Monday, 30 September 2013

The Longest Ride - Nicholas Sparks (2013)

4 stars

I saw Nicholas Sparks being interviewed on TV the other day and this book was plugged. I immediately pre-ordered it on my Kindle and impatiently awaited its release. Sparks was inspired by a place called Black Mountain College which was an art school that housed many breakthrough 20th century artists. As per the norm for Sparks novels, this is going to become a movie and according to IMDb it is due out in February 2015.

I really liked how the two stories that unfold are that of a younger couple and an older couple. It shows a lot of similarities and it was nice to read about an relationship beginning and another of a sixty year marriage. This book was much better than I expected and I couldn't stop reading it. On the whole, I find Nicholas Sparks books to be a bit hit-and-miss. I adored The Last Song and The Notebook but The Best of Me bored me to tears. I think as an author of romance novels it's challenging to come up with an original story and avoid cliche.

Sophia is an arts student still facing problems with her cheating ex-boyfriend, and then she meets Luke. Luke is a bullfighter who risks his life in the hope to win big and be able to save his family's ranch. Sophia and Luke quickly and easily fall for each other and are soon inseparable. Meanwhile an elderly man called Ira is stuck in his car after he slid off the road and holds little hope of salvation as the snow makes his vehicle near invisible. Luke confesses to Sophia that he had a bad fall off a bull a couple of years ago and the bull nearly killed him. He was in hospital for months and a plate was put in his head. The doctors warned him that if he was thrown again, he would probably die. Sophia begs him to stop riding, and refuses to stay with him if he doesn't, but Luke refuses. Ira starts seeing his wife - who died nine year ago - and lives through with her the ups and downs of his marriage. His wife adored art and on their honeymoon they visited Black Mountain College and Ira bought her some art pieces. That was the beginning of their art collection. They bought thousands of paintings over the course of their marriage, and even though they are worth a fortune, Ira cannot bear to part with them as they remind him of his beloved Ruth. Luke comes back and sees Sophia and the pair stay in a cabin in the wilderness. On the drive, they see Ira's car and call an ambulance. They wait to hear news at the hospital and when they see Ira, he thinks that Sophia is his Ruth and gets her to read a beautiful letter that he wrote for his wife - as he did on every one of their anniversaries. Ira dies and as he organised, all the paintings are to be auctioned off and the proceeds given to various charities. Sophia asks Luke to come with her to the auction to see the art. The first painting up for auction is an amateur painting of Ira's wife done by one of her primary school students. It's laughed at, and then for four hundred dollars, Luke buys it for Sophia. The auction is cancelled and it is revealed that whoever bought the first piece gets the whole collection. The ranch is saved. Luke confesses to Sophia, that he won his ride and on the same bull that nearly killed him. The prize was a new ute and Sophia asks him where it is. Luke says he didn't want it and go the cash and bought something else instead. It's a wedding ring and he proposes to Sophia.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander (2001)

4 stars

I bought this book because I'm so excited for the movie and I had never read it before.

Even though the book is nothing like what the movie is going to be and it's basically a dictionary of magical beasts I thought this book was so clever. I can't believe that anyone would know so much detail about a world they created, but J.K. proves me wrong in this book, listing 75 beasts, their classification and a page or two on what they look like, do, and can be used for. All through the book are also little scribbles and doodles written by Harry and Ron, all of which are hilarious and the book is worth a bit of a look through just for them. As there were no characters in this book, my favourite beasts were the Nundu, the Runespoor and the Hippogriff and I hope we get to see all of them in the movie. Definitely give this book a look through or a read if you're a fan of the Harry Potter series.

Because the book is basically a dictionary for beasts instead of a plot summary I'll list the beasts that are written about:
Acromantula, Ashwinder, Augurey
Basilisk, Billywig, Bowtruckle, Bundimun
Centaur, Chimaera, Chizpurfle, Clabbert, Crup
Demiguise, Diricawl, Doxy, Dragon, Dugbog
Erkling, Erumpent
Fairy, Fire Crab, Flobberworm, Fwooper
Ghoul, Glumbumble, Gnome, Graphorn, Griffin, Grindylow
Hippocampus, Hippogriff, Horklump
Jarvey, Jobberknoll
Kappa, Kelpie, Knarl, Kneazle
Leprechaun, Lethifold, Lobalug
Mackled Malaclaw, Manticore, Merepeople, Moke, Mooncalf, Murtlap
Niffler, Nogtail, Nundu
Phoenix, Pixie, Plimpy, Pogrebin, Porlock, Puffskin
Ramora, Red Cap, Re'em, Runespoor
Salamander, Sea Serpent, Shrake, Snidget, Sphinx, Streeler
Tebo, Troll
Werewolf, Winged Horse

The Fall of Five - Pittacus Lore (2013)

4.5 stars

I really enjoy this series, I think all the books are really interesting and well written so you can't help but read them all in a few days, so of course I bought this book as soon as it came out.

