Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1


Mockingjay Part 1 is the third movie in The Hunger Games franchise, based on the first half of Suzanne Collins’ book Mockingjay.  The movie starts shortly after the conclusion of Catching Fire, with Katniss, Finnick and Beetee now safe in District 13.  Peeta and Johanna have been taken by the Capitol, as has Finnick’s love, Annie Cresta. 


In Mockingjay, the games are over and the war is starting. The whole of Panem becomes the arena.  Katniss’ rebellion has ignited a spark, caught fire, and citizens of Panem start turning on the Capitol. District 13 now means to take the revolution to the people. President Coin, the leader of District 13 and the leader of the rebellion, knows that Katniss and Peeta are the two people most likely to motivate the people of Panem to join the revolution.  Peeta, however, is being used by the Capitol to quell the rebellion.  Peeta has always been a master at using his words to inspire people, and this time around he is calling for an end to the acts of rebellion all over Panem.  With the rebels labelling Peeta as a traitor, Katniss seems to be the only one noticing that Peeta is being used and abused.  With Peeta no longer an option to fight for her cause, Coin needs Katniss to be the face of the rebellion.  Katniss agrees on one condition: that District 13 rescues Peeta, Johanna and Annie.  (I find it curious that the movie omits Katniss' most surprising demand: that she be the one who gets to kill Snow).

President Coin makes the most of her association with the rebels' sweetheart, the Mockingjay

Katniss realises that this rebellion simply has to succeed.  It is the first time in 76 years that the people of Panem have the opportunity to overthrow the Capitol, and they must take advantage of the rising rebellion.  As such Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, publicly fighting and defying the Capitol, while Beetee hacks into the Capitol’s broadcasts to show footage of Katniss’ acts of rebellion.  Katniss gives people the courage to fight back, and soon there are reports of large-scale rebellion against the Capitol.  The revolution is starting to succeed…

Katniss gets quite the hero's welcome during her visit to a hospital in District 8

Jennifer Lawrence once again outdid herself in her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen.  Her acting is very subtle yet powerful.  The effects of the Hunger Games linger, and Katniss clearly has some mental issues that she needs to overcome.  As Coin notes, “The Games destroyed her”.  Lawrence is particularly amazing in the scene where she witnesses the destruction of District 12.

Katniss discovers what President Snow did to District 12 in response to her final act of rebellion in the arena

Peeta’s deterioration at the hands of the Capitol was brilliantly done.  While the people of Panem consider Peeta to be a traitor to the cause, it is clear to the viewer (and to Katniss) that Peeta is being tortured, and that the words he says are not of his own free will.  Josh Hutcherson does a brilliant job of making Peeta appear secretly vulnerable.  

Katniss watches a teary, gaunt-looking Peeta beg her to stop fighting the Capitol

The movie also did an excellent job of portraying what a good team Katniss and Gale make.  They attack instinctively, each knowing what the other is thinking.  They work in tandem, without words being necessary, and the movie nailed this part of their relationship.  The question who Katniss will ultimately end up with lingers, and with Katniss and Gale’s relationship getting more screen time this time around, Gale becomes a tangible threat to  Team Peeta.

Katniss and Gale attack Capitol planes attempting to bomb a hospital in District 8

I regret that Finnick isn’t enough of a presence in the movie.  In the book, Finnick and Katniss spend a lot of time together and through their shared pain and fear for their loved ones held captive by President Snow, they become quite close.  I don’t feel that this was quite fully portrayed in the movie.  I also wish we had more of Haymitch.  He’s one of my favourite characters, and I would have liked to see him utilized more.

Katniss and Finnick discuss Annie and Peeta's captivity

I regret that the movie omitted the scene where Katniss discovered Cinna’s prep team was imprisoned and basically being neglected by District 13.  I felt this was a very necessary scene to alert the viewer that District 13 is not all they pretend to be.  It also served to highlight that those born and raised in the Capitol are products of their environment and that they should be pitied, not hated.  Having said that, I’m very happy we have Effie in District 13!  In the book Effie is in the Capitol and not much of a presence in Mockingjay.  Her attempts to remain stylish and unique in the drab District 13 were a bit of comic relief. 

Effie tries to keep it stylish in District 13

I love Cressida, Masala, Crastor, Pollux and Bogs – Katniss’ propo team.  I thought they were well cast. Cressida is cool as can be and poor Pollux is really sweet.  They all worked together really well.

Crastor and Cressida, Capitol runaways joining the revolution

Overall the movie is very true to the book, while adding scenes we didn’t get to experience in the book, as the book is through Katniss’ POV and we only get to see what she sees.  In Mockingjay Part 1 we get to see the acts of rebellion in other districts, getting a fuller picture of how the revolution is slowly but surely growing strong.  People are being brave, fighting back at whatever cost to themselves.  We also get to experience the rescue of Peeta, Annie and Johanna, which was quite intense. 

Peeta post Capitol torture

Mockingjay Part 1 ended exactly where I expected… well, perhaps just a little bit after I expected.  They didn't quite leave the viewer hanging as I expected they might.  I have to admit that I quite enjoyed experiencing the reaction of non-readers when…


Seriously, major spoiler alert! Consider skipping the next paragraph if you aren't familiar with the book.

