Movie Review – Oculus

“You see what it wants you to see”

Call Number:  DVD 2269
2014
Rated R 

20140316042141!Oculus

If the movie is not in at HPL you can order it from inter-library loan

I saw this movie both in the theater and at home on DVD.  while I wouldn’t recommend paying $10 to see it, it’s great if you’re at home and in the mood for a scary movie.

The movie starts out with Tim finally being let out of the mental institution he had lived in for most of his childhood.  He is deemed mentally healthy but warned to be wary of his sister’s influence.  His sister, Kaylie, works for an antiques dealer and has acquired

an old mirror that used to be in the house the siblings grew up in.  She’s convinced that the mirror harbors an evil spirit that caused the death of their mother and has a plan to fight back.

The best part of this movie was the constant flashbacks to the sibling’s childhood, woven fluidly into the present.  The flashbacks, which grow more and more horrifying, offset the less intense present scenes, where they are waiting for the ghost and arguing about the past, which Tim has forgotten.  The actress that plays Kaylie as a child does a fantastic job as she changes from a normal kid to someone who is trapped in an abusive home and fears for her life.  Rory Cochrane, who plays the father, is fascinating to watch as he changes from a loving dad into a violent, paranoid man, due to the poltergeist in the mirror in his office.

The two main characters are very likable and the audience roots for them as they try to trap and kill the ghost that has haunted them since childhood. One of the scariest things about this movie is that the people are the ones that inflict harm, and not the ghost.  It is only the ghost’s influence that causes them to become dangerous.  The only real power the poltergeist has is to trick families into hurting each other.  The twins grapple with this as they realize they are not as prepared to confront the ghost as they thought.  There are several very interesting, trippy scenes where they watch themselves through the window of the house and realize they too, are being manipulated by the ghost.

This movie is not overly gory, though there are a few graphic scenes.  There are actually only a couple of deaths during this movie and I really liked that the characters had intense, emotional reactions to these deaths instead of acting like they didn’t care, like in many horror movies.  This depth of emotion made the movie much more interesting and the characters much more believable.

The main thing I found disappointing about this movie was the ending.  The director was obviously trying to make the story come full circle, but it definitely wasn’t the ending I wanted or expected.  If the ending had been different the movie as a whole would have been much better.

Nevertheless, this movie will hold your attention with it’s suspenseful and terrifying plot.

Books Like A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones is a popular series of high fantasy books written by George R.R. Martin.  The books take place in the lands of Westeros and Essos, where several houses fight to rule the kingdom.  If you are a fan of the books, or the television series, you may also like these books.

Click on the picture to see the book in our catalog

best served coldBest served cold

by Joe Abercrombie
Call Number: Abercrombie

Styria has been torn apart by civil wars.  Duke Orso believes if he can end the wars he will become king.  But Orso makes a huge mistake when he tries to kill a general, who then swears vengeance.

 

the sacred bandThe sacred band

by David Anthony Durham
Call Number: Durham

This is the third book in the Acacia trilogy.  Queen Corinn and her siblings each begin their own quests to discover their destinies.  Corinn’s sister travels to the north to face an invasion of the Auldek race, while her brother travels to the Other Lands to complete an important mission.

 

13561356 : go with God, but fight like the devil

by Bernard Cornwell
Call Number: Cornwell

This is a historical fiction novel about the Battle of Poitiers that takes place in 1356.  The English army defeats the French and captures the French King even though they are greatly outnumbered.

 

gardensGardens of the moon

by Steven Erikson
Call Number: Erikson

The Empress Laseen rules over the Malazan Empire, using her Claw assassins to hold her power.  But there is still one free city standing andSergeant Whiskeyjack and the mage tattersail must protect it.

 

the white queenThe white queen

by Philippa Gregory
Call Number: Gregory

This is a historical novel that follows the Wars of the Roses.  Elizabeth is a commoner, but manages to marry the King of England in secret and become queen.  Though she rises to the challenge of being a queen her two sons become prisoners in the Tower of London.

 

the shadow queenThe shadow queen : a black jewels novel

by Anne Bishop
Call Number: Bishop

The seventh book in the Black Jewels series.  Theran Grayhaven is determined to find the key that will lead to treasure that he can use to restore the devastated land of Dena Nehele.  Before he can do this he must find the perfect queen.

 

the steel remainsThe steel remains

by Richard K. Morgan
Call Number: Morgan

Gil is a retired warrior living in a small village in the country.  But then his estranged family enlists his help to find a cousin that has been sold into slavery.  On his journey he discovers that the demon Aldrain race may have returned to the land.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – A YA Review

the miseducationWritten by Emily Danforth
Call Number: YA Danforth
Click on the picture to see the book in our catalog

Cameron is a teenage girl living in a small, conservative Montana town. When her parents die tragically her aunt and grandmother move in to help raise her.  When it comes out the Cameron is gay her aunt sends her to a Christian rehabilitation school so that she can overcome her affliction.  Cameron must decide if she wants to change to fit everyone else’s ideals or live her own life.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  The writing itself had a much more literary style than most YA books, which was refreshing.  The content and the writing style makes this book perfect for older teens and adults.  It had a steady pacing that never got draggy or boring.

