Monday, February 1, 2016

Book-to-movie review: The 5th Wave

The book has made waves on an international scale, but just how does the film adaptation of The 5th Wave compare?

Disclaimer: Review originally appears on Channel24, one of Women24's sister websites.

This review should really be titled: “I watched The 5th Wave so that you don’t have to.”

As a book lover, I suffer from the eternal delusion that somehow, somewhere, someone will perfect the art of adapting a book to screen.  This fantasy of mine is a curse because I really should know better by now.

Yes, I’ve seen glimpses of brilliance on the odd occasion, but overall, many a book lover (myself included) would tell you that THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER. 

And never has it applied more to a movie than this instance.

In light of this, here’s my advice:

If you are going to watch the movie, read the book first (check out my review here) .  If you’ve read the book, don’t watch the movie (unless you’re very curious, in which case even then, you should wait till it’s out on DVD). 

I know. It’s a bit of a double-whammy, isn’t it?

Here’s my problem with it though.

What should have been a raw and brutal dystopian tale of survival and perseverance comes across as being nothing more than a limp, insipid and uninspired movie filled with unenthusiastic teenagers trying to survive and save the world in the midst of devastating alien attacks.

I’m not sure what screenplay writers Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner were thinking when they first adapted Rick Yancey’s best-selling novel for the big screen, but what they’ve given us is a watered down and almost censored version of a book, that by all accounts, is one of the best written sci-fi novels for young adults.

It doesn’t help that the acting is rather subpar.

Chloƫ Grace Moretz delivers a luke-warm performance in the role of Cassie.

She certainly has a few action-filled moments and provides us with glimpses of her potential as a badass, butt-kicking heroine, but that’s unfortunately marred by choppy scenes that change perspective and location too quickly, and often don’t always make sense within the context given to us (This is why I think it’s better going into the movie having read the book).

Nick Robinson makes for a rather dull Ben Parish, whose role as the teen soldier who was rescued and recruited to fight against the invaders, can best be described as lacklustre. 

Most disappointing of all is Liev Schrieber who is all bark and no bite in the role of the vicious, cold and calculating Colonel Vosch (whose book persona is a hell of a lot scarier than the feeble and underwhelming commander whose role is greatly reduced in the film version).

I can argue the case for Alex Roe, whose role as the mysterious Evan Walker was played with at least some degree of authenticity, but like Moretz, he too, fell victim to bad filming decisions and not having his character being as developed as it is in the book. 

A real pity, if you ask me.

You know how you can say that with some films, they make you want to read the book? This is unfortunately not one of them.  

And that breaks my heart because the book is such an incredible read.  What I watched was definitely not what I read, and while I understand that there will always be changes that are made when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations, surely it’s not too much to ask for it not to be stripped of its essence while offering nothing but the bare bones in its stead?

What a waste.

I hope the rest of this trilogy is left alone.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Booktalk: 7 Super powers every book lover should have

In which I write a post inspired by a conversation I had with a friend on Twitter.

Disclaimer:
This article originally appeared on Women24.com.

1. Astral projection


For when we want to leave wherever we are to find some comfort, and peace and quiet to read.

Also, there are some amazing literary places to explore, beautiful libraries from around the world to lose ourselves in and fantastic international book fairs we could go to without having to pay for an expensive flight.


Oh and if that doesn’t work, there’s always a portkey. In fact, I reckon we should have both options, don’t you think?

Gif image: Charmed.Wikia.com  

2. The ability to mute people on command


Because no book lover enjoys being interrupted.  No really. We absolutely hate it when you do this.
 

To us, you’re the annoying ad break during prime time television shows.

Nobody likes you and nobody wants you.


Being able to silence you will prevent us from committing homicide, which means everyone involved benefits. You get to keep your life, we get to avoid jail time.

Gif image: Wifflegif.com  

3. A time-travelling machine activator


So that we can visit places from historical periods that we only get to read about in novels.  Just imagine being able to be transported to ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome? 

