Author: elenasquareeyes

Thoughts on… Reading Slumps

I like routines especially when it comes to my blog. On Monday’s I post a film review and on Thursday’s I post a book review and if there’s something else I want to write about it’ll go live on any other day – that’s how I’ve done it for years now. I’m pretty consistent when it comes to that “schedule” but it’s tough to keep up with it when you’re in a reading slump.

I’ve read two books this month and I’m currently in the middle of two more; The Dry by Jane Harper on audio and I’m reading a physical copy of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. It’s not unusual for me to be reading one book on audio and another in physical format at the same time, but what is unusual is that it’s two and a half weeks since I started the physical book and it’s less than 300 pages long.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a reading slump.

I think this one has been brought about by life being a bit more busy than usual. I’ve started a new job, I did a movie marathon for charity, and I have family-related things I’m perhaps I’m subconsciously worrying about. I say subconsciously as I’m very much a person who doesn’t think they get stressed, until my body gives up in some shape or form and I realise I wasn’t feeling that great. Time to read and being in the right headspace to read is definitely the main factor. And while I do find the premise of Frankenstein in Baghdad interesting and I like how it has a large cast of characters, I never feel compelled to pick it up even though when I am reading it, I enjoy it. It’s a weird situation to be in.

This long weekend I plan to either finish Frankenstein in Baghdad or consciously put it aside and pick up something else. I can always go back to Frankenstein in Baghdad when I’m more in the mood for it. Because that’s something I’ve learnt about myself over the many years I’ve been reading – I am a mood reader.

That’s why my TBR’s are often pointless as I might read one or two books from them but the rest of that week/month/whatever I’ll read completely different things. With my Read the World Project I do think I put pressure on myself to read certain books and quickly. The plan with that project was to read a book from every country in the world before I turn 30 which is in less than two and a half years now and I have about 100 countries still left to read. While I enjoy reading books from different people in different places, and I’ve certainly found some favourites that I would never have heard of if it wasn’t for this challenge, there’s sometimes an underlying sense of guilt if I’m reading books that don’t fit for the challenge.

I think really for me, reading slumps are something that happens when I’m drained, can’t focus on the physical act of reading, and can’t find a book that suits my mood. To get myself out of reading slumps I tend to go to graphic novels as they are so much shorter and quicker to read than a novel. If I read a couple of graphic novels, I feel like I’ve achieved something and can then attempt to read a novel next.

I’m still learning to tell myself that putting aside a book to try it again at a later date, or just admitting that it’s not for me and DNF-ing it, is absolutely fine. I haven’t “wasted time” on that book and it’s totally OK to just have a break from reading if my mind is not up to it – blogging schedule be damned!

I hope this all makes sense. I was trying to write through how my feelings on reading and how that relates to blogging. I also have a clearer idea of how I’m going to think about my current read, my reading slump, and what kind of book(s) I want to read next. Have you ever had a reading slump? And if you have, how have you gotten yourself out of it? It’s always good to hear other people’s tips and tricks.

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REVIEW: The Riot Club (2014)

Two first-year students, Miles (Max Irons) and Alistair (Sam Claflin) join the infamous Riot Club at Oxford University, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.

The Riot Club is a fascinating film as the vast majority of the characters are completely awful and unlikeable but it’s still a compelling film to watch. The young men who are a part of the Riot Club are rude, entitled, violent, destructive, and a few are inclined to sexual assault as well.

What works well is that when you are introduced to both Miles and Alistair, you feel sorry for them for different reasons. Alistair has overbearing parents and his older brother’s reputation to live up to, while even though Miles is a posh boy, he’s more down to earth than others and finds it difficult to be a part of the rich boy’s club and with his fellow students who were from state school backgrounds. It’s like he doesn’t totally fit in with either group.

As the film progresses and they both get initiated into The Riot Club you meet the right other young men that complete this club. James (Freddie Fox) is the President but it’s boys like Harry (Douglas Booth) and Dimitri (Ben Schnetzer) that really egg the group on and display a complete disregard for people and money.

There are so many things, both little and big, that make you uneasy about the young men in the Riot Club and their beliefs. All these things build up, as Alistair appears more comfortable in the Club while Miles becomes more torn, and everything comes to ahead at a dinner in a small family-run pub. The actions of The Riot Club are deplorable and there’s so many moments that show how a few of the young men could become half decent people if they were away from the toxic environment of the Club.

