Saturday, 23 November 2013

Thoughts on Films: Catching Fire

*Need I say that this will probably/definitely contain spoilers for the first film and possibly parts of the second one so if you haven't read the book/have but want to have the film unspoiled before you see it, stop here!*

Hello! I am talking about films today again. Namely Catching Fire because it was amazing and I loved it and I want to tell you about it. Is that not a good enough reason? 

I wasn't too sure if I was going to like Catching Fire as much as The Hunger Games as I don't remember liking the book as much and I knew that the tone would be different and I wasn't sure if it was going to maintain that same sort of emotional connection that we had in the first film because it's not as much about the games as it is about the burgeoning revolution. Well, I was wrong. It was, in my opinion, better than the first one, and it captured the spirit of the books beautifully.

Katniss is probably one of my favourite characters not just in the series, but ever. I think that it's really interesting that this person who doesn't have many likeable qualities (and I don't mean that in a bad way) has found herself in such a prominent place in the hearts of readers and viewers alike. And whether or not you like Katniss, you have to admit that it is fascinating that on the back of (really brilliant) posts like this that we have a female character like Katniss, who is not typically likeable, being the main character of such a popular series. So, that wasn't entirely relevant to the film, but I kind of just wanted to get that out there. I was so pleased that they kept in Katniss and Peeta's trauma from the first games. Not that that's something they would take out because it is so integral to who these people are now, and so key to their relationship, but still, I was pleased nevertheless. And speaking of Katniss's likeability, I think that it is her vulnerability which sort of endears us to her more? She is strong and she is a survivor, but it is so apparent in both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire that she is so afraid for herself, her family, for Peeta. She never wanted to become the Mockingjay, she just wanted to get home. And Jennifer Lawrence is amazing. She just is Katniss. If you weren't convinced in the first one, she completely brings it this time. There is such a rawness to Katniss in this film as she sees the beginnings of the revolution and the consequences that this has for the people. You can see her pain and her guilt, and you can see the change in her relationship with Peeta. In The Hunger Games, it really felt like it was all just an act and we get to see some of the aftermath of this, but in the Arena you really do start to believe in their romance because of the bond that has been forged between them after the trauma of the first games.

I also wasn't entirely convinced by the casting of Sam Claflin and Jena Malone as Finnick and Johanna, but they both were excellent. Finnick was both arrogant and sweet, and I think he portrayed Finnick so well. And Johanna was so pissed off and there is one hilarious scene in a lift which comes to mind that I don't remember from the book (but I could be wrong). In fact, I think that all of the Victors were well cast, and it was really important that they got that right because they are so different from the tributes from all the other games. There's a much wider range of emotion, and most of them already have their own vendetta against the Capitol and Snow (for good reason). Though it does seem like a bit of a foolish idea for Snow to agree to put 24 people who probably, definitely resent him and the Games in a position where they can either subtly or just outright criticize the Capitol at a very volatile time.

The Arena itself was also amazing. Don't get me wrong, the Victory Tour was super well done and everything before the games itself was so emotional (I really can't believe how emotional this film was. I can't remember being that affected by the book.) but the Arena looked just like how I thought it would. Like, exactly. Everything from the poison fog to the Jabberjays to the lightening tree looked stunning and there were so many excellent moments within the Arena. The last five minutes of the film from the moment she is reminded who the real enemy is to the very end was so perfect and powerful. And it also reminded me of how horrible Mockingjay is going to be, with what happens to Peeta. I just hope the whole splitting into two films thing works out for the best (though I'm still not convinced). The other thing which I think is really great about the Arena and the games themselves in Catching Fire is the fact that, unlike in the 74th Games, the other tributes come across as being less of a threat than the Arena itself, helping to get across this whole message of remembering who the real enemy is. Of course, the careers still pose a threat, and Katniss does not trust her allies in the Arena, but a lot more time is spent with having the Arena being a huge threat to their lives. Though, this probably isn't that valid a point because Plutarch is kind of on their side, and he is the one that's kind of in control of the Arena...

