Cress

Standard

Image of itemby Marissa Meyer

Cress is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series, which takes place on a future earth ravaged by a terrible plague. The moon has been colonized for generations, and Lunars have developed a gift that allows them to control people’s thoughts. Only “Shells,” Lunars born without the Lunar gift, are immune. But it is dangerous to be a Shell. Most are taken from their parents and put to death shortly after birth. Cress is a Shell who has grown up as a prisoner in a satellite orbiting earth, forced to work as a hacker for her “Mistress,” the right hand of the evil Lunar Queen Levana. There is unrest between Earth and Luna, and war is almost certain. Cress might have the knowledge and skills to help stop it. She joins forces with Cinder, a cyborg mechanic on the run from the law, and Scarlet, a pilot. Together, can they defeat Queen Levana and stop the impending war?

The Lunar Chronicles is refreshingly different from many young adult series that have come out in recent years. There is no love triangle. In fact, while there is a love story, it’s not the primary focus of the series. The Lunar Chronicles is not a trilogy. There is at least one more book planned, and if it is anything like the first three books in the series it will be fabulous. It takes place in a dystopian future, similar to Hunger Games, so Suzanne Collins’ fans might find a new favorite in the Lunar Chronicles. Each book in the series is a retelling of a fairy tale. Cinder (#1) is a version of Cinderella, Scarlet (#2) is Little Red Riding Hood, and Cress (#3) is Rapunzel. Because of the fairy tale theme, the series may appeal to people who read Gail Carson Levine’s fairytale adaptations as children, or fans of T.V. series like Once Upon a Time.

The plot was exciting, with a lot of action and just enough romance. The characters are well-drawn, and it’s easy to get attached to them. The setting, planet Earth at an undetermined point in the future, is cleverly imagined which makes the series a lot of fun to read. I recommend this to young adults and fans of science fiction and adventure stories.

The Night Circus

Standard

Night CircusBy: Erin Morgenstern

Audiobook narrated by: Jim Dale

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

The Night Circus tells the intertwined stories of Celia and Marco, two young magicians who have been raised since childhood to compete against each other in a competition to test their skill and endurance. The venue for their competition is Le Cirque des Rêves, a fantastical circus that is only open at night. Tent by tent Celia and Marco add to the circus, creating wondrous spectacles- the Ice Gardens, a Wishing Tree, and a carousel with magical creatures that almost seem real. After many years Celia and Marco fall passionately in love, but what their teachers never told them is that the contest only ends when the losing contestant dies.

The Night Circus was completely enchanting. It takes place around the turn of the century and spans several decades. Because the story covers such a long period of time, I felt more invested in the characters. The long time span made the love story and all the friendships more convincing because they developed over the course of many years. Although the publisher’s synopsis makes The Night Circus out to be a love story, the romance wasn’t the main focus of the story. It is subtle, which gives the story more depth than novels that emphasize romance as the center of the plot.night circus audio

Although it is classified as a Young Adult book, and is a Teen Nutmeg Nominee The Night Circus is intended for adults and is not typical of a Young Adult novel. The fact that the book falls loosely within the fantasy genre may give it Young Adult appeal, but it does not read like a Young Adult book. The story unwraps at a slower pace than most Young Adult novels, and the two main characters are adults for most of the book. Contrary to what I thought after reading the synopsis of the book, there is no battle or showdown between Celia and Marco, they take turns displaying their skills. If you are looking for an action-packed read this is not your book, but if you want to read a deep story that will stay with you for a long time- this book is perfect. I think the Night Circus could appeal to a variety of readers, even those who are not typically fantasy readers because it is well written and the characters are believable.

The Audio edition is read by Jim Dale, who is always a great narrator. In fact, I chose to read The Night Circus only because he was reading it. Instead of simply narrating, Jim Dale is a true performer and plays every part in the book. Each character has a distinct voice, but not to the point where it’s distracting. The narrator can ruin a book or enhance it and Jim Dale’s performance makes The Night Circus all the more enchanting.

The Children of Henry VIII

Standard

 By: John Guyhttp://wolcott.biblio.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/2938574

The future of the Tudor monarchy rested on Henry VIII’s ability to produce a legitimate male heir. To do this, Henry went to extreme measures- divorcing and even ordering the execution of multiple wives, and splitting with the Catholic Church. Henry only had four living children- each with a different mother. He was determined to prevent his daughters from ruling, but his first son was illegitimate and his youngest died as a teenager. The Children of Henry VIII tells the story of Henry’s succession, highlighting family rivalries and drama.

