Sunday, January 30, 2011

'Salem's Lot | by: Stephen King

This is for my participation in the 2011 Stephen King Reading Challenge, hosted by Book Chick City!

Jerusalem's Lot, or 'salem's Lot, is a very small town, and it already has secrets. Ben Mears has come back to face the demons of his past in the Lot once and for all, thinking that he can chase them away. Perhaps he could have, but the Lot has a couple of new strange visitors. Ben came at the worst possible time, for these new inhabitants are about to release something that could change the lives of the town's entire population with the evil they brought.

The story of Ben Mears is not the only story told in 'Salem's Lot, a classic tale of vampires, they way they've originally been told.

Well, before I even cracked this one open I knew I was in for some very good, descriptive writing; It is Stephen King, after all. At times it felt a little ramblesome, making it tedious, but it was generally impeccable. Another thing he knows well is character development, which is just as evident in 'Salem's Lot as it is in any other book that he's written, and that's saying something, considering that he writes about so many different characters in this novel alone. Not all of them were likeable, but that's life. He gives us background information on each person, so we really know them on just about every level. However, I didn't always see the point in in getting to know some characters, like Reggie and his family, as well as Sandy's family. But most of all, Dud. What was his purpose? Just sharing a bit of his story? It's like they barely mattered in the end, if they did at all.

As far as characters that I believed did matter, Mark was definately my favorite from this novel. He's a smart, strong kid, and I felt bad for him. Why did he have to be in this situation, defending his life, attempting to save others, and figuring out how to handle the town vampires? Just because he's smart?

The beginning was very difficult for me to digest, but I guess it's meant to be that way so the ending isn't spoiled. I just wish it was more understandable in its mystery. Other than that, Stephen King's descriptions always succeeded in letting me know what occurred in this plot, which could be a bit boring, but as I read, it became much more fascinating.

With that being said, most of the action is saved till the end, but it can be a long haul until then. This book was created merely for entertainment, and lives to that standard with suspenseful climatic points that increases until the final page. I think the ending is quite interesting, leaving room for imagination, but it's not like it's a cliffhanger.

'Salem's Lot had a very classic vampire feel to it, since the vampires were depicted as they were in classics such as Dracula. They were not glorified in any way, they were evil beings that manipulated people into letting them enter their house and deserved to have a stake through their hearts. I found this interesting. Perhaps this is because I did not read all of Dracula or other famous vampire classics (I mean the ones that aren't Twilight), but I was surprised to see that vampires were handled much like demons. They feared crucifixes and seemed to be quite satanic.

It didn't do too much for me, well, it was okay (that's why it's kind of hard to explain how I feel about it), but 'Salem's Lot will at least interest fans of early vampire depictions as well as fans of Stephen King like myself. It was an enjoyable, entertaining read overall; I liked it.

3/5 Stars

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black Swan | Directed by Darren Aronofsky | Screenplay by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin

For the past week or so I'd been so excited about seeing Black Swan at the cinema today. I watched both official trailers constantly in my raging anticipation for this award-winning, artistic film.

Nina (Natalie Portman) wants to have the role of the Swan Queen in her ballet company's new production of Swan Lake more than anything. But in order to get this role, she must portray both the White Swan and her evil twin, the Black Swan. Nina's personality and style of dance is clearly similar to the White Swan: Pure, innocent, careful, virginal. Therefore, depicting the Black Swan, who is seductive, wild, and dark, is a constant struggle. Lily (Mila Kunis) is exactly the opposite, and shows passion in her dancing, rather than focusing on perfection. As both women vie for the roll, Nina discovers her darker side, her inner Black Swan.

I'm not very sure where to begin, or what to say in this review. Black Swan is unlike anything else I've ever seen. It isn't something you can talk about, it's something you see. Otherwise, there is no hope for understanding its effect. Even an hour after the final scene ended, I was still in some sort of shock. Even then I still analyzed the film over and over again in my head, taking in all that had happened in this film.

Illusions were everywhere. Knowing the difference between what was real and what wasn't tended to be difficult, and that definately kept my interest. Nina basically goes crazy, and I was just as surprised as she was whenever she came to a realization or had an experience. And her mother is a bit frightening, to top it all off. Entertainment, to say the least. Nothing in this film ended up being horrifying, just extremely bizarre. In fact, Black Swan is the most bizarre film I've ever seen.

