Entwined

First Lines: An hour before Azalea’s first ball began, she paced the ballroom floor, tracing her toes in a waltz.  She had the opening dance with the King…who danced like a brick.

When it comes down to it, I really enjoy a good fairytale.  The 12 Dancing Princesses is one that flies under the radar, though, because it hasn’t been picked up by Disney and turned into an animated, bouncing musical.  So I find it interesting to see how it’s written.  Many of them stick to what I think is the original story.  There’s not many variations between versions.

Azalea is the oldest of her sisters and the one destined to be the next queen.  Her life is close to perfect…until her mother dies and her father goes off to war to avoid the memories.  Now Az is in charge of the household and her sisters.  In boredom and desperation to dance again, Az finds a magical passage in the castle that leads to a land coated in silver and ruled by a man named Keeper.  Night after night, the princesses dance there.  But what happens when they get in over their heads and Az wants out?  Will Keeper let them go?

I will say that I can completely relate to Azalea.  I am the oldest in my family as well, so it’s very easy for me to relate to the lengths Az will go to protect her family.  The job of the oldest is to pretty much be the ambassador between the parents and the rest of the kids, which is exactly what Az did, along with so much else.

I really liked how vibrant all the characters were, even the ones that only played a small part.  Everyone had a distinct personality or something that made them stand out from the other characters.  That was really nice.  I think the fact that the book was nearly 500 pages allowed for that to develop.

That said, I think it hit a bit of a slump in the middle.  The beginning introduced everything and got the action going, but the middle tripped a bit.  You could tell it was building for the ending, but parts almost seemed like they were being mentioned too early, at least to me.  Not much really happened in the middle.  Once it started getting closer to the end, it picked up again.  However, I didn’t feel like the ending was completely to par with the beginning of the story.  Still good, though.  It just could have used some work.

Spotlight Friday (19)

Happy Holidays!  Even though it’s been an amazing, busy week, I haven’t forgotten to post a new Spotlight!  With the holidays coming, I’m even more excited to get some new books, even if these don’t come out until January or later.

Enshadowed (Nevermore, #2) by Kelly Creagh

Release Date: August 28, 2012

**It’s the 2nd in a very dramatic series.  Spoilers ahead.**

Summary (from Goodreads): While Varen remains a prisoner in the dream-world, Isobel is haunted by his memory. He appears to her in her dreams and soon, even in her waking life. But is she just imagining it? Isobel knows she must find a way back to Varen. She makes plans to go to Baltimore. There, she confronts the figure known throughout the world as the Poe Toaster—the same dark man who once appeared to Isobel in her dreams, calling himself “Reynolds.”

Isobel succeeds in interrupting the Toaster’s ritual and, in doing so, discovers a way to return to the dream-world. Soon, she finds herself swept up in a realm which not only holds remnants of Poe’s presence, but has also now taken on the characteristics of Varen’s innermost self. It is a dark world comprised of fear, terror, and anger.

When Isobel once more encounters Varen, she finds him changed. With his mind poisoned by the dream world, he becomes a malevolent force, bent on destroying all—even himself. Now Isobel must face a new adversary, one who also happens to be her greatest love.

What’s To Like: My apologies on listing this one even though it’s 9 months away.  I was so drawn into the first one that it’s still sticking with me.  I love Poe and it’s so great to see so much of his lore and mystery included in a story.  And I love how psychological this story is.  So much takes place in the mind and you have to decipher what’s real.

My review of Enshadowed

Forbidden by Syrie James and Ryan M. James

Release Date: January 24, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)The book is about a 16-year-old girl who comes into unusual powers, only to discover that she’s half-angel… and her entire existence is forbidden. 

Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson Academy as the ideal hiding place where he could escape and be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire Brennan into his plans… 

Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the threat to Claire’s life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?

What’s To Like: Complain about forbidden loves all you want, I love them just the same.  Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde.  Everyone loves a forbidden match.  And since angels are still a relatively new area for novelists to pursue, I’m interested to see what the watchers do.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Release Date: January 24, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads): It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you’re dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn’t?

What’s To Like: It’s a dystopia much like The Hunger Games.  Kaelyn’s community is going crazy and she could be the only one left if everyone else gets sick.  Plus, there’s someone she loves in the middle of all that tragedy.  It could be me, but I’m willing to put a small bet on her new love getting sick with the disease and her having to heal him.  I have not heard anything revealing about the book, so I can’t say for sure that this will happen.  Just reading between the lines.

My review of The Way We Fall.

Undead Much? (Megan Berry, #2)

First Lines: Okay, this was it.  The BIG moment.  After two months of training so hard, we barely had the energy to shower before we fell into bed–let alone ravage each other the way two teenagers in love should totally be ravaging each other–Ethan and I were alone on Sunday night, the last night of winter break.

