Mini Review: Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

25318441Two Naomis

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

5/5 stars

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

A realistic contemporary story of two girls, both named Naomi, whose divorced parents begin to date—perfect for fans of Lisa Graff, Sara Pennypacker, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Other than their first names, Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith are sure they have nothing in common, and they wouldn’t mind keeping it that way.

Naomi Marie starts clubs at the library and adores being a big sister. Naomi Edith loves quiet Saturdays and hanging with her best friend in her backyard. And while Naomi Marie’s father lives a few blocks away, Naomi Edith wonders how she’s supposed to get through each day a whole country apart from her mother.

When Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi Edith’s dad get serious about dating, each girl tries to cling to the life she knows and loves. Then their parents push them into attending a class together, where they might just have to find a way to work with each other—and maybe even join forces to find new ways to define family.

Review:

Today I’m posting a mini review of Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick. This isn’t as detailed as my usual reviews, but I really wanted to share the book here.

TWO NAOMIS is absolutely incredible, I was thrilled from start to finish! Reading the synopsis, I knew it’d be super cute but it was also so emotional. From happy to sad to angry to I-don’t-know-what-I’m-feeling-but-I’m-super-emotional. The character development of Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith were off the charts. The authors’ were very good at making sure the reader understood not only both Naomis but their parents, family, and friends. It was like being in their heads’.

I loved both Naomis but I would say I connected with Naomi Marie a little bit more. She loved going to the library and making lists, just like me. She is also a bossy big sister, like me (haha). This is not to say I didn’t love Naomi Edith, because I did, but I definitely saw more of myself in Naomi Marie. Both characters were incredibly unique and brought something different to the story.

This is such an important novel for MG readers with divorced parents, to understand that change is okay. I definitely wish I had this book growing up. Two Naomis is also valuable for MG readers with non-divorced parents, to see from someone else’s perspective. If there was an emoji that was the combination of the heart-eyes emoji and the crying emoji, that would be my reading experience. I love, love, loved this!!

😍 + 😭 = this book ❤

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Mini Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109American Street

Ibi Zoboi

5/5 stars

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Review:

Today I’m posting a mini review of American Street by Ibi Zoboi. This isn’t as detailed as my usual reviews, but I still wanted to share the book here.

This was so good and I’m having trouble putting that into words. Zoboi is a gifted storyteller. The characters of AMERICAN STREET captivate you from the very first page. I would say the character development is the strongest aspect of this book and the story is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. I also loved how Fabiola would compare her experiences as a Haitian immigrant in America with Vodou culture. I’m paraphrasing here but Fabiola described her situation as, “American by birth, Haiti by blood”. I didn’t expect the magical realism and it was a really beautiful surprise. A superb debut YA novel! I’m avidly awaiting Zoboi’s next work.

My review has a second paragraph but I didn’t include it here because it’s a huge spoiler. You can find it on Goodreads, where the spoiler part is hidden. Thanks for reading!

Mini Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

I read Empress of a Thousand Skies back in May and while I wrote a short review on Goodreads, I never reviewed it here. I’ve decided to do a short mini review of it because it’s such a fantastic book that I really wanted to share. I’ll be posting mini reviews of other books too, every once in a while. They won’t be as detailed as my usual ones, more of a “this book is awesome you should read it!”. So please check out my mini review below! The second paragraph has minor spoilers if you’d like to avoid them, but it’s not a huge one – it won’t ruin the book.


30269126Empress of a Thousand Skies

Rhoda Belleza

5/5 stars

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Razorbill

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA’AN WANTS VENGEANCE.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Review:

EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES by Rhoda Belleza is one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. Strong writing, compelling characters and action-packed scenes are combined to create an all-around fantastic debut. Not only does the author introduce themes of racism and prejudice but unpacks them through her characters, their actions and the world-building. Whether or not you’re a fan of space opera, this is one book not to be missed. Belleza is sure to bring you to the dark side.