Or to the era of the Vikings?  

Of course, these periods weren’t without their epic wars, bloodbaths and bloodshed, but that’s the beauty of having a time-travelling machine – you can go back or forward any time you want to.


Gif image:  Photobucket.com

4. Speaking of time, a handy ability to stop time would also be very welcome.

It’s no secret that out almost every book lover fears they’ll never be able to read all the books they’d like to read before they die.

A time-freezing ability would definitely help our cause.  Just as long as it doesn’t automatically age us the moment we un-pause time again.



Gif image: Charmedchosenlegacy.wikia.com  

5.  The ability to read books in any language


Because let’s face it, there are probably loads of awesome books that haven’t been translated into English yet, and imagine if we can get other people to read books from some of our local Afrikaans authors.

How awesome would that be?

Gif image: Oldworldnewgirl.wordpress.com  

6.  Being able to fantastical book worlds (and the fictional characters within them) to life
Sure, it may bring with it a bit of chaos and upheaval, but imagine getting to meet your favourite fictional character and along with all manner of mythological creatures. 

I like to think of it as book necromancy (Yay, this means I can bring Snape back to life). 

  
Gif image: Tumblr.com  

7.  While we’re at it, can we add speed reading to the list?

Anyone a fan of Criminal Minds?

If you are, you’ll know that Spencer, the profiling team’s resident genius scrolls through a book at a speed that seems to be way faster than light or sound (while still absorbing the book’s contents).

Imagine how many works of literature we could all get through in one night if we all had this ability?

Gif image: Stevewhibley.blogspot.com

That’s just my list. How about you? What super power do you, as an avid bibliophile, wish you could have? I’d love to hear yours.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Author guest post: The Fantastic Beasts (of Of Light and Darkness) and Where To Find Them by Shayne Leighton

In celebration of the re-release of her book, Of Light and Darkness, I’d like to welcome author Shayne Leighton to my blog today. 

Described as a cross between Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (which I loved) and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, Of Light and Darkness is a New Adult paranormal fantasy which chronicles this story of Charlotte, a girl raised by a Vampire in a society where all manner of magical creatures reside.

In today’s guest post, Shayne introduces us to the various magical beings that can be found in her book series; from vampires to elves, fairies to shape shifters, each supernatural individual has a role to play. 

Before I hand over to Shayne, here’s some more info about the book, which is out now:

Of Light and Darkness

Raised by a Vampire in a secret society of Witches, Shifters, and Elves, Charlotte finds that she is the freak in her world of magic and wonder.

When she stands before an army of impossible obstacles, the likelihood of survival in this coming-of-age modern fairy tale is slim, resulting in a war between light and darkness.

Charlotte knows no other home than the one nestled deep in the woods of Eastern Europe, where Witches draw spells of enchantment, Shifters throw tea parties, and Elves are the closest in kin.

As genocide and war threatens her life and her home, Charlotte will not allow her one true love to be destroyed.

Fighting for her adopted coven of rogue monsters, she will do whatever it takes to save them...and she'll do it before the sun comes up and light takes over forever!

Add it to your TBR pile on Goodreads

Over to Shayne

The Fantastic Beasts (of Of Light and Darkness) and Where To Find Them

Happy release day! If you're preparing for your first trek into the world of Of Light and Darkness, I thought it might be best to provide a guide of Occult City creatures, some warnings, and prepare you for your journey!

OLAD's different creature sects are as follows...

Elves - They are perhaps the most prominent beings in every Occult City or bordered Magic Order society. In the crowded streets of Prague, they would perhaps be easy to miss, for they appear human enough.

Often times, when they are among the mortal kind, they do well to hide their pointed ears and keep their bright gazes lowered. Careful to upset an Elf, for their powers range from annoying to positively deadly.

Shifters and Weres - Also very common in magic societies, there are Shifters of all kinds, from wolves to rats...and yes...even spiders!

