Panic by Lauren Oliver | Book Review

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So, the most recent book I’ve read is Panic by Lauren Oliver. Oliver is one of my favorite authors and hasn’t disappointed me yet (except for, maybe, the third Delirium book.) Here I’ll breakdown what works in the book and what doesn’t.  (slightly spoiler-ish)

Idea/Creativity: When I first read the synopsis for this book I wasn’t so impressed – it sounded like it would be another Hunger Games rip off. Luckily, it turned out not to be. Panic is about girl in a crummy town that gets in on a local tradition among high schoolers. That tradition is a game called Panic which basically involves doing a series of dangerous stunts. The prize is a large sum of money. The main character, Heather, plays the game as her personal life is in turmoil. There’s also romantic tension between her and her friend Bishop along the way. A selected group of judges oversee the competition and their identities are kept fiercely secret.  This is the jist of the novel.

The idea isn’t bad. It may not be a Hunger Games rip-off but it’s not particularly original.  If I had to rate on creativity alone I can’t say I would rate all that highly. However, this doesn’t mean the book is bad – plenty of unoriginal books are still fun to read. I feel that the author does well with the premise although the basic idea feels like it’s been done before.

Story Flow: This is a pretty fast read. Much of the story revolves around the game, of course. But the characters still have a lot of personal conflict the story focuses (However, the threat of the game and when the next event will be always looms over their head) on. So I would say there’s never really a dull moment in the story since there’s always something significant going on. It also constantly switches between characters Dodge and Heather’s point of view and this helps the story move fast.

Characters: The main characters are Heather and Dodge, whose POVs the book is told from (mainly third-person limited). Dodge has revenge on his mind since his sister was paralyzed in the game during the final challenge. Heather wants to escape the town of Carp and give a better life to her sister, Lily. Both of them are good main characters. They’re flawed with good intentions, and I thought they would have made a better relationship dynamic than Heather and Bishop did.

The other important characters are Natalie and Bishop, Heather’s two best friends. Out of the main cast, Natalie is the worst. She was extremely annoying. Heather deserved a better best friend and Dodge deserved a better love interest. As for Bishop, he’s not as bad but he is boring. The relationship between him and Heather fell completely flat, in my opinion.

Main characters aside, the side characters are one of the biggest flaws of the book. There’s supposed to be other people in the game but we learn almost nothing about them – they’re essentially like nameless entities. There’s a character named Ray (that Dodge has bone to pick with) who lasts to the very end but we never get to know much about him – he’s completely one-dimensional like all the others outside of the main ones. Even Dodge and Heather’s sisters lack any true depth.

There is a kind woman named Anne who befriends Heather but she didn’t have much development either. Her main characteristic is that she has a farm. And there’s a couple tigers on that farm.

Setting: The story takes place in a town called Carp. It’s a boring, soul crushing place. In fact, one of the claims in the book is that Panic got started because the teens simply had nothing to do. There’s also a lot going behind closed doors with drugs and such (as seen through Heather’s home life). I thought the setting was well done. It really captured the dread that crappy small towns can carry.

Ending: Heather gets a pretty good ending but Dodge’s was a bit disappointing and there wasn’t much closure when it came to him. However, the narrative clearly favors Heather more so she’s the one that ended up finishing the final challenge. Which the story shows with some cool imagery involving a tiger. Even though Dodge deserved a better ending, I think the book had a decent end regardless.

Final Thoughts: Panic is a good book. It may not do anything new and has its flaws but it’s a good book. Following Heather and Dodge is fun and intense to read about. Some of the challenges are cool but I mostly like how the game is incorporated into the sadness of the main characters.

Due to how much I enjoyed the book overall, I will give it a solid 4.5/5.

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Before I Fall (2017) | Movie Review

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite books. The plot follows Samantha a girl in a group of mean girls who experiences an accident. She soon finds herself repeating the same day over and over again, this is because there’s something she has to fix.

I was excited to learn that the film was being made into a movie. I always thought it would make a very good film. And….it did! The movie was a very good adaptation. It stays pretty loyal to the source material (there are still changes, of course.)

However, I’ll avoid doing too many book comparisons and look at the movie as a separate entity. The main girls in the film – Samantha, Lindsey, Elodie and Ally are your typical popular teenage girls. Their focus is on social lives, boys, parties, etc. However, they have a mean streak (Lindsey, in particular) and much of that is directed at an outcast girl named Juliet, a former friend of Lindsey’s. Samantha isn’t really  mean just a passive witness of meanness at first.

