Wednesday, November 28, 2012

REVIEW: FATED ~ ALYSON NOEL

Lately strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, and glowing people appear out of nowhere. Worried that Daire is having a nervous breakdown, her mother packs her off to stay in the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico with a grandmother she's never met.

There she crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes who she’s encountered before...but only in her dreams. And she’ll get to know her grandmother - a woman who recognizes Daire’s bizarre episodes for what they are: A call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, one who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her grandmother immediately begins teaching her to harness her powers - but it’s an art that must be mastered quickly, because Dace’s brother is an evil shape-shifter who’s out to steal her powers. Now Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and discover if Dace is the one guy she’s meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she’s destined to destroy.



Daire Lyons grew up without her father, and without any knowledge of his side of the family.  Living virtually as a gypsy with her Hollywood make-up artist mother, Jennika, Daire travels the world, rubs shoulders with the biggest movie stars, and wonders what a life with roots would be like.  As Daire’s sixteenth birthday approaches, she begins to see something she should not: the dead.  Time stands still, and the dead reach out to her.  Daire ignores and suppresses these events for as long as she can, but on the eve of her sixteenth birthday Daire snaps.  In a desperate effort to escape the dead only she can see, Daire hurts herself and others, including a Hollywood pretty boy, and finds herself headed for a mental institution. 

Desponded and scared, Daire finds a way out from the last source she ever expected: her long lost grandmother.  Paloma Santos contacts Jennika, and somehow she knows about Daire’s visions, claiming she can help Daire overcome them.  Desperate to try anything that will keep her daughter out of a straight-jacket, Jennika ships Daire off to Enchantment, New-Mexico.

Paloma’s herbs and strange Native-American magick soon gets Daire’s visions under control, but it doesn’t eliminate the truth: Daire Lyons is in truth Daire Santos, the last in a line of Soul Seekers - those who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead. There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness the powers of her ancestral legacy, but then she meets Cade and Dace, the twin brothers who have haunted her dreams for months, and things take an alarming turn.  

Repelled by Cade and drawn to Dace, Daire must navigate the foggy ground of altered perceptions, open her mind to the powers of nature, and open her heart to the possibility of pure, unconditional love.     


Fated by Alyson Noel is the first of four books in the Soul Seekers series.  I hate writing negative things about books, and always try to at least start off with some positives, but the truth is I didn’t love this book.  I don’t particularly have an opinion about it – which is the last thing an author wants; leaving no impression at all.

The story is slow paced, which is a huge problem for me.  Taking time to develop a plot is one thing, but it is important for the story to flow, and at least for the first half of the book I did not get that. 

The characters are hard to describe, because Noel doesn’t bother to describe them very well herself.  Noel spent more time and energy on describing the environment, and while Enchantment, New Mexico came to life wonderfully, the characters did not.  In truth, most of the characters are pretty shallow.  Physically, I can tell you exactly what they look like, but Noel didn’t go to much trouble to develop the characters internally as she did in describing their looks.  I didn’t bond with these characters at all, and as a reader, if you don’t care about the characters, you ultimately don’t care about the story. 

As far as Daire’s discovering her powers goes I have to admit that I have never had any interest in Native-American magick, or shamanism, which is a big part of the story.  As a Christian, communicating with your ancestors, soul travelling, spirit animals and basically worshipping nature doesn’t particularly sit well with me, so those parts of the story didn’t fascinate me; I just read to get past it all, truthfully.  Daire’s quest of good against evil, however, is something everyone can relate to, and her relationship with Dace is intriguing – I wish he had a larger part in Fated, but I suspect he will have a much larger role in coming books.  One problem I do have, though, is that I can’t take Cade seriously as a major villain.  I understand that he’s supposedly a powerful sorcerer, but I just find him to be your average, over-confident bad boy.  He doesn’t intimidate at all, and I often found Daire’s weakness in his presence annoying. 

