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.