The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City
By: Ryan Graudin

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible…

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister…

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She’s about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window…

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out. – Goodreads

Based on the historical location in Hong Kong called the Kowloon Walled City that used to exist as a place with no control from the government where a lot of bad people would live and have very little daylight due to how the buildings piled on top of each other, Ryan Graudin has created a world of her own with this basis changing Hong Kong to Seng Ngoi and using simple Chinese names to easily remember these characters but still have the essence of an Asian territory to make it not a historical fiction but still managing to capture a lot of the essence of this location to bring it to life. The Walled City is an outstanding young adult “dystopian” thriller. In fact, its surprising why The Walled City isn’t used in more stories (whether books or movies) as a background story. Ryan Graudin takes this world and is able to show the gritty and darkness that hangs in its shadows portraying the location really well while also delivering a story about three youths that get entangled in the mess.

The novel is executed with each of the chapters moving between these three characters. Its easy to see the connection of two of the characters but it doesn’t really matter if that was meant to be a minor reveal at some point to make it all piece together. What’s important is that each of these characters represent one part of this closed society. The boy Dai is the only one that knows the countdown element and has motives to deliver some information before he can be free as he works for the kingpin as a runner who pairs up with the second character on a spontaneous run-in, a young girl disguised as a boy Jin looking for her sister who was sold to a brothel by her father for money but also trying to stay out of sight for the street gangs that are after her because she stole a pair of boots from them. Finally, the third character is Mei Yee, one of the brothel girls who wish to find a way out but is approached by Dai to help him find a way to steal the information that he needs in exchange to help her escape. All three of these characters represent their own helpless situation that bond together to try to get out of their own situations.

The Walled City is great because of its writing style. Its vivid writing brings the story to life. Especially with the amount of action and suspense going on, as the story gets deeper and dangerous for the three characters, it builds very well. There’s something really fascinating about bringing a location to life and its characters while exploring somewhere that I’ve always been fascinated about and would love to see more stories based on while also using a novel structure that I’m personally a big fan of. The Walled City ticks a lot of the boxes of a novel that I enjoy reading.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
by: Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? – Goodreads

Playing on the world of fanfiction, Fangirl highlights a college girl who finds solace in her protected world of her twin sister and her popularity as her Internet self of writing fan fiction on a Harry-Potter-esque sort of world except its called Simon Snow. College brings its own challenges and a different perspective of what she needs to embrace as she slowly steps out of her comfort zone because of her sister’s desire to have her own experiences. New friends, new environment, new expectations and somehow Cath is still holding onto what makes her comfortable and its weird for those around her. This is pretty much a coming of age story and strip it away from its fanfiction premise, its actually fairly common however, Rainbow Rowell gives Cath as well as the other characters very contrasting personalities that complement each other really well.

Perhaps where the story structure seems a little less flowing is in the Simon Snow segments that get sandwiched in between the chapters, which are short and mostly draw some kind of parallel to the reality on hand but because its so similar to Harry Potter, Simon Snow itself almost feels like a fanfiction. Putting that aside, the world of fanfiction is portrayed fairly well and in the sense, those side segments of Simon Snow fiction from its actual author contrasting with those as fanfiction pieces written by Cath which draws the key element of what fanfiction is and is what brings the unique elements to the story of how Cath crafts her version of Simon Snow’s life on the foundation of something built by someone else’s world.

What is the best draw of Fangirl does go down to the witty cast of characters. Cath has this sassy attitude that is unique to her introvert self with her own set of baggage stemming from her family and in contrast to a clash and friction in her relationship with her twin Wren as well as slowly stepping out of her shell with her roommate and boyfriend who both also have quite distinctive personalities. The dialogue written between these characters are entertaining and colorful and a lot of fun, packed with laugh out loud moments. It highlights a lot of the different types of people that we meet in college as the world expands and there are different perspectives on things that were once familiar. It looks into different elements of Cath’s life that highlights why she is the way she is.

