Book Review: A Single Step

Georgia Rose, A Single Step, 2014

 

The first instalment into The Grayson Trilogy, A Single Step introduces us to Emma Grayson, a divorced mother who is still reeling from losing her daughter some years prior, as she is hired to look after horses and a stable on a large farm. Emma’s character early on fully establishes herself as a loner, or someone seeking isolation, and she often rebuffs attempts from people to assist her in her duties. The most frustrating to her is Trent, who continuously insists she has help because she’s a woman (and we learn he wanted a man to get the job).

The story builds characters really well, fully establishing Emma’s early on before witnessing her transformation in her new life. Other characters do not get such an arc, as they’re already firmly established on the land at the start, but Trent and a few others have secrets and histories, and the unravelling of these is nicely paced out to build those characters without taking away from Emma’s arc. And Georgia’s writing style is very clear and very detailed; with a lot of characters and a lot of horse-related terminology it can be easy to confuse the reader but Georgia uses her knowledge of horses in a way that’s helpful to those without that knowledge but without being condescending with it, too. She guides us through the story very effectively and her storytelling is wonderful.

One slight downside to this novel, however, is the overall plot, and the rushed-ness of the ending. Emma’s ex, Alex, has a weird arc in that it’s firmly established their marriage is over before he turns up at the farm out of nowhere and begs for her to take him back, after she says no he’s completely gone again. It doesn’t really strengthen her new relationship, so it seemed out of nowhere. And the ending, while exciting and had a decent build-up throughout the story, did seem a bit rushed. Small incidents were dotted about here and there which nicely pieced together a puzzle, but it ended all too quickly. Emma getting threats was fun and exciting but it could have stretched a little bit further to show her weakening due to the stress, but instead the culprit shows themselves and a small scuffle later and that’s the main part over with. Considering everything else in this novel is afforded time, it’s a little shame that felt rushed.

Georgia Rose’s writing style, though, and her character and world creation are brilliant, and by the end you can feel truly invested in the characters and each of them stands out as different from the others we come across. Emma takes on a brilliant arc and her romance comes across as natural and authentic. The only downside is the ending’s pacing, but overall it’s still a lovely novel to sit down and read, and a lovely introduction into The Grayson Trilogy.

 

Writing: * * * *

Characters: * * * *

Plot: * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall: * * * ¼

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Book Reviews

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Film Review: Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

‘It […] doesn’t believe its audience is extremely intelligent’

Unfriended: Dark Web, 2018

Directed by: Stephen Susco

Starring: Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Stephanie Nogueras, Savira Windyani

 

A film sequel in name and stylistic choice alone, Unfriended: Dark Web once again introduces us to a group of teenagers choosing to communicate through Skype but instead of being targeted by the spirits of recently deceased girls it’s a group of sadistic people who interact in the dark web and want their laptop back, a laptop which or protagonist, Matias (Colin Woodell), took from a lost-and-found section at work. The laptop, though, is filled with video clips of young girls being murdered in horrendous ways and the laptop is inundated with strange messages from people. Once again, though, the group are picked off one-by-one, as the case was with the first film, although the introduction of real-life villains, rather than the spirits used in Unfriended, make this film marginally scarier.

A month back I hadn’t seen a single film in this style, but after watching Unfriended prior to this and upcoming release, Searching, I have now seen three, and I’m still not convinced by this style of storytelling despite the fact I do believe it’s visually impressive, for the most part. It does, however, feature some of the same problems as the first (although it has improved them somewhat) in that there is a lot of dead air space. It also doesn’t believe its audience is extremely intelligent as the mouse moves to almost every important piece of information we need. If there’s a message posted or a notification appearing then the computer’s mouse seems to follow along word-by-word as if to direct our attention there as we need that particular information to piece everything together. It also suffers from a lack of interesting characters: we have a tech-savvy guy, a newly-engaged lesbian couple (who are probably the best characters but that doesn’t say too much), a conspiracy theorist with a sizeable YouTube following, a deaf girl who spends most of the movie just arguing with Matias because he can’t sign very well and a girl who is clearly interested in DJ’ing as she is surrounded by musical equipment. They’re all just so bland and with a protagonist who’s revealed to be a thief (and someone who strangely creates a complex system to sign to his girlfriend but refuses to go to a sign-language class) it just takes you away from the characters.

