Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

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Caraval #1

SYNOPSIS: Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away. – via Goodreads

WHY? There is so much hype about this book and so much love but why??? I just don’t get it. I started this with high hopes – it got a lot of good reviews. I wanted something magical like The Night Circus to carry me away, and instead I got… this. This lacklustre, utterly unmagical experience. I had my suspicions from the outset, as I wasn’t keen on the flat world building with no details, early villain with no real anything, and this obsession between sisters that really could have been more than the flat, generic relationship it ultimately was.

Caraval promises magic, promises to sweep you up into mystery and to have you amazed, and instead delivers an array of flat, unlikable, one dimensional characters and super bland dialogue. The writing is also peppered with all these ridiculous metaphors and this terribly flowery prose that does not change your life, but instead continually ejects you from a flat story. Instead of consuming you, taking you in, you get a heavy handed, predictable romance (and this guy’s muscles were described akin to Stephanie Meyer writing about Edward Cullen’s perfect marble everything), a game that had no spark in it, and this hunt for a sister that needed to be saved, and none of it draws you in, makes you feel anything.

The story is actually a really bland affair that the author tries to hide away with the writing she employs and the game that must be solved, and while the book at least reads really quickly, your eyeballs are in constant “I’m gonna roll” mode. Which is unfortunate. I liked the way the cover looked (see, judging books by their covers really can go both ways), the designer should be given credit. I just… didn’t like the content. There was so much potential – a love interest, a magician with a vendetta, a missing sister, an abusive father, a mysterious arranged marriage, a whole world, but the book ultimately delivers on nothing. A whole world could have been built here, but it’s nondescript islands in a nondescript time, so it doesn’t mean anything.

Again, let’s not forget the characters. Julian was ultimately predictable and Tella was annoying and supremely selfish. Then there is Scarlett, our main heroine. She is not strong, smart or cunning. She’s whiny and selfish and spoiled, and it grates on me that she is so controlling. Trust me, I understand how much your home environment sucked, but the situation and fear doesn’t feel real. The father feels more like an icon of fear resurrected whenever danger needs to be injected into the novel, and the reader knows they are supposed to feel tense about his appearances because they know he is abusive, but there is no real emotion attached to it. Legend himself, ever elusive, does not evoke wonder or anything eventually, he’s just some silly character that’s overhyped and doesn’t deliver.

Okay, so I guess you can see I was horrifically let down by Caraval. I felt it was a waste of time, lacked magic, had no real consequence, and has another two books following it (!!), which is crazy. There are a lot of people that loved this, but I was certainly not one of them.

Review: City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare

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The Mortal Instruments #6

SYNOPSIS: Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned… – via Goodreads

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It’s over! It’s done! And now I have to deal with this horrific hangover! I feel like I freaking lost people. Ugh. I got so invested in this, so not only am I mourning Grey’s Anatomy being over, I now have to mourn this being done! Yes, I got a little unhealthily attached to this series. It had three excellent books, a fourth instalment that read like filler stuff, a fifth that redeemed, and a finale that was a bittersweet return to form. And now it is over 😦

Okay, coherent thoughts… go! Man, there is so much to love about this book. Clare returns to the humour that makes you laugh out loud, and scenarios and happenings that make you gasp and flip out and laugh and cuss (trust me, my husband was telling me I had to reign it in and hush at a stage – but what does he know?!). I loved that we got back to that, to the characters being more like the ones we met in the original three books, and the issues they face reaching into your heart again. The pacing is also really fantastic, coming across like City of Glass, which is great. You get dragged in and the action and tension and everything else just never stops. It gets you right in the damn feels.

Then there are the characters. There is plenty of character growth to be found here, and I really enjoyed the interactions between characters. There was a lot that changed and grew and was said, and I loved every darn minute of it. Then there is Sebastian Morgenstern. For reals, Valentine was an awesome villain and all of that, but Sebastian just blows him out of the water. He made me so mad, like a little freaking roach. He is so dark and messed up and disturbing, ughhhhhhhh. But he brings it, and I find him to be a worth opponent for Jace and Clary to face off against. Also, back to a book crush for life Jace Herondale. Just saying. He’s been my book crush from the off, but I felt that Clare did him a disservice in City of Fallen Angels and then in City of Lost Souls I knew that that Jace was not the right Jace and felt like such a betrayer.

