Sunday, 30 June 2013

Updates and Monthly Wrap Up

Hey everyone,
You may or may not have noticed that I have been slightly absent from Youtube (or maybe you haven't noticed because it’s only been a week). I’m just going to cut to the point here: I’m writing a book. Even more to the point, I’m writing a book for the Hot Key Young Writers competition, which has a deadline, so I have 3 weeks to get 40000 words done.

Maybe other people can balance writing, reading. blogging, vlogging, and their day-to-day lives, but sadly, I procrastinate too much to be able to cope with all of that. This means until the 22nd July, there will be no Youtube videos from me. However, I’m still reading, and want to keep discussing books, so I will be putting more up on this blog. I’m also transferring a lot of book reviews from Goodreads to this site, so keep your eyes out for that.

Boring stuff aside, let’s talk about my reading life.

So a while ago I said I would do the 30 Day Reading Challenge. I’m going to hold my hands up here and say: I’ve failed. I don’t know what happened… Well I do know what happened, I didn’t read enough. I blame my art exam. And my laziness.
But let's just skim past over this and move over to my wrap-up.

Reading Recap

  • Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams  (I will review the whole Hitchhikers series once I finish it)
  • A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin (same as above)
  • A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow by George R.R. Martin
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman
  • Introducing Freud by Richard Appignanesi (I have 3 Introducing guides and I’ll review all of them at once)
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (review up soon!)

I forgot to add The School of Good and Evil...
I’m quite impressed with myself (if I do say so myself). 8 books, including two Game of Thrones books isn’t bad for me at all.

Film Recap:

I didn’t watch many films this month, but I did see my favourite film of the year (so far), which was Much Ado About Nothing!

Monthly Favourites:

Book: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
TV: The White Queen (BBC1) and Nashville (More 4)
Film: Much Ado About Nothing
Music: Gabrielle Aplin - English Rain (Panic Cord)

Also, I would like to know what the best blogger features are, as I would love to join in with that, so I’m open to suggestions! Actually if you have any suggestions for me with what I can do with this blog, please tell me below!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Director: Joss Whedon
Screenplay: Joss Whedon and based on Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion
Rating: 12A/ PG-13

Wit, sexiness, and deception oozed out of Shakespeare’s timeless play in this modern adaptation by geek favourite, Joss Whedon. I have to say, I am a huge fan of Whedon and Shakespeare, and was eager to see what this partnership would bring. What I saw was one of the best modern Shakespeare adaptation I have seen, even surpassing, dare I say it, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
It’s very easy for Shakespeare to pass right over people’s heads if it is not performed properly. I’m happy to say, even if you are not familiar with the play, you can grasp the plot as it was executed so well. The tale goes as Benedick (Alexis Denisoff) arrives with Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) and Claudio (Fran Kranz) to the home of Leonarto (Clark Gregg). Claudio instantly falls for Leonarto’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick and Beatrice (Amy Acker) continue their sexual tension fuelled sparring. However Don John (Sean Maher) is there to throw a spanner into the works. The rest is history. Or a 400 year old play.

Whedon fans will recognise most of the names off the cast list. Nearly every single cast member has appeared in Whedonverse. 

That’s not to say that they didn’t deserve the parts they were given. I have to say, this was an exquisitely cast film. The stars were Denisoff and Acker, playing witty partners Benedick and Beatrice, who were chock full of on-screen chemistry. I have never laughed so much at a Shakespeare adaptation then I did because of the two of them. I’m glad Whedon didn’t throw Nathan Fillion into a more central role because he was one of the biggest names there, but gave him the role of Dogberry, and him and Tom Lenk provided such a good laugh that they should consider becoming a double act.

Set in a modern day period with technology playing a part, yet shot in timeless black and white, Whedon’s direction is written all over the film. The booze and sex really glams up the play, opposed to cheapening it. There were clever and inventive background stories which played upon the Shakespearian script, such as Beatrice and Benedick’s history, and Don John’s and Conrade’s affair. Then there was the glitz and glam of the masquerade, the soliloquies with context, and the personal quality of the whole film being shot entirely in Whedon’s home. Not to mention the score. Whedon scored the film himself, and some of the songs included modernised versions of Shakespeare’s original songs for the play.

