Friday, October 26, 2012

NOW READING: HARVEST OF RUBIES ~ TESSA AFSHAR


The prophet Nehemiah's cousin has been catapulted into the center of the Persian court - working long hours, rubbing elbows with royalty, and becoming the queen's favourite scribe.

Not bad, for a woman living in a man's world.  But a devastating past has left Sarah believing that God doesn't love her and her achievements are the measure of her worth - a measure she can never quite live up to.

Darius Pasargadae is accustomed to having his way.  A wealthy and admired aristocrat, the last thing he expects is an arranged marriage to the queen's scribe, an intelligent woman who scorns him.  

Can two such different people help one another overcome the idols that bind them?


Thursday, October 25, 2012

REVIEW: HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET ~ BLAKE LOUCKA MOSTOW


Following a painful divorce, Sarah Cassidy and her teenage daughter, Elissa, moves from Chicago to a “nice” suburb in Seattle, determined to make a fresh start.  Elissa soon befriends their neighbour Ryan, a lonely young outcast living in the house at the end of the street, in which his sister once murdered their parents; Carrie-Ann then disappeared into the surrounding woods where it is believed she drowned.  Inexplicably filled with unease over Elissa's friendship with Ryan, Sarah tries to exert some control over Elissa’s life, straining their already tumultuous relationship even further. 

Years after the double murder the Jacobsen family tragedy is still the talk of the town, as Ryan’s dilapidated house and its reputation has a negative effect on the surrounding property values, and the community just can’t seem to let go.  Hated and victimised by the townspeople, Ryan has turned into somewhat of a recluse, and Elissa is determined to be his friend and get the townspeople to give him a break.  More unsettling than the house or Ryan’s reputation, however, is the urban legend that the disturbed Carrie-Ann never died, but continues to live in the woods; a creature of hatred. 

Is it Elissa’s imagination, or is she being watched?


House at the End of the Street by Lily Blake, David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow (a novelisation of the film with the same name), started out with so much promise.  I was really into the story from the first page, enjoying the writing style and the setup of the story to come.  However, what followed did not live up to my expectations.

While the novel is obviously supposed to be a thriller, it didn’t scare me once.  Not once.  Not even a little bit.  Even the ending, which I presume is meant to be suspenseful, didn’t even have me anxious.  I wish I could say that at least the ending surprised me, but it didn’t.  I wouldn’t say I saw it coming for sure, but I suspected some of it all along.  Yes there were twists, but I saw most of them coming.

The storyline is indeed quite disturbing, but overall this was a really easy read which I finished in less than a day, and it wasn’t deep enough or strong enough to leave a lasting impression on me.

Deeply scary with an awesome twist? The movie maybe, but not the novel 

Having said that, I believe I will definitely watch the film version.  At the very least I always enjoy comparing adaptations (and in this case the book is based on the movie), and I love Jennifer Lawrence as an actress.  If anyone can make these events interesting, she can.  



Product information:
Title: House At The End Of The Street
Author: Blake, Loucka, Mostow
Number of pages: 208
Publisher: Poppy; Mti Edition
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0316230634
ISBN-13: 978-0316230636

AUTHOR SARAH ALDERSON READ MY REVIEWS!

I always get really excited when authors read my blog.  Sarah Alderson, author of Hunting Lila and Losing Lila, has read both of my posts on her work.

Hunging Lila

Losing Lila

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

REVIEW: LOSING LILA ~ SARAH ALDERSON


I suggest you first read my post on book 1, Hunting Lila, before continuing.  If this is a story you might like to follow, do not read this post – it contains major spoilers of book 1.


At the conclusion of Hunting Lila, Lila has discovered that Demos is not the man who murdered her mother, and that her mother was never truly killed at all; like Lila she is a psygen – she is kept on The Unit’s base and experimented on!  Alex and Jack also discover that The Unit is not what they think, and that the psygens they have been taught to hate are not as sociopathic as they were made to believe. 

Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson picks up a shortly after Hunting Lila left off.  A few days after the Joshua Tree shooting , Lila and Alex are in Mexico, meeting up with Demos and the other psygens in order to facilitate a plan to break Jack and Melissa out of The Unit’s custody.  With Alex’ support and encouragement Lila finally embraces her ability and works on controlling it and getting stronger.  It’s time to stop running and start fighting. 

The stakes go even higher when Lila learns that The Unit also got their hands on her father.  It turns out that her father has always been aware of the fact that her mother is telepathic, and that he has been working on a cure for psygens, to remove their abilities; but with his research The Unit need only reverse the basics and they can create psygens of their own – better, stronger psygens to be sold as weapons to the highest bidder.  

Is it possible for a handful of psygens, along with Alex, to break into the hi-tech military base, get down to maximum prisoner holding, break out Lila’s family and safely get back out, when all of them are wanted and hunted by The Unit?   Can a team of five people hope to take down an entire military institution who threatens them all?

Losing Lila was every bit as exciting as Hunting Lila, and concluded quite satisfactorily; however, several questions are left unanswered.  What happened to Richard Stirling?  Is Sara alive?  Will Jack ever discover the truth of his birth?  Sarah Alderson left the back door ajar, ensuring the possibility of a future novel  - though, should this not materialise, Losing Lila answered all the major questions, so we can live with it.  Though I would LOVE another book.  Maybe set a few years later, seeing the gang reunite for a kick-ass mission?  I was disappointed to have to say farewell to Lila, Alex, Jack, Demos, Suki, Key and the others; especially Mrs Johnson – what a hoot! 

One of the things I appreciated most about these books, is that there is no love triangle.  I am sick unto death of love triangles.  It was really great to know straight of the bat that Lila loves Alex, and while suspecting the feeling is mutual, he admits it fairly early on.  It was so refreshing to just have the two of them be a couple in love all along, their love threatened only by physical threats, no third party. 

The plotline is fast and furious, and once again there are several surprising revelations that make the outcome impossible to predict. 

I had a hard time putting these books down, and whenever you are literally sad to finish a book, the author did a fantastic job.  Sarah Alderson most definitely did.   Great, gripping read.



Product information:
Title: Losing Lila
Author: Sarah Alderson
Number of pages: 320
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0857071971
ISBN-13: 978-0857071972 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

REVIEW: HUNTING LILA ~ SARAH ALDERSON


Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson is about seventeen year old Lila who is suddenly taken to London by her father after her mother’s murder, separating her from her brother Jack and his best friend Alex – the guy she’s loved all her life (though she’s the only one who knows this). Shortly after her mother’s death Lila discovers that she has telekinetic abilities.  For four years she carries this secret until a mugging exposes her to others.  Lila leaves London behind and runs to California, into the arms of her best friends and protectors; Alex and Jack. 

Happy to be with the people she loves best, Lila tries to simply forget what happened in London and enjoy the time she has with them.  Jack and Alex have both joined the marine corps, and work for a secret organisation called The Unit – though Lila has never discovered what it is they do; only that they hope to track down her mother’s killer.  Lila doubts her decision to come to California when she starts suspecting that Jack doesn’t want her there; but when she realises that Jack and Alex never leave her alone and that men from their unit are always watching their house, Lila starts suspecting that Jack and Alex fear for her safety. 

Lila then learns that Jack and Alex are trying to capture a band of very dangerous criminals, who have now discovered that Jack has a sister.  They hope to kidnap Lila in order to have collateral with which to bargain with The Unit.  Content to be in Alex’s company, Lila doesn’t worry about the situation overmuch, but Lila soon discovers that there are others like her; people with special abilities – and that Jack and Alex’ job is to hunt them down, and “contain” them.  The only people she trusts to keep her safe, are actually the very people whose job it is to capture her.  Lila then discovers that her mother’s murderer is also a like her, only he’s the most powerful of their kind – and it is he and his cronies who want Lila.

Can Lila trust Jack and Alex with her secret?  If they were to find out, would they still love her?  Can she trust them to protect her when they have been trained to despise and dispose of her kind?


