Monday, 25 August 2014

Pop Confessional: A Brief History of My Music Taste

I like pop music. There I’ve said it. Call the hipster-army-brigade and get them to arrest me. I admit to surfing the mainstream.

And this is something that has taken me a while to come to terms with. The reason it took me so long to come to terms with it, is because I was acting far more pretentiously than I had any right to be.

There’s nothing wrong with liking or disliking anything. Everyone is entitled to have their own opinions. Something I’ve ranted about previously is when people start to enforce their opinions onto someone else to make them feel lesser. In the video it’s about preferring YA to classic fiction, in this it’s about preferring mainstream pop to whatever’s “cooler”.

I’m not saying pop music has more artistic merit, or is cleverer, or is better than any other type of music. I’m saying I get a personal pleasure from it, which shouldn’t be taken away from me by someone saying what I feel is “stupid”.

I say this as a person who previously scorned pop, choosing to plug in my headphones instead of giving it a chance.

My story starts in the 90’s and early 00’s, the decade of my birth, and the years of Backstreet Boys, S Club 7, and Britney Spears. At a child who’s age was yet to enter double-digits, I had no problem with my jam being “Reach For the Stars”. I grew up on cotton-candy pop and loved it.

The dark ages appeared in the form of my teenage years. I thought I was getting more angsty and grungier in music taste, but only in my head. For my thirteenth birthday I got a mini stereo-system and my love with music was sealed. As I went through my teen years, my music taste rapidly changed from bubblegum pop, to more pop-rock, to just rock. A good indicator is the first albums I got with my stereo system: Avril Lavigne, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Razorlight, and Green Day. (I know, it's a strange selection).

I went hardcore with my music taste. I wanted to like “good” music. Except I had no idea what good music was. Since everyone I knew was listening to rock, I assumed that was it. I bought Linkin Park, Blink 182, and Sum 41. I felt proud of myself. This was what is good, right?

In 2009 I heard a musician who was initially was a guilty pleasure, and then became a proud love of mine. Taylor Swift released “Love Story”. There was something sincere in what she sang, something catchy, and a country-twang that brought me to my childhood when my parents blasted out Shania Twain (if anyone taught me not to care about my music taste, it was them).

I was ashamed. But I couldn’t work out why. Taylor Swift wrote all her songs, like the rest of the artists I listened too. Her songs had a story and meaningful lyrics, which I could relate too. I found her music fun to listen to. And then I realised that I had no reason to be ashamed, I was allowed to like whatever I wanted to, other people’s opinions be damned.

And then I had a country music phase, but we won’t go into that.

My music taste currently is a combination of a lot of things from my musical past. You can find everything from Mumford and Sons, to Katy Perry, to 30 Second to Mars on my iPod. And if anyone tells you that you shouldn’t like something, to quote T-Swift, “haters gonna hate, hate, hate… Shake it off”.

P.S. If anyone wants to try something new, here’s The Pierces, an amazing folk-rock band.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dorothy Must Die

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)
Age Group: YA
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: April 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins

Let’s start with a really shallow observation: I loved this cover. It really hit the spot with what the book was truly about; a cultural icon gone bad. I normally complain about books having a great premise and then never living up to its full potential. I’m pleased to report this is not the case with Dorothy Must Die.

Amy Gumm is a girl from Kansas (of course). Unwanted and feeling like she doesn’t belong, Amy is waiting for the day she can escape. Which she does. Through a tornado. Amy ends up in Oz with, her version of Toto, a rat called Star. But Oz is not what the Julie Garland film portrayed it to be. Gone are the chirpy munchkins and the Technicolor dreamland, replaced with darkness and despair, under the malevolent rule of Dorothy. Amy gets recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked for one task. That’s right, you guessed it, Dorothy Must Die.

Paige has altered the original world into is a fascinating one. The twists on all the well-known characters are clever, especially how the Wizards gifts have altered the Tinman, Scarecrow, and Lion. For some reason, Paige decided to overtly-sexualise Dorothy, probably a cheap shot to damage your childhood a bit more, but I’ll let that slide. It was all brilliantly twisted and morphed, from the freakish Perm-a-Smile (giving you a plastic grin) to the Tinman’s brutal army. 

