Review: Queen of Shadows – Sarah J. Maas

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Throne of Glass #4

SYNOPSIS: The Queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return. – via Goodreads

Wow. So much went on in this! The ball gets rolling a little faster in this one than ever before!

Anyway. Let’s move on. I really like Aelin. Like, we get strong heroines in books, no doubt about that, and I am obviously a fan, but I have a lot of time for her. She is not super whiny or anything. She had a moment of it in Heir of Fire, but she moved on from it so quickly. She is pretty awesome – strong, smart, not scared to get her hands dirty, loyal, resourceful, the whole shebang. She is brave and strong. I think the transition from Celaena to Aelin was not jarring at all, which shows you just how gradually things were set up. Queen of Shadows also features an array of new characters. We finally get to meet Arobynn and see a bit more about how things are there. There is Lysandra, whom I really enjoy. She is quite a good character and has a terribly sad story… although this can be said of most of them. Lorcan, too, makes an appearance and could very well be quite the character if left to develop.

I missed Rowan so much. So much more than I missed any other characters so far between breaks! I just needed him to come back. Naturally, when he did, I was practically squeaking I was so excited. He and Aelin are totally matched for one another, and there is enough of them not doing anything about that in this that you get desperate eventually.

Let us not even remotely forget to address Dorian in this. Oh no, no sirree. It broke my heart to see what had become of him. He was shattered and broken and hanging in by a damn thread. I feel that there was just enough of what was going on with him in this book – too much and it would be the same, too little and it would mean nothing. Then Manon Blackbeak makes her appearance and there is a click there, way more convincing than Sorscha ever was. I am, of course, hoping something comes from this. I will totally back this! Dorian needs to get back to being Dorian! Speaking of, there is Manon, and her story slowly but surely changes as the book progresses, and it is damn interesting. Everything she thought she knew is shifting and changing. Between the super adorable Abraxos, Elide, and Asterin, she will have to question large parts of her life.

Speaking of sad things, Roland. Kaltain. Really. Roland might not have been a huge character, per se, but the way he cropped back up in this and what was happening forces you to remember/see just how freaking cruel the King of Adarlan is. Goodness. I am not saying you forget, but he was the example that really slammed it home for me. Kaltain suffered, and I felt immense amounts of pity for a character I didn’t much like to start with. Then there is Aedion and Aelin together, and I love it. Their family has hurt enough and yet they still have each other, are still loyal to each other, both forgiving the other’s sins after both having thought there could be no forgiveness between them for their actions.

Flipping hell, I just wanted to smack the crap out of Chaol all the time reading this. What a whiny twit! He never stopped, and he was so self righteous and super annoying. My goodness! This totally runs home why I am glad that he and Aelin are no longer a thing. When she got on the ship to Wendlyn, they were over. And I am totally okay with that because, well, yeah. They both changed and grew apart and that is fine.

Queen of Shadows features a ton of drama, an array of new characters, loads of tension between characters, and adventure left, right, and centre. I would have it no other way. No sir, no other way indeed. These books are the most fun, just in case my raving didn’t inform you of that xD Get out, go read! I can see I am going to hang so bad when all this is said and done.

Review: The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again. – via Goodreads

Wow. Just wow. The Roanoke Girls is just so up my alley. I think the last book I read with such a hunger was Karin Slaughter’s The Good Daughter. I didn’t want to work or anything. I just wanted to curl up and read and ignore the world. I was drawn in from the off, and fascinated with the entire book.

I enjoyed the way that the book was written, with the “then” section and then the “now” section, as well as the little snippets of the other Roanoke girls sprinkled throughout. It really created tension, and this dark atmosphere you get sucked into and wrapped up in. Yes, the big ick is revealed pretty early, but that in no way affects the book negatively. In fact, it makes you even more observant on the dysfunctional behaviour you were wondering about before. The Roanoke Girls is really well written and flows, with the reveals slowly but surely painting the complexity of the story.

I really liked the way that Engel created the characters. Each had their own story, and each little flashback revealed some more, and every little section of the present peeled away yet another layer. Allegra is totally different from Lane, yet you can see how the girls are bonded. Allegra has a terrible secret, and is jealous because she knows how things will be, yet she loves Lane. It is very complicated. Add to the mix how the author created their grandfather, Yates, and you are in for an disquieting ride. The man does come across as charismatic and charming and loving, which leaves you with a perverted, sickening, uncomfortable feeling, which is amazing to establish the family ties at Roanoke.