With a fun writing style and some well-crafted characters as well as dynamic power of dialogue that brings out each of these characters even more, Fangirl is a fun little dive. While striping away its fanfiction background, its really a fairly normal sort of coming of age story, there is still something engaging about it that gives it that unique light. I’m not quite sure whether its the fanfiction since that didn’t play too much into reading experience but more the fact that its the way that Rainbow Rowell crafts her story and the way she writes it that lifts this story to another level. I do however think that the first two-thirds of the story is a little better written than the last act that seemed to fall a little more flat. Overall, its still pretty great.

Blog Tour: When Stars Are Bright by Amber R. Duell (Review/Giveaway)

When Stars Are Bright
By: Amber R. Duell

when stars are bright

Publication Date: January 7th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult/Fairy Tale Retelling
Publisher: Crescent Sea Publishing

SYNOPSIS

For Lina Holt, a Dutch seventeen-year-old with a flair for singing, 1930 is going to be her year. Her long-time boyfriend is about to propose and her mother will finally realize their relationship isn’t a passing phase. But when a stranger snatches her from her backyard, everything changes.

Lina is thrust into the spotlight of a New York vaudeville show where she’s paired with Nik, a mysterious pianist. The two bond during rehearsals and it doesn’t take long before Nik puts himself at risk to confess a hidden truth. Without Lina, the show is in its last season and there’s no way she’ll be allowed to slip through the owner’s fingers. Not when she carries fairy magic in her blood—an gift that turns her song into a dangerously addictive drug.

If Lina ever wants to return home, she must learn who to trust before she’s forced to remain a prisoner on stage forever.

WHEN STARS ARE BRIGHT is a historical Thumbelina retelling with a touch of magic.

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REVIEW

I’m a big fan of fairy tale retelling stories.  The ones that I have read are usually rather unique and have their own twist. However, Thumbelina is not one that I’m familiar with so in this case, I can really only base it on the historical setting and its young adult story elements.

While the story itself is rather predictable in its foundation, there are quite a few decent elements used here. For one, the fantastical elements used such as injecting the magical bits in its characters and the different abilities that these characters have especially the show crew that the main character Lina meets as she learns about her own abilities in this world that is unknown to her. Have the moment for its characters reveal their own abilities and then using this and the situation that they are pushed into gives the character a good level of development, which is always a good element to have in a young adult story. The 1930s historical setting is also one that almost always fascinating to use as it gives it a lot of charm as well as its societal conflicts to revolve around.

While Amber R. Duell has written quite a few books as well as some book series, this is the first book of hers that I’ve read and its definitely a fun book to read. Its a good world to dive into. The characters here focus mostly on Lina and Nik and it navigates a lot as their friendship grows and she starts to slowly trust him more despite her unfortunate situation that causes her to end up in the show in the first place, hoping to find a way home. Of course, things are what they seem on the surface, especially the people that she meets. Its in these little moments of character building that the story shines at its best.

The endgame of the whole thing does do a good job at giving it a decent set-up. The ending itself is rather bittersweet, probably more bitter than sweet, but that all depends on how you connect with Lina’s story in the first place. At the same time, there is a good deal of cleverness at the end that makes sure to add in the element of the fairy tale retelling that was a pleasant surprise.

Score: 3.5/5

Where to Buy:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber R. Duell

Amber R. Duell is an award-winning young adult author, Navy wife, and mom of 2 awesome boys. She has been a #WriteMentor mentor since 2018 and is a co-host on the live broadcast show Young Adult Edition. Red Bull keeps her kicking.

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February 18th

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
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Book Dragons Not Worms (Review) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1 Crossroad Reviews (Review) http://www.crossroadreviews.com
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Blog Tour Spotlight: Subject A36 by Teri Polen (Excerpt/Giveaway)

Tour Banner (7)

Welcome to the blog tour for Teri Polen’s upcoming release, Subject A36, the first book in a brand new series called The Colony!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a signed or digital copy of the book!

SUBJECT A36 (THE COLONY #1)
BY: TERI POLEN

Subject A36

Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Expected Publication Date: February 13, 2020

SYNOPSIS

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

ADD TO GOODREADS

EXCERPT

“Asher!” Mom gripped the porch railing and called for me. Her voice cracked and was laced with tears. Dad vaulted over the porch railing, landed solidly on the grass, and frantically scanned our expansive yard.

