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?

Review: The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong. – via Goodreads

I was intrigued by the sound of this when I read the write up, and thought it might be worth looking into. I quite enjoy a fantasy fairytale type story that deals with the fantastical in a particular manner, especially when it reels you in. From the off the vibe I got from this book made me think of one of my closest friends.

The Hazel Wood is, in a word, magical. Right in the beginning, when it starts, you wonder what it is that you are reading and where, exactly, it is going to go, and before you know it, an adventure barrels in and sweeps you off your feet, dragging you, whether you are ready or not, off into the Hinterland.

Melissa Albert builds a really good world, too. Alice is our protagonist, and her story unfolds slowly but surely, giving you bits and bobs and plenty more mystery than you know what to do with. Her search for her lost mother is conducted with the assistance of Ellery Finch, a character I quite enjoyed, as he brought a lot to the table in terms of diversifying the story. He knew things, so many things, and he was quite involved with helping Alice in her quest, and I quite liked the dynamic between Alice and Finch.

Albert seamlessly blurs the lines between Hinterland and the real world, and it is balanced so well, too. You know what is and what isn’t, and yet the story cleverly weaves between the worlds, the Stories, the characters. Sometimes not too many answers are provided, which I think added to the vibe of the book, though it is something that might irritate other readers.

The Hazel Wood is a dark, magical, crazy, weird story that is bound to sweep you up if you are into fantasy edged with grim fairy tales. The writing flows and the story engages, making this book well worth the read. I can see it is something I will revisit.

The Vampire Diaries: Season 6 (2014 – 2015)

3

vampire diaries season 6

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

What I liked:

  • Having Alaric back, whoop! Although, it did suck while he was out and Damon was gone, I just wanted to see them drinking together again. Luckily, I got that eventually.
  • The friendship that developed between Damon and Bonnie. It is too damn sweet and I loved every minute of it! I actually squealed when Bonnie and Damon were reunited – they were like super happy children, so I was like a happy child!

vampire diaries season 6 bonnie and damon hugs

  • Damon and Elena still kicking it together – I am a massive fan of these two together.
  • The prison world – I found this to be fascinating and super interesting.
  • Elena was far less annoying this season. She was just a bit much the last two seasons.
  • Alaric and Jo were so freaking adorable together!
  • The mockery Stefan went through concerning Caroline, it was really funny that to see how blind he had been about the whole situation, and how nobody was going to let him rest easy about it.
  • The friendship between Damon and Liz that was highlighted, once again, while she was dying. It was so sad to see, but they actually got along like a house on fire, and Damon really has such a sweet, soft side.
  • The show finally really acknowledging that Stefan has moved on, and that he and Elena are over, it really let the Damon and Elena thing explode, and that was great.
  • Kai. This guy was annoying but really entertaining at the same time. I enjoyed him, when he was being a dweeb, when he was trying to make good, always.
  • Gosh, this season was so emotional – and I am not saying that in the bad way! It just keeps hitting you in the feels, it never lets up.
  • The last few episodes – like how nerve wracking could that possibly be?!

Two moments to explore the total illegality of Damon’s lip biting… like oh my gosh hot *fans self*. Not to mention the perfect rain kiss.

vampire diaries season 6 damon and elena rain kiss

What I didn’t like: 

  • Caroline switching off her humanity – highly functional, but vampires turning off their humanity always just irritates the crap out of me.
  • Matt Donovan is seriously starting to get annoying as hell. More so than usual.
  • The whole pointless storyline with Trip. Really, filler much?
  • Enzo turning that new girl Stefan was seeing. Luckily this story line didn’t last long.
  • How all these stories and events just happen to be super connected. Examples? Alaric’s ex-wife is actually Elena’s birth mother and she so happened to be turned by Damon (granted, this was back in the day, but it is stuff like this). Now it just so happens that Enzo was turned by Lily, and he happened to meet Damon later, and she just so happens to be tied to the Gemini witch coven, and Kai just so happens to be Bonnie’s mortal enemy, and Luke and Liv happened to be the witches the Salvatore’s work with, who happen to be Gemini witches. Do you see where I am going with this?
  • Mama Salvatore coming back. It is just getting too much man.
  • The immense amounts of storylines they are cramming into this show now is getting a bit much. At least they don’t go on forever, but there is constantly a new drama to deal with, meaning a ton throughout the season, and no real central focus anymore, like their used to be.

