Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ali reviews: The girl with all the gifts by M. R. Carey

The girl with all the gifts follows Melaine, a little girl with a genius-level IQ who lives in an underground military bunker. Melaine, along with other children, is kept in a cell overnight and then strapped into a wheelchair by soliders and taken to a classroom every day. Melaine likes school, but she adores one of her teachers, Miss Justineau. Most of the time, Melaine is a normal little girl - but when she smells human flesh, she turns into a Hungry, which is essentially a zombie. Things quickly start to unravel when the base is attacked, and a small group of survivors have to try to work together to stay alive.

There are a lot of things I didn't like about this book. For a start, the author has a fairly annoying writing style that mainly revolves around telling us what the character is doing or feeling. Gruesome or tense scenes - and it is a zombie book, so there are plenty - are reduced to clinical descriptions that don't really hold any emotions at all. The characters are incredibly human - while that is a plus for the individuality of the book, it meant I didn't feel too involved in their survival. That though was probably also due to the lack of feelings the book produces.

What makes this book unique, however, is that despite all of the negative points - and there are a lot - I found its premise so interesting that I would still recommend you read it.

It starts off with a very unusual situation for a zombie book and continues to move in very different directions to the rest of the genre. Unlike some novels I've read, this different approach to zombies continues through out the story, finally finishing in a shocking conclusion that suits the uniqueness of the story perfectly. 

Is everyone going to love the girl with all the gifts? Doubtful. Those who are fans on the horror/zombie genre will probably be disappointed by the lack of tension, will those who aren't fans may not enjoy some of the themes. But whether your new to the zombie genre or whether your a veteran, the girl with all the gifts may just surprise you yet as an interesting and unique addition.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A reviews: Fantastic Four 2015 (may contain spoilers)

There are currently so many reviews circulating the internet that by now everyone must know that the reboot of Fantastic Four was, to put it nicely, a pretty huge letdown. But because I like movies, and because I also like to rant at great length about movies, I decided to share my two cents. I'm sure you all know the premise - super smart geek builds a spaceship, only in the reboot it's an inter-dimensional transportation device. The Fantastic Four suffer a 'space accident' that gives them incredible powers, along with their arch-nemesis, Victor Von Doom (or 'Dr. Doom' as he becomes).

I think the most disappointing thing about Fantastic Four was that it really should have been better. When I first saw the trailer, I'll admit I was nowhere near as enthusiastic about it as I have been to all the other comic book movies and TV shows. With such fantastic offerings like Netflix original Daredevil, or the Avengers, Fantastic Four looked like it wasn't going to meet the bar. But the first half of the movie, while a little slow, is a pretty good set up. We see new aspects to Reed, Ben, and then their relationship. But the great start to their relationship is quickly derailed as soon as they grow up.

Adult Reed quickly abandons his best friend in favor of a scholarship to the Baxter Institute, where he meets a cold and boring Sue who was adopted into the Storm family (why she needed to be adopted is completely unclear - the rest of the Storm family are African-Americans, and it would have made far more sense if Sue was as well. Particularly because they completely ignore any jealousy or other dramas that could have come from the adoption other than one or two hints). Johnny Storm apparently has daddy issues and he is introduced via a Fast and the Furious audition, which completely ignored the fact he's also meant to be an incredibly bright science geek. He quickly moves into a typical side character (without the fantastic and snappy one-liners.) Budding relationships are limited to snapshots of the group sitting around and talking while Victor's strong introduction is quickly reduced to simply watching these moments in an attempt to convey jealousy of Sue and Reeds supposed romance.

Ben reappears, scoring a spot on the transporter when a crucial member of the team is kind of just... left behind (not to worry, though! They will still gain powers for no apparent reason). Speaking of, when they do get their powers, things for a moment start to get interesting when they're taking captive by the government/military. Reed escapes captivity, Ben's trying to deal with his new life while being exploited by the military, and the Storms just keep on filling up the background while providing little worth to the current events. Sue's 'shining' moment of her character is when she helps to track down Reed using her supposed pattern recognition/analyzation skills. Its the type of thing that a) could have been accomplished far more efficiently by a computer, and b) was purely added for plot purposes, further cementing Sue as a pretty-faced prop.

