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William, Teen Contributor

This big guy looks like a bad guy, but he is not!!! Wolf spider had been mutated by a experimental spider that went wrong and bit into his heart. When the venom spread to the rest of his body he went on a rampage. But then he had some medicine he could control himself. The medicine was made from a different superhero, and a smart one, called Utility (more on that guy later). Now wolf spider is a hero. 


Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Book Basics: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough  

Published: April 2015, Arthur A. Levine Books 

Genre: YA, romance, historical fiction  

Page Count: 336 (hardcover) 

Star Rating: ★★★★ 

Recommended For/If You Liked: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

This review is basically going to be me freaking out about how much I loved this book. You’ve been warned. 

Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra… the fate of any pair of star-crossed lovers you can think of throughout history has been influenced by Love and Death as they play their Game, one that inevitably ends with Death taking both players. Now, in 1927 Seattle, the players are Henry, a white orphan with a talent for music and Flora, a black orphan, talented jazz singer, and pilot. Can Henry and Flora beat the odds and let Love claim a victory, or will Death win, as per usual? Only the strength of their love will determine the winner.

I loved how Martha Brockenbrough wrote the characters of Love and Death. There was this excellent mix of human emotions that they showed and their seemingly divine interventions in the Game that made them not quite human, but not quite gods either. (This element is what makes the book similar to The Book Thief or The Night Circus, but though the idea wasn’t original, the author took the idea in an entirely new direction).  Also, Love was written as male and Death as female, so their characters destroyed gender stereotypes, which made them even more awesome. The other characters were also stunningly written, but I enjoyed the development of Love and Death the most. 

The book’s setting (rainy Seattle, 1927) contributed beautifully to the plot and mood as the characters struggled with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty. These external struggles further complicated the characters’ internal struggles of love and loyalty and staying true to oneself. Martha Brockenbrough did a fantastic job writing these tough issues in a way that made the reader thoughtful and reflective. The writing in the book was very good and it flowed nicely and was very suspenseful: I read the book in one weekend and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days on end. There were, however, some scenes that felt unnecessary and the romance wasn’t written quite as well as it could have been- I didn’t love Henry and Flora’s romance as much as I wanted to. (Honestly, I enjoyed the romance between two of the supporting characters ((no spoilers!)) more than that of Henry and Flora.)

In the end, this was a fantastic book- one that I would definitely reread and am absolutely going to buy at my next trip to the bookstore. Despite a few minor complaints, this book was heart-achingly written and I would absolutely recommend it. 

Follow my blog for more reviews and recommendations and follow my Instagram for updates every time I post. 

Emily, Teen Contributor

Nothing is the same, now that

Winter's here. Stillness is

the landlady, silence and

cold her boarders. The freezing

air chokes and stifles, for the

warm dance of life in summer

was vanquished. River’s sweet song

and the chorus of birds are

on tour elsewhere. As if the

world hit pause, summer’s frantic 

energy wait under the 

billowy drifts of cotton 

snow. Nothing is the same, for

Winter is lord of the land. 

Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned, this film is rated R.

There is not a more hated yet more profitable director than Michael Bay. Year after year, one hears endless bashing on his style, the numerous weaknesses of his plots, his possibly misogynistic viewpoints, and, of course, his endless explosions that litter every one of his films among other problems with his films. And all of the disdain for Baydem (Bay, Mayhem, combined) is undoubtable well founded. Yet, through all that hate, Bay’s films continue, every year, to make profit after profit. That’s why he is continually hired. Most people don’t want high concept things in the cinema, they don’t really want to think, or really to feel. Most people want to sit back, stop thinking for a while, and enjoy a cool looking movie (that’s my theory anyway). Well, if you want a cool movie, Bay is the best around, and delivers more of what we’ve come to expect in 13 Hours.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is the most recent film by this master of the mindless Michael Bay, and the title is rather self-explanatory. It follows the real life soldiers, 6 men stationed at a secret base in Benghazi, fending off a terrorist attack provoked by a traveling senator.

Despite Bay (or actually perhaps aided by Bay but I’ll get to that in a bit), the story is interesting. It’s the perfect subject for a biographical movie to be made of, because most people have heard about the Benghazi affair if not entirely aware of what happened. The events are utterly fascinating and it really retains the audience in the story.

The acting is serviceable. There is nothing particularly special, but the actors do the best with what they have. Most characters are incredibly one dimensional, even John Krazinski’s Jack as the main character doesn’t have much depth. But, there are no noticeably bad performances, so I really can’t complain.

The action scenes are consistently and intensely annoying. Last year, the Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road both proved that it is indeed possible to make a good fight sequence and action sequence without a shaky camera, which makes the level of camera shake in this movie almost unbearable, particularly a car chase near the beginning (the whole movie of Mad Max was a car chase but it didn’t need to be unnecessarily confusing).

The writing is clunky at the best of times. The characters are more caricatures than characters, which did not give the actors any favors. It tells the story, but it could have been way more engaging, way more heartfelt, and just better all around.

