Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Dirty Ones by J. A. Huss

NOTE: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those above the age of majority.

A group of students at an elite college is pushed into an unusual – let’s call it adventure in their senior year.

Ten years later someone writes a book about it that tells the truth. Or does it? As they reconnect to uncover the book’s author, they fall into a spiral of memories, intrigues, and convoluted relationships, both past and present.

The plot that unravels completely blew me away, in particularly the twist near the end. 

I can best describe The Dirty Ones as a psychological erotic mystery thriller, the least emphasis being on erotic, although it sure contains some filthy smut. But whatever you expect from this book, I promise you are going to be wrong. A good kind of wrong, though.

Overall, this world and story of this book are opulent, sensual, emotive, and above all very human and will certainly stay with me for a long time.

The Dirty Ones was my first book from J. A. Huss, but I will surely return to her for quality writing, vivid imagery, and fantastic storytelling.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Vow on the Heron (Plantagenet Saga #9) by Jean Plaidy

The Vow on the Heron depicts the reign of Edward III, starting and ending similarly in disgrace and with an impoverished country, but with a tumultuous journey in between.

Beginning as a puppet boy-king, Edward III rose from his early failures of youthful inexperience as a great military leader, often likened to his grandfather Edward I and most notably remembered for staring the Hundred Years’ War with France.

What I liked the most about his life was that he had a really good marriage and family life and was for the most part a faithful husband and a good father, which seems to be an exception more often than not when it comes to historical rulers of whichever country.

As usually with Plaidy, The Vow on the Heron is written in a simple but evocative language that makes what could be a boring history rather interesting, although it could be edited a bit more meticulously.

Overall, this was a quick and easy but compelling read.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Alpha (2018)

DIRECTOR: Albert Hughes; CAST: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Marcin Kowalczyk…

SUMMARY: During the last Ice Age, a friendship forms between a boy on the verge of adulthood and a wolf.

MY THOUGHTS:

Although I’m more of a cat than a dog person, Alpha was one of my must-see films of this year ever since I had seen the first trailer and it did not disappoint.

A coming-of-age story follows a developing bond between an injured boy and a wounded wolf in a suspenseful and oftentimes poignant arc that comes to a heart-warming conclusion.

The film is filled with stunning visuals and some breath-taking action; CGI is not half-bad, either. And, with a fictionalised backdrop and taken with a grain of salt as to historical accuracy, Alpha could have nevertheless been one of the versions of how people domesticated wolves.

My only ‘complaint’ is that with around an hour and a half the film could have been longer; I would not mind watching more of Keda and Alpha’s adventures at all.

RECOMMENDATION: The film contains hunting and other animal injuries, so you might want to be careful if you are sensitive to that (but all ends well for the main protagonist.) Other than that, Alpha is an engaging film that is perfect for watching on one of these dark winter nights when you need something to make you feel good.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS. 

Sixteen-year-old Lindsey crushes on her teacher, dreaming of escaping a cold home with a violent father and an intimidated, emotionally absent mother. 

But when she ‘seduces’ him – although the man, nearly twice her age, who turns out to be a truly despicable character, should very well know better – and gets pregnant, her in many ways sheltered world of wealth comes crashing down along with her dreams.

On the cusp of sexual revolution, pregnancy outside of marriage is still a taboo, unmarried mothers shamed and shunned, sent away to have their children put up for adoption. 

In one such home for unmarried mothers, Lindsey is faced with a different reality of poverty and exhausting work, coming face to face with people she used to look down upon but who become her only friends when everyone else turns their backs on her and from whom she learns not only about suffering she couldn’t imagine before but also about perseverance.

Initially a deluded girl who stubbornly sticks to her pipe dream with her head in the sand, Lindsey made me pity her, but I soon started empathise with her, being reminded of how hard it must have been for women in the time where they were dependent on men, purposely kept in the dark about the facts of life, with sex education non-existent, then shamed for the consequences of actions often not of their own design, lied to, manipulated, and finally coerced into giving their children up for adoption.

Set against the backdrop of women’s emancipation movement, Liza Perrat depicts these issues as well as the challenges of the aftermath of losing the children they are not allowed to grieve for as their sole existence is shameful and best to forget in the eyes of society, such as depression and suicide attempts, in a multi-faced way that inspires a whole range of raw emotions in the reader, but most of all an admiration for women like Lindsey and her friends.

Thus, The Swooping Magpie is above all a testimony of women’s strength. With a collection of colourful characters and an exquisite Australian setting, it is a truly gripping and quick read (I finished it in two days) and might be, in my opinion, Liza Perrat’s best work to date.


Thanks to the author for kindly sending me a copy of The Swooping Magpie in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien

The story of Beren and Lúthien is one of the three central stories of Tolkien’s Elvish history, presented in this book in a new light, revealing the process of Tokien’s writing and how it evolved from its earliest concept to the latest, though never quite finished version.

Edited by Christopher Tolkien, Beren and Lúthien is actually a collection of various versions, accompanied with a commentary on their conception and development and the reasoning behind it, following by now a familiar approach when it comes to Tolkien’s posthumously published works.

As such, it comes out rather academic – perhaps overly so – to a reader only interested in a ‘story’.