My stomach clenched. Something was very wrong. “Over here!”

Dad’s gaze locked on mine. “Code Exodus! Now, Asher. Run!”

Was this another drill? We’d practiced twice a week, the times always unexpected, without fail for as long as I could remember. Drills were a regular part of our life, like eating, sleeping, and homework. Protocol was pounded into our brains. There could be no hesitation.

But this felt different. Dad’s expression was tight and urgent. Tears streamed down Mom’s face, and I knew. This was no drill. It was real this time. We’d been found. Code Tribe—we leave together. Code Exodus—we leave without our parents.

Code Exodus rules.

Grab the backpack.

Leave immediately.

Don’t stop for anything or anyone.

Run to the Wallaces.

When my sisters could no longer keep up, hide them and keep running.

Pre-order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teri Polen

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit her online at http://www.teripolen.com

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You can either win a signed copy of the book (US only) or a digital copy (International)! Click the link below to enter!

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Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1 Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
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Twisted Pines by Lane Baker

TWISTED PINES
By: Lane Baker

Twisted Pines

Where have all the children gone? At rustic summer camp Mendocino Pines, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. First one, then two, then three campers vanish—only to reappear a short while later with no recollection of the missing time. The disappearances raise questions about the children’s safety, not to mention the camp’s time-honored reputation.

When Abe, a freshman camp counselor from UCLA film school, stumbles upon a ghoulish-looking humanoid roaming the coast, he suspects this creature might be responsible for the children’s unsettling disappearances. Armed with a camera, a journal, and a thirst for the truth, Abe sets out to pry the lid off the uncanny mystery hidden among Mendocino’s Twisted Pines. – Goodreads

*Received in exchange for an honest review*

There is an obvious fascination of Lane Baker with science fiction and aliens in particular. Following the previous story Slippery Things (review), this new story is also along the same lines. This time around, the main character is a young adult Abe who takes up a summer job as camp counselor when weird things happen and he discovers what is the cause. As the story unravels about this mysterious lurker, the motives come together.

There are few things done well here. The first is execution. It has something of a novella length which gives it space to develop a story but also a quick pace for events to happen without things lingering and dragging therefore making it a nice little page turner, more and more so as the story pulls together and the heart of the situation and the two central characters start interacting.

Another element done really well here is characters. There are quite a few because of the setting in the summer camp with counselor names bouncing around the pages and young campers being caught up in the mystery. However, there is a definite focus on Abe as the main character and a lot of this going from his perspective. Telling a story from a perspective always works well to still create mystery out of what is unknown to the character. The two sided (both good and bad depending on the part of the story) is that while the humanoid does have some character development and as gaps of mystery behind him because of taking Abe’s perspective, it also has the issue that the character doesn’t have quite the depth and is more of a supporting sort of deal. At times, it works and at times, it doesn’t.

Overall, Twisted Pines is a well-paced YA sci-fi novel. There’s an obvious improvement in dialogue here (in comparison to the previous story).  A lot of Twisted Pines is well-written, whether its building up the suspense or how the chapters are structured and the progression of the Abe’s character and his discoveries, especially on how it starts and ends. I can’t say that Abe, as well done of the character as it is, is too memorable but feels suitable in this story. There’s a lot more that can be explored with this story especially in terms of the humanoid however, its a simple page-turner story that keeps things straight forward and because of that, it also manages to keep it intriguing enough to keep want to know more about what happens next. This one is well worth the read.

Book Review: Within by Clare C. Marshall

Within
By: Clare C. Marshall

Within

Trinity Hartell’s life changed after the accident. Left with irreversible brain damage, she becomes a burden to her mother, a cause for heartbreak for her boyfriend Zack, and a flattened obstacle for her best friend, Ellie.

But then she starts writing. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the psychotic, murdering protagonist of her novel bears a striking similarity to the charming Wiley Dalton, a mayoral candidate in the upcoming election.