Most are very cunning, though they'd be more interested to snack on their respective natural game. (i.e. if you run into a wolf, don't fear. They'd much rather bring down a stag than to snack on you!) They also appear rather mortal when they are un-shifted, but remember that appearances can be deceiving and not all are benevolent.

Fae -
Fairies and Fae are a little less common, but far more dangerous than the previous two sects. They are nothing like the pretty, winged girls of mortal fairy tales.

Instead, Fae are bloodthirsty with lengthy incisors, sharp points at the ends of their wings, and wretched claws. Pray you never happen upon one on an afternoon of woods-wandering.

Vampires - Even less common than the Fae, they are slowly being wiped out by some unknown forces...though there a few guesses as to who might be responsible. As with Elves, Vampires are not always what they seem. True some are bloodthirsty, cunning, overtly sexual creatures, though they can also be very empathetic.

Never forget, they were once human and are still ruled by their human desires. They are also seen less, for they revert back to their corpse state during daylight hours, though during the night, they are incredibly strong, fast, and beautiful.

Imps / Sprites - Similar to the Elves, though these creatures tend to be shorter. Most are very money-savvy, owning businesses and such. They belong to different groups within their sects (i.e. Water Sprites or Vodnici, Forest Sprites, Fire Sprites, etc.)

Sirens - They are similar to mermaids. At first, they appear to be beautiful women lurking below the surface of the Vltava river. But they are, however, very dangerous, feeding on virgins and drowning men.

There are also many feral creatures, such as dragons, wraiths, river serpents, and such others. It is best to travel magic areas with one who knows the surroundings.

Thanks Shayne!

It certainly sounds like an interesting array of fantastical creatures. I, for one, can’t wait to get acquainted them all.


For more information about Shayne, you can visit her online at the following places:

Goodreads
Twitter
Website

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Giveaway: Win your choice of 2 books from my list of 2015 favourites

Hello lovely bloggers

So this was actually meant to December post, as I planned on doing this in conjunction with my birthday, but then I decided to take a bit of a break (both work wise and blog wise) and opted to keep this giveaway for January instead.
 
For me, 2015 proved to be a pretty great year in terms of reading and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by not only sharing 5 of my favourite reads of the year, but also by offering a blogger a chance to win any two of the titles listed below.


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (this one’s signed)

Darkly enchanting, sensuous and lush in its settings and descriptions, this book combines elements from two fairy tales as well as a traditional piece of folklore based on an old Scottish ballad, to tell the story of Feyre, a young huntress who finds herself in the fairy borderlands after inadvertently getting herself into trouble

Read the rest of my review over here:

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

This book messes with your mind in so many ways: from its inherent and underlying sense of impending doom to characters whose motives and reasoning border on the outskirts of the bizarre; and dark, ritualistic elements that serve to add a chilling and haunting air to the novel.


My full review can be found here:

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Forget all you know about the original version of Beauty and the Beast, because Cat Hellisen takes this timeless tale and twists it into a narrative that is as dark as it is hopeful, as bitter as it is sweet and as gloomy as it is bright.


The rest of my thoughts on the book can be found here.

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden


It’s not often that I’m caught off guard by books, but The Casquette Girls has managed to do so with its interesting and seemingly normal heroine, lore dedicated to the vampires of yonder (i.e. the not-so-benevolent kind) and detailed and incredibly interesting historical aspects that detail life in pre-colonial New Orleans.

Full review can be found here:

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Sarah Ockler’s latest offering has, once again, reminded me just why I adore her books. Her writing, her characters, and the way she draws her stories – it’s all just absolutely phenomenal.  I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to actually review the book, but I am planning to reread it soon because I loved this book so much. Also, this book has mermaid lore, magic realism, cultural diversity and beautifully drawn on relationship dynamics – what more could you ask for in a book?


Add it to your TBR pile.

To enter all you need to do is tell me which books you’re most looking forward to reading this year and why.