Hunting Lila is the most gripping read I’ve had in a really long time.  The story is very well plotted and written, the characters are wonderfully developed and the intrigue of it all won’t allow you to put the book down until you’ve finished it. 

Especially Lila’s fears about being considered a freak and her feelings towards Alex are wonderfully written – you as reader feel what Lila feels.   Anytime an author can awaken such deep emotion within you, you’ve got a winner in your hands.

Hunting Lila and its sequel, Losing Lila, came highly recommended by my best friend, Erika – so automatically I bought both at the same time.  What a relief.  When I finished Hunting Lila I immediately picked up Losing Lila.  This story is so gripping I couldn’t wait to read more. 

I enjoyed this book every bit as much as The Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight saga.  One of my favourite books I've read all year.



Product information:
Title: Hunting Lila
Author: Sarah Alderson
Number of pages: 320
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2011
ISBN-10: 0857071955
ISBN-13: 978-0857071958 

Monday, October 15, 2012

NOW READING: HUNTING LILA ~ SARAH ALDERSON




17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave; The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever.

After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust – her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before - And that they’ve found them. In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone – there are others out there just like her – people with special powers - and her mother’s killer is one of them…

Friday, October 12, 2012

REVIEW: SAFE HAVEN ~ NICHOLAS SPARKS



Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks is the story of Katie, an abused wife who changes her identity and flees her husband from Boston to the small town of Southport.  Katie makes a low-key living as a waitress, but despite her efforts to remain aloof from the townsfolk, her petite beauty, shy manner and mysterious background soon has all of Southport interested.  A series of events also soon has Katie involved in two reluctant relationships; one with her mysterious neighbour Jo, and one with kind, single father Alex.  Despite her reservations, Katie finds herself settling in and calling Southport home.

Josh Duhamel (Alex) and Julianne Hough (Katie) on the movie set of Safe Haven

Alex knows that Katie wants to be left to her own devices, but something about the wounded look that sometimes comes into her eyes makes it impossible for him to keep his distance.  When his kids become fond of Katie they start spending more time together, and slowly but surely the real Katie emerges; a kind, fun-loving, sweet woman who wants nothing more than to love and be loved.  A happy future might be in the cards for them after all.

Kristen, Alex and Katie

But Katie left behind a vengeful alcoholic husband who will do anything to bring her back to the prison she left behind.  With a secret stash of money steadily growing, ready to disappear to the next town at the drop of a hat should Kevin track her down, can Katie truly give her heart to Alex knowing she can never marry him, and that she can definitely not promise forever?  Can she build a life with him and his kids, knowing that she would have to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life?

David Lyons as Kevin

At first I found it a tad unrealistic that Katie would fall for another man so hard only about four months after leaving an abusive bully of a husband who knocked her around for four years.  Realistically I just thought that it would take a lot longer for an abused woman to open her heart up to another man after years of abuse from a man she initially trusted; but the more I read and the more I thought about it, I believe this part of the story is a testament to Katie’s character.  It goes to show just how sweet and trusting she is, and how desperate she is for love and affection.  I think it also says a lot about Alex that Katie immediately realises he’s a good, solid man she can trust and depend on.    

Alex and Katie

I found both Katie and Alex to be charming characters, and I enjoyed sharing this journey with them.  Nicholas Sparks did an amazing job of describing the life of an abused wife – it always amazes me how good he is at writing female characters.  Usually I can’t relate to female characters created by male authors, because there is just so much about being a woman that they miss.  Sparks goes through a lot of trouble to ensure his female characters are realistic and relatable; and as for the male characters, he never fails to give us the perfect hero to save the day. 

Safe Haven is a sweet book about new beginnings, and I look forward to seeing the film version starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough to be released February 2013.  I can perfectly picture the two of them in these roles – great casting!  

All photos in this post were taken during filming and are available on the Safe Haven Movie page on Facebook.



Product information:
Title: Safe Haven

Author: Nicholas Sparks
Number of pages: 368
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Year: 2010

ISBN: 9780751542998
ISBN-13: 9780751542998

Monday, October 8, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE TRIBUTES

Last week Lionsgate revealed all of the actors who will be playing the tributes competing in the third Quarter Quell in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, based on the book by Suzanne Collins.  


