bookspluslife

March 27, 2016

Book: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:55 pm

imageJust a little preamble: this book is meant to be read by teenagers and I am reviewing it as an adult literature. So if you are looking at a young adult book to read or suggest to someone in the family, this review may not help you!

 

I found that the start of the story was confusing, as if you opened a book with the first twenty or so pages ripped off. Tate’s sister has ‘died’ in a scandal and so Tate is ostracized in school. Cool kids like Alice do not hobnob with her. Mackie loves Alice and when she pays attention, even though the attention is simply to get him to donate blood, he melts. He has a very strong allergic reaction to blood. Friends taunt him – he finds words written in blood on his locker showing “Freak!”.

 

As you read on, you slowly learn that Mackie’s skin burns when he reaches the consecrated parts of the Church. You also realize that many of the kids in town have been replaced by something else and our hero is one of the replacements. He cannot stand blood or steel or iron or a few other things.

 

And he has this confusing way of living like an adolescent often does. He wants to apologize to Tate but runs away every time and even actively hurts and antagonizes her. All the while he runs after Emily, the popular and gorgeous girl in the class. But does he? Not really. Go figure.

 

The book then gets weirder. His mother admits to being taken to a dark place but refuses to answer his question on how she is back in USA. He goes to an underground meeting of vampires where he learns that their leader, a shark toothed young girl, explains that they need to keep humans happy and unaware of their existence to keep themselves alive and enlists Mackie’s help to do so, by being the lead person in the band they have formed. All juvenile childish stuff with his trouble with multiple girls and his refusal to do anything sensible. He refuses to go to parties, then goes, then leaves halfway, then refuses to tell why; constantly feels sorry for himself and is rude to everyone. And he has loads of friends who know that he is really a good guy underneath all that rudeness. Hmmmm…

 

Even when you understand the premise, the story starts sucking even more than it already does. Here it is. Since it is not a suspense or a secret to be revealed at the end of the book, this will not count as a spoiler. There are dead things living underground somewhere and even there, there are two factions led by two sisters. The good group of the undead just live on love. (Please don’t laugh.) The bad faction kills for the pleasure of it. Every seven years, a baby needs to be sacrificed and is taken away from some home and a replacement baby from the undead is kept in its place. The replacements die very young usually. (Wait, are they not undead already, you ask? Yes, they can die again too. This time, apparently, for good. ) But Mackie is special and since he received more love than usual (or some such idiotic reason) he manages to live longer.

 

Is this weird enough for you? Wait, as you read on, it gets weirder. The undead, we find, sometimes cannot breathe and are in trouble. (Cannot breathe? They are undead, right?) Some with even rotting flesh etc. (Why do they need to breathe?) Suddenly the author seems to remember that possibility: she then divides the dead people into “regular” (my word) dead and restless dead. The latter do not need to breathe. Voila! Problem solved. Want more weirdness? The whole thing is led by Morrigan who looks like a child and behaves like one except when she needs to plan big things but has a mouth full of shark teeth. But she is a good one. (In care you were dying to know.)

 

Then there is all those teen age issues of love, etc, even for dead people.

 

Oh please.. her mother was one of the kidnapped people who was restored. And really, that is how the evil  Lady and her sister The Morrigan became enemies due to it. Alice, though beautiful is poison for Mackie but Tate, the weird one, is best for him.

 

When the Church burns, the story turns mildly interesting when he goes to confront the Lady whom no one dares to face. Then drops with a thud again after a brief scene of hope .

The story really picks up only towards the end when you meet the Lady in all her fury and her fearsome assistant, the Cutter and when the kids get hopelessly trapped in the Lady’s lair, with no hopes of escape. The story ends beautifully but you have to wade through almost an entire book of tripe before you get satisfaction.

 

3/ 10

 

  • – Krishna
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March 19, 2016

Book: The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:49 pm

imageThis is the second book in the Saxon series.

You need to read the first one, The Last Kingdom,  to get the full benefit of the second.

Uhtred, having destroyed Ubba in the first book, waits to go to his wife and does not rush to Alfred immediately. He finds that Odda the Younger does go there and claims all the glory with Alfred. When Uhtred defiles the sanctity of the church by drawing the Serpent Breath (his sword) and threatening Odda, he gets punished by his command being taken away from him and made to crawl humiliatingly to Mother Mary. In anger he comes home and finds his servant Oswald stealing timber from him and kills him, drives his family from their home and confiscates all the money Oswald had buried. His wife Mildred is horrified and repulsed by these acts of wanton cruelty.

 

Uhtred also plans to escape back to the Danes who had brought him up and join Ragnar the Younger against Alfred.

 

Bur Alfred forestalls him making Ragnar a captive.

 

Uhtred, though aligned with Saxons, disguises a ship as a Viking ship and kills Britons and plunders their silver.

 

He is asked by a Saxon king to help him fight a rival king and finds that the rival king is a Dane called Svein. He is promised some silver and instead decides to betray the king and plunder all his wealth.

 

He is in partnership with Svein, a Viking and agrees to split the spoils evenly. They attack the Saxon king and allows Svein to kill all the priests and plunder the silver. They do divide it evenly. He then goes to Ireland and gets more plunder, including a silver religious item.

 

He gets found out by the priest Asser whom he let live and is caught by Alfred with Leofric in tow. They are given the death sentence but he takes an offer that is available.

