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Cover Reveal: Nomad by JL Bryan

Nomad by JL Bryan
Expected publication: July 26 2013

They took everything: her family, her home, her childhood.

By the age of nineteen, Raven has spent most of her life in the sprawling slums of America, fighting as a rebel against the dictatorship. When the rebellion steals an experimental time-travel device, she travels back five decades to the year 2013. Her plan: assassinate the future dictator while he is still young and vulnerable, long before he comes to power. She must move fast to reshape history, because agents from her own time are on her trail, ready to execute her on sight.

I am so excited for Nomad! And just look at its cover, how awesome is it?! I loved how awesome Jenny Pox was (I still need to read the rest of the series) so I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever that Nomad will be amazing. Also, pink hair? So cool.

About the author:
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, dogs Violet and Tiger Lily, and cats Shadow and Sue.

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Review: Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, et al.
Based on: characters by Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster
Genre: Superhero / Action
Released: June 14 2013
by Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time: 143 mins (2 hr, 23 mins)
Cert: 12 (BBFC) PG-13 (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

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A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
Poor old Superman hasn't been in a film that's done him justice since Superman II in 1980. That was 33 years ago. Superman III and Superman Returns were meh material (I will admit, I did enjoy Returns the first time I saw it) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was so strange I can't even begin to understand what was going on when Christopher Reeve co-wrote it. Fair enough, TV did a pretty okay job of it but when Man of Steel was first confirmed, myself and a lot of other comic book fans were a little worried and seriously hoped that Snyder, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer had gotten it right. I think they definitely did him some justice, with some very original re-imagining.

Man of Steel has a very different take on the original Superman mythos. Rather than having Clark Kent already knowing what it is that he is going to do in terms of being a hero and working at the Daily Planet, he's portrayed as being lost and somewhat confused in terms of who exactly he is. He doesn't feel like he's a part of humanity, which I assume has been inspired by Alex Ross and Mark Waid's mini-series Kingdom Come which deals with a Superman who feels he is losing touch with his humanity. We get more of an insight into Clark's childhood, which previous films hadn't really done, and we also see him doing various menial jobs, such as working in a bar, on a fishing boat and at something in the North Pole that I don't know the name of. The part of the film's story that I was really glad was there were the scenes on Krypton. I am so glad that we got to see Jor-El and Lara do a lot more than simply deliver the child, put him in the spaceship and say goodbye while the planet implodes, like they did in Superman: The Motion Picture. I really enjoyed this darker take on the origin story, it felt very fresh to me. One thing that my dad and I were a little bit divided on was the end of the battle with Zod. My dad disagreed with it, while I supported it. I think it gave a bit of an insight to why Superman has the morals that he does, rather than 'that's how he was raised', and also the effect that it had on him personally. Speaking of battles, there is a lot of action in this film, but it's not completely meaningless or random because it does go along with the story and actually helps to advance it, which isn't something that is usually expected of action scenes. I didn't mind so much action because we do get several quieter, tender moments at intervals and even a nicely executed false jump scene.

The cast of Man of Steel is just a huge piece of casting genius. That is probably the only way I'll describe it, now let's all go home. I'm just kidding, I'll elaborate. The film already had a great plot to begin with, and the cast just makes it even better than making it larger than life. And there's also a lot of eye candy in the leading man. I watched this film for the acting, I swear I did...

I'd never seen Henry Cavill act before watching the film, so I didn't really know of what to expect from him. Other than his unbelievable handsomeness. Alright, I'll stop with that. I was really hoping that he wouldn't do an impression of Christopher Reeve, like Brandon Routh sort of did in Superman Returns, and form his own interpretation of the character. I am more than thankful for the fact that he had done his reading and made the character both true to the canon material and to the film's plot. I can't think of anyone else playing the part now, his performance was just so perfect that it didn't feel like I was watching Henry Cavill on the screen, it felt like I was actually seeing Superman.

Amy Adams' performance as Lois Lane is now very likely my favourite incarnation of the character to date. I'm a fan of Teri Hatcher's interpretation on Lois & Clark, but I definitely think that Adams' performance is better for modern day and also the tone of the film. I really liked how they took out Lois's difficulty with spelling because I never thought that it was necessary and in past material it felt more like a running gag than a part of her character. One thing I really liked about this incarnation of Lois is that even though she is determined to find Superman and find out who he is (like Lois always was up until the 90's), she isn't obsessed with having him as a romantic partner as many Loises were in the past.

