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Review: Envy by Anna Godbersen

Anna Godbersen
Series: The Luxe #3
Genre: YA Historical
Released: January 27 2009
by HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: ★★★★

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New York City, 1900

In high society nothing is more dangerous than a scandal. Two months have passed since the esteemed Holland family's shocking fall from grace and those watching the impetuous Miss Diana Holland are beginning to whisper again.

Further uptown, notorious cad Henry Schoonmaker and his new bride are the city's most celebrated couple. But the glittering diamond she wears hasn't yet brought her all she desires.

Manhattan's most envied residents appear to have everything: wealth, beauty, happiness.

But in a city ruled by reputation,
sometimes the most practised smiles
hide the most scandalous secrets...
Up until this point, I haven't been too impressed with The Luxe series, with both the first and second books earning three stars each from me. Before going into Envy, I just wanted to get the series over and done with so my expectations weren't too great but I wasn't expecting horrible either. After I'd finished the book, I actually ended up liking Envy more than the previous two books.

Oh look, stuff actually happens in this book! My biggest problem with The Luxe and Rumours was that there was very little going on until the end (there was more events in Rumours but still not a lot). I can only take so many parties and girls thinking while alone or walking down the street. With Envy, I took an interest from the prologue, which kept me interested in what was going to happen next. All along the way, there was a little something here and there that would keep me reading to find out more and there were very few times that I was bored. Obviously, there were slow parts of the story, but not excruciatingly slow to the point that I just didn't have the motivation to pick up the book again.

I'm still unsure as to whether my hatred of Penelope is a good thing or not. She is the 'villain' of the series so she is supposed to be disliked, but every time she appears and opens her mouth I want to do horrible things to her. I seriously feel sorry for every person that has ever and ever will come into contact with her and I had no idea it was ever possible to be that much of a vile human being. That girl deserves to get even more of her comeuppance in the next book and I hope it's soul crushing to the point that she stops being so disgusting. Moving away from my issue of Penelope, I liked how all of the other characters have developed even more. I'm enjoying seeing Diana grow become more mature in the way that she handles problems and not crying over Henry all the time who is pretty much unattainable by now.

Throughout the book, pretty much everyone is jealous of everyone. Diana is jealous of Penelope because she has Henry. Penelope is jealous of Diana because Henry spends more time thinking about Diana than he does about Penelope. And Henry is jealous of Penelope's brother Grayson because he gets to spend time with Diana while he has to be with his mean wife all the time. I really liked this web of jealousy, it was quite entertaining to see how everyone was jealous of each other over petty reasons and things they couldn't do much about.

Overall, I enjoyed Envy more than The Luxe and Rumours, but it's a shame that this enjoyment has come so late in the series, because usually a series would start to loose its appeal by the third book. I'm glad that there was more going on and I hope that I enjoy the final book in the series this much so that I can finally put this series to bed!

Follow Friday (27)

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

Q: School's out! What is your favourite summer reading book?

My reading habits don't usually tend to correlate with the seasons and I usually just read whatever I'm into at the time. But, I have sort of decided to read more contemporaries this summer since I don't really want my summer to be full of angst and stuff like that. Plus, because I won't be in education from June until September, I may not have any required reading for university! ^_^

Happy Friday!

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek Into Darkness
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, et al.
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Genre: Science Fiction / Action
Released: May 9 2013 (UK, Aus, NZ, Europe) May 16 2013 (US, Canada)
by Paramount Pictures
Running time: 129 mins (2 hr, 9 mins)
Cert: 12 (BBFC) PG-13 (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organisation has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
After an excruciatingly long eternity (okay, maybe not that long), it's finally here! And after following every teaser, interview, trailer release and what is probably the worst kept secret in Hollywood, this little Trekkie finally sat down in the cinema for one of the most anticipated films of the year. I don't really need to explain how much of a Star Trek fan I am, but I was so excited for this film to come out that I nearly exploded. I sat in the cinema hoping for the ride of my life, and did I get it? Damn right I did.

Into Darkness begins on a class M planet where Kirk and Bones are being chased by the planet's primitive inhabitants, straight-away breaking the one thing that is broken in pretty much every single episode of  every Star Trek series: the Prime Directive (Starfleet are not allowed to interfere with other cultures and civilisations). Meanwhile, the Enterprise hides on the ocean floor and Spock goes into a live erupting volcano to set off a detonation device which will render it dormant. Back on Earth, in London a top Starfleet agent named John Harrison is creating chaos by forcing other members to blow up Federation buildings.  Admiral Marcus then gives Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew the mission of taking Harrison prisoner and bringing him back to Starfleet. And that's about as far as I'm going to go in terms of summarising because I'd end up giving away the film's big reveal. Speaking of the big reveal, for months and months I was hoping that it was just a rumour but now that I've seen the film, I really liked the way that it was done. There wasn't a single moment in this film where I was bored or stopped paying attention. Something was always happening and there was so much tension that I could have pulled my hair out and ended up with a bald spot. While Star Trek was an origin story that payed homage to The Original Series, Into Darkness is its own story but it does draw some very obvious influences with some very clever role reversal. I think the film's story was incredibly well-written and there are very few flaws that I could find within the story. Although I did say that parts of the story can be clever, I felt that it got just a little bit predictable towards the end, especially if you have seen the 'obvious influence' that I mentioned above.

The cast of Into Darkness are what I think makes the film so great. If the cast hadn't given such strong and powerful performances, the film would've fell flat. Abrams definitely made the best casting decisions here. Everyone who was in the first film had definitely improved since then because they obviously know where exactly they're going with their characters, but the best performance of the film is definitely Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as the film's villain. Up until this point, I'd only ever seen him play good characters and seeing him being all villainy was actually really chilling. Probably because humans can be scarier than aliens because there are some alien species in science fiction that are completely bestial and are unaware, unlike humans. As odd as it may sound, I actually liked seeing him being completely malevolent and brutally violent because to me it showed how awesome of an actor he is. He can do good and he can really do bad.