Or, perhaps not… – Goodreads

While it sounds like the plot for a lot of young adult novels out there, especially at the start with the accident and has the potential of going in a very generic direction, however, author Clare C. Marshall has her own unique vision for the story and while it still has the YA elements here, the story takes a much more intriguing turn of events and drags a connection between different elements in the society and the city that these teens live in. The story changes form, touching from one genre to another and making it quite a page-turner.

The novel follows the different characters as it flows through the story. With a more focus on its few leading characters and their observation of Tiffany, it gives each of them a certain level of development. At the heart of this, the main mystery will have to be for Tiffany who doesn’t really get her own narrative but as she is being observed and has each of her episodes, it is suspenseful as it is never certain whether her episodes are supernatural or something else as a result of her accident. On the other side of the spectrum, Ellie as her best friend definitely has her spot and drives the plot development but somehow has some elements that develops which makes her not quite likeable. However, Ellie and Zack are two teenagers dealing with something which is quite over their heads. However, there are always those staple characters like Tiffany’s mother who seems to genuinely lack the understanding and caught up in a situation which causes things to be slightly frustrating at times. However, a really nicely written character is the main character of Tiffany’s character and the politician in running as mayoral candidate who finds his place somewhere near the middle of the story but does have quite a presence and depth. Its one of the well-written characters in the story.

With that said, there are slight pacing issues here. The beginning bits as the youths deal with the accident and their friend with a bright future suddenly reverting back to a child’s mentality is fairly dramatic and very much in the generic which also moves too fast without the characters lacking depth to make it as involving as it should be however, the characters each have their layers and as the plot thickens, the pacing picks up to its advantage creating its suspense and mystery. There are some really plot ideas here and the execution overall works.

Goodreads score: 3/5 (would be 3.5)

Book Review: Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #1)
by: Jay Kristoff

Lifelike

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it. But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past. Even if those secrets were better off staying buried. – Goodreads

Post-apocalypse, YA, Androids: it seems like a rising theme in the next phase of science-fiction fantasy novels. Its not a bad thing to say the least. After the success of The Illuminae Trilogy, its hard to not give some regard to what comes up next for the two authors. While I have yet to look into Amie Kaufman’s solo novels, I’ve been stocking up on Jay Kristoff’s (coming soon is reading Nevernight). Since I’ve been on this sci-fi roll, I decided to give Lifelike a go, the first novel in a currently ongoing series where the second book has been released recently.

While the end game of the story, the twist and such wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, what works a lot here is the execution of the story. Lifelike introduces its characters very well. It also keeps a decent limit to how many characters are in focus while being able to make sure that all the characters serve their purpose in their existence in the story itself. The world itself gives it a lot more to think about because the main girls are Eve and her best friend Lemon Fresh who end up with their robot dog of sorts Cricket while finding a lifelike android which is referred as the almost-boy Ezekiel who starts waking up the memory of Eve throughout their journey to save Eve’s grandfather from the evil androids. There are relationships and conflicts and dilemmas as more secrets get dug up and remembered. Lemon and Eve’s friendship/sisterhood doesn’t get enough depth, but builds a general foundation, while Eve and Ezekiel end up having a lot of the drama involved.

While there isn’t anything particularly issues with the story, its a pity that the world doesn’t have more focus (although I’m sure as the story moves along in the sequels that it will). The future and the technology and the android lifelikes and such in this mass world feels very intriguing to discover and yet, its more focused on the people in the story than using it to build up. While I can’t say that I liked Lifelike quite as much as say the entirety of the Illuminae Files, even at its lowest point (which was very rare because that trilogy ranks very high on my favorites), Lifel1k3 as the first book does a good build for the foundation and has a decent reveal in establishing its characters. While there is some drag at a little part, it does do itself justice in the big finale and reveal.

Goodreads Score: 4/5

Double Feature: Leatherface (2017) & The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

Welcome to the next double feature as we continue on the A-Z journey through Netflix. As mentioned in the previous one, I did two L selections mostly because I have nothing interesting I wanted to watch for the Q selection. Here we are with a horror franchise addition Leatherface and a YA fantasy novel adaptation in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Let’s check them out!

