Monthly Archives: February 2013

Book Review: Hunting Lila

What makes a novel good? The truth is, I don’t know. Obviously, an interesting storyline and great characters are part of it. But why do we like some books over others? Especially these days, when many young adult novels can be a little bit same same.

Well, in some respects, Sarah Alderson’s novel, Hunting Lila, fits into that same same category. Lila’s mother has been murdered and she’s living in London with her grieving father, as far away as possible from her beloved brother Jack and his best friend Alex – who Lila has been in love with since she was little. Lila also has the ability to move things with her mind, something she keeps under wraps until she is mugged, escapes London and lands back in Southern California with Jack and Alex. Jack and Alex are part of a secretive special ops force on the hunt for Lila’s mother’s killer – who just happens to ‘gifted’, just like Lila.

This is not the most unique narrative I’ve ever read, but it works really well. Alderson has a talent for keeping readers in suspense without annoying them, and she is equally adept at teasing out a love story. Mostly, I find love stories in teen novels a bit mushy, but I really liked the romantic tension between Lila and Alex. This book sits astride the YA/Adult divide; it’s adult in content but quite an easy read. Think Da Vinci Code, X-Men, John Grisham and you’ve got an idea of what Hunting Lila is all about.

I give it three and a half stars!

There is a sequel (called Losing Lila – catchy!) but this would work as a standalone novel if you can’t be bothered wading through yet another series. I highly recommend Hunting Lila as a great novel in which you can escape to a world of excitement and suspense.

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Film Review: The Hobbit

So. The Hobbit.

Let me start by saying that I’m a mammoth Lord of the Rings fan in general and I love love LOVED the first film trilogy. I also used to teach The Hobbit as an English text to Year 7 students. And I’ve been following The Hobbit production blog for the past twelve months.

Yep. You could say I’m a fan.

So did this movie live up to expectations? For me, yes. But for many others, no. If you expected more beautiful scenery, more exquisite costuming and sets and more epic battle scenes, you won’t be disappointed.  If you’re expecting a deep and meaningful story about the triumph of good over evil, this film might fall a little short.

You see, the LOTR movie trilogy was based on three books – and there was plenty of story to go round. The Hobbit, by contrast, is only ONE book being broken into three films, and the story does feel a little stretched. Basically it goes like this: dwarves and Bilbo go on adventure, dwarves and Bilbo get into trouble, dwarves and Bilbo get out of trouble, dwarves and Bilbo get back into trouble, get out of trouble, etc, etc.  The moral that “small everyday deeds of ordinary folk keep the darkness at bay” is a great message and rings true throughout the film, but apart from that, The Hobbit is essentially a basic adventure story.

The famous brood of the lovely Richard Armitage’s face.

So what’s good about it? Well, there’s a real sense of fun and humour in this film. The dwarves (too numerous to name) are actually quite hilarious, as is Bilbo, and, on occasion, Gandalf.  I saw the film is both 2D and 3D and some of the scenic shots in 3D are a bit mind-blowing (and not great if you’re not a fan of heights).  I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say that Richard Armitage (Thorin) is just awesome (if not more so) as Viggo Mortenson (Aragorn) was. Big call, but there it is. How that man can brood at elves when his character is only five foot tall and pull it off is a testament to…well….his face really. Armitage is a brooder from way back and he’s fantastic as the dwarf leader.

And yes, Gollum is back and just as amazing as he was in the first trilogy. However, his involvement in The Hobbit is very minimal – he only appears in one chapter at the start. This means it’s unlikely we’ll see him again in the coming films, but I’ll bet that Peter Jackson finds a way to wangle him into subsequent films for the fans.

All in all, I was really pleased with the film and felt it was totally worth the wait. Many people won’t like it because it’s hardcore fantasy and not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re willing to allow your brain to escape for the three hour running time, you’ll find that The Hobbit takes you on a magical journey.

Seen the film and want to read the book? We’ve got it in the library!

Book Review: Slated

I’d been looking at Slated by Teri Terry for a few weeks before I decided to take it off the shelves and pop it in my holiday reading stack. The thrilling blurb and compelling cover piqued my interest and I’m quite glad I read it.

Sixteen year old Kyla has been Slated. Her memory and personality have been erased and she has been given over to her new ‘family’ to live a quiet and normal life. Being Slated means being given a second chance; Kyla knows she should be grateful that the government have allowed her to live a new life instead of terminating her for being a terrorist. But is a new life worth having your mood and emotions dictated by the ever present Levo device on your wrist? Kyla can feel her past life intruding on her new one – and the more she seeks the truth, the more lies she begins to discover.

This is quite a thrilling novel, and one that moves quite quickly in terms of pace. Initially, the dream sequences that punctuate the novel make very little sense, but as the story progresses, the reader starts to piece together who Kyla really is at the same time she begins to pick up tidbits about her past. This is what I like to call a real ‘jigsaw’ story. It’s as if all the pieces are there on the table from the very beginning – it’s simply a matter of figuring out how they all fit together.

Terry’s characters are great; every single one of them has a back story that means you never quite know who they really are and whose side they’re on. I really enjoyed the fact that even Kyla’s sweet sister Amy has a past. The only issue I have with novel, as I have with several, is that it’s part of a trilogy. Yet another trilogy that I have to wait for the second instalment to be published! My other gripe was the ending. Obviously, Terry wants to leave the readers hanging for the next episode, but I felt that her conclusion to Slated was a little too ambiguous and confusing; it felt a little rushed.

The second novel in the series, Fractured, will be published mid 2013.