Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: The Heir by Kiera Cass

The Heir
Kiera Cass

Genre: YA alternate historydystopian
Hardback: 346 Pages
Publication: May 5, 2015
by Harper Teen

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.

Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.


The Selection books are definitely a hit or a miss for people. It's certainly one that I had to be in the mood to read; otherwise, I would have dnfed it within the first pages.

I can definitely see where readers have had a problem with Eadlyn's attitude. There's a lot of negativity surrounding her with her insecurities. She doesn't want to be queen, she doesn't want to go through a Selection, she doesn't want to show her vulnerabilities to anyone, she doesn't want. . . a lot of things, and unfortunately she focuses so much on what she has to lose that she doesn't think as much about what she has to gain. Having gone through the Selection with America, we know what is lying in wait for Eadlyn, and it is so hard for us to watch her damage so many potential relationships. She's also pretty bratty. She makes offensive remarks, doesn't look past the surface level of people (she doesn't know a lot of things about people who she's known for pretty much as long as she's been alive), and it takes her a while to even try to get to know some of the Selected.

It's all too easy to focus on Eadlyn's bad attitude, her lack of appreciation for what she has in her life, and her poor treatment of the Selected boys. What's harder to narrow in on is the reason for Eadlyn's behavior. Once we get to the heart of it, I think Eadlyn is a lot easier to relate to—though I'm by no means trying to justify her actions. And I think a lot of us can relate to the fear of falling in love and the fear of losing our loved ones.

What I find most compelling about this novel is how Kiera Cass gives us a heroine that rejects the possibility of love because of her fear of baring her heart to someone else. As much as I want to judge Eadlyn for the hurt she causes when she rejects peoples' attempts to get to know the real her, I can definitely relate to her feelings. At some point, I believe that most, if not all, of us have been afraid to share something about ourselves with somebody. Baring our hearts to a potential love interest is the hardest of all, especially if we allow ourselves to believe that it might work out. After all, the fear of losing someone, something, is pretty scary. In this regard, I believe this is an important novel because it tells us that it's okay to be afraid. We just shouldn't let our insecurities keep us from moving forward (and I do believe that Eadlyn is going to move forward).

Another beautiful thing about this novel is how Eadlyn's parents reassure her that it's okay not to come out of the Selection with an engagement. Yes, they do want to see an engagement, but they constantly reassure Eadlyn that she has her own strengths and to embrace them. Eadlyn is not America, but she has her own talents. For example, she has an excellent fashion sense, she has a loving relationship with her family, and she has a strong sense of loyalty to those she cares about (though it does lead her to make offensive remarks to her brother and drive him away).

All that said, this made for a light entertaining read that helped me get through an afternoon sick at home. While I may prefer more intense, plot-driven books, I do need books like this in my life :)

Source: Library

Rating: 3 stars

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  • Kissing

Monday, February 8, 2016

Movie Monday: The Revenant

The Revenant
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Genre: Western, Epic
Running time: 156 minutes
Released: 2015
Distributed by 20th Century Fox

While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.

The Revenant is based on the true story of the legendary American frontiersman Hugh Glass and his grueling tale of survival and retribution. The film is every bit as harsh as the rumors about its filming conditions were, and the cast’s suffering seems to have been worth it. The Revenant captures the splendor of nature and the baseness of human nature.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is leading a group of trappers through the harsh terrain of the northern Louisiana Purchase when he is mauled by a bear. He survives, but is later abandoned by his companions. This betrayal along with another act of brutality by Fitzgerald pushes Glass to survive and get his revenge. The film follows Glass as he forges his way through the unforgiving winter to the American base.

Parts of the film felt awkward, most notably some incredibly weird scenes with Glass’s dead wife. I was not quite sure if the shots were meant to be flashbacks or just visions that Glass was seeing, but they felt really out of place in the film. In addition, there were other scenes with a small pyramid of bones that were also really out of place. These scenes seem designed to give a sort of spirituality to Glass or some kind of connection to the Native Americans he meets, but the film never went further with his spirituality. His connection to the Natives was superficial at best.

The character of Hawk, Glass’s son, felt really underdeveloped. We were presented a basic father and son bond between Hawk and Glass that was never developed beyond Hawk being loyal enough to stand by his father when he was recovering from the bear attack. Hawk’s character was incredibly stereotypical, being the sort of rebellious teenage boy. His character did not serve much purpose in the film beyond giving Glass another connection to Native Americans, since Hawk was half Native American, as well as providing Glass a motive to seek revenge on Fitzgerald.

Despite these flaws, there was a beautiful simplicity to the film. The film had strong moments driven by amazing cinematography. The shots of the wilderness were immersing, drawing the viewers into the beauty of nature. They brought a mysterious and beautiful yet harsh and treacherous feel in the nature, which really captured the tone of the film perfectly. Leonardo DiCaprio gave a great performance as the film’s lead actor, filling in the role of Glass perfectly. Although there were few spoken lines due to Glass’s injuries, which lasted for most of the film, his performance captured the nature of the film nicely.

