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by: 
Sophia, Teen Contributor

Genre: Sci-Fi

Would I Recommend: Yes

Series Number: 3 books

A book whose post-apocalypse plot is not only detailed and descriptive, but a distinct twist on the end of the world as we know it, Partials, by Dan Wells, gives a hectic glimpse into our future. Well written with a unique plot, though slow and dry in portions, this novel passes the time and offers an alternate reality whose characteristics are not far from improbable. If patient, reading the novel pays off with unseen changes and an ending that leaves you asking unanswered questions and running to the sequel.

If your into an action-packed sci-fi novel with a hint of romance and mystery, try Partials.

Check out the Partials Series.

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell  

Published: 2015, St. Martin’s Griffin 

Genre: YA, fantasy, romance 

Page Count: 528 (hardcover) 

Star Rating: ★★★★★ Your New Favorite Book 

Recommended For/If You Liked: Fans of Rainbow Rowell & Fangirl, as well as readers suffering from PPD (Post Potter Depression) and Drarry shippers. 

Short Summary: Simon Snow (who is, according to a prophecy, “the Chosen One”) is in his final year at the Watford School of Magicks. But his roommate and arch nemesis, Baz has mysteriously disappeared; the sinister Insidious Humdrum is growing stronger; magic is rapidly disappearing from certain spots across the UK; and the Old Families and the Mage’s supporters are at each other’s throats. Simon’s last year won’t be anything he expected. 

What I Liked: First off, I want to clarify a few things. If you’ve read Fangirl, then you know that the main character, Cath, writes fanfiction about a character named Simon Snow who’s penned by fictional author Gemma T. Leslie. Carry On is the full story of the characters that we meet in Fangirl. So, who exactly is writing Carry On? Is it written from Cath’s perspective, or Gemma T. Leslie’s?  As Rainbow Rowell says on her website, “I’m writing as me”.  I’ve heard Carry On described as Harry Potter fanfiction, but while there are parallels to the Potter universe, the characters are completely new and reimagined (and you don’t need to read Harry Potter to understand this story.)  One more thing: you don’t need to read Fangirl to read this book, but I highly recommend Fangirl. Okay, now for the review.

There are so many things that I loved about this book I don’t even know where to start. I almost like the development of this magical world more than the development of the Potter magical world- and that’s coming from a diehard Potterhead. This world was much more simple, and I liked that a lot; it left the reader to focus on the main plot line rather than trying to figure out how the World of Mages works. The character development was exceptional, and though they live in a fantastical universe, they were so, so real. The romance was perfectly written (as in all Rainbow Rowell novels) so folks, prepare yourselves for another addition to your OTP collection. I loved how Rainbow Rowell also included an interesting take on social classes, ethnic classes, sexuality, and self-discovery as they were all subtly incorporated into the story.  

What I Didn’t Like: Literally nothing. I’ve seen some complaints from other readers that the romance distracted from the main plot line, but it’s a Rainbow Rowell novel. What’d you expect? 

In Conclusion: I haven’t read a book I loved this much in a long time. The writing, the romance, the magic...this book was magic. READ IT. You’ll love it. 

Don't forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews! 

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: This film is rated R. 

The Scottish Play has gone through hundreds, if not thousands of incarnations since it was first written by that brilliant bard, William Shakespeare. While the stage lays claim to the majority of the Macbeth renditions, there have been seven Macbeth films made in the past hundred years, which all began with the original 1948 version. Seven films, all using the same dialogue, the same situations, the same characters. It is inarguable that the writing’s eloquence is unsurpassed, simply because no other work of performance fiction has so often been produced. No one, not even the biggest Star Wars fan on earth, would want to see the original Star Wars IV, A New Hope, made into 7 different movies over 75 years, each with the same script. That is not a good time at all, but rather an exercise in monotony.

So due to the timelessness of the bard, there seems to be a feature adaptation yearly. This year the newest version of Macbeth hit the silver screen (I say screen singularly because that’s how the distribution felt. No major theater chains picked it up for some reason. Ridiculous), and, dare I say, this is one of the best Shakespearean films yet.

