Monday, December 30, 2013

Favourite Movies of 2013


Okay lovelies, I have a confession. I watch a lot of movies, and oftentimes, I'll watch a movie instead of reading a book. But that just means I have a ton of favourites that I'd like to share with you-- as usual, this list is personal, biased, purely my opinion, and based on how much I liked a movie, not me evaluating "how good the movie is." You'll probably be able to tell that yes, I do like those blockbuster movies, and nope, I don't care if you judge me. Also, if you're interested, you can click here for my favourites from last year. It's a long post, so sit tight :)

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TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2013

you can click the picture to make it a wee bit bigger... I guess...
10. 12 Years a Slave
-I can recognize that this movie is a true achievement in filmmaking with incredibly visceral performances, but I can’t exactly say that I loved it. I just know I walked out of the theatre with a heavy, heavy heart.

9. The Way Way Back
-One of my favourite underdog coming-of-age films that was thoughtful, heartwarming, awkwardly funny and made me smile contently. It also seemed to achieve the impossible by making me hate Steve Carell. It flew a bit under the radar, but it’s a wonderful ‘family’ movie.

8. The Heat
-laugh out loud raucously funny, a bit vulgar, with female characters in the most brilliant light. I remember sneaking into a showing of this with my friends (in between sneaking into a different movie) and just not leaving til the movie was over, cause it was so funny.

7. Prisoners
-I’m not one for scary or suspenseful movies, and this one had me on the edge of my seat and my heart beating fast. Intense, exhilarating performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal that really has me thinking to what degree one might go to save someone they love. I really liked the plot twists, and one of the suspects gives such a convincingly creepy vibe it gave me heebie-jeebies.

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
-guys, I’m a LOTR (movie) fangirl, and any movie that gives me a taste of Middle Earth has my complete gratitude. I adore the world that Peter Jackson has brought to life, and this installment was equally fun, action-packed, elf-packed (eff yes, Tauriel and Legolas), with magnificent Smaug-CGI and gosh, do I adore Thorin and Bilbo. I’m hugely biased since the LOTR movies are my favourite of all time, but honestly I just walked out of the theatre feeling entertained and that I got my full money’s worth.




5. Frozen
-OMG you guys! This movie! I didn’t expect to adore it as much as I did, and I bet I sound like every other Tumblr blog out there, but I just loved the fact that it was about sisters saving each other. I adored both Elsa and Anna, along with Sven, Olaf, and Kristoff.. basically everyone. It was funny, heartwarming, and full of great songs (I have “Let it Go” on repeat right now). It’s a Disney movie so it’s understandably joyful and fluffy (but if I had my way, I’d love to have made it full of heartbreak, sacrifice, and darkness).

4. Iron Man 3
-I love Iron Man. I love RDJ’s portrayal of him, I love the witty quips, the action scenes, the plot twists, even the ridiculous amount of flying suits (okay, scratch that last part). Everything just works for me, and I don’t care about you rolling your eyes at my mainstream favourites. Are you not entertained?! I really was. 

3. Catching Fire
-*breathes into a paper bag* I saw this at the midnight showing in IMAX and I just remember it blowing all my expectations out of the water, making the first movie seem like utter crap with its brilliance, and making me remember just why Jennifer Lawrence is like a perfect human being. It made me cry a few times (this is a good thing) and I forgot just enough of the book to be caught off guard by the timing of events, which just made it better in my mind. I didn’t have the book fresh in my memory so I could enjoy the movie for what it was- and I thought it had great character development, cool arena action scenes, excellent pacing, and stayed faithful to the book, setting up a third movie that I’m personally very eager to see. 

2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
-I was so, so close to making this my top movie of the year. Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto… who says I’m not superficial…but seriously, there is some seriously eye-catching *cough* upsides to this movie… performance-wise, of course. But my shallowness aside, I just really loved this because I was just so gosh-darn satisfied when I was watching it. All the twists and turns, the fight scenes, the Spock-Kirk interactions, the spaceship scenes… it just made me happy as I was watching because I was enjoying everything about the movie so much. I’m just like, vigorously making hand motions trying to convey just how elated I felt when watching, and I don’t really know why. I think it was just exactly what I wanted. 