Any sort of rise the movie had created is quickly followed by a huge crash as the movie begins to rush, pulling out a villain in the form of Dr. Doom. Victor was at worst, an ass with a conspiracy and anti 'the man' complex but Dr. Doom is hell-bent on destroying everything. They hint that Victor had issues with the Baxter foundation previously but refuse to follow through, leading to something along the lines of 'he's now a villain because we said so'.

The climax arriving was a complete surprise - the movie had done very little to put the four together as a team. As a result, the final battle was sloppy, poorly put together, and didn't utilize the team's powers. Dr. Doom's abilities were inconsistent and while Reed is originally struggling to use his powers without aid, that's somehow fixed by pure willpower in the space of thirty seconds.

I'm normally opposed to movies being split into parts, but I feel like Fantastic Four would have benefited from a far longer runtime. It could have also been saved by better humor, or more thrilling action scenes, or if they had just continued to build/round out their characters and relationships rather than let them fall flat. At the end of the day, while I didn't hate it, it should have been a lot better than it was and I wouldn't be that interested in watching it again.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ali reviews: Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick

The three books in this trilogy are Ashes, Shadows and Monsters. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll be mainly talking about Ashes, but I do want to mention Monsters because it does somewhat effect how I felt about the series.

So to start of, Ashes introduces us to Alex, a teenager dying from a brain tumour who’s out on a hike when an electromagnetic pulse occurs, killing elderly people while teenagers get turned into Zombie-like creatures. Alex teams up with a young girl named Ellie and a twenty-something war veteran named Tom in a fight for survival. Ashes is an interesting read, mainly in part to an interesting heroine. Her brain tumour immediately sets her apart, in both her attitude and her actions, and Tom is not the usual love interest either. The zombies aren’t particular anything new in the beginning but given time they’ll start to surprise you as well.

The one thing I dislike about them is the excessive use of gore. Don't get me wrong, I get that gore is a part of a zombie concept and I’m usually okay with gore in a book format (movies, not so much). But Ashes tends to repeat the same gross imagery; the first time a couple of the particularly nasty ones cropped up I skipped them and then it reached a point where it was a little ‘ho hum, the zombie is eating someone’s eyeball again’. I don’t know, that one may just be me; as I said, I’m not a fan of gore so perhaps if I was it would be a little more ‘heck yeah, dismemberment!’ If you’ve read the series, let me know which side of the fence you sit on with this – and if you haven’t read the series, let me know generally!

Beyond that, the further you get into the Ashes trilogy, the weirder it starts to become. I did continue to enjoy it, but I feel like it would probably start to alienate some readers, particularly by the time you get to the third book with Monsters. I don’t want to talk about it too much in case I spoil it, but as a bit of a preview, in Ashes Alex develops super smell (that happens fairly early so I feel it's okay to mention) but more things develop (particularly in a bad guy) that are bit… interesting. They don’t go super-powered or anything, I just feel like it starts to stretch into a different concept then what the rest of the series was (aka just a zombie book). Which is good in some ways and as I said, I still liked it. But I don't think it would be something everyone enjoys.

The last thing I want to do is have a bit of a rant about the ending of Monsters. I won’t spoil it, don’t worry, but unfortunately Bick does the one thing I really can’t stand in an author; she gets lazy. Regardless of whether or not that was her ‘vision’, it’s a bit of a band-aid. It has an ending, don’t get me wrong, but I did put the book down with disappointment. I do understand the difficulty endings can be; everyone has their own vision and their own way of doing things. But I would’ve liked to have seen more to finish up a decent, although strange in the end, series.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New series: WTF did I just watch?