SPOILERS START

I think I misinterpreted the synopsis. I pretty much expected Rhee and Aly to meet at some point and was a little disappointed when this didn’t happen. I would be waiting for something to happen because of the way the synopsis was written. I still enjoyed the novel and liked how the author showed the ways two people’s lives can intersect without actually meeting. This is a dual POV and because the two characters don’t actually meet it’s almost like getting two books in one (a good thing for me). The reader gets to see Rhee and Aly unravel the plot in different ways. I actually think this fits more with some adult SFF books – you could have several main characters but they don’t always meet or they don’t meet right away.

SPOILERS END

The POV changed every other chapter and the transitions were pretty smooth. The end of each chapter had that perfect sort of cliffhanger – you want to continue with Rhee’s POV but are still excited to start Aly’s. All in all, I would 100% recommend this amazing sci-fi debut!

Book Review: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

29282402Beyond the Red

Ava Jae

5/5 stars

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

Review:

BEYOND THE RED by Ava Jae is a thrilling ride from start to finish. With highly advanced aliens, a deadly planet and compelling characters, I was left wanting more. Whether or not you’re a fan of sci-fi, Jae’s writing has the power to engage every type of reader. The world, the characters and the non-stop action are incredible!

This book doesn’t feel like a debut. There are some really great debuts out there but there’s always something about them, something that lets you know it’s a debut. It feels like Jae has spent 10 years polishing her craft and knows her writing inside and out. I’m a huge sci-fi reader so I knew I’d like this, but BEYOND THE RED will also interest readers who don’t usually read or even like sci/fi. The writing reminds me of THE HUNGER GAMES – it just has that ability to captivate the reader. Every reader will find themselves relating to this book in one way or another.

I absolutely loved Eros and Kora. This book is a dual POV and I usually find myself favouring one POV over the other, but that wasn’t the case here. I loved both characters equally as well as their perspectives. I loved these characters, they sometimes annoyed me with their actions, and I was rooting for them to win every step of the way. I’d also like to add, I usually read books with female protagonists over male, their POV just interests me more. However, with Eros I was completely engaged and I was never dying to read Kora’s POV over his.

Oh my goodness, the world-building is incredible. I’m still trying to figure out how Jae does it. We get to see all the different aspects of the Sepharon – from social to political to economic. Their advanced technology was really out of this world. It was also great seeing how an advanced [alien] civilization puts their advanced technology to – mostly – good use (ex. growing crops, eradicating disease, advanced medicine). Jae also delves into things like discrimination and prejudice. This alien world is really fantastic in the way it informs the reader but doesn’t overwhelm.

The action and suspense may have been the best part. I’d get to the last 100 pages and go, “oh no, oh no, oooohhhh nnnnooo!!!!”. I usually read really slow but I was speeding through those pages, trying to get to the end and just hoping my favourite characters would be alright. Jae does not hesitate to destroy the reader’s heart! I have to say, during those last 100 pages I wasn’t sure if there was enough space to wrap things up – it was so suspenseful!

BEYOND THE RED is one of my favourite books of 2017 and I’m seriously dying to read the sequel! Please add this book to your TBR immediately. You could absolutely hate sci-fi and this book would change your mind. If you love sci-fi, BTR will become one of your favourite series. I’m not sure how I’ll survive until Fall 2017 (when the sequel comes out). Also, I’d buy this book for the hardback alone. That cover is gorgeous, but there’s also a map and a glossary/pronunciation guide?!

I read an advance reading copy of this book. This has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

Book Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

29939390Windwitch (sequel to Truthwitch)

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

Review:

WINDWITCH by Susan Dennard was incredible from start to finish. Filled with action, heartache and some of the greatest moments of character development I’ve ever read, this book is sure to become a favourite of 2017. The world-building is so rich, it practically leaps off the page. Enemies become allies and allies become enemies in this stunning sequel to TRUTHWITCH.

