The 5th Wave – a review

The 5th wave (2015) is a film based off of a young adult trilogy of the same name, written by Rick Yancey.

5th-Wave_poster

From imdb.com

The human race stands on the brink of extinction as a series of alien attacks decimate the planet, causing earthquakes, tsunamis and disease. Separated from her family, Ohio teenager Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) will do whatever it takes to reunite with her brother Sam. Fate leads her to form an alliance with Evan Walker (Alex Roe), a mysterious young man who may be her last hope. Forced to trust each other, Cassie and Evan fight for survival during the fifth assault from the invaders.

I am confused as to who the target audience of this film was. The books are written for tweens and teens and the movie has the same vibe to similar films, such as Divergent. But the opening scene is of the teenage main character killing an innocent man. And her romantic interest in the movie is a college-aged man, Evan (played by Alex Roe). As a twenty-six year, I was a little squeamish seeing them develop a romantic relationship. Admittedly, Cassie (played by Chloë Grace Moretzseems older than her years and our social constructions of age and maturity might matter little in an apocalyptic world, but I do wish that Cassie’s character would have been a little older.

5th-wave

I really loved the idea driving the story. I haven’t read this type of story in a while and I am going to check out the rest of the books in the series. I am hoping that they are better written than the film! The film … why is it that 90% of the time I dislike a show or a movie, it is because I feel the writing is lacking? Is writing really that hard?!

The 5th wave starts out great. Interesting and compelling. I liked how the timeline wasn’t entirely linear, I felt that it added depth to the series. I also felt that most of the initial acting was really well done. There are a lot of highly talented and well-known actors in it. Maggie Siff (from Sons of Anarchy) and Ron Livingston played Cassie’s parents and Liev Schreiber (from Wolverine and Ray Donovan) was Colonel Vosch.

– Spoilers ahead –

However, the plot involves turning children into soldiers to fight The Others, and their acting is childish and lacking. It is so bad you almost wonder if it is on purpose…

The director and producers have the children sitting around the barracks, playing cards and gambling in their down-time, the way adults would. To me, it would have been more believable if the kids were running around, playing like children do, when not in training. It was also baffling that the kids were not broken down into teams based on age. Instead, the 7 year olds were mixed in with 17 year olds, and expected to operate as soldiers and snipers in actual urban combat situations. Apocalypse or not, someone that young could never keep up with the older teens, mentally or physically.

Maika Monroe

For these young ones, most of their acting was one-dimensional and even the teenagers in the group seemed to accept everything they were told without ever wondering where the non-military adults were… they were all brainwashed way too easily.

Evan on the other hand, Evan I loved.

fifthwave_trailer_header__index

I thought that Evan was one of The Others, and I was half-right. I loved Alex’s depiction of him and wish that we could have seen him a little more in action. He was my favourite character in the film, and if they do another, I hope that his role, and his abilities, are expanded upon. Evan is deeply conflicted about his identity and the role he has to play in the war for Earth, which makes him the most interesting and compelling character on the screen.

5th_wave-wide-gun-wallpaper

Unfortunately, throughout the entire film the plot is utterly predictable – I actually called the “plot twist” just from the trailer. It made the characters seem very stupid and naive to not be suspicious until the end. Call me paranoid, but as soon as the school buses showed up at the refugee camp, I would have been out of there with my kids. I would never have let them separate me from my children. Somehow, the kids who were told that their parents would follow behind never seem to question why they never show up, or why the only refugees taken to the base are children.

It was also obvious to me that Evan had some connection to The Others. He stayed in his family home, completely safe and secure from concern and seemed to have no need to hide. He chopped wood outside for heating and cooking, knowing that there were snipers and drones hunting in the forest, but again, wasn’t concerned and maintained to Cassie that she was perfectly safe in his home, despite her insistence that there is no safe place.

images

Evan is H-O-T hot.

In the end, I felt disappointed that what had seemed like such a good idea was so poorly executed. I walked away from the movie theatre feeling let-down, and so did my viewing partner. I still find the idea intriguing and will probably check out the second and third books in the series, to see what happens. Hopefully they are better than the film.

* *

xx

 

Advertisements

Volkov Bratva Series Review

Hi ya’ll,

I’m going to review this series as a trilogy instead of as individual books, because I kinda read them all in one weekend…. whoops! Makes it hard to distinguish where one book leaves off and another begins when you do that.

