Wednesday, March 22, 2017

R&R Review Wednesday: Johnny and Jamaal by K.M. Breakey

Stand alone to date

Goodreads Blurb:
"Two athletes from different planets are on the verge of greatness. Johnny’s a carefree Canadian making his mark in the NHL. Jamaal’s set to follow LeBron and Kyrie out of the ghetto. When their worlds collide, the catastrophic clash ignites racial conflict not seen since Ferguson. The incident tests the fledgling love of Johnny’s best friend Lucas and his African-American girlfriend Chantal, and sets them on a quest for truth and justice in the perverse racial landscape of 2016.

As chaos escalates across American cities, an MLK-like voice rises from the ashes. Wilbur Rufus Holmes may be salvation for Luke and Chantal, but can he stop society’s relentless descent into racial discord?

Johnny and Jamaal is awash with sports, violence and political taboo, as America’s seething dysfunction is laid bare."

Thank you to the author, K.M. Breakey, for gifting me with a copy of Johnny and Jamaal in exchange for an honest review!

So.  I won't beat around the bush.  This book tackles a pretty heavy topic (or at least in the US it's pretty heavy) but I'm going to try my best to not get into my personal views on the subject and focus on the book itself.

1.  The mode of writing.  I want to start with this because in order to understand the rest of it, you have to understand how this book is written.  It takes on third person limited POV which means you see the story from the outside (you aren't in a character's head) but you occasionally get glimpses into some character's thoughts.  I really loved that the author chose this particular POV style because it injects the right amount of both objectivity and personal experience into the book.  Like I said above, this is a tricky topic and I think the author did well portraying it's complexities.  In terms of the writing itself, I think the author has a wonderful prose and I couldn't help but be drawn in.

2.  The characters.  Now, because it's third person limited, I didn't get attached to any of the characters.  They were certainly well written, but I felt like a true outsider.  I did enjoy hearing the different perspectives of the different characters, however.  The author made sure to include several different (and often conflicting) viewpoints on the subject of race relations and what needs to be done to improve the state of the US (and Canada).  I thought it was especially interesting how the author draws parallels between his fictionalized characters and the relationship of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (MLK championed peaceful protest while Malcolm X preferred targeted violence and a full take over).  My favorite character by far, however, was Chantel.  She's Luke's girlfriend (she's African American and he's white) and exploring the dynamic of her relationship with Luke was really interesting as well as hearing her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, etc.

3.  The plot.  Once I got into the book, I think the plot is extremely well-laid out.  It was slow in the beginning and I had to fight the urge to put the book down, but once I passed the 8% mark, I was captivated.  The book spans a rather large amount of time considering the circumstances and the time jumps had the potential to leave the reader confused but the author did such a good job with the transitions and making sure to include only relevant information that I was never confused.  I also enjoyed how, as the novel progresses, the author dives deeper and deeper into the complexity of the issue and further elaborates.

4.  The topic.  Now for the difficult point: the topic of this entire novel.  It's impossible to write a book on this topic without inserting at least a little bit of your own opinion.  This is clear at you progress through the book.  And while it's clear what the author's opinions are, I think it's also a good conversation starter.  It's always good to hear another opinion and take into account what other people see in their perspective of the world.

5.  The time period.  One consistent issue I had with this book is the time period.  I just wish the author had made it clear that these events are entirely fictionalized (unless they aren't and I just missed a whole lot of the news).  The author weaves in the events with the events of 2015 and everything that happened that year (along with a bit of 2016).  While it was cool to read about, I kept confusing myself by thinking that it actually happened when it didn't.

The Final Verdict:
A well built novel with splendid characters and plot line.  However, the main purpose this book fulfills is a think piece which it does rather well.  I do wish the events in the book were clarified as to their fiction and the pace in the beginning was a bit slow.
4 stars

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Live Action Remake (1991)

IMDB Blurb:
"An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love."

