01 The Write Elements

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

READ IT - Night School by C.J. Daugherty

Good books don't let you know exactly what is going on till the end, especially if they're likely going to be made into a series.
That's what's been done here - till the wee few pages at the end will you get some sort of closure. And you know what? It's definitely NOT enough. I NEED MORE
It's the moment when you read and read and just wish you read faster because you want to know what's coming next. It's a truly special thing. 
Fair warning for those who love a paranormal YA story, just so you know, this isn't one. Though seriously, I wouldn't have guessed it! It surely seemed  to be headed in that direction and yet there's no mention. Heck, even the title is "Night School". So it's truly a gift C.J. has to be able to hold our attention as she has. The usual rustle in the brush, the creepy sinking feeling that there was someone or something there in the room while you slept, common in teen books but she writes it so well that you can't imagine it being cliched at all. I gots me the chills and I was devouring every bit of the book till like 2am, and I hardly read this fast, which is when I'm reviewing this because I got all excited about it. Loving every word of it. 
CJ writes really well. She's got wit, which is wonderful and highly necessary with writers (I had JUST read a story where the writing ruined what could have been an amazing idea - assuming what I had assumed about the title and synopsis, cause I couldn't read further than a certain point) 
If you're a total scaredy-cat like me, who doesn't like the dark and quiet when it's too quiet, don't read this at night. Also I don't think it helped that I was listening to "Fire". I swear the song replayed at the most opportune time - there, not spoiling anymore on that front.
You get full doses of suspense and intrigue as you try to decipher the hidden agendas of the Night School - it was so cool to have the 'cool' boys be from there - and the mysteriousness that's been plaguing the characters in the story. I was really trying to find out if any more surprises would pop up honestly, like the whole paranormal thing. Almost begging for it haha but the fact that there really is none surprised me, in a pleasant way. 
I didn't know that "boarding school" was a theme in stories, significantly in YA, so when I was reading reviews (as usual, after the book) it was an interesting tidbit to find out. I wasn't focused too much on it because it wasn't so outstanding. Basically you 'saw' the woods, Allie's room, and the typical school but hardly any "chase scenes" went on inside. Maybe just the roof. 
I was actually kinda shocked at the ending. It should have occured to me but it didn't, like what Carter said. Perhaps I was too into the book to think outside fangirl-squealing and mystery lover-shivering. 
There are quite a bit of characters here but the main ones I will obviously focus on are Allie, Sylvain (Yes, Sylvain) and Carter. 
However I do want to mention names: Jo, Rachel, Jules and Ruth. 
They're friends not enemies, hence my mentioning them. There's this tangled web linking them. Though the incident that happened to one of them was just jarring and saddening - I can still picture it in my mind, like the face of the Joker. *shudders* 
And for another...I suppose you can forgive the crazy somewhat when you finally realise what drove her. But I still didn't care for the Jekyll and Hyde thing. I can't remember when I said this exact same thing but it is a usual character trait in the books I read. 
Allie - I love her demeanour. She was already portrayed as someone who is 'troubled' but strong-willed, yet we saw her vulnerable sides, like when she was scared out of her mind (me too me too) and how good a person she is. She's probably what you'd consider the accidental heroine but of course she's not going to be dainty, how boring would that be. 
Sylvain ("Sil-VAN" as Allie put it)  - 
"Please do."
She followed the voice, with its French accent, to her left side, where a boy with tawny skin, thick dark hair, and exquisite blue eyes was watching her.

Carter - 
The room was empty save for one deep chair, where a boy sat watching them over the top of an ancient-looking book. He had straight black hair, a firm mouth, and huge dark eyes surrounded by thick lashes; his feet were propped casually on a tabletop painted like a chessboard. He studied her with a mixture of insolence and open curiosity that she found unnerving. She tried to keep her expression blank, but his lips curved up into a knowing smile.

Very happy to not read about another hot blonde. Dark hair is just as attractive
YA 101: guys gotta be AMAZING; and they ARE in this book. It's always fun for me to find new book eyecandy, so to speak. And their descriptions are far from boring - okay maybe Carter's is the typical badboy, cocky type but come on, you need those types. And Sylvain is the nice - oh so nice - FRENCH (kind of unusual for the mains) guy.
They both play the extremes - two sides of the same coin that fell for the main girl. Strong personalities that want to protect and don't hold back - you need this in your stories, ladies and gents.
For Carter he was more the free-r spirit than Sylvain, who wasn't stuffy by any means, but they both could walk on the wild side. I actually thought something bad was gonna sprout from Sylvain - cause he was TOOOOO nice - but I was sorely mistaken (yay haha)
They're both their own characters and I'm sorry to lump them together. I will reread and revise my statements! As for camps..I can't pick yet ;( huhu

Image result for night school cj cover

Allie Sheridan’s world is falling apart. Her brother’s run away from home. Her parents ignore her. And she’s just been arrested.