I watch a lot of movies. Really, a lot. And naturally, while the majority of these movies are just the general, popular ones, I do end up getting dragged down the rabbit hole with a couple of them. Some are just plain ol' rubbish for various reasons, but some of them end up surprising me. As a result, I'm planning on sharing some of these oddballs with you guys. They will either fall into two categories - 'WTF did I just watch' means it's just too awful, weird or mind bending (and not in a good way!) to recommend. 'WTF, I actually kind of liked that' means that while it's still not a typical movie its actually got some redeeming feature (humour, awesome character, good plot etc) that made it watchable.

So to start us off, this is one I watched a while ago but it stuck with me... not necessarily for the right reasons. 

Mega Piranha

The run down:

Usual stuff. Science experiment goes wrong, piranha's grow big. Really big. And then they turn suicidal and hilarity in all the best of the worst ways ensure.

So the movie:

Genetically engineered piranhas who grow larger every couple of hours escape from an isolated part of the river and swim downstream towards Florida, which is in the middle of the tourist season.
Special Agent Fitch and a scientist named Sarah Monroe are trying to keep the piranhas contained despite trouble with the local police, namely Colonel Diaz. They run around doing high-speed chases through the jungle and 'fancy' tricks to keep a stolen helicopter in the air after it runs out of fuel. Meanwhile the piranhas have turned mega, cuing what could almost be the best of the movie. Some of the piranhas turn suicidal and decide to jump out of the water to eat people, attack buildings (or get skewered on buildings) and just randomly explode (no joke, they blow up two hotels. Magic). Torpedoes, depth charges and even a nuclear missile are useless against these huge fish so the heroes decide the best course of action is to get in the water with guns, in order to make the fish bleed and start a feeding frenzy. Colonel Diaz shows up in a helicopter, drops a rope in the water which Fitch then climbs up. He realises it the bad guys and shoots the pilot in the mouth with a flare gun. Cue bad graphics as the pilots head explodes in a shower of goop. Fitch uses some sort of beacon to attract a mega piranha and jumps out of the helicopter moments before its eaten by the giant fish. He then shoots the helicopter in the piranhas mouth, helicopter and piranhas explode and trigger a feeding frenzy which wipes out all of the piranhas while Fitch escapes.
Which is really, really familiar for some reason.
And that would be because at the beginning of the movie, when Fitch first meets the piranhas, he stabs one of the them in the eye and escapes while a feeding frenzy happens. 
So why exactly did this movie run for an hour and a half?

Pretty much... everything the piranhas do. It's just hilarious watching them crashing into buildings.
Every time Fitch says something hero-ish. Or dramatic. Anytime Fitch speaks, really.

Its hilarious in all the wrong ways but then again, so is the 1:29 minute trailer.

WTF did I just watch.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

B Writes: A Long Time Love Affair with Books

When I saw this cute bibliophile post by Jessica of Chronically Vintage, I knew I had to do my own version. Naturally, as an author I just adore books, and this really is a delightful questionnaire that explores the different way each book lover might enjoy their reading experiences.


Do you snack while you read? If so, what is your favorite reading snack?

Frequently - some of my books are always talking about the delicious food they are eating and it makes me soooo hungry. I’m looking at you Brain Jacques’ Redwall series!

I wouldn’t say I have a favorite snack, I’ll eat anything I feel like - chocolate is quite a favorite however.

What is your favorite drink while reading?

Tea naturally! Green teas of all flavors, and the ever amazing French Earl Grey. Mmmm.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

I would never write in novels, but I am forever making notes and underlines in my non-fiction books. Only in pencil! For some reason that seems to make it less of a heinous crime.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

I used be very guilty of leaving my books open face-down to keep my place - my mother would tell me not to - “You’ll break the spine!” - but I would be in such a hurry that I wouldn’t care.

As I’ve gotten older and collected more and more vintage books that just fall apart when you read them, let alone opening them wide, or heaven forbid! Laying them face-down! Well, now I use bookmarks. I’m still in a hurry though, so that can be anything from a hair band, to a tissue, to a leaf. Anything small and flat will do.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?

