Silver Stars, the second novel in Michael Grant’s Soldier Girl series, is an empowering yet heartbreaking novel that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

About ‘Silver Stars’

The summer of 1943, World War II. With heavy memories of combat, Frangie, Rainy, Rio and the rest of the American army are moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. They are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. They will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of WWII; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

Related: Front Lines book review: A must-read WWII alternate history

'Silver Stars' by Michael Grant

‘Silver Stars’ review

Front Lines was one of the best books of 2016 and Silver Stars, the second novel in Michael Grant’s Soldier Girl series, is hands-down one of the best books of 2017 (and the year has barely gotten started).

The real strength of Silver Stars is the way it adds depth to pretty much everyone and everything introduced in Front Lines. The characters, already having been established in the first novel, are given room to really grow and develop, especially the three main leads. Rainy, Rio, and Frangie start the book as young women who have survived a few of the horrors of war, but they quickly become women hardened to their positions and their fates. They all make difficult sacrifices in the name of duty. Their evolutions are fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, but it’s clear that their circumstances wouldn’t have allowed them to grow in any other way. We’re also taken on deeper dives into the characters and their thoughts, which only endears the reader to them even more.

While Rio (the combat soldier) was the stand-out in Front Lines (and still gets the majority of the attention and character moments in Silver Stars), it’s Rainy (the intelligent analyst-turned-spy) who’s the true stand-out in this novel. Though her story never seems as pressing or dangerous as the other two, there’s a turning point in the last third of the novel that really tests Rainy’s limits and shows what she’s made of. Then there’s the aftermath of the climax of her story that’s almost too hard to read sometimes. While Front Lines was Rio’s book, Silver Stars is really Rainy’s book.

Unfortunately, my only real complaint about Silver Stars (which is super tiny) is there’s not enough of Frangie, the African-American combat medic (which was the same complaint I had about Front Lines). Though she’s involved in the action quite a bit more this time around and has a few great character moments, it still feels like there should be more of her. But, considering how Front Lines was Rio’s book and Silver Stars was Rainy’s, I’m hopeful that the third installment will feature big character moments for Frangie and be her book.

Silver Stars

If Front Lines seems really visceral and hard to read at times, then Silver Stars is absolutely brutal. Unlike the previous novel, there are no training sequences or periods in Silver Stars. The stakes are higher, the battles are longer, the fighting situations are poorer, and the deaths are more frequent. The three main characters are fully immersed in the army life, doing their duty for their country alongside their brothers (and sisters) in arms.

I’ll be honest when I say that this book is sometimes difficult to read because of the visceral descriptions and terrible situations, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to read and come closer to understanding just how truly awful war is. I’m grateful to Michael Grant, the author, for not pulling punches or glossing over the atrocities. Yes, it can be hard to read, but it’s important and it’s worth it.

Though Front Lines is a fantastic novel, its sequel Silver Stars is even better. It takes all of the best qualities and aspects of its predecessor and builds on them, making for an even more engaging and harrowing read. Silver Stars is just such a masterfully crafted story that it’s easy to forget you’re reading an alternate history. The end will definitely leave you waiting in anticipation for (while also dreading) the third novel in the series. I cannot praise this novel enough and I can’t wait to go back and re-read it. It’s just that good.

Silver Stars by Michael Grant is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!

Here are the 2017 Oscars winners and losers

8:25 pm EST, February 26, 2017

The 2017 Oscars took place Sunday night in Hollywood and found La La Land cleaning up with six wins. Here are the Academy Award winners!

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, which took place at the Dolby Theater. The event featured live performances of all five Oscar-nominated songs.

2017 Oscar winners list

Read full article

The 2017 Oscars took place Sunday night in Hollywood and found La La Land cleaning up with six wins. Here are the Academy Award winners!

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Oscars, which took place at the Dolby Theater. The event featured live performances of all five Oscar-nominated songs.

2017 Oscar winners list

Related: We asked our parents to describe the 2017 Oscar nominees

Below is a complete list of Oscar winner and losers.

2017 Oscar winner list

Note: The final winner of the night was originally announced to be La La Land, but the announcement was actually an error — Moonlight won Best Picture. Awkward.

