Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Film vs. Novel: Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Plot:



Rose Hathaway and best friend Lisa Dragomir are vampires. Lisa is the last of her royal family, a Moroi who could take up the throne. Rose is half human, half Moroi making her a Dhampir. Like other Dhampir her main purpose is to protect the Moroi from blood sucking, immortal vampires - the Strigoi.

When they get caught on the run, Rose and Lisa return to the St. Vladmir's Academy, the school that houses majority of the other Moroi and Dhampir. Behind those walls it seems Lissa is safe, but there are other dangers beside Strigoi who are waiting to bring Lissa down.

Review:

I was very, very skeptical about this movie right from the moment I watched the trailer. It was borderline silly and overdramatic and knowing that the director did Mean Girls really put me off. I was pleasantly surprised then, to find that Vampire Academy was thoroughly enjoyable and nothing like what I expected.

Now, I am writing this review based off the fact that I have read the series. I've seen reviews from critics absolutely bashing the movie, and I think I do understand some of their points. They felt as though it was choppy and viewers had to guess some things for themselves. The movie does move at a very fast pace considering the novel was not that long. I felt like it was condensed down quite well though. It's been awhile since I've read the book but I could remember all the scenes in the movie because they were basically the major parts. They did try to make up for missing parts with Rose narrating introductions and other moments. I didn't mind that though because I really couldn't see them showing it in any other way. Probably one thing that didn't get explained properly was some relationship developments. It was just a given after awhile.

What really had me breathe a sigh of relief was how well the tone was balanced as opposed to the trailer. For a series that had a more darker tone, I was worried that the movie would be humourous the entire way through. Instead, it was filmed with patches of snappy and sarcastic comments spread throughout to ease the tension. When it does come to the darker moments, there was enough suspense and background music to quicken my heartbeat. It did get creepy in some moments, especially when the Strigoi appeared (although I don't remember that happening in the book, I suppose it was used to explain the type of creature). Also a heads up for some gory moments.

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

Reading Challenge: BBC's 100 Book To Read (Before You Die)

I've been eyeing different reading lists recently, as a way of guiding me towards what to read next. Sometimes I look at my bookcase and feel so lost because I have so many books that I haven't read but don't know where to start. I probably don't have all the books that are on this list, but I've decided to add another reading challenge to my "goals" this year.

This is definitely going to be a work in progress but I've decided to tackle the BBC's 100 Books To Read Before You Die list. It'd be a massive success if I did finish the entire list this year, but I'm expecting this to expand over quite a number of years.

There are a few of these lists lying around but the BBC one just seemed right to start off with. They've listed books that are very popular and well-known. It also means I can read a range of genres, especially the classics that I tend to neglect.

So far I can cross off the following on the list:

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

  3.  Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

  6. The Bible (I'm not sure whether to cross this off or not because I did study it during high school. Thoughts?)

  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

  19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

  23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens

  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

  26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

  34. Emma -Jane Austen

  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen

  36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

  40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

  51.  Life of Pi – Yann Martel

  52. Dune – Frank Herbert

  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

  66. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

  75. Ulysses – James Joyce

  76. The Inferno – Dante

  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

  78. Germinal – Emile Zola

  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

  80. Possession – AS Byatt

  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

  87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (In French)

  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams

  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


I'm aiming to read at least one a month, but I'll update this list a couple of months down the track.



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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Mystic City (Mystic City #1) - Theo Lawrence

Plot: 

Manhattan has suffered from global warming, and now part of the city lives under water. The poor reside there, in the Depths along with Mystics who have been banished. The rich live above water, in the city Aries, where they rule over those below them.

Aria Rose wakes up from a coma being told that she is engaged to Thomas Foster, the son of her family's political oppositions. Their families have been in a feud for over many years but their union means the city will come together as one, to fight against those that dwell in the Depths.

Except Aria doesn't remember anything that she has been told. In fact there's a large part of her memory missing. Then she meets Hunter, a secret Mystic, who helps her realise that her missing memory is not as innocent as she thought.

Review:

Ok, so I don't think I've heard great reviews about this book. I can understand why now. I usually do quite a lot of research before I buy a book but Mystic City was pretty much a cover buy despite knowing I might not enjoy it. It was just too pretty to ignore.

The story itself wasn't terrible, it just wasn't exceptional. I found that the world building was solid though. It was easy to pick up which world I was in and how it was set up. Lawrence made use of the present Manhattan to build the foundation for his own world. The streets and places have the same names i.e., 5th Avenue etc and Central Park, but it evolved in an interesting way. I actually wouldn't mind living in a world as such, if not for the large gap of inequality and government tyranny. However, it did take me a bit to realise that it was set in the future, because of the speech used and roles each gender took. It was very much a patriarchal society, which I usually align with societies in the past.

The use of Mystics means there are fantasy elements involved, however small. It was still interesting to read of each power a Mystic had. Also there were bits and pieces on inequality and fights for rights. Other than that, it was still a romance based around Aria and Hunter. Although I guess I did see that coming.

I liked Lawrence's writing enough. This ties in with his world building, but there was quite a lot of detail in what was going on around the characters. I flinched at some parts and really did gasp out loud (I know, lame). There was enough suspense and surprise to pull me through.