City of Heavenly Fire also gives us a little more on what it means to be parabatai. Goodness knows I could read a whole book on it and still want more, but we got a few more scraps. The concept fascinates me, and there were sections of this book that dealt with what it was to lose a parabatai or to be bonded to a parabatai and it is still a beautiful concept to me. MORE!

Okay, so as you can tell, I was hooked. Like City of Glass, I feel that this is a solid end. The former read like a conclusion and would have been one that I would have been happy with. I was worried about how Clare would pull it off a second time, but she manages to. I love the way she closed it off, so bittersweet. City of Heavenly Fire is a return to the form of the original trilogy, and a solid conclusion to the series. I can see that I will go back to this series time and time again. I highly recommend it.

Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

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“Only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony.”
– Elizabeth Bennet

SYNOPSIS: Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice? – via IMDB

So I went through a stage where I literally just binged on everything Pride and Prejudice and then just never published my reviews. Shame on me, I know. I was wary of this because while I love the story, there is Keira Knightley. I was seriously hoping she would pull this off the same way she did Atonement, but alas, there was no such luck in my cards. I didn’t dislike her in this as much as I usually do, and she seems better suited to period pieces than other things.

I feel that some of the cast members were just not right for their roles. Donald Sutherland never really grasps Mr Bennet, and never truly embodies that snark on screen, or the relationship between him and Elizabeth. Pity, too. Obviously I have my issues with Knightley, too, to be sure (I just don’t think that she was the perfect choice), and there was something quite off with Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of Jane. Oh well, those are the biggest offenders, I think. There was some amazing casting, too. I think that Macfadyen was a great Darcy. He embodied that pride, that calm and superiority, and he was unflappable, which is great. Brenda Blethyn’s Mrs Bennet correctly made me squirm in my seat and feel immense amounts of embarrassment for those girls, too – so tacky! I thought Kelly Reilly was excellent as Caroline Bingley, as she truly was horrible and snobbish and a total bitch, so well done. Jena Malone, too, nailed that immensely selfish brat Lydia.

There were parts of this movie that I absolutely adored (I am looking at you, hand into the carriage scene!). I also particularly enjoyed all scenes featuring Charles Bingley and Jane, as Bingley is so adorable around her, and they are a sweet couple.

I feel that there were some issues with the pacing – a big part of this was Mr Wickham being introduced and sped off of screen within two minutes, and yet he is such a large part of the main story, so you never really can understand Wickham being such an issue between Darcy and Elizabeth, and he is quite an important character. I also felt that this movie hardly captured the humour of the book, and came across as far too serious. There were moments I smiled, for sure, but for the most part this went for full on drama. Pride and Prejudice does have some truly beautiful sets and some great costume design and a score that suits it perfectly, and that does help you slip into the story and the characters and the time more. The dialogue was also quite loyal to the book, which I appreciated.

Pride and Prejudice is indeed a solid adaptation of its novel. There were some hitches with the cast and the pacing, but it is still well worth a watch, something I can see myself revisiting in future. The story is a classic for a reason, and does have a timeless love story between two characters you cannot help but love and root for. Worth the watch.

Review: City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare

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The Mortal Instruments #5

SYNOPSIS: What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost? – via Goodreads

Well, here we go, back to something that reads more like a Mortal Instruments novel. City of Fallen Angels really felt like filler nonsense, and I wasn’t a fan really, but City of Lost Souls starts taking us back to the things that we love in the series.

Gosh, I was so torn about all the Jace and Clary scenes here. There were times where you laughed and could picture this Jace as Jace as we know him (gosh, I know how that sentence looks and reads), but at the same time you know it isn’t really Jace. Gah, I can just imagine how Clary felt. Like we have been shipping Clary and Jace from the beginning, and then here you get sections of them together here but it’s not right. Nooooooo!