Much Ado About Nothing has the spark and chemistry of the 400 year old play, which keeps its relevance right to today. It is never overshadowed by its language and history, but instead plays with it in a quirky and dynamic way. The story is beautifully illustrated and exceptionally cast, and I am glad Whedon tossed aside high value production costs, in favour for something simpler, but no less spectacular.

Sum It Up: You like Shakespeare? Go see this. You like Whedon? Go see this. You like films? Go see this. It’s a beautiful, intelligent film, which captures the essence of Much Ado About Nothing with charm and wit.

Rating: 10/10

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)
Age Group: Middle-Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: May 2011
Publisher: Much-in-Little

I first came by this book while I was walking along in Foyles. It immediately caught my eye with its deliciously illustrated cover and eccentric cover, but unsure, I walked on.

I couldn't get it out of my head though. There was something intriguing in the long name I couldn't quite remember, the vague promises of travelling to a faraway land, and eventually I gave in and bought it on my kindle. Best decision I made.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a throwback to the time of fairytales with underlying commentary of a modern society. Toss in some lovely illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, and you have a book that will entertain all ages. 

The story is about September, a lonely girl who get's whisked away to Fairyland, where she sets out to retrieve a wooden spoon from the Marquess, and then gets entangled in a plot created by the Marquess herself. On her journey she meets Ell the wavererly (a cross between a wyvery and a library, don't ask), an utterly funny character. She stumbles across fairyland, encountering all sorts of creatures, which is told through a brilliantly self-aware narrator voice.

On the surface, this book may remind you of Alice in Wonderland (which I have to say, was the book of my childhood). However, where AiW was a book purely for the story, and without the meaning or morals that came with books of that era, TGWCFiSoHOM (too long?) is teeming with them. Whether it's commenting on the loss of childhood innocent and the cruelty of children and childhood, or death and the future, or indeed modern society with its layers of bureaucracy that disguise the people in powers hidden motives, TGWCF (better?) has meaning to it.

And that makes it special.

I think Valente wrote the book with the idea that parents would read it with their children, thus layering the meaning under the fun, but as a teenager I would recommend it too. It was nice, reading a book where a message could be conveyed in an entertaining way that wasn't layered with sex, drugs and violence. And even without all of that, it remained just as thought-provoking

Sum It Up: A brilliant take on a fairy tale that will enrapture all ages. Totally amazing!

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Life Ascending by Nick Lane

Age Group: Adult
Genre: Popular Science
Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of EvolutionPub date: June 2009
Publisher: Profile Books

Life Ascending is an excellent scientific book on evolution. I was a bit weary picking it up, as evolution has never been one of my favourite topics to read about, but I was pleasantly surprised by this. However, I would only recommend this if you are prepared to spend a lot of reading time mulling over the past bits you have read.

Lane presents a fascinating account of the most important contributors to modern life and how they evolved. It's exceptionally in-depth, and is very well reasoned and logical. It takes you on a voyage of discovery, from the beginning of life itself right through to death. The specific chapters I enjoyed were on consciousness and eyes. The other point about the content, is that unlike many other evolution books, this one really gets down to the grit of things, and looks at it from a bio-chemistry perspective. It really delves into cells, and if you like bio-chem, check out respiration and photosynthesis chapters.

There is no picking and choosing with this book, as Lane always refers back to previous chapters, whether its a good or bad thing is your choice, however I disliked that when I returned to it to reference it, I found it impossible to understand what was going on. 

The other downside to this book is that I found the writing style very dry. It did the job of educating me, but not entertaining me. However, it has really good content, so if you like biology, or just want to know how the world works, I'd give it a go!

Sum It Up: An interesting take on evolution packed with good content, however the writing is slightly dry, and a large amount of background knowledge is needed

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman

Age Group: YA
Genre: Dystopian/ Science Fiction
Pub date: 1st June 2013
Publisher: Random House Children

I desperately wanted to love this book because I love Malorie Blackman. I even went and met her, which was amazing and if you want to hear my feelings on the event, click here. Firstly, thank you Random House and NetGalley for the copy! I was initially disappointed with Noble Conflict, but I was glad that I kept on going, because the last half of the book was amazing.

