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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Marvels Book Review

The Marvels

Written by: Brian Selznick
Number of pages: 665

Average Rating: 3.88/5 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Published: September 15, 2015
Read in March 2016

Summary according to Goodreads

Two seemingly unrelated stories - one in words, the other in pictures - come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries. 

My Thoughts

Unfortunately I did not enjoy this novel as much as his previous, nor did I find it to be as fast of a read. As per his other novels, the illustrations in this were breathtaking, and is something I have yet to see in any other middle-grade novel. I enjoyed the story of Billy Marvel much more than the latter one taking place in 1990, as the plot felt forced and never really picked up. The story of Billy was exciting and heartbreaking, and proves that a picture is worth a thousand words. 

I appreciate the way this book is written and the story behind it, but at the same time I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters. I found Joseph and his uncle Albert to be very boring, and only until the last 150 pages or so did it get slightly interesting. I didn't find there to be much character development in this story, which was quite disappointing. Joseph was an annoying character, that just left school and showed up to someone's house that he had never met before. His uncle Albert was strange (for good reasons later learned) and very boring. I had a hard time remembering that this story took place in the 1990s. And finally, Frankie, I could not stand due to sheer annoyance. This child knew no boundaries, and was very frustrating to read. 

Overall, I was very disappointed with this read. I have been very busy with school, and this was not a good start to getting back into reading. This might be the last middle-grade story I read for a while, just because I found it so bland and unsatisfying. I am very glad I read this out of the library, since it is nearly $40CAN to buy it in stores, and would recommend that to anyone questioning on whether or not they want to read it. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Everything, Everything Book Review

Written by: Nicola Yoon
Number of pages: 320

Average Rating: 4.04/5 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Published: September 1, 2015
Read in February 2016

Summary according to Goodreads 

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world. I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. 

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black - black t-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. 

Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster. 

My Thoughts

Considering how busy I had been while reading this, I am very surprised it only took me a few days to get through. I read it as an ebook on my iPad, borrowed from the library, and found it to be a very quick read. There are a few illustrations though out, and not every page had words from top to bottom - making it a very quick read. 

I really enjoyed the characters, and the relationship between Olly and Madeline. Throughout the story there was a lot of development, but nothing drastic. 

There is, of course, a plot twist near the end of the story, but unfortunately I saw it coming almost immediately. The writing style was nothing too intriguing or thought-provoking, and instead found the sentences to be short and not developed. It didn't follow a "train of thought" kind of style, and instead was clipped as if she (Madeline) was thinking in statements and not emotions. 

Overall, it was not a bad story, considering this was the first novel published by this author. Although the beginning was much better than the end, I enjoyed it as an overall story. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Throne of Glass Book Review

Written by: Sarah J. Maas
Number of pages: 404

Average Rating: 4.2/5stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published: August 7, 2012
Read in January 2016

Summary according to Goodreads

After serving out a year of hard labour in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. 

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Calaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. 

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead...quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined. 

My Thoughts

I am sure everyone is aware of how much hype surrounds this book series, and I cannot believe that I waited so long to read it for myself. I did enjoy this book, but not as much as I was hoping to. Whether it be all of the hype, or that this was one of the first "fantasy" books I've read, it took me quite some time to get fully involved in the story. 

The basic premise is a very interesting concept, made stronger by the strong characters including our main three. Celaena Sardothien is a very strong, and independent character who struggles with many internal conflicts. She is not one to rely on others nor open up to anyone about how she is feeling. Throughout the plot she learns to trust more than just her instincts, and develops her relationship with Dorian. The Crown Prince Dorian, is a heartwarming young man, who is determined to lead his country to a better further when he takes the throne. Until then he is doing his best to please his father, and keep everyone happy - even Celaena. Watching their relationship develop was refreshing but not original. My favourite character of the three was Chaol, as he was strong headed, amusing, and cared deeply about everyone in his life. The relationship between him and Celaena was strong, but between the three of them was rare. 