Giveaway runs up until Friday, 22 January and is open worldwide.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book spotlight and giveaway: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure


So I’ve been meaning to post this earlier this week, but given the fact that I had an awful and allergic reaction to a hair dye I recently used (my eyes were all puffy and swollen and the left half of my face… well, let’s just say that children wouldn’t have wanted to be near me), I was pretty much forced to stay in bed for most of the time.

Thankfully I’m all better now and can get around to sharing in my excitement for a book that’s been sitting on my TBR pile for a good while now: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure.

I’ve always loved books that deal with characters who, by all rights, are in messy situations, dealing with messy, complicated people and complex and unwelcome situations.

Lucille, the protagonist in this book, has the word complicated and life engraved in her heart. And it’s her story I can’t wait to read.

Lucky for you, the lovely folks from HMH are offering 1 lucky reader a chance to win a hard copy of the book, plus a bottle of Essie nail polish. US only.

(Don’t worry internationals – I’ve got a giveaway coming up for you very soon)

In the meantime, do check out more information about the book, an excerpt, some gorgeous quotes from the book and of course, the giveaway.


About The Book:

Title: THIS RAGING LIGHT
Author: Estelle Laure
Release Date: December 22nd, 2015
Pages: 288
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

"A funny, poetic, big-hearted reminder that life can—and will—take us all by surprise.” —Jennifer E. Smith, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Can the best thing happen at the worst time?

Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love.

But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother.

With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

Exclusive Excerpt:


When Wrenny and I roll up the hill to Eden’s house in Mom’s ancient Corolla, Digby and his dad, John, are outside playing basketball, and I want to get in the house as fast as possible, because otherwise I might be trapped here all day, staring.

I get a little twinge of something seeing a dad and his kid playing ball like dads and kids are supposed to. That’s a real thing, and my hand wants to cover Wren’s face so she can’t see all that she is missing.

Which reminds me. “Wren.”

“Yeah?” She’s wiping at her shirt, reading a book on her lap, and she’s a little bit filthy, her hair greasy and knotty in spite of my efforts this morning. At some point the braids came out, and she’s reverted to wild.

“You know how Mom hasn’t been around lately?”

She stops. Tightens. “Yeah,” she says.

“Well, we don’t want anyone to know about that, okay?

Even Janie and Eden and Digby and John.”

“But Mom’s on vacation. She’s getting her head together. She’s coming back.”

“Okay, yes,” I say, “but still. We don’t want to tell anyone, because they might not understand that. They might get the wrong idea.”

“Like that she left us permanently?”

There is so much more going on inside that Wrenny-head than I can ever know.

“Maybe, or at least for longer than she was supposed to.” I reach for the handle to the door because I can’t look at her. “Someone might think that.”

“She didn’t, though,” she says. “She’s Mom.”

“Of course she didn’t.” Lie.

“So who cares what anyone thinks?”

“Wren, just don’t, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Some things are private.” I open the door, then lean back across and wipe uselessly at her shirt with my thumb. “Like Mom being on vacation. So, okay?”

“I said okay, okay?”

She gets out and waits, stares at me like I’m the most aggravating person on earth. “Hey, Lu?”

“Yeah?” I say, bracing myself for what’s next.

“Your mama’s so fat, she left the house in high heels and came back in flip-flops.”

I would tell her that I hate her new obsession with fat jokes, but I’m not in the mood for any dawdling, so I half laugh and get moving. I want to get inside and quick because there’s also the other thing. And by “other” I mean what makes me sweat just standing here.

And by “thing” I mean Digby, who I have known since I was seven but who lately makes a fumbling moronic moron out of me, a full-on halfwit. Ask me my name when I’m in his presence and I’m not likely to be able to tell you. I’d probably just say, “Lllll . . . lllllllu . . .” and you’d have to catch the drool running down my chin.

I know. It’s not at all attractive.

But really. Tall, sweaty, and not wearing a shirt, so the muscles are all right there for the watching. He doesn’t exactly glisten, on account of the fact that he’s whiter than white, that he tans by getting freckles so he’s covered in them now after a whole summer outside.