Noble Conflict is a dystopian novel, set in the future where the Alliance is battling the Crusaders. The story follows Kasper, who is a Guardian (a police-force) as he slowly uncovers the truth about his world. I don’t know if it was because I’ve read too much dystopian fiction, but I found the first half of the novel pretty predictable. However, all was not as I had thought, and soon the twists started to kick in. Blackman has done what she does best, and created a well-structured science-fiction world, and uncovering the truth behind it was really exciting.

The writing style also took some getting used to. It was written in third person, but in the style of a teenage boy. Normally I love realistic teenager talk, but initially I found something clunky about the writing, and despite it all I found Kasper quite difficult to relate too, but he grew on me as it went on. As for the other characters, I liked Mac and Rhea, but I found most of the other Guardians irritating. I also didn’t understand why they every character talked with a gung-ho attitude, from teenagers to Voss, their commander. However, one stylistic part of the book I loved was the excerpts from “books” in that world. I thought it was a nice touch, and really helped to illustrate her themes.

And that’s one place Blackman really shines: her themes and story. Once I realised that I had been wrong about the predictability, I really started to enjoy my moments. What I love was that Blackman wasn’t afraid to do something drastic with the story. I was continuously shocked through the book, and I think it really hits home on how much do we know about the social system that we feel so protected by? Other subtler themes were creeping in too: the use of technology, the reliability of facts, death, and love.

Overall, I think Noble Conflict is a pretty decent YA novel. There’s plenty of thought-provoking content, and an interesting story within it. I would say it’s a bit like a 1984 for a younger audience. Do I think it’s to the standard of her previous work? Probably not. But don’t let that stop you reading it.

Sum It Up: A good dystopian, with brilliant ideas and themes, but if you are new to Malorie Blackman, I recommend starting with another one of her books.

Rating: 7/10

*I received this copy from Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Friday, 21 June 2013

Man of Steel (2013)

Directed by Zack Snyder
Produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder
Screenplay by David S. Goyer and based on Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe
Rating: 12A/ PG-13

So Superman is back, and smashing its way through the box office. With the hype surrounding the film, Man of Steel had a lot to live up too. It was good, but it stopped short of the height it was meant to fly too.

Superman lore is not a new concept of me, and as a fan I was incredibly excited for the film. Disappointingly, for a film so long, the plot was incredibly simple, especially when parts of it are integrated into popular culture knowledge. Superman leaves Krypton, arrives on Earth, grows up on Earth, the bad guy comes, and Superman saves the day… In a movie where everyone knows the general storyline, you expect a few more plot twists. Major parts of the film were given to intense, long action sequences that eventually became tedious, and felt like a rip-off  of certain movies (*cough* The Avengers). In all the time they wasted on that, they could have created a complex plot, especially considering Nolan’s involvement and his clever Dark Knight trilogy.  The saving grace of the storyline was the intertwining flashbacks to Clark’s childhood and his early days before the cape, with the struggle he had with family, choice, and destiny.

Henry Cavill was a good Clark Kent/ Superman, and certainly looks the part, but if he had been given a better script, he could have been a great one. But thinking back on the film, he was barely in it. Half of the film was dedicated to Krypton, Zod, or flashbacks. It seems all he was there was to throw punches around, meaning the character had barely any connection to the audience. But when he did get a chance to make a connection, boy, did he do it well. The fragility within the character was really shown when Clark was restraining himself in his early days or in the moments with Lois. I particularly liked Adams and Cavill’s chemistry, and Adams was a good Lois Lane, feisty and headstrong, if underdeveloped. In fact, all the acting was really good; it was the meagre script which let everyone down.

Gaping plot issues aside, Man of Steel wasn’t a bad film for numerous reasons. It played to the classic, feel-good blockbuster routine: attractive hero, lots of action, and the occasional injection of emotion to lift it up. A quirky feature I did like was that it was more light-hearted than The Dark Knight with the occasional quip here and there. And don’t get me wrong, the action sequences were exhilarating for the first 10 minutes worth. Most importantly, there were rare occasions where script, cinematography, and acting came together to produce something out of this world, which made the dire bits worthwhile.

