Review: Abducted – T.R. Ragan

Lizzy Gardner #1

SYNOPSIS: Elizabeth Gardner (Lizzy) is seventeen-years old when she tells her parents she’s going out with her girlfriends. Instead, she meets up with her boyfriend, Jared Shayne. As she walks home beneath an inky black sky, her perfect night becomes her worst nightmare.

Fourteen years later, Lizzy is a licensed PI known as the ‘one who got away’. When she’s not searching for runaway teenagers, working on insurance scams, or talking to her therapist, she’s at the local high school teaching young girls to defend themselves. But her world is turned upside down for the second time after she receives a call from Jared Shayne. He’s an FBI special agent now and he needs her help. Lizzy has no plans to get involved. Not until Jared tells her the kidnapper left her a personalized note. – via Goodreads

I picked this up recently on an Amazon deal, and figured it might be worth a read. Not wasted money, that’s for sure, but a lot tamer than I thought it would be. Well, I suppose it was never going to be a Karin Slaughter novel (so few are), but I didn’t expect it to be so romancy. For reals. But okay, we will talk about all these things.

The concept of a girl being trapped with a serial killer for two months before escaping is quite heavy, and there could have been so much more material to work with there. Ragan plays it safe, however, and gives us just enough for our imaginations to cook up the rest of whatever happened to Lizzy while she stayed with Spiderman. The aftermath is also never really addressed, which would be fine, but more about her parents and what happened after would have been something. Also, Cathy’s lack of empathy and support for her sister is shocking.

An issue I had with the book is how one dimensional all the characters are, which is a pity. The only characters you can really feel for are Hayley and Lizzy, no more, no less. Oh, and Jess also had quite a bit going for her. Jared, the love interest, the boy who carried guilt about what happened to Lizzy as well as a torch for her all the way into his adulthood never really becomes real, if that makes sense. Jimmy, the FBI agent who has worked the longest and hardest on Lizzy’s case is a side character who rarely gets brought up, and is supposed to have such a close relationship with Jared,  yet it is never showcased.

I liked the fact that the book was a really quick read, and despite being predictable and not really shocking, it definitely keeps you interested enough to see where it all goes. I felt that the ultimate explanation we got for the Spiderman and his antics was a bit of a cop out, and was also glossed over so quickly. I was not particularly thrilled with how quickly Jared and Lizzy picked up some sort of a relationship, despite having been in one when she was a teen and abducted. It just felt a little far fetched and forced for me. The logic was questionable, and the writing sloppy at the best of times, too.

Abducted may not be the strongest entry to a series of books and is predictable, but it was enough to entertain me (and frustrate me with the ridiculous logic) and convince me to give the next book a shot to see how it works out.

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

CRAZY STUPID LOVE_COMBO BD (1000250398).indd

“I have loved her even when I hated her… only married couples’ll understand that one…”
– Cal Weaver

SYNOPSIS: A middle-aged husband’s life changes dramatically when his wife asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a newfound friend, Jacob, learning to pick up girls at bars. – via IMDB

You know, the more I watch this movie, the more I enjoy it. I watched this years ago at the behest of Natasha, who knows I cannot really stand rom-coms, but does know what type I can deal with. When she told me to check this out, I figured why not? She won’t just recommend me anything in this genre, so it had to be decent. Plus two, the cast is fantastic. Let me tell you, this movie is great, and I grow constantly more fond of it. It is just so much fun.

I enjoyed that this was not some stupid, soppy, desperate love story. This looked at people who have lives that fall apart – midlife crises that aren’t dealt with, cheating, insecurities, all of it. It explores embracing yourself, letting other people in, dealing with issues head on, so many things. I enjoyed the themes of this movie. And yes, love is an extremely prominent theme, but it does not make you want to retch, so that is a good thing! Crazy, Stupid, Love knows what it is and what it wants to be, and goes with it. It is smart, funny, witty, and sweet, and I appreciated all those things.

Let us not even remotely forget the cast. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are absolutely phenomenal here, and have ridiculously amazing chemistry. Really, I could watch them all day together. This is one of two movies where Steve Carell does not grate on my last nerve, and Julianne Moore is, as always, well worth the watch. Kevin Bacon’s moments were also those of pure entertainment, especially as the movie progresses. What a boring man! Also, everyone worked well together. I particularly appreciated Jacob taking Cal out to begin their main training. Oh boy!

There were plenty awkward moments, plenty funny and plenty sweet, but everything works. This is the kind of romantic movie I can revisit without feeling just plain down ridiculous. There is a lot to like about it, and a movie you can get away with watching with your other half without them wanting to slit their wrists. As you can tell, I quite like this one for a variety of reasons, and I can highly recommend it.

Oooh, oooh, before I go. Women across the globe will thank Hannah for not letting him put his shirt back on after assessing his Photoshopped beauty. For science…

Skip the trailer, just go straight to the movie.