Best Picture:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land

Lion
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight

Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Fences – August Wilson
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Lion – Luke Davies
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins

Best Original Screenplay:
20th Century Women – Mike Mills
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Manchester By the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Best Original Song:
“Audition” – La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“City of Stars” – La La Land
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Score:
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Best Cinematography:
Bradford Young – Arrival
Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Grieg Fraser – Lion
James Laxton – Moonlight
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence

Best Live Action Short Film
Timecode
Sing
Silent Nights
Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV

Best Documentary, Short Subject:
4.1 Miles
Extremis
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Editing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

Best Visual Effects:
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Production Design:
Arrival
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Animated Feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Animated Short:
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Foreign Language Film:
Land of Mine, Denmark
The Salesman, Iran
A Man Called Ove, Sweden
Tanna, Australia
Toni Erdmann, Germany

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By the Sea

Best Sound Mixing:
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

Best Sound Editing:
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Documentary Feature:
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Best Costume Design:
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad
A Man Called Ove

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Tags: 2017 Oscars

Arrival has been nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, but it’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exceptional score that might earn it a win.

Stepping off from the common trope of ‘aliens arriving on Earth,’ Arrival takes all our human expectations, examines them closely, and then subverts them with remarkable simplicity. Ultimately, it’s a story about choice: the choice to make sacrifices, to trust, to stand united.

It’s an important subject, and a timely one. Amy Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks, a linguist called to do the ultimate translation job, is breathtaking in its realism and its vulnerability. The cinematography is stunning, and the pacing of the story takes us on a journey that, although walking the much-treaded road of sci-fi, manages to make us feel as if we are exploring entirely new territory.

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Arrival has been nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, but it’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exceptional score that might earn it a win.

Stepping off from the common trope of ‘aliens arriving on Earth,’ Arrival takes all our human expectations, examines them closely, and then subverts them with remarkable simplicity. Ultimately, it’s a story about choice: the choice to make sacrifices, to trust, to stand united.

It’s an important subject, and a timely one. Amy Adams’ portrayal of Louise Banks, a linguist called to do the ultimate translation job, is breathtaking in its realism and its vulnerability. The cinematography is stunning, and the pacing of the story takes us on a journey that, although walking the much-treaded road of sci-fi, manages to make us feel as if we are exploring entirely new territory.

It should come as no surprise that Arrival is being considered for Best Picture in the upcoming Academy Awards. Director Denis Villeneuve has made a name for himself with movies such as Prisoners and Sicario, known for combining raw humanity with breakneck intensity. But although Villeneuve is an extremely talented director, and is accompanied by an excellent cast, it’s Arrival’s score that succeeds in bringing all the delicate pieces of the film together in one cohesive whole… and drawing the audience in.

Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic composer that has collaborated with Villeneuve repeatedly, and received Academy Award nominations for his work on movies such as The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Unfortunately, Arrival’s score, although arguably his best work yet, is not eligible for nomination this year. In an exclusive report, Variety explained:

“The Academy’s music branch ruled unanimously that voters would be influenced by the use of borrowed material in determining the value of Johann Jóhannsson’s original contributions to Denis Villeneuve’s alien invasion psychodrama.

“Per Rule 15 II E of the Academy’s rules and eligibility guidelines, a score ‘shall not be eligible if it has been diluted by the use of pre-existing music, or it has been diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs or any music not composed specifically for the film by the submitting composer’”

With the director choosing to place Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” in the beginning and ending sequences of the film (a song which was also a part of Shutter Island’s score), Jóhannsson’s work sadly lost its chance at an Oscar nomination. According to Variety, “it was determined that there would be no way for the audience to distinguish those cues, which bookend the film, from Jóhannsson’s score cues.”

In an interview with Slash Film, Jóhannsson said that he initially wrote his own alternative to the track, while knowing that Villaneuve was considering “On the Nature of Daylight” as well, although it was very different, as he didn’t “really want to do a knock-off of the music.” Ultimately, Jóhannsson says that he supports the choice, because it “works beautifully and it supplies a very strong contrast to the rest of the score.” But it’s a pity that artistic decisions like this one can cost an exceptional composer an Oscar.

For Arrival, his ability to grip the listener with only a few sounds and rhythms, gradually building up to something of massive proportions, was perfectly harnessed once again to create something truly new. The composer told the Guardian: “People are hungry for new sounds, and for the experience of listening to unfamiliar music that you don’t hear on commercials and in every TV show.”

Composers for sci-fi movies tend to favor epic soundtracks to draw audiences into the scene and make them feel the full blow of the story’s emotions. Jóhannsson, however, entirely avoided using orchestras and sounds in the way that we’re familiar with. His quiet buildup is much more powerful. The track “First Encounter,” for example, is mysterious, ominous, and ultimately overwhelming when the sound suddenly comes to life.

“In mainstream cinema, there’s usually too much music,” he said. “In Arrival, the use of space and silence is extremely important. When music is needed, it’s really there and it serves a purpose.”

The music fits in so well that it becomes hard to know when you’re listening to the score, and when you’re listening to the scene. Both elements mesh so well together that they become nearly indistinguishable. And the quietness that is the underlying current of most tracks is a marvelous replica of human emotion — in the case of First Encounter, of what a mind in shock feels like when faced with an experience it can’t understand.