First the actors must be acknowledged for their fabulous performances. Michael Fassbender perfectly embodied Macbeth, capturing his descent into madness. This film is the best performance of his career. Marion Cotillard furthers the acting superiority throughout the film, giving a commanding turn as Lady Macbeth. The choice to cast her, a French woman with a French accent, gives the character Lady Macbeth more depth. It makes her a more foreign presence among the Scottish community. Traditionally Lady Macbeth is played as Scottish, so subverting tradition worked heavily in the movies favor.

The supporting cast all give the film their all when on screen. Notably, the fourth witch, a little girl, added to the mystical element of the film more than anything. In the traditional Shakespeare play, there are three witches who tell Macbeth of his fate. The added fourth is a good choice, strengthening the piece as a whole.

As is fairly evident, the film strays from the source material a bit from scene to scene. And this is a consistent thing throughout the film. However, every choice that the filmmakers made strengthened the cinematic aspect of the movie, telling the same story slightly differently, taking advantage of all the tools films possess that plays don’t.

The scenery is beautiful and daunting, great Scottish landscape seems to constantly dwarf the characters in comparison. The costume design is also excellent, each garment feels authentic and necessary. The sets are the same way; they feel as tangible as the performances.

I must end with the direction because it was astonishingly good. The fights were staged beautifully, with blows connecting in every level of the frame. Almost every frame could be frozen and hung on the wall, a truly beautiful film if ever there was one. Justin Kurzel clearly knew what he was doing, which makes his future projects all the more exciting.

Macbeth (2015)  is one of the best adaptations of any Shakespeare play. It delivers the story and language that the Bard is known for while creating a cinematic, engrossing experience. It is powerful, beautiful, and if there was any justice in the world, it would be nominated for almost every Oscar available. 10/10

For more reviews, visit my blog.

Check out other film adaptations of Macbeth at the library

Image credit: Dario on Flickr.

by: 
Emily, Teen Contributor

Photo taken by Emily in Frisco, CO. 

by: 
Jen, Teen Contributor

He looks into you

Sometimes as though if through you

What is he planning?

by: 
Emily, Teen Contributor

I wonder who made this path--

putting foot in front of 

foot until

he turned around

did the trail end along with

his sense of adventure

or

did he realize his

imprint on nature

was enough 

for the day?

 

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Below is a collection of my top five favorite books, songs and albums, and movies from this year. Enjoy, and have a great New Year! 

Books 

1.All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. (Yes, the book was published in 2014. But I read it in 2015 and it was just so good I had to make an exception for it.) This historical fiction novel, set in Nazi-occupied France was enchanting, emotional, and beautifully written.  

2.My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Beautiful, honest, funny, emotional, romantic, touching...this book had it all. 

3.Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. This combination of romance and magic was utterly perfect. 

4.Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. This coming out story was sweet, funny, and inspiring. 

5.We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. Four teenagers learn that their lives will end in a matter of weeks because of an asteriod hurtling towards Earth. Their next weeks are written with emotion, heart, and thought. 

Music 

1.American Beauty/American Psycho (album) / Fall Out Boy. FOB’s latest album delivers with plenty of rock n’ roll jams (Centuries, Immortals, Irresistible, and Uma Thurman) along with slower songs that you can sing your heart out to (The Kids Aren’t Alright, Jet Pack Blues, Fourth of July). 

2.25 (album) / Adele. Adele is back in all her glory, and this album proves that she’s just as good (maybe even better) than before. 

3.Ex’s and Oh’s / Elle King. Elle King combines alternative and pop into an irresistible jam. 

4.Renegades / X Ambassadors. This song will make you want to laugh, cry, and remember all that’s good in the world. 

5.Our Own House (album)  / MisterWives. A great introduction to this indie pop band features sing-along tracks and catchy songs.

Movies 

1.Me & Earl & the Dying Girl. This wonderful paper-to-screen adaptation made me laugh, cry, and never stop smiling. (Meeting the actors may have helped this movie win its spot at #1 on my list, but it was still a great movie) 

2.The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. The final, emotional, epic conclusion of The Hunger Games trilogy was everything you hoped for (and more). 

