Review: Divergent – Veronica Roth

divergent veronia roth book cover

Divergent #1

SYNOPSIS: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. – via Goodreads

Years ago, my best friend Natasha was hopping up and down about me getting to this trilogy, so the Distance Book Club was reinstated quickly. Evidently she needed someone to share this with, and so I got onto it. I enjoyed it all those years ago, and recently decided to revisit it again to see how I felt now. The novel directly takes us into a dreadful dystopian future. The children, however, are not necessarily suffering like you would come to expect, though there are some issues.

I enjoyed the concept of them having to choose a faction, as well as what those factions stood for, though it seemed illogical to me that they would not be able to maintain ties with other family members in other factions, etc. I just couldn’t buy into that, though I understand why it was executed this way. Tris is definitely a better leading lady, far less selfish than Katniss Everdeen (who you all know I have some beef with), so reading about her did not grate on me. I actually really, really liked her as the heroine. She is strong, smart, calculating and enjoyable. Then there is Four. Let’s talk about Four. I have mad love for Four. He is strong, he is mysterious (but not in the annoying way), he is just… the more I read about him, the more I adore him. Major character crushing going on here. He’s just a character I understand, and I appreciate that.

These books are written for young adults, and it is evident in the writing style as well as emotions that are described and the flow of the story. There is a large amount of teenage angst (I am so glad that I am so over that ridiculous part of life), but not as over the top as these stories can sometimes get. There is plenty of petty jealousy, childish hissy fits and obsession, though it works eventually if you can just bear in mind it is a book for young people still in that period in life, so I suppose they can identify more.

It took me a while to get into the reading style as it was written in first person, present tense, which is always difficult for me to slot into. I did enjoy the electricity between Four and Tris – it was incredibly painful at times, and at others so sweet, so there was that. It is actually a brilliant romance that Roth hit on here, something I actually looked forward to when I got to the scenes for them. There is also at least only one love interest, which is refreshing. The romance – back to that. It is great. Four believes in Tris’s strength, not that she is some damsel in distress, and the romance isn’t this “if I can’t have the other, I will simply die”. Gosh and the build up damn near drove me wild, loved it.

There are also a lot of places that blatantly show that Roth is a first time writer, plenty of places she tries for too much mystery and executes with too little gusto, but overall it is definitely not a bad read. Her supporting characters can be entertaining (I really like Will and Christina), but ultimately they are not really robust characters. Roth fills out Four and Tris, but the rest are vehicles to carry the story, no more, no less, which is a pity. The first half of the book is very slow and meandering and seemed pretty pointless in places, but the second half catches and snowballs into something rather good. It is also a quick read, in case you are looking for a light filler between books. I was a bit iffy about how some stuff went down at the end, as it really was a bit of a wreck, what with no finesse and proper build up, but outside of that, I think this is a pretty decent read and would recommend it.

Review: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)

“Love does things for reasons that reason cannot understand.” 
– Joe

SYNOPSIS: Now settled in Genovia, Princess Mia faces a new revelation: she is being primed for an arranged marriage to an English suitor. – via IMDB

Oh. My. Goodness. This movie sucked. Really Ugh. I watched this directly after The Princess Diaries, and was still basking in the glow of nostalgia. This certainly snuffed that light right out. Sequels are not usually known to be particularly good or anything like that, but this? Unforgivable on so many levels!

Where to begin? Oh right, the first thing to be said is that there is some horrible CGI featured here. Luckily the movie is not too dependent on that, so we are not tortured too often. Zipping right along, the movie just discards Michael and Mia, a super sweet romance that was set up in the first movie, and it is glibly dismissed here. Come on. Anything more than “he’s touring with his band” would have been better. Then her dropping the line of “I’ve never been in love”? So you weren’t even that annoying teenager in love with him? Because that is not what it seemed like in the last movie. Let me leave these gripes and move on the the rest of the treasure trove.

Royal Engagement is simply embarrassing, really. After all the fun and entertainment we got from the first one, you would hope that this could at least be halfway decent. Even with the same cast, it is not. It is lame, flat, uninspired. The humour was so forced and stupid and the delivery is terrible, which is unforgivable. The romance story here is so generic and predictable. It brought no excitement to the table whatsoever. The entire movie is actually so formulaic. The predecessor might not have been a movie that broke any moulds, but at least it was fun. This was just awkward and silly and I was not pleased one step of the way.