The obvious comparison would be with Wicked (which I have not read, but I’ve seen the musical). While Wicked is more of a clever backstory to the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Must Die is a whole new ballgame. The plot borders on a horror, with graphic scenes of violence, and this is a way Oz has never been imagined before. For a novel that was heavily borrowing on someone else’s world, it was really original.

Unfortunately the exceptional detail is also the books biggest downfall. It’s too long. 450 pages are way too many for this sort of novel. It felt like she was stretching it out for an unknown reason. Parts which made the novel so good, started to become wearisome.

Take Amy, I liked Amy. She was cool, and had an interesting voice. She had her flaws and she had her charms. She was well-rounded, compared to a lot of female characters I sometimes see. However after 300 pages, she started to grate on me. The sarcastic-I’m-a-fighter voice soon became I’m-trying-too-hard-by-being-sarcastic. The other issue with the writing was that there was so many colloquialisms in Oz from American culture, that made no sense for it being there. “Oz History 101” for example. Unless Oz is taking part is following the American educational system, which I doubt.

Overall I liked Dorothy Must Die. If you’re a fan of the Wizard of Oz or Wicked or just really cool retellings, and don’t mind some waffle, this book is for you. 

Rating: 8/10

I received this copy from Harper 360 in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

DirectedJames Gunn
Produced: Kevin Feige
ScreenplayJames Gunn, Nicole Perlman
StarringChris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace

When I saw the trailer of Guardians I wasn’t too excited. When Marvel resurrected its big players by the form of massive Hollywood franchises, I had at least heard of them; The Avengers, Spider-Man, and X-Men. DC chose to go with big-players Batman and Superman. However, pre-trailer, Guardians of the Galaxy was unknown to me. On top of this, it looked a bit, well, daft. Is that a talking racoon? Is that a talking tree?

Boy, I was wrong, and you are too, if you are considering giving it a miss. Marvel has made its funniest summer blockbuster yet. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn't take itself seriously, and the result being it’s hilarious. It’s funnier than many self-professed “comedies”, and by switching between gags and out-of-this-world action, every moment is thoroughly entertaining.

So what’s it all about? Meet our misfits of the galaxy, the most unlikely band of heroes you will ever meet. Ex-criminals thrown together by mishaps and coincidence to become a thoroughly unwilling group, trying to protect the galaxy from a mysterious orb getting into the hands of Ronan the Accuser.

Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill, also known as Star Lord (but no-one calls him that). Quill was abducted from Earth as a child in the 80’s, meaning he is perpetually stuck in the 80’s (leading to one of the best soundtracks to have ever featured in a superhero movie). Quill’s moral code is a bit dodgy, but his heart is in the right place, a refreshing change from all recent self-sacrificing superheroes who are concerned with the greater good. Pratt is purely funny, all quips and dancing around the screen (most of the time literally), moving through physical and verbal comedy with ease.

Quill is joined by Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the aforementioned genetically-engineered racoon, who is obsessed by weapons and money; Groot, who is Rocket’s muscle and has three words during the whole film, which I’m sure was a challenging role for someone as notable as Vin Diesel; Drax, a blue alien caught up with righting the wrongs against him, and more importantly, does not get metaphors; and Zoe Saldana’s kick-ass Gamora, who provides the necessary voice of sanity.

Marvel may have not invested as much into Guardian’s as it has done with its bigger brothers, but that doesn’t detract from the usual Marvel antics, with explosion and colour. This film took you on a trip around the Galaxy that Marvel brags about it in its other films, but we have yet to witness, and it’s just as wonderful and inventive as the hints we’ve previously had.

Just as the film doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s important that you don’t either. Yes it’s a bit crazy, it’s totally silly, highly irrelevant, but mostly incredibly fun.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

Age Group: Adult
20747666Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Crime
Pub Date: April 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

The first few pages of The Telling Error described a grisly murder. A man has been killed, with a knife taped to him, except there he wasn’t killed by the knife. Bang in some mysterious writing on the wall, a few bizarre photographs on the computer, and the victim being a celebrity, and we’ve got ourselves an unusual case. What makes it more unusual is the murder has been described as an ad on a dating website seeking the murderer. So a puzzle within a puzzle for the reader.

This is a proper psychological “who-dunnit” thriller. Lots of twisted characters, blurred lines, and suspense. The plot was great; each character was properly fleshed out with interesting motives and lots of twists. Just when I thought I knew who did it, I was immediately proved wrong.

