Category: Movie Wrap-Up


I thought I might combine these two months together for this wrap-up. I didn’t read many books or watch many movies in each month. However, I apparently read lots of four stars books these past two months. Finally, I’m caught up with these wrap-ups! Woo!

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb. All pictures link to their respective Goodreads or IMDb pages.

Anya’s Ghost – Vera Brosgol
Genre – Young Adult/Graphic Novel
My Rating – ★★★★

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

Review: I went into Anya’s Ghost without fully reading the description, and I found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I probably would have had I read it. It was nice to go in kind of blind. The story is surprisingly dark and a lot different than I expected. I really liked the ending because I didn’t see it coming at all. Aside from the story, I thought the characters were very well-written and realistic. None of them were 100% likeable and to me that just seems more accurate. The graphic style is fun and simplistic. It’s not as detailed as a lot of graphic novels but it’s perfect for this story. If you’re into graphic novels I would definitely recommend this book.

 

The Surprise Party – R. L. Stine
Genre – Young Adult/Horror
My Rating – ★★★★

It’s been a year since Evan died in the Fear Street woods. A year since Ellen moved away, and “the gang” split up. Meg Dalton felt as if she’d lost her best friends. Everyone changed. Even her boyfriend Tony was acting moody, strange. But when she heard that Ellen was returning for a visit, Meg had the answer: she’d bring them all together again with a surprise party for Ellen!

That’s when the terror began…the phone calls…the threats…the bizarre acts of violence. “Cancel the party—or else,” the whispered voice on the phone told her. Meg was scared, and with good reason. Whoever wanted the party stopped woud try anything—even murder! But why? The dark Fear Street woods held the answer…if Meg dared to discover the truth!

Review: The Surprise Party is very similar to other books in this genre by R. L. Stine. It has all of his usual mystery aspects and predictability. The suspects are all typical and very obvious. Meg is too trusting of everyone and that was a bit frustrating for me, but the book was fun to read and fast paced. Of course, as usual, the ending was a bit crazy and out there. Up until the end of the story, everything made a lot of sense though. Stine’s books are always entertaining to read, and I would recommend them if you’re already a fan of his.

 

Scarlet – Marissa Meyer
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Review: Scarlet is a fun read. A bit predictable, but fun all the same. The plot is very interesting and keeps you entertained. I really liked the world but wish there was more world building. You just don’t get to see enough about how everything operates. On the other hand, the characters are what really drive the story. I enjoyed seeing Cinder’s point of view again and was glad to see other characters had returned as well. I didn’t like Scarlet as much as Cinder, but she isn’t a terrible character. She just has a few traits that irked me. Out of all the characters though, Thorne is by far my favorite. The Lunar Chronicles is a series that you should absolutely check out because all the books are fun, easy, and provide a nice change of pace.

*As an added bonus for Scarlet, I’ve been provided with an audio sample to share with you from Macmillan Audio. Click here to listen to the first chapter of the audiobook.

 

Spirits of the Noh – Thomas Randall
Genre – Young Adult/Horror
My Rating – ★★★★½

Kara Harper is finally starting to fit in at her boarding school in Japan-after all, nothing bonds you with your classmates like having an ancient demon put a curse on you. Hoping life can go back to normal now that the demon has been put to rest, Kara joins her friends Sakura and Miho in putting on a play for the Noh drama club. It’s the story of the Hannya, a snake demon who inhabits the body of a beautiful woman. When a few members of the Noh club go missing, Kara fears that the real Hannya has been awakened by the curse. Then Miho is abducted, and Kara must find her before the Hannya destroys her. But the demon is wily, and may be hidden in the last place any of them would think to look . . . .

Review: I’m loving this series. Spirits of Noh is a nice addition to the first book and doesn’t just provide a bridge to the third book. It’s as good as Dreams of the Dead and I am really looking forward to the third book now. The characters continue to develop and the plot remains intriguing. I still love the setting, and the descriptions constantly make me want to go to Japan. The only negative I have about this book is that Kara seems to have regressed a little. How she feels about her dad’s relationship has changed from the first book. Other than that the book is very fun and enjoyable. The book is classified as young adult horror and lives up to the genre while not being overly scary. I think everyone that enjoys young adult should give this trilogy a chance.

 

The Night She Disappeared – April Henry
Genre – Young Adult/Mystery
My Rating – ★★★★

Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete’s Pizza. One night, Kayla—another delivery girl—goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can’t move beyond the fact that Kayla’s fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete’s. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn’t dead—and to find her before she is.

Review: The Night She Disappeared is really short and fast paced. There aren’t that many details and you don’t really get to know the characters, but the story is pretty interesting. The story is told through four different perspectives, one of which belongs to the killer. This allows the reader to know more than the characters and makes everything more suspenseful. As the book begins wrapping up things get really exciting. It was a lot more intense than I expected. If you’re in the mood for a quick mystery, this is the book for you.

 


 

Blazing Saddles
Rating – R
My Rating – ★★★★

To ruin a western town, a corrupt political boss appoints a black sheriff, who promptly becomes his most formidable adversary.

Review: Blazing Saddles was surprisingly funny. I know Mel Brooks is well-known for his comedy, but I was just worried this one might not be as good as some of the others like Young Frankenstein and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Those are two of my favorite movies. The plot is a little silly but that’s to be expected from a satire like this.  It’s not a movie that will stick in my mind forever, but it’s definitely enjoyable. If you’re a fan of comedies, this is certainly one to check out.

 

The Brothers Grimm
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★

Will and Jake Grimm are traveling con-artists who encounter a genuine fairy-tale curse which requires true courage instead of their usual bogus exorcisms.

Review: The Brothers Grimm is a fun movie, but it’s very silly. It’s entertaining, and the acting is perfect for this type of movie. The fact that Will and Jake are con-artists really makes the story go in a more interesting direction. It wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be, and I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of scenes that caught me off guard, and I found myself laughing quite often. It’s hard to recommend this to a certain group of people, but if you read the description and think it sounds interesting, you’ll probably really enjoy it.

 

Saving Private Ryan
Rating – R
My Rating – ★★★★★

Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Review: Saving Private Ryan is such a fantastic movie. I always avoided this movie because the opening scenes are so graphic, but I’m glad I finally watched it. The acting is great, but Tom Hanks stands out as my favorite. It’s easy to get attached to all of the characters and genuinely concerned any time they’re in danger. It’s very unpredictable and just a beautiful story overall. If you haven’t seen it then you really need to. This is a movie that can be enjoyed by everyone and not just fans of war movies.

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August 2014 Wrap-Up

The August wrap-up is here! Let me know if you’ve read or watched any of these and what you’re thoughts were or if you want to read or watch any of these.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb. All pictures link to their respective Goodreads or IMDb pages.

The Fever – Megan Abbott
Genre – Young Adult/Mystery
My Rating – ★★

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

Review: I have a full review of The Fever. Overall, The Fever wasn’t a great mystery. Even though the red herrings were plausible and made sense, the true reason for the outbreak seemed silly. The characters were dull and at times had some inappropriate thoughts about other characters. It was an okay book, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it. Others have enjoyed it though, so it’s always up to the reader.

 

Overnight – Adele Griffin
Genre – Young Adult/Mystery
My Rating – ★★★★

Everyone expects Caitlin’s sleepover birthday party to be perfect. She is one of the Lucky Seven, the group every sixth-grade girl wants to belong to. But those inside this enchanted circle know it’s often less about feeling accepted and more about watching your step. Of the Seven, Gray is the easiest target for the others, and tonight she disappears. As the girls search for Gray, some of them worry. Others have secrets they’re not telling, even to the police. And as the truth gets harder to hide, new emotions erupt, friendships become shaky, and a power struggle ensues. The Lucky Seven is in danger of falling apart. And as for Gray, she’ll need to call on all of her wavering courage just to survive this turbulent night.

Review: While it’s listed in the young adult genre, Overnight is a middle grade read. I can see why some might not like this story. Some of the girls are a bit cliche and can make some terrible decisions, but I think it’s rather an enjoyable read. It was surprisingly scary for a middle grade book. Though it may not be for some. It was for me because one of my fears when I was little was what happened to Gray. There were plenty of moments of yelling at the characters to do something and then being frustrated when they didn’t do it. The characterization is interesting because while there are cliches such as the shy girl, mean girl, spoiled girl and so on, it doesn’t take away from the story. It’s interesting to see how everyone reacts in this situation. At first, they don’t think much about what happens, but as time progresses and no one has found Gray, they begin to worry about what happened to her. Overall, it’s an engaging story and a page-turner, and I would recommend it.