I want to take a moment to talk about the writing. It was so beautiful that I’d take the time to analyze every paragraph, every sentence, and every word. I feel like, in a way, Dennard’s writing can be compared to the gorgeous, imagery-like writing of Laini Taylor. I’ve never really considered this before, but the world-building and character development is so complex, so rich, it’s reached that level. This is the best Dennard book to date.

Like in TRUTHWITCH, this novel is told in 3rd person, multiple POV’s. We have characters already familiar to us: Merik, Safi, Iseult, and Aeduan. However, Dennard adds a 5th voice: Vivia Nihar, Merik’s older sister. Having this many voices in one book can go really wrong, but Dennard is flawless. In fact, WINDWITCH is one of the best examples of a book told in multiple POV’s. The transitions were so smooth, that when character A’s POV ended, even though I wanted to know more about character A, I was satisfied enough to continue on with character B. There have been times when I’m reading a book with only two different POV’s and the voices weren’t different enough. I understood that these two characters had different personalities, traits and ambitions, but the voices sounded too similar; as if I were reading a book with 1.5 POV’s rather than 2. I’m really astounded at how flawlessly Dennard pulls this off.

Moreover, Dennard usually followed a specific pattern that helped make these transitions smooth. The first couple chapters had only 1 POV per chapter but eventually a POV would change mid-chapter. These POV “pairings”, as I’m calling it, were usually Merik and Vivia, Iseult and Aeduan, or Merik and Safi. Merik and Vivia, and Iseult and Aeduan were usually in the same location or general vicinity, so it made sense to have pairings like these. Like I said, this is one of the best books with multiple POV’s and if you’re writing a book like this or planning to, I’d recommend you study Dennard’s style. I think it’d be really helpful for writers to see why this style worked for Dennard and whether or not it could work for you.

The character development is so amazing, along with the sort of relationships we see between different characters. This book is Merik’s arc and the focus is mostly on him. He has so much rage and grief and regrets, that it’s funnelled into a new identity: the Fury. There’s also a focus on Vivia, and Merik & Vivia’s relationship as siblings/rivals. This relationship was the most prominent and I loved every moment of it!

Iseult/Aeduan fans will be very happy with this book. These two create a temporary alliance and start traveling together in the Contested Lands. Their chapters ended up being my favourite, mainly because Aeduan is my all-time favourite character! There was the makings of a slow burn romance and I mean slowww, but this book starts them off as could-be-friends and allies, which is something I’m really happy about.

Some readers might be a bit disappointed because, in a way, that strong friendship between Safi and Iseult, the one that drew readers to TRUTHWITCH isn’t as prominent. Safi and Iseult are definitely fighting to reach each other in WINDWITCH but it ends up more about how these two fight for survival without the other. These two characters are so strong together, but how do they fare without the other to lean on? Some very tough and heartbreaking decisions are made in this book. The reader ends up seeing a different side of the relationship we first encountered in TRUTHWITCH and I really liked that. WINDWITCH takes the characters we loved from the first book and has them forging new, exciting and sometimes difficult paths.

I was slightly confused at the beginning because a character death (that happened in TRUTHWITCH) is mentioned and I honestly couldn’t remember it happening. This was more on me than the book. I did read book #1 about 1.5 years ago.

The last couple of chapters, the POV’s would change three or four times in one chapter and my heart was actually racing. All I could think about was getting to the end, it was so good! I’m very excited for book #3 BLOODWITCH – which happens to be Aeduan’s arc 🙂 – and now plan to re-read TRUTHWITCH. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Also, because of something that happened near the end of the book I feel like I know what book #4 will be called. Okay, I’m not totally sure on the exact title but I kind of felt a foreshadowing of events to come in book #4. Dennard mentioned in a chat I think, one of the Witchlands novels was supposed to be called THREADWITCH (Iseult’s arc) but B&N wouldn’t accept that title so she had to change her plans. This ended up worrying me because I started thinking “Oh no! Everyone gets a book named after them except Iseult?!”. However, I am not worried anymore 🙂

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439Truthwitch

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Review:

I love reading an author’s second series because of books like TRUTHWITCH. Dennard’s writing is gorgeous, and her characters fresh and original. The world of TRUTHWITCH is huge and it’s because of Dennard’s experience as a writer that the reader is never overwhelmed by it all. This is the book that will be talked about for years to come, a book that deserves every bit of hype.