Peeta is finally rescued and responds by trying to kill Katniss.  That scene was also brilliantly done by all parties involved, and even knowing it was coming I was quite shocked by the brutality of the scene.  Seeing Peeta try to kill the girl he loves because he was brainwashed by the Capitol is heart-breaking.  Katniss witnessing the boy who has always loved her, now hate and fear her is just as tragic.


Katniss' determination to kill Snow has just gone through the roof.  Mockingjay Part 2 is expected to hit theatres in November 2015. 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

FREE ON AMAZON: IN TOO DEEP ~ TRACEY

For a limited time the Kindle edition of Tracey Alvarez' In Too Deep is free on Amazon. You can read my review here, and download your free copy here.


She vowed never to return.
To save her brother from financial ruin, Piper Harland must do the one thing she swore she'd never do—return to the tiny island hometown where Ryan "West" Westlake crushed her heart. Piper is tough, resilient and a little wild—much like the remote and beautiful Stewart Island where she grew up. As a cop who's part of the elite New Zealand Police National Dive Squad, bringing the dead back to their families still doesn't stop the guilt she feels over her father's drowning death. Now nine years later she's obligated to return to a hostile community as the outsider, and forced to work with the man who was once her best friend and first lover.

She's a risk he can't take.
West is an Island man, through and through. As owner of the local pub, he lives and breathes the local community, and sure as hell can't imagine living anywhere else. But most of all he refuses to ever fall for a woman like his flighty mother. He lost Piper once to give her the chance to fulfil her dreams of becoming a cop. But now she's back for an unexpected six week visit to help her brother—his best mate. Maybe West wants her a little bit, maybe he can't resist the temptation to tease and touch her, but can he fall in love with such a flight risk?

Saying goodbye for the second time might just destroy them both.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

REVIEW: THE FAIREST BEAUTY ~ MELANIE DICKERSON

Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother's jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie's one chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?

Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl's inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what.

When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them—they must also protect their hearts.


I hate giving bad reviews. Truly, I take no pleasure in criticizing someone else's efforts - However, I am always truthful in my reviews, and I have to start of by saying this book took me forever to read.  It did not hold my attention, I never became emotionally invested in the outcome and I had to force myself to finish it.  I'm still in the process of trying to retrain my brain to abandon books I don't enjoy, but alas, I still have mild OCD when it comes to finishing what I start.

From the blurb I assume it is understood that this is a retelling of Snow White.  While I usually enjoy a fresh take on a classic, I just did not enjoy this book at all.  This isn't going to be a detailed review, I will just point out what I have a problem with.    First of all, I don't like the characters. Sophie is just way too good to be true.  She is portrayed as this perfect person who memorizes and quotes Scripture, and never sins.  Ever.  She doesn't even harbour ill feelings towards her stepmother who abuses everyone around her. This is just absolutely unrealistic and makes it impossible to relate to Sophie.  As for Gabe, he is portrayed as arrogant and self-indulgent - kind of hard to like a "hero" when the only reason he went to rescue Sophie was to stick it to his brother.  Against his parents' direct instructions and against Valten's wishes, Gabe nevertheless went to find Sophie by himself.  It is expressly stated in the book several times how much joy Gabe gets from being the one to find his brother's fiancee.  Later he tries to convince himself and everyone around him that God placed the desire in his heart and that it must have been God's will for him to be the one to find Sophie. I have a HUGE problem with this approach considering this book is classified as religious fiction.  Please remember, Ms Dickerson, that honour thy father and mother is one of the ten commandments. You can't have your character wilfully disobey his parents for purely selfish reasons and try to justify it by claiming that it was God's will. This can be very confusing for non-believers reading this book as it is a pretty big contradiction. I would rather have had Gabe not try to justify his behaviour at all, admit he did something wrong and learn from it - that would have been more realistic, as well. 

Ermengard (another problem I have is the author using annoying, hard to pronounce names) is a ridiculous villain and I couldn't take her seriously.  She's so pathetic, I questioned the backbone and integrity of the whole cast of characters who allowed her to treat them the way they did.  I also had no respect for Sophie's father who deserted his Kingdom after Ermengard tricked him into believing Sophie had died.  He just up and left, leaving his loyal subjects to be tormented by his evil wife. 

Last, but not least, I did not see any chemistry between Sophie and Gabe.  Their relationship was not believable to me and I had no emotional connection to either of them.  I had developed more feelings towards Valten in the limited time I got to spend with him (ten pages?) than I ever had for either Sophie or Gabe.

Towards the end of the book I just started skipping sections, wanting to reach the end; I even skimmed right over the final confrontation between Sophie and Ermengard (which should have been gripping, right?).  Sadly I just did not enjoy this book at all.


Product Information:
Title: The Fairest Beauty 
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Zonderkidz
Year: 2013
Pages: 334
ISBN-10: 0310724392
ISBN-13: 9780310724391

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