The previous book in the series, The Rise of Nine, is still my favourite out of the four that have been written so far, but this one is probably a close second. I absolutely loved the first half of the book just reading about the group dynamic and all their relationships and training sessions together, reading those sections actually made me realize what an awesome movie it could be if the first one had done better. This book, instead of adding one new perspective to the existing three that were in the third book, they swapped Six's perspective for Sam's and kept alternating between him, John and Marina. I like Sam and understand why they needed to have his perspective in this book, but I hope that he gets swapped out for another Lorien perspective in the next book because I find those more interesting. I've read a lot of theories about Setrakus Ra actually being Loric or even being Pittacus Lore and although I'm skeptical I think it would be a cool plot twist in future books. My favourite characters were Eight and Nine, I've loved Eight since he was first introduced because of his easygoing nature and humour and in this book I loved him for his bravery. I've always just thought Nine was a stereotypical bodybuilder type but with each book he's getting more and more character depth and I'm loving him more and more, I especially enjoy his big brother kind of relationship with Ella. I would recommend this series to anyone who likes good fantasy and adventure, or anyone who likes x-men because they all have kick-ass powers as well.

The book starts with Sam being freed from the jail that the Mogadorians were torturing him in by his Dad and Adam, a mogadorian whose story you'll understand if you've read The Lost Files. The Garde has gone back to Nine's setup in Chicago to rest and recuperate after their battle with Setrakus in the last book. Five soon starts sending them ridiculously obvious messages as to where he is and John and Six find him and bring him back to Chicago with them after being saved by Sam and his dad, Malcolm, they learn that Five can fly and has the power of externa, where he can take on the qualities of whatever object he is touching. He immediately clashes with Nine, as his Cepan died when he was younger and he has been living on his own ever since and has terrible social skills. Ella has been having nightmares ever since the battle with Setrakus and she tells John that in them Setrakus talks to her and tells her to read a letter that her Cepan gave her before she died. When she reads it she learns she wasn't chosen to come to earth like they were, her dad was rich and sent her to earth to save her which the rest of the Garde don't care about but her nightmares with Setrakus intensify. Five knows where his chest is buried and the whole Garde are going to get it but the night before they leave Ella's nightmares paralyse her and she can't wake up, John tries to help and is similarly paralysed. Sam, Sarah and Malcolm then stay in the apartment to look after them while the rest of the Garde go to get Five's chest. Five is a traitor and it turns out the Mogadorians found him when he was very young and have brainwashe him to believe that the Mogadorians should take over the world, once on the island where his chest is buried he attacks the other Garde with a creature of his own creation and his legacies which are highly trained as he has been practising against the Mogs. He doesn't want to harm Marina and Eight as they were kind to him and he's sure they can be persuaded to see his opinion, however he immediately tries to kill Nine and just as he's about to deliver the killing blow Eight teleports in front of him and dies instead of Nine (I cried a river). Marina develops a new legacy in her rage whre she can create and manipulate ice and she uses it to pin Five down and stab out his eye, resulting in my favourite line of the book "If I see you again, you traitorous bastard, I''ll take the other fucking eye". John is taken into Ella's dream where she is Setrakus Ra's heir and they are killing the last of the Loric resistance (Sam and Six) he wakes up and the Mogadorians are attacking the apartment trying to get to Ella, they manage to take her but John can't stop them as he decides to heal Sam's dad who was dying. The book ends with Adam showing up to help John fight against the other Mogadorians.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth - Rick Riordan (2008)

3.5 stars

I bought this book at the same time I bought the second and third books in the series, it just took me a while to get into it.

I'd read a few comments from people saying that this book is their favourite in the series but I still think that Sea of Monsters is my favourite so far. When I was reading this book I kept forgetting what their goal actually was and what their quest was actually about other than just getting caught up in different fights in the labyrinth. My favourite character in this book was Dionysius, I think that he is always hilarious and lightens up the tense situations and I liked seeing a bit of his character depth in this book when one of his sons died. I also really like Rachel Elizabeth Dare and think she'll play abigger role in the last book in the series when I get around to reading it. I would recommend this series to anyone who likes greek mythology and adventure stories.

Percy and Annabeth learn that Luke is planning to use Daedalus' labyrinth to invade Camp Half Blood to kill all the heroes so Kronos has no opposition when he comes to power. Annabeth gets to lead a quest into the labyrinth and she takes Percy, Tyson and Grover with her. They eventually learn that they need mortal eyes to navigate the maze and get them to Daedalus' workshop so Percy gets Rachel Elizabeth Dare, who can see through the mist, to help them. Once they find Daedalus they learn that he has already struck a bargain with Luke and Kronos and given them Ariadne's string however as he is telling them this some of Luke's army come in and attack Daedalus, betraying him. Percy, Annabeth, Tyson and Grover return to Camp Half Blood to help defend against Luke's army, but not before Percy discovers that Kronos has taken Luke's body to control. A battle then ensues at camp, which ends with Daedalus coming in to help the half bloods against Luke's army and saving the camp. He then dies so the labyrinth will die with him and everyone returns home for the summer.