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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Film Review: Tomb Raider

tomb-raider-poster-alicia-vikanderFilm Review: Tomb Raider

Release date: 15th March 2018

Director: Roar Uthaug

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the film franchise, loosely based on the reboot of the video game. This vision of Tomb Raider is a little different from the Angelina Jolie films you may be familiar with. Alicia Vikander portrays a young Lara Croft, unable to accept her father’s death, and living away from Croft Manor. In search of her father, she journeys to a remote island off the coast of Japan where he had been looking for the tomb of Himiko. Alicia Vikander does a great job playing Lara, but there are few other substantial performances to make the film come alive.

Those who have played the 2013 game will recognise some similarities here, but the film is quite loosely inspired by the game rather than being an adaptation of it. Some things are familiar like Lara’s bow and arrow, the climbing axe and some of the action sequences, for example when she is washed down the river. Otherwise, the film takes quite a different story to the game.

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Book Review: The Girl King by Meg Clothier

10413845The Girl King by Meg Clothier  

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: March 2011 by Century (first published 2011)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Georgia, 1177
For twenty years King Giorgi has defended the throne of his fragile kingdom against all comers. Now on the threshold of old age he faces a grave new threat: he has no son to succeed him. There is only his daughter, Tamar; a clever, indomitable and fearless girl.

When a revolt threatens her life, Tamar is sent to live in the mountains, disguised as a boy, until a devastating betrayal places her in the hands of her enemies. Her courageous escape convinces Giorgi she should be his heir, but the nobles are outraged – no woman will ever rule them.

While her father is alive, Tamar has some protection from the hostile forces that surround her, but once he is dead, she is truly alone. She must find the strength to control the bitterly warring factions at court. She must win the respect of her friends and the fear of her enemies. And she must marry a man of whom the elders approve.

But her heart belongs to a reckless boy from the mountains – a poor match for a queen. With rebellion brewing at home and powerful foes circling her borders, Tamar must make a terrible choice between the man she loves and the land she adores …

The unique setting of this book is what attracted me to it initially. It was interesting to read something historical that is set in a different country. I knew nothing about the history of Georgia before reading this book.

Unfortunately, I felt I didn’t get enough sense of that setting. I didn’t get any idea of the culture of the country. This world didn’t come to life because although the physical landscapes like the mountains were beautifully described, I didn’t get a picture of the towns and cities, the people, the clothes, the food, or customs and culture. There was just something lacking that meant I didn’t get a clear picture of 12th century Georgia beyond the landscape.

Many of the descriptions, particularly towards the beginning of the novel, were trying a bit too hard to be creative or poetic, so some of them just didn’t make any sense. This was off-putting particularly in the first few chapters, as it was hard to get into when there were so many odd metaphors.

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Book Review: The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier

36562225The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling

Publishing Info: 2016 by Luminant Publications (ebook)

Pages: 334

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

One dark and stormy night, lost and alone, Alyssa finds herself knocking on the door of a castle.

After a lifetime spent in the deep forest, Alyssa has no idea what to expect on the other side.

What she finds is two unruly young princesses and one very handsome prince. When Alyssa accepts the job of Princess Companion she knows her life will change. What she doesn’t know is that the royal family is about to be swept up in unexpected danger and intrigue and that she just might be the only thing standing between her kingdom and destruction.

This retelling of the classic fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, reimagines the risks and rewards that come when one royal family goes searching for a true princess.

Danger and romance await a woodcutter’s daughter in a royal palace.

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to like this book. I thought it was probably just the sort of thing I’d be drawn to but inevitably be disappointed by. Therefore, I was very pleased that I enjoyed this read. The book is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea, and I liked that it drew elements of inspiration from that story but didn’t rely heavily on it. Cellier took the concept of the fairy tale and made her own story with it.

At first I wasn’t sure about the story, it did take me a few chapters to get into it. Alyssa’s character was one of the best parts. I found her very likeable and enjoyed reading her narrative. The royal family were all great characters too. Though I found the prince’s strange turns of mood towards Alyssa a little confusing. I guess he was perhaps going through some internal conflict over his feelings towards her since she is only a woodcutter’s daughter, but that didn’t come through as well as it could have. There were a lot of side characters, who were mostly well crafted and likeable. I felt Alyssa’s aunt and cousin, Harrison, were a bit neglected in the last third of the novel.

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Book Review: Soulmates by Holly Bourne

16099393Soulmates by Holly Bourne

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: 2013 by Usbourne (kindle edition)

Pages: 548

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect match for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love, thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems. After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them and a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love…

 

This book takes the popular cliché of soulmates and puts an interesting spin on it. It was interesting to see a different side to the idea, but although the concept was good, the story was a little weak. One thing I did like was that it was set in the UK, as most YA books are set in the US. This made a nice change for me since I’m from the UK.