Before we go any further, I would like to point out I had no idea that this was the 9th book in the series. I had never read or heard of the series before, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have requested this from NetGalley. Only now discovering the series, I’m pleased to find that I followed the book pretty well, and it does account for my slight gripes with it.

I found it hard to follow the detectives, but on reflection, this is because I didn’t know their previous stories, and the author probably took it for granted that I did. To be fair, if I was on my ninth book, I probably would have expected a reader to have read a couple of the others. I found their relationships confusing, and some points lost track of which one was which, but that didn’t detract from the overall brilliance of the book.

This book was primarily about Nikki though, a woman who has been having a string of emotional online affairs for kicks. Nikki was a brilliant and complex character, a woman who has been betrayed by her family, and is overly protective of hers, despite betraying them with her affair. She gets entangled in the murder investigation, due to one of her online dalliances implicating her. Nikki was easy to like and dislike at the same time, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, yet be annoyed at her actions. Her family and past was another thread to unravel, making Nikki become more and more complex as the story continued.

The Telling Error was surprisingly easy to read as a stand-alone, but I found myself being more interested in the side characters than the main detective, Simon. If you like a good psychological thriller, I definitely recommend this; however you may want to start with something earlier in the series, unlike me!

Rating: 8/10
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

IBW Bookshop Crawl

The past week has been Independent Bookseller’s Week, and to celebrate it, I went on a bookshop crawl across London, with my friend Ayomide from ElliesAndPankcakes. So here is my guide to some of the finest London independent bookshops. But quickly, let’s talk about independents.

What is Independent Booksellers Week?
The week was part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, and is to celebrate independent booksellers.

Why are Independent Booksellers important?
I could go into a boring essay about economics and the free market, but nobody wants to read about that. There is more to it than Amazon killing bookstores. One thing I learnt from the crawl is how different the atmosphere and feel of an independent is compared to a commercial retailer. Every space crammed with old and new books, an independent radiates the love of a good story. I could have easily spent hours there browsing new treasures. If book buying wants to remain an experience, then independents need to stick around.

The Crawl

Any Amount of Books
“Any Amount of Books” was our first stop, and was almost overwhelming in the sheer amount of books that was present. As far as the eye could see, there were books. This was a bookshop I could imagine discovering an unexpected find, or a really nice edition of a beloved book.

Good for: Cheap and Rare books (their range is from £1 to thousands of pounds), Leather Bound and Decorative Books, Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction
Bad for: Mainstream and Young Adult fiction
Tube station: Leicester Square/ Tottenham Court Road

Henry Pordes Books
We were greeted by a friendly manager when we asked about IBW. Like “Any Amount of Books”, they sold all sorts of books, once again lined to the ceiling. I can imagine this shop would be useful if you wanted to do specific research on a topic, as they had an impressive non-fiction selection.

Good for: Non-fiction, Literary Fiction, Rare books
Bad for: Mainstream and Young Adult fiction
Tube station: Leicester Square/ Tottenham Court Road

The mother of London independents, Foyles has long been one of my favourite bookshop in London. However, this was my first visit since their move and refurbishment, so I was excited to see the new store. Foyles lacks the cosy feel of other independents (the new regeneration looks like a bookstore from the future) but makes up with sheer range and variety of books. It’s easy to spend hours there.

Good for: Everything. You can find everything in Foyles. Mainstream and YA is particularly good here.
Bad for: Lacks the quaintness of other shops.
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road

Full disclosure here, when I arrived in Hatchards I thought it was an independent. When I picked up the only book I was going to buy, I thought it was an independent. When I went to the till and discussed IBW, I found out it was NOT an independent. Irony at its finest. A quick Wikipedia search revealed that Hatchards was bought by Waterstones in the 90’s. However, it is a lovely bookshop, and if you fancy a look around I highly recommend.

Good for: Everything, like Foyles it has quite a range.
Bad for: Secretly not an independent!
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly/ Green Park

Heywood Hill
I hadn’t heard of this bookshop until I saw someone tweet about it on the day, and it was a great discovery. A world unto itself, minutes away from bustling Piccadilly, and tucked away on a quiet street, Heywood Hill has an enchanting atmosphere. Excellent rooms divided into genres, from the mainstream fiction as you walk in, to rare books, to my favourite room of all, the children’s room. This bookshop is a must-go if you love children’s and YA, the room even has a fireplace and fairy lights!