TRUTHWITCH is the tale of two threadsisters and Dennard is able to perfectly balance their stories, so that it never feels like one is more significant than the other. This is a multi-POV book; told in the POV’s of Safi (our Truthwitch), Iseult (Threadwitch), Merrik (Windwitch), and Aeduan (Bloodwitch). In a lot of cases, this is a big undertaking because there needs to be enough space given to each character. Dennard is absolutely perfect when it comes to this. The switch between POV’s is smooth and I felt like I got enough time with each and every character.

I loved all four of our main characters. Safi was funny and ambitious, someone who acts before she thinks. Iseult was my favourite, mainly because I felt our personalities were very similar. She was introverted and calm, and I felt like she was very selfless, in the sense that she’d give up everything if it meant her friends and family were happy. Merrik is someone who would do anything for his country and is desperately fighting for its survival. He also has a lot of rage, which fits so well with his witchery. Then there’s Aeduan, the infamous Bloodwitch. Like Iseult, he was another favourite and I can’t wait to find out more about him. He’s very mysterious and a bit of an anti-hero, but that kind of makes me love him more haha. The characters go through some serious character development and I especially loved the actions of Safi at the end – it showed her growth.

I usually mention this in my reviews, but world building is my absolute favourite and Dennard did not disappoint. If you’ve seen a map of this world, you might have noticed that it looks like an alternate version of Europe. I loved that! Dennard is so strong when it comes to giving the reader a good visual of her world. There are so many different cultures, but again we are never overwhelmed. We’d glimpse the world through the characters actions, through music and poetry, myths and legends. It was also great seeing both the good and bad of the world. For example, we experienced the discrimination of the Nomatsi through Iseult, which is her ethnicity.

I actually think if you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender, you’ll like this. The world is based upon elemental magic and the scale of the world (very big!) is about the same. I also sensed a bit of Zuko in Aeduan, which was great.

Dennard is truly a Wordwitch when it comes to writing. With magic and suspense at every corner, TRUTHWITCH is a must-read. The writing is visually stunning and the world equally so. Dennard has created a beautiful start to a fantastic, new series.

Disclaimer 1: I won an advanced readers copy from the author, this has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

Disclaimer 2: I wrote this review about a year after reading it, but I based it on notes written immediately after finishing it, so everything in my review is accurate.

 

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

24934065Rebel of the Sands

Alwyn Hamilton 

5/5 stars

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Review:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is a gorgeous, gorgeous book! I’m in awe of how beautiful the writing is. Not only does Hamilton create a world I’d love to live in, but she also creates a protagonist who I’d love to be friends with, who I might aspire to be like & who I wouldn’t mind being enemies with because I know that battle would be phenomenal. I strongly recommend everyone read this, it’s not a book I’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

The world building was my absolute favourite. I loved the legends and stories Hamilton would weave into her world. They were so enchanting; I really need some kind of legends/mythology book that lists them all. Hamilton combines two very different cultures and I wasn’t sure how that’d work, but it actually goes really well. Although the first couple chapters only seemed to have a Wild West feel, once I got into the novel, the combination was quite flawless. There are high-speed train heists and djinni and ghouls!

Amani has to be one of my favourite protagonists of all time. I liked her, but I also liked that she’s not completely likeable (if that makes sense haha). Reading this, I got a “The Mummy” feel from it. Jin was also a fantastic and very swoon-worthy character. The chemistry between the two was like this slow-burning romance – exactly like the desert. I loved that the romance wasn’t immediate – the two are strangers in the desert, and both have their secrets.