The Volkov Bratva books are a Russian Mafia romance set in New York, where pre-med student Lauren meets NYC’s Mafia Prince, Mishca.

book 1

Book One

Blurb:

Twenty-year-old Lauren Thompson left her small town in Michigan to begin a new life in the Big Apple where no one knows her name or the tragedy that had rocked her family fifteen years prior. With new friends and an intriguing new love interest, starting over is easier than she expected…but Mishca Volkov isn’t what he seems. As the son of a Russian Mob boss, he thrives in a world of chaos and fear, earning the title of Bratva Captain through blood and pain.

When the two cross paths, lines blur and passions ignite, bringing them closer than they could ever imagine. Until secrets from the past threaten to tear them apart. Can they fight past their demons…or were they doomed by fate before they ever met.

Something that I really like about this series is that it unfolds over several years without taking multiple time jumps by the author lazily writing “nine months later”. As fantastical as fiction can be, I still want it to be believable and a whirlwind happily ever-after-romance, that has a “solid foundation” of 4 days is as believable as the sun rising in the west and  setting in the east. Sure it is fun once in a while, but it gets old fast with the amount of romance that I read.

Mishca and Lauren’s tale is continued in the second and third books in the series.

Mishca and Lauren have time to grow as individuals and as a couple. The weight of their problems feels legitimate because they are not overcome in a weekend, but through weeks and months of effort. They continually choose each other, at times over things and people that use to have real meaning to them. Love is hard work. It requires that continual effort, dedication, and sacrifice,  and choosing each other again and again. It might become more familiar or comfortable, but it doesn’t get easier.

These books are awesome because it takes a fantastical experience (falling in love with a Mafia Prince) and humanizes it. The author takes you through the experiences of disapproving parents and conflicting morals merging into one unified sense of direction for a couple.

One of my favourite scenes is when Lauren allows Mishca  to tattoo his (thieves-in-law) stars on her shoulders, denoting his possession of her in his world. For Lauren, this is as serious – or more so – than a wedding band and something that she was reluctant to do for ages. This step symbolizes her acceptance of him, not just as a lover or friend, but in his entirety, and declares her dedication to him in a pretty public way.

There series end felt natural, although I was reluctant to let the characters go. Luckily, there is also a “post-script” novella written after The Final Hour.

18754561

The fourth, and final, full novel in the Bratva series is about Aleksandra, Mishca ‘s sister, who is introduced early on in the series. I think of her novel as a bit of side-quel, because you see her developing through the first three books, but Aleksandra and her beau only have their moment in Hidden Monsters. As such, I will review it in a separate post in a few days.

* * * * * *

xx

Girl, Stolen by April Henry – a book review

girl stolen

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she’s blind, he really doesn’t know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes–now there’s a reason to keep her.

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

—                        —                        —

I seem to be making a habit lately of unknowingly choosing young adult novels to read, whether they are marketed as such or not.

Girl, Stolen is another example.

It is a wonderful abduction/crime story – for tweens and teens. For that age group, I would rate it an excellent story. Friendship develops between Cheyenne and her reluctant abductor, Griffin, and the story has some twists and turns that are unexpected.

The fact that Cheyenne is blind is the most interesting aspect of the novel. I kept imaging what I would do if I had been the one kidnapped, and then realizing – oh, that doesn’t work because she is blind, she couldn’t follow that plan.

Listening to everything from her perspective really helps the reader to imagine their life as a person with a physical limitation, especially in an extreme situations when you can no longer rely on your usual aids and loved ones for assistance.

For me, Girl, Stolen was a little too tame and the characters predictable. I like tortured souls and dramatic confrontation in my books, and R-rated sex or violence goes along with that. Other than the PG-13 rating though, this book was very good, and there are lots of people who don’t share my preference for R-rated material.

I listened to Girl, Stolen on Audible. I’d recommend reading it instead, the voice performer was not very good. She did a great job of performing Cheyenne, but terrible at the multitude of male characters. Hopefully the author opts for dual narration next time.

* * * *

xx

Crow’s Row – a review

Crow’s Row, by Julie Hockley, is a coming of age story told from the perspective of its heroine, second year university student Emily Sheppard. The series takes its name from the first book, with the second called Scare Crow.