Again.

This time her parents have had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to boarding school, far from her London friends.

But at Cimmeria Academy, Allie is soon caught up in the strange activities of a secret group of elite students.

When she’s attacked late one night the incident sets off a chain of increasingly violent events. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, she finds out that nothing at Cimmeria is what it seems to be.

And that she is not who she thought she was.

The back cover says
Sent away from home,
Allie Sheridan will discover
a new LIFE
a world of MYSTERY
a world of SECRETS
a word of DANGER


To tempt you I'm adding in a scene that anyone could just gush over.Mind you I typed it all out cause, well, duh. 
Say hello to male leads Sylvain and Carter (had to omit some  things to keep the story a secret):

... "Now we shall enjoy the croquet."
"Yay," she replied weakly. "Croquet."
As they walked back around the corner, she could see that everyone had been waiting for them, including Carter, His eyes told her that he knew exactly what they'd been doing.
"Allie! Sylvain." His tone was mocking. "This is great. What have you been up to?"
Surprised by his aggression, Allie flushed with anger.
...
Sylvain pulled her closer. "Unfortunately, Carter, our teams are set already. We do not need  another player."
"I didn't come to play." Carter put emphasis on the last word. 
...
He turned from Sylvain to her.
Allie felt as if a cool breeze had chilled her skin. "I... I'm fine, Carter. Thanks."
She faltered under his gaze, which seemed to challenge her. As if she'd done something bad, disappointed him in some way. 
"That's great. You do seem much recovered." His words dripped sarcasm. "Did you hurt your lips, too? Or is it from something else?"
Allie's hand flew up to cover her mouth as Sylvain took several steps forward. 
"Why are you still here, Carter?" he asked icily.
Carter stared at him, unflinching. "I just wanted to see if what I suspected was true."
"Seen all you need to see?" Sylvain's voice was low and menacing. 
"Hey, everybody," Ruth stepped between them. "Come on. Stay calm. Let's not get into something here."
Carter ignored her. "Oh, I've seen enough, Sylvain."
With a sigh, Ruth stepped out of the way. They were now standing no more than a foot apart, glaring at each other.

Now who wouldn't want to get in between them to - ahem - break up the fight? And only a foot apart. Hmmm. 
Anyway, I read her Acknowledgements at the back. I found it fitting that this book sprouted from a dare. But it was gut-wrenching to know her mother couldn't see the finished product. I'm glad to add to C.J.'s fanbase though! 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

MUST READ: Living Hell - Catherine Jinks


 http://catherinejinks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Living-Hell.png

Living Hell is a serious survival-horror-action-science fiction novel. I never experienced anything like it when I read it when I was around 13 years old and I still remember it sooo many years on. I'm talking like 9-ish. AND this is the cover, ladies and gentlemen. Isn't it epic?

What happens when a single moment changes everything? For seventeen-year-old Cheney, life on earth exists only in history books. He and more than one thousand other people have known life only aboard the Plexus spacecraft: self-contained, systematic, and serene. But that was before the radiation wave.

Now Plexus has suddenly turned on them, becoming a terrifying and unrecognizable force. As the crew dwindles under attack, Cheney and his friends need to fight back before the ship that’s nurtured them for so long becomes responsible for their destruction.

from Goodreads
 
You felt it
Near the beginning 
The more he described what plexus had as safety barriers - which I have to say Caroline probably did immense research on (heat-resistant porous films..what?)- the more likely everything was gonna go south 
The set up was all there.Though it may seem a bit draggy by the enormous explanations of everything aboard Plexus, it does provide you with the world - kinda - that Caroline has created. 

Having more than a dozen characters to think for and write about is a feat. They had their quirks and own voices to contribute to the story. None seemed irrelevant, which is fantastic. All characters should be used usefully (yeah I had to)

As the synopsis goes, Plexus turned..it became a force. Imagine that your own home has become a war zone. You have to fight, run, hide just to survive. Unfortunately for them, they can't just get out. They're in space. You don't get a chance to blink or even breathe when the next moment hits you. Living Hell is a true thriller.

"You are my greatest achievement"
That line will always get me. 