vampire diaries season 6 bonnie feathers

  • Elena having her passionate love for Damon compelled away, so when he made it back to her, his heart was broken. But then they just so happened to start kicking it shortly after that and all was well again?
  • That stupid, godforsaken cure coming in again. UGH.
  • The Mystic Falls “magic boundary” that was in place for way too long. When it disappeared? What happened to those Travelers man? Come on.
  • The Jeremy leaving to be a hunter and Bonnie returning thing – nothing was addressed or resolved here, and that pissed me off no end.

vampire diaries season 6 damon and jeremy

Rating:
GRADE 8Obviously I was quite attached to this season for a ton of reasons. Alrighty, so when this season started, I was stoked to see Damon and Bonnie just fine, even though they were in a weird place. The constant bickering between them is just how they roll, but to see the beautiful friendship that comes from that is also awesome, and it just works on so many levels.

I am really pleased that this season really got into the meat of the Damon and Elena relationship. I have complained for a few seasons now that the show is really good with having Elena and Damon together, but it always feels temporary, like a placeholder for Stefan. Well, folks, season six dispels that belief completely. Why? Even when Elena could have been with Stefan, she wasn’t, and he was totally not interested; when Damon came back and Elena didn’t remember him, they still ended up together; through thick and thin, things are happening for them. It also helps immensely that Stefan has moved on to other pastures, and I think he and Caroline are great together, BUT THEY ARE NOT KLAUS AND CAROLINE (read here, it’s a really personal thing for fans). I mean, Stefan deserves his happiness, but I swear, if Klaus reappears, I will be Team Klaus all the way for Caroline.

The feels. Oh my gosh. I just can’t. 

vampire diaries season 6 last dance

I was quite irritated with the humanity switch being flipped with Caroline after her mom. Look, I understood it, but it was long and tedious (for me) to watch, so it annoyed me. I was also not a fan (at all) of Lily Salvatore and her story. Come on, people, really. These stories are way too interlinked to be taken seriously.

Alaric Saltzman returning was something that was immensely welcome. I missed him, and I missed him and Damon together. They are like besties forever man. That being said, they both suffered immense and crazy heartbreak. Like sure, Damon got the girl this time, but Alaric? He got and lost the girl. Their wedding? Screw that shit, Game of Thrones level betrayal and hurt there. Stefan endured so much torture this season for being blind about Caroline, and he deserved it. He can’t really be that thick, can he?!

vampire diaries season 6 damon teddy bear

I was a particular fan of watching Damon and Bonnie stuck in the 1994 prison world. I know it sounds so silly, but just watching the way they clicked and found this seep and enduring friendship was worth every second of it. Then there was the whole Jeremy being broken about Bonnie thing, and it was sad, but it also got old, and fast. Probably because he was overly whiny, and dealt in the worst way. Alaric and Jo? Loved that. Alaric deserves his happiness, but apparently not according to this darn show. My heart was shattered by the end.

This season also had the better villain than we have seen in a while – Kai was such a mixed bag, but I enjoyed that SOB. Seriously, he was entertaining as hell, and I was so interested in just seeing what he was going to do, etc. It was crazy, and better than we have seen since the Originals left town, albeit still a flawed villain. Certainly stronger than Lily, of course, and he is diverse. Plus interactions between him and Bonnie? Priceless.

Anyway, the interactions between the characters was really good this season, and I was hooked every step of the way. I reckon this is my favourite season since season two, there was just so much going on that I liked, and even though I had niggles, I had a blast. I suppose that is what this show is. It’s stupidly addictive, and has like, no right to be so good. The season finale for this was hectic – well, the last few episodes, to be sure. They were a crazy, painful joyride that had you hooked, whether you liked it or not. Obviously there is much to be said about this season, but I will stop now. Just know it is well worth looking into, of course, especially if you are up for a fun guilty pleasure.

vampire diaries season 6 salvatore brothers

Review: Coraline – Neil Gaiman

8

coraline book cover

SYNOPSIS: Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7.5I watched this movie many years ago when it came out (though it must be said I watched it in passing, and didn’t catch all of it), and I quite liked it. Coraline is quite a sweet yet bizarre journey, one that zips by quickly, and keeps you entertained throughout. I know the story is about Coraline wanting to find her parents in this strange alternate reality, but I have to say, I didn’t really care for her real parents – I found them to be rather neglectful. Anyway, that is just my opinion. I quite liked the character of the cat, and I really like Gaiman’s style. Also, our main little girl Coraline is quite cool – she is sweet, caring, brave, quirky, and so curious. I really like that about her! Coraline is a super quick read, but I loved the dark tone it took, and the way it wove the story. It flowed well, and even in such a short space, Gaiman managed to create characters that you liked and that were just meh, and others that were rather sinister, too. The concept was strange and different, but I liked it. Coraline is such a short book that I cannot really say too much about it, other than the fact that I liked it, and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a filler read, or even just to say that you have read a Gaiman novel, or that you have read the story of a young girl and an alternate universe.

