And here’s my thoughts on this spooky tale.
And if you’d like one more take on The Others, check out Vinnies fantastic review at: http://vinnieh.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/the-others/
This is a joint review from me and my dear friend Kim, who runs the brilliant By Hook or By Book. Thank you so much Kim for taking the time to do this with me, it’s been so much fun! We decided a little while ago that we wanted do a joint review for Halloween and when Kim suggested The Others as our movie of choice I knew it was perfect. A good old fashioned ghost story, yippee!
To make things a little different I’m posting Kim’s review and she is posting mine. Head over to By Hook or By Book to see what I thought of the film and you can read Kim’s thoughts below. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!
The Others (2001) Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy, Alakina Mann, and James Bentley
Directed by: Alejandro Amenabar
Summary: It’s 1945 and a woman named Grace is is secluded with her…
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Welcome to the first ever joint movie review courtesy of Emma and myself. For our first film we chose The Others, starring Nicole Kidman. Emma’s awesome review is posted below and if you’d like to read mine please visit emmakwall.com . We both hope you enjoy our thoughts regarding this eerie ghost story.
The Others (2001)
“I’m telling you, that image of her careening around clutching the shotgun and rosary was priceless!” – Kim, By Hook or By Book
I was really excited to re-watch this film for Halloween. It was an excellent suggestion Kim! I first saw it in the cinema and it certainly creeped me out a lot. To be honest I’m not sure why I left it so long for a re-watch, it’s actually a really good film. It has a decent story, ending and genuine ‘hide behind the pillow’ moments. And no blood or gore – proof that a film can be chilling and tense without splats, guts and blunt instruments. I enjoy those kinds of films too (twisted freak!) but it’s certainly the supernatural movies that play on my mind and usually make more impact.
The Others is set just after the Second World War and Nicole Kidman stars as Grace, a highly strung woman who lives in a large, isolated house with her two photosensitive children Anne and Nicholas. Being photosensitive means any sunlight could seriously hurt the two children and sadly they are never allowed to leave the house – which is always locked and shrouded in darkness. With Grace being strict, highly religious and at times rather bad tempered this does not make for the happiest of homes.
Her husband is still stationed somewhere in the aftermath of the war and after the mysterious disappearance of their staff Grace is desperate for help – even if she can’t admit it. Strained, depressed and obsessed with Catholic dogma, the poor woman does seem a little unhinged. And with the unplanned arrival of three new servants and Grace’s daughter Anne claiming to see ‘strange people’ walking around their house at night – things start to get even worse. How excellent for us!
So what are the best things about the movie? Well it’s creepy, atmospheric, extremely chilling and tense. The acting is terrific – Kidman is great as the manic Grace who I simultaneously disliked and empathised with. She even managed moments of unintentional hilarity whilst running around with a very large shotgun – sorry but I always giggle at that! The two child actors were very good too and notably believable as siblings. In fact everyone in the film played their part very well.
It’s also not tacky at all, like some ghost films can be. You know the ones brought out around Halloween time, just to cash in? Some are entertaining enough but they’re still pretty forgettable. But The Others has an old school feel with no rubbish CGI, cheap shot scares or silly and convenient plot lines. It’s a film that has a real story as well as being creepy – an actual mystery. I have read since writing this review that the director (who also wrote the screenplay) adapted the story from the book ‘The Turn of the Screw’ which makes sense and whilst the stories aren’t identical, they share the same atmosphere and psychological questions.
The ending may divide some viewers. Whilst containing a fantastic twist that is coherent and marginally sensible it does change the dynamics of the story somewhat and perhaps makes it less exciting? I’m not sure. I like the ending but I just have a feeling not everyone will. Something must be said for the director though – Alejandro Amenabar. Not only did he direct the movie and write the screenplay, he also wrote the score! Remarkable really isn’t it, especially considering this was fairly early on in his career.
All in all I would highly recommend this movie, especially for Halloween. It’s one to watch by yourself with the curtains closed – if you dare (cue evil laughter). It’s a fantastic spooky ghost story, an absolute classic. And whilst of course it’s not perfect, it’s still one of the stronger modern efforts I can think of and certainly better than some recent offerings.
Synopsis: As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there’s no escaping the spotlight–or the danger.
Even though he’s my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what’s supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious “accidents”, it looks like someone will do anything to win–no matter who they hurt.
As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconic is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone’s going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing’s for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else…
Nothing makes me happier than when the second book in a series is even better than the first, as is the case with this second book in the Black Blades series.
Lila is trying to balance her growing feelings for Devon Sinclair with her responsibilities as his bodyguard. Once again there’s no love triangles and little romantic drama, although Devon is becoming slightly frustrated with Lila keeping him at arms length. Their relationship takes a much welcome turn by the end of the book though.
What I really loved in this story is how Lila’s gone from being pretty much a loner to being surrounded by friends she can rely on. She’s still a kick-ass heroine, but she’s one who knows her weaknesses and has no problem accepting help from her friends.