Leatherface (2017)

leatherface

Director: Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Sam Strike, Vanessa Grasse, Finn Jones, Sam Coleman, Jessica Madsen, James Bloor

A teenage Leatherface escapes from a mental hospital with three other inmates, kidnapping a young nurse and taking her on a road trip from hell, while being pursued by a lawman out for revenge. – IMDB

I’m not going to lie that its been a while since I saw Leatherface (or at least it feels that way). Either that or it was simply one that I didn’t really care too much for because its fading really fast from my memory. I’ve never been really on track with Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. My startoff point was with the 2003 remake where I was so new to horror that I barely even watched that one and then went on to watching Texas Chainsaw in 2016 (Review) which was pointless and disappointing so I wasn’t sure how to feel about this one. Leatherface is something of an origin story. But then Texas Chainsaw was kind of an origin story also. I believe how I feel about Leatherface is probably how people that I’ve talked to who dislike Rob Zombie’s Halloween feels like where the fact of giving Michael Meyers a reason behind why he is the way he is makes it less scary (although I do like Rob Zombie’s Halloween) however for Leatherface, the movie seems to be doing the same thing and in a much less effective way might I say.

There’s a ton of problems here. The story in general does work in the beginning and then it falls apart in the middle and somehow ends up trying to pull off a twist ending because the deal with this is that we never quite know who is meant to turn into Leatherface and that is the big question throughout this entire crew we’re watching. I’m not going to lie that it did work on some levels but then, something just never seems to land.

I’m not sure if its because I’m not familiar with this franchise but I’d really like to hear fans of this franchise tell me whether this one worked for you or not?

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

city of bones

Director: Harald Zwart

Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Robert Sheehan, Robert Maillet, Kevin Durand, Godfrey Gao, Lena Headey, Harry Van Gorkum, Jonathan Rhys Meyer

When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called the Shadow World. – IMDB

You can tell from the way the story ended and where it chose to end The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones that it didn’t plan to be a one movie deal but unfortunately, I believe the movie didn’t do too good so somehow it ended up being a TV series instead. Since I haven’t gotten around to writing up the TV binge for Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments quite yet, I’m going to get down to business and say that I have never read the novel series but I do love the TV series a lot and felt pretty sad when it got cancelled. However, we are here for the movie adaptation and I’m going to go straight out with this and say that, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was actually not too bad. Its biggest fault (very similar to what I thought about Death Note) is that it had too much story to stuff into a movie (which is probably why it works better as a TV series).

The movie itself had a decent cast. I actually didn’t mind the chemistry behind the two main leads, Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower playing Clary and Jace respectively. They were pretty decent. Everyone else was also pretty good in their roles. Except, the biggest problem is with a story built through a lot of background lore and connections and deeper relationships (family, love, revenge, friendship), it falls apart because none of the characters get the depth and development because of the lack of screen time. At the same time, there was a whole lot of Shadowhunters things that weren’t really explained or highlighted which made it seem even more confusing for people who haven’t been exposed to this world before. Seeing as the film took 2 hours to get where the TV series took almost a season to achieve, this shows how much was taken out.

In the end, the overall issue with The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was its execution and an oversimplification of content making it lacking a lot of substance hence, making it feel disjointed. There are some cute scenes between Jace and Clary which worked but the story was all over the pace. Its always interesting to see how some more known stars end up in these YA adaptation projects and in this case, we have Lena Headey as Clary’s mom and Jonathan Rhys Meyer as the villain Valentine, who pretty much had zero presence, another issue with the movie having too much to cover and not enough time for its characters.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films before?

 

Valentine’s Double Feature: Midnight Sun (2018) & Nappily Ever After (2018)

Next up in the Valentine’s Double Feature is the M & N selection! We’re at the first choice which I’ve actually been interested in seeing for a while and the second which was a last minute change in plans, because I just like to keep things spontaneous. Our M selection is a nice shift into some teen romance which I tend to avoid because it gets very formulaic genre but I’m interested in seeing how Patrick Schwarzenegger fares as a young actor and Bella Thorne has truly grown a lot in her acting in the last few films I’ve watched so interested in seeing how she does in a role different from her usual ones. As for Nappily Ever After, it just seemed like a cool film to mix it up a little. Its supposed to be a romantic comedy but I honestly think its more about a more personal journey.