Good for: I saw a real range of books here. They specifically select new book to put out, so if you don’t have anything specific in mind, you’ll find something good here.
Bad for: If you have a specific book in mind, it may not be here.
Tube station: Green Park

Daunts Books
For some reason, Daunts always reminds me of Harry Potter. Not sure if it’s the wooden décor, or the piles of books, or the dim library, but I always get a sense that I’m in the Hogwarts library. Daunts seems to find the perfect balance between cosy and spacious, there are loads of recommendations and interesting finds, but the shop avoids feeling cramped. Then there is the upstairs, a balcony area around the shop, stacked with non-fiction books. Also makes a great photo-op!

Good For: Everything, great selection, great atmosphere. There’s also an interesting section organised by countries around the world.
Bad for: Struggling to think of anything…
Tube station: Baker Street

What did I buy?
OK, confession, I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anything before I went, because my TBR pile is big enough. That didn’t work out. I bought A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness for two reasons:  one, I love Patrick Ness, and two, A Monster Calls is a book which needs to be read as a physical book. It wasn’t something I could download on my kindle, I had to get in book form.

So there’s my bookshop crawl! Thanks to Ayomide for accompanying me, and check out her channel. I was going to film this, but I feared breaking the atmosphere by talking very loudly to a camera by myself. All my photos are from my Instagram, so for more bookish pictures, give me follow. Did you do a bookshop crawl? What are your favourite independents? Tell me below.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Director: Robert Stromberg
Producer: Joe Roth
Writer: Linda Woolverton
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning
Rating: PG
Angelina Jolie is a force to be reckoned with in Disney’s new spin on its classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. Disney has stuck to its recent theme of that there are no heroes and villains, although with a darker tone than Frozen.

Meet young Maleficent, a fairy who is not as evil as her name suggests. She whizzes around on her awesome wings, and all is fine and dandy in the incredibly CGI’d magical forest. Until she meets Stefan, a young boy who has snuck into the forest. And since this is Disney, they grow up together and fall in love. Stefan grows into ambitious adult Stefan, and due to his greed, he betrays Maleficent in a gut-wrenching scene where he drugs her and cuts off her wings. Soon Stefan is king and about to have a baby, and in a fit of rage Maleficent… Well we all know they story from there.

The visuals were spectacular. Director Stromberg is a well-known special effects artist; his past credits include Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, and he did not let fans down in this respect. The forest glittered and unfurled magically before your eyes; strange creatures whirled and snarled, and even the CGI on Jolie’s face looked bizarrely believable.

This was a one-woman-show at heart, that woman being Jolie, and with piercing cheekbones and glint in her eye; she swept sweet Elle Fanning’s Aurora and tormented Sharlto Copey’s King Stefan away. Maleficent was a women of few words, but that didn’t stop all eyes on Jolie, whose angry roars, heart-wrenching sobs, and knowing smirks says all.

Though the film may have benefited from some more words. Or plot. The obvious comparison to Maleficent is Wicked, the retelling of the story from the villains perspective, where we find out that they are not as evil as they seem. But while Wicked leaves you in awe of the cleverness and richness of the story, Maleficent is severely lacking in this area. Maleficent is betrayed, Maleficent becomes angry, Maleficent regrets her actions. Disney desire to stick rigidly to the 1959 original has caused this retelling to revert to a darker live-action version replica. And considering Linda Woolverton also wrote classics such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, the standard of plot is sub-par.

It’s hard to not initially be bowled over by Maleficent, whose world it is too easy to be absorbed into. The film taps into truths of real life, from love and betrayal, to friendship and fear. But once the magical dust has settled, and your eyes are exhausted from the visual assault, the sour taste of disappointment remains.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Don't Even Think About It

Don't Even Think About ItAge Group: YA
Genre: Contemporary 
Pub Date: May 2014
Publisher: Orchard Books

Don’t Even Think About It has one of the most interesting premises in contemporary YA, but the problem is that it sets your expectations too high. Set in a New York high school, a class of students are given a tainted flu shot and all mysteriously develop telepathy. Now the idea of having twenty students with ESP is a great one. The execution of it wasn’t.

If you don’t go into this book thinking that the teens are going to use their new found powers for good and to save the world, then you’ll be fine. This book was a lot less X-Men, and more The Princess Diaries. Ultimately this is a teen contemporary with a twist.