Overall, I did not think The Revenant was a perfect film. While I can see how others could love it, I found it to be good but not great. I would recommend this film to fans of Leonardo DiCaprio. This could possibly be the film with which he finally gets his Oscar.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Directed by: Burr Steers
Genre: Comedy, Thriller/Action
Running time: 108 minutes
Released: 2016
Distributed by Lionsgate

In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe as the dead come back to life to terrorize the land. Fate leads Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a master of martial arts and weaponry, to join forces with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), a handsome but arrogant gentleman. Elizabeth can't stand Darcy, but respects his skills as a zombie killer. Casting aside their personal differences, they unite on the blood-soaked battlefield to save their country.

Last Wednesday (January 27th), I had the privilege of seeing an advanced screening of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I wholly confess that I probably wouldn't have gone to see this film if my roommate hadn't invited me to go with her. I am terrified of zombies. Instead of terribly horrifying zombies, however, what I found was highly entertaining comedic relief.

The film opens with Mr. Darcy crashing a party after hearing reports of someone in the vicinity having been bitten by a zombie. Being an avid fan of the BBC  version of Pride and Prejudice, I had Colin Firth's image of Mr. Darcy stuck in my head. Sam Riley gives a very different image of Mr. Darcy—a darker, more brooding, more socially awkward image. I was initially taken aback, but I have to admit that it made his interactions with Elizabeth so much funnier to watch. (Though I still can't picture where this Mr. Darcy first became interested in Elizabeth. His facial expressions don't give anything away. In fact, the whole romance was pretty rushed as if it was crammed in as an afterthought.)

I do like how PPZ incorporates the characters' fighting skills into some of the most memorable scenes in Pride and Prejudice. Of greatest note: Mr. Darcy's failed proposal. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's fight scene was hilarious. I also like how PPZ diverges from the original book and also PPZ the book. I confess to not having read PPZ, but I did look up the plot details after the film. I think it really helped the film to create a big villain figure. It was especially cathartic for me in that it was someone I hadn't particularly liked in the original Pride and Prejudice.

All that said, the not-so-secret star of the show is Matt Smith as Mr. Collins. I absolutely loathe Mr. Collins (I think most of us do), and Matt Smith did a fantastic job making sure I didn't have any sympathy for Mr. Collins. He's just so inconsiderate and socially awkward in a bad way. That said, every time Matt Smith showed up on the screen, I knew that I was in for some good laughs. Especially when he showed up at the end during the double wedding. I just couldn't take the wedding scene seriously after seeing him up there.

One thing to know before going into this film (and you've probably figured it out by now) is that it does not take it seriously. Which made quite a bit of it cheesy. If you can appreciate such humor, you'll probably enjoy the film. If you're looking for more serious thrills and action, however, you might want to reconsider going. For me, it worked out because I'm not good with films that seriously try to scare the audience.

I do wish that some elements of the film were explored more. In particular, the possibility of zombies actually being decent folk. There's a scene where Elizabeth recognizes a zombie that has something to tell her, but Mr. Darcy kills the zombie before she can say anything meaningful. Then Elizabeth gets introduced to zombies that seem to want to retain their humanity and eat pig brains, but you'll see what happens to these zombies in the end. Though there was so much potential to explore moral complexity in this film, it lets it go to waste in favor of bad humor and cheesy action scenes.

In the end, while this won't be a film that lives on in memory, it was a good time waster. I recommend watching this with your friends, especially ones that know of Pride and Prejudice, and then going out for coffee afterwards to discuss the film.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Monday: Room


Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Running time: 117 minutes
Released: 2015
Distributed by A24 Films

Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.

Room seems like a small-scale film, but it does so much with so little. Most of the film centers on just two characters, a mother and her son, and takes place inside of a small room. However, even with the seemingly small focus of the film, there are heavy internal struggles as they adjust to a completely different world and their new lives in it.

Half of the film centers around 5-year old Jack and his mother who is simply referred to as Ma and their lives as they are contained to a single 10-square foot room that they call ‘Room.’ Ma was kidnapped and held captive 7 years ago by a man they call Old Nick and has since had a son five years ago. There is a daring escape that is portrayed through Jack’s perspective and the film changes as Jack and his mother must adjust to a new life together.

A lot of the film focuses on Jack’s experiences as his whole world changes. He goes from thinking that the small room was the entire world to finding out there is so much more to see and experience in life. However, as wonderful as this new world is, it also frightens Jack and often he finds himself longing for the safety of Room. Jack shows the fears that people face when they are forced to leave their comfort zone and are thrust into a frightening new situation. Ma also faces her own battles, as she must readjust and come to terms with her circumstances after being a prisoner for 7 years. For so long, she had to be strong for Jack’s sake and after the escape, she begins to question herself and her relationships with her family.