Let’s check it out!

Midnight Sun (2018)

Midnight Sun

Director: Scott Speer

Cast: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard, Suleka Mathew, Nicholas Coombe

A 17-year-old girl suffers from a condition that prevents her from being out in the sunlight. – IMDB

I’m going to admit right away that Midnight Sun is very similar to a lot of teen romance films out there where one of the two have some sort of disease or whatnot. But due to my lack of knowledge of other movies (and I hear this compared most to Everything Everything which I haven’t seen), the only one that I can say this gave me similar feels to A Walk to Remember. For lots of Nicholas Sparks movie haters, this might not sound like much however if you are like me and do have tolerance for it, I actually thought that Midnight Sun had that genuine feeling to it that A Walk to Remember gave me which is a praise in itself because I honestly love that film. Its a film with a love story where this young couple find courage and encouragement to reach for their own potential and their dreams despite things that happened that make them scared to go for it completely.

With that said, my biggest praise goes to Bella Thorne who has broken out of her typical bitchy high school girl role and taken on this much more docile role as a girl, Katie with a condition that prevents her from going out in the sunlight because it can cause her body to deteriorate. However, she strives to be seen as a normal girl especially in front of a boy that she’s only dreamt of meeting until the day that she does and he is attracted to her. Its a fairly typical course of events and you can call it contrived in its own ways and its not like the plot is going to win any awards for uniqueness, but movies likes these lie in the genuine chemistry and course of events that build up these two characters and Bella Thorne does a fantastic job in her role (even if her singing bits could be better). This is the first film that I’ve seen of Patrick Schwarzenegger and he has great chemistry with Bella Thorne and he is a pretty decent young actor as well. With time and more roles, we will see how his career goes and the potential he has.

Movies like Midnight Sun really appeals to a certain type of audience and for myself, it worked because it wasn’t all about the love story and it had something a little more, especially in the positive bits of a love story even in one doomed to end early as expected here. This one also remembered that Katie’s life didn’t only have love but also highlights her relationship with her friendship and her father, making the movie and Katie a much more real character with so much more to lose.

Nappily Ever After (2018)

Nappily Ever After

Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour

Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Ricky Whittle, Lyriq Bent, Lynn Whitfield, Ernie Hudson, Daria Johns, Camille Guaty, Brittany S. Hall

Violet Jones tired of waiting for her longtime boyfriend to propose, breaks up with him. But old feelings, and heaps of jealousy, no doubt, arise when he promptly begins dating another woman. – IMDB

You know, I have to say that the IMDB synopsis here is really not accurate to what Nappily Ever After is about. Its how it starts but I don’t know if jealousy is what causes things to go in motion, more than our main character figured things out at the end of the film about what matters to her and the things worth holding on and such. Is there a romantic angle to this? For sure! There’s a lot of that going on here especially because she realizes that she doesn’t want to wait for this man who she realizes won’t marry her and breaks up with him. However, she ends up getting drunk and doing something crazy like cutting away her staple of perfection and pride which is her hair which completely changes her course because she loses her physical beauty but owns up to her beauty regardless of her hair length. Its a pretty great story in that sense and inspirational and motivating and has all the positive vibes.

Is it really the standout for its romance? Not really. Its not to say that the scenes with Sanaa Lathan and Lyriq Bent weren’t full of chemistry because they were. They had some great moments which gave a nice contrast between this romance versus the previous one with the guy who wouldn’t marry her played by Ricky Whittle. I’ve always Ricky Whittle as he’s a pretty handsome man in general and has done some great roles, somehow this one isn’t one that I particularly thought was much since he was fairly shown little. Sanaa Lathan played her main lead role beautifully especially in interpreting the story plus I love how the film was split in chapters in the hair length/style that she had  in each stage which is pretty unique. Its supposedly based on a novel which I didn’t know before writing up this review so maybe that is how it was done in the book. Tell me if thats the case if you have read it. I’m interested in knowing.