I love the way Catherine wrote. She didn't simply describe the state of Plexus but let us know what was happening through her characters, especially the panicked voices. 
You could write *SPOILER* "pink goo" or you could have Cheney discover it. He's seventeen but the way he calls out '"Dad?" .. "Dad?"' he seems seven. And it's amazing. 
Or by shouts like "Argh!" and "Moving!"
Catherine takes you into the world by doing this. 
you can tell everyone has been scared so bad they're reduced to children. It's mayhem and fear and worry throughout from such powerful - it doesn't always have to be thought-provoking, sometimes it can just be full of emotion - dialogue. 
I was either biting my lip or completely grim-faced, brows furrowed and all. 

 This was stupendous. And how often do you hear people use this word. 
I've read it before but I still remember that rush and suspense as the countdown ended. 
If you really want to understand the meaning of "calm before the storm", this is it.
What followed was this incredible scene. It was as if there was a visible sigh of relief all around because, hey, it seemed like danger has passed. 
But like any plot, if it's too early in the pages something is about to go down. 


 It was a fearsome way to show us the inexplicable change. Though there wasn't really a proper idea within the story - the synopsis does give you a huge clue - as to why the self-preserving space home went berserk, with so much action you don't really have time to think. 

To skip ahead.. 

*SPOILER*

"The human body?" conclusion was what I was waiting for! 

I now feel if characters get truly heroic - and you know with heroism in the mid of books, it's gonna ..well we always hope it turns out - they should get a picture/page

Cheney matured in that split second he had to be the "grown-up" amongst his peers was a significant moment. You could tell he had changed. From his sort of seven-year-old self. I mean, didn't anyone else forget his age in the way he was reacting to situations? Minus his clever intuition and training. 
(Not that I would have been better) 

I felt Arkwright remained extremely true to what I believe his character was - ultimate dependable, intelligent, brave. 
Brave is certainly right. Somehow his decision at the last moment which saved..as many as they could. I would have written "everyone" but... yeah.
*SPOILER*
His self-sacrifice was amazing. And probably why it was described rather than in dialogue because of his heroism. 

Sloan was a character I was the most confused with, though I remember initially liking him.
He exuded the perfect specimen type. Initially. As I read I grew to like him.. less actually. 
*SPOILER* 
I don't know if the passing of his parents did truly affect him, which it should have. You can tell he wasn't exactly normal 
He had this hero complex. It's possible he believed he was invincible. From parts like trying to go up against a gobbling monster with a laser pen - I'm nice so I hoped he was attempting to give everyone a chance to escape but maybe he didn't make it. 
Of course he was only mentioned in passing at the end, in sobs and Cheney's shock
This question will haunt me unless the dear author has made a comment somewhere about why :')

The epilogue is saddening but thought-provoking. 
I can imagine that though it was for self-preservation of Plexus...this homicidal manic entity is not far from showing us a massacre, which does happen in real life. Wars, violence, blind mass killings. 
We need to understand the fragility. 

Cheney's last line:

"So I have placed on record this story of our transformation. It's a moral tale, to some degree. We have learned, most painfully. that our command of life was built on fragile foundations - that pride, in effect, comes before a fall. That there will always be change, no matter how hard you might strive for stability. And that, like me, you may have a destiny you can't escape."

Leave you to mull over that

It's a MUST READ for me. Let me know what you think too :)

Monday, 31 October 2016

#watchFALLENtrailer


Is everything becoming a movie now? :-P
Not that I mind. It's nice to see interpretations of the books we read - just... when it's done right, of course.

Fallen the movie will be out next week (November 10 2016)

Who else is excited!!!!


I apologise if the quality is terrible. It's uploaded straight :-o


Catch the trailers here:

Lauren's Twitter for #Fallen italia

From Cathay Cineplexes 

video


From YouTube - the international trailer!!

video



     𝖒𝗁𝖺𝗉𝗍𝖾𝗋 𝖭𝗂𝗇𝖾𝗍𝖾𝖾𝗇
   π‘΄π’†π’Žπ’‘π’‰π’Šπ’”, π‘¬π’ˆπ’šπ’‘π’•
      πŸ‘πŸπŸŽπŸŽ 𝐚.𝐜.
  