However, I found Beren and Lúthien extremely readable and even refreshing and I loved rediscovering the already familiar story from The Silmarillion with its different and new angles through both in prose and verse. Although Tolkien’s poetry does at times seem awkward, it is in most places highly evocative and yet again shows Tolkien’s skill. The latest written verses in particularly make you think about what he could have done if he had had more time.

I was, nevertheless, a little ‘disappointed’ to learn that Tolkien was apparently not a cat person (just kidding, LOL.)

All in all, Beren and Lúthien was an enjoyable and quick read that only rekindled my love for all things Tolkien.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Someone Else’s Fairytale (Someone Else’s Fairytale #1) by E. M. Tippetts

The concept of Someone Else’s Fairytale – a movie star falling for the one girl whose dream isn’t a hot movie star falling for her – was intriguing, but that was also all.

However, it kept me reading through to the end, which earns it half a star more than it would have for the plot and the characters. Because this was one of the dumbest stories I have ever read. And there were so many annoying things.

Of course the male BFF is actually pining for the main character in a romantic way. Or is she pining for him? I don’t know. Because clearly men and women can’t be ‘just’ friends. Right.

The said BFF also presumes to tell the protagonist who she shouldn’t be friends with and how often she should talk to them. Red flags rising my hackles all around.

Then, Chloe, from whose POV the story is written, sounds awfully immature, despite being through quite an ordeal in childhood and apparently having to take care of herself. She is 21, but her actions and even more her reasoning are those of a 15-year-old. As someone who basically had to grow up at 14, I couldn’t at all relate to her childishness – and it shows the author clearly wrote neither from experience nor from sufficient research.

But most of all, the story is just bland, as in, there isn’t any story – only enumeration of this and that which happens, and the reader knows the main characters will get a HEA anyway. There is some drama due to Chloe’s past, but it doesn’t really serve the story, although it is rather interesting on its own, and I think the author would have had more success with it if she had written a YA thriller about that ordeal instead of this ‘romance’.

The characters are equally bland. There are hardly any descriptions (and I don’t mean hair/eye colour, height and whatnot; there aren’t even any mannerisms and such that make up a person(ality)), unless you count  unfavourable ones of the supposedly hot movie star. And while leaving physical appearances up to the reader’s imagination can work out marvellously, this isn’t the case in Someone Else’s Fairytale. Hence, everyone seemed just words on paper, dead, and I felt no connection to any of them.

Which brings me to the last and worst: the story was feeling-less. It is supposed to be a romance, but I couldn’t feel a thing reading it. Angst? Love? (Who am I kidding?) Tension? Happiness? Sadness? Anything? Nope, nothing. A phone book makes me feel more.

At least it was free on Kindle.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Siberia (2018)

DIRECTOR: Mathew Ross; CAST: Keanu Reeves, Boris Gulyarin, Ana Ularu…

SUMMARY (from IMDB)When an American diamond trader's Russian partner goes missing, he journeys to Siberia in search of him, but instead begins a love affair.

MY THOUGHTS:

I watched this film the other day due to coming across some salacious gifs on Tumblr and I had some time to kill and wasn’t in the mood for anything from my lengthy back log of thought-provoking films I need to catch up with.

Though-provoking much, however, Siberia isn’t, since it follows a predictable template of an-American-vs.-Russian-mob thrillers, except perhaps in deciding for the less Hollywood-like ending of the two possible options in that sort of movies.

Keanu Reeves is a good actor, but he doesn’t do a particularly outstanding job in Siberia, perhaps due to the character he plays, who felt rather bland to me.

The one thing that does stand out once for a change in a Hollywood production is the casting of Russian and other actors with a great grasp on the language for the majority of Russian characters as well as using Russian for more than just a few standard catch phrases, all of which I highly appreciated.

RECOMMENDATION: Overall, Siberia is a rather mediocre film, employing all the typical (and overdone) tropes of the genre. It includes cheating and forced consent (the latter not between the main characters, fortunately), so beware. Reeves’s “stellar” performance in certain E-rated scenes and the very mediocrity, however, make it a good movie to kill some time and/or unwind with. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

NOTE: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those above the age of majority.

Based on true events – which I didn’t know – The Hunger is a fictionalised story of a group of pioneers, known as the Donner party, travelling westward, with an added supernatural element.

The journey through a harsh terrain and in inclement weather conditions is full of hardships, exacerbated by bad choices made out of ignorance – sometimes wilful – and stubbornness of incompetent leadership.

The people at first appear to be mostly strangers, but the connections, past and present, between them slowly unravel over the course of the story, unveiling their diverse backgrounds, views, ambitions, and experience. With superstition and distrust abound, it doesn’t take long for the tensions to arise between such a collection of people and in-fighting to begin, culminating in fear that overrides reason and leads to the group’s ultimate demise.

For there is something else trailing the party. Hunger. And not just the one caused by the dwindling supplies.

There is something evil watching, lying in wait, splitting the group into smaller parts to make them an easier prey. Something with teeth and claws. A pack of wild wolves, some say. Monsters from natives’ myths. Or perhaps the monsters are just men. Might be neither. Might be all of the above.

The answers, all through to the final one, are never quite what you would expect, as nothing is ever black and white. And in that lies the true horror of The Hunger.

Masterfully told, The Hunger is eerie and gory (I wouldn’t recommend reading either on an empty or a full stomach; pick some healthy middle), but also wondrously poignant, showing the best and the worst of people when faced with evil, without and within.