It takes place in the 1990s and there are a lot of music and pop culture references, which were interesting, and is another aspect that will appeal to adults.   The book starts out with Cameron as a twelve year old who is just discovering her sexuality and moves through her teens.  The author does a wonderful job of changing Cameron’s voice slowly as she ages.  She does this so subtly that the reader doesn’t realize that the voice has matured and changed a great deal from the voice of Cameron as a twelve year old.  The reader meets a lot of characters as Cameron dates different girls, but the author makes each character unique and memorable enough that the reader can easily differentiate them.  We also see Cameron gaining knowledge about herself with each new experience.

It is easy for the reader to identify with Cameron and empathize with what she’s going through.  We experience all of her guilt and pain as she tries to change who she is and we follow her through the process of accepting herself.  All of the characters are well developed and three dimensional, even the very minor ones.  I especially liked that some of her really good friends were conflicted about accepting her sexuality and often struggled with the idea of continuing to be friends with her.  Though some of these scenes were emotionally tough to read, they’re important because of their realism.  Readers get to experience all different viewpoints, including homophobia, through Cameron’s eyes.

Cameron’s aunt, Ruth, was the easiest character to dislike.  When she comes to live with Cameron they immediately clash.  She is also very religious and makes Cameron join her Evangelical church.  She is the one who ultimately decides to send Cameron away to boarding school to be “fixed”.  While Ruth is unlikeable, there are also many aspects to her personality that are noble.  This makes her a more interesting and three dimensional character.  While Cameron’s opinion of her aunt never really changes the reader begins to see that Ruth really does care about Cameron in her own way and is sacrificing a lot for her.  My only problem with this book was Cameron’s continued harshness towards her aunt, even when she is dealing with cancer and going through surgery.  While the reader can see where Cameron is coming from, her continued hatred of Ruth makes her seem selfish and uncaring.  This could be a great talking point for book discussions.

Because this book has sexual scenes, cursing, and marijuana use it’s best for more mature teens.  A really important and engrossing read.

 

Inspirational Memoirs

There are so many great stories out there about people who have harrowing and inspiring stories.  Whether they overcame the odds and achieved their dreams or survived a terrible experience, these people will inspire and amaze you.

Click on the pictures to see the books in our catalog

 

the last lectureThe Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch
Call Number:  QFMI P287 l

A computer science professor, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, reflects on achieving childhood dreams and seizing the moment.

 

in the waterIn the Water They Can’t See You Cry : a memoir
by Beard, Amanda
Call Number: E B38i

Olympic swimmer, Amanda Beard, began competing at a very early age and recounts her struggles with depression, eating disorders, and drug abuse and how she overcame them.

 

swimmingSwimming to Antarctica : tales of a long-distance swimmer
by Lynne Cox.
Call Number:   E C8398

A long distance swimmer describes her record breaking English-Channel crossing along with other swimming feats.  She talks about her intense training from an early age and her spiritual connection with the ocean.

have a little faithHave a little faith : a true story
by Mitch Albom
Call Number: CGW A l 14h  (Also in Audio under Albom)

The author is asked to write a eulogy for an aging rabbi, which reconnects him with his faith.  He begins working with a pastor who helps the poor and comes from an impoverished background.  He sees how both these men use faith to survive.

 

zeitounZeitoun [sound recording]
by Dave Eggers ; an unabridged performance by Firdous Bamji.
Call Number: CD EGGERS

This a a nonfiction narrative written by Dave Eggers about the Zeitoun family and their experience living through Hurricane Katrina.

 

breaking nightBreaking Night: A memoir of forgiveness, survival, and my journey from homeless to Harvard
by Liz Murray
Call Number: E M964b

Liz Murray finds herself living on the streets when she is just fifteen.  Instead of giving up she decides to finish her high school degree and ends up being accepted to Harvard.

angelasAngela’s Ashes
by Frank McCourt
Call Number: E M137a

A memoir of the author’s impoverished childhood in New York and Ireland.  His mother struggles to feed her family, while his father spends all of their money on alcohol.  Will he achieve his dream of one day coming to America?

 

 

Books Like “The Fault in Our Stars”

The Fault in Our Stars is a popular YA book by John Green that was recently made into a movie.  Hazel, who is 16, reluctantly agrees to go to a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus.  Although she is terminal, the relationship she has with him soon changes her whole perspective on life.  If you are looking to read something like The Fault in Our Stars, you might like these books….

Click on the pictures to see the book in our catalog

the miseducationThe Miseducation of Cameron Post
by Emily Danforth

Cameron lives in a conservative Montana town with her aunt and grandmother.  She tries to blend in but when her relatives find out that she’s gay they send her to a conversion therapy center.

 

if i stayIf I Stay
by Gayle Forman

Mia is struggling to make a choice between something she loves or staying with her family and boyfriend.  Then she goes on a drive with her family and everything changes.

 

foreverForever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3)

by Maggie Stiefvater

Sam and Grace are in love, but Sam is a werewolf and they must fight for their love in a dangerous world.