Review: Insurgent – Veronica Roth

insurgent cover veronica roth

Divergent #2

SYNOPSIS: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. – via Goodreads

GRADE 5.5This is the second book in the Divergent trilogy. I would have assumed that this book would have more action than its predecessor, but I was evidently wrong. It seems that it was important for all the separate compounds to be revisited and what not. I got pretty edgy pretty quickly what with all the damn kissy kissy storyline the whole time between Tris and Tobias, and the continual hinting at sex. That whole thing was just totally incongruent to the story and the events that were going on around them. It also offended me because the romance was so intense in the last book, but it never took over. I loved it.

As though that was not bad enough, it soon escalated into Tris and Tobias fighting incessantly for absolutely no good reason, and silly childish fights, too. They do have a relationship that ranges from really sweet and intense to absolutely ridiculous, though ultimately I only want them together. They work, if they could just get over all their silly differences. Then there was Tris, who portrayed herself as so strong and invincible and all that, and suddenly a few things go wrong and she is shattered though still faking brilliance. She is whining and selfish and terrified. She is spineless and not brave, whimpering and crying all the time, she is not willing to think about anyone other than herself and that annoyed me endlessly. She is a heroine I really liked, and in a few pages just became Katniss Everdeen Bella Swan a total nuisance. Four, too, is still a character I have mad love for, though his character, too, is a little messy in this one. Still.

Veronica Roth’s writing style seemed so limited here, there were repetitive lines about laced fingers and mouths fitting over each other perfectly, etc. It upset me because the last book really reeled me in, and this one was quite the chore to get through. Roth does not build up enough rapport with the characters she has in Insurgent, and they are difficult to identify with and don’t seem real. This way, when she kills them, it seriously lacks impact. The story for Insurgent is a little weak. It started as something in the first one – something with so much potential, but it seemed very scattered in this one.

Insurgent is not a dreadful book, but it left me wanting a hell of a lot more. There are no real twists and turns, it is not exceptionally gripping and brought nothing particularly new to the table. Not the worst young adult dystopian novel you could lay your hands on, but this feels like it lacks direction and is not sure where it wants to go with the story after starting off with such a bang.

100 Happy Days 2: Day 61 – 70

Ahhhhh, what an awesome week it has been! It was my birthday week (so naturally I took leave) and Natasha came to visit – for a whole week. Man, we had fun. Thanks friend!

Day 61:

Super sweet gift from Natasha – Cadbury Bubbly chocolate, a crochet hook set, and wool she maintains is purple. I should open a poll for this one so we can settle this like adults – what colour is the wool?!

Day 62:

We have been friends for almost two decades, and yet we have virtually no photos together. We are trying to remedy this.

Day 63:

My husband bought me the most gorgeous floating lockets for my birthday and I love them. They really are beautiful and unique and so customisable.

Day 64:

So birthday dinner (are you noticing the theme here?) we went to my favourite steak restaurant in town – heck yeah. I even got daring and dipped my toes into the unknown by trying a new steak: fillet topped with halloumi, bacon, onion jam. While it was nice and all that, I will be sticking with my Mexican fillet in future.

Day 65:

This day was all sorts of crazy, with rude people and crap service all round. We went for lunch and had some super scrumptious strawberry daiquiris. All was well in the world again after.

Day 66:

Oh yeah! So many movies I have been saving up for rewatch with Natasha (though most were a first viewing for her). Drive has been especially high up on my list. So glad I did it again.

Day 67:

Yet another photo of us chilling together, waiting for everyone to arrive to braai. What a holiday man, thanks fairest!

Day 68:

Oh yeah! A friend made me these chocolate cluster things – I am a huge fan of them, and was spoiled to get a whole Tupperware of it! Hmmmmm… been feasting for days.

Day 69:

Guys! Guys! Look! First poncho I have ever made, and it came out pretty well. I am so pleased with myself, not even going to play.

Day 70:

Ahhhhh, chocolate. You are one of the greatest things in the world.

April Blind Spot Review: The Help (2011)

“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me.”
– Aibileen Clark

SYNOPSIS: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis. – via IMDB

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, I did as little reading on it as possible. I was only told that it is really good and well worth the watch. The subject matter is something that interests me, and it wasn’t long before I realised that this was a movie I was going to enjoy based purely on the fact that the subject matter was handled from the perspective of women alone.

Let’s get right to this by saying that there are some great characters in this, and there are some truly reprehensible ones. Emma Stone is, of course, absolutely fantastic to watch here – sassy and strong. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are brilliant – also strong women – brave women. Then there is Jessica Chastain, and she is such a sweet, innocent character. These are all characters that you like. They had good chemistry and worked well together. I enjoyed watching Celia and Minny every second, and the relationship between Aibileen and Skeeter is also touching.  On the other side of the spectrum, there is only one I really need to mention here, and that is Bryce Dallas Howard. Her character is so cruel and mean, and Howard plays her so well that you resent her guts. Ugh. Nasty stuff. I get mad just thinking about her transgressions and views.