 

He agrees to fight the giant Steapa to save his honour but in the middle of the fight, which Alfred did not attend, Danes arrive to pillage and burn the city. He later finds that Danes have occupied almost all of Wessex and Alfred is on the run!

 

He and Leofric escape and Uhtred rescues the King from certain death and when Alfred wants to take him to the midst of Danes, he asks that Iseult be held as a hostage. They still do not trust him. When he goes alone to count the enemy strength, he finds that Alfred has gone alone into the Danish fortress and goes to get him back, furious at Alfred’s idiocy. He unexpectedly meets Ragnar, who he thought was killed as a hostage by Alfred. Alfred makes peace between Steapa and Uhtred.

 

He escapes back and goes to see Odda the Younger with Stead. Odda has foolishly made his piece with Svein and when Uhtred starts war preparations, is furious. Uhtred learns that his son is dead and that Mildred has become a nun.

 

He finds that Odda the Younger has made his peace with Guthrum allowing him to marshall his forces and finds that Guthrum has promised to make Odda the King when he defeats Alfred. Steapa promises to fight Uhtred but unexpectedly kills Odda instead in an exhilerating twist.

 

The story takes off and the tension keeps growing; Uhtred is sent with a patrol to lure the Danes and he conceives of a brilliant plan to get the Danes to come to an island and he goes out and leaves them stranded. What they do not know is that at high tide, the island submerges and he disables the only boat they came in and goes back to the main island. Most Danes had gone to plunder and he easily overwhelmes the handful of guards and burns all of the Danish ships, thereby preventing Svein from attacking Alfred, who has taken refuge in a swamp, coming in through the water.

 

It gets better. Alfred collects a large army and waits for Svein and Guthrum, who have joined forces to come attacking, with Saxons, even with the large army, outnumbering the Saxons three to one! There are fabulous scenes where Alfred finds absolutely no one flocking to his banner for a time and Uhtred resists temptations to join the Danes with his friend Ragnar.

 

The final battle is fabulous and the results are astounding. Well told story. This is what makes Bernard sparkle, the scenes that he describes. He saves Ragnar, though, even after his capture by Saxons.

 

Great story.

 

Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end where he tells what he has fictionalized and what is real. This is good stuff. The story he wove is coherent and you cannot tell fact from fiction.

 

Easily deserves a 8/ 10

 

– – Krishna

Movie: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:33 pm

imageThis is an interesting movie from some respects. First of all, the story starts with Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winestead) getting into an accident and fainting. The first thing interesting is that the accident is depicted stunningly well. Yeah, I know it has been done like this before but still it feels like you are in the movie.

 

Second thing: At the end of the movie, you realize that the movie just involves three people. Beginning to end. That is it. There are voices and a TV announcer etc, but I do not really count them as ‘characters’ even if one of the voices belongs to Bradley Cooper.

 

Third, the movie keeps you guessing as to what kind of a movie it is. First you think it is like the Saw series, because she wakes up in a room with a bed on the ground and the entire room bare, except that she is chained to the wall and a saline solution is being fed into her via an I.V tube. She tries to get to her cell phone desperately, and all this is very much like Saw.

 

Then, when you meet Howard, he seems to be so much divorced from reality you begin to think that it is one of those innumerable movies where a deranged man has taken a young girl prisoner and will keep her tormented and sexually abused. Then it changes again. In order not to spoil the movie let me just state that there are a couple more turns or twists before the movie ends.

 

The major twist in the movie is interesting, but somehow, when we are hit with it, you feel the nagging suspicion that ‘I  kind of thought that this would be the twist’ kind of feeling. It is still interesting.

 

Howard, played brilliantly by John Goodman – I would call it one of the best roles he has done – is a very interesting character, alternately sane, sometimes fantasizing about aliens or Russia or one of the Koreas taking over the world and trying to destroy America. He has ‘anticipated it all’ and has built a safe bunker, where he has taken Michelle to ‘save her’.

 

The rebellious Hollywood American female lead she is, Michelle does not take it lying down and fights tooth and nail to escape. She discovers the words ‘Help’ etched on the skylight at the top of the house. She hears what sounds like cars going above (they are in a bunker underground, in preparation for the alien invasion). Howard believes that the air is contaminated and so has built an air purifier and airlock, to protect them.

 

The ‘them’ includes another young man, Emmet, who is injured with his arm in a sling. He claims that he got injured trying to fight his way into the bunker because of the disaster outside, which he saw as a bright flash before running inside.

 

Intrigue upon intrigue follows. Michelle discovers that Howard has been lying about his daughter or at least the photo he showed Michelle as his daughter is found out not to be the daughter. Emmet categorically states that he knows the daughter and the photo Howard earlier showed Michelle is definitely not the daughter’s photo.

 

I am not going to say much more so as not to give away anything you need to find out at the movie.

 

The movie definitely keeps your interest but my main issue with it is that it is like a winding path where, for the sake of suspense, twist is piled upon twist till you don’t know whether the story is coming or going.

 

The fact that John Goodman has done an absolutely phenomenal job, in my opinion at least, only shows up the gap in acting between him on one hand and the other two characters on the other. They do a credible job but he simply overshadows everybody in the movie.

 

Is it worth seeing? Definitely. Is it an edge of your seat movie that leaves you thinking of it long after you have seen it? I would not go that far.

 

6 / 10

– – Krishna

 

 

 

 

 

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