It was very slow in places and fairly predictable. There were points where I found myself getting bored but decided to persist to find out what would happen in the end. Some scenes dragged too much. A lot of the book was orientated towards building the characters and showing their relationships to each other, which was done well, but there was just too much of it. The characters were likeable and well rounded, but the lack of plot and conflict dragged the book down.

The last quarter picked up the pace but then it lost me again with such long explanations about the science behind soulmates. It wasn’t that it was overly scientific, Bourne did a good job of explaining it, but it was just too drawn out for me and my interest dwindled. The emotions were written very well in the last section of the book, and it was heart wrenching to read at times. The ending was one of the strongest parts for me. It didn’t fall into the formula of typical endings and provided a sad, but more realistic, ending than many books.

I didn’t dislike it, but it’s just one of those books that isn’t very memorable.

 

Book Review: The Female Man by Joanna Russ

61qwfptuypl-_sx325_bo1204203200_The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Genre: Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2010 by Gollancz (first published 1975)

Pages: 207

Star Rating: 3/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Living in an altered past that never saw the end of the Great Depression, Jeannine, a librarian, is waiting to be married. Joanna lives in a different version of reality: she’s a 1970s feminist trying to succeed in a man’s world. Janet is from Whileaway, a utopian earth where only women exist. And Jael is a warrior with steel teeth and catlike retractable claws, from an earth with separate-and warring-female and male societies. When these four women meet, the results are startling, outrageous, and subversive.

 

The idea for this book is brilliant, but I was too confused all the way through to be able to really enjoy it. I liked the concept of exploring the restricted lives of women through parallel universes. What’s amazing to me is that this book was published in 1975, and some of the issues women face in the book are still around today.

It’s very imaginative and the parallel worlds are unique and captured my attention. The world building is creative for the two parallel worlds that are vastly different from Earth. Whileaway is clear, but the two worlds that are very similar to our Earth were a bit confusing. I wasn’t really sure at all times exactly which version of Earth they were on. There are some really vivid images throughout the book, so that I could imagine these unusual alternative universes.

From the start I was confused. I couldn’t figure out who the first person narrator was. At some points I thought it might have changed to another character but I didn’t really have a clue. It also doesn’t help that all four characters have names beginning with J, though that is because they are parallel versions of the same person, it just added to the confusion.

Some of the problem was that the sections of the book are split into really short ‘chapters’, some of which are only a paragraph or even a sentence long. Many of the short ones were confusing because they weren’t long enough for me to get my head around what was going on. Whereas the chapters that were a few pages meant the scenes were long enough for me to be grounded in the scene and get my head around what was happening.

As it went along I did have more understanding of each of the central characters, but even in the last quarter of the book there were times where I was confused about what was happening. The reveal in the last part of the book wasn’t much of a twist unfortunately, as I read what happened in the Introduction (I hate it when they do that). It possibly would have been more exciting if I’d had no idea what was going to happen. Though if I hadn’t known from the explanation in the Introduction maybe I would have been even more confused!

My enjoyment of the book was greatly hindered by the fact I was so confused all the way through. It also hindered the impact the book could have had upon closing the cover at the end, because I was still trying to get my head around what on Earth was going on (literally). It would probably make more sense upon a second read, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to put my brain through the hard slog that is wading through this book again.

Film Review: Passengers

passengers_ver2Film Review: Passengers

Release Date: 21st December 2016

Director: Morten Tyldum

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen

Runtime: 116 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance, Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

On a long journey to another planet, everyone on board is in stasis. Jim and Aurora wake up 90 years early, without the ability to contact anyone for help or return to sleep. They’re stuck with nowhere to go and only each other for company – besides the android barman played by Michael Sheen.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. Not in the good way as in it surprised me. As in, it was advertised in a way that made it seem like a different kind of film to what it actually was. The trailer and description makes it sound like a sci-fi action thriller flick with romance. When in fact it’s a romantic drama in a science-fiction setting, with a dash of action at the end. I liked the concept – two passengers wake up 90 years too early on a spaceship destined for a new planet. This is the base of the film and has a lot of potential as an idea. However, I wasn’t sure about the direction in which they took the film.

The digital effects are great with a creative design for the ship. Although the story is limited to this one space, and there were very few characters. The acting was good and Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence gel really well together. I liked that the film dealt with the psychological effects of being isolated on the ship, especially in the beginning of the film.

I went in expecting an action science-fiction thriller, which isn’t what I got. So it was disappointing from that point of view because I spent a lot of the film confused about how it could have been advertised as being so different to what it was. As a romantic drama set in space, it was good. There were some twists and turns. It was good and I enjoyed it but it had a lot of potential to be better. It’s a film that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be – it’s stuck between being a thought-provoking drama about serious moral issues, a romance, and a science-fiction action film.