3.Inside Out. Yes, this is a children’s movie, but it was sweet, emotional, and funny. (And you’re never too old for a Disney movie.)  

4.Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This movie reboot had the perfect mix of the old and the new for all generations to love it.  

5.Paper Towns. Though this movie wasn’t very good in comparison to the book, it was still a fun summer movie.  

 

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

It seems like it’s been ages since a heartfelt decent romance came out. Oh sure, scores of Nicholas Sparks films have been released (of course no one in their right mind could say they are objectively good), but even they all seem bittersweet, more concerned with tales of sadness than tales of love. Sparks wants to make the audience cry more than he wants to tell a decent story. Luckily for fans of the genre, romance just came back with a bang in the form of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn begins in the early 1950’s and  tells the story of a young woman named Elias (Saoirse Ronan). She realizes that there is nothing more for her in her hometown in Ireland, as does her sister Rose (Fiona Glascott), so Rose enlists the help of a generous priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) to send Elias to America. Elias arrives in New York, where she stays in a boarding house, goes to night school for bookkeeping, and works at a grocery store. Her life really begins when she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), an honest and kind Italian fellow who wants nothing more than for them to be together. Their relationship progresses, until a member of Elias’s family dies, forcing her to go back to Ireland for a time. In Ireland, where no one has heard of Tony, Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) tries to woo her, a kind and soft spoken man. Not only is he trying to be with her, but everyone else seems to be trying to keep Elias in Ireland. And so the decision is up to her. Elias has to choose Ireland and Jim, or Brooklyn and Tony.

The love story between Elias and Tony is one of the cutest and just altogether best things I have seen all year. Cohen and Ronan have unbelievably great chemistry and amazing acting talent. Every time their relationship progresses, it does so with ease and believability. They are so perfect together, I can’t imagine anyone who would root against them. This is really the star of the film.

The film, adapted from the popular novel by Colm Tóibín, is written splendidly. Nick Hornby, who wrote the adaptation, infuses every scene with heartfelt grounded dialogue. The situations come alive because of him; he gives the actors a lot to work with. Which is really to be expected from Hornby, author of numerous great novels and screenplays like About a Boy. There is a reason why his name is featured on every poster for Brooklyn, he is responsible for the film working so well.

All of the actors take Hornby’s words and enhance them further, all giving grounded and entertaining performances. Jim may be an antagonist in some ways, unwittingly  trying to take Elias away from Tony, but he is in no way a bad guy. Gleeson gives him so much character and meaning, you can’t help but like him, if only a little bit. Another notable performance is James Digiacomo as Tony’s 8 year old brother Frankie. Every time he’s on screen, he steals the scene with his hilarious antics. This film is an acting powerhouse.

The direction is nothing to ignore. John Crowley directs every scene with patience and grace, allowing the story to fully showcase itself. He sets up every frame as only a master can, and composes the picture wonderfully.

The art direction and costume direction are also great in this film. Elias’s gradually increasing bright colored outfits, mirroring her becoming a New Yorker, is done marvelously. The costumes and sets transport the viewer to a happier, more idyllic time.

A classic romance and period piece at the same time, Brooklyn is a fabulous picture. The acting, directing, writing, all come together to deliver a heartfelt love story. This is not a film to miss. 9/10

Check out more titles by Nicholas Sparks here.

Image Credit: Wally Gobetz on Flickr

 

by: 
Emily, Teen Contributor

gently spiraling downwards

towards wet bare dirt

each crystal paper thin

and breathtakingly intricate

elegance too much for more than 

a few dazzling moments

whispers of beauty 

 before joining the ground

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Standing in line opening night for the new Star Wars movie was a dynamic experience. The excitement in the air was tangibly present, fueled by hushed speculation about different plot points and loads of avid cosplayers decked out in full costume. Everyone waited with mounds of anticipation.

It had been 10 years since the last Star Wars movie, 32 since the last undeniably good one. Everyone was hoping, pleading silently, that Disney wouldn’t mess it up, that they would deliver a good Star Wars film.

Everyone took their seats. The lights went down. The film played, then the credits ended. A triumphant cheer came from the whole crowd. Disney did it, Disney brought back Star Wars.

