After her stepfather died, Zara White is sent to live with her grandmother in Maine. She's resentful of her mother for sending her away and feels completely out of place. The town is small and the weather is freezing. She makes new friends at her school, like quirky, bubbly Issie and mysterious Nick. Things start to get weird when Zara notices a dark man following her at her home town and in Maine. Plus, boys from her school start to mysteriously go missing. Zara has no idea that a creature she never thought would be a threat is after her: a pixie. These dark creatures aren't warm and fuzzy like Tinkerbell. They are creatures who feed on humans and have little to no regard for human life. Can Zara and her friends stop these creatures before they capture her?
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Sea Cliff was a small, quiet town. Until now. A group of students went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. A terrible murder occurs there, leading the students to promise to stay silent about what happened. They return home, but start to have the most horrible nightmares. As the dreams get worse, some even start to sleepwalk. Then some students start killing. Both Emma and Jake are having trouble sleeping. They are terrified that they are going to die next or maybe kill someone in their sleep. What is causing them to sleepwalk? Will they figure it out before it's too late?
This book was pitched to me by my sister (who's a YA librarian) as a Nightmare on Elm Street wannabe, which is not really true. I found out after I had read it that she hadn't even finished the book. There are some similarities, but as a whole, the two works are very different. The book reads as a teen horror flick transformed into a book. I liked the concept and liked going along for the ride as more details are revealed about the mystery. The horror aspects of the novel were pretty good. I really liked that one of the kids that ended up killing someone had violent episodes that they had no recollection of afterwards. One of them in particular came out of the blue and surprised me.
The characters are typical stock characters in a horror movie: the strong survival girl, the bad boy, the preppy cheerleader girl, etc. Unfortunately the characters don't really develop or have depth beyond that. Also, the Voodoo elements were kind of lame and obvious since they came from New Orleans. At a certain point, the mystery became really predictable and I started figuring things out before the characters. I like being surprised and having my mind blown. This was not the case here.
Sleepless was an amusing read that didn't have much depth. If it were a horror film, it would be one of those PG-13 ones that I avoid because they tend to be lame. I would recommend this to people want a fast, generally entertaining read.
My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Jem Marsh could see the numbers as long as she could remember. Every time she looks into a person’s eyes, she sees a number. Her mother’s number was 10102001. I wasn’t until October 10, 2001 that she knew what the numbers meant: it is the day that person will die. Her mother died that day of a drug overdose. As a result of this ability, she avoids people as much as possible. It really puts a damper on a relationship if you know exactly when their time is up. Although she tries to drive people away, Spider, a very tall fellow misfit, just won’t stay away. Even though his date is just a few short months away, she can’t help but be his friend. One day, when they are hanging out at the London Eye, Jem notices that everyone’s number around them are on the same day. She freaks out and drags Spider from the scene. A few minutes later, there is an explosion. Suddenly Jem and Spider are being chased by police and under suspicion for the crime. How long can they stay on the run? Can they avoid the police forever?
The concept for this book is a very interesting one. Imagine what it would be like if you knew when everyone who have ever known will die. I really feel for Jem and I understand why she acts the way she does. I don’t think anyone could act in a completely normal way if that knowledge weighed on them every day. I admire Jem for being strong and dealing with her “gift” as well as she is. The narrative is from Jem’s point of view, complete with bad grammar and in the way she would talk. This aspect grounded the book in realism even though the focus was something fantastical. I like Jem very much and was emotionally infested in her and Spider. I thought Spider would be harder to like because of his strange demeanor and his dealings with dubious people. He just made some bad decisions and I was afraid he was going to take Jem down with him. By the time Jem had fallen in love with him, I was sold on him too.
About the first half of the book had me on the edge of my seat and rooting for this misfit couple. It was exciting to read and kept me interested. The problem for me comes well into the novel. At a certain point, it seems as if the plot just stops and becomes pointless. I accepted that they were scared teens and ran away from a situation that they essentially were just witnessed. The situation served a purpose in deepening Spider and Jem’s relationship and progressing it to a romantic stage. The latter part of the novel just fell flat for me. There seemed to be no real reason for the events to happen and it made me stop suspending my disbelief.