To achieve the unfamiliar sounds that surround Arrival’s alien ships and their mysterious passengers, Jóhannsson brought together vocalists and choirs, to experiment with what could be done with voices, and combining them with cellos, horns, and wood sounds. He explained to Slash Film:

“The reason I wanted voices was really motivated by the script and the story. It’s a story about communication. It’s a story about language. It’s a story about communicating with an alien species. How do we communicate with an intelligent species with who we have no common point of reference? It was this anthropological aspect, this linguistic aspect, that really influences my choice of orchestration and instrumentation.”

It makes for a truly fascinating combination of sounds. Jóhannsson somehow manages to make simple vocal exercises into music that can be anywhere between heartbreaking and heart-wrenchingly hopeful, turning vocal harmony into something almost tangible, and shedding a small ray of light into the mystery of achieving unity in diversity.

This isn’t a horror-movie score — it’s something transporting, yet ambiguous; a difficult task to achieve nowadays. With decades of listening to scores with similar patterns, it takes a lot to leave audience members in the dark about what is about to happen. We’ve become used to screeching violins meaning impending terror, to drums meaning action scenes, to lengthy orchestra pieces surrounding the climax of the film.

We’re used to hearing Hans Zimmer and John William’s epic orchestras, and while beloved and immortalized for their loveliness, they are no longer as revolutionary. We know the swelling sound of strings and the beating of drums, and we have learned to associate certain sounds with victory, and other sounds with fear.

With Jóhannsson, on the other hand, we don’t know what to expect — is the thrumming noise and the horns in the distance leading us to a scene of horror and destruction, or are we about to discover something beautiful? The score leads us into the ship itself, into the arrival, and poses the same questions with music that the movie does with words and breathtaking cinematography.

And yet, despite the unfamiliarity and ambiguity, the result is still something that feels inherently personal. It’s an emotional experience, even in the silences — a difficult task to achieve with such a minimalist style as Jóhannsson’s — and it’s marvelously memorable. It manages to do exactly what Arrival did for us as a film: draw us in with the promise of alien appearances on Earth, and then steal our hearts with the uniquely human experience of choice, trust, love and death.

Interstellar has tried to do this before — melding human vulnerability with world-defining stakes — but critics are split on whether or not it was a success. With Arrival, however, there’s no doubt that the balance between the intimate and the epic was perfectly reached; and it was because of Johann Jóhannsson.

Arrival has been nominated for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Mixing – the closest we’ll get to a soundtrack Academy Award — as well as Best Picture, and many others.

Jóhannsson is currently working on the score for Blade Runner 2049 (also directed by Villeneuve), which is expected to premiere this October.

Doctor Who season 10 finally has an air date and not only that, so does its spinoff, Class!

It’s time to celebrate because we finally know when we’ll see Peter Capaldi back in the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Doctor! BBC America will premiere Doctor Who season 10 on Saturday, April 15 at 9/8c. Check out the brand new trailer promoting the series, narrated by the brand new companion, Bill:

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Doctor Who season 10 finally has an air date and not only that, so does its spinoff, Class!

It’s time to celebrate because we finally know when we’ll see Peter Capaldi back in the T.A.R.D.I.S. as the Doctor! BBC America will premiere Doctor Who season 10 on Saturday, April 15 at 9/8c. Check out the brand new trailer promoting the series, narrated by the brand new companion, Bill:

No word on if the U.K. will be seeing the same air date but it’s more than likely they will since it’s been like that in years past.

This will be Peter Capaldi’s last season as the Doctor, along with Steven Moffat’s last season running the show. After this we’ll be seeing Chris Chibnall taking the reins with a clean slate, and we’re so curious about how the series will go. How will the Doctor regenerate? Will this be Bill’s first and last season on the show as well? Who’s going to be the next Doctor? We’ve got so many questions! But they’ll all be answered in due time… we hope.

And that’s not all! Fans in the U.K. have already had the chance to enjoy the brand new spinoff series, Class, and after Doctor Who premieres on April 15 Americans will finally witness it as well.

Set to air directly after Doctor Who at 10/9c, Class is helmed by award-winning YA writer and executive producer, Patrick Ness. The series follows a group of students at Coal Hill School as they deal aliens, invasions and awkward social dilemmas.

Having seen Class in its entirety we can tell you that it’s got the perfect Doctor Who vibe and should fit in perfectly after you watch the season 10 premiere. Although not everyone loved the premiere, the series as whole definitely grows on you. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

Are you excited for ‘Doctor Who’ season 10?