1

Emily is living in the ghetto, near to where the older brother she idolized died several years earlier, and is completely cut off from any real emotional connection to friends, family or a significant other. Abandoned by her room-mates for the summer, she witnesses a murder in the cemetery during one of her daily runs, is kidnapped by said thugs, and taken to a remote farm out of state while they decide what to do with her.

Ultimately, this series is about Emily coming to understand the various connections she unknowingly has to her kidnappers and to the city she has moved to for school.

I found this series by googling for NA (new adult) books related to the bratva or mafia, and this came up. It isn’t exactly what I was looking for that day (deets below) but I read it anyway. It is still an excellent start by rookie author Hockley.

These books are a blend of the young adult and new adult categories in my opinion. The characters’ ages and some subject matter are certainly more appropriate for the new adult tag, but there is very little sex in the series, none of it explicit, which is far more commonly found in young adult novels. If you are starting to read up as a young person, or are just uncomfortable reading erotic scenes, this would be a great recommendation for you, certainly far safer than my usual review material.

During her months spent with her kidnappers, Emily gets to know them on a more personal level and the reader discovers that there is more going on than initially presented. Although these men – and woman – are certainly very dangerous people, you don’t see much of that side of them, because they treat Emily well after her initial kidnapping, and everything is written in her perspective.

My main criticism of these books draws from this. Cameron, the leader of this motley crew, turns out to be a Big Bad, the sole leader of an organized crime syndicate for the North Eastern United States, presiding over a council comprised of mafia types, outlaw bikers, gangs, etc.

I had two problems with this: firstly, as I stated, we get Emily’s perspective and even though she is scared of him at times, they are sweet on each other and have a longer connection than she realizes. Plus, he is a dog lover. When the reader only gets glimpses of his darker side, it is hard to imagine him being powerful enough or dark enough to control all those other criminal groups. Secondly, he wasn’t born into this life – he made his own way from highschool drug dealer up – and late twenties seems way too young to be in that powerful of a position, able to strong-arm the mafia and established 1% biker clubs into submission.

I hope that Hockley adds a lot darker material into the third novel, to validate her characters’ claims. So far the violence is restrained to kidnapping (and treating their “guest” very well) and murder (of very bad dudes who were trying to kill our protagonists). I need Spider et al (and maybe even Emily) to do some seriously evil shit in the next book because right now, it feels like Hockley is on the edge, trying to write R-rated characters in a PG-13 novel.

Oddly enough, the main criticism I saw online of this book was that Emily fell in love with Cameron. But I had no trouble with that plot-line at all. She does fall for the guy responsible for her kidnapping true, but other than that initial confrontation, Cameron does nothing at all to hurt her and actually protects her. There isn’t any Stockholm Syndrome at play here. It doesn’t take long for Emily to decide that the farm isn’t a bad place to stay, and she doesn’t seem particularly anxious to leave. In fact, I think she would have quite happily stayed forever if she wasn’t nervous about why there were so many armed guards protecting the property. (Minor spoilers ahead)

Once she realizes that Cameron and her brother had been good friends and business partners, she wants to get as close as possible to the group and find out what she can. She never believed the reports of how her brother Bill died via an overdose and has been seeking a connection to him since his death six years previously. After realizing that Cameron has been looking out for her from afar for so long, in honour of Bill, the connection between them just deepens.

I can’t speak too much to the plot-line in the sequel without completing spoiling the ending of the first, but I highly encourage anyone here to keep reading.

After reading Crow’s Row, pick up Scare Crow, and eventually the untitled third book which has already been announced.

2

* * * * (for both books)

xx

Bound Series – a review

The Bound series is written by Cora Reilly. They are fictional accounts of the New York and Chicago Italian-American mafia families and their attempts to put to rest decades of violence between them in order to solidify their power. Russian and Taiwanese crime syndicates have been gaining power along the Northeastern coast of the U.S. Each book features a couple that have been matched in an arranged marriage to strengthen their families’ positions in The Outfit (Chi-town) or The Cosa Nostra (NY).

Bound by Hono[u]r: book one features Luca, the heir to the NY criminal throne and Aria Scuderi, the 18yo daughter of Bigshot #2 in Chicago.