But seeing his hair all plastered to his forehead, his body so long and lean, looping around his dad to get the ball into the hoop, I want to fall out of the car and onto my knees in the driveway, say Lord have mercy, hallelujah, write sonnets and paint him, and worship that one little curve where his neck meets his shoulder that is just so, so perfect.

He is beautiful.

Which is why when he says hi as I pass him, I barely raise a pinky in response. There are two main problems here, aside from the fact that he is Eden’s twin and that’s all kinds of weird.

One, he’s had the same girlfriend since the dawn of time. They’re pinned, she wears his jacket, their marriage certificate is practically already signed. Angels bless their freakin’ union. And two, if I ever did get a chance with him, like if he ever kissed me or something, I would die of implosion.

I know I sound like a twelve-year-old mooning over some celebrity, and not the extremely self-possessed woman-tobe that I actually am, but something about him makes me lose my mind. Something about the way he moves, about his himness — it shatters me all the way down. So I hope he never does kiss me. That would be nothing but a disaster. No one needs to see me fall apart like that. Least of all him.

Actually, maybe least of all me.







About Estelle:
Estelle Laure is a Vonnegut worshipper who believes in love and magic and the power of facing hard truths.

She has a BA in Theater Arts from New Mexico State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and thinks everyone should have to wait tables or work in a kitchen at least once in their lives. She lives in Taos, New Mexico with her children.


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a hardcover of THIS RAGING LIGHT and a bottle of Essie Nail Polish that matched the book cover. US Only.


Ends on December 31st at Midnight EST!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Once upon a time there was two girls where there (probably, maybe, definitely) should have just been one.

Disclaimer: Review originally appeared on Women24. A copy of the book can be purchased via Raru.co.za.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich (first published in 2015 by Indigo, and imprint of Orion publishers)


Dawn Kurtagich’s The Dead House is quite possibly one the creepiest books I’ve read this year.

It’s a strong contender for one of my favourite books of 2015.

Described as being part psychological thriller and part urban legend, this novel reads like a gothic novel.  Darkly atmospheric  it has undertones of horror throughout.

This book messes with your mind in so many ways: from its inherent and underlying sense of impending doom to characters whose motives and reasoning border on the outskirts of the bizarre; and dark, ritualistic elements that serve to add a chilling and haunting air to the novel.

Told by means of transcripts, diary entries, video reports and interview and medical notes, the structure of the novel draws the reader in, immediately hinting at something off about this case.

Here’s what we know:

25 years ago Elmbridge High, a boarding school, burnt down. 

Not much was known about the incident back then, except that three students were killed and Carly Johnson (suspected of being as much a victim as she was a suspect ), vanished without a trace.

Fast-forward a few years and a journal is found. It’s an account that belongs to a girl named Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister.

Here’s the kicker though: Carly never had a twin.

This book is rooted in urban legend, but also deals with dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder).

On the one hand, you have a narrator trying to convince you of something that should not be possible – the existence of something that shouldn’t be (I’m being deliberately vague, sorry) – but on the other hand, you have medical reports detailing the fragile and overwrought mind of someone with massive trauma.

Questions that will haunt you: Who is Kaitlyn? How did she come to be? Is she the one that’s real or is Kaitlyn a figment of Carly’s imagination?  Most importantly: what led to the fire that resulted in all those deaths?

Oh how I wish I could tell you, but let’s just say that this book went into a direction that I would never have been able to predict. 

The fascinating thing about novels with unreliable narrators is that even though you know that you shouldn’t trust everything that they’re saying, you can’t help but want to believe in the version of truth that’s presented to you.

It’s a continuous tug-of-war,  one that Dawn Kurtagich pulls off effortlessly.

Read it. It will stay with you for a good while after you’ve read it. It’s still haunting me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book review: Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Source: Review copy received from the publisher via Netgalley. You can purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za.

