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Movie Madness: June Wrap-Up

While nothing beats curling up with a good book and entering a new world, we sure do love a great movie! Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller; whatever the genre may be, escaping for two hours into a world of Hollywood created bliss is always great fun… Hosted by  The Talking Teacup and A Girl, Books & Other Things
This month was exams month for me, but I did manage to get some watching done (actually a lot more than reading)! This month, I watched:
  1. District 9
  2. Diamond Jubilee Concert
  3. Raging Bull
  4. Cabaret
  5. The Godfather Part III
  6. The Princess Diaries
  7. Mrs. Brown's Boys
  8. Sleeping Beauty
  9. What to Expect When You're Expecting
  10. Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 3
  11. The Big Bang Theory - Season 5
  12. The Sopranos - Season 6
Total for this month: 12
Total for this year: 74

Follow Friday (4)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Q: Birthday Wishes -- Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake... who is it and what book are they from?

I'm going to say the first character that popped into my head, which was Van Helsing from Dracula. I don't know why he popped into my head, but it would be fun to have an eccentric doctor and vampire hunter pop out of a birthday cake.

Happy Friday!

Tour Stop: Moa and Statue of Ku by Tricia Stewart Shiu

Please enjoy this guest post by Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.

The Story Behind Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

I've always loved Hawaii and was thrilled when my husband booked a visit for us to see his relatives in Honolulu, Hawaii in October of 2006. We packed light and brought our daughter, who was three-years-old at the time.

Our condo was close to parks and monuments that oozed history. We enjoyed wandering around and indulging in the local cuisine. I even tried poi and liked it!

The morning after we arrived, I rose early to push my daughter’s stroller through the quiet, cool morning air. It felt like such a gift to experience Honolulu before the rest of the island was up.

After a hearty island breakfast, we headed out for a morning at our favorite sandy reprieve, Kuhio Beach. The water was calm and protected by a breakwater. Our daughter enjoyed digging and splashing and my husband and I sat sit nearby without worrying about the strong current.

Afterward, we headed back to our condominium, ate a light lunch, and took a luxurious siesta. Although I'm not usually a mid-day napper, the fresh sea air and sun lulled me into a light sleep—the kind where I felt like I was awake, but I was actually deeply asleep.

I heard a voice say my name and a part of me awoke. I use the word “part” because I could definitely feel my body touching the soft material on the couch. And yet, another part was keenly aware of a young woman with dark hair standing over me. It felt real, but dream-like, so I decided to go with it and ask her her name.

She pronounced a long Hawaiian string of letters, which seemed to go on for minutes. After repeating the name three or four times, she told me to call her “Moa.” Through my exhausted, sleepy haze, I remember being skeptical. If this was, indeed, a dream, I would ask as many questions as possible. So I did.

Why was she here? Where did she come from? How could I be sure she was who she claimed to be?

Instead of any answers, she flashed a mental picture of a woman and said that she was a long lost friend of my husband’s. She told me her name and explained that my husband’s family and she had lost touch 15 years before and had been orbiting around one another trying to reconnect.

I awoke from that nap, slightly groggy. That was an indication that I was definitely asleep. Perhaps it was just my creativity kicking into overdrive, I reasoned, and decided to go on with my day. We walked to a park with my daughter and began playing. Suddenly, there was a squeal and my husband and I turned to see the woman from my dream charging toward us with her arms stretched out wide. As she spoke, I tried to gather my wits. Here was the same woman from my dream, someone I’d only seen a mental picture of, and she was standing on the grass right in front of me.

She and my husband exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. For the next few hours, I tried to make sense of what happened. I had never had an experience like this before, but there was no denying that I saw a picture in a dream before I met someone and then they showed up in real life.

When I went to sleep that evening, Moa visited again. She answered the other questions I’d asked earlier that afternoon and wanted me to know that I was protected and should share my experience with the world. Since this was definitely my first metaphysical encounter, I had no idea how to form the correct words to share what had happened. How on earth, I asked Moa, am I supposed to convey such undocumented, unsubstantiated, unusual information?

She said that our world exists on many levels which all play simultaneously. Her analogy was of a DVR. Several shows can be playing at the same time but are on different tuners. That, she said, is where she existed.

