Month in Movies: July

monthinmovies_2012

This monthly meme was inspired by Holly’s Movie Madness posts & by someone else’s, but I cannot remember who at the moment.

1. Edge of Tomorrow

I was hesitant to see this as the last sci-fi Tom Cruise film I saw was not impressive (Oblivion…boring), but the fact that Jonas Armstrong is in this completely won me over. While his part is rather small, I did end up enjoying it more than I expected. The plot, which could have ended up feeling incredibly repetitive, was fast-paced, thrilling, and fun. This is worth a shot if you enjoy a good, action-packed sci-fi film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

2. Begin Again (2)

Blown away! I completely and utterly adored this film. The reviews I’d read before seeing it had been favorable, but I still was surprised by how truly awesome this was. The cast is absolutely brilliant. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo can portray so much emotional depth in a single look. Plus, the music is phenomenal. I definitely went straight to the store and purchased the soundtrack! Also, I saw this twice if that’s any indication of how fantastic this is.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Buy

3. Lullaby

I had no clue what this movie was about, but the cast intrigued me. Usually when this happens, I end up hating the movie. However, I found this to be quite fascinating. It’s certainly a character study rather than a majorly plot-driven piece which will probably turn some people off. I found this to be a beautiful glimpse into ordinary lives though.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

Life Calls

Hi all!

Just a brief note to let you know that posts may be sporadic/absent for the next couple of weeks as I’m currently in the midst of some job upheaval. I’ll try to post as much as I can, but I’m spending a lot of time working.

Review: Grisha Trilogy

shadowandboneSeries: Grisha Trilogy

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Read via: Purchased, Purchased, and Library

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Shadow and Bone

I had purchased this and the second book ages ago, but it was Lauren DeStefano’s tweets about Ruin and Rising that finally convinced me to start reading the series. This book was a fantastic start. I loved the mythology and the world that Leigh Bardugo has created. It felt very fresh and different. I enjoyed Alina from the start, and I think her development throughout the book is wonderful. She definitely displays a great mix of strength and vulnerability. The Darkling was probably my favorite character. I loved him, and I was just as intrigued with him as Alina was. Mal is the only character I was not sure about. I liked the back story especially the childhood friendship between him and Alina, but I was not a big fan of him otherwise. He lacked spark for me. However, all the secondary characters were excellent. Genya was especially brilliant, and she quickly became a favorite. While all of the characters were fabulous, I also absolutely adored the ending of this book. It was completely unexpected, and it changed all of my expectations for the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Siege and Storm

Once again I quickly found myself surprised. I expected the “on the run” plot to last longer. However, I loved the introduction of Sturmhond, and while I was not surprised by the reveal, I enjoyed it immensely. In addition to Sturmhond, we meet Tamar and Tolya. Both of them are fun and truly add to the series. I continue to not be Mal’s biggest fan, and again I found myself rather entranced by the Darkling (wrong of me, I know), but he definitely makes some disastrous choices which affect his likability. Overall, I thought this book was much faster paced than Shadow and Bone. Plus, it incorporates a variety of great settings and some fantastic new characters. Often castle politics/political intrigue can become tedious or frustrating, however, I thought such scenes were addressed really well here and kept me interested.  The climax at the end was shattering. My heart was broken completely as everything fell apart.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ruin and Rising

Despite all of the horrors they are facing as the series comes to an end, the characters truly shined here. Everyone grows and shows such depth, and I greatly appreciated the beautiful friendship that the group shares. After being somewhat less present in Siege and Storm, Genya plays a larger role here which I loved. Nikolai remains hilarious and charming, but he also experiences some truly life-changing moments. Even Zoya has grown on me, and I found her to be marvelous throughout this book. Also, I came to like Mal particularly during the last half of the book. Harshaw and Misha were certainly my favorite new characters. Poor Alina faces impossible choice after impossible choice, but somehow she becomes an even stronger, more beautiful character.