There are two storylines happening here. One involves the Tournament of Blades which is a little derivative of what’s been depicted in other YA books like The Hunger Games, but these are less bloody and there’s a lower body count. Jennifer Estep puts her own spin on them so they still made for exciting reading. The other storyline focuses on the big villain of the series, Victor, and what his endgame is. When the big reveal comes it’s not a big shock, but it’s a nice set-up for the next book.
Dark Heart of Magic is a fantastic urban fantasy that will appeal to YAs and adults. The author continues with her wonderful world-building, and includes plenty of suspense, romance, and humor. I’m eagerly anticipating Bright Blaze of Magic which is coming out in April 2016.
“I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed: when by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch–the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.”
~ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein ~
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Synopsis: Set in gilded age New York, “These Shallow Graves” follow the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts o tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.
Jennifer Donnelly has written some pretty impressive historical fiction for both YAs and adults, and I’m happy to say that “These Shallow Graves” will join her other successes.
One of the things I love about this author is how well she researches whatever time period her story is set in. In this book I was immediately swept into 19th century New York. She unveils not only how the upper class live, but the horrific conditions that the impoverished are forced to survive. Her depictions are so incredibly detailed that you feel as though you’re there as an unseen observer.
Jo is a richly drawn character. No mere society miss, she chafes at the restrictions her family puts on her. She’s extremely intelligent and immediately knows that there’s something wrong with the official account of her father’s death. She’s determined to find out what really happened and does whatever it takes to discover the truth, even when her investigation drags up some long buried family secrets and puts her own life in danger. Once she teams up with Eddie, the young reporter, their questions lead them to some pretty unsavory and dangerous parts of the city, yet she never hesitates to do whatever it takes to unravel the conspiracy that is behind her father’s death. At the same time, she wrestles with doing what is right, and her loyalties and obligations to her family. In the end it’s not an easy path she chooses, yet it’s the right one.
Eddie is the perfect foil for Jo. Another reviewer mentioned that it would have been nice to see some of the story told from Eddie’s POV, instead of the single one of Jo’s, and I have to concur. Eddie has fought his way out of a squalid existence and is determined to become a well-respected reporter. He’s such an interesting character that I think it would have added another layer to the story. You still get a great sense of who he is and what he can possibly accomplish.
Eddie attempts to balance his ambitions with his growing feelings toward Jo, which makes their relationship a bit rocky at times. Theirs is an interesting romance that never gets in the way of the mystery that is the heart of the story. When you factor in Jo’s ties to high society, well let’s just say the story doesn’t end with your stereotypical happily ever after. But that’s okay. The way Jennifer Donnelly ends the story, is realistic and perfectly satisfying. It also leaves the option of the book being a standalone novel or being the beginning of a new series.
These Shallow Graves isn’t a thrill ride that will leave you breathless. Instead, it’s a beautifully detailed mystery with richly drawn characters, and enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages. Although it’s written for teens, if you enjoy historical mysteries by authors like Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander, you’ll definitely want to try this.
Synopsis: A seemingly random act of gang violence sends “Naz” Anderson on a quest to find answers surrounding his dead parents that lead to a series of discoveries about his supernatural abilities. Naz tries to stay out of the way at his foster parent’s home, but he walks in his sleep, and he is unable to keep the fact that he hears voices from his therapist. He attempts to go unoticed at school and in the streets of the Exclave, but attracts the attention of friends and bullies alike, and his efforts to protect his little sister make him the target of malicious bullying by the notorious street gang, Incubus Apostles. Naz is an ordinary thirteen-year-old, or so he thinks. He harbors a secret that even he is oblivious to, and a series of ill-fated events reveal to him telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Now he must navigate newly found friendship and gang violence, and face the full force of the world around him. The only way he can survive is to discover the supernatural world within.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m always a little anxious when an author offers me a book to read and review. What if I think it’s terrible? I hate writing negative reviews, but even more so in these cases. Well, I needn’t have worried in about IA: Initiate because it’s an exciting genre-bending YA book that tweens will gobble up.
Naz is the type of protagonist that will tug at your heartstrings. Having lost both his parents under mysterious circumstances which are slowly revealed as the story progresses, he’s just trying to be a good student, protective big brother, and to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble seems to follow him, as he and his younger sister live with a disinterested foster mother in the violent urban area known as the Exclave. Naz has become prone to sleep-walking episodes which usually result in his few possessions being destroyed, and mysterious voices in his head. As if all that wasn’t enough to try to cope with, suddenly the violent street gang Incubus Apostles has become disturbingly interested in him. Naz is a street smart kid who just wants to make sure that he and his younger precocious sister Meri survive this dangerous world. They’ve both survived so many hardships in their young lives, but there’s not one instance where they feel sorry for themselves. Indeed, they retain a wry sense of humor and are completely devoted to one another.
Interspersed with the present day narrative are flashbacks to their parents, Dr. Cory and Camille Anderson. These short chapters add an intriguing layer to the mystery surrounding Naz because it’s obvious that Dr. Cory’s research has something to do with his son’s developing powers.