When I awoke, I began writing and continued to do so. The story evolved into “Moa,” then the sequel, “Statue of Ku.” My daughter, now seven, took the cover photo and illustrated, as well. The photo was taken a few years ago on the North Shore as we played on the beach. The artwork has been compiled over the last two years.

Since my visit with Moa, I began an extensive and sometimes circuitous search to explain my metaphysical experience. I took classes on mediumship, Huna, energy work and through my education, I learned to create healing essential oils and elixir sprays and incorporated that information in the book. Not only did my experience with Moa inspire me and guide me through four-and-a-half of the most challenging years of my life, I also believe that writing about those events and including information I received about that inspiration and guidance, brought my own deep physical, mental, emotional and spiritual transformation and healing. Writing, editing and publishing Moa has opened doors to a new way of understanding myself, those around me and the energy we share.

Whatever your belief or understanding of the metaphysical world, I believe that if one person is transformed through learning, then we are all transformed. I truly believe the Moa I met came through in this work and, just as I connected with her as I wrote, those who read the book will experience her as well.

DNF Review: Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Prophecy of the Sisters
Michelle Zink
Series: Prophecy of the Sisters #1
Genre: YA Historical
Released: 2010
by Atom
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: DNF

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An ancient prophecy divides two sisters, one good... one evil... Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves uncovering a lifetime of secrets. Secrets that could destroy everything.

Lia and Alice don't know who they can trust.

They just know they can't trust each other.

I came across Prophecy of the Sisters in my local library and the spine/cover design really caught my eye; it has shiny bits on (I love shiny things)! Also, the costumes that the over models are wearing really peaked my interest because I have a thing for period pieces.

The story of Prophecy of the Sisters had potential, I feel but it really wasn't expanded on enough for my liking. I found reading to be incredibly frustrating as the pace was incredibly slow for me and as I continued on, I found it harder and harder to trudge through. I gave up at chapter 10. I couldn't take any more of Lia's constant worrying and blathering. One thing that annoyed me is that for a mystery, it's an incredibly dull one. Nothing happens! Thank goodness for the pretty page designs.

I think what really led me to marking this book as DNF was the narrative. The novel takes place in 1890 and obviously the language that people used was quite different to what it is now, but I didn't expect Lia's first-person narrative to be so proper to the point that I didn't find it believable.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. Every time I came back to it, I just immediately put it down again after about an hour of reading. I just couldn't take any more of nothing happening.

Review: The Artist (2011)

The Artist
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Released: 15 May 2011 (Cannes), 11 October 2011 (France)
by The Weinstein Company
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
Cert: PG (BBFC) PG-13 (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
In 1927, in Hollywood, the star George Valentin is the pride and joy of the president of the Kinograph Studios Al Zimmer and worshiped by a legion of fans. Among them is Peppy Miller, who stumbles into George Valentin after the premiere of a silent film. Peppy kisses George and the photographers take pictures of them. The next morning, the headlines read "Who Is That Girl?" and Peppy is selected in a dancing audition to be an extra in a film. Over the next few years, Peppy climbs positions in the Kinograph Studios until the advent of talking pictures. Proud George Valentin does not believe in the 'talkies', breaks off with the studio and decides to produce and direct a silent film. The film is a complete failure and with the Great Depression, George Valentin falls and is bankrupt. Meanwhile Peppy Miller rises as new star of Kinograph Studios. But she never forgets her idol George Valentin.
It is unbelievable how much I wanted and tried to see The Artist. It took forever to get to my local cinema and once it was there, it was only in for a week. I missed it! So I've had to wait for the DVD and now I have it, haha!

The Artist follows the story of George Valentin, a silent film superstar whose popularity declines with the introduction of talking pictures and the rise of Kinograph Studios' newest star, Peppy Miller. What I love about the story of The Artist is that even though it's fictitious, it is an account of what really happened to silent film stars. Many actors were unable to adapt to the switch-over to talkies due to not having a suitable voice or just not being fresh anymore and had their careers ended. Michel Hazanavicius has written a story that not only shows the audience what happened to silent film stars, but also creates sympathy for them.

For a main cast that I've never heard of prior to Award season, I was really impressed (also, I had no idea that John Goodman was in this!)