The Children of Henry VIII opens with Henry’s youth and goes on to chronicle all six of his marriages, and how they affected the upbringing of his children. The children’s relationships with their stepmothers were very interesting, especially as each mother wanted the throne for her own child. Henry’s marriages and affairs were all outlined during the first half of the book, so it became a little less exciting once Henry died, but picked up again once Mary took the throne. This extreme sibling rivalry helped make The Children of Henry VIII an exciting read. While the focus was largely on the personal lives of the Tudors political history was included, but not so much that it slowed down the story. At only about 200 pages of actual text, The Children of Henry VIII is a light, easy overview of Tudor history that I recommend to anyone interested in knowing a little about this very exciting period in history.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Standard

Lee-Daniels-The-Butler-poster__130723170234-275x308Rating: PG-13

Cecil Gaines was raised as a farm worker in the 1900′s. After his father was killed he became a servant in a mansion, and eventually started working as a waiter at a hotel. As the years passed he became an expert in his field and was offered a job as a butler in the White House. The film follows Gaines life in the White House as he serves 8 presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan.

This film was excellent. The cast was amazing, and consisted of Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Alan Rickman, and Robin Williams, just to name a few. The movie touches on very important times in American History, including the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights movement, and shows how much African Americans really suffered during those times. It is a little long, but it was a very moving film, and it was really well done. I highly recommend it, and give it a 9 out of 10.

Prisoners

Standard

prisoners-posterRating: R

Prisoners is a thriller about two families whose two daughters go missing on Thanksgiving Day. One of the fathers, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), has always been there to protect his family and is prepared to stop at nothing to find the two girls.

Ever since I saw the trailer for this movie I was dying to see it. When I finally watched it, it didn’t disappoint. This is the type of movie that I could watch over and over again, it was that good. The acting was phenomenal, the story was very dramatic but also realistic, and there were some great plot twists. It was long, about 2 and a half hours, but that time flew by. This was a very upsetting film, but I really liked it, and I give it a 9 out of 10.

Don Jon

Standard

don jonRating: R

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is your stereotypical guy from New Jersey. He’s known as a ladies man, hence the name “Don Jon.” Unfortunately for Jon, he has created an unrealistic expectation of relationships because he watches a lot of porn. He thinks his life will all change once he meets an extremely gorgeous girl, Barbara (Scarlett Johannson), at a club. He thinks she’s perfect, but he soon finds out that she isn’t.

I was very excited to see this movie. For starters, I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor, and this was his directorial debut, so I had pretty high expectations. It started off a little slow, and the first half hour or so is basically an episode of the Jersey Shore. It isn’t until after Johannson and Gordon-Levitt’s characters start dating and she convinces him to go to school that it gets interesting. At school he meets an older woman, Esther (who is played by Julianne Moore) who is a bit weird. After that the tone of the movie changes a little, and Gordon-Levitt’s character does quite a bit of maturing. This ended up being a sort of coming of age story, though the main character was well into his 20s.

This movie was not at all what I was expecting, I thought it was a little weird, and I’ll probably never watch it again, but I liked it. I give it 7 out of 10.

Now You See Me

Standard

now you see meRating: PG-13

Four magicians are invited to become part of a mystical organization, but they have to prove that they are worthy to become members. During their initiation they perform 3 shows, and at each show they pull off amazing bank heists and reward their audience members with the money.

The best way to describe this movie is to say that it was fun. The cast is awesome; Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, and Sir Michael Cane all have major roles in the movie. The story was great, and I did not expect the ending at all. I really enjoyed watching it, and give it 8 out of 10.

CBGB

Standard

CBGBRating: R

Hilly Kristal doesn’t have the best life. He’s divorced, practically homeless, and has already filed for bankruptcy, twice. He doesn’t give up though, and opens his third bar called the CBGB, which stands for country, blue grass, and blues (that’s the kind of music he wants played there). But that’s not what he gets. What he gets is an invasion of punk rock bands, and he ends up inadvertently becoming the father of punk rock.

This movie is not for everyone. If you don’t like punk rock music, you probably will not like this movie, because there is a lot of punk music in it. It’s also a little raunchy in a few scenes, so this is definitely a movie to avoid if you don’t like movies like that. That being said, this movie is pretty fun, and they picked some great actors (including Alan Rickman who did a great job playing the late, great Hilly Kristal).  I give it 7 out of 10.