As a whole, I enjoyed the novel. The characters were compelling and the writing style sucked me into the story. The last quarter of the book wasn’t the best and was obviously left open for a sequel. I will give Rachel Ward another chance and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
**I wrote this review for a class in Eastern European Studies, which is why it's very long. It does contain some spoilers. If you don't read this review because of that, please watch the film. It has easily become one of my favorites and I recommend it to everyone.**
Music played a large role in the film. The underscoring used added emotion in some parts and suspense in others. The orchestra started out as beautiful and melancholic at the beginning of the film. As the story progressed and events started to unfold, the thought processes of characters were hidden. There were points that were extremely suspenseful when the viewer had no idea what was going to happen: if Georg was going to get found out or even how long he could keep going without detection. All this was reflected in the pulsing low strings, echoing a heartbeat, and the higher strings repeating scalar figures above them. This theme was one of the simplest but most effective I have ever heard. It's kind of like John Carpenter's Halloween soundtrack in that respect.
The Lives of Others was an excellent movie. The pacing was slow, but proved to be incredibly suspenseful. All of the characters were realistic and flawed people that developed throughout the movie, the most remarkable of them all being Wiesler. This real life dystopian story touched. I would recommend this film to anyone who doesn’t mind thinking or reading subtitles when they watch movies.
My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins
Friday, March 12, 2010
I would like to introduce you to a dark and twisted version of Wonderland, full of danger, darkness, and death. American McGee's Alice is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played. It's a really awesome third person action game exclusively for the PC. The story is like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, but much more sinister. After the events of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Alice's parents die in a fire. She tries to kill herself out of survivor's guilt and becomes incarcerated in an insane asylum for 10 years. The White Rabbit calls Alice to return to the macabre form of Wonderland, twisted by her own insanity, to defeat the Queen of Hearts to become sane again. Here is the opening of the game.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I have read many a scathing review of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in the few days the film has been in theaters. I am shocked. I saw it at a midnight showing in LA with my best friend and my sister. We all thoroughly enjoyed the film. While I understand some people's grievances with the film, I still thought it was a delightful adventure that I could watch again and again. I just want to warn you that this review is going to be pretty long to address the many things people complained about that I disagreed with.
I seriously love this movie. I haven't had so much fun in a movie theater in a while (except The Crazies, but I will save it for a different post.) I emphasize that this film is not a remake of Alice in Wonderland, but a sequel of the Disney cartoon and a reimagining at the same time. I think people are so emotionally invested in the book and different versions that they have seen before that when someone comes out with something different, they don't like it. I liked seeing an older Alice as a strong female character. The Joseph Campbell hero journey format tied together disparate and random incidents in the Wonderland novels so that they were linear and easy to follow. This is needed in a Disney movie that kids need to understand and like in order to make money. It would probably be just another complaint of the naysayers if it didn't have a linear story.
I know that lots of people have issue with the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen represented in one person. I have no problem with this whatsoever. I really don't know why so many people complain about this, except that they're hardcore book purists. The original Disney cartoon did exactly the same thing. This film is a continuation of the cartoon, so it really wouldn't have made sense to change it at this point. She was a wonderfully portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter. Unlike the Disney film (where the King secretly pardons people behind the Queen's back), the fear inspired by her is real. Her moat is full of the severed heads of her victims (which Alice uses as stepping stones at one point to get to the castle). Beheadings are obviously not a rare occurance. The Red Queen is foul tempered, arrogant, and pretty hilarious. One of her many flaws is that she is easily manipulated by flattery, but may turn on the flatterer in a second.
Anne Hathaway had a small, but effective role as the White Queen. I have never really seen the character in any Alice in Wonderland movie, but I loved her. She had a facade of sweetness and light with an undertone of madness. Even though she is the lesser of the two evils and Wonderland flourished under her rule, it's obvious that she's related to the Red Queen. I liked that the two sisters still argued over petty things like head size in the midst of their battle for control of Wonderland. That's what sisters do. I should know. Their conflict culminates when they bring their armies together and have their champions battle it out. I loved that the White Queen's army was compiled of chess pieces while the Red Queen's army was compiled of playing cards. The card soldiers looked really cool and did not in any way resemble Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars soldiers. These soldiers do not look like these or this one.
Johnny Depp is just awesome as the Mad Hatter. I was afraid that Johnny Depp would outshine Alice and take over the movie because of his prominence in the trailers. I guess it was just a marketing choice to sell the movie with a big name. Although the Hatter does look a little weird (and what character played by him doesn't?), he was one of my favorite characters. He is actually crazy. He literally had dissociative identity disorder (also known as multiple personality disorder). In all the other versions of Alice, the Mad Hatter has merely been goofy. Johnny Depp's take on the character is alternately characterized by wide-eyed innocence and scary, cynical anger. In his scarier alternate personality, there is definitely the possibility that he might really hurt someone if left unchecked. Johnny Depp acted very well and gave the Mad Hatter dimensions deeper than a goofy fool.