Book Review: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

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The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: May 2018 by Gollancz (first published 2017)

Pages: 432

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Dragons are what attracted me to this book. I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. The concept of dragons being attracted to stories is an interesting one, and I liked that this provided a different angle to the well-trodden road of dragon rider novels. Riding dragons wasn’t the focus of the book for the majority, as dragons have in fact been hunted for some time.

Kristen Ciccarelli doesn’t use much description in her prose, yet I was still able to visualise every scene. This also meant it wasn’t bogged down in in-depth description like many fantasy books get lost in, and it kept the book fairly fast paced. I would have perhaps liked a bit more sensory description, to make the settings come alive more and create more atmosphere in some of the tense scenes.

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Book Review: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

19258492Frostbite by Richelle Mead   

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2008 by e-Penguin (first published 2008)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

Frostbite is the second book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Although I rated this 3.5, the same as I rated the first book, I did think it was a little stronger. Just not quite edging to a 4 for me compared to other books I have given a 4 star rating.

The friendship between Rose and Lissa was a little sidelined in this book, which I think was a shame as it was one of the strongest aspects of Vampire Academy. I hope their friendship will continue to evolve through the rest of the series. Other relationships were explored more, such as Rose and her mother. As we didn’t see much of Janine in book one, it was interesting to see how Rose interacted with her mother and how their relationship shifted over the course of the book.

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Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

beforeifall_movieeditionBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver   

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: Kindle edition (first published 2010)

Pages: 484

Star Rating: 3.5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

 

After I finished reading this book I really had no idea how I would approach writing a review for it. I went through so many different emotions as I read it. There were times when I hated, times when I loved it, times it made me sad, times I was frustrated by it. It was a rollercoaster.

The main character, Sam, was really irritating. At first I found that annoying, but then I realised she couldn’t be a nice person at the start, could she? How could there be a redemption arc (which is what Oliver seemed to be going for) if Sam was a good person from the start? So I accepted that I didn’t like her character, thinking that she would grow on me as she developed.

However, for most of the book she was still annoying. She was just so selfish. When she realised she was living the same day over and decided to do something good it wasn’t because she wanted to help the other person, it was because she thought it might be her ticket out of this endless loop. And even in the last section of the book, although she didn’t seem quite as selfish, I didn’t get the feeling she was doing the ‘good’ things totally selflessly. Maybe that’s the point though. Maybe if her character had done a complete arc from popular mean girl to selfless good girl in seven days I would have thought she changed too quickly or would have found it too cliché.

All of the characters were painted really vividly, even if I didn’t like all of them. Even characters who featured only a small amount felt like real people not just anonymous faces. The friendship between Sam and her friends was portrayed especially well.

There were so many threads and characters, Oliver did a great job of weaving them together, and showing how Sam doing a different thing on the next iteration of the day impacted on something that happened to another character. The concept of repeating the day over is so interesting and I think the author did write that aspect of the book well.

I did like how scenes are really fleshed out. Often scenes are skimmed over in books where there is a more fast pace, but in Before I Fall Oliver took the time to paint scenes and make them really pop.

While I like ambiguous endings and think they can be really effective, with this one I was disappointed there weren’t more answers. I didn’t know what to think or feel at the end. It’s the sort of book where some ambiguity would work, but it was as ambiguous as you can get and for some reason I was left feeling unsatisfied. There wasn’t really any explanation of what is happening to Sam, where she is, she’s dead but where is she and why is she reliving this day? For redemption of some kind perhaps, but why, how? Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for an ambiguous ending.

I’m not sure if this is science fiction or supernatural or spiritual sub-genre or something else entirely, but I liked that it wasn’t a straight contemporary, that its focus was on issues explored in YA contemporary but used the repeating day to explore those issues.

I’ve seen it compared to If I Stay and Thirteen Reasons Why, and I can see why. The comparison of life-after-death with If I Stay is obvious, and it tackles bullying and high school culture like Thirteen Reasons Why. But for some reason, I didn’t like it as much as those two. If I Stay is one of my favourites, it turned me into an emotional wreck because it was an amazing book but so sad and gave me so many emotions. Thirteen Reasons Why, although very different, also left a big impression. Before I Fall isn’t as memorable for me. Although, I think maybe I’d enjoy it more if I read it again, that I would fall in love with it more if I returned to it in a few years time. Like If I Stay and Thirteen Reasons Why, it is thought-provoking and moving, but it didn’t have as much impact and I think I need it to re-read it to fully appreciate its nuances.

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Release date: 27th May 2016

Director: Whit Stillman

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevingy, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell

Runtime: 94 minutes

Genre: Period Drama, Romance

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan which wasn’t published until after her death. There is also an epistolary book called Love and Friendship, but the film takes the plot of Lady Susan with the title of Love and Friendship. I know, confusing. Why not just call it Lady Susan? Why take the title of another Jane Austen work and confuse everyone?

Lady Susan is a tactical widow who sets her eyes on finding a suitable husband for her daughter, with the help of an American friend, also aiming to bag herself a man in the process. I enjoyed the plot and it was certainly humorous at times, most of the laughs coming from Lady Susan’s scandalous and outrageous lines. Kate Beckinsale definitely stood above the rest as Lady Susan, delivering her lines so well. The obliviously stupid Sir James is also a great character who provides a lot of humour. In many ways it is different to other stories by Jane Austen with a somewhat unlikeable, scheming protagonist who is somehow at the same time captivating.