Unfortunately the twist gave it too many complications to work well as a contemporary.

We have twenty-two kids with ESP. The book is written as a collective, using “we”, but then jumps around to different characters, with their points of views. We follow about 8 characters, which are too many for a book this short. Spreading out the book between so many characters meant none of them were fully developed past their vague stereotype: the cheating popular girl, the girl in love with her best friend, the pervy teenage boy, the smart girl who goes by “Pi”…  Did I mention how clichéd it was? It was easy to get confused between several characters when you were following so many stories at once.

Then we had the ESP itself. Soon this book went from “oooh that’s an interesting thought”, to “I really don’t care about everyone’s every single thought”. It really captured the headache you would get being a teenager with ESP. Don’t get me wrong, teenagers having teenage thoughts is fine, everyone has really mundane thoughts. But I have no desire to hear or read about everyone’s mundane thoughts.

The main problem I had is that I just didn’t care. I couldn’t care about most of the characters because the plot was spread too thinly between all of them. I couldn’t care about the plot because it wasn’t explained well enough, and I didn’t care about any of the drama that was going on. This book read like it was written by someone who thought how teenagers thought, but I give teens a lot more credit to be more intelligent than they are portrayed in this novel.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Gove Away

Michael Gove is the Secretary of Education in the UK, and is one a one-man mission to reform the British education system; his latest idea being to scrap all American Literature from the English Literature GCSE syllabus, including works like To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice of Men. Gove’s reasoning is that he wants British students to study more works by English authors, preferably 19th Century, like Dickens.

Before we get into the main issues, I would like to point out that the furthest qualification I have in English Literature is a GCSE, much unlike Gove’s Oxford degree in the subject. However, as you may tell by this blog, I am an avid reader, and off my own back I have read Shakespeare to Austen to Orwell.

I didn’t study any American Literature during GCSE English GCSE, living out Gove’s dream. I read Romeo and Juliette, An Inspector Calls, Jane Eyre, and Lord of the Flies. I did not enjoy any of them, yet this is the proposed syllabus Gove is insisting upon. Meanwhile, I watched other classes study Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird and discuss how interesting they found the story, which resulted me in picking up the books myself.

To Kill a Mockingbird was an extremely important book for me personally. It was the first book I had read which really tackled race in a real world setting, and although it wasn’t a true story, I knew it reflected the attitudes of the time. I remember having to Google the significance and symbolism of the novel because I knew it had so much more to offer, and I really wish I had an opportunity to study it at school. Most importantly, I can’t think of a single British classic that deals with race in the same way. And that’s why a variety of books is important, as great as British Literature is, not everything is covered in the same way.

Michael Gove is out of touch with the current situation that the average student lives in. Not everyone is a privately-educated, Oxford-bound student. The vast majority of students need to be engaged with literature by letting teachers having a variety of choice to make the decision of what is the best book for their class to study. I knew people at school who didn’t even read the books at GCSE, getting grades off a mix of Sparknotes and highlighted quotes. Instead of talking about the 19th century, we need to be engaging teenagers with familiar themes that they can relate to, whether it be the inequality of the Deep South, or the financial turmoil faced in Steinback’s novel. A mad wife in the attic is the least of anyone’s concerns.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

1984 (play)

“Comrade Number” is printed on each ticket. The play runs for 101 minutes. So far, so symbolic.  But anyone who has read 1984 knows that there is more to the book than symbolism and plot. The novel’s intention was to make you question the world we live in, to disturb you far past the conclusion of the book; and in Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation, they have ticked all the boxes to satisfy both fan and newcomer of Orwell’s famous dystopian love story between Winston and Julia.

This co-production between Headlong, the Almeida, and the Nottingham Playhouse has opened its doors to the West End, and you are initially greeted by a shabby stage, with files stacked up the sides and a dimly lit corridor behind it. Then there is the elephant in the room. When I say elephant, I mean the giant screen hanging from above the stage, a reminder of the ever-present voyeuristic government, through which you become the voyeur yourself, gaining glimpses into what goes on behind closed doors. But in true Orwellian fashion, nothing is as it seems, and the extent of Chloe Lamford’s insane set design only becomes apparent at the climatic end. Sound and lighting throw you further into Orwell’s terrifying world, the soundtrack being jarring buzzes and helicopter noises, combined with blinding flashes and blurring smoke, keeping you fully alert and uneasy.