Rapid Review: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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pan's labyrinth poster

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”
– Carmen

SYNOPSIS: In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again. – via IMDB

pan's labyrinth

GRADE 9I have been meaning to watch this film in its entirety for years. Really. But, typical of life, something keeps coming up. I have seen sections of it throughout the years though, but never the whole thing, so I was so happy to see it picked for Film Club a while back. Starting off, I liked the way the movie looked. Dark and gloomy but pretty, very intricate. The way the fairy tale is told right at the beginning draws you in, and I think it is so successful because it is pretty dark, not this light and fluffy ordeal. No happily ever after right there.

Meeting Ofelia, you just know you are about to be pulled into something magical, something different. I think that Ivana Baquero was absolutely brilliant in her role, and she had my support every step of the way. This was a girl I was going to root for. I think that the casting for the movie was very well done, everyone carried their own and I enjoyed watching them. Maribel Verdú, Sergi López and Álex Angulo particularly stood out as the sweet and brave Mercedes, the cruel and callous Captain Vidal and the compassionate and kind-hearted Doctor Ferriero. The complex relation between them was fascinating to watch.

I was a big fan of the way the fantasy and reality were crafted in Pan’s Labyrinth. It definitely was something to experience. It was stooped in extremely harsh reality, what with the Captain Vidal, Ofelia’s ill mother and a war to boot. However, on the other side was the oddly fantastical but no less dangerous world of the faun and his enigmatic labyrinth and all the tasks she is given to complete to prove herself the Princess Moanna, daughter of the King of the Underworld. The story is wholly engrossing, and I did not find my attention wandering once, and the pacing is exactly what it needed to be. The film utilised every second it had to weave the tale we got.

I fully maintain that Guillermo del Toro is phenomenal when he does foreign Spanish films. Both this and The Devil’s Backbone were infinitely more engrossing than his English films, and have significantly better stories and portrayals. I certainly have a preference when it comes to his work. If it is foreign, I am there. They just seem so much more genuine and heartfelt. I can definitely say that Pan’s Labyrinth is well worth the watch, shot beautifully, and tells a exquisite, dark fantasy tale.

The Magic of a Book

5

For me, there is nothing more enchanting than a book. The great escape, the new identity, the time travel, the unexpected voyage… it all eagerly awaits you. You just need to summon the courage to turn the folio, and a whole new world is at the mercy of your fingertips.

I honestly cannot understand how there are so many people that do not read. It is one of the greatest joys to pick up a book and be taken away to another world! That, for me, is one of the greatest lures to a novel. Not that I want to be escaping my own world or anything like that, but to be a part of another person’s universe is simply too irresistible to pass up.

There is beauty in not knowing where exactly your adventure will take you, and how events will progress, or what the perimeters will be, but to discover it in the process is amazing. You disappear into another time, another place, another life altogether.

I am sure we have all been told we are escaping reality by reading? So what if we are? Is there a crime to want to be a part of something totally different and unique? I don’t think that there is. I have also heard the most absurd insinuation that one does not learn from a book. I beg to differ with this point on so many fronts. Books are wonderful centres for learning! By this, I do not just mean educational texts, but novels as well. We pick up on a great deal from novels. For instance, you discover a variety of  personality types, means of dealing with certain situations, how some people work and operate, and numerous other examples could be listed here. Reading excercises your memory  how your brain organizes your thoughts and how information is recalled. It vastly expands your vocabulary, and that can never hurt.

Books offer freedom, alternate realities, and unmistakably broaden the horizon of the imagination. How are there people that can’t have a book take them away?! I love reading! Pages breathe life into fictional characters and revitalize sections of history and the present. The art should be respected, as such.

I think one of the most difficult things to do is finish a series of books and try to go straight into a new one, or just a straightforward stand alone. It is not just that simple. Also, when you have finished a great book, if it does not have a sequel, it is no effortless feat to just pick up another book and move on. Each and every story that you read becomes a part of you!

How do you feel about reading, and the books in your life?