BOOK REVIEW: All These Things I’ve Done (#1) by Gabrielle Zevin

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Star Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: That ending was just…not acceptable. Book 2, please. 
Published on/by: March 29th 2012 by Pan Macmillan (first published September 6th 2011)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 352 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads:

Sixteen year-old Anya becomes the head of a mafia family after her parents are both murdered by rival gangs. Although Anya is embroiled in the criminal world, she is determined to keep her brother and sister out of the mafia family, but her father’s relatives aren’t so keen to let them go. When Anya’s violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate – chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya’s mafia family – she is arrested for attempted murder and sent to the notorious jail on Manhattan Island.

Eventually she is freed by the new D.A. in town, who believes she has been framed. But this D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn, and her freedom comes with conditions. Win’s father wants to be mayor, and he can’t risk having his ambition jeopardized by rumors spreading that his son is seeing a member of a notorious crime family. Anya knows she risks the safety of her family by seeing Win again, but the feeling between them may be too strong to resist…

REVIEW

Oh god. First book I’ve finished in MONTHS (followed by Midwinterblood), and although it took me a while to get through it (reasons: school, just didn’t feel like reading, etc) I actually really enjoyed it. It was, for lack of better words, unlike anything I’ve ever read. I loved the Mafia daughter theme this book had as well as the voice. Anya was a great character and the setting (a 2083 New York) was kind of peculiar but interesting at the same time too.

Reading the blurb of this book; I was prepared for the worst romance ever. The blurb made me anticipate something SO cheesy and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why this book has been on my shelf for THREE years. Glad to say that the book was most definitely not the blurb as it had more than just high school romance like Mafia family politics (which I honestly expected to have more blood), and was, as a result, definitely not that cheesy.

The main character, Anya, was a great character. She was level-headed and not at all a Mary Sue and I think her voice was the strongest aspect of this book. (And I have to say; I LOVED the love interest, Win. Swoon, ok? Ok.) However, I felt like the book had a lot of plot holes and unanswered questions. Judging from the various italicised comments throughout the book, it’s easy to see that Zevin aimed for this book to be told in a journal-ish form (which I liked) but at the same time I felt like it didn’t really hold up and seemed very out of place. I also felt like after the 40% mark of the book, it got a little messy and aimless and I found myself WAITING for some action, and alas there was none… until the last 10% of the book (which I enjoyed thoroughly). Another thing that kind of irked me was how painfully obvious some mysteries were revolving the tainted chocolate and Leo’s involvement with The Pool. For a smart and resourceful girl like Anya, I would have thought she could put two and two together much quicker than she actually did.

Overall, it wasn’t a perfect read, but it was an enjoyable one. Definitely picking up the second book because there are SOOOOO many things I want to know, especially after that sad (but O.O) cliffhanger. TO THE BOOKSTORE, I GO!

PS. The story takes place in 2083, and Anya’s dying grandmother was born in 1995. Countless of times I’ve imagined myself as poor ole Galina, bedridden and on life support. *shudders*

BOOK REVIEW: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

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Star Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: WHAAAAAAAAT? O.O
Published on/by: April 22nd 2014 by Square Fish (first published October 6th 2011)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 288 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.

An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

This is quite possibly the oddest book I’ve ever read. Nothing really made complete sense until the middle part of the book and when that final chapter of a jigsaw puzzle clicked into place, BOOM, I was blown away.

REVIEW

This book is so intricately crafted; a story told within seven different tales. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed to see, upon starting the book, that it was told in a non-chronological way (because I imagined something else entirely) but ultimately, I was proven wrong. It was such a refreshing way of telling a story and I felt that in a way, it made both main characters, Eric and Merle so much more richly developed. Other than being told in a non-chronological order, I should mention that in each chapter, these two main characters, Eric and Merle embodies different people, which was interesting because at first, we are introduced to the two of them as potential lovers, and by the end of the chapter (which was horrific, btw) I found myself rooting for them, only to read the next few chapters where the dynamic of their relationship changes drastically from mother and son to even brothers and sisters!

Honestly, it weirded me out at first. I went from *SHIPPING* to *UM INCEST*, but that feeling was lost very quickly because the bigger goal of the novel became more and more obvious. It was really a novel about the various kinds of love and the sacrifice that can come with it; a novel that Sedgwick delivered with GORGEOUS writing. Totally recommend this if you enjoy a very refreshing way of storytelling, delivered with beautiful and haunting prose.