Sadly Fated did not bind me.  I read when I felt like it – I never had a need to desperately discover what happens next.  I doubt that I will read the next book, Echo.  I’m just not compelled to look into Daire’s life anymore.  I think Noel has a certain style of writing that isn’t for everyone.  It’s not the deeply gripping, moving, fast-paced, well developed kind of writing that I prefer.  Character development is a very important component that I look for when reading, and I just did not get that from Noel


Product information:

Title: Fated 
Author: Alyson Noel
Number of pages: 464
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0312664850
ISBN-13: 978-0312664855 

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE SET PHOTOS

Following last week's release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire's moving poster, EW has released the most official looking set photos to come out of the world of Panem to date.

These on-set photos reveal key elements of the Catching Fire plot.  If you would rather not know what to expect, stop reading now.

From the looks of it, these scenes cover the start of the Quarter Quell (5, 4, 3, 2, 1...) and what immediately follows.  

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, about to compete in the 75th Hunger Games . "This is no place for a girl on fire"
Let the games begin!

From the looks of it the water is a little chilly

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark. Who can't swim. Not a good place to be...

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odaire.  I believe this is the scene where he goes back in the water to save Peeta.  I believe the girl holding his trident is Mags' stunt double.  It has to be Mags here, but it's definitely not Lynn Cohen.

Katniss covers Finnick and Peeta


Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE MOTION POSTER

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is currently still filming and today, exactly a year from hitting theatres, the first motion poster has been released.


Katniss' mockingjay pin catches fire, and as the symbol changes a major hint is given concerning the upcoming film, one those familiar with the book will not fail to recognise.  

I have to admit, this got me really excited for the film, and I'm really disappointed the wait is so long.  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will hit theatres 22 November 2013.

Fan made poster


Monday, November 19, 2012

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2



On November 16th 2012 The Twilight Saga officially came to an end, and Breaking Dawn Part 2 is exactly the right send-off the franchise deserves.  With moments of romance, humour, heartbreak and action, this final instalment encompasses all the qualities that have made the series the success that it is.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 picks up more or less where Breaking Dawn Part 1 left off – shortly after Bella’s transformation into a vampire.  

Vampire Bella

The movie follows Bella's journey as she adapts to life as a vampire - learning to hunt, learning to resist human prey and learning to act human (breathe, blink, fidget) - and life as a mother.  To complicate matters Bella discovers that Jacob has imprinted on Renesmee, meaning that Renesmee is Jacob’s soulmate.  Kudos to everyone involved that this relationship came off as sweet instead of creepy.   At this early stage of Renesmee’s life Jacob is only a friend and protector, and it is only once Renesmee is mature that their relationship will progress into something romantic. 

Jacob and Renesmee

For the Cullens, life is good... until Irina comes by for a visit.  Following her outburst at Edward and Bella’s wedding, Irina decides to come by and make amends, only to see Renesmee, and she comes to the wrong conclusion: that Renesmee is an immortal child (a human child bitten to become a vampire).  Irina’s own mother was once found guilty of creating an immortal child, for which she was killed by the Volturi.  Irina thus completely overreacts and rushes to Voltera to accuse the Cullens of breaking this very strict law.  Immortal children cannot be tamed or taught, and in the past immortal children have been known to slaughter entire villages.  Creating immortal children is therefore the vampire world’s biggest no-no.  Finally Aro has the excuse he needs to destroy the Cullens – all except Alice, the crown jewel.  For years Aro has wanted Alice to join the Volturi.  If he can have someone who can see the future, the Volturi would be unstoppable. By killing her coven, Aro will be free to take Alice.

The Volturi

Anyhow, Alice sees the Volturi coming for them, and the Cullens set about traveling the globe, gathering witnesses for their showdown with the Volturi.  They’re hoping if enough people witness, the Volturi will listen long enough to be convinced that Renesmee is not an immortal child.  Can the Volturi be swayed, or has Aro already made up his mind?