Mostly fiction I’m afraid. I would love to read more non-fiction on subjects I’d like to learn about, but I really have to be in exactly the right mood for that, so it doesn’t happen very often at all. If I do read non-fiction, it is most likely to be some kind of book on horses - training, dressage, stable management, etc.

Are you the kind of person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

Who wants to stop in the middle of the chapter?? Ahh! If it’s a book I have read many times over (and I have quite a lot of those!), I can stop in the middle of the chapter, because I know what’s coming next.

But if it’s a new book, or one I haven’t read in a while and I’m really into it; I’m hard pressed to put it down, even at the chapter ends.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

Oh yes. I have read some absolute trash; without even meaning to, and one time I was just so disgusted with the rubbish the author had written that I tossed the book across the room, than promptly tossed it into the recycling bin. I try to only read books that are uplifting, or that make you think in a good way. I don’t have time for dirty, insipid or stupid books.

Hahaha, that makes me sound so stuck up and pretentious! I don’t think that I am, I’m just super fussy about what I consider to be a good book. I also know that I am very eclectic with my literature choices.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

I try too! I love learning about new words. Etymology absolutely fascinates me ~ language, vernacular and the origin of words is one of my deep interests.

What are you currently reading?

"The Foundling" by Georgette Heyer

What is the last book you bought?

Mary Grant Bruce’s “Back to Billabong” for the Kindle. I rarely buy new hard copy books, but I will thrift books like they are going out of style. (Which they sort of are! ...) (TT Д  TT) 

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

can read more than one book at a time, but I really don’t like too, and generally won’t. Even if I have to finish a book I don’t want to read to read the one I do.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?

Any time of the day will do for me, but the best place to read is somewhere cozy - preferably a couch, near a window with the sun streaming in. Yes, I’m part cat.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?

A bit of both actually. If the story is really good, but I don’t like the rest of the author’s writing, I usually like a stand-alone, but as I tend to get very attached to certain authors and characters, I probably mostly prefer series because I just want to read more.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

Mmm, not so much. Like I previously mentioned, I’m so eclectic with my taste, I tend to stay away from recommendations, because most people don’t read what I do.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author's last name, etc.)

By genre, then series, or author, and that’s as far as it goes. I have too many books to get really fussy, and not enough bookshelves to spread them all out on.

N.B: After talking so much about eclectic reading choices, I sort of felt I needed to answer one more question, so I added it on…

What kinds of books do you like to read and who are your favorite authors from those genres?

Everyone Reads

I hope you have enjoyed this little Q&A, and please write up your own answers if you are so inclined. I would love to read about your reading habits, so don’t forget to leave a link if you post.


Monday, June 15, 2015

A writes: Why I Write

I know B already shared this post a few weeks ago, but I thought it was interesting and I wanted to share it too.

B's been inspiring me a lot lately, particularly with her 'write a bit daily' ideas. I'll admit that I also find myself waiting for inspiration to strike. Or worse, editing. Editing is something I've found that just shouldn't happen until the end of the book - otherwise each day I find myself just going over the previous work, even if I'm not necessarily editing and instead just rereading. As an attempt to break that, I've been forcing myself to just write and so far its going well. A part of this is also going to be an effort to do more regular blog posts, so we'll see how we go! 


To me, this isn't really a question. You might as well ask why I breathe, or sleep, or eat. For as long as I can remember, stories and their characters have just been a massive part of who I am. Even if I'm not physically putting a story down onto paper, it's always in my head. It's a strange feeling - a part of me does, and always will, live inside many different worlds that no one else understands, at least not until they read about them. And even then, sometimes what they get is only a glimpse into a world I see, into the lives of characters who I know very intimately. Why do I write? I suppose the easiest answer would be because I want you to see - the worlds, the people, their stories. I want you to love them as much as I do, but if you don't, that's okay. I'll keep writing them anyway, because I could never stop. I can never stop.