George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, is the pride and glory of Kinograph Studios, and one of the biggest Hollywood stars in 1927. He is arrogant and refuses to fall victim to talkies. However, when he does, his faults really have an impact on his career, leaving him depressed. One of my favourite scenes sees George in his dressing room, hearing sounds (putting a glass down, ticking clocks, his dog barking, etc.) that get continually louder, but is unable to hear himself speak. I loved Dujardin's pantomime performance, in which he is not seen speaking as much as other characters. His body language really captures Valentin's emotional states and the horrors of his downfall.

Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, is the newest star who is dominating the talkies after auditioning for a film starring George Valentin, her hero. Even though she is technically Valentin's "rival", she is the sweetest thing over; it's impossible to dislike her! She's willing to do whatever she can to help George keep his career, including going to the premiere of his box-office flop rather than her own success. I loved the warmth that Bejo gave Peppy, she made her an incredibly likable character. Her body language shows that she is an actress in talking pictures, as her mouth moves a lot more than George's. Her movements also show that she has a breezy and confident personality.

I loved the music of The Artist, it really captures the end of the Jazz Age and the beginning of the Great Depression and the introduction of Big Band. The music is incredibly catchy at times and conveys the emotions of the scenes.

After watching this film, I now know why it swept the Board at every Award ceremony this year, it is incredibly excellent! I loved everything about it. To me, The Artist is proof that silence can be golden.

Follow Friday (3)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Q: Happy Father's Day! Who is your favourite dad character in a book and why?

Don Vito Corleone from The Godfather (again). He's not only a dad, he's a grandpa and an awesome one at that! I love how he is aware that his business isn't an ideal career for his children and that he doesn't want his son Michael to follow in his footsteps (even though he eventually does). He's a good father to his children and he's definitely the wise old patriarch kind of male relative. 

Happy Friday!

Review: Berserk by Ally Kennen

Ally Kennen
Genre: YA Thriller
Released: May 1 2008
by Scholastic
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: ★★★★★

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What happens when there's no-one around to tell you when to stop?

When fifteen year old Chas finds a website asking people to write to prisoners on Death Row, he thinks it would be funny to get letters from a murderer. He writes to an inmate, pretending to be his mum. When his new pen-pal is unexpectedly released, Chas' already problematic life spirals horribly out of control...

I remembered seeing Berserk in Borders (when it was still open) about five years ago and being really interested by the pretty ambiguous back cover and also the front. Eyeballs with silhouettes reflected in them really interested me when I was eleven. I'm not sure why. Anyway, I recently came across it again in the City Library and luckily had my library card on me.

Berserk opens with Chas, our narrator, having part of his finger cut off by his best mate, Devil. Lovely. When I first started reading, I kept thinking 'what does this have to do with the story?' It is mentioned quite a few times throughout the book and when the significance of Chas' finger is revealed, I was incredibly impressed because I never would have guessed. I really enjoyed the plot of Berserk, the mysterious and dangerous feel made for an exciting read.

The way I see it, if you want to know what British boys really are like, then you should read this book. Although the action of the story takes place miles away from me, I could easily compare quite a few of the characters to people I actually know. To me, Chas and Devil are your typical British soap opera style trouble-makers. They nick off school, hang around the streets and are always in trouble with the police. I was pleased to know that Chas isn't all bad and actually owns a guilty conscience, unlike Devil who would probably never amount of anything.

I picked up this book without even knowing that it is set in the UK. So when words like 'trainers', 'reckons' and, of course, 'Mum' started appearing I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't read into British fiction in a long time so it was nice to read in a British voice.

Throughout Berserk, I was gripped by the suspense and the occasional macabre moment that made me squirm in delight. Ah, there's nothing like a good bit of violence that makes you grit your teeth. I enjoyed Chas' voice as a narrator, he sounds a lot like the boys that I know. I enjoyed his wit and thoughts that were embedded into the narrative.

Overall, Berserk was gripping, dangerous and full of suspense. It made me squirm at parts and had me up late at night.

Review: The Edge by Rudy Josephs

The Edge
Rudy Josephs
Series: Starfleet Academy #2
Genre: YA Science Fiction / Movie Tie-In
Released: December 28 2010
by Simon Spotlight
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

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Jim Kirk arrives at Starfleet Academy ready to take on whatever challenges arise. Most new beginning mean you get to start with a clean slate, but Kirk quickly discovers that he is already infamous among his classmates. Thanks to his bravado and boasting that he'll finish the four-year program in three, they've already made up their minds about what kind of rival he is... and how they will beat him.