The Cullens, their witnesses and the wolf packs

Breaking Dawn Part 2 is really well done.  The ending is epic, shocking and brilliant.  During the past weeks I've heard the cast talking about the twist ending that differs from the book, and a twist ending it is!  I was completely shocked and unprepared.  I think Summit took a few years off my life, but I don't mind. It was perfect for the movie. At the end of the movie there is also a lovely montage of all the actors who had roles from Twilight straight through to Breaking Dawn Part 2.

While vampire Bella is as badass as I had hoped, I was completely underwhelmed by her physical transformation.  It wasn't nearly as dazzling as I had expected – sure, her fashion sense is vastly improved, but she looks like… Bella.  In the book vampire Bella is incredibly beautiful – the absolute best version of herself.  Her beauty is supposed to rival even Rosalee's. It doesn't.  In the movies, she doesn’t change much, if at all, and she doesn't have that flawless beauty the other female vampires have. Other than her appearance, vampire Bella is as strong and powerful in the movie as she is in the book, and the character development is very well done.  Bella and Edward's relationship is very mature and their bond is the strongest it's been through the course of the five movies. They are very believable as a mature, loving, married couple, and they are both very believable as parents.  

Bella, Renesmee, Edward

As for Renesmee, Mackenzie Foy is the most beautiful little girl, and she plays the part really well.  Baby Renesmee, on the other hand, was very, very obviously computerised - understandable, but it was just way too obviously fake.  Disappointing.  

I loved the way the other vampire covens were portrayed - pretty much as I had imagined them.  Stefan and Vladimir were hilarious!

Vladimir & Stefan of the Romanian coven


Kate and Garrett are two of my favourite characters in the book, and I love how they were portrayed as well.  I'm just disappointed Garrett's speech is omitted from the film; it was a good one.  Garrett's half-joking proposal to Kate also didn't make the film (why?!), neither did Garrett's trying to calm "Katie" when she tried to attack the Volturi (why?!).  At least their commitment to each other did.  

Kate and Garrett

Twilight will always be my favourite of the films.  It was very indie, intense, very basic and it closely resembled the book.  Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a very close second.  I loved every single minute, especially the ending.  The battle was insane; shocking and amazing all at the same time.  I love how Bella and Edward fight as a couple - much like Carlisle and Esme, only better.  The first and last films of the saga are my favourites, and a lovely way to envelope the series.  


I especially loved how Bella allows Edward into her mind, showing him how much she has always loved him, just as she does in the book.  It was beautifully done, as was concluding  the movie with the final word on the final page of the book.  Forever.

And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

REVIEW: THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES ~ CASSANDRA CLARE



The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is the first of six novels in The Mortal Instruments series.  It follows Clary Fray who must find answers about her true identity when she finds herself drawn into the world of demon hunters.  A carefree night on the town with her best friend, Simon, turns into a nightmare when Clary witnesses a murder committed by a trio covered with strange tattoos. Clary summons help, but finds it hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air, and nobody but Clary can see the murderers.  Equally startled by her ability to see them, the killers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. 

The following night Clary's mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.  The question is, why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and Jocelyn Fray? And how is it that Clary suddenly, inexplicably, got the Sight?

With nobody around to answer the burning questions, Clary must risk all as she dives head-first into the danger that surrounds her on a quest to save her mother.  Clary is joined by Jace Wayland, a skilled young demon hunter she shares an immediate, intense connection with, and brother-sister duo Isabelle and Alec Lightwood – both of which seem to resent Clary’s new place in their sacred world.  As Clary navigates the new world open to her, she discovers vampires, werewolves, faeries, mermaids and more truly do exist, and as she crosses paths with several of them she comes to realise that life is not as black and white as it is made out to be, and the supernatural world is fragilely perched on the precipice of a full scale war.  Could Clary be a key to preventing it?


City of Bones is a very enjoyable read.  The world Clare created is very believable, and the lives of the Shadowhunters are fascinating.  It’s hard to go into too much detail without dropping spoilers, as the book is packed with surprise revelations.  The book does not have quite the same pull that I experienced with, for instance, The Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games trilogy, but the series does have the potential to become great.

