Ten Rings soldiers looked cool. Razor Fist's arm design was inventive also. There were so many outfits that come out later in the movie that just fit really well too. Although as cool and nice looking as Shang-Chi's costume was, I did think it could have been better. There were plenty of really cool set designs from the Ten Rings lair to a underground fight club in Macau but the one set piece that stole the show to me was this really ornate wooden carving that looked really intricate. You'll know the one when you see it. The special effects were really good and I couldn't really complain too much except that the movie did suffer from one of those things that happened towards the end like in Black Panther where they just used too much in a certain sequence and it looked bad in that particular part. I did have a favorite character in the movie but it'd be spoiling it if I said who it was, so I'll just say that they have exceptional "acting" skills. Anyways I give Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings a 8/10 and it gets my "Must See Seal of Approval". You need to get out there and check this movie out this Labor Day Weekend.
  
Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Leigh Bardugo | 2017 | Fiction & Poetry, Science Fiction/Fantasy
10
8.6 (17 Ratings)
Book Rating
WONDER WOMAN - WARBRINGER by LEIGH BARDUGO
Contains spoilers, click to show
Wonder Woman also known as Diana Prince is an Amazon warrior destined to save to world and to later become a member of the Justice League.

But before that, like every story, she had a beginning and Leigh Bardugo gives her a just that.

The beginning of the book and the start of Diana’s story lies her home, Themyscira. Located in the Aegean Sea - Greece. Legend has it that the Amazons were given the island by the Gods after they freed themselves and fought Ares after being enslaved. But that’s just one version. Alike with most stories, there is more than one tale, as most myths and legends are like stories. Like the game we all played at school, Chinese whispers where we whispered something to the person next to us and they did the same till the last person said something like “I eat orange peel and make shoes out of it” when you actually said “I’m hungry and I want a cup of tea”

But back to the book, Princess Diana doesn’t feel she is an Amazon truly. Yes, she was born on the island (although she was actually made out of clay and blessed by the Gods to come to life) and is immortal like the other Amazons. She did not fight and die heroically in a battle like every other Amazon warrior did including her mother Queen Hippolyta.
Because of this Diana is teased daily by Amazon warrior Tek who is basically one of the strongest Amazon warriors and also the bravest. Diana believes that if she wins the race at the Nemeseian games that the Amazons compete in she will be able to show them she is both brave and strong. This would also impress her mother and obviously Tek and then she might just stop being so mean to Diana.

However whilst she is running in the race she sees a boat sinking and hears a stream, from a girl. Although the Amazons are used to seeing this sort of thing happen, along with plane crashes etc. Something stops Diana enough to turn around, run and jump into the sea below her and save the girl. Alia.
Themyscira, as we all know, is a secret island, a place where only the Gods and Amazons know about. Again we know about it from stories and legends, we don’t know exactly where it is. Say it’s like living in a snow globe, except you can’t see inside it. Basically when the ship started to sink the crew and passengers onboard had no idea what so ever that they were next to this mysterious paradise island.

Diana saves Alia and brings her to shore leaving her in a cave till she can come back and help take her back to land. Diana needs to head back to the race in case someone sees she is missing, and being the Princess she needs to be there by the Queen's side to congratulate the winner seeing as Diana clearly hasn’t won.
Back with her mother, they congratulate the winner and then enjoy the feast laid out in front of them. Not long after her best friend Mauve gets ill - which I might add, no-one ever does! The island also starts to move like there is an earthquake happening - which again does happen, ever!
The Amazons start to evacuate the island and head of to see the Oracle. Diana runs as fast as she can to get to see the Oracle before her mother and Tek get there first and find out that she has saved Alia.
Because the island is a mystery and they have no contact with the outside world, they aren’t allowed to save anyone and interfere with the mortal world. That means they can’t bring anyone to the island or the Amazon could be banished from Themyscira.

Once Diana reaches the Oracle and after she has got through the normal routine of giving something to the Oracle and listening to the riddle instead of answers, she soon learns that Aila is a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy. Being a Warbringer entails having war in your blood. All wars have been caused by a Warbringer and Alia is the next one.

“When a Warbringer is born, destruction is inevitable. One has been the catalyst for every great conflict in the World of Man. With the coming of the new moon, Alia’s powers will reach their apex, and war will come. Unless she dies before then.” - Oracle to Diana pg 43.

Diana then asks the Oracle three questions;
1. How do I save Themyscira?
2. How do I save Alia’s life?
3. How do I save everyone

To which the Oracle's answers;
1. Do nothing
2. You must not
3. “The Warbringer must reach the spring at Therapne before the sun sets on the first day of Hekatombaion. Where Helen rests, the Warbringer may be purified, purged of the taint of death that has stained her line from its beginning. There may her power be leashed and never passed to another.”

So from then Diana and Alia go in search for the spring, it takes a lot of convincing Alia but once convinced they begin their journey. Although it’s not that straightforward. They do encounter some enemies, friends and new places after all. This is where the wild journey that Leigh Bardugo creates.

You much like our hero Wonder Woman experience Diana Prince in a new world, still staying the same person only so much cooler than before. She soon learns that she has always had what it takes to be an Amazon and that man is not quite what her mother and the other Amazons taught her, not all are bad and wish for war. Some are exactly like Diana and soon become great friends and allies to her.