Publication date: 8 December 2015
Publisher: Running Press Kids

What a surprisingly fun, fierce and unique sci-fi debut novel from Tessa Elwood.

Featuring a heroine that is brave, plucky and filled with heart, Inherit the Stars is a novel filled with the trademarks that define an excellent YA sci-fi novel: explosive action, strong characters fighting to save the world and world-building, which while not fully developed, is nonetheless intriguing.

We’re introduced to Asa, our main protagonist, right in the middle of what seems to be a riot attack.

Hailing from one of three interplanetary systems (each with their own rulers and own set of rules), Asa is desperate to save the injured and unresponsive sister she shares a strong bond with.

What she ends up risking to save her sister’s life soon sees her making the biggest mistake of her life and upsetting the balance of a precarious and fragile alliance between two interplanetary houses – an alliance desperately needed to save both planets from collapse.

In what was supposed to be her sister’s marriage to Eagle, heir to the throne of house Westlet (Asa belongs to house Fane), Asa now finds herself not only married to a boy she’s never met, but also having to deal with the political and socioeconomic repercussions her actions have brought on both houses.

As if that’s not enough, house Galton, the third house, and the one that Asa’s own mother defected to, seems hell bent on their own plans – plans that involve Asa and plans that could mean a possible invasion.

There are so many things to love about this book, that I’m not even sure where to begin.  Yes, it’s by no means a perfect book – there were a lot of gaps and plot holes that could have been expanded and more fully developed – but the characters are so well-drawn, the story so engaging that I found myself actually being a lot more forgiving than I normally am when it comes to gaping areas in books.

Not only that, but full points for the diversity factor as the heroine’s love interest is a person of colour. So much yay for that.

 What I loved most though was the complicated politics that formed the backbone of the novel. Each house has different strengths, resources, leaders and system in place and the way it connects to the decision that characters – in this case Asa’s specifically – make, is what gives the story its tremendous strength. 

The romance between the characters is a slow burn that is a joy to read and will have you cheering for them all the way.

There are also a host of interesting side characters who I’m pretty sure will be playing a more important role in future books and who I’m certainly more keen to learn more about. 

I also hope that more about the blight and the history of the planetary system will feature at some point because Tessa has given us a glimpse of an interesting galaxy that’s well worth exploring, but more so if we knew more about it.

All in all, it’s a solid debut and one that sci-fi and fantasy lovers alike should definitely add to their list of books to read.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Magical, menacing and deliciously macabre, A.G. Howard’s sequel to Splintered is everything you could ask for in an urban gothic fantasy novel.

Purchase a copy from Raru.co.za


Unhinged by A.G. Howard (Amulet books)
Please note:  As this book is the second in a trilogy, this review may contain spoilers.

If you thought Splintered was a fantastical twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, then you need to prepare for even more tumbles, magical twists and turns in Unhinged, the second book in A.G Howard’s phenomenal Splintered trilogy.

This time around, Anita ups the ante on the wonderful and macabre world of the recreated Wonderland we’ve come to know and pulls us into a sensuous and even darker landscape than the one we’ve been introduced to in the first book.

A lot has happened since we last left off from the book.

Alyssa reunited with her mother, who has been bound in an asylum for years; she bravely fought against the Red Queen and her band of cronies, and finally got the boy she’s been pining after for years (even though the delectable Morpheus is still hovering in her mind).

Despite this, the trouble’s only just begun. 

The Red Queen is on the prowl, Wonderland’s creatures have started popping up in the real world and Alyssa’s got her hands full trying to reconcile her darker, magical nature with her human side.

And as if that weren’t enough, she also has to deal with Morpheus (in all of his gorgeous and moth-y glory), while grappling with whether or not to restore Jeb’s memories following his time in Wonderland.

With prom night just around the corner and time running out, Alyssa will need to decide (and decided quickly) if she’s ready to fight a battle that may cost her more than the lives of those she loves.