FILM REVIEW: Vampire Academy

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I’ve been waiting for this movie for a while. My group of friends had read the series a couple years back and they’ve been pushing me to read it countless of times. But I was strong. I simply didn’t want to, not because I had a problem with vampire fiction or anything but because I knew if I went down that road, I’d drive myself over the cliff and crack my head open on a sharp boulder, all six books in my arms. Yes, I am that kind of fan. My devotion is like nail to skin, teeth to gum, sun to sky. I will go down with a “ship” if I have to. It was on my birthday that I finally requested the Vampire Academy book set of 6 from my mother to which she responded with “dream on” and bought me the Naked 2 Eyeshadow palette instead. Before I go on I should disclose that my parents do encourage reading, just not the pleasure kind. And so, begrudgingly, I bought the first Vampire Academy book with my own money. And only 4 months later, did I begin reading.

Fast forward to February 15th 2014.

Dressed in a faux motorcycle zip-up jacket and black pants adorned with fake zippers (zippers make everything look hardcore), feeling like the dhampir I pretended to be, I was ready. Tickets were bought and my best friend and I were off to see the movie. Backtracking for a moment, I should impart you with the knowledge that my best friend– who had read every book at least a dozen times, loathed the trailer, the TV spots and about any other marketing clips that were released prior to the premiere. She furiously told me that the Waters Brothers had warped the entire theme of the book and made it look stupid and frivolous. I previously didn’t really have any feelings toward the clips or TV spots as I had watched all of them before I read the first book, so I just baited my time. After reading the first book and going back to the clips and the trailer, I honestly still didn’t share the same views. I just thought that they used the humour in the book and amplified it so that people who’ve never read the books would want to watch it. There hadn’t been a movie with supernatural creatures and dark humour out there yet (I’m assuming here), so naturally I thought the marketing team was trying to distinguish itself from the preconceived comments like “omg ew it’s like twilight!!!!”. Boy, was I in over myself.

Now, on to the movie.

Overall, I’ll give it a C-, bordering on a D. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t goddamn horrible. I enjoyed it better than this other book to movie adaptation cough City cough of cough Bones cough but still…it was bad.

It opened with a really famous M.I.A. song, “Bad Girls”, blaring in the background as the audience was taken into Lissa’s nightmare, where she relived the car crash that killed her family. It was choppy and almost comical. As soon as that scene wrapped, I just wanted more! And not “more” in the good sense of “I couldn’t get enough!”. I wanted more emotion, more drama, more pain on Lissa’s front. It is, afterall, Lissa’s pivotal change in character. From Princess living a charmed life to Princess who had the whole weight of her family’s name, Dragomir, on her shoulders, since there was no one else in her family left to carry it. I felt like the car crash scene should have been stressed in the movie because it plays a heavy part in Lissa’s character development. It was just a bad montage of bloody bodies and broken glass that was ultimately way too short.

Now, I don’t particularly think Lissa was badly casted. It wasn’t the Lissa I imagined, but she did have some redeemable scenes. I especially enjoyed all the scenes where she was walking with Oscar, her cat, in her arms. So queer and yet Princessy, don’t you think? It was that subtle, comical move that people could appreciate. No need to overdo the jokes, Waters Brothers. A problem I had with movie Lissa was that she was a little saucy. Is that the right word? She had a bite that was slightly more Rose than Lissa should be. Also, her accent was so thick at times that I couldn’t catch on to what she was saying. Case in point, when she walked into her dorm room and saw the bloody words “BE WHERE”. She mutters, “they couldn’t even spell beware”. The timing and the circumstance would have made that a very funny moment BUT I COULDN’T EVEN HEAR HER SAY HER LINES PROPERLY. It was just a gurgle of words incorporated in a fake British accent. I only understood her quip after replaying that scene a couple of times on YouTube. And that speech at the end of the movie? I cringed so much that my eye contacts were wrinkled. NO, THIS WASN’T IN THE BOOK, THIS IS NOT WHAT LISSA WOULD DO. It was bad, you guys. The speech was so cheesy, so overly dramatic. And when Rose started crying? *Stabs eyes*

Now, Zoey Deutch as Rose? I kind of actually loved. I really really enjoyed her. She wasn’t perfect or spot on or anything but she was so fun to watch! She delivered snarky lines with pizzaz and I enjoyed her fight scenes. The only sad thing was that I felt no chemistry between her and Dimitri. It was all too quick; their “romance” all telling but no showing. Yeah, you can tell us that they dig each other, but you failed to show us the supposed chemistry. There were some really cringe-worthy scenes between them– actually, you know what? ALL OF THEM. Like in the book, I understood their attraction even though they were not supposed to even consider each other romantically. Richelle Mead wrote their relationship in a way that we can understand why they fell for each other. But in the movie??? Uhm, that chemistry was non-existent.