Clockwork Princess

Standard

Clockwork Princess

Cassandra Clare

When her Aunt dies Tessa travels from New York to London to live with her brother- her only living relative. Upon her arrival she is kidnapped by the evil Dark Sisters who make her their prisoner and force her to use a strange ability that she never knew she possessed. Tessa is ultimately rescued and goes to live with a group of people known as Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters are an elite race of humans who have angel blood, which gives them superhuman strength and speed. She is immediately taken in by Charlotte, the motherly head of the institute and befriends the other orphaned teenagers who live there including Will, a wild and handsome boy, and Jem, a kindhearted boy with a talent for the violin. Since Tessa’s rescue, she has been helping the Shadowhunters find the evil Magister, who wants Tessa and her powers for himself. The Magister is building a dangerous clockwork army. Will Tessa and the Shadowhunters stop him before his infernal devices destroy the world?

Clockwork Princess is the third and final installment of the Infernal Devices trilogy that began with Clockwork Angel. It takes place in Victorian London, which is one of my favorite historical periods, so I was naturally inclined to love this series. In fact, in many ways I liked it better than its companion series, The Mortal Instruments, also by Cassandra Clare. It has a lot of romance, so it is great for readers who enjoy love stories. In the tradition of many supernatural teen romances, there is a love triangle, but this one was unique because the outcome was almost impossible to predict. The main characters were for the most part well-written, and I felt like I knew them. I found a few, like Jessamine and Nate, to be a bit cartoonish, but it didn’t interfere with the story or detract from the other characters.

The biggest problem I had with this series was an obvious neglect of editing which was especially noticeable in Clockwork Princess. Events were alluded to late in the book that never actually occurred, leading me to believe that the original draft had been changed, but some details were overlooked. This was disappointing, and I hope later editions are edited better. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book, and recommend it to Young Adults (and adults) who enjoy action and romance. Overall, Clockwork Princess was a satisfying conclusion to a fun trilogy.

The Infernal Devices is a companion series to the Mortal Instruments series. It is a prequel, and many of the characters in the Infernal Devices are the ancestors of the characters in Mortal Instruments. (When you are finished, check out the family tree on Cassandra Clare’s website, but be careful because it contains spoilers!) The Infernal Devices series can be read on its own, so you can fully enjoy it without ever reading the Mortal Instruments series; although to understand Clockwork Princess you should read the first two Infernal Devices first. Because of thematic parallels in the books, you may wish to read them in the following order:

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)

City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments #2)

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3)

Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices #1)

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments #4)

Clockwork Prince (Infernal Devices #2)

City of Lost Souls (Mortal Instruments #5)

Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices #3)

City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments #6- to be released in 2014)

A Song of Ice and Fire

Standard

Image of itemA Song of Ice and Fire on Audio

George R. R. Martin

Narrated by: Roy Dotrice

“Winter is coming” are the ominous words of Ned Stark, whose family has ruled in the North for thousands of years. In George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world of Westeros, winters can last decades. Years of ice and snow are not the only danger winter presents. For the first time in thousands of years mysterious beings that threaten the realms of men are emerging north of the kingdom’s protective wall. MeanwhileImage of item, in Westeros’ capitol of King’s Landing political secrets are uncovered that may throw the realm into a civil war. Across the sea, the ruthless son of the deposed king is making moves to re-gain the kingdom, cruelly selling sister for an army.

Image of item                A Song of Ice and Fire is told through the view point of dozens of characters with each chapter focusing on one person. All the characters are so well developed, making A Song of Ice and Fire easy amazingly believable for a fantasy series. No character is safe- even point of view characters are sometimes killed unexpectedly. There is a good mix of action, drama and suspense. The universe Martin created is very intricate, and is fashioned in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth. It is a low-magic fantasy, so there is some magic but not enough to put off non-fantasy readers. Especially in the beginning, A Song of Ice and Fire reads like historical fiction set in the Middle Ages. For me, the biggest problem with listening to A Song of Ice and Fire was that none of the books I read or listened to after it measured up to its quality. This series would not be a good choice for anybody who is squeamish since there is graphic violence.Image of item

The length and content of A Song of Ice and Fire keep it from being a light read, so reading it can be a bit of a project. Listening to the series in audio format helps make the series a bit easier to get through, especially since the narrator, Roy Dotrice, is phenomenal. Each character has a unique voice, so listening to the audiobooks is a delight. I recommend A Song of Ice and Fire on audio to anyone who wants to hear an all-around great story.

Image of itemA Song of Ice and Fire begins with A Game of Thrones, which has been adapted into a popular HBO series of the same name.

#1- A Game of Thrones (print & audio)

#2- Clash of Kings (audio)

#3- Storm of Swords (audio)

#4- Feast for Crows (print & audio)

#5- A Dance with Dragons (print & audio)