I would say Man of Steel is worth a watch if you don’t expect too much of it; if you do, you will surely be disappointed. It lacked the fun and wit of Marvel, and the exciting plot of The Dark Knight, but made up in visuals, style, and the occasional glimpse into something great. I wonder if all the fun went with the red pants of Superman’s costume…

Sum It Up: Definitely worth a watch, bound to be a hit for those who like a lot of explosions, but don't expect anything more than a generic superhero film.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)Age Group: YA
Genre: Dystopian/ Science Fiction
Pub date: 7th May 2013
Publisher: Puffin

I went to an event at Penguin HQ courtesy of World Book Day (thank you!), to see Rick Yancey talk about his new book: The 5th Wave. Youtube video about that will be up soon. But let’s get to the point here: the book itself.

Do you know how long I have been waiting for a good alien invasion YA novel? Specific I know, but nevertheless true. In a time where I’ve got a bucketful of dystopian novels raining down on me, this book was refreshing.

The 5th Wave tells the story of Earth after aliens, which our protagonist, Cassie, names “The Others”, invade and are attempting to wipe out the human race. It’s do-or-die in this world, but it more feels like die-or-die. We join Cassie as she attempts to keep a promise in a world where you can trust no one. I have to say; initially I was a bit sceptical of the book, mostly because I thought I could predict what was going to happen. I was so wrong. There was enough plot twists in this book to make your mind believe it’s playing mental Twister.

The book is written from several points of view, I’m not going to say who, but I am glad of that because it broke the book up a bit, and allowed you to see the full world from different angles. And boy, it’s a good world. As a science-fiction fan, I was impressed by the plausibility of the scenario and the differences it presented, even if I was miffed by the sweeping generalizations Yancey made of alien stories.

I really liked all the characters. There was something relatable to all of them, and the portrayal of how terror and loss can affect people differently made them and the story realistic. I definitely think the best character was Ben, his views on the world, his sense of morality, and his wit. Cassie had that funny kick-ass girl attitude, which was nice to read, but it was at her moments of weakness and doubt that I liked her the most. I have a slight criticism of the writing, in that Ben and Cassie had the same type of voice at the beginning, which felt like another generalization, but this one of teenagers, but I was pleased as Ben changed over the story, his voice felt like it did too. I loved how Yancey had a different tone to most dystopians, with jokes and attitude, but never losing sight of the seriousness of the situation.

Overall, I loved this book. It kept me gripped right to the end. In fact, I got to the last page and was like “where’s the rest?”. I cannot wait till the next one!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

30 Day Book Challenge

So if you watch any Booktube videos, which you totally should, you may have heard of the 30 Day Book Challenge, created by Riquetta at Nerdintransation, which you can watch here.

So a few other booktubers have thought of joining, myself included, but I thought it may be fun to see if any bloggers wanted to do it too. One quick point though, Riquetta said she’ll be reading a book a day, I think that’s a bit of a jump for me, so I am going to be reading 200 pages a day, which is double the amount I normally read. The challenge is running from tomorrow (17th June) for, wait for it, 30 days. If you are joining in, remember to use the #30dayread on Twitter!

I thought I’d make a quick list of things I want to read over the challenge, which should be around 15 books, but one of them is Game of Thrones, so I’ll list 12.

Middle Grade
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Young Adult
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth

  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson,
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • So Long and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams
  • A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin (1200 pages erm…)

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

  • Cracked by James Davies

  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Looking at this list, I’m now feeling unsure, but you know what they say, aim high. I’ll be posting a lot of reviews up here on this blog, and a few on my channel.

Tell me what you’re reading, if you’re thinking of doing the challenge, or if I’m just plain crazy! 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkI picked up Eleanor and Park mainly because John Green had sung its praises, which of course led to the internet grabbing hold of it and joining in on the chorus. Needless to say, I went in with high expectations.

Eleanor and Park is one of the best books I have ever read.

It tells the story of Eleanor and Park (duh) and their young love in the 80’s. Eleanor comes from a broken home, and is immediately picked on as the new girl at school. Park is a half Korean misfit, who loved comics and punk music and wants to keep his head down. They fall together after she sits next to him on the bus, and the rest, as they say, is history. The plot may sound cheesy, but it’s nothing but. There are niggling little points through the story, which build up to a startling conclusion.

