I’ll Give You the Sun, Book Review

Author: Jandy Nelson

Published: September 16, 2014 by Dial Books

It’s been a long time since I read a book in which I fell so in love with the characters that I wanted to live with them forever, so in love with the words that I just wanted to read them over and over and over again. For me, this is one of those books.

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tumblr_inline_naprj6V5zL1re4pvvThe way the stories in I’ll Give You the Sun unfold and intertwine is magically written, the characters are explosive, they are incredibly real and I fell in love with them so hard and fast it winded me. Noah and Jude, and even Oscar, are heartbreakingly true, and untrue, to themselves and to the world. The relationships between them are constantly changing, fluid and fluxing with the world around them as that changes, sometimes for the better, but often for the worst. They act as most teenagers would act, angry and lost and confused, there’s no out of place wisdom or uncharacteristic know-all. They are simply real teenagers, with wonderfully rich personalities.

And then there is the language – oh, the language! – such vivid images are created in your mind as you read the words that the colours start to lift from the page and fill the room you’re in. Such amazingly simple, but so very complex detail, such explosive descriptions that just make you want to keep reading and never stop. The language was my favourite thing about this book, as much as I loved Noah, and then Jude, or even Oscar and Brian, I loved the language. Jandy Nelson has such a sublime and inspiring way with words, the language begged me to become a better writer, just from reading it.

illgiveyouthesun - felixturtleYou aren’t supposed to, so I’m told, but you always have a favourite twin. I’ve known a few twins and there’s always one you’re a little closer to than the other, because as similar as they may be, they are always two very distinctly different people. At first I loved Noah, I just wanted to keep reading Noah’s story, and felt that I had nothing in common with Jude, but then as Jude began to tell her stories, I fell just as much in love with her struggles and her pain as I had Noah’s charisma. I love them both. Jude and Noah are so wonderfully different, relatably so. I’ve never been all that close with my sister, so I related to their strange, awkward communications as they got older, in Jude’s telling, and longed for the closeness we had as children while I read Noah’s stories. The two are so lost, so brilliantly, and life alteringly lost; the trials they face are terrible, and the world in which they live drags you in and begs you to helps them, only you’re as helpless as they are, flailing about in the sea that is life’s hardships. But of course, from hardship we grow, and change and it moulds us into who we are to become as we reach the peak of adulthood, and this book explores that so beautifully, so artfully, that it just makes you want more and more and more. Never have I read a coming of age story that has enveloped me so completely and driven me back to how it felt to be a teenager so terribly, particularly as I get further and further from my own. Don’t get me wrong, I have barely anything in common with Noah and Jude, besides struggling with finding myself at that age, yet I still feel so inexplicably connected to them. The story is just that good.

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 This is now one of my favourite books ever. I don’t want to leave Noah and Jude behind. I will reread this many times in the future and I will likely love it just as much ever single time. It is mesmerising. It is superb.

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Eleanor & Park, Book Review

Author: Rainbow Rowell 

Published: 2013 by St. Martin’s Press

Yet again, I have found another Rainbow Rowell novel that resonated with me. This book is so wonderfully nice. I don’t mean that in a bad way, at all. I mean, I just enjoyed sitting and reading it, taking the journey with these two cool people, watching them fall in love and watching their world change and mould and crumble around them.

imageEleanor is so very much a younger version of myself in so many ways (despite my being born two years after the book is set), she is somewhat reserved, outwardly, doesn’t seem to care what people think, but inwardly is so hateful of herself it makes it hard for her to love anyone else. Also, she deals with being a little bit chubby – and I love that, cos its HARD. And Park, funnily enough, reminds me of my boyfriend in some ways too. But we didn’t meet when we were teenagers, regardless of how many times we have fantasised together about just that.

The process of their falling for each other is so awkward and clunky – it is exactly how two teenagers would behave. Rowell gets inside a teenagers head so well that it feels like a teenager has written it themselves. With all the unsurety and insecurity that teenagers hold close to their hearts the story has a real sense of truth about it. The book explores the emotions of the two protagonists in so much back and forth without all that much happening until the story comes to a head in the last few chapters and shit really hits the fan. It doesn’t even feel like that much of a build up, just subtle hints along the way at one point the penny dropped and I just thought ‘Oh, shit.’

Rainbow Rowell has once more written a world that both teens and adults alike can get lost with the characters in, and it’s really, really good.