There is also that business with Alec being a complete and utter fool about the Magnus thing. I just want to reach out and slap him. His jealousy in City of Fallen Angels was super annoying and against character, but the stupid things he is getting into here with Camille really make me mad. I have shipped Alec and Magnus since Magnus told him to give him a call after the unfortunate party where Simon turned into a rat. I love them together, and what Alec has been doing is not okay!

So the story in here is back to much better. It is indeed a slow burn, but it is worth the read, and the payoff is so worth it. Sebastian really is a crooked, great villain. I mean I have been waiting for him to come back since City of Glass, as he is too good an opportunity to pass up, and I really liked seeing what Clare has done with him. I was interested to see what type of villain he would be, and so far, worse than Valentine it would seem, and I am enjoying it. I am so looking forward to more of the struggle against him.

City of Lost Souls is a return to form in the Mortal Instruments series, and has the series finally finding its feet again. We get great characters again and there is development going on again, though maybe not as much as before. I enjoyed this, and I have to say, I am so hooked on these books.

Review: City of Fallen Angels – Cassandra Clare

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The Mortal Instruments #4

SYNOPSIS: The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her—his mother just found out that he’s a vampire, and now he’s homeless. When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace. – via Goodreads

Okay, I am going to admit immediately that, of the four books in the series so far, this one is without a doubt the most uninspired. It could have ultimately been a short story, but instead was too long for a short story, but too short for a proper novel for this series (the books are longer). It was also totally unstructured and unsure of what it wanted to be, only starting to materialise with a point to the story near the end, which is a pity. Not the worst book to read, it just not have the oomph of its predecessors.

City of Fallen Angels blunders around. We finally get to read about Jace and Clary without that horrible sibling thing going on, and instead we get sulky teens avoiding each other and having no real idea what is going on. Like… they finally became the stereotype you fear in these kinds of books. There is no actual heat between them anymore (like there has been) and they are whining to everyone but each other. There is not really much character development in this one. Alec turns into a hot, jealous mess about Magnus, and it is not endearing or even funny. If anything, it will chap your ass because Alec has never been like this in any of the other books, which is so annoying. Why is this a thing now? Stop your crap Alec!

So no real plot or character development leaves the book feeling rather hollow. It is definitely lacks direction. I lapped up all the good bits I could, and will forever look at this as more of a filler book. No seriously scary villains in this (though really, there was all the potential in the world), and I feel that I have watched inordinate amounts of Supernatural because I called the instigator pretty much from the off, City of Fallen Angels is a step down from the other books, but certainly (EVENTUALLY) sets up for the story going back to some fantastic places. We shall see where it goes!

Review: The First Purge (2018)

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“Please don’t tell me you’re sending mercenaries into the island disguised as purgers?”
– Dr Updale

SYNOPSIS: America’s third political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, comes to power and conducts an experiment: no laws for 12 hours on Staten Island. No one has to stay on the island, but $5,000 is given to anyone who does. – via IMDB

Sweet baby Jesus, this franchise is never gonna give up the ghost. There was The Purge, which was wasted potential because it was a home invasion movie with an interesting concept we didn’t really get to see. Then there was the Anarchy sequel, and I unexpectedly loved that one – we actually got to see the Purge, and I got all excited that the franchise was actually going to do something with itself. But no. Then there was that botch job that was Election Year, and I thought it couldn’t get worse. Well, it could. I also see that there is now a series on Amazon. Come on! Will this never end?!

Apparently not. So let’s tackle this one. It sucked. Plain and simple. It was predictable and it was awkward and it just… no. Like wheeling and dealing with politics with absolutely no finesse, giving us characters we don’t give a crap about, generating more idiotic sequences than you can shake a stick at, not to mention that the psychological angle of this was completely and utterly ignored, which in conjunction with the politics had the potential to deliver a much better punch. But no, let’s not do that.

The pacing was off, too, because while the movie doesn’t necessarily boast a long run time, it feels like forever and six days long, and just didn’t feel like it was coming to a close at all, or moving along. It was so frustrating, and that adds to the litany of issues I have with it. I wanted to see so much more than this. I mean let’s face it, this franchise has been milking the concept because it is one that has fascinated viewers, but hasn’t really fleshed anything out. It strives to from time to time but falls short. It’s just coming across as a cash cow.