Zombies are very much in now.  I find Megan’s story sort of fascinating, since it’s a little different than what I think of as a typical zombie story.  And I can’t refuse a story with a sassy main character.

*Potential Spoilers From Previous Books*

Megan’s life has been anything but ordinary since she became a Settler.  Things have been better since she started dating Ethan, but still dead people interrupt their dates.  And not to mention the evil cheerleaders are trying to take over the halftime show at basketball games.  Can things get worse?  Of course they can when Megan’s involved.  Now, there are new super-strong zombies on the loose and everyone in charge thinks Megan is guilty.  Can she prove her innocence and save the town?

Megan’s snark is so awesome.  I love her sarcastic streak that always emerges when she’s in a stressful situation…which was kind of the whole book.  And some of the minor characters had just as much wit as she did.  I love it when I spend half the book giggling.

Like I mentioned, the whole book was sort of a stressful situation.  That got annoying really fast, actually.  Yes, the stress intensity increased as the story went, but the whole time, Megan was looking over her shoulder.  It’s hard to read a book when you know it’s so tense.  I had to keep taking breaks to escape it.

The ending was a bit obvious from early on.  At least a few aspects of it.  Looking back, it’s a bit more obvious than it was at the time.

Also, some of the characters act weirdly.  I mean, they were written one way in the first book and now they act differently in this one with no really well-explained reason.  Megan even points out multiple times, “Why is [X] acting so weird?”  It just wasn’t sufficiently explained to fix my curiosity.

Overall, though, I liked it.  Characters like Cliff and Monica really make the story.  Plus, there is some truly dangerous stuff going on and I’m drawn to that like a moth to a flame.

Breaking Dawn Part 1

Forever is only the beginning.

So, I just got back from watching Breaking Dawn with my mom.  She was actually the one really pushing to see it, which I thought was funny since I had to force her to read them before the first movie came out.

I’m really not going to take the time to talk about the plot of this book because, frankly, I think most everyone knows it even if you haven’t read the book.  And if you don’t know, either read the book, ask a friend, or Google it.

Yes, I have read all the books and yes, I have seen all the movies (in the first week they’re released, to boot).  However, it’s sort of been falling out of my favor as of late.  Not really sure why, but keep this in mind.  It plays into my opinion of the movie.

I liked how elegant and pretty the wedding scenes were.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  And Kristen’s much talked about dress?  I just thought it was ok.  The style isn’t one I’m fond of.  The reception was nice as well.  It’s always fun to see Charlie because he’s so much like my own dad that I have to laugh and cry when Bella does.

I’ve heard people were upset by the cheesy special effects and I just want to say, from my perspective, I thought they were pretty good.  The only time I had a “This is too cheesy” moment was when we heard the wolves talk amongst themselves.  It was almost cartoonish there.  Other than that, everything looked pretty amazing.

If you have a weak stomach, you may want to be careful when it comes to this movie.  They didn’t shy away from gory moments at all.  There’s vomit, lots of blood, and a birth scene.  I’m saying this in a friendly way because I know when it comes to large amounts of blood, I get really grossed out.  I thought it was terribly gory, but my mom thought it would be way worse than that.  Frankly, I don’t want to know what that scene would have looked like if she directed it.

I guess I’m not used to Twilight vampires anymore.  I’ve read so many vampire books since then that they just don’t seem normal anymore.  It takes me a while to get adjusted to the eyes and the  way they can forgo hunting for weeks at a time and the animal blood.  Trust me, I remember all this from the books, but it doesn’t fit my inner model of a vampire anymore.

When it comes to the acting, I always think Taylor Lautner is the best actor.  He’s the most expressive, which isn’t hard when he’s always compared to the stoic Robert Pattinson and the sometimes overly dramatic Kristen Stewart.  I find they get on my nerves a little after a while.  Jacob, however, I could watch all day.  Those abs…ahem.  Excuse me.

I know most of you won’t be swayed by my opinion.  If someone told me the last Harry Potter movie would be absolutely terrible, I wouldn’t have listened.  So take from this what you will.  I just offer what I saw.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

First Lines: I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.  Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involves my grandfather, Abraham Portman.

When you read supernatural stuff as much as I do, you begin to think there aren’t many surprises left.  Everything’s been touched upon or every subject has been sufficiently covered.  But Miss Peregrine felt really new, even though I can point to a number of things that have been used in previous stories, like the characteristics of the peculiar children.

Jacob Portman’s life has always been pretty ordinary.  The only child of rich parents, he’s been spoiled and doted upon for years.  However, his grandfather was different.  He told Jacob stories of peculiar children he knew back when he attended school on a small island during World War II.  When he was young, Jacob ate those stories up.  Now he knows better than to believe them…but what if they’re true?  After a family tragedy brings Jacob to the island his grandfather always talked about, he finds that things can be rather…peculiar.  The school is in ruins now, but what if children are still living there?…the same children…?

