Step Up Revelation

Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Misha Gabriel, Peter Gallagher,

Stephen “tWitch” Boss

Ok, let’s start with a confession: I love movies with pretty choreography. And sometimes, I want to watch something that requires no thinking, so I look for something with little plot, some romance and pretty leads. I had watched the previous Step Up movies (still remember you there, Channing Tatum!) and while they have no plot whatsoever, they’re fun. Plus, the new Step Up movie had Kathryn McCormick and tWitch in it—two of my favourite So You Think You Can Dance contestants (still think you should’ve won Season 4, tWitch!)—so I said “What the hell, it can’t be worse than Robogeisha,” and watched it.

By the way, Robogeisha: You know the sort of movie that’s so bad, but so bad it was actually funny? Women sprout swords from their armpits and butt! A giant robot smashes buildings and blood spurts out of the concrete! How hilarious is that? That’s Robogeisha for you.

So, Step Up Revolution. It starts with an illegal dance number in the middle of the road. People stop the traffic and dance, all over the cars and stuff. It’s pretty cool actually, and I squealed when I saw tWitch. He seems like a pretty great guy and I’m always happy to see him on movies and TV. So, there’s the routine, done by “The Mob” and then we’re treated to a glimpse of the lead guy, Sean. As you probably guessed, he’s poor. Oh well. Sean meets Emily (played by the gorgeous Kathryn McCormick), they flirt, standard romance happens. Then—oh no!—she’s the daughter of the businessman who wants to tear down Sean’s neighbourhood!

I won’t lie—the plot is pretty standard and straightforward, but I didn’t really care. The dance numbers more than made up for it. The second one—the one which Emily sees at an art gallery—is breathtaking. There’s a play on colours, on lights, that is just beautiful. Really, you’d want to join The Mob afterwards—which, of course, is what Emily does. And she’s the lead right off the bat! You have to love how appropriate everything is in this movie.

This is where we get our third dance. And it’s so gorgeous! Emily is dressed in this beautiful ruffled dress that makes her movements seem longer. And Kathryn pulls the dancing off so effortlessly… Really, she’s a thrill to watch. Of course, the lead guy (Ryan Guzman) is pretty good as well, but she has this lightness, this range of movement that’s so wonderful and fluid. I remember a choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance who said Kathryn can practically levitate—and watching her dance, you realize that yes, she probably can.

Of course, drama ensues (the people in the Mob find out who Emily is, she doesn’t get a position in a dance company … yada yada), but the dances carry the generic plot through. The two “protest” dances are pretty amazing and well-choreographed—not to mention the last one of them is pretty long and complete. And the last dance between Emily and Sean is so sweet, so heart-wrenching… it sent chills down my spine. Really, they have great chemistry in that number.

I’m not lying when I say I love how conveniently everything is wrapped up in the last three minutes of the movie. The “Oh, I was working for the bad guy, but I just saw you dancing and I actually work for Nike and want to hire you,” type of thing. It’s pretty funny, actually, but considering the type of movie… who cares?

Final verdict: While not ground-breaking or complex, Step Up Revolution is a pretty fun movie to watch. It’s got great routines and the lead actors are so pretty to look at. So, if you’re looking for something with a light, simple plot that’s not hard to follow but has great moments tying everything together, then this is your thing.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

First things first: I was a bit reticent with this book. Cancer-kid stories are often depressing with no uplifting moments. Then my dear big sister from College (it’s a hazing thing—she’s the person I chose during hazing week to be my mentor/friend throughout the course and she has not disappointed) told me it was amazing and that I should read it. So, I did. I got the book, started reading it after dinner and couldn’t bear to go to bed without finishing it. It’s that good.

The Fault In Our Stars is the recipe of a tear-jerker. The main character, Hazel, is terminally ill, her love interest is a cancer survivor, his best friend loses both eyes to cancer… You know it’s going to end badly, and it does—but not in the way you’d expect.