Like with Siege and Storm, this book is fast paced and often seems to take the unexpected route. I especially appreciated the fact that nothing was black or white. This idea is evident throughout the series, but it is definitely more noticeable here. Alina may be the “hero” of the story, however, even she cannot be classified consistently as good. Similarly, the Darkling has made undeniably evil decisions, but he is not all bad. Books that allow their characters to operate in shades of gray are infinitely better for it as it is a more accurate representation of real life.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Grisha trilogy is one of the best fantasy series I have read in some time. Leigh Bardugo has created a fascinating, original world populated by an incredibly diverse, intelligent group of characters. While I was not always a fan of the romance, I immensely enjoyed all of the other elements. Happily, I found Ruin and Rising to be a well planned, strong conclusion, and, in the end, I would highly recommend this series.

Reread Lately #2

Just brief thoughts on books I’ve read for the second (or third or fourth…) time.

forgetyouForget You

Jennifer Echols

“Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her.”

Although I still enjoyed this the second time around, I found it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. I was frustrated by Zoey through a lot of the story, and I felt that some of Doug’s actions bordered on controlling.

Originally read: 2011/2012(?) – 4 stars
Reread: 4/29/14 – 3/3.5 stars

The Girl of Fire and Thorns girlfirethorns

Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

I enjoyed this about as much as I did the first time. There were points when the pacing was slow, but the characters were able to capture and hold my interest. Once again I fell in love with Cosme (she’s brilliant!), and generally liked a lot of the secondary characters. Definitely was worth a reread (and I’m so glad I did before reading the second book).

Originally read: 8/20/11 – 3 stars – Original Review
Reread: 6/30/14 – 3 stars

pushingthelimitsPushing the Limits

Katie McGarry

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Yes, so this book is still just bursting with passion, heartache, and beautifully flawed characters. I remembered loving this story the first time I read it, and nothing has changed. Definitely would recommend this, and I plan to hopefully finally read Katie McGarry’s other books!

Originally read: 8/28/12 – 4 stars – Original Review
Reread: 7/7/14 – 4 stars

Possible Upcoming Rereads

Sarah Dessen books
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Who am I?

Identity, I’m learning, is a fluid thing.

When I was a teen, I thought I’d figured out who I was. I was the shy, smart girl who loved books. As I fought my way into adulthood, I found myself being the crazy, fragile girl. But as I finished up college, I started to realize that both these identities I’d become used to didn’t quite fit anymore. I was terrified. I found myself panicking and wondering if I wasn’t either of those girls, who was I?

I still am smart. I still love books. I still have moments of crazy. However, I’ve realized that the person I am today is someone completely different from who I was even a year ago.

So who am I?

Like anyone, I am many things. I do not think there is one thing or action that defines me. Identity is made up of so many parts and pieces, and only when it is all placed together do we see who we are.

Similarly, I think a blog tends to reflect the fluctuating identity of its writer which is certainly natural. Things that do not evolve and adapt in some way tend to be lost to time. In the past when my interests have changed I’ve simply started over, but honestly, I do no think that’s necessary. Paper Dreams may have begun as a book blog, expanded to include other interests, and experienced a few starts and stops, but all of this has simply been examples of growth. I’m not sure how to categorize this site now, and  really my only goal now is to create honest content that I find interesting and hopefully others do as well.

So with all that said, I still kind of feel as if I’m starting over, and when beginning a relationship, introductions must be made.

Hi! I’m Nicci (which is actually my middle name). I recently graduated from college with an English Writing degree, and I am currently training to be a store manager. I live in a small town with my family with whom I’m very close to. I’m an entertainment addict. I adore storytelling particularly through books and television (although movies are awesome as well). I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I am alive and therefore anything is possible.

At this point I am coming to appreciate the fact that identity is fluid. I am not fated to be the same person, and I always have the choice to become someone different.

TV Lately #5

tvlately_PD

teenwolf_promoShow: Teen Wolf

Network: MTV

# of Seasons Aired: S4 airing now

Currently Watching: Season 2

Premise: “MTV’s reboot of the classic 1980s cult movie Teen Wolf. Scott is a typical high school student until one night he is bitten by a strange animal while walking in the woods. His best friend tries to help him understand the changes he’s going through as he becomes a werewolf.” -TV.com

Thoughts: I admitted in my last post that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed season 1 of Teen Wolf, and I’m happy to report that season 2 was only an improvement in many ways. A huge plus this season was the character development. Allison, Derek, and Isaac had especially awesome story arcs. Allison’s was particularly spectacular. My heart broke for her, but at the same time she drove me crazy! I also found this season that the only relationships I am shipping are the friendships between Derek and Scott & Stiles and Scott which is strange for me as I ALWAYS have some romantic ship. Despite all of the awesome character development, I did feel that this season did not have quite as cohesive a plot as the first. It seemed that there were a lot more subplots and it sometimes felt they didn’t flow together well.