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4outof5  

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Playlist for the Dead, Book Review

Published: 2015 by HarperTeen

 

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

I’m going to admit something a little strange – I purchased this book based solely on the names of the main characters: Sam and Hayden. For those of you that know me, that may make sense, even though it isn’t all that significant. But for anyone else, a little clarification:

My name is Sam, and my first serious relationship was with a guy called Hayden. It’s a long way in the past now, and has no real significant bearing on my life, but it was funny, so I bought the book.

Looking past my reason for buying it, I did read the blurb and the premise of the story was promising, simply and clear. The story itself though is emotional and complicated, and that’s a good thing. The story centres around the suicide of Hayden, Sam’s best friend. Sam finds Hayden the morning after a party, withnote to sam PFTDno note, but instead, a USB stick, with a scrap of paper…

Each chapter is set to the melancholy tune of one of the songs from Hayden’s playlist, with tracks like Blink 182’s Adam’s Song and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. (You can find a playlist of all the songs oer on 8tracks, made by sydneyteresa). The songs are fitting, dreary, sad, hopeless, and the consequential chapters flow around each song, exploring Sam’s emotions and his struggle to figure out why. The novel is well written, but still very easy to read, without being over-the-top or obnoxious at all. The language is that a teenager would probably use in daily life, and that just makes the book all the more relatable. Reading the book, I fully believed I was in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. It was refreshingly simple.

The themes explored though, are contrastingly not. Suicide, primarily, but also Sam’s guilt for what he feels is his part of the blame, guilt for seemingly moving on, first love and the feelings associated with attraction to the opposite sex, depression and also the frustration he feels at wanting the others he believes are at fault to pay for their crimes.

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Told from Sam’s perspective, we experience the journey through his eyes, and we see the characters as he wants to see them – the bullies as bullies without their own problems, and Astrid as a gorgeous, amazing person, and not the sneaky deviant that she actually is. As Sam learns that these people aren’t what they may have always seemed to him, he begins to realise that maybe Hayden wasn’t all he seemed either, and he begins, slowly, to somewhat understand why Hayden might have committed suicide. He also begins to unravel the stories that tie them all together regarding Hayden’s decision.

Having had a fight the night before at a party, which they wouldn’t normally have gone to, Sam blames himself for the whole thing. But the more people he opens up to, and finds out about, the more he startsimageto figure out what actually happened, and that there was more to it than just what he had experienced. Falkoff writes this in such a way, bit by bit, that you can’t help but want to keep reading just to find out what happened. It was this clever way of spreading out how Sam found out each piece of the story that kept me reading, and why mention that the story is more complicated than just Sam dealing with his grief over the death of his friend.

The book is a little similar to Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, though not quite as isolated and intense (I preferred Thirteen Reasons Why), however it is a nice easy read and keeps you hooked long enough to finished it.

4outof5

 

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Fangirl, Book Review

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, 461 Pages

A light-hearted frollick through the turbulence of teen fangirling.

It’s true, teen fangirling is a big deal. It is a life altering, game changing thing. Falling into a fandom, and becoming part of something amazing, bigger than you, always changing and so, SO inclusive is wonderful. It fills you up and takes you away. It is an escape. You can go anywhere you like, and share experiences with a multitude of different characters, whether they be from your favourite book, TV show, movie or game – there is a fandom for everything and we are not limited to one. Being a geek is the ultimate escape from reality, there is always a side window to sneak out of, a forest to run away to, a community waiting for you online to comfort, console and share in all the wonders that are created by artists all over the world – fiction.

It’s funny, how much I actually related to this book. It’s been a long time since I was at Uni, andFANGIRL book cover it’s so different to American college, but it’s been even longer since I was 18. But I still remember how it felt. The insecurity of it all. I studied English, and creative writing, like our main protagonist, Cath, and I used to write fanfiction too… In fact, I wrote fanfiction about Harry Potter falling in love with Draco Malfoy – much the way Cath write about the fictional world of Simon Snow, and how the protagonist of her fandom is falling for his nemesis. I saw so much of myself in Cath that this book dragged me in head first, very quickly.