One of the only things that I was confused about was the geography of the world. I was a little unsure of which countries were against which and which countries had a part to play in the war. I think a map would have helped as I’m more of a visual person, but I know no map isn’t the fault of the author.

Another thing I loved was the reveals! Jin being a bit of a stranger, I was so focused on trying to figure out who he was that when Hamilton revealed some things about other characters I was totally and completely surprised. I did end up being half-right when it came to figuring out who Jin really was. One of these reveals was really interesting and opens up a thousand possibilities! I’m excited about that.

Rebel of the Sands is one of my favourite debuts of 2016 and I expect a lot of good things from Alwyn Hamilton in the future. I’m still not over the gorgeousness of this book! Be sure to check this one out as well as it’s sequel Traitor to the Throne, coming in 2017.

Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

I’m really late getting this post out, but I’m sure it will still be helpful for anyone considering buying or renting this movie when it’s available. If there are any places where it’s still playing in theatres, I hope it helps those moviegoers. Today I’m going to answer the important question: is The Jungle Book as amazing as it looks and more importantly, is it worth your money? Watch the trailer and read my review below:
junglebooktriptychlarge

Yes, yes it is and it’s worth the cost of a 3D ticket. This is probably one of the only movies that are actually worth paying 3D for. For this review, I’ll be comparing it to the 1967 animated classic. I didn’t have time to read the book, but if I do I’ll write a follow up post. The CGI was fantastic and I really liked how they decided to tell the story. Every character brought a different emotion to the big screen and I loved, along with other adults in the theatre, hearing the soundtrack and score of a beloved classic. It really brings you back to your childhood. For those unfamiliar with the 1967 adaptation and even the book by Rudyard Kipling, this movie stands on its own.

There are some big differences between the two Disney versions. The biggest one is Mowgli’s place in the movie. The 1967 film is largely focused on Mowgli’s story while this one is just like the title: it’s about the jungle and Mowgli and all the creatures that live in it. We get to see more of the wolf pack as well as Shere Khan. I’ve always felt like how we saw him in the 1967 movie was brief and a bit cowardly – the viewer doesn’t truly see why the jungle is afraid of Shere Khan. Here, Shere Khan is fear and cruelty; Idris Elba is phenomenal when it comes to bringing such a character to life.

The cinematography deserves 5 stars. I felt like I was there and nothing has ever done that as well as Planet Earth (the BBC documentary). Actually, I’m curious if they used some footage from PE. I also liked that they used live-action to show natural events that might happen, things that have nothing to do with Man. You’ll watch animal stampedes, the dry season, the wet season, rock slides & flooding. The CGI is fantastic – the animals look real and the 3D aspect adds another layer. I can only imagine how much time and dedication goes into that. What’s interesting, with some animals you could tell they were CGI because of their expressions, like Bagheera and Baloo. There’s this humanity, which is amazing to watch. Others, like Shere Khan, well lets just say it’d be hard to tell him apart from the real deal.

There are some big differences between this version and the 1967 version. There are only two musical sequences and they’re pretty short. While they use the same music and score, it’s largely in the background, which I think fits better with a live-action adaptation. It’s harder to imagine real-life animals breaking into song. I did like that they could bring these songs back in different scenes as well as scenes that weren’t in the 1967 version. There was one musical sequence I didn’t like and it’s one of the only things I dislike about the movie. I’m not a 100% percent fan of the actor they chose for Mowgeli and I didn’t feel like he lived up to the musical aspect, but maybe that’s just me. Overall, it was still entertaining and I think every kid in the audience was enthralled.