Room is an amazing drama film. The internal struggles that each character goes through are extremely engaging. The acting does a great job in bringing out all of the emotions that each character goes through as each they try to find their place in a new life, particularly with Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay and Ma, played by Brie Larson. While half of the film was constrained to a small room, the film is really about a much bigger world.

While there have been numerous big name films this year, like The Martian and The Force Awakens, this film does not pale in comparison with any of them. This was a true heart-wrenching drama and I strongly recommend this film to everyone.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap
Laura Ruby

Genre: YA FantasyMagical Realism
Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: March 3, 2015
by Balzer + Bray

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.


Bone Gap is bizarre and magical. Much like Kate Karyus Quinn's (Don't You) Forget About Me, I can see readers either completely losing themselves in this novel or wondering what in the world is going on here.

Upon reading the first pages of Bone Gap, I felt as if I had been thrown into a fairy-tale world. There's Finn, who talks with the crows and the corn. There's also the way that the story is told—in a language that suggests something magical is sleeping within Bone Gap, and we may stumble upon it around the next page corner.

What didn't quite work for me is the way the story was told. The story jumps around, between the past and the present and between the alternating perspectives of Finn and Roza, plus a brief look into Sean's mind and Petey's mind, which I would have been fine without because they didn't really contribute to the plot. In fact, I would have been fine if the only perspective we saw was Finn's. While I appreciate getting to know the characters' pasts, there was so much going on that I didn't feel like I really got to know the characters and their world.

I confess. I would have quit Bone Gap in the first quarter of the novel had I not read reviews that gushed about the amazing plot twist at the end. While Bone Gap is a magical place, and I love reading stories about magical places, the plot twist came too late to redeem the novel for me. Furthermore, not much time is spent working with the plot twist. In fact, other than working in a brief fling with Greek mythology, it doesn't really contribute to my understanding of the world and the characters.

For a more engaging story that also worked with multiple worlds, I would recommend His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. If you liked (Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn, then you may also like Bone Gap.

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 3 stars

  • N/A
  • Explicit sexual scenes
  • Stalker

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Karole Cozzo

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 240 Pages
Publication: August 4, 2015
by Swoon Reads

When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they're related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby. But despite her best intentions, she just can't shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again. Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?


How to Say I Love You Out Loud is a powerful coming-of-age story about a teen girl trying to make a place for herself in the world.

I normally don't read novels about teenage girls trying to fit into school and who are a little boy crazy. I'm that girl whose first bike was Power Rangers themed and, given a choice, would rather watch Antman than Inside Out. What drew me to this novel was the family element—because I firmly believe that there are not enough novels out there containing strong family relations, and I'm always on the lookout for more.

Frankly, How to Say I Love You Out Loud is, at its heart, the story about a teenage girl trying to fit in. She knows that she's a terrible person for not wanting to be associated with her brother and for wanting to keep him hidden. That's what costs her a real, open relationship with the boy she likes and with the girl who's kind of a best friend to her. While Jordyn's cowardice made me cringe, I can relate to her feelings of wanting to hide the parts of her with which she is ashamed. We all have things that we don't want to share with the people we treasure because we know that it will make them see us in a less perfect light, and it takes getting used to—not being perfect.

While Jordyn matures over the course of the novel, there is not much character development in the supporting cast. Alex sounds like a great guy, but he goes out with Leighton, your stereotypical queen bee. It's not until later that he explains Leighton's good traits. I wish we'd gotten to see more of her good traits because she was a downright b****. (Pardon the language. I couldn't think of a better term.) As for Jordyn's two girl friends, we only see a little of Erin, and I honestly can't remember who Tanu is. I wouldn't have remembered she existed had Jordyn not invited her dress shopping towards the end of the novel. She doesn't get enough character development to play much of a role as far as I can remember.

Given all the issues that Jordyn faces, I am disappointed with the ending scene of the novel. While it shows that one part of her life gets fulfilled, I was really hoping to see her character growth topped off with something about family or her embracing her newfound identity. Instead, we get a makeout scene, which honestly seems to suggest that getting the guy is what matters most to her. I do understand that falling in love can cause a girl to prioritize her romantic life (been there, done that), but I believe it's important to assert that love isn't all a girl has to live for. Boyfriends can come and go, but our (true) friends, our family, and the lessons that we learn growing up will stay with us. That said, I was moved by Jordyn's speech about her brother and the meaning behind the title of the novel.

On a last note: the writing and organization was a little over the place. Events didn't quite flow into one another, and some areas were less developed than others. Some characters fell by the wayside; others weren't quite rounded out and fell flat and stereotypical. Overall, How to Say I Love You Out Loud is a solid debut novel. I'd be willing to give another Karole Cozzo novel a shot.

A copy was provided by Macmillan for review

Rating: 4 stars

  • N/A
  • Some Language (cussing)
  • Making out / kissing