 

Zombie Blondes – Brian James
Genre – Young Adult/Horror
My Rating – ★★

From the moment Hannah Sanders arrived in town, she felt there was something wrong.
A lot of houses were for sale, and the town seemed infected by an unearthly quiet. And then, on Hannah’s first day of classes, she ran into a group of cheerleaders—the most popular girls in school.
The odd thing was that they were nearly identical in appearance: blonde, beautiful, and deathly pale.
But Hannah wants desperately to fit in—regardless of what her friend Lukas is telling her: if she doesn’t watch her back, she’s going to be blonde and popular and dead—just like all the other zombies in this town. . . .

Review: I actually forgot that I had already read this book years before. I don’t think that’s a good sign for this story. Nothing really stood out in this novel, and I found myself more frustrated at the main character than anything else. Hannah is very judgmental of others, and she makes rash decisions about the boy that tries to help her. When she’s warned not to hang with the popular girls, of course she must do so. The father is another big issue I had with this book. They just moved into town, and he decides it would be a great time to leave his daughter alone. This seemed like a ploy to get the father out of the picture so all the bad stuff could happen to Hannah. It’s sad that the story fell flat for me because I really liked the first chapter and the ending, but everything in the middle wasn’t that great. I probably wouldn’t recommend this book.

 

Killing Mr. Griffin – Lois Duncan
Genre – Young Adult/Mystery
My Rating – ★★★

High school can be tough. But with teachers like Mr. Griffin it can seem impossible.

They only planned to scare him. But sometimes even the best-laid plans go wrong.

Review: I found out this book was on the banned list, and I can see why since it deals with students killing their teacher. Killing Mr. Griffin has an intriguing plot, and its keeps you wanting to find out what happens next and what will happen to these students. While the plot is interesting, the characters can be annoying at times, and they’re forgettable. Throughout the crime, it’s easy to pick out what the characters are doing wrong and what will cause them to be caught (not that I want them to get away with their crime). It might be that I watch and read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, but as a character was doing something, I knew that it would end up getting them in trouble later. I loved how peer pressure played into this novel and how it showed how far pressure can make someone go. I didn’t really like how the ending was done. It’s a silly way to explain what all happened because the reader is told all of the details through a mother’s dialogue to her daughter (one of the students involved). However, everything is resolved, and it’s a good ending for this type of story. It’s worth reading.

 

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
Genre – Classic/Science Fiction
My Rating – ★★★

“I’ve had a most amazing time….”

So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes…and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth. There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks—who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well. Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells’s expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come.

Review: The Time Machine has a unique storytelling method. Besides the beginning and end, it’s entirely told through the traveler’s dialogue. He explains what happened to him when he traveled to the future. There was a lot of thought put into the aspects of time travel. It’s so well done that it makes you wonder if Wells did invent a way to travel in time. I did really enjoy the beginning and ending. There were some boring moments in the story. Especially when the traveler first starts his story. The social commentary can sometimes drag on and made me wonder when the he was going to talk about anything else. However, once the traveler met the Eloi and the Morlocks, the story became really interesting. It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you want to see where science fiction began.

 

The Murder Farm – Andrea Maria Schenkel
Genre – Mystery
My Rating – ★★★½

A whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch, his put-upon devoutly religious wife, and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter, Marianne. Also murdered was the Danners’ new maidservant, Marie, who was regarded as slightly simple. Despite the brutal nature of the killings and the small village where it has taken place, the police have no leads. Officially the crime is unsolved. And then a former resident returns home The Murder Farm is an unconventional detective story. The author interweaves testament from the villagers, an oblique view of the murderer, occasional third-person narrative pieces and passages of pious devotion. The narrator leaves the village unaware of the truth, only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.

Review: I have a full review of The Murder Farm. It’s a unique and enjoyable story. It’s a mystery that keeps you guessing and turning the page. While we don’t get to know the characters that well, I feel they all have distinct voices and are interesting enough to keep the story going. The story is told in a very uncommon way, but it works for the plot. If you’re looking for a short mystery, you should definitely give this book a chance.

 

Dreams of the Dead – Thomas Randall
Genre – Young Adult/Horror
My Rating – ★★★★½

Kara’s afraid to go to sleep until the nightmares come when she’s awake . . . .Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?

Review: Dreams of the Dead really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I loved the plot and especially the characters in this story. The characters were so realistic and relatable. Having the story set in Japan only added a bonus to this story. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and this story made me want to go even more with all the amazing descriptions. The combination of plot, characters, and setting really made me think about animes and mangas. This added to my enjoyment of the story. The horror aspect of this story was scary but not too much. It was the perfect balance of intriguing and scary elements. There were also a few surprising twists with how the characters dealt with the demon and other students which were interesting. The only thing I didn’t like was how the main character responded to her friends thoughts about the demon, but other than that I enjoyed everything about this story. I would definitely recommend this for anyone interested in starting to read horror or if you want a story set in Japan.

 


 

Justin and the Knights of Valour
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★½

A young boy becomes a man as he embarks on a quest to become a knight.

Review: Justin and the Knights of Valour is an entertaining movie. However, it’s not an amazing movie. It didn’t capture my interest as much as I would have liked, and I found myself bored during some scenes. It felt as though I had seen most of what happened in this story but in better movies. It’s predictable and most of the characters are cliches. On the other hand, I did enjoy that women were not just damsels in distress, and the movie portrayed them in two different lights which is always nice. It was interesting to watch, but it’s not my favorite. I’m sure others have really enjoyed it, so it’s always worth checking out.

 

Rio 2
Rating – G
My Rating – ★★★½

It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.

Review: I didn’t expect much out of the sequel to Rio because sequels have a tendency to not be as good as the original, and I only liked Rio (★★★), so I was worried about this movie. However, I found that I liked this one a bit more than the first one. Of course it’s predictable in some areas, but it had a few surprises at the end that I didn’t expect. I have to say that my favorite scenes were the ones with Nigel and Gabi, especially Nigel because I love the evil ones. It was fun to see how they reacted to each other, and I wanted even more scenes with them. Overall, Rio 2 is a fun movie, and I would recommend it.

 

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★

A Midwestern war veteran finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor.

Review: This version of The Great Gatsby sticks fairly close to the book while also adding it’s own elements to the story such as changing the arrangement of dialogue or making a character have certain body language that conveys the right emotion. These additions changed some scenes so they would make more sense, at least to me. I felt they made everything flow easier and made character decisions make more sense. I liked the modern music because it gives it a different twist than the other adaptations. I have to say that I liked this one better than the 1974 version. It’s definitely worth watching.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★½

A group of space criminals must work together to stop a fanatic from destroying the galaxy.

ReviewGuardians of the Galaxy is such a fun movie. It’s extremely funny, and Chad and I laughed throughout the movie. I actually wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it was, but I was pleasantly surprised. They are very unique characters and each one of them add their own charm to the team. There is plenty of action throughout this movie and really cool easter eggs. The only problem I had with the movie was the weak villain. He doesn’t pose as big of a threat as I would have liked and the audience doesn’t really learn anything about him to make him more developed. I still can’t wait for the sequel though. I hope it’s as good as this one, if not better. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get into the super hero movies. It’s the perfect place to start.

July 2014 Wrap-Up

The wrap-ups are coming slowly but surely. I’m hoping to get August and September up sometime this month too, but we will see if that happens.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

How Not to Write a Novel – Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
Genre – Non-Fiction
My Rating – ★★★★

Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid—at all costs—if you ever want your novel published.

In How Not to Write a Novel, authors Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman distill their 30 years combined experience in teaching, editing, writing, and reviewing fiction to bring you real advice from the other side of the query letter. Rather than telling you how or what to write, they identify the 200 most common mistakes unconsciously made by writers and teach you to recognize, avoid, and amend them. With hilarious “mis-examples” to demonstrate each manuscript-mangling error, they’ll help you troubleshoot your beginnings and endings, bad guys, love interests, style, jokes, perspective, voice, and more. As funny as it is useful, this essential how-NOT-to guide will help you get your manuscript out of the slush pile and into the bookstore.

Review: How Not to Write a Novel is an interesting take on writing-advice books. I’ve always read books for what you are supposed to do, so it was nice to see what not to do when writing a novel. The advice in this book is helpful while being witty and funny. The authors give great examples of everything they discuss, and they do it in a humorous way to make it stand out. There might be some obvious examples of what not to do, but everything is useful, and it’s always nice to refresh yourself on what to avoid while writing. The book doesn’t tell you to write a specific way, it explains that certain areas in your book would improve if you didn’t add anything unnecessary. I feel like every potential author should read this book. Mainly to keep from making simple mistakes and to help engage future readers.