Of all the psychological thrillers ever made, this one has to be the most beautiful. The costumes are gorgeous, and the music and dancing is impeccable. This would not be done correctly without Natalie Portman. I knew beforehand that she's already won Best Actress for Black Swan at the Golden Globes and if I'm not mistaken, the Critic's Choice Awards, but now I can see why. Her portryal of Nina is perfect. She's so innocent and dedicated, yet she's totally losing her mind. Natalie captures this all flawlessly, making it so that I feel so sorry for Nina. It's like she never really grew up, as if her mother wanted her to be little forever. She tries so hard to be a prefect dancer in the midst of everything that's happening to her, between her mother freaking out and worrying about the competition for the role. Oftentimes I don't have pity for characters if they're weak and poorly brought-out, but Natalie Portman's performance was simply stunning.

Also, I applaud Natalie's dancing performance. (Ahem... the one towards the end of the film, to be exact... Perhaps I should've taken ballet lessons?) Dancing is great to watch, I've always felt that way. But never have I been so mezmerized by ballet before seeing Natalie Portman perform. I seriously got chills. Her grace and, well, even her wild facial expressions, made it one of the best parts of the entire film.

What's most interesting is that despite the fact that I loved this film, there were things that I wasn't fond of in it. Like, why does there have to be so many random masturbation scenes? And why are there so many Too-Much-Information-About-Your-Sex-Life scenes? Usually things that irk me throughout a film effects how I think of it as a whole when I watch films or read books, but in this case, I don't care. Somehow, they were all necesary to demonstrate a point.

No matter how amazing I may think it is, I realize not everyone will appriciate Black Swan, let that be your warning. Some may find the constant use of sex distasteful, and the general film too strange. If one goes to see this movie with no appriciation for ballet, I'm not so sure how they'd take it. I appriciate ballet and the oddest of art forms, so in my opinion, this film was immaculate.

Cheers to Natalie Portman, to Mila Kunis (for being a great supporting actress, despite I didn't see enough of her character in the film for me to say much else), and to Black Swan, for in all of it's uniqueness, it is the most bizarre masterpiece they've come up with.

5/5 Stars

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Trailer: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

For a little while, I've seen one or two mentions of a 2011 science fiction debut called Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Immediately, I fell in love with the concept, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy (yes, it has already been released). This looks like it will be absolutely astonishing.

Even the book trailer is fantastic. In fact, it's so fantastic that I decided to show everyone right here! I've never seen a book trailer so awesome before in my entire life! Look at it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crescendo | by: Becca Fitzpatrick

I just finished up with Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush and couldn't wait for to read the sequal, Crescendo!

Nora may have momentarily believed that her life is absolutely great, but things are falling apart just as quickly. Something's going on with her boyfriend, Patch, who happens to be an angel. He's so distant, and he's hanging around Marcie Millar, who's been an enemy of Nora's ever since elementary school.

But, Nora's curiosity doesn't stop there. She's attempting to uncover the secrets she believes a family friend is desperate to keep quiet, for one thing. On top of that, there's another mystery eating at her, one that could be the most important of all, though it's a newly-emerged concept: Did Nephilims kill her father? What about fallen angels? Did they take any part in her father's death? Nora does everything she can think of to get her answers, no matter how dangerous. She needs to know what happened to her father. She needs to know if she'd been betrayed.

From past experience, I've learned not to expect too much from sequals, since sometimes the books in a series can go completely downhill. Crescendo isn't the case. It's darker than Hush, Hush, and the mystery itself crescendos throughout. Twists and turns come out of nowhere! I had so many theories building, but in the end, they all crumbled, because this book is definately not predictable.

However, in the beginning, I wasn't so sure how I'd feel about it. I kept getting nervous throughout the first half, and that's mainly because Nora was starting to scare me. In Hush, Hush, I could always see myself in her, mainly in her dialogue. But this wasn't happening at first. She got under my skin, because she kept acting irrationally. Whenever she was waiting for Patch to call her, I could practically scream "CALL HIM!" as I read. I couldn't understand why she was so mad at him anyway, when I felt she started it, and that she should stop treating it like a normal relationship. Honey, he's an angel... this relationship will never be typical. But then Patch started irritating me as well. It broke my heart each time Nora saw him around Marcie. Eventually, I didn't know who to side with or what to expect. Patch and Nora's relationship put me in a whirlwind of anxiety.