This movie, sadly, also somehow manages to take itself way too seriously, which truly only hurts the experience even more. Royal Engagement is annoying, goes for cheap, cheesy tricks, and they never really land true. The story doesn’t engage you (yes, I did that), and there is nothing that makes you feel that this could be some special, treasured childhood movie. Rewatching this was a stark reminder as to why it got exactly one viewing from me when I was younger. One of the few things that work for this is the cast – Pine, Rhys-Davies, Andrews, Hathaway and Elizondo give it what they’ve got. They were quite good, even with the abysmal material, but could still not save this train wreck of a movie. Pine and Hathaway worked very well together, it’s just a pity that this is what they had to work with. This movie is so bad it can’t even be guilty pleasure bad.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is a colossal waste of your precious time and energy.  It is a prime example of how not to do a sequel. There is virtually nothing to praise in this (they even managed to throw a spanner in the works between Joe and Clarisse – not okay) and I spent near two hours cringing and annoyed. You could totally pretend this one does not exist and just acknowledge the first one. Seriously.

100 Happy Days 2: Day 41 – 50

We are coming up to the halfway mark here folks! Can you believe it?! Amazing.

Day 41:

Lazy Sunday meant a lovely, lazy slow cooker chicken curry. My goodness, it was awesome ❤

Day 42:

First French manicure in forever – nice and all, just usually find them boring. However, this worked out really nicely, and lasted three whole days before I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Day 43:

Ran out of my favourite eyeliner recently (Avon Always On Point) and had to order more. The new ones finally arrived and all is right and balanced in my world again. Phew.

Day 44:

This “formal letter note” that Natasha left for me on my birthday a few years ago still endlessly entertains me. I am so lucky to have such an awesome bestie, truly! “This gift is not from me” xD gets me every time.

Day 45:

Whoop! I love it when I get to hit all my step goals at work, it’s great.

Day 46:

Hmmmm, a McDonald’s McFizz is just fantastic, so refreshing in this heat. Yummy!

Day 47:

Oh yeah! Got wool for a new project I am working on for myself. I am so in love with this red! Cannot wait to see how it all works out in the end.

Day 48:

Oh wow! I’m becoming a huge fan of this Yardley Supermoist lipstick for numerous reasons. It is really moisturising, the colour holds for some time, and the shade is amazing (Toffee Cream). I can see this becoming an everyday lipstick for me, it goes with pretty much anything.

Day 49:

You can never be too old for stuffed animals, in my opinion. This is a little sand filled lizard my husband got me when we went to the reptile park.

Day 50:

Love it – Pepsi and a good book.

Review: The Monster (2016)

the-monster-movie-poster-1

“My mom tells me there’s no such thing as monsters. But she is wrong.”
– Lizzy 

SYNOPSIS: A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road. – via IMDB

GRADE 5I really wanted to like this more, I did. Eric and Ryan both thoroughly enjoyed it, and when it started, so did I. I could not stand Zoe Kazan’s character, Kathy. Ick, that is all I am saying. However, that in no way reflects negatively on her performance. She was brilliant, as was Ella Ballentine. They were so believable, and emotional, and that was pretty much what kept me going.

The Monster starts well, and builds a fantastic, tense atmosphere that draws you in. We are all afraid of what’s potentially out in the dark, so this works really well, because it feels like there is something out there. Then strange things happen. Never overplayed. You never see whatever the hell is out there (less is more man, less is more), and it just works. The atmosphere is heavy, and it is dark, rainy, dreary, plus there is all the emotional tension between Kathy and Lizzy, so you are totally engaged. Something is out there, and it is scary as hell. The music works, and it is shot so well.

But then things started going south. For one, I was quite annoyed at the immense amounts of flashbacks. Like, I get that they are developing the characters with that, and showing us how complex the relationship is between mother and daughter, but even with all that, the characters still feel really flat unfortunately. Lizzy and Kathy are still better than others. I also thought that the movie was rather predictable, and I was not pleased when we saw the monster. Not because it was crap, but all the creep was taken right out when I saw it. A movie can lose me when revealing too much. Also, let us not forget how that third act just fell apart. Everything was going so well, and then next thing logic went out the window and some of the most ridiculous decisions ever were made, the atmosphere was forgotten, it pushed for too many jump scares, both mother and daughter became insufferable (even more so than before), and that showdown was so stupid.

All in all it is not a bad movie, and the first two thirds were really good. The atmosphere for the film was wonderful, and Ballantine and Kazan deliver stellar performances. However, there is a lot that is wrong with the movie, too, and the third act really hurt it more than I can say. It is definitely going to appeal to horror fans who love atmosphere, but it won’t thrill those seeking a full on monster movie.

Review: The Princess Diaries (2001)

“I don’t want to rule my own country, I just want to pass the tenth grade.”
– Mia Thermopolis

SYNOPSIS: Mia Thermopolis has just found out that she is the heir apparent to the throne of Genovia. With her friends Lilly and Michael Moscovitz in tow, she tries to navigate through the rest of her 15th year.