I’m not judging my feelings, or my judgment of this book on my own connections to it. Fangirl is incredibly intuitive, it glides through the (short) storyline with ease, and the events draw out the perfect amount of empathy, sympathy and nostalgia. There is nothing obnoxious about this book, it is simple and pleasant and easy t0 read, and has a nice solid flow to it. Nothing really seems out of place and it feels quite natural, the way life generally flows, with ups and downs and busy and quiet. It has plenty to relate to, both for the introverts and extroverts of the world, perfectly represented in the twin protagonists Cath and Wren. The situations that unfold: partying, feeling alone, anxiety, teenage drinking, love, sex – all of these are made relatable through the eyes of the opposing views of the twins, and the other utterly believable characters around them, and that leads me to me next point…

FanGirlCOLOURWhat really makes this book is the characters. This is a bunch of characters a minimum of nine years younger than me, most of them closer to twelve years younger, and yet I can still relate to them all. (Perhaps it’s because I’m still so young at heart!) But there characters are real, and flawed and honest and not, and all of them human. They each make mistakes and sometimes deal with them poorly, they stumble and don’t always have exactly the right thing to say. The book does, indeed, read smoothly, but it has the expected jaggedness of a coming of age story, that stop/start kind of ebb that slowly pushes the protagonists to breaking point, to the point of change, where they learn something and grow up, just a little bit.

IamafangirlAt the end of it all, even though it was only a shirt journey with the characters as they transitioned from high school to college, and from freshmen to their second year, this was a delightful romp in a cute little world with some very likeable characters, the nerdy references made it all the more enjoyable for me, all the little in jokes that only a fellow nerd would get. Rainbow Rowell creates magic with the ease that this story, and even the Simon Snow stories within the story, read. I truly enjoyed this book, in fact, I devoured it in a day – and I haven’t done that with a book in a very, very long time.

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The Girl with All the Gifts, Book Review

Author: M. R. Carey
Hachette UK, 14 Jan 2014 – Fiction – 416 pages

“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.”

Let’s face it, zombies are in right now. No, really, they are all the rage. I even find myself fantasising about how I would go about surviving a zombie apocalypse; what I would hoard, who I would align myself with, where we would secure a safe-house. Twisted I know. But The Walking Dead is one of my favourite Graphic novels and TV series. But this dark and twisted view of death and perhaps, some form of afterlife, are fitting for this book, being that it was born from a short story commission to the tune of an anthology of dark fantasy and horror with the theme of “school days”.

Aside from the overshadowing living dead and apocalyptic themes, it’s been a long time since I read a book I enjoyed as much as this, since I read a book I couldn’t put down and came home to, needing to know what happens. A book as completely engrossing as this one.

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Having said that, not all that much really happens throughout the book, but that is the glory of it. There is so much attention to detail, and none of it is overbearing or too much; none of it boring or arrogant. It doesn’t drag. It’s spot on. The depth of emotions from each character, and the construction of the world around them is spectacular; and yet the language and the story are beautiful and so easy to read. This book tackles the taboo parts of a zombie apocalypse, the questions that we don’t really want to ask while these things that used to be human are stalking us, and we are driven to kill against our will. It questions morals and social structure, it sheds a new light on society and psyche, and explores a different view-point. One that is very, very interesting and perplexingly explored in this novel.

I also really love the way Carey weaves realism into his story, like the links to modern science and the structure and subsequent fallout of the military. But I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, in fact, I don’t want to give away any of it. Every page is truly full of wonderful language, engrossing little pieces of story twinning together to create the overall tapestry of the world it creates, and the wonderful innocence of Melanie. I loved this book.

5stars
5 Stars

For more great reads, checkout the Goodreads list of Adult books of 2014.

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Wild, 2014 Review

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by: Cheryl Strayed and Nick Hornby
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern

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Every now and again, you see a film that really sinks in, deep down, and resonates with you. A film that pulls on heart strings and causes thoughts to swirl up into a dust storm in your head, fogging your vision. A film that captures you, and encapsulates you, and doesn’t let you go until long after you’ve finished watching it.

This is one of those films, for me.

This movie about a troubled girl who needs to get away from civilisation and heads into the desert and forrest to get away from her past to try and find herself, makes me think a lot about myself, particularly when life gets too hard and I try and retreat. I just wish I’d had a trick like this up my sleeve.
On a true adventure of self discovery, Cheryl Strayed hiked 1100 miles alone, in order to get over the severe hardships her life faced, that earns the woman some serious kudos points as far as I’m concerned. I’m all for camping a few days here and there, but we are talking over 90 days in the wilderness with a small tent, mush and very sore feet.

The film is stunningly shot, depicting gorgeous scenery and vast, yet confining landscapes; the overall tone certainly sits very well with that of the story being told. I have to admit, the imagery alone had me contemplating doing a small stretch of the hike myself. Starting out in the desert, as Cheryl hikes north, the landscape changes and becomes more lush, more mountainous, more inviting. And while very subtle, the camera work and cinematography are both very pleasant to watch.