1984 is as shocking and brutal as the book it is based upon. The cleverness in the play lies in the way we are presented the story. Instead of creating a direct word-for-word adaptation, Icke and Macmillan have approached it with the appendixes of the book in mind. We are first shown a group of scholars studying Winston’s account from the future. Was he real? Is he reliable? What can we believe? Initially it was confusing, but after looking at the questions they were asking, it is a perfect example of the themes that run through book. Doublethink, witnessing one thing, but choosing whether to believe it or not. In turn we become one of them, witnessing the play but having to make our own choice whether to believe in its current significance. We live in the age of information, but how much of it can we believe? Has anything been doctored like Winston did to so many articles? Suddenly a play set in an alternate past becomes alarmingly timeless.

Cleverness aside, the play would have not had the same impact without its outstanding cast. Sam Crane made a nervous Winston, full of fear but never wavering in his beliefs. Hara Yannas portrayed a passionate Julia, rebelling in secret through sex, whilst Tim Dutton’s master-of-disguise O’Brien lulls you into a false sense of security.

1984, the novel, was a response to the Stalinist era that Orwell was witnessing, but 1984, the play, reminds us of the continuing relevance of the story. It will shock you, frighten you, and ultimately make you question the world you think you know.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 5 May 2014


So you may have noticed that this blog has been abandoned for a while. Four months to be exact. You may have also noticed that that it’s been given a makeover. Or you may not have noticed either of those things, but just keep with me.

When I first started this blog, over a year ago, it was a bit of a mess. It was a combination of disjointed science articles and book posts, and then evolved into a book and film blog. Don’t get me wrong, I want to keep it like that. To an extent.

The reason this blog has started to decay was because I had a moment of writers block. And I realised why. I love books, I do, and I love talking about them on my YouTube channel. I find it far easier to talk about books than I do with writing about them, not to say I don’t enjoy reading book blogs. I’ve seen a few book bloggers start YouTube channels and make “personal” videos, where they discuss things that matter to them aside from books, and I’m going to do the reverse here.

So this blog is getting a revamp look-wise and content-wise.

I called myself “Rachael Reviews All” for a few reasons. One I read and review all genres of things, that’s something I stand by. But also because I am interested in lots of things. I study science, I’ve studied art, I like to keep up with current affairs. And so I want to review the world we live in. Not literally, I’m not going to be posting a rating system of politicians (although that may be useful).

If you watch my channel, you would see I like to do discussions. So you can expect a lot more of that on here. But what else? Honestly, I don’t know. Science posts, social commentary, fashion, books and arts, anything. Although it does sound like I’m running my own newspaper…

In the sixteenth century there was a group of people called the Renaissance men, a group of individuals who were interested in a variety of subjects, the most famous of them being Leonardo di Vinci, who made advances in everything from science to art. I love the idea of living in a time where people aren’t segregated into categories, you’re either an artist or a mathematician. I want to write about everything that interests me, and I hope you’ll find bits of it interesting too.

I hope you stick around.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Director:  Martin Scorsese
Producers: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Writer: Terence Winter
Based on The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Rating: 18

Greed and lust. There’s the plot in two words. Want some more words? Lies, drugs, sex, swearing, and of course, money. This is the terrifyingly true story of the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, a man in the late 80’s went from conning the working-class to opening Stratton Oakmont, where his illegal dealings went mass market. Belfort is a hedonist; snorting coke, popping Qualuudes, and sleeping his way through New York. But his biggest addiction lies at the heart of the film: money.

The Wolf of Wall Street is mesmerising and unyielding. You are sucked into an incomprehensible world, where there’s a hooker every day and throwing dwarves is a reasonable thing to do. And that’s just in the office. It’s sleazy, it’s immoral, but you can’t tear your eyes away.

A mixture of hilarity, vulgarity, and violence; it engaged every emotion from laugh-out-loud laughter, to jaw-dropping surprise, to pure horror. At three hours long, the film was pushing it, but considering the amount of excess lavished in the film, what are minutes alongside everything else?

Credit where credit’s due (which is something the stockbrokers did not say), the film is genuinely funny. DiCaprio has once again proved himself by playing a despicable character, and his versatility is shown as he slips from smooth salesman to drugged-up crack-head. Belford is utterly unlikeable, yet completely watchable. He has no morals, no guilt, which is important because as much as we enjoy watching him, we never empathise with him.