There's a whole lot that I want to say about Catching Fire. It's probably one of the best book adaptations I've seen, and manages to be powerful and emotionally resonant and just a really, really amazing film. I was really impressed. And so pleased that they kept in all of my personal favourite moments from the book (the ending, their solo skills demonstration stuff etc). So yeah. You probably didn't need me to tell you it was amazing, because basically everyone on the internet is saying that, but I had a lot of feelings and I just wanted to get them out there.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown review

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Holly Black
September 3rd 2013

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

I've always been sort of ambivalent towards vampires. I think that they're interesting and stuff, but out of all the paranormal creatures, they were never really the ones that fully captured my fancy. Despite this, when I saw that Holly Black had a vampire book coming out, I was super excited. I love Holly's books. I think that she's awesome. And I actually liked Coldtown a lot, even though I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for it. It's not my favourite of Holly's books, though.

Coldtown was a little bit weird, because as times I felt like it was going to be really different from other vampire books that I've read, and at other times it seemed to fall into that sort of unironic borderline-cheesy romance stuff. But it wasn't so overt that it was distracting or annoying. It kind of worked, and I actually quite liked the developments between Tana and Gavriel. Mainly because it didn't feel like the main part of the book, and also because maybe I was in the mood for a bit of a romantic subplot when I read this. I know I used to complain about it a lot, but I sometimes like a bit of romance.

Anyhoo, I don't know why I started this review talking about that aspect of the book, especially when there was so much more going on. I loved the idea of the Coldtowns, and the ways in which social media had become so entwined with the vampire culture in this world. Vampires would have livestreams of lavish parties in their homes and blog their experiences of vampire life to the world outside of the Coldtowns. Holly Black spoke about this at her event a couple of weeks ago, about how social media and reality tv and the like have sort of become our way of distancing ourselves from what scares us by turning it into something trivial. Obviously, in this case, the scary thing being vampires. And they are actually pretty scary. Gavriel, despite being the romantic lead, is kind of unhinged after being brutally tortured for about ten years, and is pretty unpredictable. Lucien, the fanciest vampire in Coldtown, is cold and calculating and likes to think that he's in control. The most worrying, though, are the new vampires that cannot control their thirst and will drink whatever blood they can find. Case in point, Winter and Midnight, a brother and sister who enter the Coldtown with Tana, Aiden and Gavriel who both want to vampires. It doesn't end well. It wasn't anything revolutionary or completely different as far as vampires and vampire mythology goes, but it was well executed and the social media stuff was an interesting new angle.

The only thing I will say that I think dragged the books pace down quite a lot was the fact that it was kind of told in alternating chapters. Half of the chapters were the actual main story, and the other half provided the backstory for the characters like Tana and Gavriel and also Tana's sister, Pearl's, part of the story. So it's not like it was irrelevant or anything and I liked having the opportunity to get to see some of the characters lives more in depth without it being a big sort of info-dump with them telling another character about what happened to them. So I didn't actively dislike it, but I did find it kind of distracting from the main story to be taken out of it every other chapter, you know?

I really liked The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (and I love that title and the cover like woah), but it's not my favourite of Holly Black's books. I did like the fact that it was a standalone (I think?), though, and I thought that it is different enough from the other vampire books around to make it worth reading even if you feel like you are fed up with vampires.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Letterbox Love #42

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)


Captain Marvel volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Wonder Woman volumer 2: Guts by Brian Azzarello (I have been reading some comics lately! They are actually pretty good and I've been planning on doing some mini-reviews or something for the ones I've read lately maybe.)
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy (Right, so, on the recommendation of Cait, I started reading these books, and the first one was really good but I'm so annoying because the 3rd one has arrived before the 2nd and I just want to carry on reading them but I can't and boo.) 

So yeah, comics and middle-grade books about talking skeletons. Who really needs anything else in their letterbox? 

What did you get this week?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

This is Not a Test review

This is Not a Test
Courtney Summers
June 19th 2012
St Martin's Griffin

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

You can officially put me down as a fan of Courtney Summers's books. This is Not a Test is, like, probably one of the most perfect books for me. I love zombie apocalypses. I love claustrophobic survival stories. I love fraught teen drama. I love EMOTIONS. This book has all of those things, and with Summers's spare prose and mastery of all things dark and teen, it's pretty much amazing. Some people thought that the combination of her style, which is really suited to contemporary, didn't really work that well with the added zombie aspect, but I thought that they blended together really well.