I enjoyed the idea of a competition such as the one hosted, and all of the interactions with the other competitors. Getting a closer look into the characters through the different perspectives was an aspect that brought more life into this story. 

Overall I was quite impressed with this story, and am looking forward to continuing this series - even though I don't usually do well with long series. I will probably pick up Crown of Midnight while I am home for March Break, so that I can read it with little distractions. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing: Play versus Film

William Shakespeare is well known for his dramatic plays, Much Ado About Nothing being no exception. Set in the sixteenth century, this drama was first performed in 1612, with a film adaptation released in 1993 – and then another in 2012. With a recurring theme of social grace, deception, and public shaming, this play explores the idea of blind romance, and how easily we can be deceived. Originally written as a drama, Kenneth Branagh, (producer, director, and leading actor) transforms this story into a comedy – minimizing the darker elements. When looking at these two medias together, it is easy to see where Branagh got his inspirations from, and where he introduced his own ideas. Whereas Shakespeare relied mainly on his language for effect, his sensuality performed verbally, Kenneth Branagh made his more visual. 

The casting was very strong in this film, including  Keeanu Reeves, because even when he was in an excited crowd, he managed to bring the presence of an isolated menace that you would want to stay away from. In this play, Don John is the bitter step-brother that recently made up with his brother, Don Pedro about a prior conflict. With all that goes on in Kenneth Branagh’s version, the antagonist Don John is swept under the rug slightly – leaving him to be a very one-dimensional character.

Another positive comparison between the play and 1993-film adaptation is the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice. There is much banter between these two characters, and the film was able to capture all of the unsaid emotions. From their first scene the audience could feel the tension between them, and knew that they were only trying to fight these emotions from themselves. This was a very entertaining relationship to watch develop, and added more to the comedy instead of the drama. Emma Thompson, who plays Beatrice, spent nearly six years married to Kenneth Branagh before separating in 1995. This relationship helps to explain the easy chemistry that these two had on-screen.

I believe that Act Two was the strongest in this play, both in word and on-screen, and was very well adapted, not straying far from the original script. This is an important scene because it begins the development of many important relationships. However, what the play does not tell you from reading is that the masks they are wearing are very symbolic. Originally seen to be meant as nothing more than a gathering among everything, there is a lot of character development and plot set up – leading to the climax.  These masks showed characters for what they really were, even if they didn’t yet know it, and thus added much to the overall film.

Act four was a very engaging act, well done in both the play and film. This is the scene in which we find the most character development, especially in Claudio. This character was much more developed in the film compared to the play, as he was less arrogant and naïve, and instead more sympathetic. After all of the accusations against Hero, he is evidently hurt, and expresses this through emotional and physical outburst. This wedding scene was a very accurately depicted dramatic event, that can be felt both in words from the script and on-screen. This is the most positive comparison between the play and film, and also begins the conflict and climax of this play.

From the very beginning, there were differences between the original play and 1993 film adaptation. In the film, it opens with a voice-over monologue from Beatrice, something not seen in act one of the play. I found this to be a good introduction to the film because it is calmly captivating, warning women that all men are deceivers and cheaters – foreshadowing the later conflict. This scene also shows the closeness of the town, having them all gathered on the lawn enjoying the weather, and Beatrice entertaining them.
The character of Dogberry was portrayed differently in these two medias; in the original play he is slow-witted and tries to come off as differently than he is. In the film, he has the personality of being “loony” between pretending to ride in on a horse, and other antics. This silly way of acting takes away from the real humour that stems from Dogberry getting his words confused. I personally preferred scene three in the play, as it seemed more reasonable and put together, instead of leaving me confused like the movie did.

Overall, I was not disappointed with either the play or film, and believe it to be one of the lightest Shakespeare plays I have read. Although there were some differences when comparing the two, they were both very enjoyable experiences. Kenneth Branagh does a fine job at bringing these older stories to live in a relatively modern way, without straying far from the original meanings. I look forward to watching more of Branagh’s adaptations, and hope they are as good as Much Ado About Nothing.