The Riot Club is unsettling and maddening. As events build and get worse, it’s like a car crash you cannot look away from as you watch these boys bring out the worst in one another, to the detriment of the innocent bystanders around them. It’s an unflinching display of superiority complexes and an entitlement that money can fix all problems as they men show no respect to people they see as beneath them. It’s rather concerning that there’s a good chance that young people like the characters here exist in the real world. 4/5.

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge 2019 Edition

Slightly later than planned, but here’s my reflections on this years A-Z in April Challenge.

This was my sixth year taking part and it was my easiest A-Z in April in years. I think that was down to the topic. I love the MCU and its characters, so I found it really easy to write about them. In fact, I found it so easy that I got all my posts written and scheduled before the end of the second week of April! I haven’t been that organised during this challenge for years.

My favourite posts to write were all the ones in the Iron Man fam; Pepper Potts, Rhodey, Happy Hogan, Harley Keener and, of course, Tony Stark. I had so much fun pouring all my thoughts and feelings about Tony Stark into that post and it’s a piece of writing that I’m proud of. I wrote and scheduled all my posts before seeing Avengers: Endgame so I feel like writing about my favourite characters was almost therapeutic as I was so anxious about what would happen to them in that film.

My post popular A-Z posts were the ones for Carol Danvers, Okoye and Goose. I guess people like strong women and an awesome cat!

I replied to all comments pretty quickly (for me anyway) though unfortunately I didn’t visit that many blogs at all. While I got all my posts scheduled ahead of time, day to day life stopped me finding the time to look around other people’s blogs. I’m even more grateful for the people who stopped by my blog, liked or commented on posts, and even hit that follow button as I did little to return the favour last month.

I feel like the last few years when I’ve written these reflection posts I’ve said, “I’m not sure if I’ll take part again next year” and I feel the same way once again. It’s just that as I take part in the A-Z Challenge again and again, I feel like I’m running out of themes of things I could write about – and enjoy writing about too. I think I enjoyed this years A-Z Challenge more than the last couple because my topic was something I am so enthusiastic about and get so much joy from. If I hadn’t written about my favourite characters from the MCU, I don’t know what I would’ve chosen to write about and if I had thought of something I doubt I’d have had as much fun writing it as I did with this theme.

I hope all of you who took part in the challenge had fun and a successful A-Z in April. Thanks to those who stopped by my blog and liked or commented – it always means a lot. For more information on the A-Z in April Challenge visit the website.

READ THE WORLD – Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Narrated by Chike Johnson.

William Kamkwamba loved school but when he was just 14 years old, he could no longer attend because his family couldn’t afford the fees. William resorted to borrowing books from the small local library to continue his education. It was there that he discovered a book with a turbine on the front cover, and with the help of that book William began to build a windmill outside his home to get electricity in his home.

I learnt so much about Malawi and its history from The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. While I know there has been, and still is, drought and famine in various countries in Africa I’d never learnt about what happened in Malawi between 2001 and 2002. During those years, floods and then droughts caused an emergency in the country as everyone run out of food. The way the book is written gives you the factual information, like the causes of floods and drought and the different diseases that can plague the country, while also making the stark reality of the situations more affecting because of how they all relate to William and his family. William is the only son in his family, and he has six sisters so that’s a lot of mouths to feed and William never shies away from the dire situation they were all in when they were slowly running out of food. There are vivid descriptions of people losing an extreme amount of weight due to starvation and descriptions of people dying in the street. It’s shocking but never exploitative.

The book provides a lot of context about Malawi, its history, superstitions and the difficulties its people faces. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind follows William’s life as he grows up and gains fame at 19 years old for making a windmill that produces electricity for his family’s home. There is more of a focus on William growing up and the last third with him gaining fame and recognition for what he achieved unfortunately seemed a bit rushed. I did like how it was clear from a very young age that William was interested in finding out how things worked. He would take a part radios and ask people how cars engines would make cars move and was generally curious about everything.