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Then there’s Reese.
She was fabulous in the role, and it’s no wonder, as Cheryl herself sent a copy of the book to Reese 5 months before it was released, in anticipation that were it ever to be made into a film, Reese, and only Reese, should play her character. The emotion that she injects into Cheryl onscreen is just the right amount, the sex scenes have just the right amount of (tasteful) nudity and awkwardness, the drug scenes the right amount of pain, the aura of giving up and being lost.
The character was not a particularly easy role to play – it was severely emotionally charged, but above and beyond that, it was also very physically demanding. I was really impressed with Withersoon and her representation of the range of emotion and the constant pain, coupled with determination.

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For me, the film just struck a cord. I’ve been there, maybe not to the same extent, I’ve not done drugs, or yet lost someone more important or close to me than a grandparent or boyfriend; but just understanding that desire to wipe the slate clean, to start over and re-discover yourself. Maybe, one day, I’ll have the opportunity to do just that.

If you get an opportunity to see this film, I very highly recommend it. And am also very much looking forward to reading the book as well.
Also, it has foxes.

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Man of Steel Review

Man of Steel

Dir: Zack Snyder

Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner

Being quite a devoted Superman fangirl, I held rather high expectations for this film. I knew it wasn’t going to be just another Superman film, and it certainly wasn’t. I haven’t quite decided yet whether the film met any of my expectations, nor whether I entirely loved it, but I have decided that it was very different from any expectations I originally held, and from those that the trailer may bring to the forefront of fans minds.

The trailer portrays the film as a depiction, to some extent, of Clark’s past – it shows him as a child and a teenager. While these scenes are integral to the films storyline, they do not by any means make up the bulk of the film, they are fleeting and though heartfelt, I feel they were over too quickly. I suppose that may be the Smallville fan in me piping up – but I did seriously enjoy getting more of a glimpse into the life of Clark as a young man, striving to find himself and who he was alongside who he was meant to be.

Clark does, however, find who it is he was destined to be, as always, with the help of his father, Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe. I am actually a bit of an anti-Russell person, and was disappointed when I found out he was attached to the film, but then I saw it. The opening scenes with Jor-El trying to convince the council of the end of Krypton and sending his son away while facing Zod, made me change my mind – Russell was in fact very good in the role of Jor-El, as much as it pains me to admit it, and he didn’t have to throw any phones to be so.

Henry Cavill was also a breath of fresh air – he didn’t follow in the traditional movie footsteps of films such as Superman Returns, where Brendan Routh was cast almost certainly based in his resemblance to Christopher Reeve. Cavill is strong willed and emotional and his face has the ability to show emotion with just a lift of those gorgeously shaped eyebrows – in fact everything about him is more than pleasant to look at – and he was perfect for a not-so-young, 33 year old Clark finding his place in the world. He had the physique and the personality that fit Clark brilliantly.

Other mentions in regard to casting aren’t as generous on my behalf: Kevin Costner was severely overlooked as Jonothan Kent, his scenes were much too short; Amy Adams was quite a poor Lois Lane, who played into the distressed damsel act way too much for my liking and Michael Shannon as Zod, though substantially evil, was also somewhat boring.

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In regard to actual plot – I was excited, and then bored and then let down and then okay. The beginning on Krypton caught my imagination and got me super excited for the rest of the film, but it kind of went downhill from there. The scene with the fight between Clark and two of Zod’s cronies was overkill, it seemed to just go on and on and there were way too many explosions than were really necessary. Not to mention that more than a few buildings were destroyed during his fight with Zod, and I’m sure the people of Metropolis – the thousands who would have died in the crumbling rubble, were thankful when he saved that one family of four in the station by finally snapping Zod’s neck and putting an end to the mayhem.

It would have been worth it though had they included the original theme. I mean, I understand Nolan not including ‘na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na Batman’ in his trilogy, but the theme that John Williams composed was brilliant, proud, dramatic, patriotic and it could have fit the film and finished it off nicely. When it got to the end credits however, I felt like the overall film had seriously lacked something, and it was more than just a theme song.

I know it could have been better, and while I was somewhat disappointed, I still enjoyed the film for what it was – more of an action movie than a superhero one. I am, however, feeling fairly anxious about the Justice League movie after seeing this film.

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

Not being a Star Trek fan prior to the 2009 relaunch I was always fairly dubious of watching the films, what with being a Star Wars obsessed geek and all. However, having loved the first installment, I had quite high expectations for this second film. And boy did they deliver!

