Under Rose-Tainted Skies by: Louise Gornall

Norah is different. But she is strong. Stronger than she thinks, and when a new neighbor moves in, Norah will try to see herself through his eyes.

Norah suffers from mental health issues and many phobias. She can’t go outside because there are many germs, earthquakes are possible, and many other things. She’s afraid of irrational numbers. She stays home, not going to school, but instead attending an online school, and she goes to therapy.

When Luke moves in, he sees Norah, a smart, funny, and extremely brave girl. He doesn’t think of all her health problems and phobias. Instead, he respects them. The two of them become friends. They both like Transformers, Norah helps Luke with his French, and they watch horror movies together. Soon, Norah and Luke develop feelings for each other, which Norah likes, but she is also afraid. Because of all her “problems,” will they ever be compatible?

This book was very thought-intriguing. I loved the characters and loved seeing them develop throughout the story. Norah was an unforgettable character and I learned and felt the fears and pain she went through. It was heartbreaking at times, but in the end, reading this book made me feel different. I have grown much more respect for mental health issues and I loved that the author could spin me in with such an intriguing plot.

9/10 rating for this book because I sometimes had to re-read a few passages to make sure I was reading it the right way. I highly recommend this book for all ages. There isn’t much swearing, 2 or 3 places, and there are no highly inappropriate scenes. If you need a next good book you can’t put down, read this book!

Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo

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Crooked Kingdom, the second book in the Six of Crows duology, written by Leigh Bardugo, follows our cast of characters as they face a new challenge more dangerous than the last.

After the major heist of the first book, I wondered how Crooked Kingdom would be able to top that, and it did, using smaller yet impactful sneaking moments that worked towards a greater cause.

The characters became fully developed midway through the book. Jesper and Wylan remained the same enjoyable characters but with an interesting back story, such as the introduction of Jesper’s dad that propelled the story while adding new personal stakes. Wylan had a complex relationship with his father that added sympathy towards his character.

We learned more about Inej’s background along with her talents of climbing and moving in silence, and she quickly became my favorite character. As a female character, she is incredibly strong and independent in ways other young adult book protagonists miss. She is sure of her abilities without being arrogant, which is what we see in characters such as Aelin Galathynius from the Throne of Glass series. Arrogance seems to be overused in young adult female protagonists, therefore seeing a character who is so strong yet humble and doesn’t need others to see her abilities or lose a fight to her to feel confident she is capable, is a great person to look up to. Due to this, Inej became one of my favorite female protagonists.

We were also given more backstory on Kaz that explained his negative disposition and we got to see him grow from the hatred he had. This made him likable/understandable in the end, adding some humanity to his morally grey character. My only problems with characters were with Nina and Matthias. I didn’t feel as connected to Nina and mainly found myself annoyed by her points of view and actions. Matthias was a character I never liked from the beginning, although he did show positive development.

I loved the relationship between Kaz and Inej. Many young adult authors tend to rush romance between characters that don’t appear to be emotionally or mentally prepared for a relationship. This was a very slow-burning romance that worked perfectly and made sense between the two. Despite not ending with any real physical connection, there was an emotional one that alluded to the fact that these two characters would get together in the future when they are prepared. It doesn’t make their relationship the most important aspect of their story, which makes sense considering the stakes at hand.

I especially loved the introduction of characters from the Shadow and Bone series because it reminded me of the vast setting and was incredibly enjoyable to see unlikely characters interact, such as Nikolai and Kaz. The Grisha powers are explored more in this book than the last, especially with the ability-enhancing Jurda Parem being abused. There were also many misdirects and twists throughout the book that kept me on edge and my emotions were like a rollercoaster.

To digress, I’ve recently learned there will be a tv series about both the Shadow and Bone series and the Six of Crows duology. Nothing has been revealed besides the fact that they are in the middle of casting and location scouting, and I feel as though it’ll be an amazing series. Leigh Bardugo is an executive producer for the show, which gives me hope they will be able to portray the world and the stories in a way that even people who don’t particularly like reading will find enjoyable.

Although I will not be reading the Nikolai centered duology Leigh has recently published simply due to not being particularly interested in learning more of the characters, I do plan on reading future fantasy series by her. I would highly recommend reading any and all of her Grishaverse books, especially before the tv series releases (which won’t be for a while). Her writing and setting is so unique and dark and truly feels as though you are in a whole other world unlike any other you’ve read about before.

Compared to the first book, Crooked Kingdom was a more enjoyable book to read, earning 9/10 dragons.

Neanderthal Opens The Door To The Universe by: Preston Norton

Cliff “Neanderthal” Hubbard is not your typical high schooler. Neither is Happy Valley High School. Or his family. Standing tall at 6’6″ and weighing 250 pounds, Cliff finds it hard to be appreciated. Or loved. Lots of people tease him at school. He doesn’t have any friends, his family is broken, and he has enemies. Like Aaron Zimmerman.

