Proving Ground – Book Review



This is not the story of how America fell apart; it is the story of how it pulled back from the brink at a heavy cost. Randall Quinn saved the people by killing democracy, and while everyone else is enjoying the booming economy and free rides to college, 16-year-old Lacan Branford is stolen from her family and tossed into a secret prison. She becomes part of Quinn’s nanotechnology experiments designed to create Nanotechs, the ultimate weapons of national security. But she is not alone.

Lacan meets Chloe, a girl who has been locked up longer than most and lost a little of her sanity along the way.  She also finds Alex, a classmate she did not really know aside from her flirty reputation. And then there are the other girls they just try to avoid. They are three against a hundred.

Their families think they are dead and they have no chance of escape. Their only choice is to serve Quinn and preserve the new order he has created. Fortunately for Lacan, she met someone who says he will help her do just that. All she has to do is survive her training.

Sooner or later, they all have to prove their worth.


Proving Ground is a well-written novel that drew me in from the very first sentence.  Right away, I felt that the characters were very well developed and the story was something unique. The main character, Lacan, is just an average 16-year-old girl who gets her life ripped away from her and is thrust into this secret world that few know exists.  Though obviously upset about being torn away from her family and her boyfriend, Lacan stays strong and makes allies immediately, though the alliances are less about protecting herself and more about protecting others. All of the girls that have been forced into this facility are training for the Trials, where their skills will be tested, and if they prove themselves worthy, which few do, they will become Nanotechs.

The Nanotechs are scientifically advanced creations that thrive off of nanotechnology and specially designed suits of armor. Right away, they reminded me of comic book characters like The Winter Soldier or even Iron Man.  So far, only two have proven themselves worthy of becoming Nanotechs, the Gray Reaper and the Black Knight. They serve as a symbol of justice, taking care of what needs to be done that the new government can’t necessarily handle through traditional means.

There is a fair amount of violence in Proving Ground, similar to The Hunger Games, but nothing overly-gruesome. The Trials require the girls to fight against one another to prove their skills, and the girls are relentless.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am impatiently waiting for the sequel, Silver Maiden, to be completed so I can get my hands on it. I give the book 4/5 stars.

You can purchase Proving Ground from Amazon HERE

The Fault in Our Stars – Movie Review

tfios poster


Based off of the bestselling novel by John Green of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars follows the star-crossed love story of cancer patients Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort).


The Fault in Our Stars is one of the rare book-to-film adaptations that stays almost completely true to the source material.  While obviously things from the book would have to be withheld due to time constraints, the film stays true to the book in the most beautiful ways, down to the finest details, including the seemingly random inclusion of Swedish hip hop song Bomfalleralla and the mention of Sisyphus the hamster, which book fans are sure to appreciate.

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort flawlessly slip into the characters they portray. There is just the right amount of emotion behind every line, the right amount of sass and sarcasm from Hazel Grace, the right amount of pretentiousness and affection from Gus. The film takes viewers on a roller coaster of emotions from glee to heartbreak, and almost everything in between.

The film’s comedic relief comes in the form of washed-up author Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), who manages to avoid all serious conversations by going off on seemingly-unrelated tangents or simply playing the aforementioned Swedish hip hop music to a confused Hazel and Gus.

While nothing can ever be considered “perfect”, The Fault in Our Stars comes pretty darn close. Don’t forget to bring a box of tissues when you go to see this, you’re going to need them.

Grade: A-

The Fault in Our Stars is in theaters now

The Murder Complex – Book Review

the murder complex

Welcome to the Murder Complex

You cannot see us. You cannot feel us.

But we are here.

And we control your every move.

Plot (from Lindsay Cummings’ blog):

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision. The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family? Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.


Let me start this review off by saying that I absolutely adored this book and can’t wait for the prequel novella and the second book to come out. So good!

Right away, The Murder Complex hooked me and kept me interested throughout the whole book. This book is a great possibility for those who love dystopian series such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Legend. The book switches between the points-of-view of the two main characters, who both learn things about themselves and their families’ pasts as the book progresses. Unlike most books where the major plot points are sometimes extremely obvious and predictable (to me at least), this book kept me guessing as to where it was headed next.