❛❛𝐴𝑛𝑑 𝑑h𝑒𝑛 𝑠h𝑒 π‘π‘œπ‘’π‘™π‘‘ π‘œπ‘›π‘™π‘¦ π‘ π‘π‘Ÿπ‘’π‘Žπ‘š.
πΏπ‘Žπ‘¦π‘™π‘Ž π‘π‘œπ‘šπ‘π‘’π‘ π‘‘π‘’π‘‘, π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘Žπ‘  𝑑h𝑒 π‘“π‘™π‘Žπ‘šπ‘’π‘  𝑒𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑙𝑓𝑒𝑑 hπ‘’π‘Ÿ π‘π‘œπ‘‘π‘¦, 𝐿𝑒𝑐𝑒 𝑓𝑒𝑙𝑑 hπ‘’π‘Ÿ π‘œπ‘€π‘› π‘π‘œπ‘‘π‘¦ π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ 𝑑h𝑒 π‘ π‘œπ‘’π‘™ 𝑑h𝑒𝑦 π‘€π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’ 𝑠hπ‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘›π‘” 𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑀𝑖𝑛𝑒, π‘ π‘’π‘’π‘˜π‘–π‘›π‘” 𝑑h𝑒 π‘“π‘Žπ‘ π‘‘π‘’π‘ π‘‘ π‘’π‘ π‘π‘Žπ‘π‘’ π‘“π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘š 𝑑h𝑒... 

 From the tumblr of http://aranelb.tumblr.com/post/146905596542/menphis-egitto

This is SO sexy! Kudos!!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Publishers Weekly October 2016

I just got the chance to take a gander at the Publishers Weekly for this month (yes I know it's ending already!) but I just had to show the iBooks Bestsellers list

I have heard of quite a few of these books but I'm ashamed to say I haven't read them yet. Well, all but one: Magic Binds. I LOVE Ilona Andrews - the first time I read the Kate Daniels series I was hooked. I was so delighted to see this particular series' book up there I had to post the rest!

If anyone has read any of these titles and wants to recommend them please let me know :)

Full list of amazing reads @  https://thewriteelements.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/publishers-weekly-october-2016/

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Maximum Ride (2016) the movie - what could have been -slash- book series review

 Maximum-Ride

I, like many others, am an avid fan of the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. It was one of the books I insisted on buying the Young Adult series so many years ago; and I'm still hunting down the rest of the manga volumes for keepsakes.

But first, let's give the books context:

The Flock is made up of the 6 main characters - Maximum "Max" Ride, Fang, Iggy, Gazzy, Nudge and Angel - are human-avian hybrids (so they have wings) and have escaped a lab called The School where they were being caged - yep - and tested on. It's where they got their "gifts", they weren't born with these wings and other powers, which are still developing. But of course there have to be enemies and besides the scientists, these people employed Erasers, who are also human hybrids but with wolf DNA - so they come with fangs, claws, werewolf-shapeshifting, the works. 

So some of the reasons I love the whole Max Ride universe was: 
a) I love anything to do with wings - I don't think they've coined a philia (obsessive love for something) for that yet - so I'm instantly drawn to this book

b) THE CHARACTERS are FANTASTIC!  They have depth in the main 6 - SIX! - and it's so hard to control so many people but James does it phenomenally. Even the adversary, for a while, and 'leader'/head of the Erasers, Ari. My favourites are Fang and Iggy. Though yes I do support Max, who obviously has to be the strong-willed, caring, over-protective, capable female lead (it's usually the case for any YA female leads isn't it; not that I'm complaining); it's the guys. 
Come on. 
Fang is mysterious, with then long black hair, strong and silent and brilliant, sarcastic, cynical and even humourous. Iggy's the same, though his looks are the polar opposite, being - if I'm not mistaken (and see how I'm pulling this all from memory here!) - white-haired and fair-skinned, and blind - extra depth to his character. So think of them as the black and white knight pieces in chess.

c) the idea is really interesting and easy to get behind. I remember the writing being simple to follow and understand, but still action-packed. Heck, they made it into a manga didn't they. Of course I admit I had stopped after the main ones were published - there were more after the first five(?); but I do plan to revisit the characters again

So. When I knew they were planning to make a movie years ago needless to say I was excited. I anticipated it so much but for so long there wasn't any talk of it, so I thought it wasn't going to happen.
Then... I found it. Totally out of the blue, the movie cropped up in a search I was doing for .. I don't know what anymore because I abandoned everything to find the movie.
I watched it, before the trailer - though now I watched both.

I'm James' fan so you don't know how much I don't want to slam this...

But, well... I pretty much had my brows furrowed a lot of the time.
I'm a book lover. I'm THIS book's lover. ('nough said.) AND, hey, I'm a media student, so I've become critical over shots - if a scene was boring-ish I would appraise the shots and be all in awe most of the time. But I know to disassociate myself just in case the book and movie didn't quite match up.