The book is in first-person, narrated by Hazel Grace. Hazel almost died some time prior to the book, but some trial drug kept her tumors from growing and now, she’s sort of stable and walks around with an oxygen tank at all times because, as she puts it, her lungs suck at being lungs. Her parents make her go to a Cancer Kid Support Group and there she meets one-legged Augustus Waters, who is going to flip her world upside down.

Hazel and Augustus practically fall in love right off the bat. Normally, I’d complain about insta-love, but let’s be fair, at times, insta-love is a valid writing resource, especially in a stand-alone novel. And in this case, it’s so cleverly done you really don’t mind that the main protagonists are basically head over heels with each other within the first third of the book.

There is drama surrounding Hazel and Augustus’s relationship. At first, she doesn’t want him to kiss her because she doesn’t want him to grieve for her when she dies.

Now that we’ve got the main story down, I’m going to talk about Hazel and Augustus. I said earlier that cancer-kid books are often depressing and have no light moments. Well, The Fault In Our Stars is not like that. Hazel has cancer and yeah, it’s pretty awful, but she’s been living with it for so long that she accepts it as a part of her. She doesn’t mope around a lot and say how much her world sucks. Instead, she’s a deliciously sarcastic person who makes the whole cancer deal seem a secondary aspect of her life she has been saddled with. Sure, she has to sleep attached to a machine and has to bring her oxygen tank everywhere—but she makes those complications seem minor in comparison to everything that’s going on in her life. She’s smart, well-read and very compassionate and the perfect narrator to this great novel. And most of all: she isn’t a teenager pretending to be an adult. She’s a teenager being a teenager, tantrums and all, and the fact I don’t hate her as I do most characters who behave that way, is something to behold.

As for Augustus… his character is amazing. You see that he truly likes Hazel and he does show it. He does everything he can to make her wish come true, and it’s the sweetest thing. He does not do it so that he can have some measure of power over her, he does everything he does because he loves her. The secondary cast of characters: the fictional author Peter van Houten is a full-fledged jerk, Hazel’s parents are a mix between overly-concerned and wonderful. Isaac, albeit a somewhat background character, has a great story… They’re all wonderful and you grow to care about them all when everything unfolds.

And then you have the writing. Oh, the writing. It’s a bit pretentious, all right, but when you have quotes like:

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”


“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”


“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

It’s beautiful. I haven’t read a book that is so short and so filled with memorable writing. It’s also John Green’s flawless prose that brings all these characters to life and it’s a wonder to read.

Finally, you have the end. There’s a point in the book where you know for sure (because until then you will be hoping otherwise) there’s not going to be a happy ending. It’s a tragedy, true and raw, and you feel so helpless you want to stop reading but at the same time you can’t because everything is so carefully worded, so wondrously put together you want to see how the author is going to make the inevitable happen. And when it does, it’s the most beautiful, heartbreaking thing I’ve read in a while.

I’m not kidding when I say this. When I had about forty pages left in the book, I was crying every five minutes. I had to stop reading so I could cry. My boyfriend, who was Skype-ing with his colleagues for a college project had to turn off the microphone so no one would hear my constant sobbing. And when I read that final sentence, I cried some more, re-read the last chapter, cried again, re-read it… It was a funny thing, how I didn’t want the book to end like that and, at the same time, how I felt the ending was perfect.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book. It’s one of those books that’s so wonderful you feel it’s your personal quest to tell everyone to read it. I’ve heard complaints on the Internet about how every John Green book is the same, how he is the Nicholas Sparks of Young Adult—and I don’t care. Nothing is ever going to diminish my opinion of this novel – that it’s a beautifully told, beautifully written story I want to read over and over again.

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Penguin (3 May 2012)

ISBN-10: 0141345632

ISBN-13: 978-0141345635

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy’s gate.

The Crown of Embers is the sequel to the amazing The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which I’ve reviewed previously. This review will contain spoilers for the first book, so if you haven’t read it yet, please do. The first book is amazing. And if you’re wondering if the sequel lives up to its potential… yes. It does.

Once again, we follow Elisa, now the queen of Joya d’Arena. She still has low self-esteem issues (it’s hinted that, while she’s no longer obese, she’s still chubby) but she’s still this incredibly smart, strong character we’ve grown to love.