Then there are the side characters, most notably Tommy and Cooper, and that is a whole other kettle of fish. Cooper pretty much immediately swept me off my feet, so I totally got why Lane was bowled over. Not everyone’s cup of tea,  to be sure, but total book crush for me. Their relationship was amazing, and then it was crazy, and I could see the shift of it, even while I didn’t like it. They were both damaged creatures inexorably drawn to each other, and just clicked. Tommy is also the all American boy, the safe kid, the nice guy, but he also has multiple layers to him. These characters having so many layers makes for interesting dynamics, and you are so hooked.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Roanoke Girls. I just gobbled this book up, it was thrilling, sick and rough and yet there was hope tinging the edges. It had that same dark, twisted vibe as Averil Dean’s The Undoing, a book I liked a lot more than most people did, it seems. I highly recommend this read if you like something a little warped and unsettling, something that peeks into some messed up places.

Review: The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever… – via Goodreads

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about receiving a book from NetGalley for review, ever! Karin Slaughter, as you probably know, is my favourite author. Hands down. The woman is phenomenal and her work is totally up my alley – it is so dark and brutal and unforgiving, and you get so hooked on her characters, they just draw you in. When I was granted access to this, I pretty much did my nut. But enough about that. How did the book hold up for my excitement?

W.O.W. This was one hell of an amazing read! Really. I was drawn in from the first few opening pages, and got hooked on these characters within moments. Slaughter delivers, once again, a solid story, told with such finesse. You get drawn in. The characters become genuine, real people to you, the women are strong (I will always appreciate this), and you never feel like you are reading a book. It is like someone is telling you this story.

I was a big fan of the characters in the book. Sam, Charlie, Rusty, Lenore and Ben all brought a distinctly unique voice to the book, and I appreciate that. You always knew who was who and what was going on. You could identify with each and every one of them. Rusty is described in such a way that even though the town hates him on principle, you cannot help but like the man. He is witty and entertaining and loves his kids. Lenore is strong and stands her ground. Charlie, while totally damaged, is difficult to hate, though originally you think you are going to. Sam, brusque and stubborn as she is, has such a brilliant mind. Ben is absolutely adorable, and a strong, supportive man. I really liked it.

The story that Slaughter tackles here is a heavy one, something I know Americans are particularly touchy about – school shootings. They are vile things, and a horrible, tragic occurrence. Slaughter delivers the goods here again in terms of story – we have a truly savage, brutal back story for the Quinn family, and to see how they all come together again 28 years down the line over a school slaying is quite something. Slaughter gets right up to her elbows in the narrative. The writing flows smoothly and is genuine.

I barrelled through this book. I did not want to put it down. I was engrossed for every single second, and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the story. I was hooked, plain and simple. Definitely one of Slaughter’s strongest novels, and very interesting to see a story told from the perspective of the sisters. Absolutely a solid read and well worth it, I highly recommend this standalone novel from such an accomplished writer.

Review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

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perfume story of a murderer poster

“Each perfume contains three chords: the head, the heart and the base, necessitating 12 notes in all. The head chord contains the first impression, lasting a few minutes before giving way to the heart chord, the theme of the perfume, lasting several hours. Finally, the base chord, the trail of the perfume lasting several days.”
– Giuseppe Baldini

SYNOPSIS: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille came into the world unwanted, expected to die, yet born with an unnerving sense of smell that created alienation as well as talent. Of all the smells around him, Grenouille is beckoned to the scent of a woman’s soul, and spends the rest of his life attempting to smell her essence again by becoming a perfumer, and creating the essence of an innocence lost. – via IMDB

perfume creepy

So, it was movie day recently, and my friend is a huge fan of this movie. I have said for years I will get to it, and then never did (we all have that list), but now it has changed, and wow, I am glad I finally checked this movie out. I was entranced from the off, with the narrator telling us this weird and bizarre story (and John Hurt was a fantastic pick for this), from the way it was shot, everything. I have got to commend the way the film was directed, as well as the way it looked. So washed out and dreary, and yet things with beautiful smells had vivid colours, which in turn made me think of the scents tied to it.