Ah, what a sumptuous, delicious, kaleidoscope of a read.

If I can sum up the experience of this book, then it can best be described in the quote below:
“All I have to do is set the power free. Escape the chains of humanity, let madness be my guide. If I forget everything but Wonderland, I can become beautiful pandemonium.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a fan of books with parallel, conflicting worlds that scrape and chafe against each other in a bid for dominance. 

Unhinged is a book that does just that. It’s chaos versus order and humanity versus magical essence.  It’s sheer and utter madness in a world that Alyssa desperately wants to be normal.

It deals with all the internal and external forces that Alyssa finds herself battling. There’s a whole lot of pushing and pulling going on and while she’s doing her best to balance both worlds, Alyssa does find the tug-of-war maddening. 

Anita’s writing is as luscious as ever in this instalment. Dark, decadent and utterly swoon-worthy.

If you’re looking for a book that’s going to be an accurate and visual representation of the original book, you should probably stay very far away from these books. I’ve seen loads of reviews criticising the book for being inaccurate, but isn’t the purpose of a retelling or, in this case, a modern interpretation, to bring a unique and new perspective to an old story?

Splintered and Unhinged are books that I never thought of as retellings, but more as modern interpretations which draw inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. And Splintered, well it veers as far away from the delightfully-quirky creations in the original book as you can get.

Here there be all sorts of wickedly dangerous things; things that our characters will soon have to face-off in a deadly dance where all bets are off and blood will be shed. In this book, we see a more confident Alyssa – one who is still conflicted about her role in the world, but who is a lot more open to the possibility of the magic that’s running through her veins.

Her relationships with those closest to her also undergo a few changes. While she’s certainly drawing closer to Jeb, her interactions with Morpheus are none the less still very intriguing.

As infuriating as he can be, Morpheus pushes Alyssa because he knows that she’s capable of. Not to mention the fact that Alyssa feels something for him, even though she’s trying so hard to hide it:
“Smoke fills the room, gray and sylphlike, lovely in its deadly grace. It trails into the fire and forms what appear to be wings—black and magnificent. A man’s silhouette fills out the image, two arms reaching for me.

Morpheus, or a mirage?

My mind trips back to our dance across the starlit sky in Wonderland, how amazing it felt to be so free. What would it feel like to dance with him in the middle of a blazing inferno, surrounded by an endless power that breathes and grows at our will?”


Admittedly I am team Morpheus, so I found Jeb’s tendency to mollycoddle Alyssa, as well as his tendency to be way too overprotective, a tad bit annoying.

That said, it’s a testament to Anita’s writing that I don’t find myself disliking Jeb completely. In fact, this is one of those instances where a love triangle is done so well that I, if really pushed to admit, would not mind which person Alyssa ends up with.

My favourite aspect of the novel though? Is definitely witnessing how the chaos of Wonderland slowly seeps and bleeds into the human world. Anita’s created this world that is grungy, trippy and beautifully bizarre. 

The juxtaposed world is one of contrasts; a world of order and pandemonium, of malice and beauty and mostly, a world I could certainly imagine myself visiting over and over again.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book-to-film review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The rebellion is out in full force, but does the final instalment end with a blazing inferno or just a warm fizzle? You decide.

What it's about:

At the end of the saga, Katniss Everdeen realises that the stakes are no longer just for survival—they are for the future.

Cast:

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Director:
Francis Lawrence

Release Date:
November 20, 2015

Our Rating: ***

Review first appeared on Women24.com. Check out what our sister site, Channel24 had to say about the movie.

Final instalments in a movie franchise can be a tricky thing. Conclusions in a movie franchise split into two parts are even trickier to pull off.

For one, it’s the movie that reveals whether the decision to split the movie was a good one, and secondly, it’s the definitive and deciding measure as to whether or not the franchise is successful as a whole.

After enjoying the first movie, suffering my way through the second and absolutely loving the penultimate in the third, I find myself feeling rather undecided about the conclusion.