Bound by Duty: book two features the new Chicago Capo (Dante) as he  ascends following his Father’s retirement and 24yo bride, Valentina, also from Chicago.

Bound by Hatred: book three features Aria’s younger sister Gianna and Luca’s younger brother Matteo. With the passing of time in book world, Gianna is also 18 when she marries. No child brides here.

honor duty

hatred

I discovered these books by searching for recommendations on goodreads and google and read all three over two days. The stories really attracted me and were exactly what I felt like reading last week. All three follow the same basic principle of big bad Alpha mafioso male protagonist (I can’t bring myself to say hero, they’re definitely anti-heroes) and a younger, virgin bride. Despite these similarities, so far the characters have all had very different personalities. Reilly isn’t just duplicating a successful debut novel.

That fact that she is a relatively new author, within the last year or so is astonishing, because she is pumping these babies out! I admire her story-telling, and while I’m sure that there are people in the life who would say that they aren’t remotely accurate, to me they are, and what’s more, they are entertaining. My only major criticism is that this lady needs an editor and quick. I suspect that she is self-publishing the books on Amazon, and more power to her, but there cannot be any third party editor reviewing. The grammatical mistakes are endless, irritating, and ultimately distracting for the reader. Little words that give sense to a sentence like “to” or “for” will be missing. Or miscalculating how many inches taller Luca is than Aria; you specifically said that he is 6″5 and she is 5″4, that makes him 13 inches taller (there are 12 inches in a foot), not 10 as specified in the wedding kiss scene. Ms. Reilly, please find a passionate and detailed editor! If you are reading this, I will gladly fill the role for you. Nothing is a bigger pet peeve for me than stupid little ‘housekeeping’ mistakes ruining an otherwise well-told story.

Since I read the Bound books so quickly and they are part of a series, I am mostly reviewing them as a set, but I do have a few individualized comments.

The first book (Aria and Luca) was probably my favourite in the series. I liked the evolution of Luca and Aria’s relationship and although Luca was a lot more patient with their wedding night than I think he would have been as a real-life Capo, his sweetness towards his wife was redeeming. Secondary characters pop up regularly throughout the series, and I found it to be a little annoying in this one. Aria was such a sweetheart that she didn’t stand up to her out-spoken sister Gianna … which made me want to tell G to just shut the hell up at times. I get that she was protective of her sister and Gianna gets mouthy when scared. Given the lifestyle they were born into, that’s just about all the time, but there was too much going on in that respect. I really wanted Aria to turn around and tell her “Gianna, you are making this harder on me” but they never had that adult to adult conversation. It’s too bad, it would have cut down on tedious arguing between Luca and Gianna and allowed for more character development in both girls.

Bound by Duty is Dante and Valentina’s book. This was my least favourite but that has more to do with my personality clashing with the hero and heroines’ than poor story-telling. An emotionally closed-off male character is a complete turnoff for me, just as it would be in real life. Valentina had a strong personality, but she wasn’t super confrontational, she backed down before a situation went too far. That is probably what worked for their relationship but I refuse to live through intermittent “cold wars” so I felt disconnected from them. I did like the subplots with Bibiana though, and at the end when Dante has absolute faith in his wife, it was heart-warming to see how his love for her had grown.

The last book in the series thus far is that of Matteo and Gianna. I love these two together! I suppose my main criticism is the same as I had of Gianna in the first book: that she is so incredibly bratty and mouthy when scared, which is most of the time, and she never really overcomes that satisfactorily. As a result, she is extremely emotionally dishonest and I wanted to shake her. I would have liked to have seen her mature more throughout the book and be braver, more willing to share how she feels with Matteo and Luca rather than reacting and attempting to cover her true feelings. Hopefully we will see her evolve in the next novel, otherwise I don’t know how good a life she will have.