Sad to say, it didn't come close. My entire being was in turmoil. "You have to be kidding me" as Max says it in the movie. 

The Movie? Or... what can kinda be called a movie? was slow, borderline elderly-with-a-walker pace, which made it worse, considering there wasn't a real PLOT. The shots weren't anything to rave about and couldn't distract me from the dialogue - if it wasn't from Max or Iggy it wasn't anything worth listening to. How was this written and approved?! 

The shots were simple the moment I saw the card-swipe and cage open. The entire time they seemed so amateurish, it's like something someone who isn't a filmmaker would have come up with for a 3-minute corporate video. They were moving and moving. Did the crew not have a tripod? 

The trailer was all the more numbing. You know how you get that rush from seeing an awesome kick-butt trailer because you know the edits were done so well you got into it? I could Not get into this one. The first book was about rescuing Angel and so the movie focused on that... WAY too much. 

The overall plot, even slight pulling in from the other books in the series, wasn't done right. I waited for the characters to be developed further because that's such a key component, but they weren't. Even worse, was how the crew portrayed them.

Okay, so the actress for Max did quite alright, fulfilling the role she had to be, but it really lacked a lot of energy. I thought they were all zombies. Their faces are supposed to show their emotion, especially with close-up shots. 

Though I love her outfit choices (cause I would like to wear it that way) she's not supposed to. She's the "Mom", so more conservative dressing would be nice. Where's her jacket? And I'm pretty sure she wasn't the threatening-type, "taking down" Nudge? Um, hello? 

Fang. OH. MY. GEEZ. Let's see... No black hair. No LONG hair. No lankiness(!!!). No long sleeved shirts (how many times can the older ones expose their arms in this thing). No brooding(!!!!!). No Fang-smirk(!!!!!!!!). Where's the fridge scene? Where's the cool, collected figure that's meant to be a inspiring shadow-protector in the corner? 

Iggy... I don't want to lump them together but, IT'S THE SAME THING as Fang. He was WAY too buff (good for the actor - don't get me wrong I do find him hot - but not for this role. I'm trying not to be too down on the actors. They weren't bad bad). No calm, quiet smile. No semi-cynical behaviour. No desperation (not even when the chaos ensued near the end). 

The push on Nudge's childishness was taken too far. Yes she wants to find out her past, but she's supposed to be bubbly and talkative.

Gazzy is meant to be funny. Too into his explosives, yes, but at least he's meant to have a sense of humour.

Angel was, well obviously, gone for most of the time. But she's meant to be irritatingly (yeah I don't like her so much) cute... and innocent. Even in the poster the actor wore a hoody. I thought it was Nudge or Max for a second. 

NO FEAR. These kids are meant to be afraid of the Erasers, of being found. As Gazzy put it in the movie, the Erasers could find them at any moment and rip down the walls with their bare hands. Now that frightens me, wouldn't it you? 

Forget Jeb. I'm coming for Ari. Another gross mistake. He's meant to be *AHEM* Max's younger brother yet he looks about as old as her in the flashbacks. Not only that, what did they turn him into?! When he turns into an Eraser he looks like Sabretooth from the old X-men animated series. 
Long raggly hair, fangs, claws, buff and hissing (HISSING). Now Sabre instilled fear...Ari? He was laughable. 

 I was underwhelmed. The manga portrays them way better.
Then came fight scenes. Or lack thereof. Now I don't usually reveal things in my reviews but these had to be pointed out.

This was especially when they were going to reveal Iggy for the first time, I was SOOOOOOOO disappointed you have no idea. For reasons above.

Ari's sudden appearance when he found where they lived. I thought I was deaf when I didn't hear any music. Suspense, not there. Fight, really not there. Ari is meant to be strong but there was no show of manhandling Iggy or Nudge. And Iggy went down just like that? At least Nudge hit the wall. So Gazzy had to hide to fumble around with his gadget and Ari's only line was "where are you"
I swear I recall 'little pig little pig' used somewhere in the stories. If not, it should have been!

Fang desperately trying to get Max to talk to him. Though I get it but the way he spoke was not his character at all! "You say somethin'?" as she gave him the cold shoulder.   

The almost-kiss in the cabin. When he stopped her with his hand on her mouth I thought if you're gonna stop her kissing you that's dumb but sure; however if you wanna keep her quiet, Fang's voice might as well be him popping balloons - was that meant to be a whisper? It failed.  