It's been a while since my last movie review!  I just saw this movie today (Tuesday) and I thought I'd share my thoughts and feelings with you all.

1.  The visuals.  I feel like there's no other way to start this review.  The visuals were by far the best part of the movie.  They were so realistic and clean and simply beautiful.  The whole movie was just beautiful.  The director and producer really brought in that fantastical element and pull you right into the story.  It's the stuff dreams are made of, really.  Also, how the motion capture was so seamlessly combined with live acting was flawless. The design of all of the characters that aren't human is gorgeous and I think they did a fabulous job with the adaptation from all animation.

2.  The characters/acting.  Perhaps I'm a bit biased because I'm a huge Emma Watson fan, but I thought all of the actors/actresses did a splendid job and brought their characters to life (literally).  I felt myself completely immerse in the story because everything was just so authentic.  Gaston (played by Luke Evans!!) was also very vivid and I loved Evan's take on him.  The Beast also did very well.  I was worried he wouldn't be able to act to his appearance and truly fill up the character but I shouldn't have.  He totally nailed it.  The casting was just truly excellent.

3.  The plot/romance.  I also saw the live action Cinderella and going in, while I did think I'd like this one better, I still thought it would have that fantasy feel and be a bit boring because you know what will happen.  I also shouldn't have worried about that because they did such a good job making an old story seem fresh.  While it did still feel fantastical, it drew you into the fantasy and made it feel real and suspenseful and hopeful and joyful.  They kept the plot moving along nicely and it was such a joy to follow Belle and the Beast's romance.  It truly is a slow burn and it's such a wonderful slow burn at that. (can you tell I love this movie yet??)

4.  The setting/music.  I also have nothing but good things to say about this element of the movie. The set and costume designers did such a wonderful job creating a fantastical atmosphere that felt truly magical.  (Belle's gold dress is also so stunning)  I loved how they kept the same feel as the original but made it their own.  The music is equally stunning.  If you haven't heard the soundtrack yet, you need to listen to it asap!  My favorite songs have to be Evermore and Belle's reprise (the dining scene song and visuals are also truly amazing).

The Final Verdict:
Honestly, I have nothing but praise for this movie.  I love Emma Watson's portrayal of Belle, as well as all of the other acting.  The plot was beautifully unfolded.  The best part, though, are the visuals (just look at the posters!)
5 stars

Friday, March 17, 2017

50/50 Friday (24): Best/Worst Debut Novel

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst Debut Novel

Thursday, March 16, 2017

ARC Review and Release Thursday: Endurance by Amy Daws

Part of the London Lovers universe (but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone)

Release Date: March 16th, 2017 (TODAY!)

Goodreads Blurb:
"Tanner Harris has been busy shagging his way through the ladies of east London, but getting caught by the paparazzi buck-naked with his trouser snake in his hands means he’s sowed his last wild oat.

Dr. Belle Ryan once thought Tanner Harris was the perfect kind of bearded bad boy she needed to relieve a bit of stress after her intense job as a surgical fellow, but an icy cold rejection from London’s sluttiest footballer puts the two at each other’s throats.

Fate and a favour conspire to put Tanner and Belle back in each other’s paths and they’re forced to do a lot more than get along to save face and their careers.

Rage turns to passion and tempers run sizzling hot when they realise they aren’t just falling for each other—they’re jumping head first. And neither have the endurance to keep their hands to themselves."

Friday, March 10, 2017

50/50 Friday (23): Best/Worst King or Queen Character (Good/Evil)

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst King or Queen Character (Good/Evil)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ARC Review Wednesday: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

Standalone to date

Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Goodreads Blurb:
"Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tag Tuesday: Book Lovers Tag

I was tagged a while ago by Azee @Under Cover Critique (2/12/15 to be exact!).  I haven't been doing tags for a while and I thought I'd start to get back into them!  I won't be tagging people for the older tags because they've probably been done by everyone already but if you haven't done a tag that you really like, consider yourself tagged!  And with that, let's get into it!

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