Typically in bed, but lately also in front of the TV. I actually prefer paper and pen, but the ease of a computer is undeniable and so that makes it my object of choice. I'm one of those people who always has a writing playlist - what's on it tends to vary. Sometimes it's just whatever music I'm loving at the moment - normally songs with emotions, though. I've also become a huge fan of 'epic' music, like Audiomachine. It makes me think of sword fights, and dragons, and always helps me really want to write, even if I'm not feeling inspired for the story itself.  

I think B's answer to this was fantastic. Faith is the biggest part of our lives, and that comes into our writing a lot - even if it's not always obvious. I think as well, the fact that theres two of us can make a difference! At least, I like to think so.

You write. You don't edit, you don't re-read, you just write. Even if it all seems useless, and doesn't seem to have anything to do with your plot - just keep going. I find the moment I start to look back at the book, or even the last couple of pages, I get bogged down - all I can see are the flaws and I spend far too much time trying to fix things. For me, the only thing to do is to look forwards, even when I hate everything I'm writing. The important thing is to keep writing, because you'll be pushing yourself towards the next important plot point or you'll discover a new direction for your book that you hadn't considered before. Either way, when you're finished the book, then you can go back and get rid of the utterly useless scenes you're writing right now. Or you might discover that you love them, who knows.

I hope you enjoyed my take on these questions. Hopefully you guys have also been inspired like I've been to write frequently, even if it's just a little bit and even if you hate it. Because either way, you're writing and thats the important thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

B writes: Progress

I'm happy to report that this 250 Words a Day writing challenge I set myself is just what I needed to get my backside into gear and finish this pony story I've been sitting on since 2013!

Most days I'm easily going over my target - in fact my average word count is 500 words a day.  I've done seven days of writing, and 3,503 words so far - with a few extra typed here and there that I didn't bother tracking. So far, I'm only doing the challenge five days a week, but I might up that to six days a week soon.

I want to keep it achievable though. That's why I picked such a low word count to aim for. Yes, it would be slightly ridiculous for some writers who are already writing regularly to do the same, but this is for me. A busy mother with three children under four years old, who has many other responsibilities and hobbies besides writing.

250 words, five days a week is not only achievable, but also encouraging. I hit that goal, I want to try for more. So I end up doing more than 250 words each and every time I sit down to write! Sometimes it's a little more, sometimes it's a lot, like 1,013!

Either way, progress is being made and it's good. I like it.

"The first jump was an inviting oxer, with a nice ground line. Simple bars, and solid wings, the jump was set up to encourage the horse and rider to get into the course.

It didn’t look that scary until Jody was standing next to it, and then it was as high as Dudley’s knees, 60 centimetres tall. She could feel the butterflies flopping about. She’d jumped higher than that before – she’d been regularly jumping a meter ten at the riding school, but that had with Bosley; her favourite mount. Now it was just her and Dudley and she wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

She could dimly hear Mrs. Lowe discussing the course as they walked around, and shook herself, panicking. What did she miss? “-so make sure you sit up after the spread and really half-halt to gather Dudley’s strides. He will have flattened out to jump over the width of the triple bar, and you’ll really need to collect them up to get through the bounce clear.”

David nodded in complete agreement, but Jody felt like a vice was squeezing her ribcage when she looked at the pair of jumps set so closely together after that wide staircase spread. 
A triple bar! Then a combination! She could feel her knees knocking together, but David and Mrs. Lowe were already striding to the last jump of the twelve obstacles – the wall.

A solid jump, one to scare the riders, and Jody remembered it’s not just the riders that don’t like wall jumps – most horses didn’t either because they couldn’t see the ground on the other side of the jump. They had to trust their rider that it was safe to jump.

Jody swallowed hard. She and Dudley had been working on their relationship all this time – and they’d had some crazy adventures together – riding for help after Betty’s accident, and then riding out alone to help Cinnamon, but where they ready for this?

Jody squared her shoulders. Well, it was now or never, and as she walked back to her family and Dudley, she thought it was time that Dudley proved himself to be the right pony for her." 

- Dudley's Last Chance by Bonita Vear

Coming soon!