Now, my favourite Star Trek character is Spock, but that's in The Original Series. My favourite character in this alternate universe series is Chekov (or as I call him, Baby Chekov), played by Anton Yelchin, and I am so glad that he got so much more screen time. But, despite that, I still do like Zachary Quinto's Spock because he plays him as being more conflicted at times than Leonard Nimoy's Spock who is much more controlled. I'm still not a fan of the whole Spock-Uhura relationship though. It still doesn't sit right with me and I don't think it ever will.

Into Darkness takes place in a number of locations. We go to San Francisco, London, the planet at the beginning of the film (which I can't remember for the life of me), on-board the Enterprise and even outside of Federation space onto the Klingon homeworld of Q'onoS (the film uses the phonetic spelling of Kronos, while I prefer the former spelling). We don't get to see much of the planet but what we do is very much what the Klingons themselves are like: rough and wild. It's incredibly obvious now that I really like my setting and besides, not all of the action in Star Trek happens on just the ship, they do leave it quite a few times!

The CGI and special effects of Into Darkness are just spectacular. I honestly haven't seen effects this good in quite a while now (probably because I've been watching a lot of dramas lately) and these amazing effects gave me a very good welcome back to my beloved sci-fi. I personally loved being able to see the Enterprise go into warp speed and all the residue that the ship would leave behind after shooting off and also how all of the lens flares that were in pretty much every single scene of Star Trek were limited to the scenes that took place on starships, which I was so relieved about. Seriously, they get incredibly distracting after about five minutes. I loved the use of colour on-screen and how it progresses. Everything starts out all bright and colourful, and as the film progresses the colours become more subdued to fit with the increasing dark tone.

Holy crap, the music of this film is just so good. It's there at the right times to just more tension or emotion to scenes and it is just so majestic. While the score is an original for pretty much the whole film, I loved how this series manages to incorporate the original Star Trek theme song into the credits. I mean, let's face it, Star Trek is easily recognised by its signature theme tune and even the TNG films had their theme in them.

I don't think I could say any more about how much I loved this film. I loved the story, I loved the characters even more than I did before, I loved the effects and I loved the music. However, it fell just short of getting higher than 5 stars due to the end being just a little bit predictable. But other than that I just loved, loved, loved this film! I still don't like Spuhura though. Still doesn't sit right with me.

DNF Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
Series: The Host #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction / Romance
Publication date: May 6 2008
by Little Brown
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: DNF

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Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of their human hosts, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading 'soul', who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But she did not expect that Melanie would refuse to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man she loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off the search for the man they both love.
Stephenie Meyer seems to be one of those Marmite authors; you either love her or hate her, or her work just isn't for you so you tend to not touch it. I belong to the latter. I liked her Twilight series the first time that I read the books but not so much the second time round when I'd matured a bit. The Host had been on my to-read list for a while but didn't remember about it until the film adaptation (which I won't be watching any time soon) was announced. It's an established fact that I love aliens, and the book seemed like a very interesting take on it (at first it sounded a little bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers to me) so I borrowed it from the library hoping for it to be good, but not exactly earth-shattering. It all just went wrong for me to the point that I had enough and gave up.

I got nearly halfway through The Host where the book's biggest problem came to my attention. Nothing was happening. There was so little happening in the story that I actually fell asleep while reading. I fell asleep. I had never done that in my entire life until that point. The story was actually quite promising up until Wanderer and Melanie reached the caves and then everything just slowed down to a snail's pace. I read up to chapter 28 and the caves aren't seen until chapter 13 so that's approximately 159 pages of blah. Even 100 pages would have been too much. There were little points of things happening but they were only fleeting moments. I did enjoy the part when Wanderer is telling Jeb and the others about all the planets that she'd been on, but that was pretty much it. I couldn't have taken any more of very little happening and I didn't have the patience to trudge through waiting for something to happen,.

The sort of sad part about my experience with The Host is that I liked the vast majority of the characters. Melanie irritated the life out of me whenever she said anything and after all of the fluffy flashbacks, Jared was an intolerable douchebag. I can understand that he would be xenophobic against extraterrestrials, but it was just taken way over the top. I mean, there is no need to constantly call Wanderer "it" or a "thing" because aliens have sexes and genders too (I'm presuming her species does because in some series there are gender-less species). Whenever he went away, I was actually glad that he wasn't there to be intolerant and test my patience. Melanie, on the other hand, did a 180 on me. At first, I thought that she was going to be tough and maybe a little feisty  since the book's summary tells us that she "refuses to fade away". She did do that at first but as soon as we get to the caves "OMG JARED'S HERE! HE'S PROBABLY GOING TO KILL US BUT I DON'T CARE BECAUSE HE'S JARED AND I LOVE HIM!" Really, Meyer? Really? I'd expected better.

I'd never really thought much about Meyer's writing style until reading The Host. I thought that it wasn't very well suited for the genre. It's very well suited for the Twilight series, where it captures all of the flowery feelings that are associated with falling in love for the first time, but for science fiction it was really out of place and incredibly fluffy. And since there was little to no romance in the part that I'd read, it was too purple and out of place.

I've read some of the more negative reviews on Goodreads to see how it ends, and I think it's safe to say that I won't be returning to The Host any time soon. I couldn't put up with this mind-numbing torture for another second and was ready to just throw it into a wood-chipper but I really shouldn't because the copy I was reading was from the library. So, while this gets a big fat DNF, I'm going to look for some good science fiction to read.