There’s a lot that I loved and didn’t love about the movie. As a film adaptation I think the conclusion of the movie has come to a fitting end.

As a book purist who adored the novels, I feel as if part two was a patchwork collection of snapshots thrown together to form a series of disjointed images that you could only understand had you watched the first movie.

Would it have worked better if it was never split into two in the first place? If it meant sacrificing some of the character driven aspects of the first part of the movie – aspects which I personally loved – then, honestly speaking, I could certainly see this being a much better film.

That said, my overall experience of the film wasn’t entirely a bad one.

Darker, moodier and far more intense than its predecessors, Mockingjay: Part 2 immediately kicks off from where we last left off.  Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) may be back with the rebellion, but the changes and torture he endured in the Capitol is still plainly evident during the first half of the movie.

Hutcherson’s performance as a darker, stronger and far more violent Peeta is impressive this time around; I’ve always thought that he had a lot more potential than he showed in the previous movies and I’m happy to see that he’s really gotten into character in a way that’s as close to the book as possible.

For those complaining about the lack of action in the first movie, plot-driven fans will be a lot happier this time around.  The movie progresses more rapidly than the first one; the new dynamic between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta adding an uneasy element to an already volatile situation.

War is at hand and the stakes are high.  Forced to go underground, the rebel soldiers find themselves traversing through a minefield of deadly traps in order to make their way through the Capitol in order take control and defeat President Snow.

SPOILER ALERT

Lawrence and Donald Sutherland shine in their roles of the two enemies pitted against each other, while Julianne Moore adds an extra level of menace in her role as President Coin.

SPOILER ENDS

I’ve had a lot to say about the movies over  the years, but the one thing that has always been consistent is Lawrence’s excellent embodiment of Katniss Everdeen.

In Mockingjay: Part 2, we see a ruthless, determined and aggressive Lawrence channelling the very spirit of a Katniss Everdeen taken straight from the book, so if you really need a reason to watch the movie, then do watch it for her performance.

The Hunger Games series is the perfect book and movie series that delves deeply into the consequences of war, the ambiguity of all the morally grey areas that come with the price of war and the social, economic and political effects of a dictatorship that had far-reaching consequences.

Overall, the conclusion reaches a mildly satisfying end; the journey through the various movies – despite my mixed feelings - proving far more interesting than the final conclusion. 

Do watch it at the movies though – it should at least be experienced on a big screen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book review: The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden (aka the book that surprised me in the best way possible)

Summary from Goodreads
Publisher: Skyscape
Source: Received by the publishers via netgalley
Publication date: 17 November 2015

Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.


After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal

What I thought of the book:

The Casquette Girls is a book that has been described as “an epic love letter to New Orleans.”

Now I haven’t been to New Orleans, but the one thing I can do is recognise when an author imbues every part of her soul into giving the reader an Odyssey-like experience into the heart, soul and settings of a book.

Alys Arden?

She’s done all that and more in this unexpectedly lush and gloriously compelling paranormal fiction novel. Blending both the history of New Orleans, with myths, urban legends and modern day settings, The Casquette Girls is a smorgasbord filled with storytelling at its finest.

It’s not often that I’m caught off guard by books, but The Casquette Girls has managed to do so with its interesting and seemingly normal heroine, lore dedicated to the vampires of yonder (i.e. the not-so-benevolent kind) and detailed and incredibly interesting historical aspects that detail life in pre-colonial New Orleans.

Add voodoo, witchcraft and deliciously dark gothic and romantic undertones and you’ve got yourself a beautifully atmospheric read that will send shivers down your spine.

Read it and experience it for yourself.

There’s romance, there’s magic and diversity, but mostly, there’s a moody, beautiful city that’s positively brimming with life, both natural and supernatural.

Huge kudos to Alys for capturing the spirit of human survival and perseverance in the midst of the worst circumstances possible. This, above all, was probably my favourite aspect about the novel.

I can’t wait for the next book.