Bagheera is a fantastic character, and the actor sets a precedent. Even when you only hear his voice, you know who he is. He’s taken up the job of being Mowgeli’s foster father, teaching him everything a man cub needs to know to survive in the jungle. This is something Mowgli struggles with, doing things like a wolf when you don’t have sharp teeth and claws. He comes up with clever alternatives, called tricks, which gets him into trouble with Bagheera.

I loved Baloo! He brings the humour, just lazing around with not a care in the world. The actor was fantastic with this character.

One of the only things I had an issue with would be King Louie’s character and how he was brought to life. This character perhaps represents greed and lust, always looking for power and trying to climb up the food chain. He considers humans to be at the top and so is always looking for human things. He’s a giant orangutang living in ancient human ruins with his eye on fire, a human invention. I didn’t have a problem with that. However, King Louie takes on the role of an Italian mob boss and while it fits with the character and everyone laughed, I don’t know how I feel about westernizing a character from an Eastern work. I don’t feel like this character needs to be westernized to connect with the audience.

All in all, I was thoroughly entertained and impressed with The Jungle Book. The animals were so well done, and it makes it easier to think about them doing movies and characters that are largely animal-based or characters that would require CGI (Mulan!). I really, really hope they decide to take on The Lion King and Mulan next! There was actually a scene that reminded me of The Lion King. It’s my favourite movie on the planet, so my life won’t be complete without a live-action Lion King. I give this movie 5 stars.

February Wrap-Up Post

IMG_9587Unfortunately I only got to read three books in February, but hopefully I’ll get to read more in March and get up-to-date with my Goodreads challenge. Here are the books I read.

Category Two: Books added to my TBR pile in 2015 – it’s so easy clicking that “Want to Read” button on Goodreads.

  • All The Rage by Courtney Summers
  • The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami
  • Vampire Knight Vol. 3 by Matsuri Hino

All The Rage is one of the best books I’ve read this year! I’m a huge fan of Summers and this book just blew me away. I recommend you read this because it’s really important and will leave a deep impact. I’ll be posting a detailed review later this month along with an interview I got to do with the author, so I’m very excited about that. 🙂

The Hero’s Walk was also another favourite and the second book I read on the Canada Reads Longlist. I felt the author created a beautiful story with characters that are real and flawed – I could imagine some of their personalities in myself and people I know. I was really satisfied with the ending, so anther great book to check out. Detailed review to come.

So how did everyone do last month reading-wise?

Review + Interview: The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston

21857092The Art of Getting Stared At

Laura Langston

5/5 Stars

Release Date: September 9, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Canada

Purchase: Amazon | Book DepositoryChapters/Indigo.ca | B&NKobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

After a school video she produced goes viral, sixteen-year-old Sloane Kendrick is given a chance at a film school scholarship. She has less than two weeks to produce a second video, and she’s determined to do it. Unfortunately, she must work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.

On the heels of this opportunity comes a horrifying discovery: a bald spot on her head. No bigger than a quarter, the patch shouldn’t be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The auto-immune disease has no cause, no cure, and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or Sloane might become completely bald. No one knows.

Determined to produce her video, hide her condition, and resist Isaac’s easy charm, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with her looks. And just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, Sloane is forced to make the most difficult decision of her life.

interviewlogo

I had the chance to interview Laura Langston about her book THE ART OF GETTING STARED AT, writing, and more! This novel is 1 of 10 nominated for the 2016 White Pine Award and I encourage you to check out the list here, there’s always a great selection. Thank you, Laura for joining me on the blog. Check it out below as well as my review of her fantastic book.

  1. In The Art of Getting Stared At, Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. How did you come across this disease and what influenced you to include it in your novel?