So no, I was not a big fan of this one and feel that this was an interesting concept, I mean the first  Purge, and how it came about, and instead of spending some time exploring the psychological aspect and truly delving into the politics, we get this half-assed offering from a tired franchise that churned out exactly one good movie. My recommendation? Skip it.

Review: Mandy (2018)

5

“You are a vicious snowflake.”
– Red Miller

SYNOPSIS: The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiralling, surreal rampage of vengeance. – via IMDB

Uhm. Okay. Yeah. This. Well. I expected so much more. I heard so many good things (Ryan especially enjoyed this) and I had hopes, so my husband and I decided to give this a shot and… it took a sharp left turn. My husband said it more like took a major u-turn to head back up into oncoming traffic. It just… no.

The movie is bizarre. It really is like a bad trip. Initially everything starts out just fine, what with Red and Mandy living their isolated little life, but it works just fine for them. Then that crazy cult gets involved and everything goes downhill. Like… I am all for revenge movies. I honestly, truly am, and I even like them when there is loads of humour involved, but this movie? It went from serious and heartbreaking to stupid ridiculous. Not the fun kind, just so cringy. I also read someone day it had like a David Lynch type vibe, which might also explain what I didn’t enjoy about it.

Mandy looks fantastic. The use of colours and neons is wonderful, and the score is also good. It is just a pity the content doesn’t keep up. It goes from a strange, dreamlike, trippy vibe movie to a complete… I don’t know what. Not to mention Nicolas Cage delivered a super goofy performance. The two halves just don’t really gel together, and the movie’s tone is all over the show. The villains and the story are not fleshed out at all, so it’s just this strange journey you are undertaking with Red, and you know he wants payback, but that is all really. There are some half-assed reasons for this cult and these bikers dudes but… no. Also, that dialogue :/

Mandy didn’t work for me. I didn’t have a good time, and this movie could have been serious and dramatic and hardcore revenge, or it could have been an entertaining revenge flick, and instead it starts off atmospheric and then gets embarrassing. Not a cool wtf like Evil Dead or great revenge like John Wick. No. I know a lot of people enjoyed this, but I did not. And it was excessively long. So while Mandy was stunning to look at, it just totally wasn’t my cup of tea.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas

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A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

SYNOPSIS: Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. – via Goodreads

Okay, so I recently sold my soul to read The Mortal Instruments series, and I loved it. Every single second of it. I was so hooked, and had the worst possible kind of book hangover possible when it was done. Natasha was reading this series and was unashamedly in love with it. She said she didn’t know if there was too much sexy-time in it, but ultimately ruled in its favour and told me to check it out. So I read this, and really expected way more sexy-time than was ultimately delivered.

So A Court of Thorn and Roses takes forever and six days to get going, I won’t even pretend. It is excruciatingly slow, and just as I was about as exasperated as I was willing to deal with, things start to roll. Feyre starts growing into an actual character, not just this “survivor” she is painted, and she stops her incessant silliness of “let me stab the faeries” and actually starts to adapt to Prythian. Tamlin is a flawed character with some issues, and some of the things he does about Feyre (especially at the end) are questionable, but the two of them seem suited for one another. I must admit, I find the characters to be exceptionally flat and boring in this, the only one of interest being Lucien so far, and not by much. There is also Rhys, a character Maas goes out of her way to revile, but I can see that it is bluster, so I am sure what with this deal struck between Feyre and Rhys that we will see a completely different character than the one she has so painstakingly masked and put forward here. I thought the world building would be more expansive and in depth than it was in this, but it was enough to get one interested.

Anyway, A Court of Thorn and Roses is not necessarily the greatest fantasy book ever, and the writing is uneven and there are way too many ellipses in Maas’s writing, and after a rocky start, the story got underway. It was in no way unpredictable, but it was an easy read, albeit a little too long. I wonder what Maas will do now that she has finished with Amarantha, and where she will take the story from here?