The rest of the gang trying to find Max and Fang. Iggy, with his excellent hearing as said in the initial part of the movie - was impervious to Max's loud footsteps. Didn't announce their presence. Max has been with them so long, they don't really change their clothes, but she couldn't recognise him (sure, to be fair, they weren't meant to have left the house) And Max's grab wasn't done properly, she didn't even shove him hard enough against the wall to cause him to choke (though he coughed like it was). 

Then there was the fight with Ari and the whole Flock near the end before they were brought back to The School. They both called in reinforcements which was so great cause it looked like they were going to rumble. Then Ari takes moments to pull out earplugs and switches on the supersonic hearing disorienting device with the most pathetic dialogue ever. "I can't hear you"?! The Flock let him take out a device and there was no cut to them in a panic - even running toward Ari would be fine!

They spent LONG stupid moments on the ground after that, writhing in agony I understand but it felt like the editor just wanted to lengthen the deadpan scene. It took forever for anyone to kidnap them.

When they were trapped back in the cage, though the screaming dialogue is meant to show panic, it didn't covey very well. They did their best to look worried but the music didn't change, they initially didn't shout if they're all okay - it was mainly Max, like she has to carry the team in acting too. Iggy, of all people, being blind should have been the one to worry the most. They were angry, not angry enough and panicked; but all just not enough.

Their wings. This is a movie about AVIANS. It should be so full of them taking flight and landing till I'm sick of it. They tried to do more close-ups of the wings (minus the shot where it's actually slowly edging out of Max's back) but it just looked cheap, like they wanted validation for the animation work done. 

The hype I built around seeing them fly and spread their wings for the first time was sorely drained into nothing. I don't even think the wings were the right colour for a lot of the scenes! As they showed Max's, though it was meant to be cool, the CG done when the shot showed her body didn't gel. It looked like the wing was detached even though it's supposedly coming from beneath her skin, which was shown in detail. Also, honestly, there should have been shadows and looked larger. They don't fan right.
 The book made me wish for wings.

And lastly the almost-lovey dovey scene with Max and Fang. Oh man... The worst thing was how unromantic and un...livening it was. I'm supposed to be thrilled over their sudden need for a connection but it was awkward. Not how awkward it was supposed to be for the two of them trying something new, but ... just bad.  The actor couldn't even stroke her face right.

Read the books. Read the manga. Don't watch this after you read it.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Sneak review of Children of Las Vegas

 88b67a-8


The international edition of Children of Las Vegas will be launched on 12 Nov this year.

That being said I've already read it - cause I had to help with the publicity side of the launch - FOUR times thus far.
I'm not one for non-fiction, so to get a chance to hear the stories of the 10 children who have grown up in Vegas was an eye-opener. I actually wish it was fiction because it's horrifying to think this happened to kids. For any kid who can't control their circumstance and grew up in an undesirable environment (and I'm talking about those refugees and destitute lands too of course) I feel so sorry.
It's why I was grateful to read the book and be part of the team that's about to bring it to the world. It makes you realise you're damn privileged - or at least I am, no matter my own harsh circumstances.
My mom's been there for me.
Of course, having such a 'real' book makes it difficult to read it more than once. Believe me. Though I did manage to gain new insight and learn more about the now adults after going through it a few times. From what you think you know, it intensifies it.
Not all the stories were well-written, just cause I didn't like the tone and style. But for the ones which are, do give this book a chance.Or at least borrow it.
Then look for one that talks about people in war-torn countries. Continue having the feel~

Some quotes from the stories which I found were stronger:





Shelby
She had six different credit cards running up debt at the same time. She bought things, she gambled. She said she deserved it because she supported everyone else when my dad was out of work and she was everybody’s slave.
When my grandparents and aunt left, my mom would stay on [at the casino]. She’d say she’d be along soon but she didn’t come and when they went back the next day she’d still be sitting there.
She’d have taken out all the money she could get on her ATM and credit cards.
I remember my mom's warmth ... I went to her for everything. 
Even if she's there it's not her ... That's what hurts me the most. She's so close, right next to me and I want it so bad but...she's not there. 

Alesha
It wasn’t that there wasn’t money coming in. She worked and my dad always sent child support payments.
But there was never any food in the house. We’d go days eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon. She’d eat in casino restaurants. One day she came back with a bag of leftovers and we were hungry and asked her if we could have some. “No,” she said. “That’s mine.”
If she’d won I’d get lunch money, if she’d lost I wouldn’t.
She screamed, threw things, kicked holes in the wall. Nobody ever wanted to come to our house, ever
There wasn’t anything to make me realize this was abnormal, except sometimes when teachers asked if I was all right. They could see my clothes, that I was hungry, that I never did homework. They must have suspected that something was wrong at home. But I didn’t get it. I was too young. It was just normal life to me.
But when I came back home the pressure was on and I felt I had to hold everything in. There was some kind of unstated law that said I wasn’t allowed to be angry, that I was supposed to be happy all the time because everyone else was falling apart.