That being said, for the first, say, 3/4 of This in Not a Test, it feels less like a zombie book than it does a tense claustrophobic teen drama. It's a bit like The Breakfast Club, but if instead on only being in school one day for detention, their trapped inside for an indefinite amount of time for fear that they're going to be killed by zombies. It's like The Breakfast Club meets Lord of The Flies meets zombies, basically. And if that doesn't sound awesome to you, I don't understand you.

I think that this was the thing that made me want to read this particular zombie/apocalypse book out of all the others out there (of which there are quite a few, which is kind of great because post-apocalyptic stuff is awesome and I love it unless it does that think like dystopian and paranormal where there is just too much and all of it is the same and blah). Also, the fact that in this book, the main character wanted to die even before the zombies happened, because I just knew that it was going to be different and emotional. And, despite everything, I really liked Sloane. She's had a pretty shitty life so far, as her father abused her and her older sister, and then her older sister bails on her, leaving her alone with their father. And then the zombie apocalypse happens, which is awful and terrible and traumatic, and despite all of this, Sloane finds a bunch of people from her school and goes with them and ends up hiding out in her high school. Six teenagers living together in a closed space obviously leads to lots of tension, of all sorts, and there are lots of twists and emotional revelations about this group of people, which I am not going to talk about in detail because spoilers, but it's all good. Well, bad for them. But good to read about.

Ultimately, the thing that I liked most about This is Not a Test was seeing all of the groups reasons for surviving, and how they sort of change over the course of the book as their situation changed. Sloane's emotional arc of her sort of finding a reason to survive and carry on through was the most interesting because she is the main character and because I love important emotional arcs in apocalypse situations (seriously, that ending was so good, and her letter to Lily was so beautiful and ugh), but I really liked getting to know these five other people over the course of the book, too. It's kind of hard to pick and choose favourites out of the group because generally people in dire apocalypse situations are not the nicest, but I really got to care for all of the characters, even when they were dicks. Again, it's the zombie apocalypse, I think that we can forgive them that.

I liked the ending, but I did feel like it was a little bit rushed. We spent all this time in the high school getting to know all these characters and it's kind of slow, but the good kind of slow, and then suddenly it's like BAMBAMBAMENDING. But, it did have kind of a nice symmetry to the beginning and I liked that. And I appreciate the fact that, as I've said about a million times in this review, it is the zombie apocalypse and sometimes when you're being chased by zombies you do not have the time to piss about having emotional revelations, you just have to run the heck away. And I will also say that, just as a zombie book on the whole, I kind of liked the fact that it wasn't about figuring out what had happened or trying to stop the apocalypse. It was about surviving it. And it's great to read zombie books about heroes who go out and unintentionally find themselves in the situation where they have to do those things, but at the same time, it's nice to not read a zombie book with exactly the same plot as all the rest of them.

Overall, I thought that This is Not a Test was a powerful book, and is probably the zombie book that I would give to people to read who maybe are not the biggest fan of zombie books. Though the zombies, when they were in it, were pretty creepy and scary and I actually felt more tense and scared reading this than I have reading an apocalypse book for ages (it was my Halloween book). It checked most of the boxes for being an awesome book for me, and I can't guarantee that you'll like it as much as I did, but if you like Courtney Summers and/or zombies, I would recommend this book to you.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel
Ransom Riggs (story), Cassandra Jean (art)
October 29th 2013

Ransom Riggs's haunting fantasy bestseller adapted to a graphic novel! 
As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive.

I have yet to read the actual novel novel of Miss Peregrine, so I'm just going to give a heads up about that and this is my first experience with the story and all that, so I can't really judge the graphic novel on how it matches up with the book itself, but I will say that it has made me want to read the book. I really enjoyed the graphic novel for Miss Peregrine by itself, though, so I wouldn't let it put you off reading it if you haven't read the book, either. It's definitely just a beautiful thing just to own. Seriously, it a hardback and it's got a really nice cover and the spine is so pretty (I love a good spine) and I just want to hold it. I've kind of gotten away from any point that I may have originally had to open this review with. Sorry about that.