In order to punish Katniss, President Snow pulls a fast one and announces that the tributes for the 75th Annual Hunger Games will only be reaped from past victors.  Being the only female victor in District 12, that means Katniss is going back into the arena to fight to the death. Haymitch is reaped as the male victor, but Peeta volunteers in order to keep Katniss alive in the arena.  Unbeknownst to Peeta, however, to make up for keeping secrets from Peeta during the previous games, Katniss and Haymitch have agreed that Peeta should be the one to survive, and Katniss makes her peace with not leaving the arena alive this time.  

Surviving in the arena and keeping Peeta alive will not be a simple matter, as Katniss and Peeta are facing 22 former victors:

District 1:
Cashmere and Gloss; a vicious brother and sister duo, both career tributes.  

Played by Stephanie Leigh Schlund and Alan Ritchson.




District 2:
Enobaria and Brutus; career tributes.  Enobaria won the 62nd Hunger Games by ripping open her final opponent's throat with her teeth.


Played by Meta Golding and Bruno Gunn.




District 3:
Wiress and Beetee; Both a little eccentric and weird, intellectually strong. 

Played by Amanda Plummer and Jeffrey Wright.




District 4:
Finnick and Mags; career tributes.  Finnick is a young, handsome,  charming former victor, one of Panem's favourites.  Mags is an 80 year old victor, volunteering to take the place of Annie Cresta, the love of Finnick's life.

Played by Lynn Cohen and Sam Claflin.




District 5:
As Katniss never learns the names of the tributes from District 5, neither do we.  

Played by Ivette Li-Sanchez and James Logan.



District 6:
Known only as the morphlings, both being addicted to the narcotic painkiller, morphling.  

Played by Megan Hayes and Justin Hix.




District 7:
Johanna and Blight; Johanna won her Hunger Games by  having the other tributes underestimate her, by pretending to be weak and tired while she was actually strong and sly.

Played by Jena Malone and Bobby Jordan.



District 8:
Cecilia and Woof. 

Played by Elena Sanchez and John Casino.



District 9:
Never attended training - unknown to Katniss, unknown to us.

Played by Marian Greene and Daniel Bernhardt.




District 10:
Again, unknown to Katniss, unknown to us.

Played by Tiffany Waxler and Jackson Spidell.




District 11:
Seeder and Chaff; Chaff won the 45th Hunger Games.

Played by Maria Howell and E. Roger Mitchell.



District 12:
Katniss and Peeta.  The first ever duo to win the Hunger Games together.

Again played by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.




Filming of Catching Fire is already under way, and some on  set photos have surfaced:

Sam Claflin (Finnick), Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) on set

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will hit theatres 22 November 2013.

Friday, October 5, 2012

NOW READING: SAFE HAVEN ~ NICHOLAS SPARKS



I've been wanting to read Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks for a while now, and as filming of the film version took place over the last few months, fun set photos like this one only made the story seem that much more interesting.

Julianne Hough (Katie) and Josh Duhamel (Alex) goofing around on set 

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

Kristen, Alex & Katie

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

REVIEW: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: A FEAST FOR CROWS ~ GEORGE R.R MARTIN


In his acknowledgements George R.R Martin starts off by saying “This one was a bitch”.  I wholeheartedly agree, though our reasons probably differ.  If I had started reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series back in 1996 when A Game of Thrones was first released, and had I waited for five years after A Storm of Swords (2000) for A Feast For Crows (2005) to be released, I would have been very, very disappointed.  Was this delivery worth a five year wait?  Not in my opinion.  However, keep in mind that Martin had spent a significant amount of time first writing A Dance With Dragons after A Storm of Swords.  He then realised that he needed an interim story, and only then decided to bump A Dance With Dragons to book number five, and create A Feast For Crows as book number four.  So technically this book didn’t take him five years to write, but it was still a five year wait for fans. 