Kaitlin
The money just goes, evaporates, like it’s been sucked into some hole in the sky or earth. My dad’s paycheques go from debts and what he gambles and then he gets these payday loans. It’s constantly a desperate situation
He’s taken money from my sister. He’s had my graduation money, my savings, my student loans.
Once I phoned him to check my account and when he had my log-in details he transferred money from my account to his. He’s taken money from my pockets. I still had $60 after being on vacation with a friend’s family and when I looked later it was gone.
I love him very much, he’s a wonderful man, but it’s… frustrating.
My parents didn’t have time to pay attention to us. They were too absorbed in their addictions.
I know they feel bad. My mom cries
We were sitting in the car once and I felt so desperate about it and I was pleading with him, “Don’t you care about us? Why don’t you stop? Can’t you see that you’re killing us? Don’t you love us?”
He’d always say, “I’m sorry.”
It makes me feel bad to live in a city based on something that takes so much from people. 
When I drive I try to look at the mountains rather than the Strip.   
It’s hard to grow up here, or even want to, when your parents are falling apart. 
 

Cindi
She stole from a woman whose house we were living in for a while and told the woman I did it. She stole all the money my sister had put away to get married.
Nobody can figure it out. Why is she like this? Why doesn’t she care about anybody? Why was she just this absence in our lives for all these years when we needed her so much? We can’t even figure out what she does with the money.
We’re all linked together in this gigantic train wreck.
People are quick to deceive. They’re skilled at it. They have second lives.
People just haemorrhage their resources into it.
I feel very insecure, like I’m just waiting for things to fall apart. It’s difficult to live in a place you can’t stand.
But this is something else. This feels like some disease that’s on your skin. They say, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” But it’s not true. I think it’s going to stay with me forever, wherever I go. I don’t trust people. I’m full of anger towards the people who hurt me. 
I hope people will read it so they know what it costs to grow up in this place the world treats like a playground. I don’t look at the Strip and think, “Oh, look at the pretty lights. I want to go and play.” I hate it. I want it to go away. We’re the city that prides itself on moral corruption. It’s like, “We suck, come and visit us.” It’s this Disneyland for malfunctioning grown-ups.

    Read my copy, the advance order is ready! 
Children of Las Vegas is ready to show you what it's really like in Sin City. Hear from the real voices of those living in Vegas - when they were just children. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Gregor the Overlander - Suzanne Collins

 Image result for gregor the overlander

I think I have a serious thing for books with prophecies in them. They're the most interesting to read about even when it's telling you what's going to happen. Yet, not in the way you'd ever expect. 
So because I read book 3 first I knew what was coming. But let's break it down for everyone anyway. 


The series by Suzanne Collins is quite popular, I have a hard time finding it in the library. 
Gregor the Overlander is the first of the Underlander Chronicles. 



Gregor is just 11 and home alone in the New York City apartment when he and his baby sister Boots fall through an old air duct grate in the building's basement. The two fall miles below into the Underland: a subterranean world home to humans with near-translucent skin; giant sentient batsrodents, and insects; and an escalating conflict between the human city of Regalia and the ratsKing Gorger. (I find Gorger a very suitable name heh)

They meet several "Underlanders", among them the Regalians: Vikus, princess Luxa, her cousin Henry, and the bats who are "bonded" to them Aurora and Ares (bats' names, you realise, are Grecian which is wonderful). 

Gregor learns the real reason for the rats' hatred of Overlanders: a mysterious prophecy written by the human colony's founder Bartholomew of Sandwich which hints that an Overland "warrior" will stop an attempt by the rats to take over the underground realm - once and for all. The Regalian council believes Gregor to be this warrior, and tries to convince him to undertake the quest mentioned in the "Prophecy of Gray". 


Beware, Underlanders, time hangs by a thread.

The hunters are hunted, white water runs red.

The gnawers will strike to extinguish the rest.

The hope of the hopeless resides in a quest.



An Overland warrior, a son of the sun,

May bring us back light, he may bring us back none.

But gather your neighbors and follow his call

Or rats will most surely devour us all.



Two over, two under, of royal descent,

Two flyers, two crawlers, two spinners assent.