Honestly, Dimitri could’ve lost the hair. It made him look 40. If he had short, cropped hair, he would’ve looked mid-20s, like the age he was supposed to portray. I know, I know, Dimitri had long hair in the book, but it just looked awkward on the actor, Danila Kozlovsky. I felt weird watching their quick whirlwind romance. Their training sessions were also almost non-existent. In the books they were fun and interesting, the time they spent with each other that led to their bond, but in the movie it seemed so rigid and weird and short. I was so iffed at that point, thinking that I couldn’t cringe any harder…until he called her “Roza”. My best friend and I hid our faces and stuffed our fists in our mouths to suppress our vomit. It was waaaaaaay too early in their relationship to be calling each other cute pet names, AND ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE A FORTY YEAR OLD. It was just weird, weird, weird. Couldn’t they have waited till waaaay later or something? When we could actually believe they were in love or at least when they’ve started to show some sign of emotional affection? I only saw school-girl crush and creepy Lolita googly eyes at that point. It was way too instalove for me.

Sarah Hyland and Dominic Sherwood played Natalie Dashkov and Christian Ozera respectively and I honestly loved them. The character, Natalie, was a slightly altered version of the Natalie we know in the book. She was nerdy and goofy in addition to the bubbly, talkative book Natalie. She delivered some great awkward lines like, “Nobody has ever seen me, like, naked before?”. But the end. Oh, the end. When she turned Strigoi, I was in hysterics. “Maybe you could join me [in the afterlife as a Strigoi] so we can be BFF’S. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.” It was over the top, sure, but I felt like the film was so off the “acceptable” charts that I just lost myself and started laughing anyway.

Dominic Sherwood was divine, as he was good looking. He is easy on the eyes, I tell ya. And shamefully, that was the first thing I noticed. He played the dark, twisted Christian well, and I enjoyed watching Christian come to life on screen. The weird thing was I didn’t feel that much chemistry between him and Lissa, as when he was with Rose. I really enjoyed the banter between Christian and Rose and every scene he had with Lissa seemed all too instalove and rigid too watch. But you guys. Dominic Sherwood. Swoon.

The notorious Mia Rinaldi, played by Sami Gayle, impressed me less than almost all the other characters, save for Dimitri. She was half the Mia I wanted her to be, half the Mia we all know and hate in the books. She was a watered down, diluted, petty version of the real b*tch we’ve all come to despise. High school has its mean girls, I get it. But the Mean Girl in the movie we were all expecting? Pathetic. I remember meeting her in the first book and was so disgusted with her character. That was a mean girl. Movie Mia? Petty. She didn’t deliver with the gusto required, and therefore the movie had missed another mark. I actually find it kind of unacceptable. You are telling me that the director of Mean Girls couldn’t even pull off a proper mean girl in this movie? Are you joking? Wasted opportunity.

Mason was so-so. He seemed way too pale for a dhampir however, and I was shocked they didn’t cast him as a Moroi or something. He portrayed Playful Mason okay, until that scene where Rose tells him to stop bothering her about Jesse because of his crush on her and he simply said, “OK” and walked away. It just seemed so weird and unnatural. Did anyone else notice this weird cut?! Sloppy, sloppy.

Now, the most anticipated scene: the lust scene. It was…not as bad as I’d imagined, actually. This scene, among a few others, was directed differently than in the book. It was actually kind of…funny, whereas in the book, it was intoxicating and sensual, and oh so very serious; the movie played the scene as a caricature of what it was supposed to be. Every move was exaggerated and it was really weird but sort of funny at the same time. I get that they were trying to make it comical though, so I guess they succeeded in that. It just simply was not the lust scene I was expecting at all.

Another underwhelming scene was the make out session with Jesse. Boy, wasn’t that a letdown? I almost screamed, “That’s it?!” at the screen, with a fist full of popcorn waving in the air. That scene in the book was like the start of Rose’s character development. This was where Dimitri told her she was more than what she thought of herself. The making out was so underwhelming (I sound like a pervert, but c’mon, you thought it too!) and Dimitri’s bust in was even less so. Where’s the dramatic entrance? The deep, concerned talk that eventually evokes Rose’s senses into becoming a better version of herself? I’m sad to say but it seemed almost unnecessary in the movie, as the scene was shamefully unexplored. It was just downright embarrassing on Rose’s part.

Altogether, this movie could have been infinitely better. One of the greatest problems it had was the editing. It was choppy and sloppy and made the entire movie look cheap. Another was the overuse of humour. One of the greatest things about the books is the humour, but the movie overplayed it to the extreme, hoping to distinguish itself from all the other vampire movies out there, but all it did was make the movie seem silly almost to the point where the true nature of the story was lost. It had too much of the faux Mean Girls essence going on (which they also failed at), when really, they could have focussed more on the plot and the character development. I’m not sure if I should hope for a Frostbite movie, as I don’t want the world to sit through another not-so-good adaptation, but I really want to see Adrian Ivashkov come to life. But who knows? Maybe if Vampire Academy pulls through in the box office internationally, they’ll learn from their mistakes and make Frostbite, the sequel, a movie that us book lovers and new audience alike, will love. (Doubt it. Just trying to end on a positive note.)