1. Before Midnight
-Okay, after some serous debate.. I made this number one. Because I wanted to bring attention to this trilogy (I’m going to mention the other two below, in my non-2013 list) because I love it so, so much. It’s just so full of life, feelings, love, authenticity, and surreally realistic dialogue. This entire series is just two characters that talk about life—but not in like pretentious philosophical terms, it’s just them carrying a conversation—and it just completely works, on every level. It just feels so intimate and this last one especially was tough to watch at times, but these two characters are really something special, and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy completely embody them. It’s a quiet drama and a brilliant movie, and I dearly hope in 9 years, they'll make another one.


Honourable Mentions (2013 movies):
(in no particular order)

Don Jon
-an interesting view on relationships, but just didn’t exactly hit the notes exactly right for me

The Book Thief
-HANS HUBERMANN AND RUDY STEINER give me my tears back 

The Place Beyond the Pines
-Intense, three-act type of plot that was completely unexpected for me, but nevertheless engrossing and with top-notch performances

Mud
-I adored this story, and with a great performance from Matthew McConaughey, it’s a touching story from a boy’s point of view about romance. But that’s not it, there’s so many other themes in there and I think it deserves a rewatch.
This is the End
-I laughed a lot, which is always a bonus. The plot kind of went awry for me when they had to get serious about actually having a plot, but hey, there’s a lot of funny moments

Rush
-I knew almost nothing about this movie going in, but from the first moment of the hyper-intensified roar of the engines, I was caught up in this great rivalry between these two competitive, polar-opposite men and Daniel Bruhl’s performance is especially praise-worthy. Really, this was one of the unexpected gems of the year, and definitely give it a try even if it doesn’t seem like your thing.

Pacific Rim
-I don’t care what you say, I found this hugely enjoyable, and if I liked watching giant robots fighting each other for two hours, I’ll consider that time well spent. Kudos to the ending and how kick-ass Mako Mori was.. and the soundtrack rocked. 

The World’s End
-the winning combination of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright just makes me smile—it’s cleverly funny, action-packed, full of plot twists and some unexpected introspectiveness and thought into our life trajectories. It wasn’t exactly as amazing as I hoped it was going to be, I think Hot Fuzz will still remain my favourite of the “Cornetto Trilogy”


WORST MOVIES WATCHED IN 2013

Grease (1978)
-gahhhh I couldn't stand this

Rent (2005)
-ughhh, annoying

The Bling Ring (2013)
-didn’t realize I could hate these characters and Emma Watson’s character’s stupid accent so much

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
-you just ruined one of my favourite movie series (the first Die Hard is still one of my top movies ever) and I will never forgive you. In fact, I actually kind of hate Bruce Willis for allowing this cash cow to continue and insulting viewers with such utter BS. This was such a crap movie and such a huge disservice to the character of John McClane. /rant



TOP 9 MOVIES NOT RELEASED IN 2013


9. Seven Psychopaths (2012)
-great dialogue and a plot that surprised me, plus it was overall pretty funny. 

8. The Breakfast Club (1985)
-I went on a John Hughes binge this summer, and this one remains my favourite—I see why they call it a classic.

7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
-There was also a Quentin Tarantino binge at the beginning of the year, and I loved this movie and its take on WWII… or maybe I just thought Christoph Waltz’s performance was off the charts.

6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
-my brother just hates Robert Downey Jr. but I don’t… and this movie is just fabulous. Val Kilmer’s performance as Gay Perry had me laughing out loud, as did some of the crazy moments that happen (“Who taught you math?!”). I loved the look and feel of the movie with the cinematography and the music, and sheesh, did I love the dialogue. 

5. Forrest Gump (1994)
-It took me forever to finally get around to watching this movie, and it was fantastic. Apart from Jenny being a total bitch. 