Truthfully, I battled my way through this instalment.  I found it boring!  I suspected it might happen – A Storm of Swords was just so epic and mind blowing.  I had mentally prepared myself that this one would very possibly not live up to the excitement of its predecessor, but even so I was very disappointed. 

In this instalment Cersei is ruling King’s Landing in Tommen’s stead, and in an attempt to ensure she alone runs the show she surrounds herself (and fills her council) with incompetent fools sure to agree with anything she says.  Cersei seems to be the only one ignorant of how unwise this approach is.  Jaime, growing more humble and noble by the day, grows cold towards his once beloved sister as he starts seeing her for what she is, and becomes more concerned with his honour than Cersei’s whims.  Arya finds herself in Braavos, and starts studying the art that made Jaqen H’ghar who he is today.  Sansa is still secluded in the Vale of Arryn, hiding her true identity from everyone (except Petyr), while Brienne of Tarth faithfully searches the Riverlands for Lady Catelyn’s daughters.  The Lannisters seem to have control of the Seven Kingdoms once more, but the Brotherhood Without Banners (now led by Lady Stoneheart) grows ever more wrathful in their vigilante justice, and a massive threat from the Iron Isles threatens to become more devastating than the war of five kings had been.

Arya in Braavos

A Storm of Swords concluded with such a slap in the face that I could not wait to read more – Martin, however, thought it would be a good idea to omit chapters from this surprise character, along with several other viewpoint characters, from A Feast For Crows (or as I like to call it, The Adventures of Cersei Lannister).  If you read my previous ASOIAF post mentioning major 8 character deaths, you might want to skip the remainder of this paragraph so as to not determine who is still alive.  This book does not include chapters from Lady Stoneheart, Jon, Tyrion, Bran or Daenerys!  To “make up for this” Martin overcompensated with way too many Cersei, Brienne and Jaime chapters; at least Jaime’s chapters were bearable.  The man I hated so very much in the beginning is turning out to become one of my favourite characters!  The only chapters I truly enjoyed were those of Arya, and they were far too few.  I battled my way through the rest, finishing this book only by sheer willpower.  There was no momentum this time around to keep me reading; I only really got into the book over the last 200 pages or so.


Lady Stoneheart

On the bright side, we see more of the Iron Isles this time around, and we are treated to two new fascinating characters; Euron (Crow’s Eye) Greyjoy, and Victarion Greyjoy – two brothers competing for the Seastone chair.  I think the history between them and the dynamics of their relationship will make for very interesting events.  Add to that the fact that each has his sights set on Daenerys to be his wife and ultimately Queen of Westeros. 

Asha, Victarion, Aeron and Euron Greyjoy

We also now know that Dorne wishes Daenerys to come into power and destroy the Lannisters, and with Quentyn Martell also on his way to bring the Khaleesi back to Westeros.  Add to that the fact that the mighty Citadel does not wish Daenerys to return; they accuse the Targaryens of sorcery, and will do anything in their power to ensure she fails.  I am positive the Daenerys chapters of A Dance With Dragons are going to be extremely gripping.

Nymeria Sand
(one of the so-called Sand snakes) 

Speaking of Dorne, we also get to visit Dorne this time around, where we also meet several new characters, of which the so-called Sand Snakes (the daughters of the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell) are my favourites – despite having very limited action. 




I look forward to reading the next instalment, A Dance With Dragons; having said that, I doubt I will read it before next year sometime.  Besides, the one after that, The Winds of Winter, does not even have a publication date yet.   In February, Martin confirmed to have written 200 pages out of approximately 1500.  Also keeping in mind this is the first draft, if Martin stays true to the time-frames of recent history, we are quite possibly looking at a release date of 2017.   



Product information:
Title: A Song of ice and Fire: A Feast For Crows

Author: George R.R Martin
Number of pages: 1104
Publisher: Bantam
Year: 2005
ISBN-10: 055358202X
ISBN-13: 978-0553582024 

* Note: The drawings featured in this post are beautiful fan art found on the web.  I am not responsible for creating these wonderful works of art.  All credit goes to their respective creators.  

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