Film Review: Downton Abbey

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Film Review: Downton Abbey

Release date: 13th September 2019

Director: Michael Engler

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith and many more

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Period drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Downton Abbey is the much awaited return of a very popular series. This time, the characters take to the big screen with a film version of the television programme. Downton Abbey aired between 2010 and 2015 and was very popular, so in many ways it’s no surprise it made it to the big screen. The film sees the family, and servants, at Downton Abbey preparing for a royal visit from the King and Queen.

While I was delighted to once again hear Downton’s wonderful main theme and return to the halls of the grand house, I wonder if the film was a step too far. It was charming and entertaining, but the plot was a little thin. It would have perhaps worked better as a special episode for TV, as that’s basically what I felt like I was watching, rather than a film. It will certainly appeal for fans of the show, but is not the best entrance to the world of Downton Abbey for anyone not familiar with the TV show.

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Book Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

38167114Internment by Samira Ahmed   

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: March 2019 by Atom

Pages: 386

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

 

Having seen the description for this book, I just had to buy it. The idea drew me in right away because of its relevance. Negative attitudes towards Muslims have sadly become more prominent lately, which is completely unfair. This book imagines what could happen if the situation in America escalated, and shows how quickly things can change. I wanted to love this book. It had so much promise, but I was a little disappointed. Although I felt it could have been better, it was also incredibly shocking, as well as moving and heartbreaking.

Rather than being set in a far-flung ultra-futuristic setting, Internment is set in a near future that unfortunately you can really believe could actually happen. I think it being near future makes it more terrifying. So many dystopias are set in a distant future that feels a long way away, like something that wouldn’t happen for a while. But sadly you can imagine this happening now. The book tackles big issues such as Islamophobia and illegal detainment, and it’s so good to see serious subject matter explored in young adult fiction.

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Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

23664731Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Corgi (first published 2015)

Pages: 308

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I have very conflicted feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was really interesting to see the world from a different perspective in YA, but on the other I’m not sure about how Yoon handled the subject matter. The novel is told from the perspective of Maddy, who has SCID and has not been able to leave her house since she was a tiny baby. The house is adapted with air filters and she has a nurse stay with her all day.

In the first section of the book I really felt connected to Maddy’s character and got a real sense of her isolation from the rest of the world. Despite this isolation, she wasn’t unhappy. She gets on well with her nurse, Carla, and has a great relationship with her mother. I liked seeing her interactions with these two characters in the first half.

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Book Review: Ringer by Lauren Oliver

36299564Ringer by Lauren Oliver

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 502

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Like its ambitious companion novel, Replica, this far-reaching novel by powerhouse bestselling author Lauren Oliver digs deep into questions of how to be a human being in a world where humanity cannot be taken for granted.

In the world outside the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and neither of them knows where they belong or who they can trust. When Caelum leaves without warning to pursue the dream of a place he belongs, Lyra follows him, convinced that together they will hunt down a cure for the illness that’s slowly consuming her mind. But what they uncover is a shocking connection to their past—even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.

After discovering the uncomfortable truth about her connection to the Haven Institute, Gemma struggles to return to her normal life. But when she learns that her controlling and powerful father has new plans for Lyra and Caelum, Gemma and her boyfriend, Pete, leave in the middle of the night to warn them of the danger they face.When an untimely accident derails them, they are mistaken for the escaped replicas and seized by strangers hired to capture them. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.

Lyra’s and Gemma’s stories can be read separately—with either story first—or in alternating chapters, but no matter which way you turn the book, the two distinct stories combine into one breathtaking experience for both heroines and readers alike.

Ringer is the second, and final, book in Lauren Oliver’s Replica duology. You can read my review of the first book here. Before reading, I wondered why it was called Ringer, and having finished I was still none the wiser. It seemed like they decided it should start with an ‘R’ and plucked a random word out the dictionary. So I looked it up, and a ringer is someone or something that looks like something else. Essentially another word to describe a replica. Interestingly, while a replica is exactly the same, a ringer seems to mean that they look very alike but are not exactly the same. This seems rather fitting, since Ringer explores the question of whether the replicas are ‘human’ and whether they can be distinguished from one another. So it’s actually a well thought out choice for a title.

For those not familiar with the series, Ringer (like Replica) includes the stories of Gemma and Lyra, with the book formatted as two separate halves that has to be ‘flipped’. They can be read one half after the other, either way around, or in alternating chapters. When I read the first book, I read Lyra’s story first then Gemma’s, whereas this time I read Gemma’s story first and then Lyra’s.

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Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

81vov3tq3hlSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse (first published 2006)

Pages: 350

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

 

Specials is the third book in the Uglies series, and the final book in the main trilogy. There is a ‘companion’ novel, Extras, and Westerfeld recently released Imposters, which is set in the same universe. While I enjoyed this book to a small degree, it didn’t blow me away. It didn’t leave me with any significant lasting impression.

The book opens with brilliant writing. Some amazing descriptions really make you feel like you’re seeing the world through Tally’s special super sense eyes. However, this isn’t carried through the rest of the book. That level of description all the way through would be too much, but I’d have expected more. If you introduce the idea that a character has these extra senses, you have to carry that through and show how they see the world with their super senses in the rest of the book too, not just at the opening to get the reader’s attention.

They’re supposed to be specials, superior to everyone else. They might be in terms of their super reflexes and senses, but they still go around doing tricks and acting not much different from how they did before in some ways.

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Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

9780147513861The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings

Publishing Info: April 2017 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (first published April 2016)

Pages: 422

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this book didn’t blow me away, considering my fairly neutral reaction to the first book. But I felt invested enough to read the sequel.

It was very slow at first. A quarter of the way in very little had happened. I’m not talking about a lack of action. Action scenes aren’t required to move the story. The problem was that nothing happened to move the plot forward. About a third of the way through it started moving a bit but was still plodding. Perhaps some of the problem was Shazi and Khalid being apart, the spark their relationship created in the first book was missing as a result of them being apart for the first third of the novel.

After a slow start, it picked up half way as more magical elements were introduced to the story and Shazi and Khalid find out how they are going to break the curse on him. This gives them a more defined goal to drive their next actions which made me more engaged in the book.

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Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

14061957Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo   

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition, 2014 by Orion Children’s Books (first published 2014)

Pages: 369

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as Alina begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction – but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.

The final book in the Grishaverse trilogy was, unfortunately, a little disappointing. While I liked the book, it didn’t pull me in, not in the same way the first two books did.

There were too many inner monologues for Alina that just felt repetitive. Her thoughts and emotions could have been written better in places. Elsewhere, the writing was good though, and I continued to enjoy the world building. I thought it was interesting how Alina was viewed as a Saint. It’s not something I’ve really seen in fantasy before, but totally makes sense for someone with ‘magic’ to be viewed that way by some people.

Bardugo is pretty mean to her characters in this book, things rarely go the ‘heroes’ way, which I liked. It showed how the characters had to keep getting back up and fight mentally to keep persevering. Though Bardugo seemed to be taking this book in a dark direction, it somehow ended up being too soft in the end, which I don’t mind, except the lead up led me to think it was going a different way. Like the author wanted to take it in a darker direction at the end, but dipped their toes in and decided to back out. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe she wanted a touch of darkness, but was always going to end it in a less dark way. The fairy tale framing does suggest there would be a happy ending of sorts.

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