Favorite Episodes: Raving, Fury, Battlefield

Show: Broadchurch

Network: ITV broadchurch

# of Seasons Aired: S2 in production / American remake Gracepoint to air this fall

Currently Watching: Season 1

Premise: A small community in Dorset is rocked by the death of local boy Danny Latimer and DI Alec Hardy (Tennant) is drafted in to head up the investigation instead of local officer DS Ellie Miller (Colman).
As the investigation proceeds, the lives of the locals – from the Latimer family, to priest Paul Coates and mysterious Susan Wright are explored as they deal with the life changing events. – TV.com

Thoughts: Put David Tennant in a show and it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll watch. While his presence may have initiated my interest, the first episode of Broadchurch completely blew me away. Brilliantly written, with a superb insanely talented cast, and an intense mystery Broadchurch is a gem. It is truly a perfect character study of people in the face of loss, suspicion, and life itself. Plus, the show is gorgeously shot, so it’s a joy to watch.

*If at all still possible, avoid any/all spoilers about the ending as this would be a treat to watch unsullied (I’m pretty sure I accidentally spoiled myself a while ago, but I’m hoping I’m wrong).

Favorite Episodes: Episode 1, Episode 5

Review: The Bone Season

boneseasonTitle: The Bone Season

Series: The Bone Season #1

Author: Samantha Shannon

Read via: Borrowed from Alleluialu

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

It’s truly astounding that this is a debut. The plot is so incredibly original and intricate, and I cannot wait to see how the series plays out. It definitely took me a while to get to this one, and I might not have if Alleluialu hadn’t let me borrow her copy. However, I’m really glad she convinced me as this was a fascinating book filled with some remarkable characters and brilliant world building.

Warden is the classic dark and brooding male with a mysterious past. Even after finishing the book it still feels like we don’t know a lot about his history, but the hints and few details we get are certainly intriguing. I also think his development throughout the story was awesome, and I enjoyed the dynamic between him and Paige. Despite all of the supernatural elements, Paige also felt delightfully human. I sympathized with her, admired her, but she could also frustrate me with some of her choices. I loved the complexity of her situation, and found her story to be heartbreaking. Her boss, Jaxon, was also extremely complicated. There is no way to classify him as “good” or “evil” and I absolutely loved that. The conflicted relationship between him and Paige was a marvelous subplot. Nashira was another highlight as I felt she was a fabulous, freaky, and honestly terrifying villain. My favorite characters though were probably two of the supporting characters. I adored Nick. I fell in love with him from the start, and I could not have predicted how his story played out. I also really liked Liss. So many of the moments with her broke my heart. Julian, Seb, and Michael were also amazing. A group of great depth and emotion. I was very impressed with the wide array and individuality displayed in such a large cast of characters.

My one main fault with The Bone Season would be the pacing. The first two-thirds of the book is rather slow. There’s a lot of world building/mythology explained which, while interesting, can become tedious. Also, at first I found it hard to keep track of all the different types of voyants (really wish there was a handy chart or pamphlet!). The last third of the book, however, was packed with intense, edge-of-your-seat action. All of the various plotlines crash together, and I thought it was amazing.

Overall, The Bone Season started out slow, but the well-rounded, intense characters and original world kept me intrigued until the action picked up. I have very high hopes for the next book in the series, and I would definitely recommend this one. I’m not sure whether this is “officially” categorized as young adult or adult, but I think it leans more towards the latter. Though it is definitely a great crossover book between the two genres.

Cover: 3
Plot: 4
Writing: 3.5
Personally: 4

Overall: 3.6 out of 5

Happy 4th of July

 

464955_10200369226287642_1673990732_oHappy Independence Day to all of my U.S. readers! I hope everyone has a safe, marvelous day!

And thank you to all who have and continue to serve and protect our country.