Aaron Zimmerman is everything Cliff is not. He’s cool and the star quarterback. All the girls are out for him and he has a lot of friends. He’s got a decent family and he used to have a girlfriend. Cliff and Aaron are nothing alike; they’re on opposite sides of the fence, so it’s kind of impossible to be friends. Especially if Aaron’s friends flip Cliff off and be rude. But then the unthinkable happens.

Aaron has a near-death experience. (But I can’t tell you how.) And when he comes back, he’s changed. He claims that God appeared to him and told him Happy Valley sucks. Then Aaron says that God gave him a list to make Happy Valley suck less. And only Cliff can help him. Only Cliff. The opposite of Aaron. Thus begins the ups and downs of the adventure of completing the list. But of course, there are many downfalls and problems concerning and not concerning the list like Esther and the JT’s. And Shane. And Cliff’s abusive dad. But Cliff does get something he likes. Which I think was sweet.

This book was really nice and I laughed a lot. There are also sad parts in the book. So if you want to laugh and cry for a long period of time, this book is just for you! I loved this book so much that when I finished it, there was a 1 minute pause before I said, “This is my new favorite book for many reasons.” It gave me so much to think about and it made me feel better for some odd but awesome reason. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who is okay with a lot of cursing and a few kissing scenes. Other than that, the book is awesome! I rate this book a 12/10 because it’s just that good.

AJR: Neotheater Album Review

Cover of album Neotheater by AJR

AJR is an indie pop band whose claim to fame was their 2013 single “I’m Ready”. “The Click” came out in 2017 and now, two years and several critic beat downs later, their new album “Neotheater” is out. So, how do I feel about the album? Let’s review “Neotheater” by AJR.

Let’s start with saying I am not very fond of this band. The songs I heard from “The Click” were cliched and showcased some very poor lyrics.

Sadly, this album has the same issues I have with some songs off “The Click”.

Before I go any further, if you like AJR, that’s totally fine.

Now, a song by song review:

“Next Up Forever”: Repetitive and cringe-worthy. One of the many low points of the album. 2/10

“Birthday Party”: This song isn’t that bad. Its got a solid chorus and the lyrics aren’t aggressively nonsensical. 6/10

“100 Bad Days”: Nonsensical lyrics, horrendous chorus, mediocre singing, all with a little dollop of cringe on top. Bad Song Sundae! 2/10

”Don’t Throw Out My Legos”: A giant mess of weird noises and bad songwriting. 2/10

“Break My Face”: Bad lyrics and lots of cliches aspects. More of the same. 2/10

“Turning Out Part 2”: This song actually sounds pretty decent overall. 7/10

“The Entertainment’s Here”: Mediocre lyrics with decent singing. 5/10

”Karma”: This song sounds very whiny and fake deep. 2/10

”Beats”: Overused meaning with okay singing and beat. 4/10

“Wow, I’m Not Crazy”: Obnoxious and bland. 2/10

”Dear Winter”: A refreshing break from the overbloated pop this album is loaded with. 7/10

“Finale “Can’t Wait To See What You Do Next”: The album ends with a whimper here. 3/10

The lyrics here are just plain bad in my opinion, like the verse on “Don’t Throw Out My LEGOs” where the lead singer says “Don’t throw out my LEGO’s, what if I can’t let go?” To me, that sounds forced, like the trio slapped that on the chorus without a care in the world.

The album is also bland, showing nothing new for the indie pop genre. AJR doesn’t seem to get that overbloated and boring doesn’t equal good. I found myself wanting to stop listening frequently during my listening session due to just how boring it is.

It’s also worth mentioning the singing is just okay.

Verdict: AJR is personally one of my least favorite bands of all time, and this album proves it. 3/10

This is starwarsguy124, signing out.

Horror Story #5

Image of a ghost in a darkened hallway
Image by ariadne-a-mazed from Pixabay

Today I went to my friend’s house for a sleepover and a very odd thing occurred. After the devouring of cake and the violent tearing of presents it was almost ready for bed.

“Hey,” my friend Josie said, “Do you want to watch this horror movie called The Ring?”

I smiled, “Is that a romantic comedy?”

She laughed almost manically and replied, “Sure.”

Three minutes into the movie I knew that this was not a romantic comedy, and was on the edge of my sleeping bag the entire length of it. I sighed a breath of relief the instance the ending credits started to roll and that marked our bedtime.

Josie got up from her bed and turned off the lights. “Goodnight,” she said softly.

I replied the same and closed my eyes to rest until morning.