LL: There’s quite a story to that. A number of years ago my daughter had a friend who didn’t spend much time on makeup or clothes. She cared about her appearance, but not to a large extent. I noticed this because before a school dance our house was the gathering place. We’d supply the pizza, and my daughter and her friends would spend hours doing their hair and makeup and figuring out what to wear. This particular girl would spend maybe twenty minutes getting ready. I was intrigued by that and by the dynamic I witnessed between her and the other girls. They were all good friends, but they thought she was weird and she thought they were shallow. Around the same time, I met a woman who had lost her hair to alopecia. She said she’d never truly appreciated her hair until it was gone. I began to wonder how it would be for my daughter’s friend if her appearance was significantly altered. What if she began to obsess about her looks? How would she feel if she’d always prided herself on ‘being a little bit better than the girls who spent so much time on their makeup?’ From there, the novel took shape.

  1. This is your first novel nominated for a White Pine award, but not the first to be nominated for a Forest of Reading award. Can you describe how you felt after learning the news?

LL: I was absolutely thrilled. It’s a real honor to be nominated, and to be on a list with so many other wonderful books!

  1. You used to be a journalist, how has this influenced your writing today? What’s your writing process like?

LL: In terms of influence, I’m extremely interested in current events (I tend to be something of a news junkie) and I’ll sometimes find story ideas and inspiration from what’s going on in the world. Because journalists work to deadlines and don’t wait for the muse to strike, I’m used to writing even if I don’t feel particularly inspired that day. Writing is my job so I show up at the desk every day and get on with it. My process is regular and rather boring: write every day, revise each manuscript as often as is needed. Repeat and repeat again.

  1. For a long time, Sloane hasn’t cared about the way she looks. In the novel, she starts battling the idea of being pretty versus being smart. Why did you feel it was important to include this type of conflict?

LL: I wanted Sloane to believe that there are more important things in life than the way you look. She comes to care about how she looks but I wanted her to start out somewhat indifferent because that would make her journey more interesting. I went with the idea that she favors intelligence over appearance because of the relationship she has with her mother. Her mother is a doctor who believes that. Sloane admires her mother and wants to emulate her. She doesn’t want to be like her stepmother who is a make-up artist. In the end, Sloane comes to understand there’s a place in the world for beauty as well as intelligence. It doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ thing.

  1. I found Sloane’s love for film authentic and believable. I could also relate that to my love for art and photography. Can you tell us about the ways you and Sloane are similar? Different?

LL: There’s always a trait in each character I develop that I need to be able to relate to otherwise I simply can’t get into their head. I don’t always share that trait but I need to understand it. In Sloane’s case, I can understand her passion for film because I’m passionate about books. I probably don’t put as much emphasis on appearance as some people do so in that sense I’m a little like Sloane but otherwise we are two different people!

  1. Sloane grows a lot as an individual and there’s a significant amount of character development throughout the novel. Was this a conscious decision? Was it important for the reader to understand this growth?

LL: It was very much a conscious decision on my part. When I write a novel, I’m always thinking about the character arc or the journey the character takes in terms of the story. Sometimes the journey is an actual physical trip or moving from place to place but in many books (and in most of mine) the journey is an internal one. Sloane grows and changes as she struggles to come to terms with alopecia. I tried to convey that to the reader in a way that they would understand and hopefully enjoy.

  1. Can you tell us about any recent books you’ve read and would recommend? Are there any books or authors you enjoy and have found through the Forest of Reading program?

LL: More than a decade ago, I discovered Don Aker and his novel ‘The First Stone’ through the Forest of Reading program and I’ve been a huge fan of his writing ever since. He’s a talented guy! There are so many amazing authors and stories in Canada that my reading pile is literally higher than my bed. I’ve been on a paranormal-meets-realism YA kick this year and I really enjoyed Sylvia McNicoll’s ‘Best Friends Through Eternity’ as well as Natasha Deen’s book ‘Guardian.’