 

Saga, Volume 1 (Saga #1-6) – Brian K. Vaughan (Writer) and Fiona Staples (Illustrator)
Genre – Graphic Novel/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★★

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

This specially priced volume collects the first six issues of the smash-hit series The Onion A.V. Club calls “the emotional epic Hollywood wishes it could make.”

Review: Saga is such a great graphic novel. I knew I would like it, but I wasn’t prepared to love it as much as I did. It has an amazing story and characters. The characters are what make the story so intriguing. They are unique, and I found myself wanting to know more about all of them. I love that we were able to see different points of view throughout the story. The plot and characters in the story are unpredictable. I had no idea where the story was going to go next or what the characters were going to do, and I really enjoy that aspect in books and graphic novels. The illustrations are beautiful and make the story seem real. However, Saga is definitely for adults because of all the nudity and graphic violence. It’s an exciting and fun graphic novel, and I need to get my hands on the second volume soon.

 

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Genre – Classic/Historical Fiction
My Rating – ★★★

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

Review: The Great Gatsby is a story where the characters could possibly make it or break it with some readers. The characters are quite realistic but most of them are unlikeable. They each have their own flaws that make them believable and interesting. It did surprise me that there were some boring moments in this book even though the story is short. These moments include unnecessary names and information. At one point there is close to a page and a half of names of people attending Gatsby’s party. I know what Fitzgerald was trying to do with it, but it just seems unneeded to progress the story. However, I really enjoyed the ending. I thought it wrapped up the story well, and it was interesting to see how each character reacted to what happened. I would recommend this classic, but you might need to get used to the writing style.

 

Perfect Shadow – Brent Weeks
Genre – Novella/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★

Discover the origins of Durzo Blint in this original novella set in the world of Brent Weeks’ New York Times bestselling Night Angel trilogy.

“I got a bit of prophecy,” the old assassin said. “Not enough to be useful, you know. Just glimpses. My wife dead, things like that to keep me up late at night. I had this vision that I was going to be killed by forty men, all at once. But now that you’re here, I see they’re all you. Durzo Blint.”

Durzo Blint? Gaelan had never even heard the name.

***
Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble.

But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.

Review: Perfect Shadow is a nice addition to The Night Angel Trilogy. It gives great backstory for Durzo and Mama K. You get to feel a better connection to why they act a certain way. There’s more of a connection with Durzo when you read this novella before The Way of Shadows because you know more about him once you start the trilogy. The story can be a bit confusing at first because it’s not entirely clear what is going on, but after a section or two, it’s easy to figure out what’s happening. I will warn anyone that reads this before the trilogy that he/she might get some of the twists ruined for him/her. This novella gives away some details that are supposed to be a surprise in the first book, so you’ll have to decide if you want to be spoiled or read this book after finishing The Way of Shadows.

 

The Way of Shadows – Brent Weeks
Genre – Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★★

From New York Times Bestselling author Brent Weeks…
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.

Review: The Way of Shadows is a great fantasy. There are a lot of characters in this story, but each of them are memorable and stand out. I found myself really enjoying every different perspective and that’s good since there were quite a few of them. Even though there are lots of characters and points of view, there are no dull moments in the story. Everyone is important to the plot, and it’s interesting to see what each character is doing. One aspect I like about the characters is that no one is 100% good or evil. They’re a mix and a lot of the time their morals are questionable. It’s interesting to see how everyone reacts to one another. Durzo is, of course, my favorite character. I did enjoy the writing style and all of the action-filled plot. Something interesting is always going on to make you want to keep reading. The novel has a ton of twists and turns that make it even more awesome. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting an entertaining plot and characters.

 

Vicious – V.E. Schwab
Genre – Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★★

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Review: Vicious is another novel where the characters are not 100% good or evil. I love the idea that if someone were to get superpowers, it doesn’t mean that they will use it for good and that’s what makes this story so entertaining. They’re anti-heroes, and it’s not always clear who you should be rooting for. Each of them have their own selfish agenda they want to fulfill for one reason or another. I also love when there are no throwaway characters. If you were to take out any of the characters, the story wouldn’t be the same. Every character in this story is needed, and the characterization is really well-done. This story has a fantastic beginning and ending. The intro is memorable and really sucks you into the story from the start. The ending is the perfect ending for this type of novel because it sums everything up and makes sense for what was going on in the novel. Vicious is very character-oriented with an engaging story and world. I highly recommend this book! I want more from this world, and I hope there’s a sequel in the future for this story.

 


 

Waterworld
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★

In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.

Review: While Waterworld is far from being the best, it’s still an entertaining movie. The world is unique, and it’s easy to tell a lot of work went into the props and sets. That aspect is my favorite part of the movie. Just seeing the new inventions they created was pretty awesome. On the other hand, the characters and the plot could have been better. The characters are amusing and somewhat believable, but you don’t really get attached to them. It’s a fun story about an alternate future, but don’t expect it to be in your top five.

 

Wild America
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★

Three brothers – Marshall, Marty and Mark dream of becoming naturalists and portraying animal life of America. One summer their dream comes true, they travel through America, filming alligators, bears and moose.

Review: Wild America is a fun adventure story that’s full of surprises. The only reason this doesn’t get a higher star rating is because the ending is a little strange. Once the boys get to the scene with the bears everything starts to fall apart. The bears look extremely fake, and the way the situation is resolved seemed ridiculous. Chad and I ended up laughing during most of the ending. However, everything is believable up until that point, and it’s really enjoyable to watch.

 

The Great Gatsby (1974)
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★½

A Midwesterner becomes fascinated with his nouveau riche neighbor, who obsesses over his lost love.

Review: After reading the book, I wanted to watch one of the many film adaptations. We chose this one because it was the only one on Netflix at the time. It was nice to see the book come to life, and in some ways, the movie was better than the book. Some of the scenes were altered and seemed to make more sense. The acting was better than we expected, but there were some times it was a little off. Myrtle, for instance, seemed a bit more dramatic with everything than she did in the book. If you enjoyed the book, I  believe you will enjoy this movie as well because it tries to stay true to the source material.

June 2014 Wrap-Up

The June Wrap-Up is finally here! I’m getting through these slowly but surely. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll be caught up with everything . . . or at least with the summer wrap-ups. 😀

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

Monstrous Beauty – Elizabeth Fama
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★★

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

Review: Monstrous Beauty is a beautifully written book. I didn’t know what to expect when I first started reading since it was the first mermaid story I’ve read. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though this concept has been done before, the author did a wonderful job with it. Everything has a purpose and nothing feels forced. It’s darker than you might expect from a mermaid book but not in a bad way. The characters are unique and feel like they belong in their respective time periods. It’s easy to like the characters, and at times, the story is very emotional. I couldn’t stop reading from the time I started, and I had to know what happened next. If you like romance stories, but aren’t a fan of the typical cliches, then I would suggest giving this book a try. This is probably going to be a book I remember for a long time.

 

Pivot Point – Kasie West
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★★

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

Review: Pivot Point was awesome. It completely exceeded all of my expectations, and I absolutely loved it. The story is original and very engaging. Having the story play out two different ways is really interesting because you get to see how things could be different based on just one decision. I really enjoyed the characters and thought their powers were neat. While they reminded me of the X-Men, they were distinctly different. There are some great twists towards the end of the novel which I really enjoyed. The ending made me want to find out what happens next, and I can’t wait for the second book.

 

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
Genre – Young Adult/Contemporary
My Rating – ★★★½

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Review: I have to say, I have some mixed feelings about Fangirl. I was excited for this book because of all the hype surrounding it, but I feel like it didn’t quite live to the expectations I set. The story is definitely cute, and I really enjoy the romance. On the negative side, some of the family elements don’t work for me. The biggest issue I have is that I don’t like Cath’s sister Wren. I know Wren isn’t supposed to be well liked, but I find her extremely frustrating. The only other issue I have with the story are the sections of fanfiction that Cath writes. I feel they are unneeded and add virtually nothing to the story. If you’re looking for a cute romance with a socially awkward main character, then I would recommend this book. The issues I have with it are minor, and most people really enjoy the book, so definitely consider it.