Whilst watching, we’re all Jordan Belfort. The film is like one of his Qualuudes dropped in water, fizzing and ready to explode as we start to swig it in. It takes us on a high; we’re drawn into a dysmorphic world that is nothing is like the reality we live in, and we can’t get enough of it. But the crash is hard and painful, and only on exiting the cinema do the thoughts creep in. Why are we so obsessed with greed? Why were no victims shown? And is it okay that Belford is profiting with his new-found celebrity?

Overall: Decadent and disgraceful, no matter how much you want to, you won't be able to take your eyes of the screen.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Love or Loathe: Love Triangles

I’m currently reading Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Currently is the operative word here, I haven’t got to the end yet, so no spoilers please! For those who haven’t read the series, The Infernal Devices features the Marmite of plot devices: the love triangle. The reason I’m bringing it up is previously to reading this series I had sworn off them, however I now have some conflicted emotions.

Love triangles are a pretty old, dating back to Romeo and Juliette, but you can say that of many plot devices, so what is it particularly about love triangles which instigate such strong feelings in people? Looking at YA in particular there have been two huge successes in the past decade: Twilight and The Hunger Games. And guess what they both have in common?

Authors and publishers latched onto this common denominator, and soon they had spread. Love triangles were the hottest new thing, and soon they were going out of style. They became overdone, clichéd. I thought there was only so much you could do with it. Two boys like a girl, she has to choose. That was it in essence. But I was wrong. You can boil down any plot like that. Going on a quest. Falling in love. Uncovering a secret.

Like anything, a story needs to be done well. And the problem is that there are too many bad love triangles out there, diluting the amount of good. But there is hope. Now and then you get a story so good, so un-put-down-able that you shouldn’t feel ashamed to find yourself going “I quite like this”. Not that you should feel ashamed, as I have long said in my battle against intellectual snobbery. So here is what I think makes a good love triangle:

  • A strong lead – Otherwise I really won’t care. Preferably a not pathetic female who spends every single waking minute agonising over the triangle.
  • Believable choices – So many times you can predict who the character is going to choose. If that’s the case, what’s the point of having the point? I would not like to predict the end of the story in the first few chapters.
  • Likeable characters – I want to be conflicted over which person I like more. I don’t want to be disappointed by either choice. 
  • More than romance – Okay, even if it a romance book, there has to be something more to the characters or their lives than their love life. It’s far more believable.
  • Unpredictable – They have a bad rep for being formulaic, so give me something more. I want twists and turns, bad guys and good guys, and lots of feelings.
What do you guys think of love triangles? Love them? Loathe them? Do you think I missed anything out of my list? Tell me below!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Top Books of 2013

OK, yes this post is really late. 2013 was like, so last week. But better late than never, right? So in no particular order, I bring you Rachael’s top books of 2013.

Middle Grade
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente
When I was a kid, one of the books I would constantly read over and over again was Alice in Wonderland, and honestly, I thought nothing could come close to the wonder I felt reading a land like that. I was wrong. TGWCFiaSoHOM, on top of being a mouthful, captures the wonder of being a child, wrapped in layers of a fantastical, detailed world with a cuckoo-crazy plot.

Wonder by RJ Palacio
For a book so slim, it’s crazy the amount of emotions I went through reading it. Auggie’s story of him coping with his disfigurement  is a sad one, yet ultimately uplifting, and laced with a slick sense of humour.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Do I really need to say anything about this book? If you haven’t read this book, go pick it up now! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will still resonate with you a year after you read it.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve never thought of myself as a romance fan, so it just shows how much I loved Eleanor and Park. The characters were so alive, and their story real and painful, that I couldn’t help but falling in love with this book.

15745753The Fault in Our Stars

A Song of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin
Okay, technically this isn’t a book, but a series. Even if you haven’t seen the TV show, this book is worth a read. With a plot that teeters the line of a war drama and a soap opera, set in one of the most detailed lands I’ve ever read, these books keep you sucked in through their lengthy volumes.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I always bang on about how much I hate predictability in books, and Gone Girl is anything but. The twists and turns in the insane story about Nick and his missing wife, not to mention the crazy, and yet terrifyingly believable, characters kept me turning the pages.

Agree? Disagree? Have links to your own top books? Tell me down below!