Month in Movies: June

monthinmovies_2012

This monthly meme was inspired by Holly’s Movie Madness posts & by someone else’s, but I cannot remember who at the moment.

1. Serenity

This was a rewatch, and I found it to be just as amazing and heartbreaking as ever. It’s definitely a classic Whedon tragedy, and it makes me wish this series had gotten more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Buy

2. Maleficent

I had really high hopes for this one, and it was certainly gorgeous (3D would probably be amazing if you like it). The cast was also pretty impressive. Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning were standouts. The beginning was a bit slow though, and I think this hurt the movie overall. I also felt that some characters were never fleshed out (the point of the queen besides as baby mama/dream ruiner?) while others were full of back story. Also, Umbridge has become a fairy!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

3. The Fault in Our Stars

If a writer needs an example of an awesome adaptation look no further than this. So many scenes and lines in this film came directly from the book itself, and this completely captured its emotional tone as well. Although, the cast must certainly be acknowledged for their incredible performances (Ansel and Shailene were just brilliant). My only wish was that there could have been more Isaac, but that may be due to my new love for Nat Wolff.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Buy

4. Neighbors

I don’t know why I keep watching comedies like this as I rarely enjoy them, but I still gave this a shot. Yeah…I felt that this had about 5 minutes of plot that was then recycled and repeated for the entire length of the film (bored…). Plus, I get this weird sense of realism with comedies, and I found myself finding all of the plot surrounding the baby completely unbelievable and frustrating (the parents would likely have lost custody / really frat boys with the air bags?!). However, if you have to see this Zac Efron is gorgeous.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Another rewatch (3rd time around) and again completely worth it. This is definitely one of the best Marvel movies. It’s pretty much tied with Avengers as my favorite. I love all of the plots and subplots. The social themes, the relationship between Steve/Bucky, Natasha and hints of her history, and the whole twist with SHIELD…all of it makes for a brilliant cinematic experience. I’d highly recommend this!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Buy

6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This was yet another rewatch, but it isn’t a movie I love as much. I did enjoy the first movie a bit more, and I think this one has some pacing/flow issues as it seemed rather choppy. However, I loved the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and I loved the addition of Harry Osborne. Overall, I think this movie had a lot of great moments, but wasn’t as strong throughout.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

Review: Ignite Me

ignitemeTitle: Ignite Me

Series: Shatter Me #3

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Read via: Library

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

I’m always very wary when it comes to the last book in a series. Usually, a final book is either awesome or disappointing, and I’m heartbroken to say that, for me, this falls into the latter category. I really wanted to love this book. I think Tahereh Mafi’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, and I immensely enjoyed the first two books (especially, Unravel Me). However, this book just didn’t work for me.

The plot remains interesting, but I also found it underwhelming. This was particularly true of the ending. The majority of this book is building up to this final fight, but then it’s over in just a few pages. There was no real struggle and it was kind of a letdown. There was also little emotional fallout or impact from the major events that occur throughout the book. Obviously, I do not think characters should just be killed off randomly, but I also find it unbelievable that given the stakes so many people lived. Also, it seemed like there were repeated near or fake deaths, but nothing ever actually seemed to stick.

Warner’s storyline was probably the most frustrating part of Ignite Me. My reaction can be summed up by one word – WHY? By the end of Unravel Me I was already starting to sympathize with and like Warner, and I felt like trying to undo all of the bad things he’d done wasn’t necessary. People – right or wrong – can still care about “evil” character and I felt changing him so much just was not needed. Similarly, Adam’s changes didn’t ring true. I was frustrated with him in Unravel Me, and I still felt that his development and actions weren’t believable. He repeatedly behaved irrationally and childishly. I really like the idea of people changing and growing apart, so I found that to ring true, but he doesn’t seem to in any way be the character we met in Shatter Me.

Overall, there were some elements of Ignite Me that I enjoyed, but the character development did not feel natural and I found the climax to be underwhelming. For me, I would still say the series was worth reading for Unravel Me if nothing else. Also, I am still in love with Tahereh Mafi’s beautiful, lyrical writing, so I will be checking out whatever she does next.

Cover: 4
Plot: 2.5
Writing: 3.5
Personally: 3

Overall: 3.2 out of 5