October Blind Spot Review: The Goonies (1985)

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“Home? What home? In a couple more hours, it ain’t gonna be home anymore. Come on, guys, this is our time. Our last chance to see if there really is any rich stuff. We’ve got to.”
– Mikey

SYNOPSIS: In order to save their home from foreclosure, a group of misfits set out to find a pirate’s ancient valuable treasure. – via IMDB

I didn’t love this. There. I said it. Got that off my chest. I know that this movie is exceptionally popular, that is has major love, that there is immense amounts of nostalgia attached to it, but whatever. Maybe I am a heathen, but I did not love this. In fact, it irritated me more often than not.

First off, this movie was noisy. Nobody stopped screaming or yelling or anything, and it grated on my last nerve. There was just noise all the time. Ugh. Biggest peeve off my chest. Then there was Chunk, a character who really pissed me off. He was constantly whining and eating and screaming and no. Just no. Though I did enjoy his confession to the Fratellis. Anyway. This movie also felt as though it were forever and six days long, despite only being a two hour movie. Maybe the noise and ridiculousness made it feel longer than it should have.

Also, I want to reiterate how far child actors have come over the years. These kids weren’t bad, and they totally delivered better performances than were usually seen in this time, but if you look at kids in movies more recently, the performances are more believable and natural, which I prefer. These had that awkward hallmark to them, though they had moments where there was something good that shone through. The Goonies is that typical old school family movie, and it didn’t work for me.

What I did like though was the way the characters (especially Mikey) had ways that they said something, were corrected, absently say it the right way after that and then say that is what they said, goodness. That made me smile every time it happened. I also really liked Josh Brolin here, and Sean Astin was very sweet.

So yeah, maybe if I had watched The Goonies as a child it would have a more special place in my heart, but I didn’t, and so it doesn’t. It is not the worst movie I have ever watched, but I do not feel like I was whisked off on a pirate, treasure seeking adventure. The villains chasing these kids were shallow and cheesy, and the dialogue was cringy. The adventure left much to be desired, and oh man, what I would have given to have less screaming assaulting my ears at every turn. Definitely not a movie I will be returning to in a hurry. Or ever.

Review: City of Glass – Cassandra Clare

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The Mortal Instruments #3

SYNOPSIS: To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost? – via Goodreads

Continuing my binge, I zipped right on through this one, and it is without a doubt my favourite of the bunch so far. It’s a great read that answers questions, does its thing, builds on a fantastic story so far, and is really immersive.

We return to the world of the Shadowhunters, and ideas that have been taking shape in my mind since the first book have started to come to fruition here, and it has been awfully rewarding. Also, there was a plotsie that happened that had us all cheering, because nobody really believed the whole thing of Jace and Clary being related (right? Or my denial was so strong). I think it would have been more ballsy if Clare had left that one there, that would have been the shocker of note, so I think we were all really just waiting for her to correct things. Anyway.

Our favourite characters are back, and we get to journey to Alicante, the city we have heard so much about and never been to, so it is fascinating to read about the city and the laws. Jace is his tortured self, and reading about him and Clary is painfully heartbreaking. I loved reading about Luke assembling the Downworlders to work with the Shadowhunters, to potentially unite against Valentine, because unity is strength. While we are on that topic, we get so much more insight into Valentine and the monster that he is and it is properly horrifying. Ick man, that man is cuckoo katchoo! What a dark bastard, but great for us who likes a good villain.

So many events take place in this book, and you are so hooked you just race on through it to learn more. The characters, too, change and grow in this, becoming even more real, and the relationships between characters grows more complicated in some instances, and less in others, but all the while moving towards something. I do so love reading about this world, it is fascinating. I really hope that they speak more about the concept of parabatai, it is such an enthralling idea, so painful and yet so full of hope.

City of Glass breezes buy. It is chock full of action and plot developments, character growth and revelations, and I adored every second of it. The others have entertained me, but this one ensnared me. I was so hooked. I feel like I loved this one so much that I can’t collect myself enough to really review this and express myself properly. Oh well. Now on to the next!