Friday, March 24, 2017

50/50 Friday (25): Novel Worth/Not Worth the Hype

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Novel Worth/Not Worth the Hype


Goodreads Blurb:
"Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times)."

I saw this book everywhere and everyone was telling me that it was amazing and that they loved it.  I read it and it was so worth it!  The language and writing is gorgeous and the ideas presented make you think about life in a whole new light.  If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it!

Not Worth:

The 5th Wave #1

Goodreads Blurb:
"After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up."

I heard such great things about this book and I was really expecting a great dystopian but I ended up being disappointed.  I just didn't think the romance worked out and the attitudes of the characters annoyed me quite a bit.  The idea is original though so I've decided I'm going to continue with the series and see how everything shakes out.

What books do you think are worth or not worth the hype?  Do you agree with my picks?  Make a post and link up down below!

Next Week's Topic: Best/Worst Book Read in March

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

R&R Review Wednesday: Johnny and Jamaal by K.M. Breakey

Stand alone to date

Goodreads Blurb:
"Two athletes from different planets are on the verge of greatness. Johnny’s a carefree Canadian making his mark in the NHL. Jamaal’s set to follow LeBron and Kyrie out of the ghetto. When their worlds collide, the catastrophic clash ignites racial conflict not seen since Ferguson. The incident tests the fledgling love of Johnny’s best friend Lucas and his African-American girlfriend Chantal, and sets them on a quest for truth and justice in the perverse racial landscape of 2016.

As chaos escalates across American cities, an MLK-like voice rises from the ashes. Wilbur Rufus Holmes may be salvation for Luke and Chantal, but can he stop society’s relentless descent into racial discord?

Johnny and Jamaal is awash with sports, violence and political taboo, as America’s seething dysfunction is laid bare."

Thank you to the author, K.M. Breakey, for gifting me with a copy of Johnny and Jamaal in exchange for an honest review!

So.  I won't beat around the bush.  This book tackles a pretty heavy topic (or at least in the US it's pretty heavy) but I'm going to try my best to not get into my personal views on the subject and focus on the book itself.

1.  The mode of writing.  I want to start with this because in order to understand the rest of it, you have to understand how this book is written.  It takes on third person limited POV which means you see the story from the outside (you aren't in a character's head) but you occasionally get glimpses into some character's thoughts.  I really loved that the author chose this particular POV style because it injects the right amount of both objectivity and personal experience into the book.  Like I said above, this is a tricky topic and I think the author did well portraying it's complexities.  In terms of the writing itself, I think the author has a wonderful prose and I couldn't help but be drawn in.

2.  The characters.  Now, because it's third person limited, I didn't get attached to any of the characters.  They were certainly well written, but I felt like a true outsider.  I did enjoy hearing the different perspectives of the different characters, however.  The author made sure to include several different (and often conflicting) viewpoints on the subject of race relations and what needs to be done to improve the state of the US (and Canada).  I thought it was especially interesting how the author draws parallels between his fictionalized characters and the relationship of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (MLK championed peaceful protest while Malcolm X preferred targeted violence and a full take over).  My favorite character by far, however, was Chantel.  She's Luke's girlfriend (she's African American and he's white) and exploring the dynamic of her relationship with Luke was really interesting as well as hearing her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, etc.

3.  The plot.  Once I got into the book, I think the plot is extremely well-laid out.  It was slow in the beginning and I had to fight the urge to put the book down, but once I passed the 8% mark, I was captivated.  The book spans a rather large amount of time considering the circumstances and the time jumps had the potential to leave the reader confused but the author did such a good job with the transitions and making sure to include only relevant information that I was never confused.  I also enjoyed how, as the novel progresses, the author dives deeper and deeper into the complexity of the issue and further elaborates.

4.  The topic.  Now for the difficult point: the topic of this entire novel.  It's impossible to write a book on this topic without inserting at least a little bit of your own opinion.  This is clear at you progress through the book.  And while it's clear what the author's opinions are, I think it's also a good conversation starter.  It's always good to hear another opinion and take into account what other people see in their perspective of the world.