As the name might suggest, The Murder Complex does not shy away from blood and death, as there is plenty of both. In this kill-or-be-killed world, if you aren’t willing to kill someone, you can bet that you will be next to die.

One thing that bothered me a bit about the book was the progression of the relationship between Meadow and Zephyr. In the beginning, the relationship seemed very forced, and then almost out of nowhere, the tension between the two disappeared and they got along fine. The transition between the two separate stages of their relationship could have been a little more developed so as to not feel quite so sudden.

Throughout the last third or so of the book, the action picks up immensely and by the time I read the last page I was already dying to get my hands on the sequel. I need to know what happens! It’s not too often that a book literally leaves me yearning for more.

I give this book 4/5 stars and a definite “You need to go read this!”

You can preorder The Murder Complex, available June 10, 2014, HERE, and the prequel novella The Fear Trials, available June 3, 2014, HERE.

This review was originally posted on Hunger Games Network

Brick Mansions – Movie Review

Brick mansions poster


In this dystopian film, Detroit undercover cop Damien (Paul Walker) must team up with convicted cop-killer Lino (David Belle) to take down crime lord Tremaine (RZA) who plans to take down Detroit’s government.


The only reason to go see Brick Mansions is for the awesome parkour action.  The film started out with a long sequence of stunts, so I was hopeful that the rest of the film would live up to the high standard that was set in the beginning of the film. But alas, the rest of the film was riddled with poor dialogue, lame one-liners and sub-par acting.

Perhaps the best part of the movie was when it was over. No, not because it was that terrible, but because there was a tribute to Paul Walker. I did get a little misty-eyed, as this was the last project that Walker completed before passing away.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend seeing this film unless you are a die-hard Paul Walker fan or are really in the mood for cheezy lines.

Grade: C-

Transcendence – Movie Review

transcendence poster


Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) are researchers in the field of Artificial Intelligence.  Will’s goal is to create a machine that can think for itself and feel a full range of human emotions. However, there are those that aim to stop any further attempts at AI technology and thus target Will and his colleagues. In an attempt to “save” Will’s life after he has been shot with a bullet traced with radiation poisoning, Evelyn uploads Will’s mind to a supercomputer.


If there’s one thing that Transcendence does well, it’s warning people away from the potential future of technology.  Just seeing the ways that technology consumed Will Caster was almost enough to make me swear off of technology for good. Almost.

The trailers for this movie looked so good. I wanted to like this movie, I really did. But as someone who knows next-to-nothing about the future of technology,  this movie was so far-fetched.

Once Will is connected to the Internet, he has access to all of the information online and can thus rapidly expand his knowledge. This allows Will to almost instantaneously provide his wife with an absurd amount of money so that she can move to some far-off desert town, buy all of the land and property, and build a lab where Will can further his research and experiments, one of which is to create a cell that replicates and rebuilds itself. Will uses these cells for basically everything, spreading them around the world like pixie dust. Eventually he even makes a replica of his body that is habitable.

If Johnny Depp’s computer death stare isn’t enough to keep you from agreeing to upload your mind to a supercomputer some day, I don’t know what will.

Transcendence hits theaters April 18.

Grade: C

300: Rise of an Empire – Movie Review



300: Rise of an Empire is the not-a-sequel sequel to 2006’s 300, the story of a group of 300 Spartan men who head to battle against Xerxes and his army of Persians. Rise takes place at the same time as the events of 300, and shows the efforts of Athenian general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), who tries to unite Greece’s city-states to fight against the approaching Persian navy, led by Artemisia (Eva Green), who is hell-bent on seeking revenge against Greece. The film also brings back Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and Persian god-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).


Rise of an Empire is based off of a yet-to-be-released graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller. Though Rise isn’t directed by Zack Snyder like the original, the film’s director Noam Murro kept many elements of the film the same, including the signature slow-motion, blood splattered fighting scenes and highly altered colors that 300 is known for.