I loved Michael Shannon's General Zod surprisingly a lot more than I liked Terence Stamp's in Superman II. He was incredibly vicious and animalistic, compared to Stamp who was more charismatic and even somewhat collected. It makes more sense that Zod would be vicious because as he says himself in the film he was born to be a warrior, and the vast majority of warriors are incredibly relentless to the point that they have next to no control of themselves, just like how Zod initially is when he first walks on the Earth's surface. Shannon's incarnation of the character is probably the best villain that I have seen all year, it was just pure awesome. And speaking of awesome, I just have to give some praise to how Faora (played by Antje Traue) was shown to be such a bad-ass. Serious kudos there, she's awesome.

I am about to do something that I would never have heard myself say until now: Russell Crowe's Jor-El is miles better than Marlon Brando's. I really hate myself for saying so because Brando is my favourite actor ever, but it's true. Part of that can be owed to the fact that Crowe probably didn't take the part for the money (Brando did) and learnt his lines that weren't taped to a baby's nappy (which is what Brando did because he refused to learn his lines at that point in his career). As I said above, I really loved being able to see Jor-El and Lara do more at the beginning of the film, rather than send the baby to Earth and then die. I've never really known much about the House of El and being able to see them do more really helped me to understand them a lot more and why they did what they did. Another thing I really liked was how Jor-El appeared many times throughout the film through the use of Kryptonian technology, rather than just at the beginning as an automated image that says the same thing, like in Superman and Superman Returns.

A Superman film wouldn't be a Superman film if it didn't have spectacular special effects. A large part of Man of Steel's overall look is SFX, and it is just awesome to look at, especially when showcasing Superman's powers. My personal favourite was the heat-vision which looks like it would actually be quite painful for him for use, and also the flying scenes which are just stunning. There are also a lot of things blowing up and buildings being destroyed, which is staggering to look at. The amount of carnage that has been created through technology is amazing to look at. However, I have just one little quib and it's with camera movement. My least favourite camera technique ever is handheld. It makes me feel like I'm going to puke and hurts my eyes. There were a few times that I did have to look at my knees to orientate my vision due to the camera shaking so much. A little less of that would have been nice for me and that's the only reason why Man of Steel just missed out a perfect rating.

Moving onto the film's music; as soon as Hans Zimmer was announced as the composer, I know that the score would be nothing but pure awesome. His scores for all three Batman films were outstanding; as is his work on other films (even his score for one of the Call of Duty games was pretty good). I liked how it had a slight similarity to the music from the Batman films, but it was unique at the same time and more suited to the Superman character. There were a few instances where I thought that it wasn't exactly necessary to have music in the scene, but I did enjoy hearing it when it was more appropriate.

After gushing so much, there is only one way that I can now put into words how much I loved Man of Steel, and that is my oft-used tag on my Tumblr: I need a moment (you should totally click that link; it's eye candy).

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave
Rick Yancey
Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction / Dystopia
Released: May 7th 2013
by Putnam Juvenile
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★+

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The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
The 5th Wave is the book that I've seen getting a lot of hype around the blogosphere recently, but I usually don't pay attention to books while they're being hyped up unless there's something about it that just screams 'read me now, not later!' Do I even need to say what it was about The 5th Wave that made me run out and buy a copy? ALIEN INVASION! My good ol' friends the aliens are just far too cool for me to turn my back on and I haven't had any malevolent aliens recently (just a lot of coexisting somewhat peacefully). With all of the positive reviews that I've seen recently, it's safe to say that I had incredibly high hopes for The 5th Wave. Those hopes were satisfied so much that I can't even begin to comprehend it.

The 5th Wave tells of an alien attack on Earth that has so far taken place in four stages, or 'waves; in the first wave, the world's power was cut; the second saw entire cities flooded and billions of people killed; the third had people being infected with a horrific disease that ended with blood violently expelling from the body; the fourth wave left people no longer being able to trust one another. And the fifth? Nobody knows yet, and that's the frightening part. We're introduced to Cassie (short for Cassieopeia) whose life is completely transformed by the apocalypse. Her mother was taken by the 3rd wave and her father has taken her and her little brother Sammy to a camp where they'll be safe. After Sammy is taken to a military camp where they're told he'll be even safer, Cassie promises to return to him. What I loved the most about The 5th Wave is that it kept me interested all the way through, even during slower parts. It was exciting, tense and thrilling to the point that I wished it could have gone on forever. Unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way, and the book had to end. Wah. The story doesn't just focus on Cassie, there is a second POV that I'm not going to say much about because I want to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. I love how this second story is in the book because I honestly don't think that the book would have been as awesome if it has just focused on Cassie. I really liked being able to see the apocalypse from another person's point of view.