The first book in a series of four called DC Icons by Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J Maas, and Matt de la Pena. This series is definitely going to be amazing.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Marie Lu: Batman - Nightwalker (Jan 18)

Sarah J Maas: Catwoman - Soulstealer (2018)

Matt de la Pena: Superman - ? (2019)

Love, Christina ?
  
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Lucy Catten (4 KP) rated Sanctus in Books

Mar 12, 2018  
S
Sanctus
10
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Next up is the first in the Sancti Trilogy by Simon Toyne. I finished reading this on the 23rd June and have finished another four books since, so this review is probably going to be less a ‘review’ and more a list of reasons why you should give this book a go.

(Note to self: get into the habit of reviewing everything I read as soon as I finish it!).

This book bypassed me completely when it was released in 2011 but I recently heard a couple of interviews with the author promoting the third part of the trilogy which came out in April this year, and although he didn’t go into a great amount of detail about the plot, there were enough ‘hooks’ mentioned to get my interest.

Firstly, I love the title. The word ‘Sanctus’ actually means ‘holy’ or ‘holy one’ and The Sanctus is a part of the Catholic Mass. It is such an evocative word to me on so many levels, conjuring up images of crumbling churches and monasteries with candlelight flickering behind stained glass windows. I can just smell the incense and see and hear the robed, hooded Monks singing the Gregorian chant. The cover of my version of the novel captures this perfectly – see above, and check out this link to really set the mood:



Secondly, Simon Toyne’s own story piqued my interest. He is a British writer and Sanctus is his debut novel. In 2007 he decided to quit his job and spend 6 months writing in France to try and fulfil his lifelong ambition to become a writer. He said in the interview I heard that he had no idea whether he was any good, but he knew that if he tried to write alongside his existing career it would never work. It was ‘all or nothing’. Thank goodness he decided to give it a go…

Lastly, the blurb says:

WHAT IS THE SECRET OF SANCTUS?

Liv Adamsen is a New York crime reporter, Kathryn Mann a charity worker. They are very different people, but their fate is bound together by one man’s desperate act.

With the world’s media watching, a robed man has thrown himself from the top of the oldest inhabited place on earth, an ancient citadel in Turkey. For some it’s a sign of great events to come. For Liv and Kathryn it is the start of a race into danger, darkness and the most remarkable secret in the history of humanity.

 It is a secret that the fanatical monks in the citadel will kill, torture and break every law, human and divine, to keep hidden…

Wow! What’s not to like? I wanted to know that secret like, NOW and bought the book on my first browse. Not only that but when it arrived I started it pretty much immediately and read most of its 400 pages in a (very rare) marathon four-hour reading stint whilst staying in a hotel overnight.

I won’t lie, Toyne’s story and style are reminiscent of Dan Brown to whom he has been likened in the popular press. I am not a die-hard Dan Brown fan by any means but I have read all of the Langdon series and enjoyed them to varying degrees; I am a bit of a sucker for the whole ‘ancient conspiracy meets modern world’ premise and do enjoy a damn good mystery so in that sense both Brown and Toyne tick a lot of my boxes. If you are not a Brown fan though, don’t let that put you off Sanctus. I have also recently read Dan Brown’s latest Langdon novel, Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4) and I can honestly say that Sanctus beats it into a corner. Hands down. No arguments. If the two books were five year-old children, Inferno would be on the naughty step for five minutes. Eye-rolls for Inferno, (approximately) twenty-six; eye-rolls for Sanctus, zero.

There are actually two stories being told here – one through the various Monks in the Citadel (the Sancti) and the other through Liv, Kathryn, Kathryn’s father and her son Gabriel who are working (for their own, personal reasons) to reveal the three thousand year old secret that the Sancti are protecting. I liked both Liv and Kathryn – they are both brave, strong, independent women. Another tick, Mr Toyne.

If you like a meandering, gently-moving novel however then this one is probably not for you. Toyne’s TV background can easily be detected in the pace; there is a LOT going on and I actually caught myself holding my breath at times. Otherwise, there really is something for everyone including gruesome murder, suicide, forensics, technology, history and religion. Even if some of these themes don’t light your fire, none of them should be taken in isolation. Together they work, or at least they did for me.

I can’t talk about this book without touching on the ending. The Sun review I read described it as ‘a load of rubbish’ but did concede that ‘getting there is a good ride’. As soon as I read it, I knew it would be the part of the narrative guaranteed to spark negativity. That said, I would be interested to know how Mr (a slight assumption perhaps, but an accurate one I think) Sun Reviewer would have preferred it to end? In any conspiracy novel of this kind the reader has to be prepared to suspend logic to some extent. How did I feel about it? Intrigued to know how it would be picked back up in the second part of the story and sad. But only sad because it was the end.

I don’t keep many novels these days; I have a pretty good rotation system going on, but those books that make a real impression on me get a permanent spot on my shelf and Sanctus is there to stay.

There are only four books that I’ve read in the last few years that I’ve given 5/5 to and this is one of them. I absolutely loved the ride and didn’t want it to stop. Thank you Mr Toyne. Part two, The Key, arrived this week…