4. Lost in Translation (2003)
-Ughhh you guys, I love this movie so hard. It’s one of those things that you feel as if you watched at the exact perfect time, with the right mindset and age so that it really speaks to you (such as reading Ender’s Game when you’re 12, or reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower when you’re 15). I thought this weird relationship between the two characters and their various adventures with each other while trying to navigate their own lives was so enchanting. The movie managed to create a quiet, intimate mood within such a short time span, and I loved it.

3. Before Sunrise (1995)  &
2. Before Sunset (2004)
-These two are going together, Before Sunrise is the first installment, Before Sunset is the second (and Before Midnight is the third). Each movie is filmed like, nine years apart, and each is like a snapshot of these two characters (Celine from France and American-born Jesse) at a specific time in their lives, on a specific day. In Before Sunrise, they’re meeting for the first time as university-aged students, and they just spend one night talking and walking around the city, and it feels so real. Each personality really shines through and these characters just feel like actual people with doubts, insecurities, and beliefs. It’s a bit similar to the premise of Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and I know this sounds scandalous, but I liked this movie version much better. The second movie, Before Sunset, takes place 9 years later where these two have moved on and have their own lives in different countries, but unexpectedly meet up and again, just walk and talk and really, I can’t explain how freaking good it is. They’re different people, they’ve got different life experiences, but as they collide again it’s just sparks and unmatched chemistry.

1. Once (2006)
-This movie!! Ahh, it is soooo freaking good. My friend watched it and thought it was boring, but gosh, I just loved everything about it. The quiet-ness, the music, the tentative friendship, the awkwardness, the beauty that is these two characters. These characters just came to life and jumped off the screen and into my heart. 


MOVIES I WANT TO WATCH BUT HAVEN'T:
  • Dallas Buyer’s Club
  • American Hustle
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Gravity (I know!)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
**
Yes, I will get around to watching those five movies! I love this season when all the Oscar contenders are playing, as opposed to the meh-movies you usually get at the beginning of the year. Anyway, if you read/skimmed through this entire list, good job! If you haven't, I totally don't blame you, I realize how exhaustingly long it is.. I just had a lot to say.

I'd LOVE to know what YOUR favourite movie of the year was-- whether it was one that was released this year, or just one you watched. Did I miss something? Are you going to watch the "Before" trilogy now? I'm always looking out for new recommendations (as long as it's not horror!) so please leave your comments below. And of course, you can always tweet me to talk about movies, I have a lot of free time. 

Thanks to everyone for reading my blog this year, and have a wonderful and safe New Year! 

-Audrey

12.30.2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favourites of 2013

I can't believe 2013 is over! Where the heck did it go?? I don't want to reveal how many books I actually read this year *hides* but I'm sure if you click around on the blog you can find the list... but still, I wanted to make a best-of list. It's similar in topics to the one from last year, and includes a mix of things (from 2011 and 2012) from around the blogosphere, from year-end events hosted by the lovely Nomes at Inkcrush, and the popular 2012 survey hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner.


BOOKS


1. favourite book read in 2013!!!


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I had only rated this a 9/10, but it's stuck out as the one that gave me such intense feels. I read a lot of more action-y or world-building books (by choice) this year to escape from studying, but this one felt so intimate and beautifully written.



2. book you were excited about but didn't live up to your expectations

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano. I really adore her writing and her wildly imaginative Wither series, but this new book was just unmemorable across the board.




3. best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read

ache-y:
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
there's just something about Sutter that prods at my heart... (read my review)

heart-breaking:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
after so much, so so much, Rowell chose to end the book that way... oh how my heart hurts

tearjerker:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I read this because I wanted a good cry, and I was not disappointed



4. delicious, rainy day comfort read

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Last year, my pick for this category was For Darkness Shows the Stars (by Diana Peterfreund). I dunno, this author just has the magical ability to write books that sweep my off my feet right when I need it most. Love love loved it.





5. adrenalin-filled, unputdownable read

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, because that is some killer action in that third act.




6. the beautiful prose award

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The words are delectable. 




7. most atmospheric and vivid setting

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I was debating putting this book as "best book of 2013" because it's kind of the whole-package. This was an easy choice for this category though, I mean, any book that can make me use a big chunk of my spare time thinking about the currency of the world deserves to win. The world created by Rothfuss is crazy imaginative, thoughtful, and ridiculously engaging.