Upon finishing the novel I did some more reading on the series, and discovered that a movie version of City of Bones is under way.  Filming wrapped just last week, and the film is scheduled to be released August 2013.

Collins (Clary), Sheehan (Simon) and Bower (Jace) on set 

Lily Collins has been cast in the lead role of Clary Fray.  She does have the right look, and I think she can pull off the combination of innocence and fierceness that is Clary Fray.

Lily Collins as Clary Fray

Jamie Campbell Bower has been cast as Jace Wayland.  He does have a certain arrogant rebellion about him - I think he's perfect for Jace.

Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland

Kevin Zegers will be portraying Alec Lightwood.  I think he can capture the brooding, often rude, Alec just fine.

Kevin Zegers as Alec Lightwood 

Isabelle Lightwood will be portrayed by Jemima West.  She does seem to have the beauty and cool arrogance that makes Isabelle resent Clary's sudden intrusion into her domain.

Jemima West

Clary's somewhat dorky best friend, Simon Lewis, will be portrayed by Robert Sheehan.  Slap some glasses on him, and he's Simon to a tee.  

Robert Sheehan

The first teaser trailer for the movie is scheduled to be released Thursday evening as a preview to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2.


Product information:
Title: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Number of pages: 496
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Year: 2008
ISBN: 9781416955078

Thursday, November 8, 2012

FRANCINE RIVERS ON A "REDEEMING LOVE" MOVIE


Over the past two and a half years since I've started my blog (wow, has it really been that long?!) I have mentioned several times that my absolute favourite book of all time (excluding The Bible, of course - it's so much more than just a book) is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

  
This book has sold millions of copies and is such a huge fan favourite that, naturally, there have been talks about a possible movie version.  Personally I have never been particularly in favour of a movie version - because the book is so amazing; it will be really hard for a film version to live up to the magnificence of the novel.  

Nevertheless, I have always wondered what Ms Rivers' view on the issue is, and in a new interview with www.Christian.co.uk, she addresses this topic: 

One of Francine’s books, The Last Sin Eater, has been made into a film. She’s had countless offers from producers asking to do the same with Redeeming Love, but Francine has demands that must be met first.

“I would have creative control, I would read the script and be able to approve it. When they make the movie I get to see the final cut, which means they can’t cut anything afterwards. I would be able to decide: ‘Is it honoring to the story and honoring to the Lord?’ And if it’s not, I can remove my name from the project. There aren’t any Hollywood producers that are willing to go along with that which is fine with me. It won’t be a movie. With Redeeming Love they could turn it into something pornographic so the important thing is to get the message across and being honoring to God.”  Interview by Sam Hailes.

Redeeming Love is based on the Bible’s account of Hosea.  The story follows Angel, who was sold into prostitution as a child.  As an adult she meets Michael Hosea – a man who obeys God’s call to marry Angel and love her unconditionally.  The subject matter is such that it would therefore be very easy for the wrong production studio to make a complete mockery of what is truly an inspiring love story that glorifies God.
  
What a relief to find how strongly Rivers feels about having so much control over a movie version! I am thrilled to find that she is just as passionate about this story (which she also considers her favourite of all the works she's done), and that she won't allow a film version to be made just for the sake of it - she will fight for the final product to glorify God, just as her lovely novel does.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NOW READING: THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS 1 - CITY OF BONES ~ CASSANDRA CLARE



Clary Fray is seeing things: vampires in Brooklyn and werewolves in Manhattan.  Irresistibly drawn towards a group of sexy demon hunters, Clary encounters the dark side of New York City - and the dangers of forbidden love.