 

and we stayAnd We Stay
by Jenny Hubbard

Emily is sent to boarding school in Amherst, MA after a terrifying and tragic incident at her school.  There she meets the ghost of Emily Dickinson who tries to help her get over the tragedy.

 

9780545240758The Big Crunch

by Pete Hautman

June and Wes meet at June’s new school, but it’s not love at first sight.  When they do start dating they’re not sure where it will lead.

 

drumsDrums, girls, & dangerous pie

by Jordan Sonnenblick.

Steven is thirteen and has a pretty average teenage life.  But when his five year old brother gets Leukemia his whole world is turned upside down.

Review of Girl of Nightmares – A YA novel

by Kendare Blake

girl of nightmares(Click on the picture to see the book in the HPL catalog)

This is the sequel to the popular young adult horror novel, Anna Dressed in Blood.  You don’t have to have read the first book to understand or enjoy the second.  The author does a very good job of summarizing all of the important plot elements from the first book.

Sixteen year old Cas and his two best friends, Thomas and Carmel, hunt ghosts and help them pass on to the next world.  In Anna Dressed in Blood, a ghost Cas was supposed to banish ends up helping him fight the Obeahman, an even more dangerous supernatural being.  Anna sacrificed herself to save Cas and his friends, but now Cas can’t seem to stop thinking about her.  When she starts appearing to him in horrible visions he starts to worry she’s stuck in Hell and is determined to save her.

One of the best things about this book is the sarcastic and clever humor that mostly comes from Cas. His quirky and sarcastic outlook contrast well with the often violent and suspense filled scenes where he battles the dead.  But aside from his personality and ghost killing skills, what is most interesting about him is his friendships with Thomas, who is a wizard, and Carmel, Thomas’ girlfriend.  These are really the first friends he’s had and we see him struggle to navigate his new social life.  This adds a lot of depth to the character and the reader really understands how important his friends are to him and that he would do anything for them.  It’s also surprising how much he’s willing to risk to save Anna, and how much he empathizes with her, even though she has killed many people under a curse she was put under.  If Cas didn’t have these traits that made him a really likable person, it would have been harder for the reader to really feel connected to the story.  I’m glad the author didn’t just rely on the excitement and suspense of the horror scenes to captivate the reader.

While all of the scenes that involve ghosts are gory and descriptive, the creepiest and best scene is when Cas and his friends have to cross the Suicide Forest, where corpses appear out of no where.  The setting descriptions and the descriptions of the ghosts and battles are highly detailed.  While all the characters had depth, I would have liked physical descriptions of them that were as detailed as the ghost scenes.  I was confused about what Thomas looked like, and could never form a concrete picture of him in my head.  The story itself was also very similar to the ‘90s television show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  But since this is an older show, many teens may not make the connection.

The author is a skilled horror writer, but also has a firm understanding of what it’s like to be a teenager.  We see this the most in the scenes with Carmel, who Cas often has a hard time understanding.  Because Carmel doesn’t have any magic of her own she is very conflicted about her part in Cas’ escapades.  She wants to have a regular life and Cas struggles with his conflicting emotions of betrayal and the need to keep her safe.  Cas is also confused by Thomas’ and Carmel’s relationship, which is more than a friendship, but they are unwilling to define it.  This is a common relationship problem and I was glad the author addressed it.  I also really liked that the friendship’s weren’t perfect.  They often question each other’s decisions and argue among themselves, which made it much more realistic.

A perfect book if you love the supernatural or are looking for a suspense filled horror story.  It definitely made me want to go back and read Anna Dressed in Blood.

Readalikes – Ellen Hopkins

ellen

Ellen Hopkins is a popular young adult author who’s books are written in verse.  She covers controversial topics such as drug use, mental illness, and prostitution.  Readers love her because she writes about real life issues that teens deal with.  If you’ve read all her books and are looking for more, these are some that are similar.

 

If you like books by Ellen Hopkins you might like…..

 Click on the link to see the book in the catalog

speakSpeak / Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda calls the police during a summer party and finds that she’s an outcast when she starts school.  But no one knows the real reason why she called the cops.

 

youYou / Charles Benoit

Kyle makes some bad decisions about who to hang out with and realizes the consequences too late.

 

 

perksThe Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky

Charlie struggles with fitting in at high school and making friends.  When he meets some interesting seniors he discovers a whole new world of music and drugs.

 

 

dreamlandDreamland / Sarah Dessen

Ever since her sister ran away, Caitlin has been having a hard time.  She starts dating Rogerson, who is brilliant and dangerous and makes her forget her problems.  But soon, Rogerson himself is the problem.

 

afterAfterAmy Efaw

Devon is in denial about being pregnant and leaves the baby in the trash once it’s born. The police find out and she is accused of attempted murder.

 

what happenedWhat Happened to Cass McBride? / Gail Giles

Kyle exacts revenge on one of the popular girls in school because he blames her for his brothers death.

 

 

11737014Beneath a Meth Moon / Jacqueline Woodson

Laurel has moved to a new town after devastating loses from Hurricane Katrina.  She likes her new life but when she’s introduced to meth, things begin falling apart.