The movie has this air of doom and creepiness hanging over it, this cannot be denied, the atmosphere is dark and broody, and Ben Whishaw is a fantastic Grenouille – he really just seems too damn off. You want to pity him, you do, and on the other hand, he is so outlandishly different you cannot help but recoil. The score suited this movie wonderfully, blending in, never taking over, always complementing. The performances, too, were impressive, and I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing of the movie. The storytelling and writing was brilliant because, while we know what Grenouille is doing is beyond heinous and wrong, we also want to see what will happen if he achieves his goal. Yes, it is that sick. It’s not about his success at killing these girls, it is just to see what he is willing to do about his obsession, how far he is willing to take it. I

have always known this movie to get a lot of hate, but I don’t understand that. It isn’t a bad movie at all. But then, maybe it is just too different, too weird, that it sets people on edge? It is dark, for sure, and it tells of Grenouille’s love story with smell, and later his obsession to forever capture it, and the story has many dark avenues it explores. Maybe because people took it too seriously, expected a realistic story, when it was so obviously not that from the off. I think the best way to describe this film would be disturbing. I honestly do, after the movie is over, you feel unsettled, yet the movie is put together well, incredibly well acted, very strange and out there, and it gets under your skin.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is dark, broody, creepy, unusual, fascinating and extremely lonely, and worth a watch at least once. I will definitely be seeking the book out now!

Review: Zodiac (2007)

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zodiac poster

“I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.”
– Robert Graysmith

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970’s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people. – via IMDB

zodiac

GRADE 10This movie is absolutely brilliant. I loved it when it came out, I loved it in subsequent rewatches, and I still love it. Why? Because it is put together extremely well, the cast carrying this show is fantastic, and it looks amazing. There is really just too much to love about this and not anything to seriously complain about.

Jake Gyllenhaal never disappoints (seriously bestie, you must watch more of his work) and his Robert Graysmith is really interesting to watch, like a dog with a bone. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as prick crime reporter Paul Avery, and showcases how he really has more talent than just Tony Stark/Iron Man. I really miss when he used to take real other roles. The final big player here is Mark Ruffalo, and I always enjoy watching the man in anything. His detective character David Toschi is also a big draw, and I really like how these three characters each had their own obsession, they all danced around one another, were all similar but completely different. I think the movie really runs home the point of obsession, and how it interacts with everyday life, which is very interesting. Not only that, the movie is obviously shot phenomenally because, well, David Fincher.

The script it also tight, laying out all the pieces of evidence you need in the case of the terrifying Zodiac killer, who freaked people out beyond anything, even though he was never caught. I think that Robert Graysmith did a great job of investigating and seriously has the strongest case stacked against Arthur Leigh Allen. Zodiac is engrossing and mesmerising and demands your attention throughout, and barrels along at such a pace that you are not left behind, but are gripped, and does not allow your attention to wander for even a moment.

You cannot miss that immense amounts of work, interest and passions that went into the film, everything from costume design to the sets that were done, and reading up on the trivia for it, all this is confirmed. I have not read Graysmith’s book, but I will most certainly be looking into it as soon as possible. If you have not seen Zodiac, it is high time you rectify that.

Sporadic Scene: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) – Church Massacre

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You know, Kingsman had a lot of good things going for it, really. It was entertaining, carried by a good cast, had an interesting story, contained good humour and it was shot well. I think one scene that captures how well this was shot and how crazy it could get was definitely the church fight that Harry Hart finds himself in. It is plain down weird. Everything went from perfectly normal, to dissing, to straight up action and insane fights – all choreographed and shot beautifully, keeping you riveted for every second the bloodshed senselessly continued.

If you have a scene that you would like featured, drop me a mail at sporadiczoe@hotmail.com with a link to the scene and an explanation as to why.

Rapid Review: The Bourne Identity (2002)

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bourne identity

“You’re U.S. Government property. You’re a malfunctioning $30 million weapon. You’re a total goddamn catastrophe, and by God, if it kills me, you’re going to tell me how this happened.”
– Conklin

SYNOPSIS: A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and suffering from amnesia, before racing to elude assassins and regain his memory. – via IMDB

bourne identity freeze

GRADE 8.5love Jason Bourne. Seriously. I love these movies. I have always enjoyed them. Plus, Matt Damon. Because Matt Damon is amazing. But really, I wish I could express how exciting and brilliant I find these movies. Okay, okay, let’s move on to the movie itself. The Bourne Identity is one of those action movies that ticks all the boxes for me. It is smart, has a really good story, has a solid cast carrying it all, is directed well, looks fantastic and has brilliant choreography. The pacing is something I liked. No rush here, so sirree, it starts with Bourne in the ocean, shot, fished out, almost dead, and as Bourne learns about himself, so does the audience, and that is a fun thing. There is no rush, and when the action kicks in, you get swept up in this intense mystery of who the hell Jason Bourne is, and what he was before the amnesia kicked in. Matt Damon is just brilliant here. He delivers us Bourne and he nails it – the emotions are down, you identify with Jason and root for him, even though you know nothing about him at all, it doesn’t matter. Hell, even when you learn he was a super spy assassin, that doesn’t matter. Bourne is layered, and his blank-slate introduction made him someone you could identify with in a hurry, so they didn’t have to tell you too much. But you uncovered more and more about him and find ways to slot the new information in on the man you have discovered him to be without his memory. The story is also pretty sharp, definitely a solid spy-thriller and it doesn’t get old, either. The camera work is also something to be admired, something that transports you right into the events that are unfolding before your very eyes. The Bourne Identity is a solid movie, with a gritty, realistic hero, something I would highly recommend spending some time watching, as it is well worth it!