The only frustrating thing for me regarding this book was it’s relatively short length of 218 pages. Naz is such an appealing character that I wish more had been revealed about his family background and his mysterious powers before the end of the book. Thankfully the sequel IA: B.O.S.S. is coming out on November 27th, 2015
IA: Initiate is an imaginative science-fiction novel which successfully combines a coming-of-age story, with the beginning of a true hero’s quest. Featuring characters that middle-schoolers will identify with, as well as a thrilling, fast-paced plot, this is a great read which is perfect for classroom use or book discussion groups. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel!
Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra–who are barely even talking–are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI , which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
I was a little afraid that there was just no way that Illuminae could possibly live up to it’s pre-publication hype, but I was pleasantly surprised. With it’s numerous POVs, and a story that’s told through emails, diary entries, schematics, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and gorgeous illustrations, this could have just floundered, resulting in a confusing mess– but somehow Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have crafted an exciting and touching space opera that had me reaching for the Kleenex a couple of times.
For two people who for the most part communicate through IMs, Kady and Ezra are star-crossed lovers who will tug at your heartstrings. Their feelings for each other come through loud and clear, despite the distance between them. Ezra is sweet, funny, and courageous. He’s so in love with Kady that he’ll do anything to try to protect her. Kady actually reminds me of a sassier version of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She’s the epitome of “girl power”, although in the beginning her constant sassiness and impulsiveness did get on my nerves. But then her vulnerabilities begin to show through her diary entries and her IMs with Ezra, making her much more likeable.
There are too many supporting characters to single out just one, but all their stories are mesmerizing, and they’re all integral to the main story. If there’s one figure that stands out it is Aidan, the AI who was created to help and support the fleet. Unfortunately, he pulls a HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and winds up killing many of the people he’s supposed to be protecting. But what should be a cold, unfeeling entity winds up being surprisingly sympathetic. He has his own unique voice, completely separate than those of the others.
The story started out a little slow for me, I think mainly because of the multiple POVs. There were just so many that it was a little difficult to follow what was happening. But once I became used to the episitolary form of the writing, I was completely hooked. There are so many twists and turns I found myself tied up in knots through much of the book. There’s one particularly gutsy move on the part of the authors that could have derailed the story, but instead made it even more compelling.
At over 600 pages, Illuminae is a hefty read, but it’s totally worth it. I would advise you buy or borrow the print version though. The illustrations, and graphics are such a huge part of the story, and I think they will come across so much better than they do in the e-book format. I’m actually going to borrow this from my library because I think I missed quite a bit reading this on my Bluefire Reading app. Just to give you an idea, here’s a couple of examples:
This is the type of book that will appeal to any science fiction fan, whether you’re a teen or an adult. Through it’s admittedly unconventional method of writing, the story is just beautifully written. It portrays the human condition perfectly, and you’ll become emotionally invested in it’s characters, whether they’re preparing for battle, or writing last emails to their loved ones. Illuminae is the first book in a trilogy with the sequel due out next year. I can honestly say that it will be one of my most highly anticipated books of 2016.
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
Synopsis: Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need…regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.
“Congratulations, you have been invited to NEED–the newest, invitation-only social media site for Nottawa High School students. Join your friends in discovering how much better life can be when you are presented with an anonymous way to express your thoughts and are given the tools to get the things you Need.”
Despite an interesting premise, NEED is one of those YA books that will probably appeal to young teens, but will frustrate anyone older than fourteen or fifteen due to enormous plot holes and unbelievabl, unlikable characters.
The idea behind it is intriguing and creepy at the same time. A social network site that will give you anything you want: concert tickets, computers, a new kidney for your ailing brother. Of course there’s a catch. In order to have your “Need” fulfilled, you have to pay the price, and do whatever NEED asks you. It seems pretty innocent at first. Leave a box of cookies on a fellow classmate’s doorstep, slip a slightly risque note under a neighbor’s door. But then, people start dying, which leads to the true mystery: who is behind NEED, and what is their endgame?
The story is told in the 3rd person from multiple POVs, which makes it difficult to to really get to know any of the characters, let alone emphasize with them. The one character who stands out is Kaylee, who’s POV is the only one told in the first person. She’s also the only person who doesn’t come across as being a self-absorbed teen obsessed with material things. She’s the sole participant whose request is for someone other than herself, and her concern and caring for her younger brother DJ who desperately needs a kidney, is touching.
The adults in this story are all basically clueless and especially aggravating is Kaylee’s mother. She blames and mistrusts Kaylee because of some poor choices made by her, yet Kaylee wouldn’t have made these decisions if her mother wasn’t keeping secrets. The law enforcement figures are laughable, and basically stumble around, never asking the right questions.
The villain is obvious almost from the beginning, and the only question is why, and for whom are they working for. Quite honestly, by the time the big reveal comes with the typical posturing and grandstanding, I had long since ceased to care.
I will say, the plot is fast-paced, and I wound up reading it in one sitting. I do think it will appeal to that small demographic of young teens, but otherwise, I’m sorry to say, I can’t recommend this.