Other than that I just think the characters fell flat and the plot was nothing but predictable, for most of it. Aria was basically a damsel in distress, but with a bit more backbone. I sympathised with her because I knew she was struggling, but her recovery was every bit how I expected it to be. It wasn't what was going to happen next but how it was going to happen. Both Thomas and Hunter were very typical male characters. Thomas was the rich, haughty heir whilst Hunter was the gorgeous, misunderstood boy. You like Hunter because you have to and find Thomas annoying because he goes against your beliefs. There was definitely no attachments there. Unusually though, the minor characters had a bit more complexity, such as Aria's maid.

The ending probably made up for the few issues I had with the story overall. A few twists and turns crop up, much to my displeasure. It also opens up for a good start for the sequel. I'm still unsure as to whether I'll continue with the series though. It was definitely a very easy read, which I think I wanted during that time. However, it was a little too dull for me.

The sequel Toxic Heart is
set for release next month. already out (I lied, it was published 8th April).

Rating: 3/5

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

#PTALive Melbourne Recap

I'm not sure where I've been, but this was the first PTALive event I've ever been to. Hosted by Penguin Teen Australia, the event is basically an excuse for all Young Adult fans to get together and squeal (literally) over well-loved books, new releases and YA movie adaptations.

I decided to just talk about it, because I didn't get a chance to VLOG about it. There's some great titles mentioned, along with new releases to come!



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[Series Review] Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Plot: 

Three hundred years on and society is now peaceful and controlled. Those who turn 16 automatically undergo plastic surgery to become a "Pretty", the acceptable status of the world.

Tally Youngblood is weeks away from turning, excited to join the "bubbly" New Pretty town and her best friend Peri. Whilst waiting, Tally meets Shay who happen to share the same birthday. Except Shay isn't as excited as Tally. She's actually not even willing. One night she disappears and Tally finds herself having to go find Shay or face not turning Pretty at all. Except what she discovers on the journey isn't what she thought she knew.

The series progresses with Tally's initial decision and what the consequences that follow.

Review:

Other than the last book, this was actually my second time reading this series. I remember it being absolutely exceptional and unforgettable. Unfortunately, this feeling didn't come back this time around. It's not that was disappointing, I just felt a little detached throughout the entire time.

I think what had me a little less engaged was the language used. Uglies is a middle grade series, which means it uses language that is a lot less mature than what can be found in Young Adult/Adult. I know there a lot of middle grade books that are written amazingly, but Uglies was a little more simplistic and did feel a little dreary. It did pick up though, with some moments of action and a build up of intensity. On the whole though, I just felt a little detached, and even got annoyed at the terminology constantly used.

My detachment moved onto the characters as well. As a female protagonist, Tally is a good example of strength, equality and intelligence. Yet, there was something about her that kept me at arms length. She felt like a vehicle instead of the character driving the story, which meant I felt nothing for her. I liked that no matter how much they screwed with her brain she could still push through. Except she had to rely on others to help her reach that moment. I didn't like Shay's development throughout the series, because it was basically a 360 transformation. Her character starts out unique and intelligent, but she quickly descended into a shallow and insecure character. It felt like her actions contradicted her mind, because she tells Tally their society functions wrongly but can't get over her jealousy and insecurities.

The only character that stayed with me for awhile was Zane, who's introduced in the second book. I think it was more because he has a different personality, but also that I was required to sympathise for him. His plight definitely ends in the wrong way and I was annoyed that he seemed to have gotten the bad end of the stick. Although, I guess it is possible to see him as a symbolism for the greater good.

What makes this series is the premise. Whilst it's characters aren't unique, the plot definitely explores some issues that society needs to be aware about. It tackles the sensitive issue of physical appearance by pitching what people try to look like vs. the realistic side of things. Shay raises a great concern on why people can't just be satisfied with how they look , but seek to look for acceptance from a beauty standard that has basically brainwashed everyone. It strikes close to home with plastic surgery being a common occurrence nowadays. People want to look a certain way because they think that'll make them beautiful and confident when, in reality, who makes that rule and what gives them the right to?

Reading this series really made me think, and that's why I didn't write it off completely. A great read is something that can bring up a global issue that should be discussed. That's why I think I overlooked all problems I had with the series because of the intended meaning behind it. I applaud Westerfeld for targeting such a topic despite aiming for a younger audience. It means that at least he is trying to engage them in some sort of view, even if they don't agree with it.

The success of Uglies lies in the memorable thoughts it leaves behind. It's not the characters that need to be remembered but what the series speaks about overall. If you want a thought-provoking read, and get to know one of the first dystopian series ever give this a shot. It might just be the mood that affected my reading experience, but I still rate is as one of the few series I really enjoyed.

Rating: 4/5

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Friday, 4 April 2014

March Wrap Up

It's kind of crazy to think we're already in our fourth month this year, but enough of that!

This months #AYEARATHON topic was Twilight, or anything to do with Stephanie Meyer really. So I took the chance to read The Host, something I never planned to do - ever really - but have heard good things about. Boy, am I glad I did. Take a look at what I thought about it below!



BAM! Annnnd another book haul.



Something a little less book related, but I really do like watching these videos and so I figured why not!



Anyways, I managed to finish 11 books in total. So yep, all in all a very good reading month.



Book Reviews:

The Host - Stephanie Meyer

The Hobbit + The LOTR - J R.R Tolkein

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory 

February New Releases: (A Mad, Wicked Folly; Pieces of Me; The Glass Casket; Tsarina)

The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory 


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