The Academy's program is extremely rigorous and uncompromising. The students are the best and the brightest, and the school demands total commitment from them - physically and mentally. Kirk is ready for it all, but he didn't expect that some cadets will do anything to ensure they succeed at the Academy, no matter the cost.

He soon finds his best friend, McCoy, is one of the main suspects in an Academy misconduct investigation for crimes that could cost the lives of his classmates. Kirk is determined to clear McCoy's name and unmask the dark side of Academy life - before it's too late.

I bought this book pretty much straight after reading the first book in the series and my initial expectation would be that it would be better than the first, which was okay. It's an understatement to say that I like Star Trek and I was really hoping that it would be pulled off incredibly well here.

I really liked how the story of The Edge was more related to life on campus and what happens to the students there rather than something that is happening off-campus like in The Delta Anomaly. It seems to make more sense to centre the story around the Academy itself and not something that has completely nothing to do with the Academy. I enjoyed how the story focuses on all of the characters, rather than just one or two. It was nice to see what was going on with everyone.

In this book, the characters were written much more accurately. I liked how Kirk has a different girlfriend in this book, which is similar to how he has tons of love interests in the series. I'm wondering if a different girlfriend each book is a running thing in this series. I really loved how Uhura's personality was that of Zoe Saldana's version, rather than Nichelle Nichols. I like her better. Oh, and there's also more Spock in this book. Yay!

What I thought was a major theme in this book was competition and it really fits in with the whole Academy atmosphere since everyone wants to be the best. It is also the main cause of the dilemma of the book, which I thought all tied together very nicely.

Overall, I preferred this book to the previous in the series. It felt more like it took place in an Academy and the characters were written much more accurately.

Waiting on Wednesday (6)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.
My pick this week:

Flirting in Italian
Lauren Henderson

Expected publication: June 12 2012
by Delacorte Books

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Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys! Convincing her mother to send her on the study course in Italy wasn't too hard - she thinks Violet is doing it for her university applications. But secretly, Violet's a girl on a mission. Recently, while visiting a museum near her London home, Violet stumbled across a painting of a beautiful young Italian aristocrat who could be her twin. She can't stop wondering about the girl in the portrait; the resemblance is uncanny, she's determined to find out whether there's a connection between them. And maybe, just maybe, she'll get to meet some handsome Italian boys while she's investigating...
I love Italy, so a YA mystery that takes place in Italy is just my perfect cup of tea! I really love the cover of the book, the colours really caught my eye. Hopefully I'll be buying this when it comes out!

Sorry that this is really short, my internet goes off at 11 PM and I had to do this incredibly quickly!

What are you waiting on this week?

Review: City Lights (1931)

City Lights
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherill and Florence Lee
Genre: Silent Comedy
Released: January 30 1931
by United Artists
Running time: 87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
Cert: U (BBFC) G (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
A tramp falls in love with a beautiful blind girl. Her family is in financial trouble. The tramp's on-and-off friendship with a wealthy man allows him to be the girl's benefactor and suitor.

I've been wanting to check out Chaplin's movies for a long time, but I'd been put off by the most obvious thing about the majority of his movies: they're silent. But, I found a two-disc copy of City Lights in my local second-hand shop for £1.50 and gave it a go!

If I could sum up the plot of City Lights in one adjective, it would be cute. The story is so adorable that it is like a fairy-tale in its own unique way. All the way through I was routing for the Tramp to get the Blind Girl. I loved the slapstick humour, the romance and the heart of the story, which is told fantastically by the cast.

I love how the none of the characters have names, it really shows how the story can take place anywhere. It also gives the audience the ability to identify themselves with the characters. The Tramp has joined my favourite movie characters, I loved Chaplin's performance, it was just too cute.

Because there is no dialogue in this movie, there is only music and sound effects. The sound effects are quite simple, including whistles, cymbals and a kazoo. The music is enjoyable and really captures the emotion in the scenes.

I adored this movie, is was just so cute. I loved the humour, the heart and the romance and the fact that there is no speech emphasises it.