Monday, November 5, 2012

REVIEW: HARVEST OF RUBIES ~ TESSA AFSHAR



Sarah lost her mother at a very young age, and her father withdrew from her as well.  Neglected by her earthly father, following the death of her mother despite her prayers with childlike faith, Sarah loses her faith in her Heavenly Father.  Convinced she can only depend on herself, Sarah teaches herself to read and write by age 12, and is delighted when her father takes an interest in her upon discovering she shares the talent of his profession.  Encouraged by her cousin Nehemia, the King’s cupbearer, Sarah soon proves to be an even better scribe than her father; consequently, Sarah comes to believe that her worth lies in what she can do and what she can achieve through her work as a scribe.  At a young age Sarah advances to the prestigious position of the Queen’s favourite scribe.  To thank Sarah for foiling a plot to cause a serious rift with dire consequences between the Queen and the King’s Mother, Queen Damaspia kills Sarah with kindness – she arranges for Sarah to be married to wealthy aristocrat, Darius – the King’s cousin.

Believing Sarah convinced the Queen to arrange this marriage because she wants to be a lady of leisure, Darius dislikes his bride intensely before he’s even met her; and when Sarah inadvertently makes a mockery of their wedding, Darius comes to despise her. 

Stuck in a marriage she did not want, stripped of her job - her only means of happiness and confirmation of her worth – Sarah is whisked away from Court to Darius’ estate, only to be abandoned by him immediately.  For several months Sarah must wander her husband’s vast estate alone, ostracised and miserable.  Stripped of her job, her personal measure of worth, Sarah must do serious soul searching to determine her true worth.  Seemingly also abandoned by her friends and family, the only one Sarah can cling to, is God; but can Sarah let go of old hurts and truly open her heart to the Lord once more?  Can she come to accept that He loves her, even if she can’t do her job (the only thing she believes she is good at)?

Sarah’s soft nature soon pushes her to befriend Darius’ staff, and she comes to realise his steward, Teispes, rules over them all with an iron fist.  Abandoned by her husband, it falls to Sarah to unravel the mysteries surrounding the running of his household and protect his most loyal servants.  However, Sarah’s meddling in Teispes’ affairs endangers her life, and every day on the estate becomes a dangerous game of cat and mouse. 
  
Believing her husband neglects his staff, and resenting his quick judgment of her, Sarah harbours a dislike towards Darius, just as he does of her.  Upon his return to his estate both Darius and Sarah come to realise that they need to re-evaluate their opinions of each other.  Sarah notices that contrary to her image of him, Darius seems to be a kind, considerate, fair and even loving man; Darius cannot deny that his loyal servants have come to love Sarah, and as he glimpses her humble spirit and kind heart he cannot help but wonder if he misjudged her.  Can two strong willed people driven by misconceptions, stuck in a marriage neither wanted, abandon their pride long enough to realise that each might be exactly what the other needs?


Tessa Afshar’s Harvest of Rubies was an absolute delight to read.  Sarah and Darius are lovely, though flawed, characters and are very believable.  The storyline is cleverly plotted and executed, and the book is an unpredictable adventure.  Sarah and Darius’ relationship is very much like I would imagine an arranged marriage to be – both are wary, proud and bitter at first.  The progression of their relationship is very realistically done – they don’t just wake up one morning and realise they’re in love (as many literary couples do).  It’s a very gradual process of first considering that they might have been wrong about each other, then getting to know each other, respecting each other, liking each other, trusting each other and eventually loving each other.  It was sometimes almost painful to walk this journey with them – especially the wedding.  Oh Sarah.  Afshar almost killed me with humiliation!  I literally had to put the book down several times, because I just could not bear to share Sarah’s mortification on this day.  Brilliant writing!

I loved absolutely everything about this book; especially the harvest of rubies – Sarah’s understanding of God through coming to understand Darius’ vineyard.  My only issue with the book, is that Darius never tells Sarah that he loves her.  I desperately waited for that moment, and it never came – I guess it goes to show that even as far as they’ve come, he still has some issues to overcome.  Luckily Sarah and Darius’ story will continue in Afshar’s next book, Harvest of Gold.  It is expected to be released mid 2013 – I can’t wait. 



Product information:
Title: Harvest of Rubies
Author: Tessa Afshar
Number of pages: 372
Publisher: River North, New Edition
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0802405584
ISBN-13: 978-0802405586 

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