My goodness, I have’t seen this movie in years, and it recently ended up on my radar again when Natasha watched and reviewed these. I should say that while I saw these, I never read the books, and don’t really plan to. I watched this movie so many times as a kid, it was ridiculous, and I really liked it. Don’t even judge me monkeys. I was wondering how it would hold up on rewatch all these years later, and I must say that I was quite impressed for a multitude of reasons.

The Princess Diaries is never going to be the greatest movie of all time or anything like that, but it is highly amusing and comes together very well… or that is just my nostalgia. Anne Hathaway was still a sweet young girl here, and Julie Andrews brings so much class and elegance to the table as Queen Clarisse. The characters are plenty fun, too, and Joe is a fan favourite, of course. His relationship with Queen Clarisse had me cheering, and the way he befriended Mia was simply adorable. Plus his comic timing? The hearse bit? So good. It’s got a preposterous story, to be sure, and is a real chick flick for teens thing, but there are worse thing that the movie can be. It is also handled way better than you would expect.

Speaking of Mia, I think I liked this so much growing up because she, too, is just an awkward turkey that is struggling to find somewhere she belongs. She is also, stupidly, crushing on that waste of time and space Josh, something that confused me even when I was younger when there is the best option of them all – Michael. Seriously – M&M addiction? Musician? Sweetheart? And she is lusting after that blonde loser? WHY?!

The music for this movie is so typical of films of this time, and is just plain awkward and not really my cup of tea. Nor should it be. It was quite the drawback for me. Also typical of movies like this, there are a load of side characters that are there, and stories/incidents are simply thrown in and forgotten about, not making the story as robust or complete as it should have been. Lastly – all these people from Europe, and no/few accents? Lies!

The Princess Diaries is actually pretty fun, even years after the fact. I am not sure if that is because I loved it then and the nostalgia remains, or what. Either way. There is some silly humour in here and the movie is just fun, some totally insane incidents occur and overall it is carried by a decent cast. Pure popcorn entertainment, but it works. Well worth the watch, if you ask me.

Sporadic Scene: Sherlock (Season 2×01) – I Had Bad Days

I am rather fond of BBC’s Sherlock, and recently got my husband to watch it with me, and he had a total blast. There is plenty humour going on all the time and it is witty and sharp. Watching John and Sherlock together is absolutely fantastic. There was a particular scene where Sherlock requested that John hit him in the face, and before you know it, the request devolves into an all-out fight.

100 Happy Days 2: Day 31 – 40

So apparently the last ten days were all about food, movies/series, and beauty.

Day 31:

Oh man, lazy on so many fronts means I was going to have a simple, lazy dinner, which also made for a simple, lazy lunch. Sometimes that’s all you want. It was really good. Hmmmm.

Day 32:

Ha! The dawn of yet another project, so stoked! We have moved into autumn and the mornings and evenings are definitely more chilly, so yay, it means I get to work on bigger projects again. This one will just be a simple slouchy hat though, but I do so love these colours!

Day 33:

Oooooh, my husband got me Californication for our anniversary and we have started going through it again. This show is awesome, and I really never thought it would appeal to me at all, but it just works on so many levels. Very adult humour, and David Duchonvy is absolutely excellent.

Day 34:

Goodness gracious, but this was delicious! I made a spicy chicken, mushroom, green pepper and baby marrow penne pasta for dinner the other night, and it was glorious. Light, filling, tasty… and a great leftover lunch 🙂

Day 35:

I added yet more movies to my collection, and I am happy with these buys. Can’t wait to watch them all again! I will be sure to eat like a king before rewatching Chef though – I will not be repeating past mistakes.

Day 36:

I am addicted to lip balm. There, I said it. Not that that means I am on the path to recovery, or anything. Natasha has known me the longest, and I always have one or two (or three) lip balms on me at any given time. These Labello Lip Butters are my favourite; they last forever and they smell absolutely divine.

Day 37:

Ahhhhh, after much back and forth, I treated myself to some Essie nail polishes. The polish I have used from Essie until thus far has been wonderful and there are great colours. Excited to see how these ones work out.

Day 38:

Made some delicious crispy chicken cheese burgers with chilli garlic fried onions and salt and pepper chips for dinner. So good!

Day 39:

Okay, so it might officially be autumn, but it is not really cooling down yet here by us. This has not stopped me from eagerly dragging out my huge blanket project that I started last year – a king size blanket is no joke. I am so excited to be working on it again!

Day 40:

A chill day to be had with some hazelnut cappuccino (again – I have a problem) and some awesome Lindt Strawberry Intense dark chocolate and Criminal Minds to keep me company.