I saw a reviewer say that the girls were too unlikeable and unrealistically nasty. And I didn’t see it, I’ve seen girl- on-girl bullying that was much worse in high school. So, I think that reviewer is really naïve and may have missed the point. The girls are realistic, for the most part, and their level of cruelty isn’t uncommon to see in real life – far from it.

The girls eventually go to a party which leads to an intense scene when Juliet shows up uninvited. After the party, there’s an accident. There’s a bright light and soon Samantha wakes up in her bed. But she’s experiencing the same day all over again. And she will keep repeating the day until she finds out what she has to fix. This unravels a whole mystery and Samantha’s emotions go on a whirlwind.

Watching Samantha go through this strange phenomenon is interesting. I didn’t feel the film got boring when it kept making her go through the same thing. Her going through all the stages of grief was well-presented.

My only issue with the film is that they could have done more with Juliet. She’s the key to Samantha’s situation and I felt they could have done more with her background. In the book, much more is learned about her. In the movie, however, they made it seem like her falling out with Lindsey was what drove her over the edge when there’s much more to her story.

When Samantha finally learns what she has to fix and does so near the end, I felt the movie kind of amped up the cheesiness as well. That could have been toned down.

But other than that Before I Fall is a great film and good adaptations to one of my favorite books.

4/5

 

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia | Book Review

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One Crazy Summer is a middle grade book that tells the story of the three Gaither sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. In the late 60s during the summer they go to Oakland to visit their mother, Cecile who had previously abandoned them. She’s very unwelcoming to them, viewing them as a distraction from her work. They eventually go to a Black Panther camp. The book is told from the older sister, Delphine’s point of view who has to take care of her younger sisters.

When I was suggested One Crazy Summer, it sounded like something that I would definitely enjoy reading. So I was very happy to get my hands on a copy. I was also impressed by the medals on the cover. And they are definitely deserved, the Gaither girls story is a great read.

I don’t know much about the black panthers so I can’t say how accurate everything is. But the thing is, at least in my opinion, the book doesn’t go into that much detail about the subject. This is one of the books flaws but it’s nothing major.

As for the characters, they were good overall. It was a great experience being in Delphine’s head. Fern was very cute and funny, Vonetta on the other was pretty forgettable. As for Cecile, she was horrible throughout most of the book and I didn’t completely get her, even when everything ended.

So One Crazy Summer has a few flaws but altogether it’s a great book, and I could see kids finding it entertaining (it’s perfect to use for schools) as well as adults.  4/5

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams | Book Review

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The Chosen One is a Young Adult book follows the story of a young girl named Kyra who lives in an isolated polygamist community. Unlike her family who follow all the rules of the community, she shows a bit of a rebellious streak by visiting and reading forbidden books from a mobile library and having secret meetings with a boy named Joshua. The women have no say in who they marry and to Kyra’s horror the prophet says that she must marry her sixty year old uncle who already has six other wives. As the story goes on it becomes more and more intense as Kyra faces punishment for her disobedience.

The book is a quick and easy read that most should find engaging. Everything’s pretty simplistic as in the book doesn’t really go deep into any of the concepts. The basic premise of how things work in the community is given but there’s not really much of in depth look into it. Prophet Childs and The God Squad are the bad guys of the story but not much is explained about them, we see them doing terrible things and for the most part that’s it. I would of like to have seen the psychology behind everything, if that makes sense. Especially Prophet Childs, being that he’s the evil prophet and all. The dreaded Uncle that Kyra has to marry in my opinion wasn’t looked into enough either.

Another issue is Joshua, he has next to no character development which caused me to care very little about him. It seems he just exists to give Kyra a big reason to rebel, but other than that he’s hardly a character at all, he’s just seemed like an afterthought. So basically, he was somewhat pointless and needed to be more fleshed out character.

With all that said, The Chosen One is overall a satisfying book. The writing’s also simple, I think most people should get through this in a day or two. The build of is great and the thrills keep on coming till the end. Kyra’s voice is pretty emotional and I never felt annoyed or frustrated with her. Although I sometimes forgot she was so young. The book’s pretty much pulls the reader in from start to finish so it’s definitely a good recommendation for someone who’s not sure they’ll like reading. 4/5

Joyride by Jack Ketchum| Book Review

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Spoiler-ish.

Joyride is about a woman named Carole and her lover Lee who end up murdering her abusive ex-husband as an act of desperation. A death-obsessed man named Wayne witnesses the act and hopes to commit more murders with them.

The two protagonists of the novel don’t have a really good plan when it comes to murdering Carole’s ex-husband. The whole set up seemed extremely sloppy. Basically the plan is: Bludgeon him to death with a bat on a hiking trail and make it look like a hiking accident. They do a very poor job. Especially since the ex-husband puts up a fight.