Another aspect here was Daria Johns as Zoe who plays a daughter of Will (Lyriq Bent) who does such a charming job. Plus it brought in another angle to the story that gave it this very natural feeling and heartwarming moments especially as she found a way to see through Zoe how a childhood should be and what matters.

Thats it for this Valentine’s double feature!
Just saying that this double feature thing will continue through the rest of the alphabet but less frequent during the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon which starts soon!

Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

Blog Tour: Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun

Fountain Dead Blog Tour

Fountain Dead
By: Theresa Braun

Fountain Dead

Expected Publication: November 20th, 2018
Genre: Mature YA Horror/Paranormal
Publisher: Unnerving Press

Synopsis

Mark is uprooted from his home and high school in the Twin Cities and forced to move with his family into a Victorian in Nowhere-ville. Busy with the relocation and fitting in, Mark’s parents don’t see what’s unfolding around them—the way rooms and left behind objects seem alive with a haunted past.

Of course, Mark keeps his ghostly encounters to himself, all the while sinking deeper into the house’s dark, alluring, and ultimately terrifying history. As romantic entanglements intensify, the paranormal activity escalates. Past and present come together. Everything is connected—from the bricks in the walls to the hearts beating in their chests, all the secrets of Fountain Dead are finally unearthed.

Available on Amazon

Review

Fountain Dead is two stories intertwined together. The first is set in the 1800s and the second is set in the 1980s. Both of which have a different genre for each of the story. The one set in the past being the origin and foundation story that takes a gruesome horrific turn of events while the one set in the current state of things is more of paranormal haunted house sort of story with teens as the main character.

The biggest challenge of stories structured like this is its flow between the two stories especially when they are a different genres and feature a different set of characters. However, the trick is in the details and Fountain Dead manages to incorporate the connections as it transitions from one to the next in a rather clever way. With that said, the pacing of the novel works because it keeps us intrigued through this swap to constantly keep wanting to know what happens next with each mystery that happens in the present and how it links to the past. While the story does have a lot of horror elements to it, its definitely falls more in a paranormal fantasy sort of a story. The horror descriptions work well but somehow didn’t seem to be as creepy as needed which works for say the YA audience or in general a younger teen audience perhaps. On the other hand, the story set in 1800s doesn’t quite have the horror turn in events until much later when it gets slightly more psychological and twisted. Particularly in the last few chapters, the description there is incredibly vivid as its draws out some of the more horrific details and those fit to the genre really well. For the most part, I’d call this one more of a thriller.

Overall, Fountain Dead works well as a well-paced thriller. While some of the horror elements don’t quite land as much as some of the later moments when the story takes a turn of events, there are some engaging characters in both the past and present storyline. In terms of both the main characters of the two timelines, Emma in the 1800s story and Mark in the 1980s story both have a lot of depth and character development which makes the story even more intriguing to read. The clever connection between the two stories also show a lot of thought and detail in planning out the story. For the most part, the 1980s story does carry a more consistent paranormal element than the 1800s one. My only criticism is the imbalance of the two stories but at the same time, it never felt like it didn’t work. My biggest gripe might be that I didn’t find it quite as scary as it should be. Although, Fountain Dead does also comes with a well-written setting like the Victorian house which always makes it come to life because of these paranormal events. Pretty much, Fountain Dead might fall short a little but it has enough other well thought out elements that makes up for those small shortcomings.

Goodreads rating: 4/5

About the Author

Theresa Braun

Hmmm. What’s this? Looks like Ms. Braun left her computer on and her Goodreads bio open.

This should be fun.

What can we say about Theresa? I mean other than the fact that she’s weirdly obsessed with smiley faces :-). Like, seriously obsessed >:-*. It’s kinda scary :-O.

I think she thinks she’s from Renaissance England or Venice or something. I never could figure out which one it was. (She’s really bad at doing accents.)

She likes romance novels and crime TV, which are pretty much the same thing when you think about it. Ha! Am I right?

She has a hell of a singing voice. Seriously. It’s, like, seventh circle of hell bad.

She likes editing. A lot. Just wait till she get’s a load a this.

Cats. Shoes. Chips and salsa. In that order.

Yeah, that last part didn’t make sense to me either.

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