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★

The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

Review: I’ve always enjoyed the X-Men franchise, so I was very excited to this in theaters. I was not disappointed. It’s an entertaining movie that pays tribute to the first two X-Men movies, and it corrects a few things that were done poorly in X-Men: The Last Stand. The inclusion of time travel is fantastic, and everyone is in character the entire time. It’s fun to see how the characters interact with each other. Quicksilver is an awesome addition, and I hope to see him in future installments. Every scene he’s in is incredible. There are also a few unexpected twists that keep the audience guessing. X-Men: Days of Future Past is a lot of fun and definitely worth seeing if you’ve enjoyed other X-Men films.

 

That Darn Cat
Rating – Approved
My Rating – ★★★★★

A woman is kidnapped. While in captivity, she manages to send a message out with a wandering cat. The cat’s owner calls the FBI. The FBI tries to follow the cat. Jealous boyfriends and nosy neighbours also get in the act.

Review: That Darn Cat is one of Chad’s favorite childhood movies, so of course he made me watch it. At first, I wasn’t sure about this movie because the description sounded a bit silly. However, it is surprisingly very well-done. There are plenty of funny moments throughout this movie, but there are also serious moments as well. The plot is believable even though the story is centered around a cat. It’s two hours long, but there is never a dull moment and plenty of great dialogue. Overall, I highly recommend this movie, and I’ve even made my parents watch it. I think everyone should watch this movie.

 

Non-Stop
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★

An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

Review: Non-Stop is an interesting thriller. Although, I’m pretty sure I would like anything Liam Neeson is in. His characters are always intense and well portrayed. The movie keeps you guessing the whole time and some parts are unpredictable. It’s full of action from start to finish. Unfortunately, the movie is far from perfect. The villain is weak at best, and his/her motive is lame. There are a lot of red herrings, making you believe anyone could be the bad guy. In the end, the character chosen seems a poor choice. I like this movie because of Liam Neeson and the thrills, but don’t expect much from the plot or ending though. It’s just a fun action movie.

 

The Lego Movie
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★★

An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied ‘Special’, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

Review: For a movie about people made of plastic, The Lego Movie was surprisingly great. There is so much nostalgia in this movie. Even though I didn’t play with Legos when I was younger, the movie brought out the kid in me. It’s a really fun movie that plays up childhood imagination. A lot of it is really silly, but the plot is solid and entertaining. The characters are likeable, and it’s easy to root for Emmet and his team. The only problem I have with this movie is the fact the ending takes you out of the world. It’s an interesting addition, but it drags on for a little too long and feels a bit forced. This is a great movie for parents and kids, and I would highly recommend it. Because “everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!”

May 2014 Wrap-Up

The May Wrap-Up is finally here and only three months late. In May, I read five books and watched three movies. It’s a bit of a step down from April where I read 11 books and watched seven movies, but I still did pretty good. I’m working on my June and July Wrap-Up, and I plan to have both up sometime during this month. Let me know if you’ve read or watched any of these books and movies and what you thought of them.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

The Sons of Liberty #1 – Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos
Genre – Young Adult/Historical Fiction
My Rating – ★★★★

Forget everything you thought you knew about America’s early days-history packs a punch in this full-color, two-fisted, edge-of-your-seat adventure!

Graphic novels are a revolution in literature, and The Sons of Liberty is a graphic novel like no other. Visual and visceral, fusing historical fiction and superhero action, this is a tale with broad appeal-for younger readers who enjoy an exciting war story, for teenagers asking hard questions about American history, for adult fans of comic books, for anyone seeking stories of African American interest, and for reluctant readers young and old.

In Colonial America, Graham and Brody are slaves on the run-until they gain extraordinary powers. At first they keep a low profile. But their mentor has another idea-one that involves the African martial art dambe . . . and masks.

With its vile villains, electrifying action, and riveting suspense, The Sons of Liberty casts new light on the faces and events of pre-Revolution America, including Ben Franklin and the French and Indian War. American history has rarely been this compelling-and it’s never looked this good.

Review: The Sons of Liberty was my first graphic novel, and it did not disappoint. The concept for this book is a entertaining new twist on American history. The artwork is beautiful and vibrant. The details are great, and it’s easy to distinguish between each character. While characters may not be completely relatable, they are enjoyable and engaging. I wanted a lot more action because of the set up during the first few pages, but I’m glad that we were able to see the backstory of the main characters and how they got accustomed to their powers. I would definitely recommend this graphic novels to anyone that loves historical retellings or anyone interested in a fun and entertaining story about two boys who gain special powers.

 

The Sons of Liberty #2: Death and Taxes – Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos
Genre – Young Adult/Historical Fiction
My Rating – ★★★

Several years have passed since Graham and Brody escaped the bonds of slavery. Now, when the streets of Philadelphia erupt in violence, the two boys must decide: will they use their extraordinary abilities to aid the growing rebellion or to quell it? An ambitious, thought-provoking, and visually stunning graphic novel, Death and Taxes offers an entirely new way to experience all the hope and heartbreak of America’s early days.

Review: Death and Taxes is the second installment for the The Sons of Liberty dualogy. While I still love the story and wanted to find out what happened to Graham and Brody, there were elements missing that the first one had. The story can be a bit dull in places, and the main villain isn’t a scary as he is made out to be. The artwork is still nice, but at some points, it’s hard to figure out the difference between the characters. However, it’s a great story, and I did enjoy the unpredictable ending. I want to find out what becomes of the two main characters, and I would really love another addition to this story.

 

This Song Will Save Your Life – Leila Sales
Genre – Young Adult/Contemporary
My Rating – ★★★

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life was a bit of a disappointment for me. I did like it, but I didn’t love it like I thought I would. I’ll start with everything that I liked. I think the messages the book focused on are important for young teens in high school or anyone not sure about themselves. It shows that everything gets better over time and that you can find something you love that makes you happy. However, I did have problems with other parts of the story. I didn’t really like Elise. Of course, I felt terrible for her at the beginning with what she was dealing with, but as the story progressed, I felt that she was very judgmental of everyone around her and made impulsive decisions. Some of her actions were unjustified, in my opinion such as (SPOILER)  – destroying her stepsister’s project – (END SPOILER). I understand her reasons and why she committed the act, but I felt there wasn’t a good enough reason to do so. There were also times when the motivations of some characters were strange or silly such as the person’s reason for making the hateful blog about Elise. I would recommend this book because of it’s message, even though I didn’t enjoy everything in the story.

 

Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
Genre – Horror
My Rating – ★★★½

Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan . . . Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins . . . albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious–and dangerous–asset.

As the Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.S., inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion; as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry, Geek Love throws its sulfurous light on our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly, the holy and the obscene. Family values will never be the same.

Review: Geek Love is a strange story, and it’s definitely not for everyone. If the description sounds odd, believe me when I say it gets quite weird. There are a lot of disturbing things that happen within this novel such as cults, taking drugs while pregnant to get “special” children, sketchy doctors, and mutilation. This is a unique story with quite a few subplots, and it’s easy to see that a lot of time and research went into creating this novel, which is admirable. The characters are not exactly likeable and they have plenty of flaws, but they’re distinct and add their own dimension to the story. They’re intriguing and make you want to find out what happens to the family. I didn’t particularly like the parts of the story where there was a focus on Oly when she’s older. These moments seemed to drag the story down and make it a little boring. I wanted the story to stay with the Binewskis when Oly is younger because I feel like the book would have had more of an impact. If the book ended with Chick’s final act, it could have been more powerful with a more drawn out scene. I ended up having to read that section twice to confirm what actually happened and that moment could have been more epic if that were the official ending. This book is worth reading but be warned that this novel takes disturbing to a new level.

 

Emotional Blackmail – Susan Forward with Donna Frazier
Genre – Non-Fiction
My Rating – ★★★★

Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.

In Emotional Blackmail, bestselling author Susan Forward dissects the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation to give blackmail targets the tools they need to fight back. In a clear, no-nonsense style, she outlines the specific steps readers can take, offering checklists, practice scenarios, and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.

Review: Emotional Blackmail is a great book for people who have individuals that manipulate them. It goes through steps to figure out if you are being emotionally blackmailed and how to possibly deal with this information. This is a great book to find out if you have a blackmailer in your life and different ways to deal with the situation in a constructive way. It’s extremely useful to learn why the blackmailer is putting you through this turmoil. There were plenty of actual cases shown within the book and each of them demonstrated how each individual handled his/her blackmailer.  Of course, each case is different and might not be solved in the best possible way but having knowledge about the situation is helpful. I would definitely recommend this book because it might shed some light to some who don’t even know they are being emotionally blackmailed.