If is somewhat odd that it is a U-rated film, but which is most definitely about scandal and affairs. It’s odd but somehow works.

The acting was good at times but in places it was stilted and like they were reading off a script. There was nothing striking about the scenery and imagery, and the music wasn’t anything special and felt oddly out of place for some reason. Actually, what was most odd was the costumes. I’m no expert on period fashions but the dresses didn’t look at all right for the time period.

It was thoroughly entertaining, charming, and passed some time, but there were some elements that were just…off. The production let down a story with potential to make a great film. I don’t have much to say about this one. An average but enjoyable film.

Film Review: Allegiant

Film Review: Allegiant (Divergent Series #3)

Release date: 10th March 2016

Director: Robert Schwentke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz

Runtime: 121 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Allegiant is the third film in the Divergent series. Allegiant is the third and final book in the series put as per the popular move at the moment it is being split into two films, the first titled Allegiant and the second titled Ascendant (slightly different to calling them Part One and Part Two I suppose). At the end of the previous film the people of Chicago received a message from the outside world inviting them to go beyond the wall. Former leader of the Factionless Evelyn has essentially taken over and stops people from going over the wall. Tris, Four, Christina, Peter, Caleb and Tori get past Evelyn’s defences and go over the wall to find what is left of the rest of the world.

The book was undoubtedly my least favourite in the series. I felt it went massively downhill in quality from the first two books and was quite disappointed by it. So, unusually, I was happy for them to make changes to the film in the hopes of making it better. The film was fairly similar to the book, though with some changes obviously.

One of the best aspects of the film was the set designs. The design of the future world outside the wall was amazing and really imaginative. Unfortunately though it felt like a step down from the previous film, which itself wasn’t quite as good as the first film. I can’t quite place my finger on why it wasn’t as good. Perhaps it was the acting that wasn’t quite as sharp in this one. And obviously they had a flawed novel to work from, although I think they took a lot of the better aspects from the book to use in the film.

My confusion lies in where they are going with the fourth film, Ascendant. The third film was pretty similar to the book in terms of the plot arc, concluding in a kind of similar yet also different way to the book. So I’m not entirely sure where they are going with the fourth film. It will have to contain new material, as they have used up almost all of the book.

Overall I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t spectacular. It could have been better and although I really liked some of the things they added I felt they also left some important ideas out. I’m most intrigued to see what they will do with the last film, and to look back on this film once the last film has been released in terms of their adaption of the final book in the series.

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Genre: Detective Fiction

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Not Avail (first published 1926)

Pages: 305

Star Rating: 3.5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected that she was being blackmailed. Then came the news that she had taken her own life. But, before he found all the clues, he was murdered.

 

This was my first time dipping into the world of Agatha Christie’s novels. The detective story can be rather formulaic but this one diverges from the formula in an interesting way which makes it stand out from the usual mould. I can’t disclose any more on that front without completely ruining the book. It’s the twist that really makes the story. Until I got to the twist it was a fairly standard affair.

Christie writes good stories, but her writing isn’t exactly inspiring. The writing is pretty basic but I guess that makes it an easy read that will suite some. That’s the thing about these kind of novels, they’re the sort you read casually on the train or on holiday.

The characters are your standard mix of suspects and investigators with nobody particularly different, unusual or interesting. The setting as well is the typical country town. But if this is the kind of read you’re looking for then this isn’t a problem, it’s what you’d expect from a Christie.

This is one of those books that now I know what happens and what the twist is I may reread it at some point because it would be completely different reading it a second time with that knowledge. Obviously I can’t compare it to other Christie novels as this is my first but I’d say it was a pretty good one. It’s all about the twist at the end though. I didn’t find the build up to it that exciting.

Film Review: The Scorch Trials

Release date: 11th September 2015

Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aiden Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson

Runtime: 131 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action, Thriller

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second film in the Maze Runner series, based on the book by James Dashner. It is very different to the book, diverting from the plot quite substantially, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing anyway.

The film carries on moments after the first film finished as Thomas and the survivors from the Glade are rescued from WCKD by a mysterious alternative group. After discovering a truth about their rescuers the Gladers escape from the compound they have been taken to into the Scorch – outside where the world is like a desert and Cranks (basically zombies, at least in the film anyway) try to attack them. Their aim is to reach the Right Arm (a rebellion group in the mountains).

Once I got over the fact that it was very different to the book I read (something which is probably a good thing to accept when going to see any film based on a book to avoid disappointment) I enjoyed it and found it very exciting and gripping. The Cranks were done extremely well and were absolutely terrifying, and would have been even more scary if I hadn’t been anticipating it from having read the book! All of the CGI/special effects stuff was very good.

The acting was good, considering what the actors had to work with – in the book the characters aren’t fleshed out that well.

Although it didn’t bother me too much that the plot was quite different to the book, the end section didn’t make much sense and ended in a completely different way to the book, meaning I’m not sure what they’re going to do in the last film.

It was a good film, but I preferred the first one, which isn’t that surprising as I preferred the first book to the second book. If you haven’t read the book then it’s an exciting film, and if you liked the first one you’d like the second one. Though I would avoid it if you’re getting tired of YA dystopia film adaptions…