Right off the bat, as Elisa travels across the city in a celebratory parade, there’s an attack, a sign that the Invierno threat is still not gone, despite what many had thought. In order to know how she can destroy her enemies once and for all, Elisa will go in a dangerous journey, where her Godstone and her faith are her only guides. Throughout the book she grows, becoming even stronger and more determined than she was before.

Slowly, we watch Elisa fall in love with someone new, and it’s a mix between amusement and frustration—the good kind, though. I’m not going to lie, I had seen this romance coming from almost the beginning of the first book. It made sense. You’re reading about it and you already know Elisa is in love, and that the man is in love with her as well, but the characters don’t. And then Rae Carson teases you with these touches, these kisses, these scenes, and you’ll be slightly angry that nothing really happens but at the same time you’ll be glad because she’s keeping her characters true to themselves. And when Elisa finally admits her love, it’s in a dire situation and you’ll adore her even more for it.

The romance in this book was, in my opinion, far better than the one in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and while it was a great part of the book, it was not my favourite. Elisa alone still takes the cake (pun intended, since she loves those) for being the most amazing, smart, resourceful, stubborn heroine ever. Main characters in Young Adult are becoming clichés, and she’s a breath of fresh air in that trend.

But what I admire the most about Elisa is her balance between recklessness and calculated risk. She enlists the help of unconventional allies—one of them an Invierno himself. She navigates a world of treachery and manipulation with surprising grace. And when the time comes to choose between ultimate power and her humanity, her choice will surprise you. Again, Rae Carson is true to her characters no matter what, and Elisa’s choice is a reflection of herself. I didn’t get why she did it at first, but then I realized it would have been even more outrageous if things had been different.

The writing is, like in the first book, nearly flawless. The pictures of Elisa’s surroundings are clear and the characterization is absolutely top-notch. Really, you’ll have trouble finding a Young Adult book whose writing is as clear and as intricate as this one.

The Crown of Embers is a worthy successor of its predecessor, a book I absolutely could not put down. You’ll fall even more in love with Elisa (really, I can’t stress it enough: I adore her) and, in the end, you’ll be crushed that the last book is not out yet.

Yes, it’s that good.

The Crown of Embers

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1 edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062026518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062026514

Princess Elisa is a disappointment to her people. Although she bears the Godstone in her navel, a sign that she has been chosen for an act of heroism, they see her as lazy and useless and fat.

Yes, you read that right. Fat. I read an enormous amount of books. The amount of overweight heroes and chubby heroines is astoundingly small. Some authors believe that describing the main character as fat will make him or her less appealing to the reader. Often, in Young Adult books, everyone tends to be beautiful and thin.

Rae Carson threw all of those preconceptions away and created Elisa, who is, in my opinion a superb heroine even though she loves to stuff herself with pastries. Even in the beginning of the book you see that what Elisa lacks in stereotypical attractiveness she make up for it with intelligence. She is smart. She is surprisingly wise for her age. And she bears the Godstone.

When the book starts, Eliza is married to King Alessandro of Joya d’Arena. She does not know her husband and neither does he know her. Immediately after, Elisa journeys with her new husband and his men to Alessandro’s country and they are attacked by Perditos. Even though she’s not fit, Elisa still manages to save her husband’s life. She is taken to the palace and is demotivated when Alessandro doesn’t publicly announce that he’s married to her. But it’s not until she is kidnapped by desert people that the story really starts to unfold.

I don’t want to spoil the intricate plot, but I’ll tell you this: The Girl of Fire and Thorns is magnificently thought out and its execution is even more stellar. Elisa’s adventures take her from her royal life to the desert, and we start to know more about what it means to be God’s chosen. Elisa’s mind begins to sharpen as she strategizes against the enemy that’s about to invade her husband’s country.

Moreover, Rae Carson (and in this she reminds me of Scott Westerfeld in a particular part of Specials) has the guts to do what some authors can’t: kill off certain characters that have wormed their way into your heart. You won’t see it coming, and when it does, I can almost guarantee you you will be floored.