8. best under-appreciated, hidden-gem book

Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
Guys, I LOVE this series. I consistently call it "fast-paced escapism fun" and it's kind of like Harry Potter with a technology twist. It's so good! 


9. i-had-no-idea-i-would-love-this-so award
Champion by Marie Lu
It's funny, because I didn't really remember much from book 2 so I was a bit reluctant to try this one... but guys, I needed a whole day to recover. It was such a stunning conclusion, and a billion kudos to Marie Lu-- I was thinking about this for days.



10. outside my comfort zone but gosh how i loved it

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
It's not super well known in the YA world (to my knowledge) but damn, I see what the big deal is now. 




11. an unfinished series that i'm loving 

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer 
Same as last year! I just finished Cress.. it was fantastic. Marissa Meyer, you are incredible.

Honourable Mention: Insignia by SJ Kincaid (Can't wait for book 3, Catalyst!) The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss definitely deserves a mention, and of course, the Dustlands trilogy by Moira Young.





12. can't believe i waited so long to read this

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Spurred by the movie trailer, I read this one (finally) and loved it. Read this while you're young is my advice. But it kind of ruined the movie for me.. (books are always better)






13. book that lived up to (or superseded) the hype

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I didn't think it would be as good as people said it would be. I've never been more wrong in all my life. (quoting Thorin from The Hobbit movie)







14. want to re-read already

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Okay, so this gets released next year but guys it is SO GOOD, I adored it so much. Please start reading this series if you haven't already.




MOMENTS


1. best plot-twist (no spoilers!)

More Than This by Patrick Ness
This ENTIRE book. I never knew where it was going, apart from vaguely towards the town of "holy shit what is happening" whilst passing through "Patrick Ness is such a genius".

Honourable Mention: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson-- pretty cool twist ending you got there, kid. 


2. best swoon-worthy moment

"Hi," he says. "I'm Daniel." 
"Hi," I reply. "I'm June." 

-Champion by Marie Lu
I just remember letting out a little happy sigh. I think you've heard me rave enough about this book, yeah.





3. best cliffhanger

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Okay, again, unfair because this is released in 2014, but stillllllllll.




4. best ending for a stand-alone

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Far, far, far from the happily ever after... so of course I liked it. (If you're curious about my thoughts on the movie, you can click here).





5. best ending for a series

Champion by Marie Lu (The Legend trilogy) because ahhhhhh if you haven't figured it out, I just loved it so darned much. And once again, I feel the need to sing Marie Lu some praises because it was a brave ending, but the perfect one that I didn't know I wanted.
It should be noted, though, I didn't finish that many series this year...




CHARACTERS

1. most memorable female character

Persis Blake - Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
I HAVE A HUGE GIRL-CRUSH ON YOU.


2. most memorable male character

Kvothe - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (also, The Wise Man's Fear)
This one goes out to the over-confident, clever, adventurous character who gets into too much trouble and understands that to tell a story correctly, you have a lie a little. 


3. favourite friendship

Cath and Reagan - Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. 
They were pretty awesome, weren't they?


4. favourite relationship 

Day and June - Champion by Marie Lu
These two are just perfect. gah. 

Honourable Mention: Persis and Justen from Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, as well as Scarlet and Wolf from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (tortured love interests ftw)

5. new literary crush

Second year in a row where nobody fills this role... 


6. favourite sibling relationship

none! what? why! :(


7. best villain

The Chandrian - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Honestly, just cause they make this series possible and my life would be worse without this series in my life.



OTHER

1. favourite cover (of a book i read)



I adore the colour scheme and the illustration, it's so eye-catching! Rainbow Rowell definitely has had some excellent luck with her covers.

Honourable mentions include Champion by Marie Lu, More Than This by Patrick ness, and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.



2. book you're looking forward to the most in 2014

This year's list: The Howling Boy by Cath Crowley, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, Raging Star by Moira Young, Catalyst by S.J. Kincaid, The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey.