I think my favourite thing about this graphic novel was the art. I love Cassandra Jean's art, anyway (seriously, her fanart is amazing) and it was about 60% of what sold me on this book, the other 40% being curiosity about what this book was about any way because I know a bunch of people who loved it. Anyway, the art was super good and I actually liked the incorporation of all the pictures that were used in the book. I thought that it would look a bit incongruous, but it worked. And the colouring was really great, too. All of the parts of the book that weren't in the temporal loop (with the Peculiar Children) were in black and white, and all the parts that were were in colour, plus I just thought that the colouring was really simple but effective and really helped with the tone. 

I feel like I can't really say a lot about the story, obviously because I haven't read the book, but while it was very enjoyble in this incarnation, I felt like it was lacking something. I don't really know what, but I got this with the Vampire Academy graphic novel, too. It just felt a bit like something was missing? Which isn't a problem that I usually have with graphic novels and comics. Maybe it's just an adaptation problem, like when you watch a movie of a book and you know that there should be more there, and that it isn't everything that the book was but it's still good in it's own right. Yeah.

I did really like the characters, though. Even if there (probably) wasn't as much time spent on getting to know all of the peculiar children as there (probably) is in the book, and I imagine there was a bit more time spent on developing the romance between Emma and Jacob because that felt a little bit plonked in in this. But yeah, I thought that the characters were really sweet and I love big ensembles of superpowered side characters. Such fun. All books should have them. And I did actually really like the plot. I thought that it was definitely interesting, if not half as near as creepy as I wanted it to be, and I do want to read the book now more than I did before I read the graphic novel. 

So yeah, the graphic novel for Miss Peregrine was a very enjoyable read, and the art was awesome which is kind of key for a graphic novel. So if you're a big fan of Miss Peregrine, you should read it. Or if you're not, then you should still read it because it might make you a fan of it. Who knows.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Letterbox Love #41

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

Dead Ends by Erin Lange (This book looks really great and I've heard awesome things about her other book, Butter, so I'm really excited about this! Thank you Faber!)

Spy Society by Robin Benway
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway (after reading and loving Audrey, Wait! about 4 months ago, I finally decided to splurge and get the rest of Robin Benway's books. A little bit because everything I've read has been so dark lately...)
Black Heart by Holly Black
Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (I went to Holly and Sarah's event at Foyles this Monday and it was a lot of fun! Loads of other book bloggers were there and it was so awesome to see them again, plus I got to meet Holly Black for the first time ever and embarrass myself in front of her and everything. It was great. And I'm not even being sarcastic. I love her books.)

So, yeah. I haven't done one of these in a while, but I'm trying to blog a bit more and I actually had some stuff to talk about this week! So yay! What did you get in your mailbox?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Monthly Round Up: September and October

So, things have kind of been a bit slow on the blog lately, haven't they? I wish I could blame college but I think I'm just having a bit of a blogging slump, so there isn't really much for me to round up but I'm going to do it anyway. It's been too long since I last posted anything... Sorry about that. But anyway!

Books read:

Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve
Raw Blue by Kirsty Eager
Geek Girl (reread) by Holly Smale
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Geek Girl: Model Misfit by Holly Smale
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Wonder Woman volume 1 by Brian Azzarello
Hawkeye Volume 1 by Matt Fraction
Hawkeye volume 2 by Matt FractionTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs
Young Avengers volume 1 by Kieron GillanWild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Total: 14

Books reviewed:

United We Spy by Ally Carter
Briar Rose by Jana Oliver
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Favourite Books

These were really hard to choose because I have genuinely adored most of the books that I've read these past two months, but I think that This Song Will Save Your Life and Fangirl just edged it for me. Plus look at those beautiful covers.

So yeah, I wasn't really up to that much these past two months. It looks like I've read more than I have because I've been reading a lot of comics lately, and I probably shouldn't count them but I'm going to anyway. I might do a round up post of mini reviews for all the comics because I kind of want to talk about them a bit more. I think I'm also going to try and do a post about Sleepy Hollow because these days all I ever really want to talk about is Sleepy Hollow. But seeing as last month I literally only posted 3 reviews (that's not even a review a week), I wouldn't get my hopes up..

Sorry about being so slack lately, but I think I'm just in a bit of a blogging/reading slump and I will hopefully be back to normal soon! I might even start commenting on other peoples posts again, which I haven't done for ages... Whoops. 

So, yeah! That's sort of it, I guess. Here's hoping November is a bit better, eh?

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