Eleanor and Park is really about the characters. They spoke with authentic voices and they had their own individual quirks. You could really distinct between Eleanor and Park, and see and feel their attraction and love for each other. Everyone can relate to at least one thing in one of the characters. Whether if its Eleanor’s self-consciousness, or Park’s feeling like he doesn’t fit in, Eleanor and Park touches so many topics, that it will never stop being relevant. But what I love the most about it is it is about love. It is not a story about body-image or ethnicity or broken homes, it’s about love. And it never loses sight of that.

One thing that really pleased me about this book was that it tackled a subject that I have been dying to see more in Young Adult literature: ethnicity and racism. Park is one of the first half Koreans I have seen in YA (probably the only one) and I am so glad Rowell has dealt with the issues surrounding second generation immigrants and the confusion of fitting in (you may notice that I am of Indian ethnicity).

Most importantly, Eleanor and Park made me feel. It took me on a journey with them, inside their heads, and I felt a part of the story. It was painful, it was ecstatic, it was everything being a teenager in love is like. I’m not the biggest pure romance fan, I find a lot of books in the genre to be very generic and clich├ęd, but I was on the edge of my mental seat, waiting for the twist and turn to come.

I could write a whole essay on why I love Eleanor and Park, but I’m going to leave it here. This book affected me right after the last page was turned, and I suggest you go out and get it.

Rating (can’t you guess?): 10/10

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Produced by Baz Luhrmann, Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Martin, Catherine Knapman
Screenplay by Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce and based on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher

The Great Gatsby is a visual and audial assault, which takes the symbolism, words, and plot of F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s original novel, and laces it with the glitz and glam of the roaring 20’s. As a huge fan of the novel, I was apprehensive of the film feeling like the symbolism and power of the book will be overtaken by a “Hollywood make-over”. It was, but it was a surprisingly good make-over at 

The film is extremely faithful to the book, which I applaud Luhrmann for, but I can’t help feel it was an effort to keep literary fans at bay. The tale of Nick Carraway meeting the illustrious Gatsby and being pulled into his decadent world was accurately told. Most of the language was from the novel, and the symbols within the book was carefully brought to light, however as the camera kept blatantly staring at them, they started to lose their significance. The green light, which was so vaguely mentioned in the book, an idea for the reader to ponder over, was suddenly shouted about at every moment. As for the themes, I am left unsure. There was a lot of wealth and a lot of dangerous obsession, but I feel like it did not truly transpire Fitzgerald’s message, and it was more me projecting the message I knew onto the film.

Acting wise, there is not much to say. Tobey Maguire made an apt Nick Carraway, but failed to provide much of a personality for him. Carey Mulligan was an interesting Daisy, but yet again, I feel like the actors used the 20’s setting as an excuse for not portraying half as much personality as required. The real stars was Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, and, of course, Leonardo Di Caprio. Edgerton’s Tom really felt like the character of the book: arrogant and prejudiced, with glimpses of human hope. As for Fisher, I wished she had some more screen time, as I found watching her as Myrtle was far more fun than reading about her. And Di Caprio? He caught Gatsby’s mystery, shadiness, obsession, and hope all at once. Maguire may have been the lead, but it was really Di Caprio who shone through.

So if the acting and adaptation standard was average, why did I find the movie so good? The answer lies with Baz Luhrmann. The Great Gatsby follows Luhrmann’s previous style of changing pace and flashy scenes, and the cinematography and visuals were phenomenal. Colour and action bloomed from every part of the screen, and the story kept on going. On occasion, it did seem a bit over the top, but generally I excused that. The soundtrack also deserves a mention. The juxtaposition between old 20’s and modern tracks, really brought forward the relevance of the themes of money, beauty, and youth to today.

I realise in this analysis it does not look like I liked the film at all. However, if you take the film without any expectations from the book, it would seem an excellent movie. On sheer entertainment factor, I enjoyed it very much. Did it capture Fitzgerald’s novel? Only if you take it on a literal sense with the words that it spilled out, but in heart I felt it didn’t. If the movie hadn’t taken itself so seriously I would have given it a higher rating, but sadly nobody likes a try-hard.

Sum It Up: For fans of Fitzgerald's book, this film will be a let down, however, if you haven't read the book, and are a fan of Luhrrman's previous work, you will undoubtedly be blown away. 

Rating: 7 /10