3:00 A.M…

I woke up quickly to the sound of a door creaking open slowly. As the doorway became more visible, I noticed an old woman standing there. In complete horror, I saw her glide over to Josie’s bed. She was floating just above the ground but low enough that her dark purple cloak would drag on the ground. She looked into the sleeping eyes of Josie and kissed her on the cheek. I stared at the old lady and quickly realized that it was her grandmother from the family photos. I closed my eyes in relief that I was probably imagining her floating. I opened my eyes to reveal the old lady was gone.

9:00 A.M…

“Hey, Cheryl, wake up,” she said.

As the image of Josie grew clearer, I could see tear drop flowing down her cheeks.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her politely.

“It’s my grandmother,” she said, “she died yesterday night in her home.”

I froze and my heart started beating rapidly.

“What time did she die,” I replied.

“I think around 2:59 in the morning.”

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo

Cover of Because of Winn Dixie

Opal Buloni and her preacher dad move to little ol’ Naomi, Florida from little ol’ Watley, Florida. Even though it’s a new place, ten-year-old Opal isn’t digging it. She misses her friends, her home, and her mother who left her when she was a little girl. Life is pretty rotten.

Enter Winn-Dixie, a mangy stray dog that Opal befriends as he ransacks a grocery store.The lovable mutt falls in love with Opal and the preacher, they fall in love with him, and voila! Opal’s summer suddenly takes a turn for the better.

Thanks to Winn-Dixie’s easygoing nature, he manages to introduce Opal to new friends in Naomi — the little old librarian, Miss Franny; the alleged witch, Gloria Dump, and the shy pet store worker, Otis. Opal spends each day swapping stories with these new friends, despite taunts from the neighborhood bully patrol.

As Opal’s brain gnaws on the stories, she learns that, like Bertie Botts Beans, what you see ain’t always what you get. She also aches for the loss of her mother, wishing she could have story time with her.

Things go on like this for a while, and then Opal and Gloria Dump plan a shindig. Opal invites everyone, including the bully patrol. Everything is going swimmingly until a storm comes and poof! freaks out Winn-Dixie, who is ridiculously afraid of thunderstorms. Poof again! Winn-Dixie disappears.

Opal and her dad search and search, coming up with nada. Then, as her dad tries to convince her to give up, Opal has a mother of a meltdown. Literally. It’s about her mother (you know, the whole “abandonment” thing). She and the preacher have a heart-to-heart. Opal realizes that her mom isn’t coming back, but she has a father who loves her, friends who love her, potential friends to love her, and she’ll be okay.

Plus, Winn-Dixie was hiding under the bed at the party the whole time. So Opal still has a mangy dog that loves her, too. But it’s not just that. She can love each and every one of them in return, for as long as they are in her life. It’s a happy, happy day in Opal’s world. Life lessons learned; warm fuzzies felt.

Aladdin Movie Review

Movie poster from Aladdin

This movie starts off on a boat, with four people.  A man starts singing and tells of Arabian Nights. This movie, especially the songs from the old movie, gave me chills. It was good. It was definitely different from the original movie, but I still think it was the same, if not better.

            As I said, it starts off on a boat, it then switches to Aladdin (Mena Massoud), who is in the market place. He meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and they go on an adventure. Jasmine has to eventually return to the castle, where Aladdin later meets her. After being captured and trapped in the Cave of Wonders, he finds the Genie (Will Smith). After they escape, and Aladdin wishes to become a prince, they make their grand entrance into the city of Agrabah.

            There is then a festival, where Aladdin tries, in vain, to talk to Jasmine, after a dance number, they all disband. Afterwards, Aladdin comes for a MAGIC CARPET RIDE (A WHOLE NEW WORLDDDDD, A NEW FANTASTIC POINT OF VIEW) They stare at each other. Yay!

            Then Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) comes in and figures out that Aladdin is a fake. He then proceeds to push him off a building. Once he manages to get out, meanwhile demolishing the second of his 3 wishes, he goes and puts a stop to Jafar’s plans in taking over the kingdom. Once they have stopped him, Aladdin leaves the palace, Jafar steals his lamp and gets the Genie.

            When Jafar has successfully become powerful and a sultan, he traps the Sultan, sends Jasmine for death, and Aladdin to a very cold area (the end of the Earth apparently). Jasmine then comes in and sings her new song. She defeats Jafar and traps him in a lamp instead. Aladdin then comes back, and all is good (I won’t spoil the end).

            I really enjoyed this movie overall.  It had much more of the Arabian type culture that the original animated movie somewhat lacked. It also included Jasmine being much more independent, even wanting to be sultan. They introduced some new songs, one of which is called “Speechless”, this song is sung by Jasmine and is about her not being quieted just because she was a female. It was quite inspirational and showed you can do what you want, no matter what you are (cheesy, I know, but it is true).

            I would definitely recommend going to see this movie, or if it is already out, go and watch it that way, or just…. whatever way you can. It was really good, I can confirm that.

                        I would rate this movie 4.5/5 stars.