Anyway, telling the civil rights struggle from the perspective of the women was something new, and that it was being investigated by another woman was also good. So often we hear of the plight from men, but the women, too, had stories to tell. The movie managed to balance cruelty, humour, joy and sadness very well, but it must also be noted that the subject matter, while heavy, never gets as heavy as it could. Look at it as this being a lighter serious movie, if that makes sense. Simplistic, that would be the word I would use. Also probably safe. Drama, yes, but not on the levels of, say, The Colour Purple or American History X.

A sweet film that tackles some heavy issues, but never really going for the guts and glory, but certainly carried by stellar performances and a great cast, so as to elevate it to an enjoyable watch. The movie plays it safe, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing here. Worth a watch.

100 Happy Days 2: Day 51 – 60

Next lot folks!

Day 51:

My project is well underway. So nice to have a cappuccino and time to work on it.

Day 52:

The road on the way to a quick visit with Natasha. So beautiful.

Day 53:

Imagine, I actually went to see Beauty and the Beast with my bestie and her family, and what fun we had! The cinema we went to was really pretty, too.

Day 54:

Stopped at this roadhouse on the way out and got a delicious Ferrero Rocer shake, and it was lovely!

Day 55:

Haaaaa, long weekends are the best. This Sunday was spent watching Fringe, the guys gaming Diablo III, reading and crocheting, snacks, great lunch, and plain down chilling. Much fun.

Day 56:

Yes. I have a wool problem. So much new wool here for some projects I am working on.

Day 57:

Oh yeah! Chicken pita for dinner – something a little different for us, and it was yummy!

Day 58:

Such pretty flowers in the garden, and always nice to see coming in or heading out.

Day 59:

Oh man. The sensory pleasure overload I experienced with this delicious chocolate caramel heart from Woolworths that Natasha bought me was intense. I need more. So good.

Day 60:

Oh yeah! That feeling when you get to turn your alarm off because you’re on holiday is simply amazing!

Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

“My dear Belle, you’re so ahead of your time. This is a small village, and it’s small-minded, as well. But small also means safe.”
– Maurice

SYNOPSIS: An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love. – via IMDB

So I went to see this with Natasha when I did my fly by visit this past weekend. She has been waiting for this movie for the longest time, so I figured I may as well go with her, otherwise I will never get to it, despite it touting both Luke Evans and Dan Stevens in the cast (I am speaking from a totally scientific point of view here). Anyway, we tripped out for this in 3D (which I probably could have done without), and I had more fun than expected. I have not seen this since I was a child, so it definitely brought on a sense of nostalgia. There were some changes and additions, but it wasn’t bad.

First and foremost, I think that Luke Evans is the perfect pick to play Gaston. Seriously, he has immense amounts of fun with the role, and you can see it. My favourite part of the movie? Gaston’s song and dance in the pub. Oh my gosh, I laughed, it was so ridiculous and fantastic. He also perfectly captured how a person can be so hot and then open their mouth and ultimately that nasty ass ego and all will ruin the outside, too. Dan Stevens is a pretty damn good Beast, though it is such a pity you don’t get to see all his purdy throughout the film. However, he worked well and delivered quite a good Beast, and I appreciated that. Ian McKellan and Ewan McGregor had a blast as Cogsworth and Lumière , and I enjoyed them. I think, for the most part, the cast was very good. Except maybe Emma Watson. I really don’t like the girl and I don’t think she can act, so she grated on me a bit, but less than expected.

I had quite the issue with the rendition of Beauty and the Best Tale as Old as Time. Seriously – the song is iconic, everybody knows it, and yet it is such a cold, lacklustre, horrendous rendition in the movie. So bad I actually cringed. Sorry Emma Thompson, but that sucked completely. Meh. Also, some of the animation was substandard – so much of it was pretty good, meaning the few times (Mrs Potts and her son Chip especially) when you see the bits that weren’t so great, it is glaringly bad.

I understand that there was some controversy surrounding a gay character, which I just don’t get. I didn’t find it jarring in the very least. In fact, said character provided quite a bit of entertainment. Oh yes, while we are at it, let’s not forget to mention how this movie went out of its way in terms of inclusion – race, gender, sexuality, everything was pretty much covered here. At times came across as a bit forced. I don’t actually have too much else to say. There are issues, but it is also quite fun, so I think it might just be time to wrap up.

Beauty and the Beast is cheesy, amusing, nostalgic, and a touch messy at times, but it is carried by pretty good performances and is rather fun. Not something I can see myself watching again in a hurry, but I am pleased to say that it went better than expected, and is probably the best live action Disney rendition of an old classic I have yet seen (yeah, because I totally watch so many of them).