Both of them have a lot to lose, so I would have thought they would have come up with a more full-proof plan. Not to mention, Carole is friends with an officer that checks up on her every now and then (because of the past issues with her ex-husband). So, that is one of the glaring issues with the novel.

I also didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between the two leads. And if their willing to commit a murder together, I would think that they would have a more intense relationship. In fact, at times they hardly seem into each other. Maybe this was intentional but I still didn’t like it.

Then we have Wayne, the antagonist. He’s a man who feels intense excitement for the act of murder. He comes close to strangling his girlfriend but before that it seems he never built up the courage to go through with killing a person.

That is until he witnesses Carole and Lee. He’s impressed that they’re able to murder someone. He even covers up the body better for them. Eventually he finds the two of them and wants to go on a killing spree with them. Not surprisingly, they aren’t into it.

Next comes the series of murders. Wayne seems to want to abandon their normal lives in order to go on a road-trip style killing spree. However, he soon realizes that Carole and Lee do not want to be his friends and so he turns on them.

Wayne is the most interesting character in the book – from a psychological stand point. Especially when something very creepy about his mother is reviled. The sections of the book inside his head were the best. He incites a certain level of sympathy (but only a little), and I like when writers do that with the bad guy.

Joyride has a few flaws but it’s a good book. At times, I felt it didn’t go as far as it could have gone but it was a satisfying read in the end.

3.5/5

 

Suicide Squad (2016) | Movie Review

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I’ve been wanting to do this review for a while (I saw it when it first came out in theaters!) but I’ve put it off. But now I’ve seen it again (on Amazon video) and I’m ready to give my review.

The premise of Suicide Squad is Amanda Waller assembling a team of criminals and villains in case a massive threat that normal authorities couldn’t handle arrives. Well a threat does arrive and the team sets out for their job. They’re controlled via a device in their necks that can blow them up with the push of a button.

I enjoyed the movie but I recognize the flaws.

First of all, most of the members of the suicide squad/task force X aren’t much better than a team of well-trained soldiers would be. While I love Harley Quinn in this movie she’s just hitting things with bats and shooting with a pistol – not something a regular soldier couldn’t do. Captain Boomerang, while entertaining, isn’t much of an asset either.  Out of all of them, El Diablo with his fire powers and maybe Killer Croc are the only ones I see being above regular soldiers.

So, basically Waller’s plan is pretty dumb and that means the entire premise requires a full suspension of disbelief.

Despite this, I think the movie is really fun but I can understand why others would find it nonsensical.

Next there’s Jared Leto’s Joker – it seems this joker is getting mixed reception. Well, I thought it was “meh” the performance wasn’t terrible but it didn’t really feel like The Joker to me. Sometimes it felt like Leto was trying way too hard.

If I had to pick something I really hated about the movie I would say Slipknot – why was he even in the movie? Why is he even on some of the posters? He shows up randomly and then is gone before the action starts. He was basically a prop to show that the things in their neck actually work, I guess? Either way he didn’t need to be there – and he’s the most embarrassing part of this movie.

Either way, I liked the movie overall. Harley Quinn is probably the best thing about it. I have always loved the character and went in worried they would mess up her character but I was proven wrong – Margot Robbie did great. I also wish they would have done more with Katana’s character – I feel she had a lot more potential that wasn’t tapped into.

Pushing aside flaws, Suicide Squad is an enjoyable film but don’t take it too seriously.

4/5

The Neon Demon (2016) | Movie Review

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The Neon Demon follows a young girl named Jesse as she tries to become a model. Despite not being in the modeling business long she quickly begins to show promise, much to the dismay of the models that have been in the business longer. As their jealousy grows it’s clear they might just end up doing something drastic.

My thoughts on The Neon Demon are a bit strange. I mean, I think I liked it but I’m having trouble forming an opinion. Well, I’ll do my best.

The movie is pretty slow, not just story wise but it seems like the conversations and many of the scenes just move at a snail’s pace.

If you heard about this movie and are expecting a gorefest I don’t think you’d like it… everything builds up to one weird, climatic moment. However, there Is a consistently creepy atmosphere throughout the film, and some scenes are downright amazing.

I also thought Elle Fanning’s performance was really good – it seemed like she was really into the character of Jesse. She’s this eerie tragic beauty, and I could see why certain characters in the movie became obsessed with her.

In the end, I think The Neon Demon is pretty good but the problem is that I feel like its missing something. It should have done more but I can’t really explain what. Still, it’s a solid movie.

3.5/5