Rapid Review: Batman Begins (2005)

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Batman Begins Poster

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself!”
– Scarecrow

SYNOPSIS: After training with his mentor, Batman begins his war on crime to free the crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption that the Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it. – via IMDB

batmanbatman begins lighter

GRADE 9The movie was simply amazing, with great cinematography as well as a brilliant score. This is one of my favourite origin stories, if not my most favourite. I know they have been done to death, but let’s face it, not quite the way that Nolan has done it. The man is a master, and he revolutionized the way we perceived the Batman films after they were butchered by Joel Schumacher. Nolan’s casting choices were dead on. Michael Caine is a perfect Alfred and Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is a solid, trusty character. Christian Bale is my favourite Batman because he manages to pull of both Bruce Wayne and the caped crusader, which is something a lot of actors fail to do. ore often than not in superhero movies the actor can either pull off his identity or the alter ego, but so few times are they a success at both. He is pitted against the awesome Scarecrow, and Cillian Murphy was freaking perfect here, he plays the role so well. You cannot forget about Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul because he was truly a formidable enemy to have. Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox is a character that I thoroughly enjoy. The confused love story between Bruce and Rachel is very sad, too. Never overplayed, never not there. I think that the humour that is put forth in this movie is exactly what it has to be: not enough to make it a comedy, but not so greatly lacking that there is nothing but insurmountable drama. The humour that is laced throughout this is hilarious and gets me giggling good and proper, which is fun. The plot is put together well, and manages to stand on its own, and is definitely more than your average hollow action flick. If you have not watched it, where have you been?! For those who have watched it, watch it again and again! A Christopher Nolan Batman marathon is worth it each and every time. The length of the movie was just right, with plenty time to tell us Bruce’s story as well as take us through the motions of becoming the Batman. It did not feel long or dragged out anywhere, so well done! There is so much great stuff going on for this movie, from the awesome score from Hans Zimmer, to the great performances from the cast, a fantastic story and plenty action that looked fantastic… you can’t help but love this movie!

Rapid Review: Coherence (2013)

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coherence poster

SYNOPSIS: On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events. – via IMDB

coherence cast 2

GRADE 8Eric watched this recently and he was damn taken with it, dragging Ryan and myself into his gushing. Ultimately, he wrote a stellar review for it. Ryan (review) and I then got to it, and the answer seems unanimous: Coherence was a damn fine piece of film that you need to get to immediately if you have not watched it. I don’t want to say too much about it because it is a pretty intense and relatively complicated film without ever getting too complicated, and I can’t speak about it too much without spoiling. This is one of those films you want to go into without knowing too much and see what unfolds from there. It does start slowly, but really, it is totally worth sitting through that, because when it starts catching it just snowballs, getting intense and more and more brilliant every minute that passes. I must say that I enjoyed the acting, it was never actually wooden or anything, it worked pretty well. There were some cool characters, but ultimately this movie is not about the characters and their development, but the predicament that they are in. Every time you think you have a handle on the movie, I promise you it is going to whip around and shock you, proving you know far less than you are getting comfortable with. I like the way the movie was presented as well as how it gets you thinking, even when it is over. It was shot well, too, even though you can see that it is a small budget film. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Nicholas Brendon in here, I am used to only seeing him from time to time as Garcia’s sweet techie other half in Criminal Minds. I loved the concept of the glowsticks in here, as well as the boxes. I know this looks arb and it is very vague and all that, but if/when you watch this, it will all make sense. Emily Baldoni was fantastic as Em. Coherence gets you thinking, and gets you dragged in, testing the bounds of your understanding of what you thought you knew. The dialogue flowed well, and the score worked perfectly in this movie. This is one of the best sci-fi films I have seen in years, and I think it is something that just about everyone can enjoy.