Unfriended, Dark Web 2

I did much prefer the inclusion of real-life villains who only operate through the dark web rather than the spirit from the first film, as it made the villains scarier because of their numbers, their power and their brutality. They’re able to manipulate computers, like the spirit from the first, and the videos that are found of their previous victims are horrendous in the way it needed to be. For someone like me the dark part of the web is a complete mystery (as is event he deep web, which I’ve only just found out are different), and this film did a decent job of telling how dangerous a place it can be, and how dangerous some of the people who browse there can be (even if one moment of dialogue explaining the dark web did seem as if it was an advert for all the crime that can be found there).

As with the first film, the acting is hard to judge because they spend most of the time on Skype and shouting at the screen in trying to tell Matias what to do. I did find Unfriended: Dark Web a better film than its predecessor, but it still isn’t a strong showing where you do have to suspend your disbeliefs somewhat.

 

Personal: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ¼

Film Review: Home Again (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

Home Again, 2017

Directed by: Hallie Meyers-Shyer

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Pico Alexander, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen

 

Reese Witherspoon stars as Alice Kenney, a 40-year-old single mother of two, who, after a drunken near-sex night with a 27-year-old lad, invites the lad and his friends, a tri of film makers, to stay in her guest house as they’re down on their luck and well into the starving artist phase. She eventually dates and dumps the lad, before her ex-husband (Michael Sheen) comes to their house to win her back.

The trio of lads are Teddy (Nat Wolff), the director, George (Jon Rudnitsky), the writer, and Harry (Pico Alexander), the actor. And the characters they use to fill each plot point in this film are crazy. For a start, Reese dates the director, despite him being one of the most bland characters you’re likely to see in the cinema this year (seriously, he’s good looking and that’s all the character he’s given), yet she has much better on-screen chemistry with the writer. The writer, also, spots Alice’s father’s work room (oh, Alice’s father was a big-time director (coincidence that she’s now dating a wannabe director) and she’s back living in their childhood home since he’s passed away, it’s important but it’s really not that important), and this confused me somewhat. He’s a writer and admires the director father (surely the young director should have been in this place), but, okay, if I saw a director’s room (as a writer) I’d be impressed. Then he spots some of the original writings from Alice’s director father just to tie in with him being a writer: Alice’s father has not been credited as a writer up to this point, nor is he credited as a writer in his film which they watch, or in the opening monologue from Alice, he’s always been a director, so why does he have original scripts? Either he’s a writer and he’s not being given credit, or he’s stolen someone else’s work and his daughter is taking the credit in his place. Surely they could have had her father a writer through and through to enhance this scene, or have the wannabe director in there, but that was wrong. Then later on during Alice’s daughter’s play night, the three filmmakers are trying to get finance for their film, but the meeting is running late and they may miss the girl’s play. So up steps the director to give a speech and suggests the trio leave. The writer has inspired the young girl to write her play, he’s helped rehearse with her, he keeps in touch when the three move out, he promises to be there on the opening night (remember, I’m talking about the writer) and then the director makes the emotional speech to leave. Why didn’t the writer make it then have dialogue with the director to make him see his point of view? So many people in wrong places.

Naturally as a writer I was rooting for the writer, but, in all honesty, he was the only one given any character (the actor was aloof most of the time and the director was good looking). He also had decent on-screen chemistry with Reese, looked the oldest of the three of them (he is the oldest in real life but his real age is the on-screen age of the director) and bonds with her family the most and is the most mature. Why didn’t they have her date him?

And, as the title suggests, she goes home again. Home, in this case, meaning her father’s home where she grew up. There is no need for her father to be a filmmaker or anything like that (aside from the opening and the scene with the writer he’s barely mentioned and has no influence on the three filmmakers while they’re there), it seriously seemed like a ‘we need her to have a fancy house, how can we do that?’ type of thing.

It’s not a brilliant film, but it’ll make you laugh a few times. It’s a simple comedy, but only Alice and the writer are given any sort of character build throughout, and, despite it being a rom-com, they don’t ever get together (despite a weird inclusion of him fancying her and nothing coming of it). The director is a bland, lifeless character and Reese and Jon Rudnitsky aside everyone else was pretty poor in this film, acting-wise. You’ll laugh once or twice, but you won’t be emotionally invested.

 

Plot: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ¼