Episode VII is a fun, good film that captures what classically people loved about the original trilogy. The characters, action, stakes, all are incredibly true to the heart of Star Wars (a little too true in my opinion, but I’ll get to that later). Anyone who loves Star Wars is going to love the new one. Everyone else is still gonna have a good time with it, but may get bogged down in the film’s weaknesses.

Now, I’m going to immediately state that I am not completely enamored with the original Star Wars trilogy. Sure, I watched them when I was little, but I was never completely obsessed or convinced that they were some of the greatest films ever made. I enjoyed them, but did not love them. So this review is going to be a bit more objective than a wholly devoted fan’s review would be.

Also, talking of this particular film is particularly difficult without spoiling anything, mainly due to the fact about everything is a spoiler. This problem stems the way Disney decided to market it. For most every film that comes out, trailers and promotional material tell you the premise, the first act and inciting incident of the film, in order to convince you to pay money and see it. Episode VII doesn’t do this at all, with trailers vague and mysterious, trusting that people will still come see it by the millions  just because it’s Star Wars.

This makes every detail about the plot, characters, anything at all, technically a spoiler. So I am going to talk about this film as if is a normal movie. Discuss the premise, some plot points, characters, and everything that would be common knowledge if it were marketed in a normal way. If you really don’t want to know anything about the new film stop reading now.

 

 

Alright, so here’s the deal. Luke Skywalker is missing. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has acquired a map that leads directly to where Luke is. He needs to get it back to General Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the Resistance-new name for the good guys-so they can get to Luke and get his help.

However the sinister First Order-new version of the Empire from previous films-also wants to find Luke, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleason). They find Poe, but before he is captured, he gives the map to his droid BB 8 on the desert planet of Jakku.

BB 8 finds Ray (Daisy Ridley), a desert scavenger, who wants to help the droid. In addition they meet Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who abandons the First Order, disgusted by the senseless killing.

The actors are all wonderful in their various roles. Adam Driver specifically shines as Kylo Ren, giving scary but surprisingly human depth to the role. Oscar Isaac has always been a great actor, this film makes him look like a perfect movie star. Everyone in the film does great with what they have.

The film also looks great, cinematography miles beyond anything George Lucas ever pulled off. Each fight scene and chase sequence is paced well and engaging.

If there is one problem with the main components of Episode VII, it’s the writing, specifically the dialogue (although I’ll get to the plot problems in a moment). A lot of attempts at comedy are made, a lot fall flat due to needless repetition or the joke getting extended a bit too long.. Director JJ Abrams is so afraid of alienating any audience member that he spoon feeds us plot points, comedy, events, and most other things just to make sure no one gets left behind or confused. If simply a little more faith was given to the audience, the dialogue would work much better.

The plot is not bad as much as it is overly familiar. It is basically the exact same as Star Wars IV A New Hope. I can’t talk much about the similarities without getting into spoilers, but it’s clear from the beginning. A New Hope opened with a droid escaping the evil Empire, carrying a secret message, getting left on a desert planet, and finding a helpful scavenger. The Force Awakens opens with a droid escaping the evil First Order, carrying a secret message getting left on a desert planet, and finding a helpful scavenger.

Abrams and crew seem so afraid of alienating any Star Wars fans that they didn’t even attempt to do anything unique. They went back, analyzed the original Star Wars components, updated them, changed a few things around, and assembled The Force Awakens out of all the parts. Star Wars is a great universe, where possibilities are almost endless for different adventures. It disappoints me that the filmmakers decided to just tell the same story a second time.

If The Force Awakens is essentially a reboot of A New Hope, at least it’s better than the original movie. It’s fun, fast paced, and frantic. Everything you love about Star Wars is probably in the film, just waiting to be discovered. Unoriginality does not make a bad movie, it just tainted the experience for me a little bit. What the film really does well though is point to Episode VIII probably being an even better, bigger, narratively and thematically rich film that continues the intriguing story of The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, we have to wait two years. 7/10

 

For more film reviews, visit my blog.

 

Image Credit: Rooners Toy Photography on Flickr

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