Carson also does a great job in the writing department. Her prose is fluid, elaborate without being complicated and, most of all, captivating. She crafted a fantasy universe that’s different from the norm. The names she chose for her characters have a more… Latin feel than in usual fantasy worlds.

But the most important part of the book—its heart, as you will—is Elisa. I cannot stress it enough on how she’s an amazing, compassionate, real character. How you connect with her, how she grows within you, how she reacts and plots, how compassionate she is to other people without being weak… She’s a fantastic character.

So, in short: The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a great, surprising book, a breath of fresh air in fantasy settings. And it also has one of the best characters I’ve seen in a long time. If you choose to read it—and I hope you do!—you will almost certainly be satisfied that you did. As for me… The sequel, The Crown of Embers is on the mail and I absolutely can’t wait for it to arrive so I can sit down with it and devour the continuation of Elisa’s journey.

Paperback: 448 pages

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (21 Aug 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 006202650X

ISBN-13: 978-0062026507

Some weeks ago, I was wondering when had been the last time a book had made me cry. George Orwell’s 1984 (no secret it’s my favorite book—I even have two tattoos to prove it!) made me cry. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made me cry. Same for To Kill A Mockingbird.

And then, there was Bitterblue.

I loved Graceling. I didn’t care much for Fire, but it was a nice book. I absolutely loved, loved, Bitterblue and I didn’t want it to end. And, when it did, I felt so overwhelmed with emotion, so touched by the subjects Kristin Cashore had visited in her third novel (and identifying with some of them) that I couldn’t stop the awfully embarrassing tears from prickling my eyes.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

If you’ve read the previous two books, you remember Bitterblue. She was a small, ten-year-old girl then, running from her tyrannical father Leck. Eight years afterwards, the third installment of The Seven Kingdoms starts and she’s grown into a smart, curious queen. Feeling out of the loop when it comes to her royal business, she escapes into the city at night and stumbles upon a story house. There she hears various stories—some about her horrible father—and meets Teddy, a printer, and Saf, a graceling who doesn’t know what his power is.

Balancing her covert identity and her knowledge about politics, Bitterblue soon discovers that her advisors had been lying to her. Among other things, she thinks almost everyone is literate in her city, when in fact it’s the complete opposite. I don’t want to get much into details as I don’t want to spoil the amazing intricacies of the plot, but I’ll tell you this: it’s not just about Bitterblue’s escapades at night and behind everything lie tons of horrible secrets Bitterblue wants to unravel… and they’re worth every page you read.

In Bitterblue, everything is connected. Old characters return in an amazing fashion (particularly Fire). Characters you might overlook become important when you least expect them and character who’s endeared themselves to you in the beginning, might not to matter much later on. But, like the title says, the novel is about Bitterblue and, while you might think it’s not enough… it is. Bitterblue is an amazing, strong character and by the end of the book I wanted to know more about her. The romance in the book suffers from it, but the resolution is so bittersweet, and so true to the characters that my heart ached in response.

And then, the end. Everything culminates at the end of the novel and that’s where I lost it and cried like a baby. There’s closure to almost every aspect—and I say almost because I hope Kristin Cashore writes more about Bitterblue and resolves certain relationships. It’s not that they ended badly or anything, it’s just… it was so good, so beautiful, that I wanted more.

The writing is, as Kristin Cashore’s writing has been in the first two novels, flawless. Her handle on vocabulary is stellar and she evokes imagery without even trying. But what sets this novel apart from the other two is the complexity of the plot. Bitterblue’s machinations are so beautifully intricate, sometimes wonderfully perverse that I had trouble stopping myself from reading more so I could go to bed.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this book. I really could. But I’m afraid I’d just spoil you, so I’ll just shut up and tell you to read it. Bitterblue is a wonderful, complex, riveting read and the emotion I felt at the end is the proof of it. Please, please read it and give Kristin Cashore the recognition she deserves.

Hardcover: 576 pages

Publisher: Gollancz; Hardback edition (1 May 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0575097175

ISBN-13: 978-0575097179

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