Like the original, there are plenty of shirtless men with spectacular abs. While that much exposed skin might not make for the best way to fight in a battle, it certainly is nice to look at while you’re watching these men be sliced open by swords and pierced by arrows. If there’s going to be some gore, at least it’s sexy gore.

Arguably the best scene in the whole film is sex scene that takes place between Stapleton and Green. Artemesia seduces Themistokles whilst trying to convince him to abandon the Greeks and fight for the Persians. Not much progress is made though, as Themistokles falls victim to Artemesia’s allure and soon they are violently attacking one another and ripping each other’s clothes off. Nothing is off-limits for these two as Themistokles passionately thrusts his “sword” all over Artemesia’s “battlefield.”

While I’m still having trouble trying to comprehend how one can walk into a pool of water and come out hairless and covered in gold jewelry and an obscene amount of eye makeup, Xerxes remains a force to be reckoned with in this film, as he tries to avenge his father’s death. While he isn’t the antagonist with the most screen time, you still get the feeling of a power hungry psychopath whenever he rears his clean-shaven, gold plated body.

Overall, the film is nothing spectacular, but it has great action sequences and that signature blood-splattered look and feel of the original.

300: Rise of an Empire is in theaters now

Grade: C+

Need For Speed – Movie Review



Just released from prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) sets out to seek revenge on the man who framed him, former business associate Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Marshall must race across the country while evading the police along the way.


At face value, Need for Speed may seem like Dreamworks’ attempt at a car movie to rival the likes of Universal’s Fast and Furiousfranchise. There are cars and criminals involved, so they must be the same, right? Wrong. While fans of Fast will surely enjoy Speed, there are only a few parallels between them.

Based off the popular Electronic Arts video game series of the same name, Need for Speed features high-speed action sequences, a quest for revenge and great footage of the cars. The plot of the movie itself is nothing special, but it was more than enough to keep me interested in between the best parts of the movie—the cars. There are plenty of humorous lines weaved throughout the movie and there is a fair amount of romantic tension between Paul’s Tobey and Imogen Poots’s Julia.

The cars themselves are works of art, and are hands-down the stars of the film. Among the vehicles featured in the film are three Koenigsegg Ageras, a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, McLaren P1, Saleen S7 and a GTA Spano. Combined, that’s upwards of $14 million worth of cars. It seems such a shame to wreck such nice cars for a film, not to mention a huge waste of money, so naturally many of the cars that are used are actually replicas of the originals, solely built for destruction.

The driving is nothing short of spectacular, with plenty of close calls, numerous occasions of driving the wrong direction straight-on into traffic (and miraculously making it out safe every time) and a cleverly named stunt called a “Grasshopper” in which the Shelby Mustang is driven up a grass embankment at high speeds and launched over two lanes of traffic to land perfectly in on the road and continue driving as though it had been there the whole time.

The special effects of the film were highly realistic, making it seem as though these cars were actually hitting one another and careening off the road. This can all be credited to a decision made by Director Scott Waugh, who wanted everything to be filmed using practical special effects as an homage to car films in the 60’s and 70’s. So everything you see on screen is real, or at least as real as these things get in Hollywood. That means that no digital effects were used in post-production, save for perhaps one scene when Marshall reveals a remodeled Shelby Mustang.

Though there are no digital effects, the practical effects are more than enough to make the driving and crashes seem real. The footage from many of the crash scenes isn’t the same high quality as the rest of the film, which is to be expected because no one in their right mind would put their nicest cameras inside of vehicles that are about to be totaled.  Not all of the cars that are used for the movie are seen on-screen—the camera cars, or cars that are used to mount cameras to film the high-speed racing scenes, must be fast enough to keep up with the cars that are featured in the film. The camera cars include a Mustang and a Ferrari 458 Italia.

Overall, it is a great film to ride along with for a couple of hours and not have to think about much.

Need for Speed hits theaters March 14.

Grade: B+

YA Book Reviews

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