 

Hero
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★

A not-so-nice man rescues passengers from a crashed airliner, only to see someone else take credit.

Review: For a large portion of Hero, I was incredibly frustrated with the characters. From everyone not believing the actual hero to the news reporter’s feelings towards the fake hero. Then near the end, I started enjoying it a lot, and I really liked how it wrapped up. It was a perfect ending to this sort of movie and matched all of the characters’ personalities. I feel the plot is unique, and I’ve never come across another movie like this one. The characters are not a hundred percent likeable, especially the hero, but it only adds to the overall story. This is worth watching, and if nothing else, you get to see Dustin Hoffman be a really grouchy little fella.

 

Quest for Camelot
Rating – G
My Rating – ★★

An adventurous girl, a young blind hermit and a goofy two headed dragon race to find the lost sword Excalibur to save King Arthur and Camelot from disaster.

Review: Quest for Camelot was a disappointment for me. I was excited for a great adventure with a strong female lead, but all it seemed to be was a girl in need of help on her journey. I do appreciate the incorporation of a blind young man to give the story a different twist, but it really isn’t very different from other stories with damsels in distress. Girl goes on adventure, she gets in trouble, guy rescues her, guy continues to save girl throughout story, and funny side characters join in to add silly banter and sing humorous songs. I honestly cannot remember any of the characters’ names, and at this point, I don’t care enough to look them up. It was saddening to keep seeing the girl constantly in danger and then being saved by the guy. The villain is pretty laughable as well. While he is extremely evil and scary looking, he ends up making silly decisions about the escaping girl and breaks off into song and interpretive dance to explain his next move to the mother and girl. I feel there are much better children’s movies out there and while I don’t hate this movie, I would have to say it’s worth skipping.

 

Godzilla (2014)
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★½

The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

Review: I have a full review of GodzillaGodzilla is a great summer movie. If you were worried about seeing this because of previous versions, don’t be because Godzilla has been redeemed in this movie. It’s the perfect blend of action and suspense and contains great acting and special effects. Of course, I wanted to see more Godzilla, but it makes it more enjoyable when he is onscreen. I’ve read that there’s a possibility of this becoming a trilogy. I’m excited for future installments and hope to see Godzilla in all his glory.

April was a fantastic month for me! I read eleven books and watched seven “new” movies. Most of these movies were not new releases, but they were new to me. I’m surprised I did this well. It’s really exciting, and now, I know that it’s possible for me to read a bunch of books at once.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Genre – Science Fiction
My Rating – ★★★★

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Review: I have a full review for Ready Player One on my blog. Overall, Ready Player One is an enjoyable read. There are plenty of 80’s references to satisfy anyone’s need for nostalgia. While there are a few issues, the novel is entertaining and keeps the reader wanting to find out what happens next. The finale is intense and should be quite fulfilling for most readers. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for a unique story.

Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow – Katy Towell
Genre – Children/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★

Twelve years ago, for 12 days straight, the town of Widowsbury suffered a terrible storm, which tore open a gate through which escaped all sorts of foul, rotten things. Strange things and strange people were no longer welcomed in Widowsbury, for one could never be sure of what secrets waited under the surface . . .

Adelaide Foss, Maggie Borland, and Beatrice Alfred are known by their classmates at Widowsbury’s Madame Gertrude’s School for Girls as “scary children.” Unfairly targeted because of their peculiarities—Adelaide has an uncanny resemblance to a werewolf, Maggie is abnormally strong, and Beatrice claims to be able to see ghosts—the girls spend a good deal of time isolated in the school’s inhospitable library facing detention. But when a number of people mysteriously begin to disappear in Widowsbury, the girls work together, along with Steffen Weller, son of the cook at Rudyard School for Boys, to find out who is behind the abductions. Will they be able to save Widowsbury from a 12-year-old curse?

Review: Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow is an interesting story. While there are very stereotypical characters such as the overly mean head mistress or the almost too sweet librarian, it has enjoyable main characters that are unique in their own ways. The plot was entertaining, and I loved the spooky aspect of the story. The villain is predictable, but it was fun to see the girls solving the mystery of the missing people. The novel is definitely targeted at younger audiences, and it won’t be for everyone but children should enjoy it.

The Archived – Victoria Schwab
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what she once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

Review: When I first started reading The Archived, I felt extremely confused. I kept thinking Da was Mackenzie’s father and had to go back to reread certain parts. There did seem to be a lot of information given to the reader at the beginning of the story to explain the world, but once it gets passed the first chapter or so, the story picks up. Even though the novel had a shaky start, I liked the world building. Everything felt as though it could exist. The story has a nice mystery theme throughout. Although the villains are predictable, it has likable characters and an engaging world.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone – Laini Taylor
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hairactually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone is beautifully written. The story and the world are so well-crafted with some great characters. Each character has a distinct personality. It’s easy to have characters blend together in some stories, but Taylor has a way of describing them that makes them stand out. They are unique and different from the rest. There is a large focus on the romance in the story with the two characters, mainly, pointing out that the other was very attractive. Near the end, when everything is being explained, the story was sort of sluggish, and I wished the unraveling was placed at a different part of the novel. However, it didn’t take away from the story. I’m excited to read the next one.

Red Dragon – Thomas Harris
Genre – Horror
My Rating – ★★★★

In the realm of psychological suspense, Thomas Harris stands alone. Exploring both the nature of human evil and the nerve-racking anatomy of a forensic investigation, Harris unleashes a frightening vision of the dark side of our well-lighted world. In this extraordinary novel, which precededThe Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Harris introduced the unforgettable character Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And in it, Will Graham — the FBI man who hunted Lecter down — risks his sanity and his life to duel a killer called the … RED DRAGON.

Review: Red Dragon was a nice introduction to the Hannibal world. Even though Hannibal is barely in this novel, it’s entertaining to read. The characters were realistic. There was a lot of characterization that really made the story. Although I didn’t like Will’s side of the story, getting inside his mind was cool, and I liked his meeting with Hannibal. I loved learning about the Red Dragon and his past. He was an interesting character, and it’s possible to even feel sorry for him at some points in the novel. I enjoyed the writing style and the plot. I’m excited to read The Silence of the Lambs, and I want to learn more about Hannibal since readers only get a tease of him in this novel. I want to finish reading the books before I watch the movies, but the Red Dragon movie is getting harder to resist watching every day.

The Moth in the Mirror – A. G. Howard
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★½

An original ebook-only novella in the Splintered series, told from the points of view of both Jeb and Morpheus. Morpheus wants to know more about his rival for Alyssa’s affections, so he digs into Jeb’s memories of his time in Wonderland. But he may be surprised by what he finds.

This brand-new story and perspective from A.G. Howard’s dark, magical world stands alone, but also provides a tantalizing glimpse of what’s to come in Unhinged, the sequel to Splintered.

Review: I’m glad I read this novella because it helped me understand Jeb better. Of course, he still isn’t my favorite character (Team Morpheus!). I felt that this helped explain what Jeb thought of Alyssa and how he only wanted to protect her, instead of control her, which is how it seemed in the first book. I did wish there were more moments with Morpheus, but I will settle with what I got until I read the second book, Unhinged. I really need to buy Unhinged soon, so I can continue reading. Plus, I just found out it’s going to be a trilogy!

The Broken – Shelley Coriell
Genre – Romance/Thriller
My Rating – ★★★

He took her life, but left her alive.

Three years ago, reporter Kate Johnson was the first victim—and only survivor—of the Broadcast Butcher. Scarred both physically and psychologically by the brutal serial killer, Kate lives life on the run, knowing that one day, he will find her and finish what he started.

In the pursuit of justice, you sometimes have to step outside the law.

Agent Hayden Reed spends his life chasing monsters. The only way to stay sane is to detach, but the second the Broadcast Butcher case crosses his desk, Hayden knows this is the case that might just cost him his soul. To catch this vicious murderer before he strikes again, Hayden must find Kate and earn her trust. For it’s her darkest secrets that hold the key to stopping this madman once and for all . . .

Review: Full review for The BrokenThe Broken was an entertaining read. The characters were likable and provided some great moments in the novel. There were some problems I had with the plot, but I did end up liking the overall story. The killer was not the best or most memorable, but the plot was enjoyable. I would recommend this book. I will most likely be picking up the second book The Buried because it tells Hatch’s story. The synopsis sounds really interesting, and I’ll get it when it’s released later this year.