The most fascinating thing about 13 Hours though is Bay himself, who seems like he is trying his hardest to make a good movie. It’s as if all of the bad word of mouth has finally got to him, and the film is his way of proving he is a good director. It is a noticeable effort, albeit on in vain. In the end, he can’t resist himself, numerous fireworks-like-explosions litter the screen, awkward humor that he is known so well for pokes through in a couple of scenes, and his love of America, specifically the American Flag, is well documented. But at least he’s trying.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a surprisingly passable film, featuring a Michael Bay who is trying. The worst thing I can say about it is that it is entirely forgettable, for after seeing it last week I am already having trouble remembering some things. I wouldn’t recommend paying money to see it, but I can’t blame you if you do. 6/10

For more reviews, visit my blog.

Image Credit: AJ L on Wikimedia Commons.

Emily, Teen Contributor

Chris Crutcher's Staying Fat for Sarah Bynes was dedicated to "All those who finally stand up for themselves," and is an incredible story of pain, fear, trying to do your best, and friendship. 

Eric "Moby" Calhoune and Sarah Byrnes have been friends for a long time, and are bonded by their deformities: Sarah has horrible burn scars over her face, neck, arms, and hands from a childhood incident involving boiling water, and Moby is incredibly overweight. They are inseparable as friends, so when Moby joins the school's swim team and begins to shed some pounds, he frantically tries to eat more to maintain the friendship he treasures and Sarah's respect. However, as soon as Sarah gets wind of this, she demands he stop. 

When Sarah is hospitalized and stops speaking entirely, Moby stays by her side to help her recover and get back on her feet. When she reveals to him the horrible secrets of her past, he sticks with her. With the aide of his swim coach, he even manages to get her back to a safe place. 

This book is extremely suspenseful, and encompasses fierce religious debates, attempted suicide, buried secrets, shady characters, intense dialogue, and knife wounds. Though the language gets a bit confusing at times, this novel is a must read. Not only a touching story of friendship, it also addresses a lot of issues that teens wrestle with today, about their beliefs and trying to do what is right, when you don't know what that looks like. This book really makes you look at what you believe, what kind of person you are, and what you would do stuck in the character's shoes. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes should definitely be added to your reading list!

Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned, this film is rated R.

Everything about the production of The Revenant is utterly fascinating and truly amazing. The choice to film only with natural light provided a small window of time every day, sometimes as small as an hour, to pull off certain shots. Filming in Canada as well as Argentina, in the wilderness and snow, was probably a challenge to say the least. The actors gave it their all, DiCaprio especially, who got sick twice and was forced to eat raw bison liver. He is a vegetarian. Tom Hardy also was committed, at one point choking out the director because they had an argument about the safety of certain stunts. One would think, with all of these production mishaps, the Revenant would have no chance of possessing quality. Surprisingly however, through all of the trouble filming it, The Revenant ended up a visceral and amazing film, well worth the tribulations of the team.

The Revenant stars Leonardo Dicaprio as mountain man Hugh Glass. Taking place during the 1820’s in the wilderness of America, he is part of a trading company on the run from the Arikara Indians. While scouting for his fellow huntsmen, Glass is viciously attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by members of his team, specifically the evil and cunning John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the need for revenge, Glass must limp, crawl, and squirm his way back to civilization, all alone.

A great set up for a film if ever there was any which only gets enhanced by the “based on a true story” aspect the film boasts. Every aspect of the film reflects the brutal and enticing premise, delivering excellence.

The acting is amazing, Leo grunting and screaming his way to another Oscar nomination (and maybe this year an Oscar win). Saying that he gave the movie his all is an understatement, his performance is more than committed if such a thing exists. Domhnall Gleason (whose face has been popping up a bunch this year with Brooklyn, Ex Machina, and Star Wars to name a few) gives one of the best performances of his career as Captain Andrew Henry, in charge of the whole trapping operation. The other supporting actors are great, helping create a real and brutal atmosphere, but the real standout is Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald. He steals every scene (even from DiCaprio), and is one of the best villains of the year.

The cinematography for the film is excellent, capturing the beauty of the wilderness as well as the brutality of the men, a jarring juxtaposition that is handled with evident skill. The Revenant is a beautiful movie if ever there was one, lovely shots all around. Emmanuel Lubezki appears to be jousting for his third cinematography Oscar in a row with this one (after winning for last year’s Birdman and the previous year’s Gravity), and I can think of no other person more deserving of the award.

The cinematography’s beauty is only possible through the masterful and experienced hand of Alejandro González Iñárritu. He crafts the film in such away that the suspense always intensifies, the shots are always astonishing, and the story is always engaging. Choosing to film in only natural light gives the movie weight, grounding it in reality. Many long shots are used throughout the film, specifically during intense moments of conflict, also contributing to the realism of it all.

The score is minimal, instead the sounds of the wilderness provide a background to the madness, but when it does come into play, it’s beautiful. 

At the end of the day, the film’s rocky production created an enticing and engaging film. It delivers on almost every level (perhaps it could have built an emotional connection to Glass’s son better, but that’s me nitpicking), and is one of the best movies in theaters right now and absolutely worth the price of the ticket. 9/10

Image Credit: Michael W. May on Flickr

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.

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! 

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.

Emily, Teen Contributor

Photo taken by Emily in Frisco, CO. 


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