Still speaking on Bound by Hatred, although this book was only my second favourite in the series, it had my favourite scene! I love see the Russian interrogation was which glossed over in book one, and the interactions between Matteo, Gianna, Luca, Lily and Romero that occurred here. The book started off with action! But BbH didn’t top my list because I would have emphasized different scenes in the book than Reilly chose to. I felt that (minor spoiler ahead) Matteo taking G’s virginity was a much bigger deal, because of how their marriage came into being. It was such an opportunity to foster honest emotions and grown-up relationship conversations between them and it didn’t happen. The same at the end of the book…. how to say this with minimal spoilage. Hmm. I expected the confrontation that occurs between Luca and Gianna to be much bigger and more explosive. I actually expected it to by physical on Gianna’s part, with the way he stayed in her way and refused her entrance. I was disappointed that there wasn’t one big blowout before they make peace in the epilogue. That last bit showed a huge amount of character growth on Gianna’s part, and though we didn’t see as much of “real Luca” in there as I would have liked, hopefully we get glimpses in book four.

Speaking on book four…

Bound by Temptation will be released in June 2015 and it will feature familiar characters, the youngest Scuderi girl, Liliana, and NYC ‘made man’, Romero.

temptation

From goodreads …

Liliana Scuderi has been in love with Romero from the moment she first saw him. After her sisters were married off for tactical reasons, she hopes she might be allowed to choose a husband for herself, but when her father promises her to a man more than twice her age that hope is crushed. No begging can make him change his mind.

Romero has always ignored Lily’s flirting. Her age and status made her off-limits but even someone as dutiful as him has only so much control. Wanting her when she’s supposed to marry another man could mean war between New York and the Chicago Outfit, and Romero has always put the Cosa Nostra first.

Lily suspects her sisters and Romero would risk everything for her, but is her happiness worth that much? Is love worth a war between the Cosa Nostra and the Outfit?

I can’t wait until the next book is out! I already pre-ordered it for my kindle, hope someone else out there falls in love with this new author as well.

Edit: Since I wrote this post, the author has also released the cover and blurb for the fifth book, due out Fall 2015!!!

vengeance

xx

Enigma by Eric Walters – A review

17906361

If you have never heard of Canadian author Eric Walters, you must live in a cave and have never been a child.

He is a former teacher from Toronto who started writing to inspire his students and hasn’t stopped since. The guy churns out amazing novels for 8-14 year olds at an amazing rate. I first experienced his brilliance more than a decade ago in seventh grade, when we read several of his books. He promptly became my favourite author and even as an adult, I go back to re-read the occasional standalone or newest addition to a series.

Okay, okay, I should be writing a review for Enigma, not fawning all over the guy. But I love him so much, I’m going to leave a list of his best novels at the end of this post, in case you are that youth or parent looking for some good reads.

Enigma is the sixth, and presently the most recent, installment of the Camp X series.  It follows two teenage brothers, George and Jack, and their exploits helping Allied powers during the Second World War.  The first several books take place in Canada, the fifth in Bermuda, and Enigma, in the UK.

The style of the book changes slightly, in that George and Jack really don’t seek out trouble this time around. In fact, 70% of the way through the book, lots has happened but there are no suspicious characters to be found.  Hopefully there will be one more book to tie the series off, but I enjoyed Enigma, and it certainly redirected the series after the previous book flopped.  You can see the progression of time, the boys are older and becoming more independent. The elder brother Jack is barely in this book, spending most of it at work or with his girlfriend, instead of with George and the reader.

If you are a fan of Eric Walters or the series itself, definitely make some time to read this one.  I am always impressed with the level of research Walters does, and his attempts to write a fictional tale within a historical framework.  Not many authors take the time to do this when writing for youth and it matters.

* * * *

Books I highly recommend you start with (boys and girls): The Bully Boys; Camp X series; Northern Exposures; Safe as Houses; Sketches; Shattered; Trapped in Ice; The Hydrofoil Mystery; Stars; Diamond in the Rough; Stand your Ground; Visions

xx

Silver Bastard

Well. This spring I have a ton of books to look forward to, from a bunch of my favourite authors. I just had the opportunity to read the prologue to Silver Bastard, by Joanna Wylde.  All I could say is Daaannnng Girl! And then I actually lol’d.

I cannot wait to get my hands on the full book, when it comes out on April 7th.

Silver Bastard is the first in a new outlaw MC romance series, but fans of Wylde will definitely recognize characters from her other MC series.  The prologue takes us to a party celebrating Puck and Painter’s release from jail and fans will also get to revisit Horse, Rueger, Picnic and Boonie at the least.

The cover blurb had me feeling a little bit meh going into this release, but now I can’t wait. Something to look forward to over the next couple of weeks!

xx