We Are the Goldens – Dana Reinhardt
Genre – Young Adult/Contemporary
My Rating – ★★★★

Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.

When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.

Review: I’m planning on a having a full review of this up tomorrow. The writing style is different in We Are the Goldens. Nell is speaking directly to the reader as if she is talking to her sister Layla. Although I didn’t fully understand the “obsession” with the older sister, I did appreciate Nell and Layla’s relationship. Nell looked up to Layla, and Nell only wanted what was best for her sister. The characters are realistic and the plot is engaging. It makes you keep reading to find out what happens next. We Are the Goldens is still available on Netgalley, if anyone wants to read it before the publication date May 27th, 2014.

Red Bang – Brandt Monroe
Genre – Fiction
My Rating – ★★★★

Adam Murphy is a Hollywood screenwriter who has clearly lost his way. His wife, Jess, is a Los Angeles publicist who just lost her job. With the bills mounting and nowhere to turn in the City of Angels, Adam takes a chance on a complete life reboot – taking a job in Seattle at a billion-dollar, Fortune 500 technology behemoth and bringing his family along for the ride.

While working at The Company is a gloriously heady, benefit-laden playground for today’s smartest minds, Adam quickly realizes he has descended into a foreign land where the language, customs and politics will either make him stronger or cause a meltdown of epic proportions. Faced with a ‘win or fail’ attitude, Adam must find a way to deliver an innovative new product, defeat his political nemesis, align with a mysterious Company founder, and save his wife from a weather-induced depression all before The Company finds out he has no idea what he’s doing.

Inspired by the unbelievable things that go on behind closed doors of America’s largest companies, and bolstered by a warm-hearted, humorous look at one family’s fight against a Stepford-like culture, RED BANG will take you on a hilarious journey into the ridiculous hive mind of today’s tech giants.

Review: Full review for Red BangRed Bang has relatable characters and takes place in a realistic world. I enjoyed watching Adam develop through the story. While the story is based off of real life companies and products, it refrains from being predictable and has a satisfying ending. If you’re looking for an interesting story with lots of real-world references, you should definitely check out Red Bang. You won’t be disappointed!

Casting Shadows Everywhere – L. T. Vargus
Genre – Young Adult/Thriller
My Rating – ★★★★

In his own words, 15 year old Jake is a “huge pussy.” He flinches. Always. He’s too timid to make a move on Beth, the buxom girl of his dreams, and too busy getting face-slammed into lockers by bullies to do much else. He seeks the guidance of the biggest badass he knows, his cousin Nick.

Nick is a professional burglar and makes Jake his apprentice. They stalk suburban neighborhoods night after night, ransacking houses for jewelry and sweet valuables. Nick teaches Jake the finer points of breaking and entering along with his dark philosophy – that there is no right or wrong in the world, just a series of events that happen without meaning.

At first, adopting Nick’s callous worldview helps Jake get over his fears and confront his tormentors, but he also unleashes an aggression in himself he never thought possible. And as he learns more about his cousin, he realizes that Nick’s crimes go way beyond burglary.

In the end, Jake must face not only the monster in his cousin but also the one in his own heart.

Review: I’m planning on doing a full review of this novel as well. Casting Shadows Everywhere really surprised me. I, honestly, was not expecting to like the story as much as I did. The novel is written like journal entries without dates. The main character Jake is writing about his experiences with his cousin Nick and his friend Beth. It is crude at times, and there is some strong language, but it adds to the realness of the story. I loved the ending, and I’m sure all of the twists will shock a lot of readers. I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys surprises and interesting characters within their stories.

Trapped – Michael Northrop
Genre – Young Adult/Survival
My Rating – ★

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive. . . .

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision. . . .

Review: This was such a disappointing story. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy anything about Trapped. I wish I did because I was looking forward to a survival story, but it didn’t impress me. The characters were flat and some were hard to distinguish from each other. A lot of unimportant events were talked about such as going to the bathroom. I don’t need to know when and where the characters go to the bathroom. One explanation would have been fine, but it was discussed at a lot of different points in the story. Scotty even talks about his zit on more than one occasion. This mainly seemed to show that he was a teenager and had no other reason to be there. The novel had no surprises. Since Scotty says that not everyone survives at the beginning of the story, it’s easy to tell who doesn’t make it as soon as they are put in a life or death situation. The ending was unsatisfying, and it left so much unresolved. I normally can handle an ending with some unexplained events, but it felt as though some chapters were ripped out. It was a frustrating read, and I don’t recommend it.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Rating – R
My Rating – ★★★★★

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.

Review: What an amazing movie! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. While the movie was playing, I was trying to get some work done, but I ended up focusing all my attention on the film. It’s a pretty long movie at 161 minutes, but it doesn’t seem like it. No events drag on, and every scene has a purpose that adds to the story. All of the characters were fantastic and had great characterization. That ending! I was on the edge of my seat while the confrontation was happening. I was constantly asking Chad what was going to happen. Of course, he wouldn’t tell me, so I was even more anxious. This was such a incredible movie, and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to finally watch it. I would highly recommend this!

Planet of the Dinosaurs
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★

A space-ship gets lost and is forced to make an emergency landing on an unknown planet. The planet looks much like Earth, only with no trace of civilization. Soon the crew discovers that there are dinosaurs on the planet, and blood-thirsty buggers at that. The crew hopes to be found and rescued, but they have to struggle to survive until then.

Review: Chad and I did a full review on Planet of the Dinosaurs. My review was especially silly because I felt it matched the movie. Planet of the Dinosaurs is far from a well-made movie, and it’s quite terrible at some moments. If you do plan to watch it, just be aware that you will most likely laugh. A lot. It’s one of those films where it’s so bad, it’s funny. Of course, it’s unintentional, but we enjoyed ourselves while watching.

Cannonball Run II
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★

The original characters from the first Cannonball movie race across the country once more in various cars and trucks.

Review: This was such a disappointing film. After loving The Cannonball Run, I was looking forward to the second installment. I’m used to sequels not being as good as the first, but this was not even close to the original. There were a ton more famous celebrities involved, and it took away from the story because everyone had to have a longer amount of time on screen. A lot of these characters were pointless and the scenes were even more pointless. It mostly felt like the creators were like “let’s see how many famous people we can shove into one movie.”  The plot was lacking and about half way through, it completely changed into something else. I know that it was probably just a movie for fun, but I would recommend The Cannonball Run for that. It’s an entertaining movie while maintaining plot and characters. Overall, Cannonball Run II is worth skipping.

The Nut Job
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★

An incorrigibly self-serving exiled squirrel finds himself helping his former park brethren raid a nut store to survive, that is also the front for a human gang’s bank robbery.

Review: When I first saw advertisements for The Nut Job, I didn’t have high hopes for it. However, I decided to give it a try. Sadly, it was not impressive. It’s not a very unique story and the characters are generic. There is not much for an adult to enjoy, but I’m sure children will like it. It’s a pretty straightforward plot and doesn’t have too many surprises. There is supposed to be a sequel to this movie coming out in 2016, so some people must have enjoyed it.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – ★★★★

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.

Review: This sequel was quite entertaining. I really enjoyed getting to know the dwarves more, and I liked watching Bilbo grow as a character. It’s full of action and fast-paced scenes. There were some moments where the plot dragged on but that will happen when you make three movies based off of one book. I’m looking forward to the third installment of The Hobbit that is supposed to come out in December of this year.

Top Secret!
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★★

Parody of WWII spy movies in which an American rock and roll singer becomes involved in a Resistance plot to rescue a scientist imprisoned in East Germany.

Review: I really enjoy parodies. Anything that pokes fun at something while also being witty and educated about the source material is always entertaining for me. Top Secret! was a fun movie. The movie combines spy movies and musicals that featured Elvis. Every scene is filled with something funny, and it’s easy to find yourself laughing out loud during some. This was also Val Kilmer’s first feature film so that’s always interesting to know.

Airplane!
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★★

An airplane crew takes ill. Surely the only person capable of landing the plane is an ex-pilot afraid to fly. But don’t call him Shirley.

Review: I figured since I watched Top Secret!, I might as well watch Airplane!. This is also a pretty hilarious parody movie directed by the same guys who directed Top Secret!. I enjoyed the random moments or the scenes where the character would look at the camera as if the character knows he/she is in a movie and goes along with it anyway. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to have a fun time while watching. Just don’t eat the fish.