5.  The time period.  One consistent issue I had with this book is the time period.  I just wish the author had made it clear that these events are entirely fictionalized (unless they aren't and I just missed a whole lot of the news).  The author weaves in the events with the events of 2015 and everything that happened that year (along with a bit of 2016).  While it was cool to read about, I kept confusing myself by thinking that it actually happened when it didn't.

The Final Verdict:
A well built novel with splendid characters and plot line.  However, the main purpose this book fulfills is a think piece which it does rather well.  I do wish the events in the book were clarified as to their fiction and the pace in the beginning was a bit slow.
4 stars

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Live Action Remake (1991)

IMDB Blurb:
"An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love."

It's been a while since my last movie review!  I just saw this movie today (Tuesday) and I thought I'd share my thoughts and feelings with you all.

1.  The visuals.  I feel like there's no other way to start this review.  The visuals were by far the best part of the movie.  They were so realistic and clean and simply beautiful.  The whole movie was just beautiful.  The director and producer really brought in that fantastical element and pull you right into the story.  It's the stuff dreams are made of, really.  Also, how the motion capture was so seamlessly combined with live acting was flawless. The design of all of the characters that aren't human is gorgeous and I think they did a fabulous job with the adaptation from all animation.

2.  The characters/acting.  Perhaps I'm a bit biased because I'm a huge Emma Watson fan, but I thought all of the actors/actresses did a splendid job and brought their characters to life (literally).  I felt myself completely immerse in the story because everything was just so authentic.  Gaston (played by Luke Evans!!) was also very vivid and I loved Evan's take on him.  The Beast also did very well.  I was worried he wouldn't be able to act to his appearance and truly fill up the character but I shouldn't have.  He totally nailed it.  The casting was just truly excellent.

3.  The plot/romance.  I also saw the live action Cinderella and going in, while I did think I'd like this one better, I still thought it would have that fantasy feel and be a bit boring because you know what will happen.  I also shouldn't have worried about that because they did such a good job making an old story seem fresh.  While it did still feel fantastical, it drew you into the fantasy and made it feel real and suspenseful and hopeful and joyful.  They kept the plot moving along nicely and it was such a joy to follow Belle and the Beast's romance.  It truly is a slow burn and it's such a wonderful slow burn at that. (can you tell I love this movie yet??)

4.  The setting/music.  I also have nothing but good things to say about this element of the movie. The set and costume designers did such a wonderful job creating a fantastical atmosphere that felt truly magical.  (Belle's gold dress is also so stunning)  I loved how they kept the same feel as the original but made it their own.  The music is equally stunning.  If you haven't heard the soundtrack yet, you need to listen to it asap!  My favorite songs have to be Evermore and Belle's reprise (the dining scene song and visuals are also truly amazing).

The Final Verdict:
Honestly, I have nothing but praise for this movie.  I love Emma Watson's portrayal of Belle, as well as all of the other acting.  The plot was beautifully unfolded.  The best part, though, are the visuals (just look at the posters!)
5 stars

Friday, March 17, 2017

50/50 Friday (24): Best/Worst Debut Novel

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst Debut Novel

Thursday, March 16, 2017

ARC Review and Release Thursday: Endurance by Amy Daws

Part of the London Lovers universe (but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone)

Release Date: March 16th, 2017 (TODAY!)

Goodreads Blurb:
"Tanner Harris has been busy shagging his way through the ladies of east London, but getting caught by the paparazzi buck-naked with his trouser snake in his hands means he’s sowed his last wild oat.

Dr. Belle Ryan once thought Tanner Harris was the perfect kind of bearded bad boy she needed to relieve a bit of stress after her intense job as a surgical fellow, but an icy cold rejection from London’s sluttiest footballer puts the two at each other’s throats.

Fate and a favour conspire to put Tanner and Belle back in each other’s paths and they’re forced to do a lot more than get along to save face and their careers.

Rage turns to passion and tempers run sizzling hot when they realise they aren’t just falling for each other—they’re jumping head first. And neither have the endurance to keep their hands to themselves."

Friday, March 10, 2017

50/50 Friday (23): Best/Worst King or Queen Character (Good/Evil)

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst King or Queen Character (Good/Evil)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ARC Review Wednesday: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

Standalone to date

Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Goodreads Blurb:
"Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you."

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