Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

51toTzgHGXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin  

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: July 2011 by HarperVoyager (first published 1998)

Pages: 913

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Throughout Westeros, the cold winds are rising. From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding lands of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms stake their claims through tempest, turmoil and war. As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky – a comet the colour of blood and flame – five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.

 

Having read A Game of Thrones last year and being completely sucked in, it was no surprise that I picked up its sequel, A Clash of Kings. For contextualisation, this is my first time reading the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and I haven’t watched any of the TV series.

I wondered whether A Clash of Kings could live up to the high bar set by the first book, and while I think I enjoyed A Game of Thrones more, there was still plenty to love about A Clash of Kings. With Westeros divided, there are plenty of rivalries and tensions between the various houses to provide conflict. Many of the characters have now been well and truly separated, meaning it feels like there are more threads to try and keep track of. It does get a little confusing at times trying to remember who belongs to what house and who is allied with whom.

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Book Review: The Rose Society by Marie Lu

9780399167843The Rose Society by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2015 by Penguin (first published 2015)

Pages: 397

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends.

Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all …

Adelina Amouteru’s heart is set on revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she flees Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army.

Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.

But Adelina is no heroine. The leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead, and her former friends at the Dagger Society want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?

The Rose Society is the second book in Marie Lu’s Young Elites trilogy. Having loved the first book, I was glad to find The Rose Society was just as dark and addictive. As the series doesn’t follow your typical protagonist, it makes the story so much fresher. It makes such a change from the hero-centric plotlines I am used to reading. Adelina is such a complex character, inhabiting neither the space of hero or villain. What makes the book so interesting is that Lu makes me sympathise with her. I understand exactly why she is doing what she’s doing, and it makes me think, is she really bad? Are the others really good? It makes it so exciting not really knowing if any of the sides are truly ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

Once again Adelina is really and truly the focus of the book. Told from her point of view, her internal conflict is such a big driving force for the story. Lu does such a good job of portraying what’s going on in Adelina’s mind. I truly understand her character and feel completely wrapped up in her wild emotions, in a deep way I don’t often find in young adult books.

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Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass

18005628Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2013 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 432

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

She is the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But does she have the heart of a killer?

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. But Calaena is far from loyal to the crown. Keeping up the charade – while pretending to do the king’s bidding – will test her skills in an entirely new way. And it certainly isn’t the only point of confusion for the young girl. Because though she’s made her choice between Dorian and Chaol, the ways of the heart are never simple…

The final book in this series, Kingdom of Ash, was recently released, and here I am still on book two, Crown of Midnight! I have some catching up to do. Having loved the first book, I was excited to read the sequel. I was wondering where the plot would go, as Throne of Glass was focused on the competition, which finished at the end. For once, the sequel is most definitely a step up from the first book.

Crown of Midnight was slow to start. It didn’t have much direction to begin with, as the tournament from the first book was over, and there wasn’t much suggestion of where the plot would go next. However, the pace picked up as it went along. While Throne of Glass is very much focused on the competition and character relationships, this book widens the picture and focuses more on the bigger plot. There is a big turning point about half way through that I did not see coming. It turned the plot in a new direction for the rest of the book, and by the end there were even more surprises.

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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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Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again    

Release date: 20th July 2018

Director: Ol Parker    

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgĺrd, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Christine Baranski, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Andy Garcia, Meryl Streep and Cher    

Runtime: 114 minutes

Genre: Musical, Romance  

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

The much anticipated sequel to Mamma Mia!, ten years on from the original film, carries the same spark and barmy hilarity as the first. Five years later, Sophie is getting ready to open the hotel on the island that her mother dreamed of, while the story of Donna’s three love affairs many years earlier is told in flashbacks.

If you loved Mamma Mia!, you’ll probably love the sequel. If you didn’t like the first, this probably isn’t the film for you. The plot is a little flimsy, but really that’s not the point. This is a feel-good film and it definitely ticks that box.

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Film Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

HO00005086Film Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Release date: 14th December 2017

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson

Runtime: 152 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fans have been divided over this film, but I have to say I loved it. No, it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a little different from other Star Wars films. Yes, that is a good thing from my point of view! I’ve liked (to varying degrees) all of the films. I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens, but it did recycle major plot elements from the original trilogy too much. It didn’t stand on its own two feet. This film did.

It was rather long. It did feel a little episodic, almost like a TV series squished into a film. However, that didn’t really bother me. I just enjoyed the story. There were a lot of twists and turns and although some parts were a little predictable, there were parts that I didn’t see coming and broke from the mould, which I really liked about this film.

Visually and musically it’s stunning yet again. The soundtrack of John Williams is part of what really makes these movies great for me. Some interesting new worlds were explored in this film which made for some new captivating visuals and designs.

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Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

ho00004330Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release date: 28th April 2017

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 136 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the follow up to the highly successful first film in the franchise. The first film provided great music, quirky characters and bucketfuls of fun adventure. In some ways, the sequel can’t live up to the first film for me, but it is equally enjoyable. This time, the group has found friendship together, but the cracks are beginning to show and while the first film brought the characters together, this film shows them having to overcome their differences to realise the importance of their friendship. The main plot centres on discovering Peter Quill’s parentage, which I won’t say anything more about to avoid spoilers.

Most of the humour was amusing, although there were a couple of places where it felt too forced or overdone. Baby Groot provided both cuteness and humour, but while still having character and not being reduced to a comic twig. None of the new characters stood out especially, it was still the returning characters from the first film which I liked the best. It was good to see more of Karen Gillan’s Nebula, and this second film explored the sibling relationship between Nebula and Gamora much more, giving more insight into their past and complex relationship.

The design of the whole film was once again excellent. There are some beautiful set pieces which are so creative and made great viewing on the big screen. As well as the visuals, the action was also good, with tension filled action sequences.

The only problem is it seemed to be trying too hard to live up to expectations. They threw so much at it that at times it missed a beat. However, on the whole it was thoroughly exciting and enjoyable, and that was my overall impression after exiting the cinema.