March was a much better reading month for me. Of course, the beginning started off slow. I was still in a reading slump, but by the end of the month, I kicked the reading slump’s butt! I read 5 books, which is an improvement from the past two months. I’m hoping to read even more in April, so we shall see how it goes. I also watched two movies I haven’t seen before. They are quite old, and I’m sure most people have seen them. As always, I’m behind on pretty much everything. I’m slowly catching up though.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

The Trap – John Smelcer
Genre – Young Adult/Survival
My Rating – ★★★★

Seventeen-year-old Johnny Least-Weasel knows that his grandfather Albert is a stubborn old man and won’t stop checking his own traplines even though other men his age stopped doing so years ago. But Albert Least-Weasel has been running traplines in the Alaskan wilderness alone for the past sixty years. Nothing has ever gone wrong on the trail he knows so well.

When Albert doesn’t come back from checking his traps, with the temperature steadily plummeting, Johnny must decide quickly whether to trust his grandfather or his own instincts.

Review: This was an enjoyable read. I liked the tales at the beginning of each chapter, and I love that they related to the overall story. The main characters were likable, and there was good characterization. The Indian traditions and stories the characters told built the environment and world. The story was a bit slow at times, but it didn’t take away from anything. I thought the ending was really great, though others might not think this. I won’t spoil it but just prepare for some intense moments. Overall, The Trap was entertaining, and I would recommend it.

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff
Genre – Young Adult/War
My Rating – ★★

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

Review: I was disappointed with this novel. Of course, I was prepared for Daisy and her cousin’s “bond” so that aspect didn’t bother me. I wanted to see how the author dealt with it, and I feel the relationship was handled well, which I appreciated. However, the writing style bothered me to no end. It’s written how a teenager would speak. It’s a lot easier to listen to than it is to read. There are long sentences with no pauses and lots of ands. I mean lots of ands. Example: First I did this and then I did this and then this and this and this. It was a lot of telling instead of showing, which is fine for the writing style, but it made me feel emotionless towards all of the characters. I didn’t really care what happened to any of them, even though this is a war story with dire consequences and heartache around every corner. I wouldn’t recommend this, but others have liked it.

Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh
Genre – Humor
My Rating – ★★★★★

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative–like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it–but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

Review: This is a fantastic novel! I have officially added this to my favorites list. This book is perfect for getting out of a reading slump. It has such a great sense of humor while still being realistic. All the stories are relatable and down to earth. There were many points where I was laughing out loud and had to tell Chad why I was laughing so hard. I would highly recommend this book, and I feel like everyone should read it.

Endless – Amanda Gray
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★

Jenny Kramer knows she isn’t normal. After all, not everybody can see the past lives of people around them.

When she befriends Ben Daulton, resident new boy, the pair stumble on an old music box with instructions for “mesmerization” and discover they may have more in common than they thought. Like a past life.

Using the instructions in the music box, Ben and Jenny share a dream that transports them to Romanov Russia and leads them to believe they have been there together before. But they weren’t alone. Nikolai, the mysterious young man Jenny has been seeing in her own dreams was there, too. When Nikolai appears next door, Jenny is forced to acknowledge that he has travelled through time and space to find her. Doing so means he has defied the laws of time, and the Order, an ominous organization tasked with keeping people in the correct time, is determined to send him back.

While Ben, Jenny and Nikolai race against the clock – and the Order – Jenny and Nikolai discover a link that joins them in life – and beyond death.

Review: I have a full review of this novel posted here. Overall,  the book was well-written, and it had potential, but sadly, this story wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy the romance, and most of the story elements were lost. The story was okay, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it. Others have enjoyed it though, so it’s always up to the reader.

Cinder – Marissa Meyer
Genre – Young Adult/Fantasy
My Rating – ★★★★

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Review: I really enjoyed this story. I’m usually skeptical about fairytale retellings, but I was pleasantly surprised with this novel. Cinder was likable, and she had good characterization. She was also pretty tough and was able to take care of herself. Although there were some oversights, and it was quite predictable, Cinder had a certain charm about it. The story was pretty exciting, and I found myself being immersed in the story. I did want more world building, but I love the details that were given. I would recommend this novel.

The Cannonball Run
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★★★

A wide variety of eccentric competitors participate in a wild and illegal cross-country car race.

Review: It has taken me forever to watch this movie. Honestly, I didn’t even know this existed until Chad showed it to me. This is such a great movie. I love all the characters and how random this movie can be. Everything about it was funny and entertaining. It reminded me of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Rat Race, both of which I love. I would highly recommend this movie, but I’m sure everyone else has watched it. I would love recommendations for more movies like this one. I did get my hands on Cannonball Run II from a neighbor, and I plan on watching it soon.

National Lampoon’s Vacation
Rating – R
My Rating – ★★★★

The Griswold family’s cross-country drive to the Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous than they ever anticipated.

Review: This was such a strange movie but in a good way. I loved this crazy family vacation. However, I would not want to be a part of it. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It would be one epic vacation. The ending was even better and fit well with the overall tone of the movie. Now I finally get all the references Family Guy makes to this movie.

 

During February, I ended up reading the same amount of books I did in January which was around three. Even though I wanted to read more, other things decided to get in the way of my reading time. My overall reading goal for 2014 is to read 40 books, so at least I’m keeping up with my goal.

I’m still reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline because I ended up reading two other books. It has taken me quite a while to get back to reading this story, but I plan on finishing Ready Player One in March.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

Ravens – Kaylie Austen
Genre – Young Adult/Paranormal
My Rating – ★★½

What are Ravens, and are they as the world wants us to believe—sinister and without human qualities? When abruptly taken from their world, select humans are transformed into creatures of the night with penetrating eyes and uncanny abilities that most believe are a threat to mankind. Stripped from their mundane and ordinary lives, these creatures have no choice but to stalk the night and fight back in order to survive.

One such Raven is eighteen-year-old Liam, who uses his telepathy to communicate with Kendra in order to lure her into the transformation. It proves to be a double-edged gambit that turns into a tumultuous journey. Racing against time to save her sister, whom she believed to be dead, Kendra falls through a portal and into a parallel world where humans hunt her. She becomes a Raven with ill-controlled powers, trapped in a torrid affair with Liam, and desperately struggles to find a grip on her new reality.

Review: Ever since I finished Ravens, I’ve been trying to decide what to rate it. Let me just say that I went in thinking it was about actual ravens, as you can see from my TBR post. I felt like an idiot when the story was about beings known as ravens. This fact didn’t affect my rating because after I found out, I accepted it and moved on with the story. I enjoyed the beginning, and the book had a good premise. However, I had a few problems with it. I wanted some things explained more such as the world, the ravens, and the hunters. I felt like I could have learned a lot more about each to really pull the story together. There were also aspects that I found a little bit unnecessary such as Randal’s point of view. It just seemed unneeded. Some of the conversations didn’t flow that well, and Kendra seemed rather calm when Liam was explaining the parallel universes. Overall, I was excited to read this book, but I was disappointed with it. I do want to read some of her other books though.

The Sheik’s Defiant Fiancée – Elizabeth Lennox
Genre – Romance
My Rating – ★★

Laila knew in her heart that marriage should be for love, not for duty. Her union with Sheik Jabril would help improve and maintain political stability in her country, as well as bring the people of her province honor and pride. And Jabril was certainly easy on the eyes. He was tall, built like an Olympian, and exuded power and masculinity. But the man was a player of the worst sort, with mistresses all over the world! She realizes that she cannot say no to the Sheik of Surisia, so she respectfully requests that they treat their marriage like the business arrangement that it is. His response? He kisses her! Through that kiss, he demonstrates that he will not accept anything less than her full acquiescence, but she also discovers that his passion and physical presence stir something within her that she cannot control.

Their first public event together convinces Jabril that he made an excellent choice for a wife. She is not only stunningly beautiful, but smart and socially adept. She will be a worthy partner to rule his kingdom, and to share his bed! Her trembling response to his touch excites him, but her suggestion that they essentially live separate lives confounds and amuses him. There is no way he will allow that. The intensity of their first kiss lingers in his memory and he will not relent until he has experienced all she can give. He wants her in his bed, every night. And he will have her!

Review: I started this book in between reading Ready Player One, mainly, because I just added it to my tablet. It was a very short story. It felt as if it was a novella, and I’m not sure if that was the intention. There wasn’t any character development and hardly an characterization. Throughout the story, I had a hard time understanding why Laila was pushing Jabril away. I mean I know the initial reason was because she believed he was a player, but once he tells her the truth, she doesn’t really give much reason to keep pushing. It also felt as if the story wasn’t developed enough. I ended up not caring about what happened to the characters because they’re not memorable. Others may like The Sheik’s Defiant Fiancée, but it wasn’t for me.