Aside from my annoying ability to guess almost every plotline that is coming up, I found this film to be an almost magical harmony of action, suspense and comedy. I still love the casting of these films – almost everyone cast fits into their roles quite nicely. One of my favourites is John Cho as Sulu, his ability to shake the character of Harold from the Harold and Kumar series has served him very well indeed, and let’s face it, he’s hot. Then again, so is the lead, the Captain himself – Chris Pine. I think Chris is such a brilliant Jim Kirk, with just the right amount of recklessness balanced by his desire to do what’s right, even if he needs Spock to remind him of that sometimes. I’m not entirely sure how the many die hard Star Trek fans feel about Zachary Quinto as Spock; I can only really take Dr Sheldon Cooper’s opinion on board, and that is that he has worked out quite well for the role. This I agree with, in fact, I enjoy Quinto so much as Spock he makes me want to spend my last $100 on a new Blu Ray player so I can re-watch Heroes from the beginning.

New to the cast for the sequel though, are Benedict Cumberbatch, playing the villain – Khan, and Alice Eve who plays Dr. Carol Marcus. Both are brits, and it will never cease to make me happy that brits are breaking into Hollywood. While Eve has a minor role, she still brings some spark, and a little bit of competition for Spock also. Cumberbatch is just completely in his element in this film – he plays the villain without a hitch, you are never quite sure when he’s going to turn on everyone around him; he’s conniving, intelligent beyond understanding, manipulative and just outright entertaining to watch. His character has depth and is strikingly and impressively easy to empathise with.

Also – a shout out to Noel Clarke – a support role in Doctor Who will always get you somewhere, was super proud to see a whovian on the big screen!

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The visual effects are, of course, stunning. Though the images do sometimes seem quite dark, I felt that the overall feel of the film sits well, it isn’t just a joy ride, this time it is more personal to Kirk and the team. The 3D was fantastic, it works really well, and the end credits just looked awesome. The sound track was also really good, keeping with the feel of the original series, which I love even though I wasn’t a fan.

Over all a great, action packed, fun filled romp. Definitely buying this one on Blu Ray!!

5stars 5 out of 5 stars.

Iron Man 3 Review

I was sincerely excited to see this film. The first two films of the trilogy had, from memory, completely engrossed me and left me anticipating more. Much more.

Initially, I was quite excited to be sitting in the cinema, 3D glasses on, popcorn by my side. Robert Downey Jr. has again reprised the role of Tony Stark (and let’s face it, he IS Tony Stark), and the familiar red and gold suit graced the screen before me once more.

The look of the film was all there – it looked great. The colours of the film give it that grainy war like feel continued from the first film, and there are some other recurring themes also. We see similar images in the background of the terrorist clips we see through out the film, as those that appeared in the cave where Stark was held hostage in the first installment, it’s just a shame they had to recast Rhodey after the first film.

Pepper returns to support Tony in all the areas he needs them, but she has changed a lot since the first film, where her witty comments about taking out the trash had me in a small fit of giggles. She isn’t really funny anymore, and is instead used as the key to keeping Tony focused. While this works for the film, I miss Tony’s reckless boyish charm, and don’t really like having to sit through a love story when I want to watch an action movie.

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SPOILERS:

It was the terrorist videos however, that started to drain me after some time, particularly the way Disney had decided to make Guy Pierce the mastermind (like we didn’t see that coming), and have the man we see in the videos turn out to be a washed up, drunkard out of work actor. ‘The Mandarin‘ – in the comics – was “a genius scientist and a superhumanly skilled martial artist“, and should have been truly feared by Tony and the audience alike. I don’t like this direction away from the comics. If they wanted to have a fake terrorist on the screens, then fine, but they should have created a new character for the role, instead of ruining an already well known one.

I also really disliked Pepper getting superhuman powers (I know that this is in the comics, I just don’t like it) – again, it was simply too predictable, and it bothered me that they felt it necessary to flip the damsel in distress role. It seemed to open a whole idea of further storyline, that we know they wont be pursuing (and if Pepper is in any of the follow up Avengers films featuring super strength and healing powers, I will be most unimpressed).

Aside from these two points, the rest of the film was great, I loved seeing the return of some of the older suits, and the army of automated suits was kinda fun at the end too. Overall, I think the film was well done, summed up the series well and looked great, and lets face it, I’ll buy all three on blu ray eventually.

4.5stars 4.5 out of 5 Stars