Stacking the Shelves (2)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews featuring books added to your shelves and sharing your excitement for them.

This week I bought:

The Family Corleone by Ed Falco

Hurray for The Godfather prequel. The Godfather is my favourite book and movie in the entire world and of all time, and when I saw this I was so excited. Can't wait to read this!

Borrowed from the library:

Berserk by Ally Kennen

I remember seeing this book quite a few years ago, five to be exact, and I'd never seen it again until Monday when I went to the City Library to borrow it. I also got a book out for my Dad but I can't remember the name of it and I don't really think it's that interesting (local history bores me).

Not many books this week, however (in non-bookish news) I did get three DVDs this week! I got:

City Lights - Dir: Charlie Chaplin
Raging Bull - Dir: Martin Scorsese
The Artist - Dir: Michel Hazanavicius

What did you get this week? Leave me a link below!

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #2
Genre: YA Dystopian
Released: September 1 2009
by Scholastic
Source: Gifted
Rating: ★★★★

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Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are still alive. Katniss should be relieved, but now there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

As the nation watches Katniss and Peeta, the stakes are higher than ever. One false move and the consequences will be unimaginable.

I started Catching Fire a few books after finishing The Hunger Games (THG) and I had a little bit of a dilemma. Somebody told me an unwanted important spoiler. Obviously, I was gutted, even a little angry. But, I got over it and kept on reading.

The twists and turns of Catching Fire stunned me in a way. There were so many unexpected moments and 'bombshells', if you like, that I found myself sometimes stopping and letting things sink in. Although I read this book at a nice, leisurely pace, I found myself coming back to it every night and reading a bit more all the time. I preferred the narrative voice of Catching Fire to that of THG. I felt like Katniss was a bit more open and I didn't get the initial cold feeling that I did with THG and that was definitely reflected in the narrative.

As I'd kind of said in the above paragraph, I liked Katniss more in Catching Fire. I felt that she was maybe stronger in this book, since she's now experienced the Games and has grown as a person. To me, Katniss has warmed up a little bit, she still has a hard exterior though but I was glad that her relationship with her mother has improved.

If I had to make a choice between Peeta and Gale, I would probably go for Peeta. I like his personality more, he's a lot more charming than Gale is and I like that in a guy. Obviously, I felt some sympathy for Gale at times, but I guess I kind of sided with Peeta more.

I have kind of mixed feelings on Finnick Odair. He seems like a bit of a snake to me, I wasn't sure what he was up to at times. However, as the book progressed and I learnt more about him, I started to like him more, especially the more 'secretive' elements to him.

The pace of Catching Fire, to me, is quite varied. It is slow and relaxed in some places, tense is others, and fast in others. I felt that this was a nice balance and kept me interested and wanting more as I read, only to find that the book had ended. Oops!

Although this is a good book, I don't think it is as good as THG. However, Catching Fire was enjoyable and made for a very good sequel!

Follow Friday (2)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee's View & Alison Can Read

Q: You are a matchmaker - your goal, hook up two characters from two of your favourite books? Who would it be? How do you think it would go?

I would hook up Sonny from The Godfather (yes, it was a book first) with Jamie from Forgotten considering that they're both sluts in their own way, even though Sonny would be about twenty years older than Jamie.

It wouldn't end all that well, because if you've seen the movie adaptation of The Godfather you'll know what happens to Sonny.

Happy Friday!

Movie Madness: May Wrap-Up

Movie Madness @ The Talking Teacup & A Girl, Books & Other Things
While nothing beats curling up with a good book and entering a new world, we sure do love a great movie! Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller; whatever the genre may be, escaping for two hours into a world of Hollywood created bliss is always great fun… Hosted by Kylie @ The Talking Teacup & Alex @ A Girl, Books & Other Things
I meant to do this post last night, but I forgot because I was watching a movie (no, I really was). So, I watched more TV than movies this month because I had exams. But, here we go:
  1. The Avengers
  2. The Iron Lady
  3. War Horse
  4. The Cleveland Show
  5. Hit & Miss
  6. A Streetcar Named Desire
  7. Eurovision Song Contest 2012
  8. The Big Bang Theory
  9. The Godfather Part II 
  10. City Lights
  11. The Artist
Total for this month: 11
Total for this year: 62