Beyond – Graham McNamee
Genre – Young Adult/Horror
My Rating – ★★★

Jane is not your typical teen. She and her best friend Lexi call themselves the Creep Sisters. Only Lexi knows why Jane is different from anyone else: Her own shadow seems to pull her into near-fatal accidents. Jane is determined to find out why these terrifying things happen, and to overcome her shadow enemy. Her sleuthing with Lexi connects her own horrors to the secret history of a serial killer.

Review: I enjoyed Beyond for being a unique ghost story. Even though, I haven’t read that many ghost stories. I felt the visions Jane had were pretty accurate and well described. By accurate I mean, when she was experiencing them, she reacted how someone would feel and act in real life. Jane was an enjoyable protagonist that was easy to root for. She has a lot of near-death experiences that the reader will need to expand his/her disbelief for. It made me wonder how she kept surviving. There are a few more moments where it’s hard to believe, but it sort of adds to the ghost story. Jane and Lexi’s friendship was nice, and it seemed believable. Overall, I liked the plot of the story and the idea behind the shadow. I did want the story to be a little scarier and it didn’t end how I would have liked, but it was entertaining. Beyond is worth reading.

What About Bob?
Rating – PG
My Rating – ★★★★

A successful psychiatrist loses his mind after one of his most dependent patients, a highly manipulative obsessive-compulsive, tracks him down during his family vacation.

Review: What About Bob? is a really enjoyable film. There were quite a few laugh out loud moments. It really lives up to the comedy genre because it was funny without being dumb, which a lot of movies have been doing for cheap laughs. There was a lot of good character development, and the characters were enjoyable. It was interesting how none of the characters were annoying. It would have been really easy to make any of them irritating, but they were all portrayed well. All character actions seemed justified and made the characterization even better. I loved the ending because it was funny and ironic. It took me a while to watch this movie, and I’m glad I finally did. It’s definitely worth a watch.

I’ve decided that at the end of each month, I will do a wrap-up post to go over the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched in that particular month. There will be mini reviews of books and movies. I will keep Tuesday reviews open for books and movies I want to go into more detail about.

During January, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked. I only managed to read 3 books in total. It’s disappointing, but I’m finally getting out of my reading slump, so that’s a plus. On the other hand, I watched quite a few movies, and I’ll give mini reviews on some of them.

*All descriptions for books taken from Goodreads and all descriptions for movies taken from IMDb.

Legend – Marie Lu
Genre – Young Adult/Dystopian
My Rating – 3/5

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Review: For me, Legend started out sort of slow. It took a few chapters before I was invested in the world. At times, the story was predictable. It was easy to figure out where the story was going and what was going to happen to the characters. However, I found the story and the world enjoyable. I liked both June and Day and found myself cheering for them the entire time. They were likable characters, and they each had their own personality. I’m glad it was easy to tell the difference between the two main character’s points of view (besides the font changes). There wasn’t a lot of character development, but I’m sure there will be plenty over the course of the next two books.

I enjoyed the ending of Legend. I believe it fit the plot well, and it wasn’t there to only get the reader to purchase the next book. The main plot was resolved, but there was enough mystery left to continue the story. I’m looking forward to the next book (Prodigy) in the trilogy.

The Chosen One – Carol Lynch Williams
Genre – Young Adult/Realistic Fiction
My Rating – 4/5

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.

But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

Review: During the beginning of The Chosen One, it can be a bit confusing with all the different names being presented, but after the first chapter, the names were much easier to follow. Williams brings up a tough subject to read about. The story ignites many emotions, depending on the situation. I found myself angry for what the community put Kyra through, but it made sense due to how Williams described everything. I felt sorry for Kyra and some of the other members, and I’m sure most readers will feel the same way.

In all honesty, The Chosen One was hard to stop reading because you want to know what becomes of Kyra and her family. The story was far from predictable, and I was surprised by what actually happened near the end of the book. I would definitely recommend this story, but be warned that it may not be for everyone, and it might be upsetting to some because of how the community treats the women and some of the men.

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins
Genre – Young Adult/
My Rating – 3/5

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Review: Anna and the French Kiss was a bit of a disappointment for me. I have been hearing so much hype about this book, and I was really excited for a cute and funny romance. I didn’t rate the book any lower because for more than half the story, I didn’t really have a problem with anything. It wasn’t until near the end that all the negative things really piled up. First, I’ll explain what I liked. The story was quite cute and funny for a majority of the book. I really enjoyed Anna as a character, and I found that her love of movies was unique and relatable.

(Some SpoilersNow, on to what I did not enjoy. Étienne annoyed me. While I was delighted about him and Anna, it was not alright that he still had a girlfriend (Ellie) for a large portion of the story. I mean the story sets up Ellie as not the best girlfriend, and we as readers are not supposed to support Ellie and Étienne’s relationship, but I bet if the reader was able to see into Ellie’s point of view opinions might change. I would not want to be Ellie. Étienne should have manned up sooner and broke it off with Ellie when he started to develop feelings for Anna. That would have been the decent thing to do. I know why he didn’t, but to me it was just a cheap way to keep the two main characters apart. Okay, rant over.

There was way too much drama for my liking. It seemed that everything that could happen, did happen. The side characters didn’t really matter too much. They were merely there to make Anna feel better when she was questioning everything. Overall, I would not recommend this book, but plenty of others have liked it. I might still give Lola and the Boy Next Door a chance, but we shall see.

Rango
Rating – PG
My Rating – 5/5

Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writers: John Logan, Gore Verbinski

Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant

Review: I never expected to like this movie very much, but there is just something about this story that I absolutely love. I have been watching this movie over and over. For one, I enjoy the humor and how it’s very subtle at times. It might be because I have a strange sense of humor, and I find odd things to be very humorous, but I think many people will like the comical aspect of Rango. The plot was unique, and honestly, I’m not sure if it’s the best movie for children because they might not understand the story; however, there is plenty for adults to appreciate.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Rating – PG
My Rating – 4/5

The most delicious event since macaroni met cheese. Inspired by the beloved children’s book, the film focuses on a town where food falls from the sky like rain.

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Writers: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Stars: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell

Review: This was quite an adorable movie, and it was another one I was not expecting to like as much as I did. The characters were personable and had great characterization. The jokes were funny without being too repetitive (Steve!), and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the quirks of each of the characters. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is definitely a movie for children, but it’s one that adults will be able to enjoy as well.

Epic
Rating – PG
My Rating – 4/5

A teenager finds herself transported to a deep forest setting where a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is taking place. She bands together with a rag-tag group of characters in order to save their world — and ours.

Director: Chris Wedge

Writers: James V. Hart (screenplay), William Joyce (screenplay)

Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Beyoncé  Knowles

Review: While Epic is not completely original, and this sort of tale has been told before, Epic was able to bring a new twist to the story. I’m really happy that a lot of cliches were tossed out while making this. One in particular that stood out the most to me was when the villain’s son was hurt, he immediately stopped to check on him. The character’s were likable, and it’s easy to root for the good guys. My favorite characters were, of course, Mub (Aziz Ansari) and Grub (Chris O’Dowd). To me, they were able to bring the right amount of humor to the movie.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole
Rating – PG
My Rating – 4/5

When a young owl is abducted by an evil Owl army, he must escape with new-found friends and seek the legendary Guardians to stop the menace.

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: John Orloff (screenplay), Emil Stern (screenplay)

Stars: Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham

Review: I have a new appreciation for owls. This was such a refreshing tale, and it was beautifully crafted. I’m glad there was some slow motion moments, so I could admire the amazing details in every scene. Even though it wasn’t perfect, the character development was enjoyable and realistic, especially with Soren and Kludd. The characterization was nice as well, even if it was a bit cliche at times with the overly good heroes and the overly evil villians. Although, it’s a nice story to show the difference between good and evil.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Rating – PG-13
My Rating – 4.5/5

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay)

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Review: Catching Fire is one of the best book to movie adaptation I have seen in a while. The only reason the movie did not get a 5/5 from me is because I rated the book 4/5, so the movie can only be as good as the source material, but it received .5 more for being so entertaining and well-done. I was thoroughly impressed with how well the book was brought to life. More impressive was that Francis Lawrence made action scenes without shaky cam! Woo, no shaking camera bouncing around everywhere. I would highly recommend this, and I’m excited to see how Mockingjay will be done.