One gnawer beside and one lost up ahead.

And eight will be left when we count up the dead.



The last who will die must decide where he stands.

The fate of the eight is contained in his hands.

So bid him take care, bid him look where he leaps,

As life may be death and death life again reaps.


Though he sympathizes, Gregor is reluctant to help until he learns a surprising fact: his father, who disappeared unexpectedly for over two years, had actually fallen down into Regalia just like Gregor and Boots and been taken prisoner by the rats. Gregor, his sister, and a group of Regalians go on a journey to rescue Gregor's father and recruit allies for a war against the rats. 

Flyers = bats, crawlers = roaches, spinners = spiders, gnawer = rat

Adapted and tweaked from Wikipedia 

It's immensely hard to write a prophecy  that's so excellently cryptic and rhyme-y. I was really muddled in the last few lines, though I had guessed that *spoiler* there will likely be a betrayal under "The last who will die must decide where he stands." As prophecies go however I favour Rick Riordan's. Perhaps it's unexpected when dealing with all human characters that makes it challenging and more interesting to decipher. 

In the beginning of the book you explore with Gregor after he Falls. He encounters roaches, and they like the spiders, tend to speak backwards. So it's "ride you" or "Hates us princess, hates us". I love how the Roaches can be, loyal and protective, and I love Temp - and Tick has to be mentioned - so I'm using a line when he's at his sulkiest. Considering how bad my phobia of bugs is it's a credit to make me throw away my preconception and have me like the roaches. 

Now the Underlanders are a curious bunch. Even with Luxa being so haughty I enjoy how Suzanne makes her act more human, rather than stay a royal. She learns of sandwiches and even words like "ick". She does have an open and honest personality too. 

I think it stems from Vikus, who turns out to be her grandfather. He's by far one of my favourite characters. The typical peacemaker and wise grandfather-y-type. Being super amiable makes him likeable. So when there came one of the plot twists, though not that shocking to me, it floored Gregor and gang. It was a touching moment for Gregor to show his maturity then; and I believe he did his best throughout the book. Remember he's only 11. 

The bats are not heard from much. They're as the "bonded" describe it, a reassuring presence. You can't get a whole lot from them till the end. Skipping ahead one of the  top scenes for me was the bonding ceremony. For a human to bond with the bat they need to hold each other's 'hands' and recite:

___ the ___, I bond to you.
Our life and death are one, we two.
In dark, in flame, in war, in strife,
I save you as I save my life.


Total aww, fist-pumping-in-air moment. 


Now the rats are portrayed as rats, the enemy, cunning, conniving and all-around creatures you don't wanna be around. I mean, besides how much I don't care for the spiders in the story, there's gotta be an enemy right? Gregor meets several that basically try to kill him, among other things, and we get a glimpse of foreshadowing in later books. His warrior gene, as I put it. 

Of course not every rat is a rat. 

We come to Ripred. Okay with his personality Ripred is quite ratty. He has the qualities up till the enemy part, he becomes the guide and aid of the questers; and obviously has his own depth as a main character. As Gregor puts it, looking into Ripred's eyes there's pain and intelligence there. 

Bring on the cynicism, it was needed. As a cynical person (who ironically teaches kids) it was a relief after 20-30% in the story was Boots being Boots. I'm sorry to those who like her. I concede she is integral in some parts like giving hints to the story without giving the scene away yet (it's good in book 3 though I haven't seen 2 yet) but, ugh the prattling made it annoying. Kudos to Temp and Tick for putting up with it. 

And then  there's  the beauty in the Underland while it's shown in war - nice contrast. There's gorgeous description of how the city looks like; and with such a vivid scene you can easily imagine it. A clean, bright NYC I suppose. It makes a difference if you're able to show your world to a reader,( it's something I even strive to do). 

The pacing of the story is alright  and it really makes you want to keep reading especially near the end. Being the climax, there's  greater impact and the characters start to get livelier. 

Again, since there's a prophecy (I've tried to come up with some myself) you're able to wheedle out who's gonna die. I didn't like that one bit. 3 out of 4 of the deaths was upsetting in different ways. I have not much love for the last death but there was enough disbelief from the remaining characters - it was really severe. 

So one of the deaths being absolutely gruesome while another ...deserves mention. A quick death but sudden and leaves you reeling. Though the character doesn't show themselves you get a sense through their actions. I found comfort when Gregor could cry for them. 

Obviously a must-read, it's compelling because there's Yet another pXXXXXXX 

if anything skip through the Boots parts. Heh.