Speaking of Cassie, this girlie is just so freaking awesome. Seriously, she is such a badass that she's probably one of the best female protagonists that I've read this year. Maybe even ever! I love how she doesn't take any crap from anybody and keeps a cool head throughout everything, no matter how dire the situation. I loved her determination to return to her brother and how she didn't let anything get in her way. I don't think I could say enough about how much of an awesome protagonist she is. Other than Cassie, I liked pretty much all of the characters in the book. They were very well fleshed-out and felt natural to read. And also, Evan is pretty hot. That is all I have to say on that matter.

I loved the aliens of The 5th Wave, they were done so well! I loved that we sort of don't see the aliens at all, but their presence is felt all the way throughout the book. I always feel that the 'monsters' in something are more frightening if you don't see them, compared to if they were there all of the time. However, I haven't read or seen much stuff where aliens aren't seen because a lot of things with aliens feature creatures that are so original that they almost need to be shown. But, not seeing them definitely adds to how tense the book feels, and it gets pretty tense at times.

Gah, I don't think I can praise this book enough. I loved everything about The 5th Wave, it was so exciting! The story was thrilling, the characters were awesome and everything was just so perfect. I've been left with a pretty bad book hangover here and the next book in the series isn't out until summer next year. I want it now! But, the world doesn't work that way so I'll definitely be revisiting The 5th Wave.

Review: Shift by Em Bailey

Em Bailey
Genre: YA Contemporary Mystery / Thriller
Published: May 7th 2012
by Electric Monkey
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

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There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile before she'd even started at our school. The first was that she had no parents - they were dead. And the second was that they were dead because Miranda had killed them.

Olive used to be the school queen-bee. But that was before her breakdown. Now she's the class loner, and can only watch as new girl Miranda latches on to Olive's ex-best friend Katie. Soon Miranda is talking like Katie, dressing like Katie - even going out with Katie's boyfriend.

And then Katie dies. Everyone seems to believe it was a tragic accident, but Olive isn't so sure. What if the wild rumours are true? What if Miranda really is a killer?
I've seen Shift in the bookshops for quite some time but I never really looked at the back of the book until fairly recently. The cover just really stands out on a shelf to me even though it doesn't use as much colour as most other eye-catching book covers. There's just something about distorted human faces that interest me. I love mysteries and as soon as I read the somewhat mysterious synopsis on the back of the book, I knew that I just had to read Shift. I haven't read very many YA mysteries but after reading this book, I was very impressed!

Shift tells the story of former queen-bee Olive who has become the class loner after suffering a severe mental breakdown and attempting suicide after her dad left the family. At school, a mysterious new girl called Miranda starts at Olive's school and very quickly latches onto Olive's former best friend Katie and becomes nearly her clone, while Katie slowly withers away. My only problem with Shift's story is that it takes a little while to get into swing, but it doesn't take too long to get to the mystery and thrills, which are present all the way through the book. I was really surprised by all of the reveals and even shocked at what happens to some characters. I enjoyed every twist and turn and the novel's climax had my heart racing a mile a second.

The characters of Shift come in a close second as to why I liked the book so much. They really did make the story just that little bit better. I loved Olive as a MC, she is unique from most main characters I've read in quite a few ways. I'd never read from the point of view of a character who was suffering from a mental illness or one that was taking medication for it. Even her best friend Ami was possibly as unique as I've ever read in a book, but you'll have to read the book to find out why she's so different. Going back to Olive, I loved how real she was, tons of people experience the same things that she does and I found it really informative being able to know what she felt and almost understanding what it would be like. As for Miranda, she was the perfect realistic villain. She is manipulative and lies to get whatever she wants to the point that at times I was unsure of whether or not she was telling the truth. If I ever saw her in real life, I would probably run for the hills because sometimes the more composed villain is the more terrifying one.

Throughout Shift, there is a strong theme of mental illness which was very new to me and also important because there are many people who don't understand mental illnesses and it doesn't seem real to some people. I think that from reading this book, I understand more why some people have mental disorders and how they are dealt with, which is important to me since both of my parents suffer from depression. I love it when I gain something from reading fiction!

Although it took a little while to get there, I loved Shift. It was mysterious, thrilling and incredibly genuine. I enjoyed the story, the characters and I came out of the book understanding more, which is a definite plus. Shift is one of the most thrilling reads of my year!