  1. Can you share with us any projects you’re working on?

LL: I always have a number of projects on the go. I’m currently working on a short novel for the Orca Soundings line about a girl who discovers a terrible secret about a father she thought was dead. I’m also working on a longer YA novel called One Good Deed about a girl who saves the life of a homeless man and faces unexpected and life-changing consequences because of it.

review

I was immediately drawn into The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston. The plot and character development are superb! I’m a huge fantasy/sci-fi reader, so on the rare occasion I do read contemporary it has to really stand out. I usually love contemporary reads selected for the Forest of Reading awards and I’m glad Langston’s novel lives up to that reputation. There’s a lot of conflict thrown Sloane’s way and her growth as an individual is outstanding.

Character development is huge in this novel and Langston makes sure to include various literary conflict. The protagonist, Sloane Kendrick is a very relatable character because she presents herself as a confident person while deep down inside battling with how people see her. She also battles with the idea of being pretty versus being smart. For years, she’s believed you can only be either or and lives with the decision of ‘smart’. Sloane’s mother believes you should be true with oneself while Sloane’s stepmother, Kim thinks Sloane should value looks. This leads to a lot of issues between the two, and Sloane has felt for the longest time Kim is trying to fix her. Sloane’s image of Kim is someone without substance, she only cares about being pretty and wearing make-up. The more I read, the more Sloane started to realize maybe there’s more to Kim than her pre-conceived image, and more importantly maybe Sloane can be pretty and smart. When I first started reading Kim’s portrayal as a vain individual, I was really hoping for character development like this. In my opinion, you can’t send an image like this to a reader and not further examine it. Langston is a genius at creating situations where the reader learns more about her characters, and where her characters learn more about each other.

Sloane is a huge film nerd and I found that aspect of her personality very believable. I love when Langston introduces these little details, like Sloane observing a scene and thinking it’d make a great film shot. I don’t know much about film or have a lot of interest in it, but I do love art and photography so I’m always thinking about how that scene would make a great photo, or I wish I had a camera because that lighting is perfect, etc. In the novel, Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata, a disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss and I found this combined with her passion for film a very compelling element. While Sloane prefers producing film versus starring in it, she still has to engage with multiple people. All of a sudden Sloane is struggling with being seen and how she’s seen.

Before the novel started, a film Sloane produced for a film class was uploaded onto Youtube and gained 600,000 views in under 24 hours. This catches the eye of Sloane’s top film school and she’s encouraged to apply for a scholarship. She has less than three weeks to create a second film and needs to work with Isaac Alexander, someone she doesn’t have the greatest relationship with. Both get to know each other and realize there’s more to the other person than previously thought. I did expect romance between the two, but it’s like that slow burn romance where both don’t realize they like each other until closer to the end. Isaac is more openly flirtatious and while Sloane gives off false confidence when he says things like “you’re beautiful”, inside she wonders how can anyone like her in that way. This conflict of Sloane versus self is huge here.

As Sloane is coming to terms with her disease, the support system she wants most, her mother is away volunteering in Sudan [doctor]. Trying to hold in her frustration with Kim generates a lot of emotion. Every time this secret, that Sloane is losing her hair, is made known to another person and another, I felt her anxiety and fear. When a book creates such a great emotional response in the reader that makes a contemporary read so impressive to me. I was totally and completely in Sloane’s head and even though I know this isn’t real, I was upset for Sloane and felt her uncertainty of what the future holds.

Langston is truly an exceptional writer and reading this book was like watching a film, the emotions of her characters is so well-done. I recommend this to both the contemporary and non-contemporary reader. The Art of Getting Stared At lives up to the reputation of the Forest of Reading program and most importantly, encourages me to continue participating in these programs [White Pine selection]. Langston ends her book with a lasting impression on the reader.


About the Author:

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Laura Langston is a former journalist with the CBC. She lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest where she writes books for teens and kids.

Laura Langston’s articles have also appeared in dozens of magazines including Canadian Gardening, Canadian Living, Gardenmaking, MacLean’s, Skyword Inflight, Alive and many regional periodicals and newspapers.

Visit her website at http://www.lauralangston.com

Follow her on Twitter @LauraLangston