In addition to the romance portion (which I babbled on about too much to do the bulk of the book justice, if you ask me), Becca Fitzpatrick has created a plotline that's entertaining at all times. I flew through this novel at great speeds, because she paced the story so perfectly and made it interesting to read throughout each page (a lesson some YA authors need to learn). Like I said before, this is a mystery that'll keep you tied in. The writing seems even better than what was in Hush, Hush, but maybe that's just me. Characters never lost their depth and everything felt real (much like in Hush, Hush).

But what I really loved about his novel is the sense of paranormal illusion. I've never read a book that could get that sort of thing right, but movies are always spot on, since you usually need a visual to be confused as to what's real and what's not. Becca Fitzpatrick writes the correct way, enabling her to do this. She shows us the illusion.

Of course, Becca *had* to end the book with a huge cliffhanger that might make me go crazy. I'm going to have to pick up the third book right on the release date in my anticipation of what happens next! I cannot wait!

Crescendo is the farthest thing from a disappointing sequal, being even creepier and better than Hush, Hush.

4.5/5 Stars

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hush, Hush | by: Becca Fitzpatrick

As soon as Nora meets the mysterious new student, Patch, her whole life seems to shake and spin out of control. Strange, unexplainable things are happening left and right beginning on the first day that they meet at her high school. Of course, that could all be a coincidence. But there is at least one thing she can be absolutely positive of: She is very drawn to Patch, even though she believes he's a threat she should stay away from. Even though she's sure that his past is filled with dark secrets.

Books about angels tend to make me happy, espcially when the author knows what he/she is talking about when referencing older stories (or facts, if you believe in them). However, I've had a bit of an adventure with this novel.

The first time I read Hush, Hush was almost exactly a year ago, and I liked it. Well, sorta. It seemed to be an okay book, but I wasn't exactly a fan. If I'd been blogging at the time, I would have given it a 3.5/5 star rating.

I just finished reading it for the second time, so I'd has everything fresh in my mind for Crescendo, the sequal. And let me tell you that my opinion has changed.

I couldn't put this book down. The story intrigued me, AND it was completely entertaining, and moved at a nearly perfect pace. Funny thing... when I first read this, I thought it went too slowly and that nothing happened. (I think I was stressed out when I first read it, so my opinion wasn't reasonable.) I found it completely interesting, and kinda beautiful in some way. There were even bits of humor in there that made me smile.

Another big surprise for me is that I really did not like Becca's writing the first time around for whatever reason, but this time, I found a very small amount of problems with it. In fact, I liked it. Her writing is effective, and she gets to the point. She created a number of strange events that could seem randomized if she didn't do it right, but she did. All in all, it's not bad writing, but it's not the most amazing writing I've ever seen.

One of the reasons why I loved Hush, Hush so much is I relate to Nora. Most of the time, the things she'd say to people, whether reasoning with Vee, attempting to reason with herself, or trying to act smart toward Patch, sound like exactly like what I'd say. She's constantly finding herself pulled Patch, but she fights herself all the time, trying to get that idea out of her head, and replacing it with one that screams "STAY AWAY FROM THAT CREEP." This sounds like me. I fight my emotions a lot. And yet, this very thing is what irritated me most about Nora - she was so slow to like and trust Patch.

Speaking of Patch... I'm just gonna come right out and say it... He's sexy, okay? In all of his mysterious-ness and bad boy-ness. I think he's my favorite out of all the hot guys I've read about in books, in his personality and appearance. In fact, this also sort of brings a downside, since because I love him so much, I want him to be in the book with Nora more! Usually she's avoiding him or sneaking around trying to find info about him, and I can't stand it! I want more Patch! And I want my questions about him answered. (What is his real name? Where has he been all these years? When did he fall? Is he going to live forever while Nora has to die eventually, or how does this situation work?)

I'm having issues with getting this book out of my mind. Every half hour, it pops into my mind. I don't really understand how my opinion completely changed after one year and a reread. All of a sudden, I'm just in love with the story and the characters (espcially Patch). It has this creepy and dark edge to it, where you're not so sure what's happening because nothing makes sense. If you ask me, Becca's running it more like a movie than a book. Either way, the story in general makes me so nervous for the characters and anxious for what will happen next! I just crave and crave for more!

Seriously, I'm worried about reading Crescendo. Not because I don't think it'll be good (I'm sure it will be), but because if I have such a I-can't-stop-reading-because-I'm-too-scared-to-stop rush during a reread of this one, I can't imagine the stress Crescendo could possibly bring. I'm so excited to read it, though!

Hush, Hush is an eerie and addictive read, and it gives readers some healthy doses of mystery, romance, angels, and events filled with paranormality.

4.5/5 Stars