And to Markus Zusak, WHEN DOES THE BRIDGE OF CLAY COME OUT?!?!??!??!! (just kidding, take your time)


Last year's list (strike-outs means I read them): Just One Day by Gayle FormanIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, More Than This by Patrick NessThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness, The Howling Boy by Cath Crowley, Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter, and Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan.

**


And that's it! A long list, a slightly repetitive one, but I tried to spread out my choices and not give all the awards to a select few. I'll be really excited if you choose to read a book based on this post :-)

Once again, a huge thank you to all of you who have stuck around the blog for this year, I really appreciate it and your comments brighten up my day. I hope you have read wonderful, wonderful books and explored fantasy lands and fell in love with characters like I did, there's so many beautiful books out there waiting for us readers. Please let me know what your favourite read was this year in the comments below, I'd LOVE to know!!


Have a fabulous new year, and I love you all! xx

-Audrey

12.29.2014

Monday, December 2, 2013

BR: Champion

by Marie Lu
Legend trilogy; book III 

Wow, I finished a series! I originally wasn’t going to write a review for this, but then I realized that I wrote a review for both books one and two, and I thought it’d be a nice little “set” if I actually wrote something for this third book too. It’s not every day that I finish a series*.

Summary (goodreads)

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has.

**

Initially, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to read this third book. To be quite honest, I didn’t really remember what happened in Prodigy (interestingly, when I was going to start Prodigy, I had completely forgotten Legend), but when I saw the fanfare around its release, I reached for Prodigy on my bookshelf and read the last few chapters. And then I got that swooshing feeling in my stomach and thought “Oh. I really have to find out what happens.”

My Thoughts

Boy, I was not ready for this ending. I’ll admit, I needed a full day to recover.

Oh Audrey, jumping so far forward already? Okay, let’s rewind a bit. This book has everything I have come to expect of the series-- fast paced action, fantastic pacing, emotion, great characters, even better character development, awesome world-building, and witty one-liners. In this sense, it definitely didn't disappoint. But that said, Champion wasn’t perfect, in fact, I still ended up with quite a few nitpicks about various things—the plot isn’t super-memorable, the prose could feel clunky and forced at times, and there were some action scenes that felt a bit messy. Sometimes the writing style felt a bit amateur-ish, where there is an overabundance of knife metaphors and emotional descriptions toeing the edge of cheesy. And for some books, that would stop be in my tracks and I wouldn’t be able to notice anything else, but that wasn’t the case.

Once again, Marie Lu saves her book with enthralling, intensely admirable leading characters. They alone allowed me to overlook the other flaws in the book, because I was so caught up in their storylines.

I liked how the characters felt older. I liked how I could recognize their growth and development throughout the series. They’re not kids anymore. They are, but they aren’t.

I really liked the tension, the emotion, and the relationship between our two main characters.

I loved Day. I loved June.

That's what it comes down to, right? These characters we cheer for as we watch them evolve and grow. These characters who come into their own. These characters who jump right into our hearts from the very first page of Legend, and won't leave it at the end of Champion. There's so many reasons why I started this series, but these characters made me stay.

Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: this series is definitely appealing to fans of the blockbuster dystopian series.
Acknowledgements: 4/5, lovely!

8.8/10. Because I love the characters. And the last 35 pages. Those pages were exactly what I didn't know I wanted. That's how you end a series. Beautiful, bittersweet, but ultimately fitting. And that ending has stuck with me for a long time.

And my favourite quote**:
Day just smiles at me, an expression so sad that it breaks through my numbness, and I begin to cry. Those bright blue eyes. Before me is the boy who has bandaged my wounds on the streets of Lake, who has guarded his family with every bone in his body, who has stayed by my side in spite of everything, the boy of light and laughter and life, of grief and fury and passion, the boy whose fate is intertwined with mine, forever and always. 
"I love you," he whispers. "Can you stay awhile?” 









*I am actually immensely adept at not finishing series.
**because run-on sentences are my weakness (no, seriously). Also it reminds me so much of Jellicoe Road.

source: bought
author website / twitter / tumblr
my review of Legend (book 1) and Prodigy (book 2)