Yesterday, I read nearly all day because I realized if I wanted to read anything else before Thanksgiving, I had to get this one done.  So I booked it, no pun intended.  And once I really got rolling, I didn’t want to stop.

The story was more complex than I thought it would be.  There was always so much going on and so much you had to keep straight.  For the most part, Mr. Riggs did a good job of writing it in a way that could be easily understood even if you weren’t completely keeping up with it (which I wasn’t always).  It’s given to you in chunks, as Jacob learns everything.

I didn’t expect this to be as creepy as it was.  If I had known, I may not have read it as quickly or at night.  I thought it would have creepy elements, yes (have you seen the pictures?), but I just figured it’d be a fun, la-di-da read.  So not the case.  It tackles very heavy material.  Be forewarned.

I didn’t expect, either to like it as much as I did.  Even as I was finishing reading it, I was like, “It’s not worth 5 roses.”  But afterwards, it lingered with me for so long that I had to reconsider. Also, there was so much set up at the end that you know this has to be a series.  After digging a little, I found that in fact, there is a tentatively planned sequel for 2013.  So keep that in mind.

Good story.  Creepy at times, and perhaps a little hard to follow if you aren’t familiar with the sci-fi genre, but still good.

Ever After: A Cinderella Story

Desire.  Defy.  Escape.

In order to win an ill-conceived bet, I had to stay up until 2 in the morning (I’m happy to report I won). I did it by watching Ever After.  I love a good fairytale story, but Cinderella has never been my favorite.  I guess it resonates with people, the way a girl hard on her luck but true in virtue can become a queen.  I’ve just never fallen for the story the same way I have Beauty and the Beast.

Danielle’s father died when she was 8, right after marrying a Baroness with two daughters.  Now, Danielle (Barrymore) works as their servant.  One day, Danielle spots a thief stealing one of their horses.  Unfortunately for her, it was Prince Henry (Scott) trying to escape life at his castle for a while.  Henry is intrigued by Danielle and her view on life and tries to see her as often as he can…though he doesn’t know she’s just a servant.  How long can Danielle keep up the charade before the truth comes out?  How long before she loses her heart?

It was very cute.  I was interrupted multiple times while I was watching it, so I lost focus a couple of times, but overall I liked it.  Danielle was a girl who wasn’t scared to stand for what she thought was right, no matter who was in her way.  I like seeing that in heroines.  She put up with so much more than she should have.

Prince Henry was very likable too.  And very cute, if I do say so.  He had character flaws that stood in contrast to Danielle, who seemed nearly perfect.  I liked when he could acknowledge those.

It was fun to see the minor characters step up as well.  One of the stepsisters was so great and some of the people that frequented the castle were fun as well.  I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t seen it.  It’s much better, in my opinion, if you don’t really know.  I mean, you know the plot of Cinderella anyway, so you know how the story goes.  The fun comes out of not knowing this version’s differences.

Chicago

It began with a hit…

One of my good friends is always going around singing “All That Jazz” from this movie, and I’ve been wanting to watch it for that reason.  Musicals always catch my interest, so I was willing to give it a shot.  And really, the only reason I actually picked it was because it was going to disappear from Netflix in a week.

Roxie Hart (Zellweger) has been trying to make it big.  A man told her he had connections, but that turned out to be a lie.  So Roxie shoots him and finds herself in prison with other women who have killed someone.  Roxie’s idol, Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) is also there for killing her sister and husband.  But when Velma and Roxie start vying for the legal representation and attentions of Billy Flynn, Roxie and Vel become bitter enemies.  Who’s going to win? And will they both make it out of prison alive?

I didn’t like the movie right away.  It took a while for me to sink into the storyline.  Roxie was hard to like, considering she was sleeping around behind her husband’s back.  (Her husband is played by John C. Reilly, who is one of those guys I just always have sympathy for.)  It was very risque in the beginning and I just was not expecting it.  Perhaps I should have, since they’re wearing short dresses right there on the poster…

Anyway.  The music was pretty good.  A couple of songs were hard to understand, in my opinion.  One had a bit sung by a woman in a different language.  I was clueless enough as it was at the time.  Though I suspect if I watched it again, I would be just fine.

The story was actually really interesting once you figure out who is who and what their motive is.  I mean, Roxie is one motivated girl.  She was bound and determined to get exactly what she wanted that she didn’t care who she hurt along the way.  It was actually fascinating to watch her completely destroy everything around her.  And Billy Flynn…that boy was of the same moral character as Roxie.  The psychology that goes into that…