William is an impressive young man. He never gives up and believes in what he was doing when it comes to collecting scraps to make a windmill. People in his village, and even some members of his family, think he’s crazy rummaging around in the scrapyard and saying he’s going to give his home electricity. The doubts people have about him never dents his determination or conviction, and its very satisfying when he’s able to prove people wrong.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is informative and inspiring. William Kamkwamba is a smart man who perseveres even when other people think he’s mad or is using dark magic. Hearing about how he made a windmill to provide electricity for his family, and how he also went on to build other solar or wind-powered devices to improve the lives of his family and the other people in his village was heartening. He’s an inventor and this autobiography captures his inquiring mind and his desire to make life better for his family and his village wonderfully. 4/5.

REVIEW: Battle Los Angeles (2011)

As a squad of U.S. Marines attempt to rescue a group of civilians during an extra-terrestrial invasion of Los Angeles, they become the last line of defence for the city.

There are a lot of characters in Battle Los Angeles and they spend most of their time in full tactical gear including a helmet, so it is often difficult to tell them apart. Plus, as there’s so many characters who have only the bare minimum of character traits to make them stand out, it’s hard to keep track of who has just been killed and who is still alive.

The squad is led by 2nd Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) but the real main character is Aaron Eckhart’s Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz. He’s the one that has more than a superficial backstory and has some dramatic moments too – he gets a rather good speech where everyone else looks at him with respect.

Michelle Rodriguez’s Tech Sergeant Elena Santos is one of the more memorable characters, that that could be because she’s one of two women in the main cast of characters. The actors all do as well as they can do with what they’re given. The characters are all pretty one-dimensional, the dialogue is full of military clichés and there’s expository dialogue every ten minutes or so.

While Battle Los Angeles is an alien invasion film it plays out more like a war film with the aliens attacking the squad from a distance, and each side taking cover, so you never really get a good look at them. When the aliens do become clearer, the creature design is not that imaginative or interesting.

There are some exciting shootouts in Battle Los Angeles but they’re unfortunately few and far between, and the slower, more serious moments seriously bog down the film. It’s also far too long and had at least three moments where you felt like it was coming to a conclusion but then things kept happening. 2/5.

Bout of Books 25 TBR

Bout of Books is back! It’s a weeklong readathon that happens multiple times a year. This round begins at midnight on Monday 13 May and finishes 11:59pm on Sunday 19 May no matter what timezone you’re in.

Apparently readathons are my thing this year – or at least I’m trying to make them my thing. I was successful at the OWLs readathon last month, reading all the required books for my chosen career, and I’m currently in the middle of the Avengers Readathon. I’m lagging a bit on that readathon if I’m honest though. My current read Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi is good, but it’s slower paced than I thought it’d be so I can’t quite get into it at the minute. Hopefully having Bout of Books to look forward to will get me reading more again.

Viper by Bex Hogan
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig, translated by Tess Lewis
African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal, translated by Charis Bredin

Once again, I’ve got a mixture of YA and super short books on my readathon TBR.

Burn for Burn is the last book I need to read for the Avengers Readathon, and it sounds like a book that I’ll fly through. I’m loving the trend of YA books about teen girls standing up for themselves and/or getting revenge on those who’ve hurt them. Viper is a book that’s recently come into my life and I’ve wanted to read it ever since a friend showed off the cover on Twitter. I’m so bad at reading books I want to read as soon as I get them, so by the time I do read them I’m not so excited about them so they don’t have the same impact.

African Titanics and Maybe This Time are both barely over 100 pages so if I plan ahead, I could totally read each of them in one sitting. They’re for my Read the World project, Eritrea and Austria respectively, and Maybe This Time is a collection of short stories so they’re totally readable in one sitting.

I will probably not get a lot of reading done during the weekend of Bout of Books. On the Saturday I’m taking part in a 24-hour movie marathon to raise money for charity, so I think I’ll be somewhat sleep deprived and useless on the Sunday!

There’s my TBR for the next Bout of Books readathon. Wish me luck!

SPOILER REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Right. Here are all my spoilery thought about Avengers: Endgame, I highly recommend not reading this if you haven’t seen the film. My spoiler-free review is here.

I probably haven’t mentioned everything I noticed or wanted to say because there was so much and I see new things every time I see it. I’ve seen Endgame three times now and still think it’s an incredible end to a series of 22 films. My comments are a mixture of stuff that happened in order, and character focussed stuff. This post is probably a mess so you’ve been warned. (more…)